1 Samuel 24 Commentary: David’s Moral Crossroads in En Gedi

1 Samuel 24 Commentary

1 Samuel 24 presents a compelling narrative filled with tension, moral dilemmas, and lessons in leadership and ethics.

Set against the backdrop of ancient Israel, this chapter unveils a crucial encounter between David and King Saul in the cave at En Gedi, a moment teeming with suspense and significant choices. It delves into themes of respect, mercy, and the dynamics of power, as David confronts the decision of whether to kill the king who unjustly pursues him.

This chapter not only shapes our understanding of David’s character but also offers timeless insights into handling conflict with honor and integrity.

1 Samuel 24:1-7, David Spares Saul’s Life in the Cave at En Gedi

In this segment, David faces a crucial moral and ethical decision. Saul, pursuing David to kill him, unknowingly enters the very cave where David and his men are hiding. David’s men see this as a providential opportunity for David to kill Saul.

And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave, and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave. And the men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’” Then David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.

1 Samuel 24:3-4, ESV

David, however, chooses a path of restraint and respect.

Instead of killing Saul, he secretly cuts off a corner of Saul’s robe. This act symbolizes David’s refusal to harm God’s anointed king, despite the personal risk and his men’s expectations.

This decision by David not only reflects his deep respect for Saul’s position as God’s anointed but also his trust in God’s timing for his own ascent to kingship.

David’s restraint highlights a key theme of respecting God’s appointed leaders and trusting in God’s timing, even in the face of personal danger or opportunity for advancement.

Why did David cut off a piece of Saul’s robe?

Why did David cut off a piece of Saul’s robe? David cut off a piece of Saul’s robe as a symbolic gesture to demonstrate his ability and choice not to harm Saul, despite his followers’ urging, thereby proving his loyalty and respect for Saul as the anointed king of Israel.

1 Samuel 24:8-15, David’s Confrontation with Saul Outside the Cave

After Saul leaves the cave, David follows him out, revealing his presence and the fact that he spared Saul’s life. David’s actions and words here are significant.

Afterward David also arose and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage. And David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Behold, David seeks your harm’? Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.’

1 Samuel 24:8-10, ESV

David respectfully addresses Saul, presenting the piece of the robe as evidence of his innocence against Saul’s accusations of treachery.

He openly challenges Saul’s unjust pursuit, asking why he listens to false reports about David’s intentions.

This confrontation reveals David’s commitment to truth and justice. He confronts Saul not with violence, but with reason and evidence, demonstrating his integrity and righteous heart.

David emphasizes that he has not sinned against Saul, further establishing his innocence and respect for Saul’s authority.

See, my father, see the corner of your robe in my hand. For by the fact that I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it. May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you. As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes wickedness.’ But my hand shall not be against you. After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea! May the Lord therefore be judge and give sentence between me and you, and see to it and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand.”

1 Samuel 24:11-15, ESV

David’s approach to this confrontation demonstrates a mature understanding of leadership, integrity, and the principles of justice. He respects Saul’s position while firmly standing for truth and justice, offering a profound lesson in handling conflicts and misunderstandings.

1 Samuel 24:16-22, Saul’s Acknowledgment of David’s Righteousness and Future Kingship

Saul’s response to David’s revelation is one of remorse and acknowledgment of David’s righteousness and future as king.

As soon as David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. He said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil.

1 Samuel 24:16-17, ESV

Saul, deeply moved by David’s mercy, publicly acknowledges David’s righteousness in sparing his life. He contrasts David’s goodness with his own unjust pursuit.

This moment of self-awareness from Saul is rare and significant, as he recognizes the moral superiority of David’s actions.

Saul’s recognition of David as the future king of Israel marks a pivotal moment, it’s an acknowledgment of David’s divine anointing and his rightful place as the future leader of Israel.

And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. Swear to me therefore by the Lord that you will not cut off my offspring after me, and that you will not destroy my name out of my father’s house.” And David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.

1 Samuel 24:20-22, ESV

Saul’s request for David to spare his descendants reveals Saul’s understanding of the brutal realities of ancient Near Eastern politics, where new kings often eliminated the former king’s line to secure their throne. David’s agreement reflects his commitment to justice and mercy, extending beyond Saul to his lineage.

This segment not only demonstrates David’s integrity but also reveals a moment of clarity and truth from Saul, acknowledging David’s future kingship and God’s hand in his life.

This highlights themes of mercy, righteousness, and the acknowledgment of God’s will in leadership transitions.


What happened in chapter 24 of Samuel 1? In 1 Samuel Chapter 24, David, hiding in a cave in En Gedi with his men, encounters King Saul, who unknowingly enters the cave; David spares Saul’s life, cutting off a piece of his robe as proof of his mercy, and afterwards confronts Saul outside the cave, leading to Saul acknowledging David’s righteousness and his own future kingship.

What does 1 Samuel 24 teach us? 1 Samuel 24 illustrates the virtues of moral integrity and humility, highlighting David’s respect for authority in sparing Saul and Saul’s recognition of David’s righteousness and destined leadership.

How many times did David spare Saul’s life? David spared Saul’s life twice, once in the cave at En Gedi as described in 1 Samuel 24, and again in the wilderness of Ziph, recorded in 1 Samuel 26.