Some Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah and said, "Did you know that David is hiding out on the Hakilah Hill just opposite Jeshimon?"
Saul was on his feet in a minute and on his way to the wilderness of Ziph, taking three thousand of his best men, the pick of the crop, to hunt for David in that wild desert.
He camped just off the road at the Hakilah Hill, opposite Jeshimon.
He sent scouts to determine his precise location.
Then David set out and came to the place where Saul had set up camp and saw for himself where Saul and Abner, son of Ner, his general, were staying. Saul was safely inside the camp, encircled by the army.
Taking charge, David spoke to Ahimelech the Hittite and to Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab's brother: "Who will go down with me and enter Saul's camp?" Abishai whispered, "I'll go with you."
So David and Abishai entered the encampment by night, and there he was - Saul, stretched out asleep at the center of the camp, his spear stuck in the ground near his head, with Abner and the troops sound asleep on all sides.
Abishai said, "This is the moment! God has put your enemy in your grasp. Let me nail him to the ground with his spear. One hit will do it, believe me; I won't need a second!"
But David said to Abishai, "Don't you dare hurt him! Who could lay a hand on God's anointed and even think of getting away with it?"
He went on, "As God lives, either God will strike him, or his time will come and he'll die in bed, or he'll fall in battle,
but God forbid that I should lay a finger on God's anointed. Now, grab the spear at his head and the water jug and let's get out of here."
David took the spear and water jug that were right beside Saul's head, and they slipped away. Not a soul saw. Not a soul knew. No one woke up! They all slept through the whole thing. A blanket of deep sleep from God had fallen on them.
Then David went across to the opposite hill and stood far away on the top of the mountain. With this safe distance between them,
he shouted across to the army and Abner son of Ner, "Hey Abner! How long do I have to wait for you to wake up and answer me?" Abner said, "Who's calling?"
"Aren't you in charge there?" said David. "Why aren't you minding the store? Why weren't you standing guard over your master the king, when a soldier came to kill the king your master?
Bad form! As God lives, your life should be forfeit, you and the entire bodyguard. Look what I have - the king's spear and water jug that were right beside his head!"
By now, Saul had recognized David's voice and said, "Is that you, my son David?"
Why are you after me, hunting me down? What have I done? What crime have I committed?
Oh, my master, my king, listen to this from your servant: If God has stirred you up against me, then I gladly offer my life as a sacrifice. But if it's men who have done it, let them be banished from God's presence! They've expelled me from my rightful place in God's heritage, sneering, 'Out of here! Go get a job with some other god!'
But you're not getting rid of me that easily; you'll not separate me from God in life or death. The absurdity! The king of Israel obsessed with a single flea! Hunting me down - a mere partridge - out in the hills!"
Saul confessed, "I've sinned! Oh, come back, my dear son David! I won't hurt you anymore. You've honored me this day, treating my life as most precious. And I've acted the fool - a moral dunce, a real clown."
David answered, "See what I have here? The king's spear. Let one of your servants come and get it.
It's God's business to decide what to do with each of us in regard to what's right and who's loyal. God put your life in my hands today, but I wasn't willing to lift a finger against God's anointed.
Just as I honored your life today, may God honor my life and rescue me from all trouble."
Saul said to David, "Bless you, dear son David! Yes, do what you have to do! And, yes, succeed in all you attempt!" Then David went on his way, and Saul went home.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)