Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
VI. David in the Wilderness of Engedi. He spares Saul in the cave. His conversation with Saul
CHAP. 24. [ENG. A. V. 1 SAMUEL 23:29–24:22]
29(1) AND David went up from thence and dwelt in [ins. the] strongholds at [of] 1(2) Engedi.1 And it came to pass, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, Behold, David is in the wilderness 2(3) of Engedi. Then [And] Saul took three thousand chosen men [men chosen] out of all Israel; and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the 3(4) wild goats.2 And he came to the sheep-cotes by [on] the way, where [and there] was a cave, and Saul went in to cover his feet;3 and David and his 4(5) men remained [were abiding] in the sides of the cave. And the men of David said unto him, Behold the day of which the Lord [Jehovah] said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee. Then [And] David arose, and cut 5(6) off the skirt of Saul’s robe privily. And it came to pass afterward that 6(7) David’s heart smote him because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.4 And he said unto his men, The Lord [Jehovah] forbid5 that I should do this thing unto my master [lord], the Lord’s [Jehovah’s] anointed, to stretch forth mine 7(8) hand against him, seeing [for] he is the anointed of the Lord [Jehovah]. So [And] David stayed6 his servants [men] with these [om. these] words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul. But [And] Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way.
8(9) David also [And David] arose afterward and went out of the cave and cried after Saul, saying, My lord the king. And when [om. when] Saul looked behind him, [ins. and] David stooped with his face to the earth and 9(10) bowed himself. And David said to Saul, Wherefore hearest7 thou men’s 10(11) words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt? Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the Lord [Jehovah] had [om. had] delivered thee to-day into my hand in the cave, and some bade8 me kill thee; but [and] mine eye spared thee, and I said, I will not put forth my hand against my lord, for he 11(12) is the Lord’s [Jehovah’s] anointed. Moreover [And] my father,9 see, yea see the skirt of thy robe in my hand; for, in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe and killed thee not, know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee; yet thou huntest10 12(13) my soul to take it. The Lord [Jehovah] judge between me and thee, and the Lord [Jehovah] avenge me of thee; but my hand shall not be upon thee. 13(14) As11 saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked. 14(15) But my hand shall not be upon thee. After whom is the king of Israel come out? after whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog, after a [one]12 flea. 15(16) The Lord therefore [And Jehovah] be judge, and judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver [judge]13 me out of thine hand.
16(17) And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking these words 17(18) unto Saul, that Saul said, Is this thy voice, my son David? And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I, for thou hast rewarded [done]14 me good, whereas [and] I have rewarded 18(19) [done] thee evil. And thou hast showed this day how that thou hast dealt well with me,15 forasmuch as when the Lord [Jehovah] had [om. had] delivered 19(20) me into thine hand, thou killedst me not. For, if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? wherefore the Lord [Jehovah] reward 20(21) thee good for that [what] thou hast done unto me this day.16 And now, behold I know well [om. well] that thou shalt surely be king,17 and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand. Swear now therefore unto me by the Lord [Jehovah] that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, 22(23) and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father’s house. And David sware unto Saul. And Saul went home [to his house], but [and] David and his men gat them up into18 the hold.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1 Samuel 24:1–8 [29–7]. David’s abode in Engedi and his meeting there with Saul in a cave.
1 Samuel 24:1 . Engedi the present Ain Jidy (Jeddi), “Fountain of the kid” (’Εγγαδί, ’Εγγαδαί, Ptol. 5, 16, 8), about the middle of the west shore of the Dead Sea, about thirteen miles north-east of Maon on the border of the wilderness of Judah, in a mountainous region with limestone-soil, with precipitous rocks and deep gorges which run towards the Dead Sea, and with many caves in the limestone-hills. It belonged to the then few very fruitful regions of the wilderness of Judah.—[For a good account of Engedi with its magnificent scenery, its frightful and dangerous rock-passes and its many roomy caverns, see Bib. Com. in loco. Thomson, in “The Land and the Book,” speaks of the wild goats still to be found there.—TR.]
