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First Samuel - Chapter 26
David Again Spares Soul, vs. 1-12
The Ziphites had an agreement with Saul to spy on David and keep him informed of the fugitive’s whereabouts (1 Samuel 23:19 ff). Accordingly they now sent word to Saul at Gibeah that David had reappeared in their vicinity, in the hill of Hachilah, on the western edge of the wilderness of Jeshimon, later known as the wilderness of Judaea. This was east of the town of Ziph toward the Dead Sea.
Saul therefore again mustered his three thousand choice men and came to capture David. He camped his army in the hill, but David had withdrawn into the wilderness of Ziph, the western part of Jeshimon in the vicinity of Ziph. It appears that Saul was sending out search parties into the wilderness, and subsequently moved his entire army there. David was also alert, sending out spies who reported back to him that Saul had arrived in the same vicinity and made camp.
David possessed some vantage point from which he could observe the activities of Saul’s camp undetected. There he saw the great army of Saul in repose, both Saul and his captain, Abner, asleep with the men lying around also sleeping. The trench was a kind of stockade, or earthworks, thrown up to provide protection for. Saul in event David and his men should attack. David called two of his bravest men and proposed a nocturnal visit to Saul’s camp. Ahimelech, the Hittite, is not further known. David had several Hittites in his service (see Uriah, e.g., 2 Samuel 11:1 ff). These were probably among the remnants of the Canaanites who survived the conquest of the land by Joshua, and they possibly had cause to oppose Saul who deprived many of them of privileges they had previously enjoyed (e.g., Gibeonites, 2 Samuel 21:1 ff).
Abishai, the son of Zeruiah, David’s nephew and Joab’s brother agreed to go on this daring adventure with David. Abishai was the son of David’s sister, Zeruiah (1 Chronicles 2:15-16). He was brave, valiant, and staunchly loyal to David (see 2 Samuel 16:9-14, e.g.). When they came to the camp they found Saul sleeping in the trench, Abner asleep nearby, and all the soldiers asleep around them. Saul’s spear was stuck in the ground at his bolster, and his water cruse lay nearby.
Abishai immediately surmised that the Lord had created the situation so that David could speedily dispatch his enemy. He asked for permission to take the spear and strike it through the king’s heart. So confident was he that he would not need to make a second thrust. This revealed Abishai’s strong feeling against the king. Saul had made fugitives and criminals of them all, forcing them to forsake their homes and family life and to subsist on the land as best they could.
But David would not allow it. He still looked on Saul as the king of Israel, who was anointed by direction of the Lord, and he should be left to his fate according to the will of the Lord. He would be smitten down by the Lord, would come to his day of death naturally, or go into battle and be killed in the Lord’s own time. But he asked Abishai to take the spear and the water cruse and depart from the camp with him, leaving the army unmolested further. No one saw the two men come into the camp or leave it. Not one of the soldiers, Saul’s elect, stirred or awoke from his sleep, for the Lord had caused them to fall into a deep sleep.
David Remonstrates with Saul, vs. 13-20
When David had returned to his own camp he stood on a hill and shouted back to the camp of Saul. He addressed Abner, Saul’s captain, in particular, "Don’t you answer, Abner?" Abner, finally aroused, inquired of the person shouting at the king. David answered him with ridicule and sarcasm, "Aren’t you a valiant man? Is there another in Israel like you? Then, why have you not given protection to your king?" He went on to tell him how someone had come into the camp with intent of slaying the king, and Abner and the people around Saul, had not protected him. It was a very bad neglect of duty of which Abner and his men had been guilty, and under the laws of the land they ought to have been put to death.
This was a very serious charge and must have greatly incensed the brave captain and shamed him as well. He should have had an alert guard on watch to prevent enemies from coming into the camp. Of course it was the Lord that caused them to sleep through the visit of David and Abishai, but he could not as yet have been aware of it. He must have been shamed and humiliated, but he could not deny it, for David had the spear and the cruse of water with him which had rested beside the king’s head.
Saul, now also aroused, recognized the voice of David, and should have noted again that it was not the voice of an enemy. It was God’s second warning to Saul concerning David, the second proof of character of David over against that of Saul (compare chapter 24). Saul had before admitted that he was wrong and David right, had acknowledged that David should be king, and had given up pursuing him. But when the Ziphites had come again informing him that David had returned to their area he had taken up his wicked pursuit once more.
David again besought the king to listen to reason, for if it is the Lord who has stirred up Saul against David He can be appeased with an offering. But if it is men they are accursed of God for driving David away from the land of his people and seeking to force him into a pagan country for safety. That David was contemplating just such a thing is seen in the next chapter of First Samuel: But David considered himself a mere nobody, comparable to a flea or a partridge that a man might hunt for irritation or sport.
Saul Acknowledges David’s Preeminence, vs. 21-25
Saul shows more humiliation and remorse at his treatment of David on this occasion, which turned out to be the last meeting of the two men. Saul again confessed that he had sinned, as he did previously when David spared his life in the cave at En-gedi. This time he also explicitly promises that he will no longer seek the harm of David, because David has again spared his life when he was wholly within his power. He goes on to admit that he has done the fool’s part and made an exceeding error in his pursuit of David.
David makes no further comment concerning Saul’s promises, but it is apparent that he no longer placed any trust in what he said. He had learned long before that the king was subject to sudden changes of temperament. He simply informed Saul that he should send one of his young men for his spear. Once again he bespeaks his willingness to leave the entire affair to the out-working of the Lord’s will. He prays that the Lord will render righteousness and faithfulness to those who are submissive to him, as he had been in the case of Saul. He asks that the Lord treat David’s life as precious in His eyes as David had treated the life of Saul, (Psalms 34:7).
Saul and David part with Saul’s expression of beatitude on David and his prediction of great deeds and prevailing success in his life. David continued in his flight, and Saul returned to his home.
Learn from chapter twenty-six: 1) Men without God may make good resolutions, but cannot keep them; 2) one can be bold when he knows he is in the Lord’s will; 3) the bravest and most dedicated are still not able to keep one who is out of the will of God; 4) one who repeatedly breaks promises will always be suspected of insincerity.
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Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 26". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany