1 Samuel 24

CHAPTER XXIV

Saul is informed that David is at En-gedi, and goes to seek him

with three thousand men, 1, 2.

He goes into a cave to repose, where David and his men lay hid;

who, observing this, exhort David to take away his life: David

refuses, and contents himself with privily cutting off Saul's

skirt, 3-7.

When Saul departed, not knowing what was done, David called

after him; showed him that his life had been in his power;

expostulates strongly with him; and appeals to God, the Judge

of his innocence, 8-15.

Saul confesses David's uprightness, acknowledges his obligation

to him for sparing his life; and causes him to swear that, when

he should come to the kingdom, he would not destroy his seed,

17-21.

Saul returns home, and David and his men stay in the hold, 22.

NOTES ON CHAP. XXIV

Verse 1. Saul was returned] It is very probable that it was only

a small marauding party that had made an excursion in the

Israelitish borders, and this invasion was soon suppressed.

Verse 2. Rocks of the wild goats.] The original (

tsurey haiyeelim) is variously understood. The VULGATE makes a

paraphrase: Super abruptissimas petras quae solis ibicibus

perviae sunt; "On the most precipitous rocks over which the ibexes

alone can travel." The TARGUM: the caverns of the rocks. The

SEPTUAGINT make the original a proper name; for out of

tsurey haiyeelim, they make σαδδαιεμ Saddaiem, and in some

copies αειαμειν Aeiamein, which are evidently corruptions of the

Hebrew.

Verse 3. The sheep-cotes] Caves in the rocks, in which it is

common, even to the present time, for shepherds and their flocks

to lodge. According to Strabo there are caverns in Syria, one of

which is capable of containing four thousand men: ωνενκαι

τετρακισχιλιουςανθρωπουςδεξασθαιδυναμενον; lib. xvi. p. 1096.

Edit. 1707.

Saul went in to cover his feet] Perhaps this phrase signifies

exactly what the Vulgate has rendered it, ut purparet ventrem. The

Septuagint, the Targum, and the Arabic understand it in the same

way. It is likely that, when he had performed this act of

necessity, he lay down to repose himself, and it was while he was

asleep that David cut off the skirt of his robe. It is strange

that Saul was not aware that there might be men lying in wait in

such a place; and the rabbins have invented a most curious conceit

to account for Saul's security: "God, foreseeing that Saul would

come to this cave, caused a spider to weave her web over the mouth

of it, which, when Saul perceived, he took for granted that no

person had lately been there, and consequently he entered it

without suspicion." This may be literally true; and we know that

even a spider in the hand of God may be the instrument of a great

salvation. This is a Jewish tradition, and one of the most elegant

and instructive in their whole collection.

David and his men remained in the sides of the cave.] This is no

hyperbole; we have not only the authority of Strabo as above

mentioned, but we have the authority of the most accurate

travellers, to attest the fact of the vast capacity of caves in

the East.

Dr. Pococke observes: "Beyond the valley (of Tekoa) there is a

very large grotto, which the Arabs call El Maamah, a hiding place;

the high rocks on each side of the valley are almost

perpendicular, and the way to the grotto is by a terrace formed in

the rock, which is very narrow. There are two entrances into it;

we went by the farthest, which leads by a narrow passage into a

large grotto, the rock being supported by great natural pillars;

the top of it rises in several parts like domes; the grotto is

perfectly dry. There is a tradition that the people of the

country, to the number of thirty thousand, retired into this

grotto to avoid a bad air. This place is so strong that one would

imagine it to be one of the strong holds of En-gedi, to which

David and his men fled from Saul; and possibly it may be that very

cave in which he cut off Saul's skirt, for David and his men might

with great ease lie hid there and not be seen by him."-Pococke's

Travels, vol. ii., part 1, p. 41.

Verse 4. And the men of David said] We know not to what promise

of God the men of David refer; they perhaps meant no more than to

say, "Behold, the Lord hath delivered thine enemy into thy land,

now do to him as he wishes to do to thee."