1 Samuel 24:2  sq. The obstinacy of Saul’s adherence to his bloody plan against David appears in the fact that immediately after his campaign against the Philistines, perhaps even before they were completely overthrown, he again sends out spies against David, and sets out with a large body of warriors (3000) in order to seize him. He sees in him a rival king, against whom he must march fully equipped, and whom he must destroy by a superior force of disciplined troops. The ibex-rocks, so called by the people perhaps, because from their steepness and wildness the ibexes or wild-goats could subsist there. See Rob. II. 432 [Am. Ed. I. 500]. Mountain-goats still abound there. In the hardly accessible gorges and caves Saul with his men sought David and his followers, rightly supposing that the latter, being few in number, would seek to hide in this region so full of hiding-places. There were and are caves there wherein thousands might hide.—The words: The sheepcotes on the way indicate (like the “ibex-rocks”) a well-known locality, which from its fruitfulness in this otherwise waste region served for the abode of flocks. [Thomson saw many sheepfolds at the mouths of caves; they were made by piling stones up in a circle and covering them with thorns.—TR.]. Saul looks out a cave in the vicinity to cover his feet, that is, to obey a call of nature, when the Orientals usually cover their feet (the ancient Vss. [except Syr.], Keil, Then.), not: “to sleep” (Mich., Ew. [Syr.]). David and his men abode within or in the back of the cave [1 Samuel 24:4 (3)], while Saul was in front not far from the entrance. The description supposes a very large cave, of such as are numerous there. But whether this cave is to be identified (as Van de Velde supposes) with the one near the village Chareitun in the Wady of the same name southwest of the Frank Mountain and north-east of Tekoa (it is a limestone arch with many side-passages and wide dark rear-spaces) is uncertain, inasmuch as the latter on account of its proximity to Tekoa would be reckoned to the wilderness of Tekoa rather than to the wilderness of Engedi, and besides is from fourteen to nineteen miles from Engedi, which does not seem to have been the case with the one here described. [De Saulcy (B. Com.) suggests Bir-el-Mauquouchieh near Wady Hasasa as the place.—TR.].
1 Samuel 24:5 . David’s men advise him to seize this opportunity, given him, as they think, by God, to rid himself of his deadly foe. See, this is the day of which the Lord said to thee.—The Lord’s “saying” can here be understood only in the general sense of the divine ordering of this favorable opportunity. This day, with its fortunate meeting, seemed to them a hint and direction from God. A reference to a definite divine declaration,19 given to David through a prophet (Clericus: “There would come a time when, his enemies all conquered and prostrate, he would peacefully govern Israel”) is not in the words themselves.—Saul had laid aside his upper garment [robe] for his present purpose [or, remaining on him, it may have been spread out.—TR.]. The situation was such that David could, without being observed, cut off a corner of the upper garment. David wished to have in hand this sign that Saul had been defenceless in his power, and that he could have killed him, in order to use it with Saul at the proper time. His heart smote him, not with fright at the bold undertaking (Then., Ew.), for the deed was already done, but in the ethical sense: his conscience smote him. From what follows it is clear that David regarded Saul’s person as sacred; he reproached himself with having secretly cut off a piece of his garment, and thus failed in reverence for his person. Cler.: “David was afraid that Saul would take this, though a clear sign of (David’s) magnanimity, in bad part, and regard it as a violation of his royal majesty.”
1 Samuel 24:7 . The decisive and solemn rejection of the advice of the warriors to assail Saul. Be it far from me from the Lord, that is, on the Lord’s account; it is a religious ground which restrains him from following the advice of his men. For God’s sake he will not do it, because Saul is the anointed of the Lord, a person made sacred by the Lord. And therefore also David could not have received command from the Lord to deal with Saul according to his good pleasure.
1 Samuel 24:8 . “David cut down his men with words” (שָׁסַּע “to rend, cut to pieces,” then figuratively “cut down with words” verbis dilaceravit), Luther “beat back” (abweisen), too weak [so Eng. A. V. “stayed.”—TR.]; Berl. Bib. better: “pulled away” (abreissen). David was obliged to hold back his men with reproving words from taking bloody vengeance on Saul. We must suppose that Saul went alone into the cave at a distance from his people, and did not suspect that such a body of men lay immediately behind his back.
1 Samuel 24:9–23 [8–22]. The conversation of David and Saul at a distance.
1 Samuel 24:9 . David uses this God-given opportunity to assure his persecutor of his innocence, and to lodge a sting in his conscience. His words are a declaration (wrung out by suffering) from heart to heart, from conscience to conscience. The address: My Lord, O king! indicates the double point of view whence David in what follows declares by deed and by word his relation and attitude to Saul. He recognizes and honors Saul as his lord to whom he feels himself bound to be subject; in calling him his lord he declares himself guiltless of insurrection against him. In the king he sees the anointed of the Lord, the bearer of the holy theocratic office, in which character he was inviolable. In calling him king he affirms that he is far from attacking his person and working him harm. To this address corresponds David’s behaviour, his gesture of deepest reverence: he bent his face to the earth and bowed himself.
1 Samuel 24:10 . David refers first to the calumnies by which he had been blackened to Saul as his enemy seeking his destruction. Compare the title of Ps. 7., which refers to the present situation; there were calumniating go-betweens, one of whom was the otherwise unknown Benjamite Cush, who stood, therefore, in the same category with the Ziphites and Doeg. Saul hearkened to these slanders and believed them, because his heart was full of mistrust and hate against David.
1 Samuel 24:11 . David expressly represents it as a divinely ordered circumstance that Saul was put into his power. He also expressly affirms that the temptation to kill him was presented to him (אָמַר “one said” as in 23:22), but at the same time declares that he spared him; to the “spared” of the Heb. supply “my eye” [so Eng. A. V.—TR.], as in Gen. 45:20; Deut. 7:16 (so most expositors) or “my hand” or “my soul” (Cler.). He further gives the reason which deterred him from laying hand on Saul, his lord: for he is the Lord’s anointed.—By the royal anointing, as a divine act, Saul’s person was for him sacred, inviolable.
