Compassion In Engedi

On a recent trip to Israel I was able to visit Engedi. Engedi is in the Judean wilderness near the Dead Sea. It is probably best known for being the place where David hid from Saul.

It is interesting that after David slew the Philistine giant, Goliath, Saul had a lot of respect for David. He elevated David to a position of authority in his kingdom (1 Samuel 18:1-5). One could even say that the two became friends. But due to David’s increasing popularity as a great warrior, it didn’t take long before Saul became jealous of David, and his jealousy provoked him to try to take David’s life on several occasions (1 Samuel 18:6-11). In fact, Saul’s efforts became so intense that David was forced to flee into the wilderness of Engedi.

There are two reasons why David chose to find refuge here. First, there are multiple caves in which to hide. Second, there was also a fresh water spring.

Eventually Saul gets words where David is hiding. He then takes 3,000 of his soldiers with him to Engedi. At one point he goes into a cave to “relieve himself,” but unbeknownst to him it is the very cave where David is hiding with his men (1 Samuel 24:1-3)! David’s men try to urge him to kill his enemy, but instead David secretly cuts off a piece of Saul’s garment (1 Samuel 24:4). David’s conscious then began to bother him (1 Samuel 24:5). He said to his men, “Far be it from me because of the Lord that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the Lord’s anointed” (1 Samuel 24:6). David was able to persuade his men with these words not to kill Saul, and the king was able to leave the cave unharmed.

David’s actions toward Saul on this occasion challenge us in some very powerful ways. They challenge us to be…

  • Merciful and kind, even to our enemies. Saul was treating David unfairly. His jealousy had led him to trying to take David’s life unjustly. David was provided with a perfect opportunity to retaliate and kill Saul, but instead he chose to spare him. He chose to be good to a man who was clearly his enemy!
  • Forgiving, even to our enemies. Although Saul was certainly not seeking David’s forgiveness on this occasion, David still refused to hold his evil actions against him. Even though he was being treated unfairly, David still refused to harbor a grudge and take advantage of an opportunity to get even.
  • Tender-hearted. David’s tender heart is clearly on display in Engedi. It is displayed in an act of compassion towards a helpless enemy. It is also displayed in how his conscience bothered him when he took a piece of Saul’s robe. David knew that God could see his actions, even in a dark cave, and would hold him accountable if he committed sin!
  • Respectful towards God’s choices. Ultimately, David refrained from killing Saul because he respected him as God’s anointed. He knew that God was responsible for Saul being the king and he had no right to kill a man put on the throne by God. Even though Saul was the source of his problems, David respected God’s choice to have him reign as the king at this time. He knew that it wasn’t his place to get revenge against his enemy. God would do that for him in due time.

All of these character qualities that David demonstrates in Engedi are qualities that God expects us to have today. Like David, we too are to be kind and merciful, even to our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). We too are to be forgiving, even to our enemies (Matthew 6:14-15). We too are to possess tender hearts – hearts that are easily pricked by the gospel and are compassionate towards those who are helpless and in need (Acts 2:37; Ephesians 4:32). We too are to be respectful and submissive towards those who are put in positions of authority by God (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Hebrews 13:17).

David’s behavior in Engedi only helps us understand further why he was indeed “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). If we apply them to our lives, we too can be the same.

– Shawn Jeffries

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