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24 After Saul’s return from his battle with the Philistines, he was told that David had gone into the wilderness of Engedi; so he took three thousand special troops and went to search for him among the rocks and wild goats of the desert. At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to go to the bathroom, but as it happened, David and his men were hiding in the cave!

“Now’s your time!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today is the day the Lord was talking about when he said, ‘I will certainly put Saul into your power, to do with as you wish’!” Then David crept forward and quietly slit off the bottom of Saul’s robe! But then his conscience began bothering him.

“I shouldn’t have done it,” he said to his men. “It is a serious sin to attack God’s chosen king in any way.”

7-8 These words of David persuaded his men not to kill Saul.

After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, David came out and shouted after him, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked around, David bowed low before him.

9-10 Then he shouted to Saul, “Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? This very day you have seen it isn’t true. For the Lord placed you at my mercy back there in the cave, and some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm him—he is the Lord’s chosen king.’ 11 See what I have in my hand? It is the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you! Doesn’t this convince you that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for my life?

12 “The Lord will decide between us. Perhaps he will kill you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you. 13 As that old proverb says, ‘Wicked is as wicked does,’ but despite your wickedness, I’ll not touch you. 14 And who is the king of Israel trying to catch, anyway? Should he spend his time chasing one who is as worthless as a dead dog or a flea? 15 May the Lord judge as to which of us is right and punish whichever one of us is guilty. He is my lawyer and defender, and he will rescue me from your power!”

16 Saul called back, “Is it really you, my son David?” Then he began to cry. 17 And he said to David, “You are a better man than I am, for you have repaid me good for evil. 18 Yes, you have been wonderfully kind to me today, for when the Lord delivered me into your hand, you didn’t kill me. 19 Who else in all the world would let his enemy get away when he had him in his power? May the Lord reward you well for the kindness you have shown me today. 20 And now I realize that you are surely going to be king, and Israel shall be yours to rule. 21 Oh, swear to me by the Lord that when that happens you will not kill my family and destroy my line of descendants!”

22 So David promised, and Saul went home, but David and his men went back to their cave.

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