1 Samuel 26


David Spares Saul’s Life Again

      • Then the Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Isn’t David hiding on the hill of Hakilah which is across from Jeshimon?” So Saul, along with 3,000 chosen Israelite men, went down to the wilderness of Ziph to look for David. Saul camped beside the road at the hill of Hakilah across from Jeshimon, but David was staying in the wilderness. When he realized that Saul had come after him into the wilderness, he sent out scouts to verify that Saul had definitely arrived.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “…The Ziphites told Saul for a second time where David was hiding (see 23:19-20)…Hakilah…Jeshimon is the same geographical location they had mentioned to Saul before…David had not moved far, probably because the hilly terrain was dotted with numerous caves, providing many good hiding places.”

        • Guzik adds, “This means Saul went back on his previous repentance shown in 1 Samuel 24:16-21. At that time David had opportunity to kill Saul but did not take it. When David boldly demonstrated this to Saul, the king was greatly moved emotionally and publicly repented for his murderous intentions toward David. Saul’s repentance was deep, sincere, and emotional – but it didn’t last very long.”

      • David went to the place where Saul was camped and he saw the place where Saul and Abner, Ner’s son and the commander of his army, had lain down. Saul was lying inside the inner circle of the camp with the army camped all around him. David said to Ahimelech the Hittite and to Joab’s brother Abishai, Zeruiah’s son, “Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?” Abishai answered, “I’ll go down with you.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes that, “This is the only reference to Ahimelech the Hittite.” ESV Archaeology Study Bible says, “Ahimelech probably belonged to a small group of Canaanites, known as Hittites, rather than to the Hittite superpower of the Late Bronze Age that ruled Anatolia in the fourteenth to thirteenth centuries BC…”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible continues, “Zeruiah was David’s sister (1 Ch 2:16), so Abishai was David’s nephew. The sons of Zeruiah (Abishai, Joab, and Asahel) were three of David’s most faithful followers (e.g. 2 Sam 2:18), but they sometimes caused David difficulty (see 2 Sam 3:39; 16:10; 19:22).”

      • So David and Abishai went to the army by night and found Saul lying asleep inside the camp, with his spear stuck into the ground by his head, and Abner and the army all lying around him. Abishai said to David, “God has delivered your enemy over into your hand today. Now, let me thrust the spear straight through him and into the ground with one jab. A second won’t be necessary.”

        • Guzik says, “As with the last time David could have killed Saul (1 Samuel 24:4), David’s associates pointed out that this circumstance was not an accident but designed by God – and the design was for David to take righteous vengeance upon Saul. Abishai made it easy for David: Please let me strike at once with the spear. David would not raise his hand against Saul but Abishai would do it, and not feel bad about it in the slightest way. David could say to himself and everyone else, ‘I did not kill Saul.’”

      • But David replied to Abishai, “Don’t kill him! Who can put out his hand against Yahweh’s anointed and remain guiltless? As surely as Yahweh lives, Yahweh will strike him down, or his day to die will come, or he will die in battle. Yahweh forbid that I should raise my hand against Yahweh’s anointed. Now take the spear and the water jug that are near his head and let’s go.” So David took the spear and the water jug by Saul’s head and they left. No one saw them, or was aware of their presence, or woke up. All of them were sleeping because Yahweh had caused a deep sleep to fall upon them.

      • Then David crossed over to the other side and stood far off on the top of the hill, there was a considerable distance between them. Then David shouted to the army and to Abner, Ner’s son, “Abner! Aren’t you going to answer?” Then Abner answered, “Who are you who calls to the king?” And David replied, “You’re a man, aren’t you? After all, who in all of Israel is like you? Why then, didn’t you keep watch over your lord the king? Someone came to kill your lord the king. What you have done is not good! As surely as Yahweh lives, you and your men deserve to die because you haven’t kept watch over your lord, Yahweh’s anointed! Now look around. Where are the king’s spear and water jug that were beside his head?”

        • ESV Study Bible notes, “The ‘you’s’ are all plural here in Hebrew- David is accusing Saul’s men collectively.” NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds that, “Death was the punishment of dereliction of duty.”

