1 Samuel 26


‘The Ziphites went to Saul at Gibeah and said, ‘Is not David hiding on the hill of Hakilah, which faces Jeshimon?’ So Saul went down to the Desert of Ziph, with his three thousand select Israelite troops, to search there for David. Saul made his camp beside the road on the hill of Hakilah facing Jeshimon, but David stayed in the wilderness. When he saw that Saul had followed him there, he sent out scouts and learned that Saul had definitely arrived.’ 1 Samuel 26:1-4

What happens at the beginning of the chapter concerning the Ziphites is similar to what happened earlier, 1 Samuel 23:10-24:22. Once again they reported to Saul where David was located. They obviously didn’t believe that David would become king because of their loyalty to Saul.

Notice how many selectmen Saul had with him, three thousand, it always appears to have this number of men around him, 1 Samuel 13:2 / 1 Samuel 24:2.

When Saul was informed about David’s location, he once again went all to find him and kill him. He appears to have forgotten that David spared his life earlier in the cave of En Gedi, 1 Samuel 24:1-22.

David Again Spares Saul’s Life

‘Then David set out and went to the place where Saul had camped. He saw where Saul and Abner son of Ner, the commander of the army, had lain down. Saul was lying inside the camp, with the army encamped around him. David then asked Ahimelek the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, ‘Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?’ ‘I’ll go with you,’ said Abishai. So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him. Abishai said to David, ‘Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t strike him twice.’ But David said to Abishai, ‘Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the LORD lives,’ he said, ‘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. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.’ So David took the spear and water jug near Saul’s head, and they left. No one saw or knew about it, nor did anyone wake up. They were all sleeping, because the LORD had put them into a deep sleep.’ 1 Samuel 26:5-12

David heads out to get Saul and asks Ahimelek and Abishai if they were willing to go to Saul’s camp with him. Abishai, along with Joab and Asahel were children of Zeruiah, who according to 1 Chronicles 2:16 was a sister of David.

Abishai saved David’s life in one of the Philistine wars, 2 Samuel 21:17, was implicated in the murder of Abner, 2 Samuel 3:30, and remained faithful to David during the rebellion of Absalom.

When David arrived at the camp with Abishai, they found Saul and his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abishai eagerly wanted to kill Saul, but David stopped him, because Saul at this point was still, the Lord’s anointed, 1 Samuel 24:5 / Romans 13:1. Once again we see David’s respect for Saul and God.

David knew that the Lord Himself would strike Saul, he knew that when God judged His anointed, as He did Saul, then it was the Lord’s business to remove His anointed, not David’s. They managed to get in and out with the spear and water jug without wakening anyone because the Lord had put Saul and his men into a deep sleep.

‘Then David crossed over to the other side and stood on top of the hill some distance away; there was a wide space between them. He called out to the army and to Abner son of Ner, ‘Aren’t you going to answer me, Abner?’ Abner replied, ‘Who are you who calls to the king?’ David said, ‘You’re a man, aren’t you? And who is like you in Israel? Why didn’t you guard your lord the king? Someone came to destroy your lord the king. What you have done is not good. As surely as the LORD lives, you and your men must die, because you did not guard your master, the LORD’s anointed. Look around you. Where are the king’s spear and water jug that were near his head?’ 1 Samuel 26:13-16

David calls out to Abner and asks, ‘who is like you in Israel?’ This was a high compliment that David paid to Abner, and it was sincere, which is fully shown in David’s song at Abner’s death, 2 Samuel 3:31-34 / 2 Samuel 3:38.

David here rebukes Abner because he wasn’t doing his job properly in protecting the king. He deserved the death penalty because he failed to protect, Saul, the Lord’s anointed. The proof that he didn’t do his job was in the fact that David had Saul’s spear and water jug.

‘Saul recognized David’s voice and said, ‘Is that your voice, David my son?’ David replied, ‘Yes, it is, my lord the king.’ And he added, ‘Why is my lord pursuing his servant? What have I done, and what wrong am I guilty of? Now let my lord the king listen to his servant’s words. If the LORD has incited you against me, then may he accept an offering. If, however, people have done it, may they be cursed before the LORD! They have driven me today from my share in the LORD’s inheritance and have said, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ Now do not let my blood fall to the ground far from the presence of the LORD. The king of Israel has come out to look for a flea—as one hunts a partridge in the mountains.’ 1 Samuel 26:17-20

Saul once again recognised David’s voice as he did earlier, the difference is found in David’s response. Earlier at En Gedi, David addressed Saul as ‘my father’, 1 Samuel 24:11, and Saul here sought the same kind of response from David, but David no longer used that terminology.

Saul had given his wife Michal to Palti, 1 Samuel 25:44, and there were no grounds whatever, either for Saul’s words, ‘my son’, or for David’s responding with, ‘my father’. It’s possible because Saul uses these words that David sees how much of a hypocrite Saul has become.

David once again proclaims his innocence and once again he encourages Saul to think about what he is doing. He was searching for an insignificant flea, 1 Samuel 24:14, or a single partridge in the mountains.

In other words, David rebuked Saul for wasting his time chasing and hunting down David. David’s confidence was in God and he knew that God would deal with Saul on His own timetable and so there was no point in taking his life.

‘Then Saul said, ‘I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have been terribly wrong.’ ‘Here is the king’s spear,’ David answered. ‘Let one of your young men come over and get it. The LORD rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness. The LORD delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed. As surely as I valued your life today, so may the LORD value my life and deliver me from all trouble.’ Then Saul said to David, ‘May you be blessed, David my son; you will do great things and surely triumph.’ So David went on his way, and Saul returned home.’ 1 Samuel 26:21-25

Saul’s confession of sin isn’t the same but similar to the same confession he made after David had the chance to kill him at the cave of En Gedi, 1 Samuel 24:17-21. Saul here admits he acted like a fool and had got David all wrong, but he doesn’t appear to be truly repentant.

Saul couldn’t handle David’s kindness and just behaviour because David was everything he wanted to be and was supposed to be. He tells David that he will do great things and surely triumph, it appears that Saul was speaking prophetic words but didn’t realise it.

Go To 1 Samuel 27


"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."