1 Samuel 24

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Read 1 Samuel 24

David Spares Saul’s Life

1 After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.” So Saul took three thousand able young men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.

He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. The men said, “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.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.

Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.

Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? 10 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 lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.

14 “Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Who are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea? 15 May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”

16 When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. 17 “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. 18 You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the Lord delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. 19 When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. 20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. 21 Now swear to me by the Lord that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.”

22 So David gave his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.

Go Deeper

Chapter 24 serves as the climax of the conflict between David and Saul. David’s been fighting the Philistines and running from Saul’s jealous wrath, and he finally gets the opportunity to end it all with Saul in a vulnerable situation. 

If this were a movie, we would hear the violins slowly crescendo as David sneaks from the shadows of the cave with the knife in hand to lunge toward Saul, only to cut a scrap of his cloak. The high-pitched note would hold as David contemplated his next move. And then the musical tension would release as David slides back into the dark, leaving Saul to walk away. 

What? Why would David do this? He has the opportunity to win and certainly has the justification to kill Saul, who was trying to kill him, yet he walks away. David shares his reasoning in verse 6, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” While David has every right to kill Saul, this act would have confirmed Saul’s worst assumption of David. It would have left the nation of Israel divided between supporters of each man and God would have been lost in the chaos. Instead, David resolves to pursue peace through honesty and humility. 

If our goal as Christians is God’s glory, why do we so often seek our own? Many times, our response is fueled by fear. Perhaps we feel the fear of being overlooked, overwhelmed, and overpowered, all of which stems from the fear that God got it wrong. The enemy speaks words of fear into our hearts, just as he did in the Garden of Eden and just as he did to David in the cave. While Adam and Eve acted out of that fear, David refused it. He emerged from the cave in pursuit of peace with Saul. 

We can do the same. David trusted God’s anointing of Saul and His perfect timing and His plan. So too, we can trust God, even when it doesn’t make sense to us. We can follow the Holy Spirit’s lead and seek reconciliation through humility. We can cue the sweet song of peace as we lower our knives of hate and judgement in pursuit of sharing God’s love and trusting His plan.


  1. What words of fear is the enemy speaking to you? 
  2. What would it look like if you responded out of that fear?
  3. What would it look like if you trusted God and pursued peace?

A Quote

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

Anne Lamott

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4 thoughts on “1 Samuel 24”

  1. Ella Snodgrass

    We see David, the one who had slain many enemies, use restraint when the opportunity came to end Saul’s life. David was consistently loyal to God and building God’s kingdom God’s way was his priority. David would not kill God’s anointed king. By every worldly standard, he would have been justified in doing so. Whose voice do I listen to? The loud, tempting ones who demand I serve my flesh & pride or the “still, small voice” that leads me down the path of righteousness? I will be careful & aware who I give influence to. “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord gives grace and glory; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless (Psalm 84:10-11).

  2. Only God working in our lives can give us the grace not to retaliate when we’ve been wronged. In verse 4 David’s men urged him to seize the moment. David was tempted, got really close to giving in to revenge, but His faith and obedience in God stopped him. He let God be God! Now that’s faith!

  3. In the past, too often I can chosen to win when the stakes were mounting in a game. Unfortunately, by me winning, it usually caused a riff in our relationship and it wasn’t the same since. I think it was my pride that stepped in. I didn’t want to feel defeated. I didn’t think I was that good at the game to begin with so I felt I had something to prove. Sometimes, I felt like I was being backed into a corner and so I felt I needed to fight my way out. Although I thought I was doing the right thing by beating them, to them it may have felt just that: like I was beating their confidence in themselves. I could have elevated them but chose to overpower them so I didn’t feel overpowered. It’s silly to think about at first glance, “So I won the game. What the big deal?” It’s a big deal when I do it time and again to kids and to people with developmental disabilities. They’re already doubting their self-worth and I just proved to them that they are worthless. I feel guilty and am not sure how to resolve this other than letting kids and people with developmental disabilities win. It’s more important that they maintain their self esteem than it is for me to defeat them.

  4. Really needed this. I have found it hard to forgive someone who hurt me deeply. Guess have to pray about and let God work our His will and way of avenging or correcting.

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