1 Samuel 24:12 . And my father; with this address David passes from his relation to Saul as king to the divinely ordered relation which he occupied towards him as father. To this “my father” answers Saul’s “my son.” David calls Saul father not (as Grotius thinks) because he was his father-in-law, but to indicate the pious20 feeling which so fills his heart as he speaks, that he involuntarily breaks out into this address. See 1 Samuel 24:17  and 26:17.—See, yea see.—A lively introduction of the factual proof of what he had just said that Saul had been given into his hand so that he could have done to him what he would. The “yea” (גַּם) is here intensive, not merely copulative (Ges. § 155, 2 a). The skirt of the upper garment in David’s hand is to be at the same time ocular proof that David is innocent of the wicked accusations brought against him by the calumniators. With his innocence, set forth in heaped up words: “in my hand is no evil nor transgression, and I have not sinned against thee,” he next contrasts (with the adversative phrase “and thou” and in curt, incisive words) Saul’s criminal conduct towards him: Thou workest after my soul, properly “huntest my soul;” Cler.: “A very suitable phrase concerning a man whom his enemy was pursuing like a beast over mountains and forests;” Sept.: “bindest,” with allusion to the nets of the hunter, and so, in accordance with this figure, it is added: to take it, Vulg. ut auferas eam.
1 Samuel 24:13  is similarly to be taken from the point of view that he has no evil design against Saul.—The Lord will judge between me and thee, that is, though the Lord gave thee into my hand, I attempted, and shall attempt nothing against thee, because I leave the decision wholly to the Lord. Here speaks submission to God’s will, leaving to him the decision concerning right and wrong, innocence and guilt. And the Lord will avenge me of thee,—the expression of David’s confidence that for his guilty conduct towards his (David’s) innocence Saul will not go unpunished, that against him will be manifested the weight of the divine punitive justice.—But my hand shall not be against thee, as I have hitherto been, so I will continue to be pure from crime against thee; God’s hand will punish thy injustice towards me, my hand shall not touch thee.
1 Samuel 24:14 . David grounds this declaration of innocence on the reference to its inner foundation and root by means of an “old proverb:” from the evil comes evil, evil doing springs from an evil heart. Cler. well explains: “David means to say that if he had been guilty of conspiracy against the king, he would not have neglected this favorable opportunity to kill him, since men usually indulge their feelings, and from a mind guilty of conspiracy nothing but corresponding deeds could come forth.” Compare the Greek proverb: κακοῦ κόρακος κακὸν ὠόν [“from a bad raven a bad egg,” see Matt. 7:15–20.—TR.]—Grotius: “Actions usually correspond to the quality of the mind.” The repetition of the words: “but my hand shall not be against thee,” after the proverb is the declaration of innocence: “I am not wicked and criminal, and, therefore, according to the old proverb, I shall undertake and do nothing evil against thee, wreak no vengeance on thee.”
1 Samuel 24:15  David points out how foolish, superfluous and unroyal is Saul’s persecuting campaign against a mean, undangerous man like him. Grot.: “A very pathetic appeal and a proof of David’s very great modesty.” Comp. Ps. 131. The king of Israel is with special emphasis made to follow the “after whom?” in contrast with the position and significance of the person persecuted by him. With the king of Israel adorned with honor and power David contrasts himself under the figure of a dead dog: 1) as a despised, lowly, qualitatively insignificant man, comp. 17:43; 2 Sam. 3:8, where the figure of a dog represents a man despicable in the eyes of one who is, or is supposed to be of high standing; 2) as a harmless, or in no wise dangerous man, comp. the figure of the dead dog, 2 Sam. 9:8; 16:9.—The comparison with the flea adds the idea of the quantitatively petty, mean, comp. 26:20. “Wherefore,” would David say, “O thou mighty king of Israel, dost thou summon thy army against so little and insignificant a man?” Berl. Bib.: “against a single flea, which is not easily caught, and easily escapes, and if it is caught, is poor game for a royal hunter.” No more than a dead dog can harm, and a flea endanger thee, am I, apart from the fact that I have no wish thereto, in position to work thee destruction.
1 Samuel 24:16 . Therefore—because Saul persecutes him unjustly as an innocent man, and foolishly as an undangerous man, because he, David, is unjustly slandered and persecuted as a malicious enemy of Saul—he appeals to the Judge who alone is just and gives success to a righteous cause. Two things David here says: 1) he repeats his appeal to the judicial decision of the Lord (1 Samuel 24:13 ), and 2) declares his firm conviction that the Lord will by such decision help him to his rights against Saul: He will conduct my cause, that is, the just God, before whom I am not only consciously, but really innocent, will be my advocate, undertake my cause; and do me justice from thy hand, I shall be delivered out of thy hand, freed from the sufferings which thou preparest me. A zeugmatic construction.—[Rather a pregnant construction: “will judge me (and thus deliver me) from thy hand.”—TR.]21
1 Samuel 24:17 . Saul’s answer to these words of David shows that they deeply and powerfully impressed his mind and sharply pricked his conscience. The address: Is that thy voice, my son David? indicates by its soft, mild tone that David’s words, issuing from a deeply-moved heart, and in the “my father” and “thou king of Israel, my lord,” expressing profound piety and reverence, had struck a chord in Saul’s inner life on the side of feeling and disposition, which he could not help letting sound forth in this address counter to the fierceness and hate that otherwise possessed him. The sign of this sudden awakening of nobler feeling is Saul’s weeping aloud. There is no hypocrisy or pretence here. Saul, tossed powerless hither and thither by fierce passions without self-control and without harmony of soul-life, is here laid hold of in a hidden corner of his heart, where he was still accessible to the power of truth, and involuntarily yields to this nobler arousing of his soul, though it is not destined to be permanent.
