David in the Cave

(Heb 11:32) And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
(Heb 11:33) Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
(Heb 11:34) Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

Instances in which David "escaped the edge of the sword" and showed faith can be found during the period of time in which Saul was seeking to kill him.

(1Sa 24:2)Darby And Saul took three thousand men, chosen out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats.
(1Sa 24:3) And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where was a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet; and David and his men were abiding in the recesses of the cave.

Based on the observation that Jonathan, the son of Saul, was commanding one thousand men at the beginning of the reign of Saul (1Sa 13:2), it has been suggested that Saul must have been about 40 years old or older when he began his reign. Since Saul reigned 40 years (Ac 13:21), and the events of 1Sa 24 appear to take place towards the end of his reign, it might be that Saul was 80 years old or more at the time of 1Sa 24. Since David was born approximately 30 years before the death of Saul (2Sa 5:4, 1Sa 27:7), it is clear that at the time of 1Sa 24 Saul was old, while David was young. Since David was young, it is very likely that many of the men of David, if not all, were young. Thus, it was probably not too hard for David and his men to hide themselves from Saul, and for David to cut the skirt of the robe of Saul without being noticed. We read about it in the next verses.

(1Sa 24:4) 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.
(1Sa 24:5) And it came to pass afterward, that David's heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul's skirt.
(1Sa 24:6) 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.

(1Sa 24:7)Darby And David checked his men with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul. And Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way.

Additional detail on what happened at that time may be found in what David told Saul later.

(1Sa 24:10) 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.
(1Sa 24:11) 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.

The phrase "some bade me" in 1Sa 24:10 is a translation of a form of the verb אמר "to say". As written, the word can be vocalized either as a first person singular form or as a third person masculine singular form. In a translation that assumes the first person, David told Saul "I said to kill thee". However, in a translation that assumes the third person, David told Saul "he said to kill thee". The first person translation fits well the text. However, there are some difficulties if the third person interpretation is used. If the third person is assumed, interpreting "he" as "one" or "someone" has the problem that there is a referent for "he" in the context, which is the Lord. However, interpreting "he" as referring to the Lord does not fit the fact that it was not God's will that David should kill Saul. Moreover, if "one" or "someone" is used instead of "he", this would not fit well 1Sa 24:4 and 1Sa 24:7, which indicate that multiple men, if not all, desired the death of Saul. Furthermore, using "some" as referring to several people instead of "he", has the difficulty that the verb form has the singular number. Regardless whether "he" is interpreted as "some" or "someone", there is also the problem that in this interpretation David puts his men in a bad light in the eyes of Saul. By saying that his men wanted the king dead, David would have said that his men were worthy of death. In contrast, the first person translation of the verb fits well the text and is also more natural, in that it does not add one more subject to the verbs of the sentence, but rather translates the same way the two instances of the verb אמר found in this sentence, which are also written exactly the same way. Following this interpretation, verse 10 states "and I said to kill thee, but there was compassion/pity for thee, and I said, ...". At first, David intended to kill Saul, but changed his mind when his heart smote him after he cut the skirt of Saul. At this point, David was in a difficult situation. It was not right to kill Saul, but if he did not kill him, then Saul, observing the cut, would have realized that David was there. David chose to do what was right. This was an act of faith, for apart from faith, his action endangered both his life and the life of his men. According to faith, however, his action was natural, for he sought to do what was right in the eyes of the One who protected him. The passage does not say why David cut the skirt of the robe of Saul. However, it is clear that only afterwards, when his heart smote him, he did not permit his men to fall on Saul (1Sa 24:7).

It is also interesting to consider why David said that it was wrong to kill the king. His reasoning in 1Sa 24:7 can remind us of passages speaking about submission to authorities, such as Rom 13:1-7. Most people would have reasoned that this unusual occurrence in which David's enemy came within his reach, was brought about by the Lord in order that David might kill his enemy. Therefore, they might have said that it was the will of God that David should kill Saul. Even if they realized that it was wrong to kill the king, they might have said that in view of the good things that would come from it, the will of God was to do it. Thus, this was an opportunity to do evil (kill Saul) in order to achieve "good". This passage illustrates the fact that one should not attempt to achieve good by sinful means. The Lord has said "Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God" (Lev 20:7).

David did one more step of faith: he showed himself to the king, declaring his innocence.

(1Sa 24:8) 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.

As David spoke, he relied on the Lord. He said:

(1Sa 24:12) The LORD judge between me and thee, and the LORD avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.
(1Sa 24:13) As saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.
(1Sa 24:14) After whom is the king of Israel come out? after whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog, after a flea.
(1Sa 24:15) The LORD therefore be judge, and judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thine hand.

David trusted in the Lord, and the Lord delivered him. The Lord inclined Saul's heart to let David live, and to stop pursuing him, for "the king's heart is in the hand of the LORD ..." (Pro 21:1) .

(1Sa 24:16) 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.
(1Sa 24:17) And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil.
(1Sa 24:18) 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.
(1Sa 24:19) 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.
(1Sa 24:20) And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand.
(1Sa 24:21) 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.

(1Sa 24:22)Darby And David sware to Saul. And Saul went home; and David and his men went up to the stronghold.

Saul had pursued David in order to kill him, but David escaped because he relied on the Lord. This passage provides an example of a person "who through faith ... wrought righteousness" and "escaped the edge of the sword" (Heb 11:33-34).


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