Guided by Right and Just—David Spares Saul

Wins Concession of Kingship

David would not “lay a hand” on Saul because he revered Saul as God’s anointed king of Israel. He was committed to “doing what is right and just” and understood the commitment to mean he would not “stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed.” Therefore, he spared Saul on two occasions despite potential strategic advantage of killing him. Saul expressed regret for seeking David’s life; conceded kingship to David in the first encounter; and, in the second, acknowledged David “will do great things and surely triumph.” Therefore, although David resisted the temptation of killing Saul to clear his way to kingship, he won Saul’s concession of the kingship in the presence of several Israeli witnesses. Thus, his commitment to “doing what is right and just” advanced him along the path to becoming king of Israel.

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We discuss David’s interactions with Saul in the context of commitment to God’s mandate to “keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just” [Genesis 18:19] so that God will fulfill his promise. God declared the mandate as he spoke to angels about Abraham. He declared he chose Abraham to become the ancestral father of the Messiah lineage because Abraham will raise his offspring to live in the image of God by doing what is right and just “so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him” [Genesis 18:19]. Thus, God established “doing what is right and just” as the guiding principle for living in his image and necessary condition for receiving fulfillment of his promises.

He mandates every person to understand the meaning of “right and just” to guide their response in every situation and will guide understanding and response for those that are connected to him. We discuss David’s interactions with Saul as reflecting his understanding of the mandate. He would not “lay a hand” on Saul or get into battle against him, because “who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless” [1 Samuel 26:9]? David understood that reverence for Saul in awe of God was “right and just” and represented a purpose superior to any other. Therefore, he chose a strategy of avoiding Saul or any battle against him in order to avoid any chance of stretching out his hand against the Lord’s anointed, e.g., see previous study under Mentor Turns Mentee Enemy—in Saul vs David.

Crept up unnoticed
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The strategy became David’s guiding principle in every interaction with Saul as Saul sought to take his life. Two occasions provide clear illustration of David’s commitment to the principle. On the two occasions, David had access to Saul unnoticed. Both situations appeared to present David with a strategic advantage of eliminating Saul as an obstacle to his becoming king of Israel. Some of his followers urged him to take the advantage. However, David chose instead to confront Saul verbally from a safe distance after leaving evidence of his access to Saul unnoticed by either Saul or his troops. Also, he used the occasions to explain to his followers that he could not stretch out his hand against Saul because Saul deserved reverence as God’s anointed king of Israel.

David had opportunity to kill Saul on both occasions but spared him because his understanding of “doing what is right and just” meant he would not “stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed.” However, although he resisted the temptation of killing Saul to clear his way to kingship, he was the winner on both occasions because Saul conceded the kingship to him in the presence of several Israeli witnesses. We discuss his interactions with Saul on both occasions to understand his commitment to “doing what is right and just” helped him to advance along the path to kingship.

Encounter at Cave of En Gedi

To understand David’s encounter with Saul at the cave of En Gedi [1 Samuel 24], imagine you are expectant of God’s intervention and an opportunity presents itself as a potential gateway to fulfillment of your expectation. However, you are aware the opportunity requires an action that will violate a principle of Godliness. You have a responsibility under to God to hold on to the principle as a basis to determine how you respond to the opportunity. David and his men were resting far back in the inner parts of the cave of En Gedi when Saul entered the outer areas of the cave. David’s men perceived an opportunity and told him [1 Samuel 24:4]: “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’”

Evidence of vulnerability
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However, David was committed to “what is right and just” for the situation and would not “stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed.” Instead, he crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. Later, he explained his principle to his men, rebuked them and did not allow them to attack Saul. When Saul left the cave, David went out and confronted him verbally from a safe distance. Saul wept, expressed regret for his attitude to David, and for the first time acknowledged publicly to David that “…you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand” [1 Samuel 24:20].

Therefore, an opportunity to receive Saul’s concession of kingship could have been misinterpreted as an opportunity to kill Saul. David received the concession because he allowed his Godliness to prevail over the temptation of killing Saul to clear his way to the kingship. His Godliness prevailed over a temptation disguised as an opportunity to clear his way by killing Saul.

Encounter in the Desert of Ziph

In this encounter, David stole into Saul’s camp while Saul and his guards were in deep sleep. David’s associate Abishai urged him to take advantage and permit him to kill Saul [1 Samuel 26:8]: “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t strike him twice.” David declined and explained God will choose how and when to end Saul’s life: “the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish” [1 Samuel 26:10].

Saul asleep and unprotected
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They collected Saul’s spear and water jug as evidence that they were there while Saul and his guards slept, moved away to a safe distance, and confronted Saul verbally. Again, like in the first encounter, Saul expressed regret for seeking David’s life. Then, he promised David could return to him and would not be harmed and conceded David “will do great things and surely triumph” [1 Samuel 26:25]. Thus, for a second time, an opportunity for David to receive Saul’s concession could have been misinterpreted as an opportunity to kill Saul. David received the concession because he allowed his Godliness to prevail over the temptation of killing Saul.

In this encounter, like in the previous one, David resisted the temptation of killing Saul to clear his way to kingship. However, he advanced toward becoming the king of Israel because Saul conceded the kingship to him in the presence of approximately 3,600 witnesses (3,000 of Saul’s troops and 600 of David’s followers).

Summary of What We Learned

David would not “lay a hand” on Saul because he revered Saul as God’s anointed king of Israel. He was committed to God’s mandate of “doing what is right and just” and understood the commitment to mean he would not “stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed.” Therefore, he spared Saul on two occasions despite potential strategic advantage of killing him. Saul expressed regret for seeking David’s life; conceded kingship to David in the first encounter; and, in the second, acknowledged David “will do great things and surely triumph.”

Therefore, in the two encounters, David resisted the temptation of killing Saul to clear his way to kingship. However, he advanced toward becoming the king of Israel because Saul conceded the kingship to him in the presence of approximately 3,600 witnesses (3,000 of Saul’s troops and 600 of David’s followers). Thus, his commitment to “doing what is right and just” helped him to advance along the path to becoming king of Israel.

More Information

Please watch this bible study on video at VIDEO_LINK , listen to or download the audio at AUDIO_LINK . You can also download a PDF copy of the PowerPoint presentation from PDF_LINK.

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