1 Samuel 24:18 . On this psychologically so significant address follows the ethically so important confession: Thou art more righteous than I, for thou hast done me good, and I have done thee evil.—This proves that his conscience was touched by David’s word, which had so sharply contrasted innocence and baseless persecution, righteousness and unrighteousness. Saul must do honor to the truth; the overwhelming force of David’s words, founded in truth, forces this confession from him; though a thorough and permanent change for the better is not thereby effected in his heart. Grotius: “The confession is unwillingly extorted, the mind being nothing bettered.” But we see from this of how high a degree of good Saul was capable, if he had been willing to deny himself. The mode in which David’s word so struck his conscience that he was compelled involuntarily to acknowledge his innocence and the justice of his cause is indicated by his own words; it was his perception of the glaring contrast between his evil, destructive operations against David, and the wholly opposite conduct of the latter, who did only good to the hostile king: The requital of evil with good. Saul thinks of all the good that David had done him by his faithful service. By right moral conduct, absolutely accordant with God’s holy will, and simple avowal springing from truth and from the heart, a deep impression for the better may under certain circumstances be made on the corruptest and most hardened nature.
1 Samuel 24:19 . In proof of this affirmation Saul adduces David’s present behaviour, which is distinguished from the preceding: “thou hast done me good.”—And thou hast to-day showed, hast given a proof of what good thou hast done to me, namely therein, that the Lord had delivered me into thy hand;22 Saul also here recognizes the fact that it was God’s hand that had to-day delivered him into David’s hand, in contrast with his previous declarations that God had given David into his hand, 23:7.—But thou didst not kill me, thou didst not use the opportunity given thee by God’s providence, because thou wishest not to avenge thyself on me, and thinkest only good towards me. All this is a splendid justification of David and confirmation of the assertions that he made to Saul.
1 Samuel 24:20 . Thenius, from the Sept., Syr. and Arab., undertakes to restore the supposed original text of this verse as follows: 1) after “his enemy,” we are to hold, stood originally “in straits” (בַּצָּרָה). Thenius thinks this reading “necessary,” since one might find his enemy without having opportunity to hurt him; but this opportunity is especially afforded when he finds him in angustiis, “in straits.” But this is a hair-splitting and far-fetched argument, since the connection does not leave it doubtful what is meant by finding the enemy. “Find” here as in 23:17; Ps. 21:9 ; Isa. 10:10, means so to come upon as to affect with suffering or punishment,=“get into one’s power.” 2) After טוֹבָה [Eng. A. V. after “well away.”—TR.] Then, supposes “the Lord will reward him good” to have fallen away, and 3) instead of the last words of the verse, to have originally stood: “the Lord reward thee good for what thou hast to-day done to me.” But the authority of the versions is the less decisive here, because their purpose is obvious, to avoid a harshness and produce conformity. They included the whole sentence in the protasis: “if one find his enemy and send him away,” and there was no apodosis. To supply this apodosis and correspondingly to express the good which Saul afterwards wishes David, they added: “the Lord will reward him good.”—The words, as they stand in the text, give even according to Thenius a “tolerable sense;” yea more, they give a satisfactory sense if we translate: If one find his enemy, will he let him go on a good way (a peaceful, unimperilled way)? that is, it is usual, when one has his enemy in his power, not to let him go in peace untouched. In the lively feeling with which Saul speaks, the omission of the intermediate thought, the expression of which might be expected, namely, “so hast thou not acted towards me,” is quite natural. The negative answer to this question is omitted (an omission psychologically easily understood), and immediately follows the wish: The Lord reward thee good for what thou hast this day done to me. (So Maur., De Wette, Buns., Keil.) That Saul at this moment truly and honestly meant these words, is beyond doubt; it is the witness not only of a bright, but also of a good moment in his inner life, though indeed no deep and permanent improvement followed. Under the influence of David’s presence and words the evil spirit had for a moment yielded to the good.
