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David Spares the Life of Saul

Saul continued to pursue David in hopes to find him and slay him. He pursued him from city to city, into the woods, and even into the deserts. The king said to those about him: "Take knowledge of all the lurking places, where he hides himself, and come and tell me, and I will go with you. If he be in the land I will search him out through all the thousands of Judah.

But always David escaped him and Saul grew more and more bitter in his enmity of David, for he knew the Lord had appointed him one day to be king over Israel.

One time when Saul was returning from a battle with the Philistines, it was told him: "David is in the wilderness of Engedi." Then Saul took three thousand men and went to seek David and his men among the rocks where the wild goats lived. The king came to a cave and went inside and lay down to rest. Soon he was fast asleep, not knowing that David and his men were also in the same cave and were in hiding from the king.

The men whispered to David: "Your enemy is in your hands. Do to him as it seems good to you to do." David would not kill the king because he was the Lord's anointed, but he took his knife and cut off the skirts of Saul's robe. He held back his men also, who desired to rush upon the king and end his life. After awhile Saul arose and went out of the cave.

David and his men followed after him. David called out: "My lord and my king," and when Saul looked behind him David bowed his face to the ground and spoke to him.

"Why, oh king, do you believe men's words that say David seeks to do you harm? This day the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave and some bade me kill you, but I said, I will not put forth my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord's anointed. Moreover, see the skirt of your robe that is in my hand. I could have killed you but I would not."

"Is this your voice, my son David?" said Saul, as he looked upon the young man. "You are more righteous than I am, for you have done good towards me, whereas I would have done evil toward you," and the king was so overcome that he wept.

"Now I know well that you shall surely be king, and the kingdom of Israel shall be in your hands," said Saul, and calling his men he went back to his home, leaving David in the wilderness.

Now the good old Samuel had come to his last days. When he died all the people of Israel came together and lamented his death, and buried him in his house at Ramah. David then went to live in the wilderness of Paran, and afterwards into a wilderness called Ziph.

It was not long before Saul's wrath against David returned. As often as he would forget his enmity, as often it would return, and each time he sought again the young man's life. Saul heard that David was in the wilderness of Ziph, and his anger kindled against him, for in his heart he feared David. He took three thousand men with him to seek David and his band. When David heard that Saul was coming after him he sent spies to find out if it was true, and they returned and told him that Saul was on the way.

David arose with his men and went to the place where he had made his camp, and no one saw him and his men as they came. Saul lay asleep in a trench, and near him was Abner, the captain of his men, also asleep and the others were sleeping near by. David, with but one man, came near the king and his men, and saw him asleep with his spear stuck in the ground.

His companions urged David to slay the king as he lay before him, as once before in the cave he had a chance to do. But David spoke: "The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth my hand against the Lord's anointed, but I pray you to take the spear that is stuck in the ground and the bottle of water and let us go."

So they took the spear and the bottle of water and went away and no man saw them, nor knew what had 'Happened, and not one awoke from his sleep, for the Lord had sent a deep sleep upon Saul and his soldiers. And David went and stood on the top of a hill afar off, and cried in a loud voice, for Abner to awake and answer him.

"Who are you that cries to the king?" was the angry reply of the captain as he awoke from his sleep and heard the voice. "Why have you not kept the lord, your king?" said David. "There came one to destroy him, and you were not on watch. See, here is the king's spear and the cruse of water."

Then Saul awoke and called out: "Is this your voice, David?" And David answered: "It is my voice, my lord and king." Then David told the king he had spared his life, and meant him no harm, and that he was pursuing David for doing only his duty. Saul then declared that he would not pursue David any longer, and would return to his home and leave David alone. And so he sent one of his young men over to get the spear and the bottle of water, and went on his way.