|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
24:1-7 God delivered Saul into David's hand. It was an opportunity given to David to exercise faith and patience. He had a promise of the kingdom, but no command to slay the king. He reasons strongly, both with himself and with his men, against doing Saul any hurt. Sin is a thing which it becomes us to startle at, and to resist temptations thereto. He not only would not do this bad thing himself, but he would not suffer those about him to do it. Thus he rendered good for evil, to him from whom he received evil for good; and was herein an example to all who are called Christians, not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good.
Verse 3. - He came to the sheepcotes. Rather, "to sheepcotes," there being no article in the Hebrew. Such sheepcotes were common in Palestine; for Thomson (p. 603) says, "I have seen hundreds of these sheepcotes around the mouth of caverns, and indeed there is scarcely a cave in the land, whose location will admit of being thus occupied (i.e. by the flocks), but has such a "cote" in front of it, generally made by piling up loose stones into a circular wall, which is covered with thorns, as a further protection against robbers and wild beasts. During cold storms, and in the night, the flocks retreat into the cave, but at other times they remain in this enclosed cote .... These caverns are as dark as midnight, and the keenest eye cannot see five paces inward; but one who has been long within, and is looking outward toward the entrance, can observe with perfect distinctness all that takes place in that direction. David, therefore, could watch Saul as he came in, and notice the exact place where he "covered his feet," while Saul could see nothing but "impenetrable darkness." To cover his feet. The Syriac understands this of sleeping; more correctly the Vulgate and Chaldee take it as in Judges 3:24, margin.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a cave,.... For the sheep to be led into at noon, to shelter them from the heat: such was the cave of Polyphemus, observed by Bochart (z), in which sheep and goats lay down and slept; See Gill on Zephaniah 2:6,
and Saul went in to cover his feet; the Targum is, to do his necessaries; and so Josephus (a); and the Jewish commentators generally understand it of easing nature; and as the eastern people used to wear long and loose garments, these, when they performed such an action, they used in modesty to gather them close about them, that no part of the body, their feet, and especially the parts of nature which should be concealed, might be seen; but the Syriac and Arabic versions render it, "and there he lay" or "slept"; which suggest, that his going into the cave was in order to take some sleep and rest, when it was usual to cover the feet, both to prevent taking cold, and the private parts of the body being exposed to view; and this accounts better for Saul not hearing David's men in the cave, and for his being insensible of David's cuttings off the skirt of his garment, and best agrees with the use of the phrase in Judges 3:24; the only place besides this in which it is used; See Gill on Judges 3:24,
and David and his men remained in the sides of the cave; unseen and unobserved by Saul, even six hundred of them; nor need this seem strange, since in those parts of the world there were caves exceeding large, made so either by nature or art. Vansleb (b) speaks of a cave in Egypt so extraordinary large, that, without hyperbole, a thousand horses might there draw up in battle array, and of another larger than that; and Strabo says (c), that towards Arabia and Iturea are mountains difficult to be passed, and in which are deep caves, one of which would hold four thousand men: and as the mouths of these caves were generally narrow, and the further parts of them large, and also dark, persons at the entrance of them could be seen, when those in the more remote parts could not; and this cave is said to be extremely dark (d); which accounts for Saul's being seen when he came into the cave, whereas David and his men could not be seen by him.
(z) Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 2. c. 45. col. 467, 468. (a) Antiqu. l. 6. c. 13. sect. 4. (b) Relation of a Voyage, p. 227. (c) Geograph. l. 16. p. 520. (d) Le Bruyn's Voyage to the Levant, ch. 51. p. 199.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3. he came to the sheepcotes—most probably in the upper ridge of Wady Chareitun. There a large cave—I am quite disposed to say the cave—lies hardly five minutes to the east of the village ruin, on the south side of the wady. It is high upon the side of the calcareous rock, and it has undergone no change since David's time. The same narrow natural vaulting at the entrance; the same huge natural chamber in the rock, probably the place where Saul lay down to rest in the heat of the day; the same side vaults, too, where David and his men were concealed. There, accustomed to the obscurity of the cavern, they saw Saul enter, while, blinded by the glare of the light outside, he saw nothing of him whom he so bitterly persecuted.
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