What Came Before:
David and his men hid in many places in the mountains of Judah, often hunted by Saul, but always escaping from him. At one time Jonathan, Saul's son, came to meet David in a forest, and said to him, "Fear not, for the Lord is with you; and Saul, my father, shall not take you prisoner. You will yet be the king of Israel, and I shall stand next to you; and my father knows this."
And Jonathan and David made again the promise to be true to each other, and to each other's children always. Then they parted; and David never again saw his dear friend, Jonathan...
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David Spares Saul's Life by Richard Dadd, 1846
| David said "This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, 'I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the Lord's anointed.'
I Samuel 24:10
At one time David was hiding with a few men in a great cave near the Dead Sea, at a place called Engedi. They were far back in the darkness of the cave, when they saw Saul come into the cave alone, and lie down to sleep. David's men whispered to him, "Now is the time of which the Lord said, ' I will give your enemy into your hand, and you may do to him whatever you please.'"
Then David went toward Saul very quietly with his sword in his hand. His men looked to see him kill Saul, but instead, he only cut off a part of Saul's long robe. His men were not pleased at this; but David said to them, "May the Lord forbid that I should do harm to the man whom the Lord has anointed as king."
And David would not allow his men to harm Saul. After a time Saul rose up from sleep and went out of the cave. David followed him at a distance, and called out to him, "My lord the king!"
Saul looked around, and there stood David, bowing to him and holding up the piece of his royal robe. David said to Saul, "My lord, O long, why do you listen to the words of men who tell you that David is trying to do you harm? This very day the Lord gave you into my hand in the cave, and some told me to kill you, but I said, 'I will not do harm to my lord, for he is the Lord's anointed king.' See, my father, see the skirt of your robe. I cut it off to show you that I would do you no harm, though you are hunting after me to kill me. May the Lord judge between you and me, and may the Lord do justice for me upon you; but my hand shall not touch you."
When Saul heard these words his old love for David came back to him, and he cried out, "Is that your voice, my son David?" And Saul wept, and said, "You are a better man than I am, for you have done good to me, while I have been doing harm to you. May the Lord reward you for your kindness to me this day! I know that it is God's will that you shall be king, and you will rule over this people. Now give to me your word, in the name of the Lord, that you will not destroy my family, but that you will spare their lives."
And David gave his promise to Saul in the name of the Lord; and Saul led his men away from hunting David to his palace at Gibeah; but David kept still in his hiding place, for he could not trust Saul's promises to spare his life.
And it was not long before Saul was again seeking for David in the wilderness of Judah, with Abner, Saul's uncle, the commander of his army, and under him three thousand men. From his hiding place in the mountains David looked down on the plain, and saw Saul's camp almost at his feet. That night David and Abishai, one of David's men, came down quietly and walked into the middle of Saul's camp, while all his guards were asleep. Saul himself was sleeping, with his spear standing in the ground at his head, and a bottle of water tied to it.
Abishai, David's follower, knew that David would not kill King Saul, and he said to David, "God has given your enemy into your hand again. Let me strike him through to the ground at one stroke; only once; I will not need to strike twice."
But David said, "You shall not destroy him. Who can strike the anointed of the Lord without being guilty of a crime ? Let the Lord strike him, or let him die when God wills it, or let him fall in battle; but he shall not die by my hand. Let us take his spear and his water bottle, and let us go."
So David took Saul's spear and his bottle of water, and then David and Abishai walked out of the camp without awakening any one. In the morning David called out to Saul's men and to Abner, the chief of Saul's army, "Abner, where are you? Why do you not answer, Abner?"
And Abner answered, "Who are you, calling to the camp?" Then David said, "Are you not a great man, Abner? Who is like you in all Israel? Why have you not kept your watch over the king? You deserve to be put to death for your neglect! See, here is the king's spear and his bottle of water!"
Saul knew David's voice, and he said, "Is that your voice, my son David?"
And David answered, " It is my voice, my lord, O king. Why do you pursue me? What evil have I done ? May God deal with the men who have stirred you up against me. I am not worth all the trouble you are taking to hunt for me. The king of Israel is seeking for one who is as small as a flea or a little bird in the mountains!"
Then Saul said, "I have done wrong; come back, my son David, and I will no longer try to do harm to you, for you have spared my life today!" David said, "Let one of the young men come and take the king's spear. As I have spared your life today, may the Lord spare mine."
So David went his way, for he would not trust himself in Saul's hands, and Saul led his men back to his home at Gibeah. David now was leading quite an army and was a powerful ruler. He made an agreement with the king of the Philistines who lived at Gath, King Achish, and went down to the plain by the Great Sea, to live among the Philistines. And Achish gave him a city called Ziklag, on the south of the tribe-land of Judah. To this place David took his followers, and there he lived during the last year of Saul's reign.
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