Thursday, November 29, 2012

David and Saul at Ein Gedi


Ein Gedi (Hebrew: עֵין גֶּדִי) is an oasis in Israel, located west of the Dead Sea, near Masada and the caves of Qumran.The name Ein Gedi is composed of two Hebrew words: ein means spring and gdi means goat-kid. En Gedi thus means "Kid spring." It is now a nature reserve.

In Genesis 14:7 Hazazon-tamar is mentioned as being a Amorite city, smitten by Chedorlaomer in his war against the cities of the plain. In Joshua 15:62, Ein Gedi is enumerated among the cities of the Tribe of Judah in the desert Betharaba, but Ezekiel 47:10 shows that it was also a fisherman's town. King David hides in the desert of Ein Gedi (1 Samuel 24:1-2) and King Saul seeks him "even upon the most craggy rocks, which are accessible only to wild goats" (1 Samuel 24:3). In the 2 Chronicles 20:2 it is identified with Hazazon-tamar, where the Moabites and Ammonites gathered in order to fight Josaphat.

The Song of Songs (Songs 1:14) speaks of the "vineyards of En Gedi." The words of Ecclesiasticus 24:18, "I was exalted like a palm tree in Cades" (’en aígialoîs), may perhaps be understood of the palm trees of Ein Gedi.


Palm trees of Ein Gedi

David Falls, a waterfall in the desert

numerous caves in the hill slope

Rock hyrex in the nature reserve

Nubian ibexes on the craggy rocks

Another view of David Falls

1 SAMUEL 24:1 After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, "David is in the Desert of En Gedi." 2 So Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.

    1SA 24:3 He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. 4 The men said, "This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, `I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.' " Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul's robe.

    1SA 24:5 Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6 He said to his men, "The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD." 7 With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.

    1SA 24:8 Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, "My lord the king!" When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. 9 He said to Saul, "Why do you listen when men say, `David is bent on harming you'? 10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, `I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD's anointed.' 11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, `From evildoers come evil deeds,' so my hand will not touch you.


I have often wondered why David did not kill King Saul when he had a chance in Ein Gedi. This thought was on my mind as I walked the desert path to the waterfall. There were numerous caves on the mountain sides. In any of them, the incident narrated in 1 Samuel 24 could have taken place. After this incident, King Saul made peace with David. However, the king changed his mind and hunted David again. 1 Samuel 26 narrates another incident in which David could have killed King Saul, this time in the king's own camp but again did not.

David had all the excuses to kill Saul. He was exiled unjustly, repeatedly persecuted and hunted relentlessly by the king. David was able to escape Saul because of the desert and caves of regions such as Ein Gedi which afford good hiding places. In the two incidents, Saul was vulnerable and David's men has urged him to kill Saul. David has all the "right" reasons but he realized that to murder Saul was the "wrong" way. If David is to be king, he has to become king, not by murder but by God acting and placing him on the throne in God's way and by God's timing. David explained his reasoning in I Samuel 26: 23-24.

23 The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness. The LORD delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the LORD's anointed. 24 As surely as I valued your life today, so may the LORD value my life and deliver me from all trouble."

No matter how good the reasons are, it will be wrong to take God's justice in our own hands.Doing thing for the "right' reasons in the "wrong" way will not be pleasing to God. We, like David, have to discern how to do everything the right way for the right reasons.


During the Roman times, Ein Gedi was famous for its persimmon perfume. Marc Anthony, the lover of the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, confiscated the persimmon groves for her, but after her death king Herod leased them back. During the First Jewish War, the Jewish inhabitants of Ein Gedi tried to uproot the groves so they would not fall in Roman hands and  the Romans fought to prevent it. 

A few years before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, according to the Jewish historian Josephus Flavius, fanatic Zealots from Massada invaded the agricultural settlement of Ein Gedi. They stole all of the crops after killing 700 women and children, and returned with the spoils to their stronghold on Massada (War 4:401-4). After it was conquered by the Romans, Ein Gedi became quiet again, due to a Roman unit which enforced peace in the region.

During the Second Jewish War (130-135 CE), the famed leader of the Jewish rebels, Bar Kokhba, used Ein Gedi as his main administrative center. The Roman army crushed the rebellion and razed the town.

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2 Comments:

Blogger 沙崙 said...

I like this line: "If David is to be king, he has to become king, not by murder but by God acting and placing him on the throne in God's way and by God's timing."

Many leaders violate this godly virtue. I mean, church leaders.

4:07 PM  
Blogger 沙崙 said...

I like this line, "If David is to be king, he has to become king, not by murder but by God acting and placing him on the throne in God's way and by God's timing."

Many leaders violate this godly virtue. I mean, church leaders. :-)

4:09 PM  

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