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Why did David refuse to kill Saul who wanted him dead?

David and Saul

Although David had killed men in war, he would not kill King Saul that wanted him dead. In one incident, Saul was chasing after David to destroy him. David entered the cave where Saul was sleeping in and he had the chance to kill Saul but he refused. When David’s men asked him to revenge for himself, he answered saying, “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” (1 Samuel 24:6). David only cut the corner of Saul’s robe to prove that he could have killed him (verse 5) but he didn’t.

The chance perhaps came as a test to David to help him show the characteristics he had developed. Had David at this time killed Saul, he would have shown that he was no better than Saul, who if the opportunity had been reversed, would have killed David. 

We read of a similar story when the devil challenged Job’s goodness, claiming that Job would curse God if His blessings were removed. To meet such an accusation, the Lord allowed the devil to afflict Job to prove the falsehood of the devil’s accusation as well as the faithfulness of Job. Like Job, David was faithful to the test. David was so close to the Lord that, with Saul’s life in his hand, he not only didn’t harm him but forbade his men from doing so. 

David’s conscience had been molded by the Holy Spirit, and, like Paul’s, was to a large free from evil (Acts 24:16). He proved himself a true leader. He was not moved by the customs and practices of his day, but had a knowledge of that which was right. David’s faithfulness for Saul both as a father-in-law and as a king and his respect for God’s anointed, stand in clear contrast with Saul’s selfishness, hate and jealousy. And this is because David yielded his heart to God to be cleansed but Saul refused to do that.

“Vengeance Is Mine, I Will Repay, Says the Lord”

David explained to his soldiers that God is the one that takes revenge (Romans 12:19). He is in charge of the situation, “As surely as the Lord lives . . . the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed” (1 Samuel 26:10–11).

David refused to kill the king because the king was once anointed by God. Samuel the prophet anointed Saul and set him apart to be king over Israel (1 Samuel 10:1). David would certainly not take matters into his own hands but rather wait on the Lord to bring judgement on the house of Saul.

Some would say that David also was anointed by God to be the future king for “Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David” (1 Samuel 16:13). That is true but although David was anointed to be a future king, he gladly laid all his plans at the Master’s feet, to await patiently the unfolding of the divine plan at the right time.

Even after Saul was killed in battle (1 Samuel 31:6; 2 Samuel 1:4), David grieved over the death of his enemy and he “lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son” (2 Samuel 1:17). This revealed David’s utter sincerity and nobility of nature. In his heart, there was no thought of revenge or pleasure at the death of his enemy.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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