1 Samuel 24
Saul’s humiliating rest stop in a cave
Saul takes toilet time1When Saul got home from fighting the Philistines, he found out David set up camp at the En-Gedi desert oasis. 2Saul took 3,000 of his best Israelite warriors there to find David and his men. Saul’s army started searching near the rocks where some wild goats lived.
3The king followed a trail to some sheep pens beside a cave.  He went into the cave alone to relieve himself. But David and his men were hiding there, deeper in the cave. 4David’s men told him, “This is the day the LORD was talking about when he said, ‘One day I’ll drop your enemy right into your lap. Then you can do whatever you want to him.’” So, David silently crept over to Saul. Then cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak.
5David regretted it almost instantly. 6He admitted it to his men. “What a terrible thing I just did. That’s the man the LORD chose as our king. As God is my witness, I’ll never lift a finger to hurt that king.” 7David scolded his men for suggesting they kill Saul, and he ordered them not to do it. Saul stood back up and walked out of the cave.
David calls out the king8A short time later, David walked out of the cave and yelled, “My king!” Saul turned and saw David bow humbly with his face to the ground.
9David said, “Why do you listen to people who say I want to kill you? 10You can see for yourself that I’m coming from the cave you just left. The LORD put you within my reach. Some of my men wanted me to kill you. But I didn’t. I told them, ‘I will not kill the man the LORD anointed as our king.’ 11Do you see this, father? It’s the corner of your cloak. I cut it off while you were in the cave. I could have killed you if that’s what I wanted. But what I want is for you to see that I mean you no harm. I won’t hurt you even though you’re here trying to kill me.
12Let the LORD decide who’s right and who’s wrong. He might give you what you deserve, but I won’t. I will not lift a finger to hurt you. 13There’s an old saying, ‘It takes a bad person to do a bad thing.’ Well, I refuse to do anything to hurt you. 14So, why are you going to all this trouble to catch me anyhow? Why would a king mobilize an army to dispose of a dead dog? Or to catch a flea? 15The LORD is our judge. He’ll pass sentence on both of us. May he show everyone that I’m telling the truth when I say I won’t lift a finger to hurt you.”
Saul cries and takes his army home16When David stopped talking, Saul said, “My son, David? Is that you talking to me?” Saul broke down and started to cry.
17He told David, “You’re the better man here. You’re showing kindness to me even though I came here to hurt you. 18Today you made it clear you won’t kill me. You certainly had the chance when the LORD dropped me right at your front door. 19Clearly, you don’t consider me your enemy. What person would capture and release an enemy? May the LORD pay you back for the kindness you’ve shown me today. 20It’s obvious to me now that in time you’ll become king of Israel. 21Make me a promise today. Promise me that you won’t wipe out my family when you become king.” 
22David agreed, then Saul and his men went home. David and his men stayed there at the camp.
Sheep pens were often attached to caves when caves were available. The caves functioned like natural barns, protecting the livestock in bad weather.
Jonathan made a similar request of David in 1 Samuel 23:18. It was common for a new king coming in and ending a family dynasty to kill anyone with a claim to the throne. Any descendants of Saul would have had a claim to the throne. David later protected Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, from execution. But he allowed the rest of Saul’s family to be slaughtered (2 Samuel 21:7-14).
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