      • Saul recognized David’s voice and said, “Is that your voice, my son David?” David answered, “It is my voice, my lord king. Why is my lord chasing his servant? What have I done? What guilt is on my hands? Now let my lord king listen to the words of his servant: If Yahweh has incited you against me, may He accept an offering. If, however, it is people, may they be cursed in the presence of Yahweh, because they have driven me away today from sharing in the inheritance of Yahweh, saying, ‘Go and serve other gods.’ So don’t let my blood fall to the ground far away from Yahweh’s presence. The king of Israel has gone out to look for a single flea the way one goes out to hunt a partridge in the mountains.”

        • There are some theologically difficult statements in the passage above. The first is in David’s question to Saul regarding who had incited his opposition to David- Yahweh or men? Next, is David’s comment about being driven away from sharing in Yahweh’s inheritance and being told to serve other gods. We’ll take a look at both.

          • The words here are difficult ones in a theological point of view. If, however, we are content to interpret them with Bishop Wordsworth according to the Arabic Version of the Chaldee Targum, the difficulty vanishes: ‘If the Lord hath stirred thee up against me for any fault of mine, let me know mine offence, and I am ready to make an offering for it to the Lord, that I may be forgiven.’—Wordsworth.”

          • But by far the greater number of scholars and expositors understand the words of David in what seems to be their plain literal sense, viz.: ‘If Jehovah has incited you to do this evil thing, let Him smell an offering.’ The word for offering in the Hebrew is minchah, the meat offering, which signifies ‘sanctification of life and devotion to the Lord.’ In other words, ‘If you think or feel that God stirs you up to take this course against me—the innocent one—pray to God that He may take the temptation—if it be a temptation—from thee.’”

        • This conception that the movement comes from God runs through the Old Testament. It is apparently expressed in such passages as ‘the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart,’ and in such sayings as we find here in this Book of Samuel of an evil spirit from the Lord haunting Saul…”

          • In his words, David supposes two cases as conceivable causes of Saul’s hostility: (1) if Jehovah hath stirred thee up against me; (2) if men have done so. In the first case, he proposes as the best means of overcoming this instigation, that He (Jehovah) should smell an offering. The Hiphil…only means to smell, not to cause to smell. The subject is Jehovah. Smelling a sacrifice is an anthropomorphic term, used to denote the divine satisfaction (cf. Genesis 8:21). The meaning of the words, ‘let Jehovah smell sacrifice,’ is therefore, ‘let Saul appease the wrath of God by the presentation of acceptable sacrifices.’ …The thought to which David gives utterance here, namely, that God instigates a man to evil actions, is met with in other passages of the Old Testament. It not only lies at the foundation of the words of David in Psalm 51:6 (cf. Hengstenberg on Psalms), but is also clearly expressed in 2 Samuel 24:1, where Jehovah instigates David to number the people, and where this instigation is described as a manifestation of the anger of God against Israel; and in 2 Samuel 16:10., where David says, with regard to Shimei, that God had bade him curse him. These passages also show that God only instigates those who have sinned against Him to evil deeds; and therefore that the instigation consists in the fact that God impels sinners to manifest the wickedness of their hearts in deeds, or furnishes the opportunity and occasion for the unfolding and practical manifestation of the evil desire of the heart, that the sinner may either be brought to the knowledge of his more evil ways and also to repentance, through the evil deed and its consequences, or, if the heart should be hardened still more by the evil deed, that it may become ripe for the judgment of death. The instigation of a sinner to evil is simply one peculiar way in which God, as a general rule, punishes sins through sinners; for God only instigates to evil actions such as have drawn down the wrath of God upon themselves in consequence of their sin. When David supposes the fact that Jehovah has instigated Saul against him, he acknowledges, implicitly at least, that he himself is a sinner, whom the Lord may be intending to punish, though without lessening Saul’s wrong by this indirect confession.”

        • The second difficulty involves an ancient concept that is foreign to modern day believers- the idea of certain geographical locations being the domain of various deities.