1 Samuel 24:21  sq. Following the better impulse of his heart Saul sees clearly that the theocratic kingship will pass from him and his house to David, and only through him as its future bearer be permanently established. How did Saul come to this knowledge which he here expresses, and which Jonathan had already affirmed that his father had (23:17)? Not through direct divine revelation, but by the observation that all his undertakings against David were unsuccessful, and that David in respect to his persecutions was under special divine protection, coupled with the recollection of what Samuel had once said to him in the name of God respecting his rejection for disobedience. The declaration of his conscience: “Thou art rejected by God” was confirmed by the manifest signs of divine guidance and protection in David’s life, and by the imposing moral power of David’s conduct. Cler.: “From this great magnanimity of David he concluded that a man who was much superior in soul to kings could not but reign.” Two things he says: 1) “Thou wilt become king,” and 2) “in thy hand the kingdom will be permanently established,” not “will be raised up, grow, increase” (Gramb.). So far has the dark cloud of envy and hate passed away from Saul’s soul, that he not only recognizes and affirms David’s future kingship, but to him as future king prefers a request in the form of an adjuration, that he would show royal kindness and mercy to his house and name. David gave him the promise in an oath that he would not after his death exterminate his posterity, as was often the case in changes of dynasty in the East, and, as Keil well points out, repeatedly occurred also in the kingdom of the Ten Tribes. 1 Kings 15:28 sq.; 16:11 sq.; 2 Kings 10. Similar request by Jonathan 20:15. [Bib.-Com.: “The deep genealogical feeling of the Israelites breaks out here as so often elsewhere.” Saul’s declaration as to David’s future kingship is not divine prophecy, but human foresight.—TR.]
1 Samuel 24:23 . The description of the interview, so significant for both parties to it, concludes with the statement that Saul went to his residence, while David with his men went up into the strong and secure mountain-heights. The latter did not return home, because he could not expect that Saul would retain this disposition and essentially change his bearing towards him.—Cler.: “He knew Saul’s changeable and perfidious nature, and was afraid of his snares.” [Nor, apparently, did Saul invite or expect him to go home. His presence at court would have been embarrassing; his training in the fields is to continue yet some time.—TR.]
HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL
1. This incident of David’s life in 1 Samuel 24 (not 26) forms the basis of Ps. 7 (of which he is the author), which is rich in references to this event and whose title: “Shiggaion of David which he sang to the Lord concerning the words of Cush the Benjaminite,” giving the slanderous accusations of this man as the occasion of the Psalm, presents a situation identical with that of 1 Samuel 24:10  of 1 Samuel 24. There were men who, by all sorts of slanders, blackened David with Saul, and inflamed his hate against him. Among these, according to the title, was the Benjaminite Cush. The Benjaminites, on account of the tribal relationship, were pronounced adherents of Saul, and he had bound them to him by all sorts of favors (comp. 22:7). Cush is not a symbolical name for a man of black wickedness, namely here for Saul (to whose father’s name Kish, Hengstenberg and Kimchi see an allusion), but the proper name of a Benjaminite man, one of those slanderers and go-betweens, whose mention in the title of this Psalm (the situation in which accords throughout with that in 1 Samuel 24) is a supplement to the allusion in 1 Samuel 24:10. How the content of the Psalm is based on David’s assertion of innocence and confident appeal to God which is given here in 1 Samuel 24. is clear from the train of thought: After the singer’s introductory cry for help, 1 Samuel 24:2, 3 [1, 2] follows the affirmation of freedom from revenge and of innocence as to the accusations made against him (pointing to 24:5–8, 18, 19 [4–7, 17, 18]), 1 Samuel 24:4–6 [3–5]. On this is based (see 24:13–16 [12–15]) the appeal to the Lord for execution of His judgment, to which he submits in firm confidence and good conscience, 1 Samuel 24:7–10 [6–9]. To this is added (see 24:16 ) avowal of trust in the help of the righteous God, and in the self-prepared destruction of the unrighteous, 1 Samuel 24:11–17 [10–16]. In conclusion the vow of thanksgiving [1 Samuel 24:17.]—What Delitzsch excellently says of the character of the Psalm: “It is the most solemn pathos of lofty self-consciousness, that here speaks,—anxious unrest, defiant self-trust, triumphant upsoaring, confident trust, prophetic certainty, all these tones find expression in the irregular strophe-sequence of this Davidic dithyramb,” all this is found substantially in David’s words to Saul.—Hengstenberg’s statement of the didactic content of the Psalm: “There is a twofold didactic element in the Psalm: 1) it is a necessary condition of divine help that one lift up pure hands to God, and 2) this condition being fulfilled, the divine righteousness vouches for the absolute certainty of the deliverance,” answers precisely in both points to the two fundamental thoughts of David’s address (1 Samuel 24) to Saul: 1) I am innocent, and therefore sure of divine help, and 2) God’s justice will bring my innocence to light, and punish my unrighteous persecutors.
