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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

1 Samuel 26

Verses 1-25

David Spares Saul’s Life (26:1-25)

Here we have the other form of the story of the Ziphites and probably the earlier, since it has a wealth of detail and freshness about it. The places mentioned are in the same general area as those in the story of chapter 24; the Ziphites play the same role; David spares Saul’s life, although the details of the account are different.

David took one of his company, Abishai, and entered by stealth at night into the heart of Saul’s encampment. They came upon Saul asleep in the heart of the camp. Abishai, in words similar to those used by David’s followers in the earlier story, besought David to slay Saul. David, in like words, refused to take the life of the Lord’s anointed one, and satisfied himself by taking Saul’s spear and water jar. Once free of the camp and on the mountaintop, David shouted through the darkness, a detail which explains why, in the other version as in this, Saul recognized David by his voice and not by his appearance (1 Samuel 24:16). He arraigned Abner, Saul’s commander, for his faulty watch over his king, and offered the spear and water jar as testimony that Saul’s life had been in his hands.

Saul, recognizing David’s voice, was then addressed in the same form as in the other version of the incident, but there is one additional element here worthy of notice. This is the suggestion that to be banished from Israel’s land means to serve other gods (vs. 19). Behind this lies the primitive notion that the Lord was God over Israel’s land only, and that in other nations their gods were supreme. Hence banishment meant to pass into the realm of some other deity. As the lofty monotheism implicit in the wilderness faith of Moses reached its full expression in the great canonical prophets, this popular idea was superseded. Some echo of it remained in the conviction that, just as Israel was God’s Chosen People, so its land was his special delight; it was Beulah land, and here God chose to manifest his presence. This faith in the tabernacling presence of God was brought to a focus in the Temple at Jerusalem. Love of God’s house, still a mark of Christian piety, is one expression of the truth implicit in this attitude. We need, moreover, to remember that God is known to be present everywhere because he has chosen to be especially present somewhere. That is the truth which was emphasized in the idea of the tabernacling presence in the "Holy of Holies" and which finally became actualized in the Incarnation.

The incident apparently ended, as in chapter 24, with some measure of reconciliation. Each went his way in peace.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Samuel 26". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/1-samuel-26.html.