Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.Ch. 1 Samuel 24:2. upon the rocks of the wild goats] On precipitous cliffs scarcely accessible except to the ibex and chamois. Wild goats and antelopes still abound on the heights above Ain-Jidy.
Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats.
And he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet: and David and his men remained in the sides of the cave.3. the sheepcotes by the way] Sheepfolds are still formed in the East by building a wall of loose stones round the mouth of a cave, which serves for shelter in case of bad weather. See The Land and the Book, p. 603.
to cover his feet] An euphemism for performing the necessities of nature.
remained, &c.] Were abiding in the recesses of the cave. Large caves with numerous side passages are found in the district. “They 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.” Hence David and his men could watch Saul without being seen.
And the men of David said unto him, Behold the day of which the LORD 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 David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul's robe privily.4. of which the Lord said] David may have received from Samuel and Gad assurances of his ultimate deliverance from Saul’s persecutions, which his followers interpret in their own way. Cp. 1 Samuel 23:17, 1 Samuel 25:28-30.
the skirt] See on 1 Samuel 25:27. He wished to have some proof to convince Saul that his life had been in his power.
And it came to pass afterward, that David's heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul's skirt.5. David’s heart smote him] David’s conscience reproached him for offering even so slight an indignity to the king.
And he said unto his men, The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD'S anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD.
So David stayed his servants with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul. But Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way.7. stayed] Lit. tore, or lashed: a strong expression. Vulg. “confregit viros suos sermonibus.”
David also arose afterward, and went out of the cave, and cried after Saul, saying, My lord the king. And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself.8. stooped, &c.] Better, bowed himself with his face to the ground and did obeisance. The usual Oriental gesture of reverence to a king or superior is described. See on 1 Samuel 20:41. Cp. 1 Kings 1:16; 1 Kings 1:31.
And David said to Saul, Wherefore hearest thou men's words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt?9–15. David pleads his innocence
9. men’s words] Calumniators like “Cush the Benjamite,” against whom Psalms 7 is directed, strove to inflame Saul’s mind against David. That Psalm has been with much probability referred to this period of his life. David’s protestation of innocence in 1 Samuel 24:3-4 of the Psalm is closely parallel to his words in 1 Samuel 24:10-11; and his appeal to the judgment of Jehovah in 1 Samuel 24:8-9 of the Psalm resembles that in 1 Samuel 24:15.
Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the LORD had delivered thee to day into mine hand in the cave: and some bade me kill thee: but mine eye spared thee; and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the LORD'S anointed.
Moreover, my father, 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 huntest my soul to take it.11. my father] The address of respect and affection. Cp. 2 Kings 5:13; 2 Kings 6:21.
evil] The same word as that rendered “thy hurt” in 1 Samuel 24:9.
my soul] i.e. my life.
The LORD judge between me and thee, and the LORD avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.
As saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.13. Wickedness, &c.] A man’s character is known by his actions. If I were wicked at heart, I should have shewn it by killing you. Cp. Matthew 7:16-20.
but mine hand shall not be upon thee] It is not clear whether this is part of the proverb or David’s own utterance. In the first case the proverb is a general disclaimer of a desire for vengeance: in the second, David reaffirms his resolution not to touch Saul as a consequence of his moral integrity.
After whom is the king of Israel come out? after whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog, after a flea.14. after a dead dog, &c.] “A dead dog, a single flea,” express what is absolutely contemptible, harmless, and insignificant. A worthy object truly for an expedition of the King of Israel with his picked troops!
The LORD therefore be judge, and judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thine hand.15. plead my cause] Cp. Psalm 35:1 ff.; possibly written about this time.
deliver me out of thy hand] Lit. judge me out of thy hand: give me my right, and set me free.
And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said, Is this thy voice, my son David? And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept.16–22. Saul’s momentary remorse
16. my son David] The old fatherly feeling revived. The generous loving heart of the old days had not yet utterly perished.
And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil.
And thou hast shewed this day how that thou hast dealt well with me: forasmuch as when the LORD had delivered 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 reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day.19. find his enemy] Get him into his power. Cp. 1 Samuel 23:17; Psalm 21:8.
will he let him go well away] A negative answer is of course to be supplied. “No: yet thou hast done so to me: wherefore, &c.”
And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand.20. I know well, &c.] See note on 1 Samuel 28:9. And yet, knowing the Will of God, he resists it!
the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand] A sad echo of Samuel’s words to himself, “But now thy kingdom shall not be established” (1 Samuel 13:14).
Swear now therefore unto me by the LORD, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father's house.21. Swear now, &c] Saul pledges his successor not to follow the barbarous Oriental custom. See on 1 Samuel 20:14.
And David sware unto Saul. And Saul went home; but David and his men gat them up unto the hold.22. gat them up unto the hold] Returned to the fastnesses of En-gedi. Experience had proved that Saul’s repentance was not to be trusted.