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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 Samuel 26

Verse 5

1 Samuel 26:5. And Saul lay in the trench Within the trench, Houbigant; which appears to be the true meaning of the original word. The Chaldee renders it the same. This entrenchment is generally thought to have consisted of chariots joined together; and therefore Le Clerc renders it, not improperly, intra ambitum plaustrorum. The LXX with no great propriety read; in his chariot. The author of the Observations is of a different opinion from Houbigant. "One can hardly imagine," says he, "that the Hebrew word מעגל mangal, signifies a ditch and bank thrown up; as one would suppose our translators apprehended, from their using the word trench; for it appears from the history, that no precautions were taken against David. Nor does it seem to mean a ring of carriages, as it is supposed in the Margins of our Bibles, and as Buxtorf interprets the word; for, most probably, the parting of carriages was impracticable in that mountainous country. It seems then simply to mean the round which the troops formed, in the midst of whom, as in the place of honour, Saul slept. The view which D'Arvieux gives us of a modern Arab camp, agrees perfectly well with this account of Saul; only supposing that, for the sake of expedition, they carried no tents with them: for he tells us, that, when the disposition of the ground will permit, an Arab camp is always round, the prince being in the middle, and the Arabs about him, but so as to leave a respectful distance between them. Add to this, that their lances are fixed near them in the ground, all the day long, ready for action. When David is represented as sometimes secreting himself in the night, when he was with his armies, 2Sa 17:8-9 it is to be supposed to refer to his not lodging in the middle of the camp, which was a proper place for a king, the better to avoid any surprize from enemies." Observations, p. 347. See Hom. Iliad. ix. ver. 47. and Sil. Ital. lib. vii. ver. 291.

REFLECTIONS.—Good impressions are quickly worn out, where the heart is not truly turned to God.

1. Saul returns to the pursuit of David, still retaining the old rancour, and perhaps instigated by the Ziphites, who, from their former ill behaviour to David, might be apprehensive of suffering for it, should he ever come to the throne. Note; (1.) One sin usually involves the soul in another, so connected is the chain of evil. (2.) A little instigation will revive an old grudge, where the reconciliation is not sincere.

2. David gets information of Saul's motions, and, as before, trusts not to his sword, but to concealment, for his safety. So unwilling was he, under every provocation, to appear in arms against his sovereign.

Verses 7-12

1 Samuel 26:7-12. So David and Abishai came to the people, &c.— This was a bold and hazardous undertaking, which would have been certain death to David had he been discovered. But David was bold and intrepid; and his and Abishai's gallantry in this affair deserves certainly to be no less celebrated than that of Ulysses and Diomed, when they went as spies to the Trojan camp. But there is more in David to be commended than his gallantry. Who can help admiring his magnanimity and piety? What man, but David, with a crown so near in view, would have resisted the fair and inviting temptation? David rejects it with abhorrence, from the principles of religion and duty. Glorious moderation and fortitude of mind! Was ever resolution more generous and loyal? One stroke would have fixed his enemy dead on the spot, put an end to his fears, and mounted him on a throne: and yet, he starts back at the proposal of it: the prospect of a throne will not tempt him to a base, disloyal, and cruel action. Houbigant observes, that the sleep of Adam in Paradise is expressed in the same words as the present; whence he concludes that, as well as this, to have been supernatural. Some imagine, that the cruse mentioned in this 12th verse was a clepsydra, or one of those water watch measures used by the ancients in their camps; others, that it was only a vessel of water kept for washing, in case of legal pollutions; and others, that it was placed there for drink, in case of thirst; which the heat of the season might well cause, as it was about the time of sheep-shearing.

REFLECTIONS.—David, having observed the camp, resolves on a dangerous enterprize; though, it is to be presumed, he had some divine admonition for this step, which would otherwise appear rash and unwarrantable.

1. He goes down to Saul's camp in the night with Abishai, who offered to be his companion. A deep sleep from God had seized the host: Saul lay in the midst of the camp, and his army asleep around him, to the very sentinels. So soon can God disarm the mighty, and leave them a prey to the feeble.
2. Abishai, eager to improve the advantage which so remarkable a providence gave them, concludes that God designed Saul's destruction, and offers, at a stroke, to dispatch him.
3. David refuses the offer, and stays his hand. He uses the same arguments as before, viz. the sacred office with which Saul was invested, and the allegiance therefore due to him. He doubted not but God would avenge his quarrel by some sudden judgment; Saul would fall in battle, or die a natural death; and he is content to wait the Lord's leisure, rather choosing to suffer in the flesh for a while, than by such a blow to bring guilt on his conscience. Note; They who know the evil of sin, will think a crown too dearly purchased by the least transgression.

4. Though he will not hurt him, he takes away with him the evidences of his power to have done so, his spear and cruse; and thus in safety they retire. Note; They are secure in the midst of danger, from whom God gives a charge to the angel of death to withhold his hand.

Verse 15

1 Samuel 26:15. David said to Abner, Art not thou, &c.— It may be asked, how could David make Abner and Saul hear, as it appears from the 13th verse that there was a great distance between them? The answer is easy. To ascend from one high hill to another, requires time; and in this sense, however adjacent, the two hills are remote. Time and pains are required to go from one to the other; but not so to make oneself heard.

