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David spares Saul's life, who returns home. Samuel
dies. Nabal's condition and character.
David now felt that another change was necessary for his security, and retired with his men to the strong holds of En-gedi. This place took its name probably from its situation among lofty, precipitous rocks that overhang the valleys beneath. A fountain of pure water rises near the summit, which the inhabitants call En-gedi,--the fountain of the goat, -because it is hardly accessible to any other creature. It was called also Hazazon-Tamar,—the city of palm-trees,—there being a great quantity around it. It stood near the Dead Sea, in a south-easterly direction from Jerusalem, and was remarkable, also, for the fruitful vineyards in its vicinity.
Saul, having driven out the Philistines, and being apprised by his emissaries of David's new lurking place, took with him three thousand chosen men, to renew his search among the rocks of En-gedi. In some of these rocks were vast caves, in which it was customary for the shepherds and their flocks to lodge; and in the deep recesses of one of them, David and his
band had secreted themselves. On his way up the mountain, Saul entered this very cave, and probably laid himself down near its entrance, to take a little repose in sleep. It is easy to conceive what alarm this excited among David and his followers. Their persecutor whom they so much dreaded, seemed already to have them within his grasp. Nothing but the most prompt and decided measures could save them. The necessity was inexorable ; and they thought the death of Saul alone would afford them any prospect of escape. In the consternation among his men, which such an unexpected and disheartening event would produce, they might easily fight their way through their enemies, and retreat from immediate danger. The most resolute crowded around David. They urged him to the deed of which they said his duty, both to himself and his followers, demanded the performance. They even pleaded what they considered the interposition of Providence in his behalf, as a clear indication of the will of Jehovah, and a signal fulfilment of the Divine promise, either real or pretended, which had been made to him. "Behold,” said they, " the day of which the Lord said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee.”
What a crisis! How will David act? Will it be safe for him to forego the advantage which
he now has over his inveterate and dreaded ene. my? Does not self-preservation alone call loudly for putting Saul to death, and will it not justify the deed? How soon, too, may the removal of the king prepare the way for David's ascending the throne, and thus gratify his youthful ambition with the glory of dominion over a great and prosperous people.
But conscience speaks. It forbids him to raise his hand against the rightful ruler of the nation, to whom he owes allegiance. A generous and heroic magnanimity will not suffer him to shed the blood of Saul, defenceless and in his power. He is the father of Jonathan, and how can he inflict such anguish upon a faithful and beloved friend. His purpose is formed. He will do no harm to the king. He approaches him, however, with caution, and without disturbing him cuts off the skirt of his robe, intending to keep it as a proof that he had his enemy completely at his mercy, and to convince Saul that he had no treacherous designs against him.
He returned to his men, but not without a deep misgiving at what he had done, so respectful and loyal were his feelings towards his sovereign. He feared, too, their disappointment and impetuosity. It was necessary that they should be restrained by the interposition of his authority. "The Lord forbid,” said he, "that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord's anointed, to stretch forth