          • ESV Study Bible commentary mentions that this, “…reflects the common Near Eastern idea that a god could be worshiped only on its own soil (2 Kings 5:17) and also perhaps the idea that one worships the god of the people among whom one lives…”

          • This is related to topics we have previously discussed which some modern readers find very difficult to accept and mistakenly view as a breach of monotheism- specifically material related to the Deuteronomy 32 worldview. However, this is another instance in which the Deuteronomy 32 view is more adequately able to make sense of a passage that the less supernatural, more “comfortable” alternative struggles with. While other commentators must find a way for David to be meaning something different from what he actually says, following Dr. Michael Heiser’s explanation, we can simply take David at his words:

            • One of the points of David’s distress is that he has been driven away ‘from sharing in the inheritance of Yahweh.’ The ‘inheritance’ language is the same as that found in Deuteronomy 32:8-9, where Jacob (Israel) is Yahweh’s inheritance, the land and the people Yahweh ‘took’ for himself (Deuteronomy 4:19-20).” (Heiser, Unseen Realm, p. 117)

            • Is David ignorant of the fact that the God who made heaven and earth can be anywhere? No. In David’s mind, being driven outside of Israel meant not being able to worship Yahweh. Note that he does not complain of being driven from the Ark of the Covenant, located at Kiriath Jearim (1 Sam 7:2), or from the Tabernacle, apparently located at Nob (1 Sam 21-22). His complaint is being expelled from the ‘inheritance’ of Yahweh- the holy land of his God. David can’t worship as he should if he’s not on holy ground. The land outside of Israel belong to other gods.” (Heiser, Unseen Realm, p. 117)

          • In corroboration of this interpretation, Heiser goes on to cite the story of Namaan from 2 Kings 5:15-19, in which this explanation is the only one that makes sense of Namaan’s odd request, “The brief trip to Israel and the encounter with Yahweh’s prophet have taught Namaan some good theology. He affirms that ‘there is no God in all of the world except in Israel’ (v. 15). From henceforth he will sacrifice only to Yahweh. But how can he keep that vow after returning to Syria? Simple- he pleads to take dirt home. Namaan views the land of Israel as holy ground- it is Yahweh’s territory. Namaan takes as much dirt as his mules can carry so he can worship Yahweh on Yahweh’s own territory, even though Namaan lives in the domain of the god Rimmon.” (Heiser, Unseen Realm, p. 118)

            • ** If all of this sounds extremely odd to you, join the club. There is far too much to this view to explain in this short space, but it is too compelling to ignore. Therefore, the interested reader may refer to the notes for Deuteronomy 32 for additional information and links. Also, I recommend Dr. Heiser’s book, The Unseen Realm.**

          • On David’s reference to a flea and a partridge, the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible writes, “David’s self description may have suggested not only humility but the difficulty of Saul’s accomplishing his goal, ‘to look for a flea.’ Further, David began his exchange with Saul when he ‘called out’ to Abner from atop a distant hill…but now David likens himself to ‘a partridge in the mountains.’ The word for ‘partridge’ in Hebrew is literally ‘caller’; just as a hunter might pursue a single partridge (‘caller’) in the mountains with little hope of success, so Saul is in futile pursuit of David, himself a caller in the mountains…”

      • Saul responded, “I have sinned. Come back, my son David. I won’t try to harm you anymore because you have valued my life today. I have acted foolishly and made a great mistake.” David said, “Here is the king’s spear. Have one of your young men come over and get it. Yahweh repays every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness. Yahweh delivered you into my hands today but I would not raise my hand against Yahweh’s anointed. As surely as I valued your life today, so may Yahweh consider my life valuable and deliver me from all trouble.” Saul replied, “May you be blessed, my son David. You will do many great things and surely be successful.” Then David went on his way and Saul returned home.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Saul had seen the error of his ways once before (24:16-19). David had no good reason to trust him this time (see 27:1)…David did not harm Saul…because Saul was the Lord’s anointed one…David could not count on Saul to reciprocate. Thus, his fate was in God’s hands. This may have been David’s last personal encounter with him.”

Click here to go to chapter 27