Then David arose] Though I have a high opinion of the character

of David, yet the circumstances of the case seem to indicate that

he arose to take away the life of Saul, and that it was in

reference to this that his heart smote him. It appears that he

rose up immediately at the desire of his men to slay his

inveterate enemy, and one whom he knew the Lord had rejected; but

when about to do it he was prevented by the remonstrance of God in

his conscience, and instead of cutting off his head, as he might

have done, an act which the laws and usages of war would have

justified, he contented himself with cutting off the skirt of his

robe; and he did this only to show Saul how much he had been in

his power.

Verse 6. The Lord's anointed] However unworthily Saul was now

acting, he had been appointed to his high office by God himself,

and he could only be removed by the authority which placed him on

the throne. Even David, who knew he was appointed to reign in his

stead, and whose life Saul had often sought to destroy, did not

conceive that he had any right to take away his life; and he

grounds the reasons of his forbearance on this-He is my master, I

am his subject. He is the Lord's anointed, and therefore sacred

as to his person in the Lord's sight. It is an awful thing to kill

a king, even the most untoward, when he has once been

constitutionally appointed to the throne. No experiment of this

kind has ever succeeded; the Lord abhors king killing. Had David

taken away the life of Saul at this time, he would, in the sight

of God, have been a murderer.

Verse 7. Suffered them not to rise against Saul.] As he could

restrain them, it was his duty to do so; had he connived at their

killing him, David would have been the murderer. In praying for

the king we call God the only Ruler of princes, for this simple

reason, that their authority is the highest among men, and next to

that of God himself; hence he alone is above them. We find this

sentiment well expressed by an elegant poet:-

Regum timendorum in proprios greges,

Reges in ipsos imperium est Jovis.

HORACE, Odar. lib. iii., Od. i., ver. 5.

Kings are supreme over their own subjects;

Jove is supreme over kings themselves.

Verse 12. The Lord judge between me and thee] Appeals of this

kind to God are the common refuge of the poor and oppressed

people. So also among the Hindoos: God will judge between us.

Mother Kalee will judge. Sometimes this springs from a

consciousness of innocence, and sometimes from a desire of

revenge.

Verse 13. Wickedness proceeded from the wicked] This proverb may

be thus understood: He that does a wicked act, gives proof thereby

that he is a wicked man. From him who is wicked, wickedness will

proceed; he who is wicked will add one iniquity to another. Had I

conspired to dethrone thee, I should have taken thy life when it

was in my power, and thus added wickedness to wickedness.

Verse 14. After a dead dog] A term used among the Hebrews to

signify the most sovereign contempt; see 2Sa 16:9. One utterly

incapable of making the least resistance against Saul, and the

troops of Israel. The same idea is expressed in the term flea. The

Targum properly expresses both thus: one who is weak, one who is

contemptible.

Verse 15. The Lord therefore be judge] Let God determine who is

guilty.

Verse 16. My son David?] David had called Saul his master, lord,

and king. Saul accosts him here as his son, to show that he felt

perfectly reconciled to him, and wished to receive him as formerly

into his family.

Verse 19. If a man find his enemy, will he let him go well

away?] Or rather, Will he send him in a good way? But Houbigant

translates the whole clause thus: Si quis, inimicum suum

reperiens, dimittit eum in viam bonam, redditur ei adomino sua

merces; "If a man, finding his enemy, send him by a good way, the

Lord will give him his reward." The words which are here put in

italic, are not in the Hebrew text, but they are found, at least

in the sense, in the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic, and seem

necessary to complete the sense; therefore, adds Saul, the Lord

will reward thee good for what thou hast done unto me.

Verse 20. I know well that thou shalt surely be king] Hebrew,

Reigning, thou shalt reign. He knew this before; and yet he

continued to pursue him with the most deadly hatred.

Verse 21. Swear now] Saul knew that an oath would bind David,

though it was insufficient to bind himself; see 1Sa 19:6. He had

sworn to his son Jonathan that David should not be slain; and yet

sought by all means in his power to destroy him!

Verse 22. Saul went home] Confounded at a sense of his own

baseness, and overwhelmed with a sense of David's generosity.

David and his men gat them up unto the hold.] Went up to Mizpeh,

according to the Syriac and Arabic. David could not trust Saul

with his life; the utmost he could expect from him was that he

should cease from persecuting him; but even this was too much to

expect from a man of such a character as Saul. He was no longer

under the Divine guidance; an evil spirit had full dominion over

his soul. What God fills not, the devil will occupy.

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