David Spares Saul’s Life, 1-22

24:1 (24:2) When Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, they told him, “Look, David is in the desert of En Gedi.” 24:2 So Saul took three thousand select men from all Israel and went to find David and his men in the region of the rocks of the mountain goats. 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. 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. 24:5 Afterward David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off an edge of Saul’s robe. 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.” 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.

David…cut off an edge of Saul’s robe – ‘This act was far from meaningless because David’s confiscation of a portion of the royal robe signified the transfer of power from the house of Saul to the house of David. Furthermore, by removing the corner of the robe, David made Saul’s robe to be in a state of noncompliance with Torah requirements (cf. Num 15:38–39; Deut 22:12); thus, Saul’s most obvious symbol of kingship was made unwearable. In essence, David had symbolically invalidated Saul’s claim to kingship.’ (Bergen)

David’s action again Saul ‘was more than an act against the king; it was rebellion against the Lord, who had commanded Israelites not to curse their rulers (Exod 22:28), and had previously punished Israelites who had expressed a rebellious attitude against constituted authority (cf. Num 12:2–15; 16:1–35).’ (Bergen)

“He is the Lord’s chosen one” – From this incident comes the widely (mis)applied principle that an ‘anointed’ minister of God is beyond criticism; indeed, that significant harm may come to the person who presumes to attack God’s ‘anointed’ in any way.

‘This ‘touching the Lord’s anointed’ comes from ‘a biblical principle observed in the Old Testament. In 1 Samuel 24:6, King David had just held back from an opportunity to kill his enemy and attacker, King Saul. He sneaked up on him and cut a small piece of King Saul’s robe off and later showed it to him as a sign that he meant him no harm and could have killed him but didn’t. The principle that guided David was that King Saul was still an anointed king of Israel and it was not David’s place to kill him or “touch” him. On this Old Testament principle of not killing kings, our church took touching the Lord’s anointed very seriously.’  (Hinn, Costi W. God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel (p. 50). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.)

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. 24:9 David said to Saul, “Why do you pay attention when men say, ‘David is seeking to do you harm’? 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.’ 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. 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. 24:13 It’s like the old proverb says: ‘From evil people evil proceeds.’ But my hand will not be against you. 24:14 Who has the king of Israel come out after? Who is it that you are pursuing? A dead dog? A single flea? 24:15 May the LORD be our judge and arbiter. May he see and arbitrate my case and deliver me from your hands!”
24:16 When David finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is that your voice, my son David?” Then Saul wept loudly. 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! 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. 24:19 Now if a man finds his enemy, does he send him on his way in good shape? May the LORD repay you with good this day for what you have done to me. 24:20 Now look, I realize that you will in fact be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hand. 24:21 So now swear to me in the LORD’s name that you will not kill my descendants after me or destroy my name from the house of my father.”
24:22 David promised Saul this on oath. Then Saul went to his house, and David and his men went up to the stronghold.