All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Divine Protection
Based on 1 Samuel 23–24

After becoming a fugitive and escaping the wrath of King Saul, David finds no place to hide or rest from his jealous persecutor. He is informed that the Philistines are attacking the fortified city of Keilah, in the territory of Judah, and robbing them of the grain piled high on their threshing floors. These flat surfaces are elevated enough to permit a good breeze to blow away the chaff from the threshed wheat. It must be early summer, since the work of harvesting, threshing, and winnowing is complete.

David inquires of the Lord whether he should attack the Philistines in an attempt to save Keilah, and he is told to go. But his men are fearful, even in their present location, and far more insecure about attacking the much stronger forces of the Philistines. Because of their reluctance, David inquires again of the Lord, and receives the same answer; the Lord will deliver the Philistines into his hand. So he takes his men to Keilah and wins a decisive victory, delivering its inhabitants. Meanwhile, Abiathar, the son of the murdered priest Ahimelech, brings him an ephod that is presumably like the religious garment mentioned in Exodus 28, with the Urim and Thummim stones to provide yes or no answers when the Lord is consulted.

Saul’s Resentment

While David is in Keilah, Saul is informed of his whereabouts and mistakenly believes God has delivered David into his hands. He thinks David is trapped because he’s no longer in open country, but has entered a walled city, allowing him to besiege the city and capture him.

When David learns what Saul is planning, he asks Abiathar for the ephod and consults the Lord as to whether Saul will come, and whether the inhabitants of the city will deliver him into the king’s hands. The Lord answers both questions in the affirmative, so David and his 600 men escape to hiding places in the Wilderness of Ziph. While he is there, Jonathon arrives and encourages his friend, saying, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that.” The two of them make a covenant together, and Jonathon departs.

The Ziphites inform Saul that David is in the strongholds of Ziph, and the king asks them to find exactly where his hiding place is. David is hiding in the southern region, called the Wilderness of Maon. According to its superscription, Psalm 54 is composed by David composes after he is informed that the Ziphites have betrayed him by identifying his location.

When David learns of Saul’s movements to capture him, he goes south to “the Rock,” a natural formation in the Wilderness of Maon, thinking it will protect him. As Saul pursues David on one side of this rock outcropping, David is on the other side; but the king and his men are about to encircle him. The Rock becomes known as the Cliff of Divisions. Providentially, at that moment, a messenger arrives with the news that the Philistines are raiding part of Saul’s sovereign territory, and the king has no choice but to abandon his pursuit and fight the Philistines. Once again, the Lord provides David with a way of escape.

Next, David travels east to the oasis of En Gedi, on the shore of the Dead Sea, at an elevation of about 1,200 feet. A warm spring gushes out from beneath a large boulder, several hundred feet above the base of a very high cliff. Many caves are located there, offering hiding and protection for both man and animal.

Saul chooses 3,000 of his most skilled soldiers to pursue David to a place called the Crags of the Wild Goats. Realizing he needs to relieve himself, the king enters a deep cave for privacy of dense darkness. The literal translation says that King Saul went in to “cover his feet”—a Hebrew idiom of disposing human excrement in a sanitary manner by covering it with dirt.

Unbeknown to Saul, David and his men are hiding in the inner recesses of that same cave, and when they see him, David’s men say that the Lord has given his enemy into his hand. David goes forward and quietly cuts off the corner of Saul’s robe (in Hebrew, literally, “the wing of Saul’s outer garment”). This is probably the outer garment used by those of high rank that is sleeveless, wide, and extends to the ankles. A king would be recognized by his distinctive dress.

David immediately recognizes the implications of his act and is conscious-stricken. His act symbolically voids Saul’s claim to kingship, and in his mind, it is the equivalent of violating Sinai law by being in rebellion against authority. He says to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.” It’s interesting to note that David repeats this concept six more times in 1 Samuel 24 and 26. Each time, he restrains his men from wounding or killing Saul.


As Saul leaves the cave, so does David; and an immediate confrontation occurs between the two. 1 Samuel 24:8–21 contains the longest recorded quotes of David (114 Hebrew words) and Saul (67 Hebrew words). David makes what is perhaps the most passionate and eloquent plea for reconciliation between persons found in Scripture

David calls out to Saul, saying, “My lord the king!” When Saul sees him, David bows to the ground, and tactfully begins his appeal, without accusing him of being the one who initiated evil against him.

“Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Indeed David seeks your harm’?” he asks, producing evidence that the statement is entirely false. He uses both eyewitness and material evidence to make his case, bringing Saul to an unavoidable conclusion.

First, God had delivered Saul into his hand, and his men urged him to kill the king. But he spared him, because he was “the Lord’s anointed.” Second, the material evidence is “the corner of your robe in my hand!” Finally, David leads Saul to the desired verdict: he is not guilty of seeking Saul’s harm. Then he quotes an ancient proverb, “Wickedness proceeds from the wicked.” It follows that David is not an evildoer because he has not been a threat to the king nor sinned against him.

Finally, David says, “After whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom do you pursue? A dead dog? A flea? Therefore let the Lord be judge, and judge between you and me, and see and plead my case, and deliver me out of your hand.” With these words David is tacitly accusing Saul of being foolish and squandering the country’s resources to pursue him. He appeals to the Lord to be their judge, decide the dispute, consider his cause, and vindicate him.

Saul, who could apparently not see David, asked, “Is this your voice, my son David?” Previously he has refused to even mention the name of his enemy, and now he calls him David, his son.

Saul breaks down emotionally, and weeps. He begins his longest continual quotation in Scripture by saying that David is more righteous than he. David has treated him well, while he has treated him badly. The king acknowledges that the Lord has delivered him into David’s hand, and contrary to military wisdom, he did not kill him.

In gratitude for this, Saul pronounces a blessing on his son-in-law, asking the Lord to reward him richly. He further states, “And now I know indeed that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand.”

Saul begs David to grant him two requests. First, that he will not cut off his descendants. It is common practice in the ancient Near East for a king who comes from a different family to kill all the descendants of the previous king, avoiding any rivals to his throne. Second, that he not wipe out Saul’s name from his father’s family. This preserves the link between Saul and his forefathers. Saul is here being influenced by the pagan world that believed when a family line is wiped out it will jeopardize the afterlife of the family members who are already dead. David swears to honor Saul’s requests.

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