1Sa 24:3  He came to the sheepfolds by the road, where there was a cave. Saul went into it to relieve himself.
Now David and his men were sitting in the recesses of the cave.
1Sa 24:4  David’s men said to him, “This is the day about which the LORD said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hand, and you can do to him whatever seems appropriate to you.’ ” So David got up and quietly cut off an edge of Saul’s robe.
1Sa 24:5  Afterward David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off an edge of Saul’s robe.
1Sa 24:6  He said to his men, “May the LORD keep me far away from doing such a thing to my lord, who is the LORD’s chosen one, by extending my hand against him. After all, he is the LORD’s chosen one.”
1Sa 24:7  David restrained his men with these words and did not allow them to rise up against Saul. Then Saul left the cave and started down the road.
1Sa 24:8  Afterward David got up and went out of the cave. He called out after Saul, “My lord, O king!” When Saul looked behind him, David kneeled down and bowed with his face to the ground.
1Sa 24:9  David said to Saul, “Why do you pay attention when men say, ‘David is seeking to do you harm’?
1Sa 24:10  Today your own eyes see how the LORD delivered you — this very day — into my hands in the cave. Some told me to kill you, but I had pity on you and said, ‘I will not extend my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD’s chosen one.’
1Sa 24:11  Look, my father, and see the edge of your robe in my hand! When I cut off the edge of your robe, I didn’t kill you. So realize and understand that I am not planning evil or rebellion. Even though I have not sinned against you, you are waiting in ambush to take my life.
1Sa 24:12  May the LORD judge between the two of us, and may the LORD vindicate me over you, but my hand will not be against you.
1Sa 24:13  It’s like the old proverb says: ‘From evil people evil proceeds.’ But my hand will not be against you.
1Sa 24:14  Who has the king of Israel come out after? Who is it that you are pursuing? A dead dog? A single flea?
1Sa 24:15  May the LORD be our judge and arbiter. May he see and arbitrate my case and deliver me from your hands!”
1Sa 24:16  When David finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is that your voice, my son David?” Then Saul wept loudly.
1Sa 24:17  He said to David, “You are more innocent than I, for you have treated me well, even though I have tried to harm you!
1Sa 24:18  You have explained today how you have treated me well. The LORD delivered me into your hand, but you did not kill me.

The interpretation in “Covering Theology”

David stayed submitted to a demonic king.  Saul was anointed as the king of Israel.  He was being tormented by demonic forces and was driven to harm God’s newly anointed King David.  David had an opportunity to kill Saul in a cave but did nothing more than cut a piece of his clothing off.  Even that bothered David after he did it.  David is a great example of how we should respond to those in authority over us even when we suffer under their authority.


The authoritarian interpretation of this passage incorrectly equates David’s refusal to kill Saul with biblical submission.  After Saul started trying to kill David he never submitted to Saul in the biblical sense.  He simply refused to physically harm him.  David correctly interpreted the passage “do not touch the Lord’s anointed” which literally means do not physically harm the people God anointed as the political or spiritual leaders of Israel.

The word translated submission in Eph 5 and Heb 13 is hupotasso.  When used in reference to something not related to the military Hupotasso means “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.”  It implies a willingness to cooperate and listen to those in leadership.  It doesn’t imply blind obedience to authority.

Several of the things David did revealed he was anything but submitted to Saul.

  • David refused Saul’s desire for him to wed his daughter. (1Sam 18:18)
  • David hid from Saul until he was assured that he wasn’t going to be killed. (1Sam 19:6-7)
  • David instructs Jonathan to lie to Saul to reveal his real intentions. (1Sam 20-6-7)
  • David becomes a leader of a band of malcontents and outlaws in Saul’s kingdom. (1Sam 22:2).
  • David’s men carried out military operations against the philistines. (1Sam 23:1)
  • David restrains himself and his men from killing Saul.  Later on he challenges Saul “may the LORD vindicate me over you. (1Sam 24:12)”  Then he implies that Saul is evil (1Sam 24:13).

Do any of these things look like submission?

Jonathan, Saul’s son, is held up as a hero in this story.  It is curious at how Jonathan is held up as a hero in this story but he actively undermined the wishes of his own father and king (1Sam 19:2, 1Sam 20:2, 1Sam 20:13, 1Sam 20:28, 1Sam 20:25) time and again because his wishes were evil.  If there are any lessons from this story about leadership it would be to adhere to God’s values even if it means undermining your own family.