2. As fundamental traits in the religious-moral character of David appear in this section the following: magnanimous forbearance towards his enemy providentially given into his hand, decided repulse of the temptation to revenge on him, tenderness of conscience whereby his heart smote him for appropriating a piece of Saul’s garment, frank and bold affirmation of his innocence against slanders and persecutions, reverent piety towards the sacred person of the Lord’s chosen and the de facto theocratic king, the confidence of a good conscience, and the patient waiting of a mind resigned to God’s dispensations in respect to the severe sufferings appointed him, and the expected decision of the divine justice, love of enemies which not only puts far away revenge, but repays evil with good, firm confidence in God’s justice (having its root in humility), with which in the consciousness of innocence he appeals to the highest tribunal, clear knowledge of the ways of the divine justice, whose aim is the maintenance of the divinely-appointed holy order of his kingdom (namely, that the unrighteously introduced evil be punished), and hope in the saving help of God founded on faith in God’s justice. “That David was magnanimous towards enemies, that, when his foe was through chance in his hands, instead of satiating his vengeance, he sent him reverently away, is wholly in keeping with his nature, and in the song Ps. 7:5  is referred to by him briefly and incidentally, but clearly enough; that to Saul himself, even when there would have been the most favorable opportunity to inflict grievous injury on him, he could do no bodily harm, follows immediately from the idea itself of the ‘Anointed of God’ which filled his soul” (Ew., III., 130).
3. The old proverb: “From the evil comes evil” (1 Samuel 24:14  expresses the truth that the moral character of the man necessarily determines his conduct; the ethical actus is always the expression of the ethical habitus; the precise nature of the inner life, whether in good or in evil, the ethical character of the personality shows itself in the man’s outward doing. It is the same truth which is expressed in the New Test. declaration: “As the tree so the fruit” (Matt. 7:17).
4. The simple self-presentation and self-witness of moral purity and truth (as here in David in word and deed) has a great missionary power, and often makes a mighty impression on spiritually darkened and morally perverted natures (as Saul’s here) in such wise that the divine in them is freed from the binding power of the evil, and the religious-moral element of the conscience, which is concealed deep under religious-moral corruption, breaks freely forth, at least in some bright and good moments, in order to point to the way of salvation and show the possibility of deliverance, provided the man is willing to be saved and renewed.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1 Samuel 24:3 . S. SCHMID: How much it were to be wished that the pious would apply as much diligence to the practice of good as the ungodly do to the practice of evil (Rom. 6:19).
1 Samuel 24:5 . WUERT. BIB.: It happens quite often that men seek to mislead us by an apparent application of the Word of God; let us therefore prove all things and hold fast that which is good (Matt. 4:6). [HALL: Those temptations are most powerful which fetch their force from the pretence of a religious obedience.—TR.]
1 Samuel 24:6, 7 [5, 6]. CRAMER: It is a praiseworthy virtue to be able to conquer one’s self, and he that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city (Prov. 16:32).—SCHLIER: David really gained a greater victory at this moment than formerly in the fight against Goliath.—Let us be master over ourselves, let us fight against our anger and overcome the enemy in our own heart. It is a wonderful, every way instructive and shame-inspiring sight, the fugitive David protecting his deadly foe against the hand of his friends. [CHRYSOSTOM remarks that David had reason to fear lest his men should rebel and do violence to him if he spared their common enemy; also that they were very cunning in not suggesting revenge—to which they knew David would not incline—but the pious recognition of God’s hand.—TAYLOR: No doubt it might be said that God had rejected Saul, and had caused David to be anointed in his room; but that had not given to David the right to deal summarily with Saul; it had only indicated that when, in the course of Providence, Saul should be removed, David would be set upon his throne. For this, therefore, David would wait. He would not take Providence into his own hands. He would bide God’s time, and it should not be said for him that he had come into the kingdom by the assassination of his predecessor. Even his cutting off a portion of Saul’s robe caused him some misgivings of heart, the rather as perhaps after he had done it, his men, emboldened by his example, might have felt themselves at liberty to go farther, and lay hands on the king himself. If any such disposition was manifested by them, it was immediately repressed by their leader.—TR.]—HALL: Tender consciences are moved to regret at those actions, which strong hearts pass over with a careless ease.
1 Samuel 24:8 . SCHMID: What one cannot himself do with a good conscience, he must also not permit those to do whom he has to command. [This holds good only within certain limits.—TR.]—STARKE: We must not yield even to our dearest and best friends when they desire from us something wrong.
1 Samuel 24:9 . SCHLIER: How instructive is this union of reverence with genuine manly spirit! It is a servant of the Lord who speaks—a servant of the Lord filled with fear of God.—Modesty and respect are becoming to a Christian in all cases. But that does not exclude us from also telling the truth, with all modesty, to be sure, but yet with all candor.
1 Samuel 24:10 . OSIANDER: One must not lay his hand on even an ungodly ruler.
1 Samuel 24:12 . S. SCHMID: That is the highest love towards God and one’s neighbor, when any one restrains himself from revenge in such a manner that he returns his enemy good for the highest wrong (Rom. 12:21).—BERL. BIB.: As men are, so are their actions. As the tree, so is the fruit. What the heart is full of, the mouth runs over with and the hands work at and accomplish. 1 Samuel 24:16 . OSIANDER: God is advocate, judge, avenger and protector for those who suffer for righteousness’ sake.
