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It seems tragically foolish on Saul's part that he should respond as he did to another message from the Ziphites to the effect that David was hiding in the hill country of Hachilah (v.1). He had told David only a short time before this, "I know well that thou shalt surely be king" (ch.24:20). Now he seems to have forgotten this and forgotten the kindness of David to him, and again takes three thousand chosen men to hunt David as a defenseless deer.
Of course David and his men knew the terrain, and they knew of Saul's coming to the area. David sent out spies to locate the exact position where Saul and his men would encamp for the night (v.4). He decides on a bold plan, but one as to which he could depend on God for His protection. He came with at least some of his men to an observation point where they could discern just where Saul was lying down to sleep in the midst of his men. Then he asks for a volunteer to accompany him into Saul's camp. Abishai immediately responds (v.6), and they go together.
Silently they pass by the men intended to be on watch and find no hindrance in coming to where Saul is sleeping. Abishai urges David to allow him to kill Saul immediately, telling him that God had delivered him into his hand (v.8). Yet David would not be guilty of harming God's anointed king. He had been ready to kill Nabal and his men, yet afterward realized that even this was wrong, though Nabal was in no place of authority. But it is good to see David's respect of authority that forbad any thought of his taking revenge against Saul. He assures Abishai that as truly as the Lord lives, they could depend on the Lord to remove Saul at His own time, whether (as with Nabal) it might be by a direct infliction of the Lord, by a normal type of natural death, or by death in warfare (v.10).
Instead of doing Saul any personal harm, they take away his spear and a vessel of water that was near his head. This is significant. The spear was his offensive weapon. Thus Saul was given evidence that the Lord knew how to deprive him of the ability to do the damage he desired to. The vessel of water being taken was to remind him that God could also take away the refreshment that he depended on. The water speaks of the word of God: it was this alone that could maintain Saul in his kingdom, though he did not recognize it. He would have to be deprived of it before realizing how he needed it.
Despite the presence of David and Abishai there, not one of the company of Saul woke up. This unusual matter is explained by God's intervention in causing a deep sleep to fall on them all (v.12).
Leaving Saul's camp, David and Abishai crossed over the valley to a hill, a good distance away. There David called loudly to Saul's camp, addressing Abner, the captain of Saul's army (v.14). When Abner responded, David told him that, though he was a great man in Israel, he had failed to guard the king, for someone had penetrated their ranks and could easily have destroyed Saul. Therefore, he says, both Abner and others with him deserved the death penalty. Was there any doubt of the truth of what he said? Let them observe that Saul's spear and the vessel of water were no longer where they had been, near his head.
Saul was wide awake by this time too, and recognized David's voice (v.17), though asking to be sure, "Is this thy voice, my son David?" In answering David maintained the same respect for Saul that he had always done, calling him, "my lord, 0 king." As he had pled with Saul in Chapter 24:9-15, 50 he does again, asking why he should pursue his servant, and what had David done to deserve this. Did David seek to do any evil to Saul?
In verse 19 he suggests two alternatives, either that the Lord had stirred up Saul against David, or that men had done so. If the first were true, would God not receive an offering to settle the matter? But if the second, then David considers such men accursed before the Lord, guilty of driving David out of God's inheritance, the place God had given him. Israel was the place where the true God was worshiped. If David could not remain in Israel, then he was driven to where false gods were worshiped. David did not mention a third alternative, which was likely the true one, that Saul was stirred up by his own jealousy and pride. This was tact on David's part, for he was as much as inferring that Saul could hardly be guilty of such cruelty apart from some outside influence. He pleads with Saul not to shed his blood. For the king of Israel was hunting one who was no more danger to him than a flea or a partridge.
As had been the case in chapter 24:16-19, Saul's conscience was seriously affected, and ought to be. He tells David, "I have sinned," just as he had said to Samuel in chapter 15:24. He adds, "Return, my son David, for I will harm you no more, because my life was precious in your eyes this day. In deed, I have played the fool and erred exceedingly" (v.21). When Saul's guilt has been brought to his attention by means of such a shaking experience, he cannot but see how foolish his course has been.
However, David is by no means persuaded that he should return to Saul. Experience had taught him that Saul's considerate times were only temporary, in spite of the fact that all of Saul's army bore witness to what was said. David would not even bring Saul's spear to him, but asked that one of Saul's young men would come for it. He leaves a message with Saul that ought to have had telling effect, that the Lord would repay everyone for his righteousness and his faithfulness (v.23). This was true, for God did repay David for this; but David did not need to mention God's repayment of bad actions. Saul was not so obtuse that he would fail to think of this too.
Verse 24 shows that David did not expect any radical change in Saul's attitude. Rather than asking for Saul's ceasing his opposition to David, he appeals to God's protection in the midst of danger. Just as he had shown very real respect for the life of Saul so he desires that God might have respect for his own life, and deliver him from all tribulation.
Both David's action and his words have such effect that Saul responds by blessing him and declaring, "You shall both do great things and also still prevail." Saul knew this was true. Why did he not then and there decide to give up his throne to David? but he passed by this last opportunity of delivering himself from the folly of his own ambitious pride, and decided to continue his downward course toward fatal ruin. How can there be a reconciliation between the world and the Lord Jesus Christ so long as the world, though it knows it is wrong, is determined to insist on its own authority and refuse to bow to Him who alone is worthy of all authority? David and Saul go their separate ways.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 26". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany