How did David illustrate love and forgiveness in dealing with Saul?

Some think there is such a contrast between the eye-for-an-eye thinking of certain OT passages and the love shown in the NT. But the life of David in dealing with King Saul which was moved by the Holy Spirit of God, centuries before NT times, illustrated the same principles taught by Christ in His beatitudes “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:43-48).

The first opportunity for revenge

In one incident, Saul who was chasing after David to kill him. And it was told that David was hiding in the Wilderness of En Gedi (1 Samuel 24: 1). So, Saul took three thousand men and went to seek after David and his men on the Rocks of the Wild Goats (v. 2). Then, Saul came to the sheepfolds by the road, where there was a cave; and he went in to attend to his needs not knowing that David and his men were hiding in the same cave.

At this point, David’s men said to him, “This is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you” (v. 4). But David went and secretly cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. And David’s conscious troubled him for doing that.  So, he said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD” (v. 6).

David chose to forgive

David apologized for even the slight liberty that he had taken in spoiling the king’s garment. David’s soldiers were willing to love their friends, but they still had hatred for their enemies. In contrast, David manifested his love and respect for his worst enemy (Matthew 5:43–48). And he restrained his men from hurting King Saul (1 Samuel 24: 6,7). Thus, David’s actions illustrated the spirit of Christ (Matthew 5:11).

When Saul left the cave, David followed him and bowed down and said to him, “My lord the king! … Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Indeed David seeks your harm’?” (v. 8,9).  Instead of blaming Saul for all his evil actions, David excused the king’s action as done under the influence of false friends, who moved by malice of self-interest. And they encouraged the king to pursue after David to kill him.

And David added, “Look, this day your eyes have seen that the LORD delivered you today into my hand in the cave, and someone urged me to kill you. But my eye spared you, and I said, ‘I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD’s anointed” (v. 10). David would not take revenge of King Saul that wanted to kill him but would wait for God to do that at His own timing. For the Lord said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

Then, king Saul moved with remorse, wept and admitted that David was more righteous than he was; for David had rewarded him with good whereas he had treated David with evil (1 Samuel 24:17).

The second chance to revenge

The Bible records that David saved King Saul’s life a second time (1 Samuel 26). At this time David and Abishai his commander came to a place where Saul was sleeping in the camp with his spear stuck in the ground by his head. Then, Abishai said to David, “God has delivered your enemy into your hand this day. Now therefore, please, let me strike him at once with the spear, right to the earth; and I will not have to strike him a second time!” (v. 6)

But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him; for who can stretch out his hand against the LORD’s anointed, and be guiltless?” (v. 9). However David took the spear and the jug of water by Saul’s head (v. 10). Then, David called the camp saying, Here is the king’s spear… for the LORD delivered you into my hand today, but I would not stretch out my hand against the LORD’s anointed (v. 22-24). Again Saul admitted that he sinned (v. 21). But there was no sincere repentance in his heart.

In these stories, David’s love and respect for Saul as the Lord’s anointed is clearly contrasted with Saul’s selfishness, his jealous hatred that turned him into a demon, and his thirst for the blood that hardened his heart. Had King Saul sought the Lord for cleansing, he would have been granted a soft loving heart like David’s (Ezekiel 36:26).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

Subscribe to our Weekly Updates:

Get our latest answers straight to your inbox when you subscribe here.

You May Also Like