1 Samuel 24:17 . STARKE: A good word finds a good reception often even with the most corrupt men.
1 Samuel 24:18 . BERLENBURG. BIBLE: See how David’s patience works upon Saul, and how one may heap coals of fire upon the heads of his enemies (Prov. 25:22). Try this means on thy unfriendly and perverse neighbor or relative (Rom. 12:20).
1 Samuel 24:20 . CRAMER: A mighty thing is the truth. Therefore, if thy brother sins against thee, go and rebuke him between thee and him alone (Matt. 18:15).—S. SCHMID: The ungodly, too, must at last confess that it is right for God to requite the righteous according to their righteousness.
1 Samuel 24:21–23 [20–22]. CRAMER: To be able to constrain and win an enemy with good words, gentleness and modesty, is the noblest victory (Prov. 15:1).—OSIANDER: Enemies are often overcome much sooner by good deeds than by force.—S. SCHMID: What God has according to His wise counsel designed for His pious and upright servants, must become theirs, although the ungodly with all their powers set themselves against it and begrudge it to them; yea, at last the ungodly must themselves confess that their efforts against it are in vain.—SCHLIER: How often we think, too, as soon as good thoughts and feelings stir in us, that already it is all done; how often we think with a couple of good purposes and resolutions to get to the end! O believe it though: before all things there must be a change towards the living God, before all things must we bow before God, before all things confess our sins to Him; the first thing and the most necessary of all is repentance! That is the only way there can be a real and thorough change. (See above “Hist. and Theolog.”)
[1 Samuel 24:4. Providential purpose, apparent and real. 1) What was here the apparent purpose of God? To give an injured man opportunity for delivering and avenging himself. He was strongly tempted: a) It was indeed a “special providence” of an extraordinary and very striking kind (comp. 5:10). b) He had been cruelly wronged, by friend (23:12) and foe, and there seemed no other hope of deliverance from this perpetual persecution, c) His followers insisted on his embracing the tempting opportunity, and might rebel if he refused. 2) How did he know that such could not be the purpose of Providence? Because it would involve his doing what was wrong in itself (1 Samuel 24:5, 6, 10). An enlightened and tender conscience must check our interpretations of Providence. 3) What was the real Providential purpose? As usual, it was manifold: we can see the following points: a) To make him more conscientious by obeying conscience under sore temptation (1 Samuel 24:5, 6). b) To present a noble example to his rude followers and the people at large (1 Samuel 24:6, 10). c) To furnish a most convincing proof that he was wrongly accused (1 Samuel 24:9–11). d) To give him ground for a confident appeal to Providence in future (1 Samuel 24:12 sq.; comp. 26:23–4). e) To heighten his reputation for loyalty and magnanimity, and smooth the way to his finally becoming king (comp. 1 Samuel 24:20).
[1 Samuel 24:1–15. David’s magnanimity. (Group homiletically the materials indicated in “Hist. and Theol.,” No. 2.)
[1 Samuel 24:13. A Bible proverb before Solomon: 1) Habitual bad conduct proves bad character. 2) Habitual good conduct, notwithstanding tempting occasions for wickedness, proves that the character is not bad. 3) It is well when one can appeal to his actions as supporting his words and proving the purity of his motives.
[1 Samuel 24:9–15. A good man defending himself against suspicion and slander: 1) He remonstrates against listening to slanderous accusers (1 Samuel 24:9). 2) He sets forth his actions as showing that the charges are false (1 Samuel 24:10, 11, 13). 3) He declares the persecution of him to be utterly unbecoming in a person of high position (1 Samuel 24:14). 4) He solemnly appeals to God: a) to plead his cause, b) to deliver him, c) to punish his persecutor, which he will not himself do (1 Samuel 24:12, 15; comp. Psa. 7.).
1 Samuel 24:16–22. Temporary amendment in a fallen man: 1) Its occasion—an exhibition of magnanimous kindness touches his better feelings. 2) Its signs. a) Bitter weeping, b) Frank confession (1 Samuel 24:17). c) Prayer that a man he has been wronging may be blessed of God (1 Samuel 24:19). d) Acknowledgment that this man is not only better than himself, but has a righteous cause (1 Samuel 24:20). e) Abandonment of his attempts to wrong the other. 3) Why the amendment proves only temporary: a) It is only matter of feeling, not of principle (1 Samuel 24:16). b) He is thinking more of his own interests than of justice to another (1 Samuel 24:21). c) He does not really return to God, but only softens towards a man. d) Sooner or later comes a fresh temptation (26:1 sq.).—TR.]
1[1 Samuel 24:29 (1). See the various VSS. in this verse as an illustration of the uncertainty in proper names.—TR.]
2[1 Samuel 24:2 (3). “On the face of the rocks.” Possibly we have here a proper name, the Jeelim or ibex-rocks.—TR.]
3[1 Samuel 24:3 (4). Explained in all the VSS. as = τὰς Φυσικὰς ἐκκρίσεις ποιήσασθαι (so Erdmann), except Syr., which has “to sleep.”—TR.]
4[1 Samuel 24:5 (6). All ancient VSS., except Chald,, read: “the skirt of Saul’s robe,” and so some MSS. In the present Heb. text we should expect the Art. before כנף, and, apparently, we should either supply the Art., or adopt the reading of the VSS.—TR.]
5[1 Samuel 24:6 (7). Literally: “a profane thing be it to me from Jehovah.”—TR.]
6[1 Samuel 24:7 (8). This word רַיְשַׁסַּע is variously rendered by the VSS.: συνεκάλεσεν, περιέσπασεν, ἔπεισεν, ἡπάτησεν, Chald. “quieted” (פַּיֵּם), Syr. “caused to repent, turned aside” (so Eng. A. V.), Arab. “threateningly admonished,” Vulg. “confregit.” Levy suggests וישׁמע as the reading of the Vat. Sept. (ἐπεισε). The Heb. word contains a strong figure (so Gesen. and Erdmann) “cut up” = “hindered, restrained.”—TR.]
7[1 Samuel 24:9 (10). Or: “hearkenest thou to.”—TR.]
8 [1 Samuel 24:10 (11). אָמַר, indefinite as in 23:22 (Maurer), so Syr., Arab., Chald. The phrase, however, presents some difficulties. It is objected (Bib. Com.) that the subject of אָמַר in the present Heb. text is naturally “Jehovah,” so that it would read: “and Jehovah said (commanded) to kill thee;” but this is not necessarily required by the grammar, and is in David’s mouth impossible (Bib. Com.). Thenius rejects the sense of “command” here as belonging to later Heb. (but it is found in 2 Sam. 1:18; 16:11), and adopts the reading לֹא אָבִיתִי,
“I did not wish,” after the Sept. οὐκ ἠβουλήθην, adding that the Heb. text is most readily explained from the Vulg.: “et cogitavi ut occiderem te,” whence Heb. וְאָמַרְתִּי (so Bib. Com.). Both these readings (and ו with Impf.) Wellhausen rejects, and reads after Sept. וָאֲמָאֵן (as in 1 Sam. 8:19), which is more probable from the form (the present Heb. might easily come from it), and gives a good sense. We cannot infer anything as to the text from Josephus’ omission of this clause.—TR.]
9[1 Samuel 24:11 (12). The mutilation of the Sept. here loses the expression of excitement which is so natural to the occasion.—TR.]
101 Samuel 24:11 (12). Sept. δεσμεύεις=“bindest in toils”=“huntest.”—TR.]
11[1 Samuel 24:13 (14). Wellhausen holds this verse to be an interpolation because its last clause is identical with the last clause of the preceding verse; but would not this repetition here be very natural?—TR.]
12[1 Samuel 24:14 (15). The rendering “one” for אֶחָד is more lively, yet not linguistically necessary; the numeral is sometimes used as Indef. Art., as in 1 Sam. 1:1.—TR.]
13[1 Samuel 24:15 (16). Of the three words here rendered “judge” the second and third are the same in the Heb. (שָׁפַט, indicating the act of a governor-judge) and the first different from these (דַּיָן= a judicial officer).—TR.]
14[1 Samuel 24:17 (18). The sense of retribution is sometimes, but not always found in this word (גָּמַל).—TR.]
15[1 Samuel 24:18 (19). This clause seems awkward. We would expect: “thou hast showed thy willingness to deal well,” or simply: “thou hast dealt well,” for the “showing” and the “dealing” are identical in content; nor does the Sept. ἀπήγγειλας help. Perhaps we should render: “Thou hast showed this day that thou dealest well,” that is, that such is thy purpose and policy.—TR.]
16[1 Samuel 24:19 (20). On this text see Erdmann in the Exposition.—TR.]
17[1 Samuel 24:20 (22). Here one MS. and Arab. add אַחֲרַי, “after me,” an obvious supplement.—TR.]
18[1 Samuel 24:22(23). Heb. עַל, “upon,” but thirty MSS. read אֵל, “to.”—TR.]
19[Some cite 1 Sam. 15:28; 16:1, 12, and also 20:15; 23:17, but it is not probable that David’s men would know these. Of any other promise we have no mention.—TR.]
20[That is the reverence, the pietas of the Romans.—TR.]
21[Philippson: “This address of David has so much natural eloquence, so much glow, and such a tone of conviction, that no one who has any sense for the simple beauties of the Bible can read it without being moved. The whole situation, too, is noble: David, standing on the rocky height in the desert, holding on high the trophy of his magnanimity, looking at and addressing the melancholy Saul, whom he loved as a father, honored as king, revered as the Lord’s Anointed, who yet without ground hated him and persecuted him with relentless and deadly zeal—using the opportunity with rapid words, which expressed his deepest feelings, to touch the heart of his enemy—he himself full or humility, oppressed by indescribable suffering and weighed down by the feeling of powerlessness, yet inspired by the consciousness of a noble deed.”—TR.]
22[On this verse and its translation see “Text. and Gram.”—TR.]
And it came to pass, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.