David Again Spares Saul’s Life (26:1–25)
12–16 David and Abishai left the camp without anyone knowing, because the Lord had put all Saul’s men into a deep sleep (verse 12). Then, from a safe distance, David called out and chided Abner, the commander of Saul’s army, for not protecting his king. In ancient times, such a dereliction of duty usually warranted the death penalty (verse 16).
17–20 Then Saul awoke, and David again told him that he was innocent of any wrongdoing against him. Then David gave two possible reasons for Saul’s hatred of him: one, the Lord may have incited Saul to kill David; and two, men may have incited him. If it was the Lord, then David was willing to present to Him an offering of peace; if it was men, then David called for them to be cursed—that is, for the Lord’s judgment to fall on them (verse 19).
The reason David spoke so strongly against the men who had incited Saul against him is that, in effect, they had driven him out of his inheritance—the promised land—and into lands where the Lord was not worshiped. They were, in a sense, forcing him to serve other gods (verse 19). David was pleading with Saul not to cut him off from the community of Israel: “. . . do not let my blood fall to the ground far from the presence of the LORD” (verse 20). Then David concluded by reminding Saul of the absurdity of what he was doing: Saul was leading an army of three thousand men to catch a flea, a partridge!
21 Saul then acknowledged that he had sinned and acted like a fool. It is hard to tell how sincere he was, since he had said similar things in the past but hadn’t changed his behavior98 (see 1 Samuel 15:24–25; 24:16–17). However, from that time on Saul stopped pursuing David.99 David, for his part, didn’t trust Saul’s promise not to harm him; we read in the next chapter that he escaped to the land of the Philistines.
22–25 Then David expressed his confidence that God would reward him for his righteousness and faithfulness in not harming Saul—in not “laying his hand” on him (verse 23). Saul responded by blessing David—“my son David” (verse 25)—thereby assuring, in effect, that David would inherit Saul’s throne. After that, the two parted ways, never to meet again.