Last week we took a break from discussing David and Saul’s on-going war to discuss David’s encounter with a woman named Abigail. But today we’re diving right back into the drama.
If you’ll remember Saul had it out for David, mostly because David was a great hero who was getting more praise than Saul was. But Saul also had these intense mood swings, where one minute he’d be trying to kill David and the next he would be embracing David like a son. This made it hard for David to know where he stood with Saul.
But eventually David runs away from the palace for his own safety. If you’ll remember he temporarily took refuge with some priests before going on to meet his men. And when Saul found out he had all those priests killed. Which is not very kingly.
David on the other hand was risking his life to save entire cities from the Philistines while Saul was willing to siege the very same city just to get to David!
So things are heating up in this war between them. You would think, if given the opportunity, David would kill Saul himself or hire some sort of assassin. That would be an easy way to get rid of the Saul problem! But that’s not quite how this goes.
So this next story we’re going to talk about happens just before David encounters Abigail. Please get your Bibles and turn to 1 Samuel 24:1-3.
24 When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the wilderness of En-gedi.” 2 Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to look for David and his men in the direction of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. 3 He came to the sheepfolds beside the road, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself.[a] Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave.
Saul had been out hunting Philistines and then was basically like “It’s time to hunt down David! So he gathered a large army of men and went searching the wilderness where he knew David was hiding. Saul and his men are out in the wilderness and Saul has to go to the bathroom so he goes into a cave to take care of his business.
Turns out that David and his men are hiding deep inside that very cave. Deep enough that Saul would not be able to see them or know they were there from just entering the front. It was probably a deep cave network.
Okay someone please read 1 Samuel 24:4-7.
4 The men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you.’” Then David went and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak. 5 Afterward David was stricken to the heart because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak. 6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to raise my hand against him; for he is the Lord’s anointed.” 7 So David scolded his men severely and did not permit them to attack Saul. Then Saul got up and left the cave, and went on his way.
David’s men are like “Dude, David! This is the day God has promised you! That he would deliver Saul to you! Cuz Saul is right there using the bathroom and you should just go kill him now!”
So David sneaks up on Saul and without Saul detecting him, he cuts off a corner of Saul’s cloak and goes back to his men.
I’m sure his men are like “What? Why didn’t you kill him? You could have just ended the war right there!” That probably would’ve been the smart thing for David to do, but David wasn’t here just to win a war. David is trying to be God’s man. And he knows it was God who raised Saul up to be king, and it’s not David’s place to kill him. What God has raised up, God should take down, not David.
So instead of Saul dying while he’s going to the bathroom, he finishes up and goes back to join his men, alive to still hunt David.
Someone please read 1 Samuel 24:8-15.
8 Afterwards David also rose up and went out of the cave and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance. 9 David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of those who say, ‘David seeks to do you harm’? 10 This very day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you into my hand in the cave; and some urged me to kill you, but I spared[a] you. I said, ‘I will not raise my hand against my lord; for he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, see the corner of your cloak in my hand; for by the fact that I cut off the corner of your cloak, and did not kill you, you may know for certain that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you are hunting me to take my life. 12 May the Lord judge between me and you! May the Lord avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against you. 13 As the ancient proverb says, ‘Out of the wicked comes forth wickedness’; but my hand shall not be against you. 14 Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom do you pursue? A dead dog? A single flea? 15 May the Lord therefore be judge, and give sentence between me and you. May he see to it, and plead my cause, and vindicate me against you.”
As Saul is leaving the cave, David basically chases after him and is like “My king!” And when Saul sees him, David bows and is like, “I could have killed you, but I didn’t. See this piece of cloak I have as proof? Why didn’t I kill you? Because I’m a good person. I haven’t done anything to you, nothing to earn your ire and I’m not going to start now. God can judge between us and what’s happened, and if God decides something should happen to you, fine, but I’m not going to be the one who kills you.”
This is a bold move from David because there is no reason why Saul wouldn’t just kill him on sight, and David basically just told Saul that David won’t kill him. So if Saul attacks him, David probably won’t fight back. This gives Saul a perfect opportunity just to kill David right then and be done with it.
Someone please read 1 Samuel 24:16-22.
16 When David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” Saul lifted up his voice and wept. 17 He said to David, “You are more righteous than I; for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. 18 Today you have explained how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands. 19 For who has ever found an enemy, and sent the enemy safely away? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. 20 Now I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. 21 Swear to me therefore by the Lord that you will not cut off my descendants after me, and that you will not wipe out my name from my father’s house.” 22 So David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home; but David and his men went up to the stronghold.
But instead of killing him Saul is like “Is that you, David? Son, you are a good man—better than me—and you have repaid my awfulness with only good. May God reward you for not killing me.” Then Saul says something crazy, he basically says that he knows David will be king one day and just asks that David not kill his descendants when David inevitably supplants him.
Of course, David has already made that very promise to Jonathan, but Saul doesn’t know that. Instead David just swears again to Saul what he already swore to Jonathan, that one day when he becomes king he won’t kill all of Saul’s sons and their kids. And then Saul and David part ways. As if they’re not enemies.
Do we think this peace is going to last? [Let them answer.]
The next thing that actually happens is David’s encounter with Abigail which we discussed next week. So David is still living in the countryside hiding out. Fast forward then to 1 Samuel 26:1-5.
26 Then the Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “David is in hiding on the hill of Hachilah, which is opposite Jeshimon.” 2 So Saul rose and went down to the Wilderness of Ziph, with three thousand chosen men of Israel, to seek David in the Wilderness of Ziph. 3 Saul encamped on the hill of Hachilah, which is opposite Jeshimon beside the road. But David remained in the wilderness. When he learned that Saul had come after him into the wilderness, 4 David sent out spies, and learned that Saul had indeed arrived. 5 Then David set out and came to the place where Saul had encamped; and David saw the place where Saul lay, with Abner son of Ner, the commander of his army. Saul was lying within the encampment, while the army was encamped around him.
Saul thinking well of David obviously doesn’t last, because as soon as he next hears a hint of David’s whereabouts he goes after him. Once again saul grabs all of his men and goes after David, who is still just hiding out in the wilderness. But David’s not stupid so he sends some spies to get the lay of the land. Then David goes out to see Saul for himself and he basically finds where Saul sleeps.
Someone please read 1 Samuel 26:6-8.
6 Then David said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, “Who will go down with me into the camp to Saul?” Abishai said, “I will go down with you.” 7 So David and Abishai went to the army by night; there Saul lay sleeping within the encampment, with his spear stuck in the ground at his head; and Abner and the army lay around him. 8 Abishai said to David, “God has given your enemy into your hand today; now therefore let me pin him to the ground with one stroke of the spear; I will not strike him twice.”
David turns to one of his guys and is like “Will you go down into the camp with me?” And the guy is basically like “Totally, man, I’d follow you anywhere.” So during the night they sneak up to where Saul sleeps and not a single person in the entire army detects them, not even Saul’s main general Abner. And the guy who went with him is like “Dude, this has got to be God! He’s just delivered Saul to you on a silver platter! Let me kill him! I’ll kill him in one stroke and he won’t even know what hit him.”
Do we think David is going to do it? [Let them answer.]
Let’s see. Someone please read 1 Samuel 26:9-12.
9 But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him; for who can raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?” 10 David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him down; or his day will come to die; or he will go down into battle and perish. 11 The Lord forbid that I should raise my hand against the Lord’s anointed; but now take the spear that is at his head, and the water jar, and let us go.” 12 So David took the spear that was at Saul’s head and the water jar, and they went away. No one saw it, or knew it, nor did anyone awake; for they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them.
Once again David does not kill him or let his man kill him. He’s like “God will deal with Saul, that’s not our job. Instead let’s take Saul’s spear and his water bottle so he knows someone was here. And then they sneak out without anyone noticing them.
Alright someone please read 1 Samuel 26:13-16.
