King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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1 Samuel 24

David spares Saul’s life. (1-7) David shows his innocence. (8-15) Saul acknowledges his fault. (16-22)

1 Samuel 24 Audio:

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David spares Saul’s life

1 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.

2 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.

3 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.

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.

5 And it came to pass afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.

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.

7 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.

David shows his innocence

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.

9 And David said to Saul, Wherefore hearest thou men’s words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt?

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.

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.

12 The LORD judge between me and thee, and the LORD avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.

13 As saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.

14 After whom is the king of Israel come out? after whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog, after a flea.

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.

Saul acknowledges his fault

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.

17 And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil.

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.

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.

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.

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.

22 And David sware unto Saul. And Saul went home; but David and his men gat them up unto the hold.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Engaddi, below Jericho, on the west side of the Dead Sea. It was famous for rocks and caverns. C.

Ver. 3. Goats; an hyperbole. M. — Heb. “upon the rocks of the wild goats.” H.

Ver. 4. Cotes. These were probably no other than the caverns, in which shepherds there secure themselves and their flocks, in the night, and from storms. T. — Some of them, in Syria, are so capacious as to contain 4,000 men, (Strabo xvi.) so that David might well remain unperceived by Saul, who did not enter so far. Polyphemus and Cacus dwelt in caverns, with their flocks. Virg. ├ćneid viii. — Nature. Heb. “to cover his feet,” which has the same import. Syr. and Arab. “to rest, or sleep.”

Ver. 5. Eyes. This might have been spoken by Gad, or Samuel; (M.) or they only mean that this is a most favourable opportunity. Some think that David ought to have embraced it, and put an end to these troubles, by the death of the usurper. But this was not the opinion of David; and God, who had promised him the throne, had not authorized him to lay violent hands on Saul. He might act on the defensive, but not be the aggressor. T. — Arose, with an intention to kill his unjust persecutor, v. 11. — Robe, to convince him how easily he might have taken away his life. S. Aug. de C. xii. 6. — The noise of Saul’s attendants hindered him from being perceived. Perhaps Saul might have put off his robe. M. — S. Chrysostom observes, the David obtained more glory by sparing Saul than by killing Goliath. T. — Clemency makes a man like God. Cicero.

Ver. 6. Heart struck him; viz. with remorse, as fearing he had done amiss. Ch. — A tender conscience is uneasy about things which are not sinful, while some stick at nothing. W. — The action of David seemed disrespectful. C. — “The subjects of kings adore the royal name as a divinity.” Curtius vii. Regium nomen…pro deo colunt.

Ver. 7. Anointed. He was chosen by God, and to be judge by him. C. — Reges in ipsos imperium est Jovis. Hor. — David was not to mount the throne, till Saul was removed, by God’s ordinance. W.

Ver. 11. A thought to kill thee. That is, a suggestion, to which I did not consent. Ch. — Heb. “and he spoke to kill thee, and he has pardoned thee; and he said, I will not,” &c. C. — Prot. “and some bade me kill thee, but mine eye spared thee, and I said.” Sept. “and I would not kill thee, and I spared thee, and said,” &c. H.

Ver. 12. Father. He had married Saul’s daughter; (M.) and the king ought to be the common father of his people. H.

Ver. 13. Revenge me of thee; or, as it is in the Hebrew, will revenge me. The meaning is, that he refers his whole cause to God, to judge and punish according to his justice; yet so as to keep himself, in the mean time, from all personal hatred to Saul, or desire of gratifying his own passion, by seeking revenge. So far from it, that when Saul was afterwards slain, we find that, instead of rejoicing at his death, he mourned most bitterly for him. Ch. — If it be lawful to seek redress from a magistrate, much more may we appeal to the Sovereign Judge! M.

Ver. 14. Thee: the tree is known by its fruit. If therefore I have behaved in this manner, no longer trust the reports of others against me. C. — The wicked, if left to themselves, will be their own tormentors. He may thus indirectly threaten Saul, as iniquity is often put for punishment. M. — The wicked shall at last open thier eyes, and be reclaimed. Rabbins ap. Munster. — David entertained hopes that even Saul would now be convinced of his innocence. H.

Ver. 15. Dog. This expression is still used to denote a contemptible person. 2 K. xvi. 9. What honour can so great a king derive, from gaining the victory over a man unarmed? &c. C.

Ver. 17. Voice. He was at such a distance, as not to be able to distinguish his features. — Wept. The greatest reprobates may sometimes feel sentiments of compunction, so that we need not here doubt of Saul’s sincerity. C. — He might otherwise have turned upon David with his 3,000, and easily have seized his prey. H.

Ver. 22. Father. David complied with this request as far as he was able: but, as God was resolved to punish the posterity of Saul, for the injury done to the Gabaonites, he was forced to give them all up, except Miphiboseth, the son of Jonathan. C. — He could not promise to defend them, if they proved guilty.

Ver. 23. Places, knowing that no dependence was to be had on Saul. M. — How blind and ungrateful must this king have been, thus to fight against the known designs of Providence, instead of endeavouring to reward and to make a friend of so great a person! H.