Verse 19

1 Samuel 26:19. If the Lord have stirred thee up against me, let him accept, &c.— That is, says Delaney, "If God have excited you against me, on the score of any guilt for which I deserve to die; behold, here I am, ready to be sacrificed in atonement for it." Others understand it as expressive of David's readiness to offer up any sacrifice, if he had been guilty of such a crime as could justly merit this persecution of Saul against him. See Witsius's Miscel. Sacr. tom. 1: p. 581. "But," continues David, "if they are the children of men, they are cursed before the Lord, for they have driven me out, &c. saying, Go, serve other gods."—"The adoption of the local gods of any nation," says Bishop Warburton, "as well as their rites, was so general, that David makes his being unjustly driven into an idolatrous land, the same thing as being forced to serve idolatrous gods." To the same principle Jeremiah likewise alludes, chap. 1 Samuel 16:13.; by which is not meant, that they should be forced any otherwise than by the superstitious dread of divine vengeance for a slighted worship; for at this time civil restraint in matters of religion was very rare. It is very remarkable, that David here laments no present loss, or exclusion from just right, other than that of being shut out from the divine ordinances, and forced among the worshippers of idols.

Verse 20

1 Samuel 26:20. A partridge The Hebrew word קרא kore, a partridge, occurs only here and Jer 17:11 and has its name, according to Parkhurst, from the note that it utters in calling its young or mate; which cannot be better expressed in articulate sounds, than by קרא quera. Whoever reads with tolerable attention the Hierozoicon of Bochart, or even the 19th chapter of the first book, De Nominibus Anim. ab Adamo impositis, cannot doubt that the Hebrew names given by Adam to the animals, were intended to express some remarkable and eminent quality in each. See Parkhurst on the word, and Scheuchzer's Physique Sacree, tom. 5: The account that Dr. Shaw gives us of the manner in which the Arabs hunt partridges, is a lively comment on the place. "The Arabs have another and more laborious method of catching these birds; for, observing that they become languid and fatigued after they have been hastily put up twice or thrice, they immediately run in upon them, and knock them down with their zerwattys, or bludgeons, as we should call them." It was precisely in this manner that Saul hunted David, coming hastily upon him, and putting him up from time to time, in hopes that he should at length, by frequent repetitions of it, be able to destroy him. Observations, p. 172.

Verse 21

1 Samuel 26:21. Then said Saul, I have sinned Bayle has endeavoured to prove that this event, and that related in chap. 24: are but one and the same. To destroy this seeming identity, it will not be unseasonable to attend to the following circumstances, which prove the events to be different. In the first, David was in the wilderness of En-gedi; in the second, he was in the wilderness of Ziph. In the first, Saul went to seek David on the rocks of the goats; in the second, Saul pitched his camp in Hachilah. In the former, Saul was alone; in the latter, he was encamped with his soldiers. In the first, he was in a cave to cover his feet; in the second, he lay asleep in his camp. In the former, David was in the same cave with Saul, though unseen, and his men were with him in the cave; in the latter, Saul was in the hill of Hachilah, but David with his men abode in the wilderness, and when he went to Saul he was accompanied only by Abishai. In the former, David's men instigate him to kill Saul; in the latter, Abishai exhorts him to destroy him. In the former, David cuts off the skirt of Saul's robe, and when he came out of the cave, he cries after Saul, and tells him that he found him in a cave; in the latter, David takes the spear and cruse of water from Saul's bolster, cries to the people, and to Abner, and tells him that there came one of the people into the camp to destroy the king. In the former event, David only shewed Saul the skirt of his robe; but in the latter, he shews the king's spear, and desires him to send one of his attendants to fetch it. Who ever saw any one thing in the world look more like two things, or rather two separate, distinct, and different transactions?

REFLECTIONS.—We have here,

1. Saul melted down under David's remonstrance. He sees now how precious his life was in David's sight, and therefore how sinful it was against God to persecute the innocent, as well as foolish to drive so faithful a servant from him. He owns the aggravation of his sin, and that he has erred exceedingly; invites him to return to court, and solemnly promises never more to attempt his harm. Note; Sin is the greatest folly, and will appear so at last.

2. David enforces the conviction of his innocence; desires the king to send for his spear and cruse; prays to God to deal with him according to his uprightness before him; assures Saul that his hand would never be against him, as that day's experience would testify; the anointing oil would be his sacred guard; and he refers himself to God for the same protection, preservation, and deliverance, as that day he had shewn to Saul. Note; (1.) God is a righteous judge, and all his dispensations prove him to be so. (2.) They who shew mercy, may hope to find mercy.

3. Saul is quite overcome, blesses his son, acknowledges, before his army, his righteous dealing, and predicts his greatness and prevalence over all his enemies. Note; God will at last make his enemies bow at the feet of his persecuted people, and know that he hath loved them. Revelation 3:9.

4. Saul and David part to meet no more: Saul returns to Gibeath, David to his fastnesses, unwilling to trust to promises which had been so often broken. Note; It is folly to trust a second time those who have once deceived us.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 26". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.