13 Then David went over to the other side, and stood on top of a hill far away, with a great distance between them. 14 David called to the army and to Abner son of Ner, saying, “Abner! Will you not answer?” Then Abner replied, “Who are you that calls to the king?” 15 David said to Abner, “Are you not a man? Who is like you in Israel? Why then have you not kept watch over your lord the king? For one of the people came in to destroy your lord the king. 16 This thing that you have done is not good. As the Lord lives, you deserve to die, because you have not kept watch over your lord, the Lord’s anointed. See now, where is the king’s spear, or the water jar that was at his head?”
So David leaves the camp and is far enough away that they can’t just kill him but still close enough he can sout and he’s basically like “ABNER. DUDE.” And Abner, the general, is like, “Umm….can I help you?’ And David basically taunts him and is like “You failed to keep watch over your king, and I could have killed him in the middle of the night. You have failed at your job, and because of that you deserve to die.”
David is harsh. But it is totally Abner’s job to protect Saul, so David’s not wrong.
Someone please read 1 Samuel 26:17-20.
17 Saul recognized David’s voice, and said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” David said, “It is my voice, my lord, O king.” 18 And he added, “Why does my lord pursue his servant? For what have I done? What guilt is on my hands? 19 Now therefore let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If it is the Lord who has stirred you up against me, may he accept an offering; but if it is mortals, may they be cursed before the Lord, for they have driven me out today from my share in the heritage of the Lord, saying, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ 20 Now therefore, do not let my blood fall to the ground, away from the presence of the Lord; for the king of Israel has come out to seek a single flea, like one who hunts a partridge in the mountains.”
Saul recognizes David’s shouting, and calls out to him. And David once again is like, “My king, I have done nothing wrong. Why do you try to kill me?”
How do you guys think Saul is going to answer this time? Is he once again going to have a sudden change of heart or is he going to be like “Charge, men! And kill the wannabe king?” [Let them answer.]
Let’s see someone please read 1 Samuel 26:21-25.
21 Then Saul said, “I have done wrong; come back, my son David, for I will never harm you again, because my life was precious in your sight today; I have been a fool, and have made a great mistake.” 22 David replied, “Here is the spear, O king! Let one of the young men come over and get it. 23 The Lord rewards everyone for his righteousness and his faithfulness; for the Lord gave you into my hand today, but I would not raise my hand against the Lord’s anointed. 24 As your life was precious today in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the Lord, and may he rescue me from all tribulation.” 25 Then Saul said to David, “Blessed be you, my son David! You will do many things and will succeed in them.” So David went his way, and Saul returned to his place.
Once again Saul has a sudden change of heart—or seems to—and is like “I’ve done wrong against you. Obviously I have been wrong about you, and you are loyal and view my life as precious.”
And David is basically like “Send one of your men to recover your stuff, I don’t want to steal from you. God rewards those of us who are righteous and I will not raise a hand against you, and yes I value your life! And I hope God value’s my life as much as I value your life and keeps me safe.”
And Saul praises David again, and is like “You will do great things and be awesome at them.”
And then once again the two go their own separate ways.
Twice David has a chance to kill Saul and twice he doesn’t. David is adamant he won’t. How then will David be king if he won’t kill the man who stands in his way? He’s going to have to wait for God to deal with him, whether that’s by God striking Saul down with a heart attack or using some other method. Or maybe God will just let Saul’s own folly kill him, we’ll see.
But Saul is hard to grasp here. He has these lucid moments where he seems to realize what he’s doing is wrong—like when confronted with the reality of David he can’t help but see David is a good man. But as soon as David is out of his sight, he like creates this unreal image of David as a monstrous threat. Is Saul just losing it in his old age? Maybe. Does he surfer from some sort of mental illness? Maybe. Or sometimes it’s just easier to be mad at people when they’re not around, when you’re not looking at the person and face to face with the reality of them.
How is this all going to end? With a Saul who when face to face with David can’t kill him, and a David who won’t?
Well it remains to be seen. Next time. 😊