Saul continues to pursue David with all his might. David has the perfect opportunity to kill Saul but he doesn’t. David spares Saul’s life. “I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed” (verse 10b).
When I was young my mother told me a bible story about David hiding in a cave and a spider building a web across the opening. In the story this web protected David by fooling Saul into thinking that David could not have been hiding inside. When reading The Davidic Chronicles books they had a similar story. In their story, Saul and his son slept in the cave because they deemed it safe due to the undisturbed web. I have searched for this spider for many years but he (or she) is not found in the scriptures. I wish it were. It sounds exactly like a thing God would use. Enough other people think so too that you can actually find it referenced on Google.
I’m NOT saying a spider didn’t perform this act by the hand of God to save David. I’m only saying that it isn’t recorded in our text. Or at least I haven’t found it yet. If you know where it is, chapter and verse, I would LOVE for you to tell me so I can find it too.
The spider story would fit perfectly in place in today’s reading. It would explain why Saul chose the cave he did to “relieve himself.” His men were diligently searching the caves for David, yet the one cave he chose for his rest break was the same place where David hid. Something told Saul it was a ‘safe’ place to enter. For this reason I’m going to include a spider in my story too. I know it’s not scriptural but it is highly possible. Let’s begin spinning our story web and see what is written within it by the Holy Spirit.
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David was grateful for his reprieve from Saul’s pursuit. At the Rock of Escaping Saul was turned back by word of a Philistine attack. David didn’t waste any time in moving his group from where they had encountered Saul. They didn’t feel safe there anymore. They moved to the strongholds of Engedi.
This was a defensible position and also offered concealment of caves. David valued the concealment portion of this stronghold in dealing with Saul and his numbers. David had no intention of killing other Israelites. The defensible and tactical features were used for exchanges with raiding parties. These encounters David did NOT fail to raise his hand in battle.
David knew their peace in this place would be short lived. Saul’s single minded pursuit of him guaranteed that. One of the disadvantages of this place was that it was remote and Saul could sneak up on them before they had time to make their escape. Their options for escape were also limited as they had the water to their backs and steep cliffs to navigate in all other directions.
While David is resting in relative safety, Saul concludes his battle with the Philistines. Israel is again victorious. Saul returns home to Gibeah to take up his primary task; ferreting out the whereabouts of David and hunting him to ground.
A week has passed since Saul returned to Gibeah. During that week Saul has gone through the ranks of men who answered his call to war and hand selected 3,000 of them. These men proved their skill in battle and are fiercely loyal to him. These are the men Saul intends to use to bring David down to his grave. Many of these men have been with Saul for some time but others have recently been recruited. Drilling as a unit began immediately after Saul’s selection process. They are ready! Now all they need is information to act upon.
An Amalekite trader is seen in the bazar. His name is Areyna and he has brought items from far away to sell. He has also brought information. He has heard of Saul’s search for David. He has also seen firsthand the damage David has done to the raiders from his country. He wants David stopped almost as much as Saul does. He doesn’t have the means to do it himself but he knows where David is located and this information would enable Saul to do what he couldn’t.
Areyna has been contemplating how best to get his information to the king. He thought of a simply approaching one of the king’s men but didn’t know how he would be received. He devised instead a plan to be ‘overheard’ talking about David’s location with customers. This way the guards could approach him if their king thought the information valuable. He would try and pass himself off as a sympathizer who reluctantly gave up David’s location to save his own life.
Saul’s men routinely monitor the market place to keep peace. Areyna sees a group moving his way. He strikes up a conversation with two of his customers using some of his rare items.
“Have you seen anything so beautiful in all your travels? It even pleased the eye of David!”
“Who is this David you speak of?”
“He is the same one I’ve heard stories about throughout Israel. It is said he killed a Philistine giant when he was but a lad.”
“And David saw an item such as this and it pleased him?”
“It did indeed. Are you a friend of his?”
“No. I don’t know him personally but I’ve heard the stories. Are you a friend of his?”
“I wouldn’t exactly call myself his friend but we have traded on many occasions.”
The soldiers of course overheard this conversation, exactly as Areyna had planned. As soon as the customer left they approached him.
“You say that you have traded with David. When and where was this?”
“I have met with him many times in many different places. Why do you ask?”
“Our king would welcome word of his whereabouts.”
“For what purpose? I hear that he is in hiding. I wouldn’t want to betray his confidence to just anyone.”
“Our king seeks an audience with him.”
“Why not command him to come then?”
“We need to know where to send that command. Not all messengers can be trusted and it is an important matter the king wishes to discuss with David.”
Areyna recognizes that the guards are trying to trick him into revealing David’s location. This is working out better than he expected. He can play dumb to the king’s real mission and ‘innocently’ give away the information.
“I traded with him a few days ago in the wilderness of Engedi. His people are living in the caves there.”
“How long ago did you say you saw him?”
“It can’t be more than a week ago.”
“And you are sure it was David and his men you saw and not some other?”
“I know David well as we have occasioned to cross paths many times.”
“Did he appear to be on the move when you met up with him?”
“No. He looked well settled into his surroundings.”
“Would you be willing to lead us to him?”
“I have to be about my business but if paid for my time I would consent to it.”
“Come with us. We will see to it that you are compensated IF your information is accurate.”
In no time at all Areyna is standing before Saul being questioned. He provides Saul with the same answers he rehearsed for his guards. He is very pleased to see the king’s eagerness to receive the information. Saul’s final statement though brings a chill to Areyna’s soul.
“If you are lying to me or designing to trick me somehow you will not live to regret it. You will take us to David or you will die trying.”
After his dire warning to Areyna Saul commands Abner to sound the call to arms. “We leave in one hour!”
The hour passes and Saul’s forces are on the trail of David with Areyna leading the way. Saul has no idea that Areyna shares his desire for David’s death. Saul is still being careful with his speech to keep their guide from learning his true intent.
Days go by as Saul and his army makes their way towards Engedi. They are taking extra precautions to prevent David learning of their advance. They travel in less inhabited areas. Anyone who observes their movements are questioned and sworn to loyalty. None of the soldiers are allowed away from camp for even a short time. And Areyna is watched carefully.
While Saul’s troops march toward David’s stronghold, he and his men are scouting the area on alert for any signs of Saul. They go out is small groups in the three directions of possible approach. David doesn’t want to leave anything to chance. Their location requires extra notice in order to escape with all their people and animals.
David and his party are patrolling to the north of their stronghold when they sight Saul’s troops closing in on their position. There wasn’t any warning of their approach. Quickly he and his men retreat into the deepest cave. They have explored these caves extensively for such emergencies. They will hide until Saul’s men pass, then work their way around the steeper cliffs and warn the camp. David PRAYS they will be in time.
Abner’s voice rises over the sound of marching feet. “Search the caves. We can’t take a chance that they have moved here for concealment.”
These words reach David’s ears too. He is glad that they are taking the time to search the caves because it will give his people more time to escape but it also means they will quite likely be discovered. There is nothing David and his scouting group can do now but wait and trust the Lord.
While David and his group wait and Saul’s men search another player enters their story. It is a plain black spider. This spider isn’t special in any way but it is an answer to David’s prayer. It will save David and his men from detection. It begins doing the task it has done all of its life; spinning a web. It does so though in the mouth of the cave where David and his men wait. It also does so with unusual speed. Within minutes it has completed a thick web that would normally take days to develop. Once its task is complete is settles down to a much needed rest.
It is taking some time for Saul’s men to search every cave. Abner insists that they do a thorough search. Saul’s patience is wearing on him with the slow progress. His body is also calling for relief. His bowels have been in constant turmoil since this march began and they are crying out for attention again.
Saul is the king and it would not do for him to tend to such needs where he might be seen by others. He must find a suitable place. Abner and his men are on the northern end of this set of sheepfold caves. So far they haven’t found any of David’s men but they have found signs of recent occupants so Saul is concerned hopeful that they may yet find David’s hiding place. But right now he needs somewhere neither group will be. He needs privacy and he needs it SOON.
Saul begins looking around at possible options when he spots the cave where the spider has just completed his work. The same cave where David and his men are secreted. Saul moves closer to inspect the web that covers a large portion of the mouth of the cave. By its thickness and size he reasons that it is many days old. By its size and position it isn’t possible to enter the cave without disturbing it. Saul is confident that this cave will provide him with the privacy and security he so desperately needs. He looks over his shoulder once more to ensure that Abner’s men won’t be searching this cave for some time before turning back to the opening and brushing the spider’s web aside as he enters.
Saul looks about for a suitable area to tend to his needs. He finds a rock that protrudes out from a natural fissure in the floor. This will fit his needs perfectly. He can rest his body against the rock while depositing his contribution in the fissure. By the smell of this area his won’t be the first to be left in this location.
David and his men watched as Saul first moved towards the cave they would share. They had not noticed the spider at work until Saul’s visage was slightly distorted as he approached the cave opening. They didn’t pay particular interest to the fact that Saul had to move the web out of his way before entering. This spider’s contribution to their concealment wouldn’t occur to them until much later. For now they watched quietly from their hiding place as Saul entered their domain.
When Saul located his spot and took up his position it resulted in him presenting his back to David and his men. The excitement was palpable where they waited. This was the perfect opportunity to end this chase once and for all. One of David’s men touched him on the shoulder and whispered into his hear.
“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’” (verse 4a).
David could certainly see his point. There would probably never be a time he stood this close to Saul again but he wouldn’t kill Saul. There was something else he could do though. He could scare Saul into giving up on his quest. It was with this aim in mind that David silently slipped from his hiding spot and approached Saul. David slipped his dagger from his thigh. He gently lifted the corner of Saul’s robe and quickly sliced the corner from it. His dagger’s sharp blade moved so quickly and soundlessly that Saul didn’t even notice. Then David crept back to his hiding place holding the severed corner of Saul’s garment.
David was initially proud of himself for his actions. When the king noticed the garment he was sure to realize that his life had been in the hands of another. It took David only moments sitting with his act for his soul to become troubled. He had stretched out his hand against Saul. This was NOT the act of a loyal servant. It was also not an act he felt the Lord would approve of.
David was the conscience for his men. They took their lead from him in most matters. And they had just witnessed him strike out against the Lord’s anointed. He had to stop this example in its tracks. He must repent in their hearing and state why what he had done was detestable.
“The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed” (verse 6).
The anguish in his hushed whispers convinced his men even more than his words did. They too realized that their desire to ‘end the chase’ was a mistake. They would not strike out at Saul, nor would they urge David to do so again. It was the Lord’s job to deal with Saul, not theirs.
Saul took a great deal of time tending to his body’s needs. David’s men waited silently the remainder of the time. Finally Saul finished his business and rose up and left the cave. David and his men breathed a sigh of relief at not having been discovered.
Now that Saul had left the cave and the very real danger within it, David felt it was time to tell him of all that could have happened. David was not intending to scare him with this news, as he had originally hoped to do, but to demonstrate instead his loyalty and honor. David told his men to remain hidden while he presented himself. He was willing to risk his life but not theirs in his efforts to dissuade Saul for hunting him.
David crept to the mouth of the cave and watched as Saul moved a good distance away. He wanted him within hearing range but NOT striking range. When Saul was at a sufficient distance, David stepped from the mouth of the cave and called to him.
“My lord the king!” (verse 8b).
Saul stopped in his tracks and turned towards the one calling out to him. He saw a man he thought he recognized bowed with his face to the earth as in homage.
David raised himself to his knees and spoke 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’ (verses 9-10).
David then rose to his feet and held out his hand in which the corner of Saul’s garment lay.
“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” (verse 11a).
Saul looked from David’s hand to the corner of his own robe while David continued pleading his case.
“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.” David pauses to give weight to his next words. “As the proverb of the ancients say, ‘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” (verses 11b-15).
David stood still. He had said all that was on his heart. Saul immediately called out to him.
“Is this your voice, my son David?” (verse 16b). A cry of anguish followed Saul’s words. A cry so deep it sounded as if Saul’s heart were being torn asunder.
“You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day” (verses 17-18).
Saul drew a deep breath and calmed himself before making his next admission. This was the foundation for his hunt and desire for David’s death.
“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” (verses 20-21).
David was more than willing to make this promise to Saul. He had already made one much the same to Jonathan, Saul’s son. David had no desire to take the kingdom by force. Killing Saul and his descendants would NOT be part of David’s ascension to the throne.
“I so swear my lord. Your name will always be remembered and your descendants have a place at my side.”
While David and Saul conversed Abner and his men had stood ready. They would not move on David until told to do so by Saul. Abner had great respect for how David had just acquitted himself. Abner was also ashamed of the fact that his king was in danger under his watch.
Once Saul received his oath from David, he turned to see Abner waiting nearby.
“Assemble the men. We are returning home to Gilead. I will pursue David no more.”
Abner was pleased with this decision. He quickly began calling the men into their ranks. Yet there was one man who was not happy with the outcome; Areyna. He had led Saul to David but Saul had not freed him of the tormentor of the Amalekites. All he could do was hope for another chance. David was beyond his reach for now as he fully expected that Saul would have him killed if he raised a hand against him after all that had ensued.
As Saul made his way back to Gilead, David and his men went back up to their stronghold. They would be leaving it soon. This was too close a call. They had not had sufficient warning of Saul’s approach. David believed Saul’s words were genuine about not seeking his life but he had seen with his own eyes how the moods of the king could sway. He had to protect his people and wait until the Lord called him to the throne. It would most likely happen on the heels of Saul’s death. But as he stated today, that would NOT come by his hand.
(to be continued)
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David showed AMAZING restraint! I would like to think I would have acted the same in his place but I’m not certain if I would. I will admit to ‘putting my hand out’ against those who mistreated me and my family. I didn’t physically strike them but I secretly informed several agencies as to their abuses and stood back as they were called to account for their actions. I could justify it by saying that they ignored my warnings of their wrongdoing but in truth I believe I did it out of motives of revenge. I wanted them gone and I wanted them caught for how they were behaving. It sent them away from me but didn’t solve anything, especially none of their behaviors. It also created a GREAT deal of mistrust when everything finally settled. I have regretted it ever since. I should have been forthright.
Father God, You know the incident and people that have come to my mind just now. I believe You bring me where I need to be during our time together. I don’t know if You are bringing me to the place where You took David and had him lay out before Saul all he had done. I think it would make things worse in my situation if I were to ‘come clean’ with this family. The fact that they continue to abuse the same people they did when I took my action leads me to keep being protective. But am I just validating my own actions or am I being prudent? I want to follow Your will here Father. Lead me in this. If YOU bring about the question of ‘was I the one’ again, I will take that as YOUR prompting to repent of my actions to them. If I haven’t repented of them before You already, please wash my heart of my sin.
I am in a helping role with them at this time. Help them Lord even more than I ever could. Meet their needs without the need of them seeking it from others. Help them grow in responsibility too. I pray Your blessings on their lives, individually and as a family.