The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 65: The Magnanimity of David
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After Saul's atrocious slaughter of the priests of the Lord,
"one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named
Abiathar, escaped, and fled after David. And Abiathar showed
David that Saul had slain the Lord's priests. And David said unto
Abiathar, I knew it that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there,
that he would surely tell Saul: I have occasioned the death of all
the persons of thy father's house. Abide thou with me, fear not:
for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: but with me thou
shalt be in safeguard."
Still hunted by the king, David found no place of rest or
security. At Keilah his brave band saved the town from capture
by the Philistines, but they were not safe, even among the people
whom they had delivered. From Keilah they repaired to the
wilderness of Ziph.
At this time, when there were so few bright spots in the path
of David, he was rejoiced to receive an unexpected visit from
Jonathan, who had learned the place of his refuge. Precious were
the moments which these two friends passed in each other's
society. They related their varied experiences, and Jonathan
strengthened the heart of David, saying, "Fear not: for the hand
of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king
over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul
my father knoweth." As they talked of the wonderful dealings
of God with David, the hunted fugitive was greatly encouraged.
"And they two made a covenant before the Lord: and David
abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house."
After the visit of Jonathan, David encouraged his soul with
songs of praise, accompanying his voice with his harp as he sang: [p. 661]
"In the Lord put I my trust:
How say ye to my soul,
Flee as a bird to your mountain?
For, lo, the wicked bend their bow,
They make ready their arrow upon the string,
That they may privily shoot at the upright in heart.
If the foundations be destroyed,
What can the righteous do?
The Lord is in His holy temple,
The Lord's throne is in heaven:
His eyes behold, His eyelids try, the children of men.
The Lord trieth the righteous:
But the wicked and him that loveth violence His soul
hateth." Psalm 11:1-5.
The Ziphites, into whose wild regions David went from
Keilah, sent word to Saul in Gibeah that they knew where David
was hiding, and that they would guide the king to his retreat.
But David, warned of their intentions, changed his position, seeking
refuge in the mountains between Maon and the Dead Sea.
Again word was sent to Saul, "Behold, David is in the wilderness
of Engedi. Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out
of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks
of the wild goats." David had only six hundred men in his company,
while Saul advanced against him with an army of three
thousand. In a secluded cave the son of Jesse and his men waited
for the guidance of God as to what should be done. As Saul
was pressing his way up the mountains, he turned aside, and
entered, alone, the very cavern in which David and his band
were hidden. When David's men saw this they urged their leader
to kill Saul. The fact that the king was now in their power was
interpreted by them as certain evidence that God Himself had
delivered the enemy into their hand, that they might destroy
him. David was tempted to take this view of the matter; but the
voice of conscience spoke to him, saying, "Touch not the anointed
of the Lord."
David's men were still unwilling to leave Saul in peace, and
they reminded their commander of the words of God, "Behold,
I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do
to him as it shall seem good unto thee. Then David arose, and
cut off the skirt of Saul's robe privily." But his conscience smote
him afterward, because he had even marred the garment of the
king. [p. 662]
Saul rose up the went out of the cave to continue his search,
when a voice fell upon his startled ears, saying, "My lord the
king." He turned to see who was addressing him, and lo! it was
the son of Jesse, the man whom he had so long desired to have in
his power that he might kill him. David bowed himself to the
king, acknowledging him as his master. Then he addressed Saul
in these words: "Wherefore hearest thou men's words, saying,
Behold, David seeketh thy hurt? Behold, this day thine eyes have
seen how that the Lord hath delivered thee today into mine
hand in the cave: and some bade me kill thee; but mine eye
spared thee; and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against
my lord; for he is the Lord's anointed. Moreover, my father, see,
yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand: for in that I cut off
the skirt of thy robe, and killed thee not, know thou and see that
there is neither evil nor transgression in mine hand, and I have
not sinned against thee; yet thou huntest my soul to take it."
When Saul heard the words of David he was humbled, and
could not but admit their truthfulness. His feelings were deeply
moved as he realized how completely he had been in the power
of the man whose life he sought. David stood before him in conscious
innocence. With a softened spirit, Saul exclaimed, "Is this
thy voice, my son David? And Saul lifted up his voice, and
wept." Then he declared to David: "Thou art more righteous
than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded
thee evil. . . .For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go
well away? wherefore the Lord reward thee good for that thou
hast done unto me this day. And now, behold, I know well that
thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall
be established in thine hand." And David made a covenant with
Saul that when this should take place he would favorably regard
the house of Saul, and not cut off his name.
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