The primary reason David was loyal to Saul was the anointing King Saul had received from the Lord. In other words, the Lord was the One who chose Saul to be king, and David refused to go against God’s will. On one occasion when David had the opportunity to kill Saul, he refrained, saying, “As surely as the Lord lives . . . the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed” (1 Samuel 26:10–11). David believed Saul was in God’s hands and that he was forbidden to put Saul to death himself.
In addition, David considered Saul’s life precious and of tremendous value. Though David had killed men in war, he would not kill Saul (1 Samuel 26:24). David had great faith in God’s plan and timing. As long as God wanted Saul to be king, David would wait. He would not take matters into his own hands.
On another occasion, David and his men were hiding in a cave that Saul entered to relieve himself. David was near enough to Saul to cut off the edge of his robe, yet he would not kill him. Instead he said, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord” (1 Samuel 24:6).
Saul was the one God had selected to lead the nation of Israel. Samuel had physically anointed Saul with oil when God selected him as king. First Samuel 10:1 says, “Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, ‘Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?’” The meaning of the physical anointing was that Saul was set apart by God for leadership. David respected God’s choice.
The young David had also been anointed as the future king of Israel. First Samuel 16:13 records, “Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.” It would be many years before God would place him as the official king of the nation, but David knew from experience what it meant to be the Lord’s anointed.
Eventually, Saul did fall in battle, in God’s own timing. This event was bittersweet, as both Saul, who wanted to take David’s life, and Jonathan, who was David’s best friend, were killed on the same day. First Samuel 31 records this battle in which Saul and his sons perished in a battle against the Philistines.
Following Saul’s death, David was appointed king of Judah for seven years before becoming king of all Israel. In total, David would rule for 40 years as king, serving as the Lord’s anointed. He had treated the previous king with great respect and later received the role himself, being called a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).