To trace the actions, we begin with the fact that David faced a definite threat (vv. 1-3). As we read through these descriptions of Saul’s implacable fear and hatred of David, we can easily forget that David the giant killer (Goliath) had long since matured into an experienced military leader and superb leader of people. As Saul pursued the Philistines who threatened Israel, David was making strategic military decisions. Abandoning the city of Keilah which he had captured, he moved his soldiers across the mountains to the oasis of Ein Gedi The prefix “en” indicates the area possessed a source of water. Located southeast of Jerusalem near the shores of the Dead Sea, it offered natural fortifications against attacking soldiers. David and his men retreated into the mountains, “the rocks of the wild goats,” with natural cover in the mountains. We have learned the importance of long caves. Our military people fighting in Afghanistan have had to contend with forces taking refuge in the extensive caves in similar environments.
David observed that Saul had an army of “three thousand chosen men” (v. 2), that is, hand-picked soldiers. These were roughly equivalent to our special forces, trained for mountain combat. As Saul advanced with his men, he stopped and entered in an enclosure for sheep constructed around the mouth of a cave. He went into the cave “to cover his feet,” a figure of speech meaning to relieve himself (See Jud. 3:24, 25).
In facing a perceived threat, however, he was careful not to follow poor advice vv. 4-5). David’s men in the recesses of the cave undoubtedly knew about Saul’s intention to kill David. They urged him to see Saul’s vulnerability as the work of God in delivering him for David to kill. David shocked them by his refusal to kill Saul.
In the third factor in facing a threat, he stood by his standards (vv. 6-7). David could imagine no circumstances that would cause him to violate God’s plan. He had anointed Saul to be the King. David could remember when Samuel chose him, the eighth son of Jesse, to be Saul’s successor (1 Sam. 16:13). However, how and when God chose to remove Saul was not a matter of concern for David. It was all about God’s plans, not David’s.
In the meanwhile, David clearly outlined His innocence as to the source of the conflict (vv. 8-15). He recognized Saul’s authority by humbling himself (v. 8), refuted false rumors about him (v. 9), presented evidence of his refusal to harm Saul (vv. 10-12), and concluded by sharing his own weak position, comparing himself to a dead dog, someone of less importance than a flea (v. 15). Protecting God’s anointed remained David’s non-negotiable standard.
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