1 Samuel 26
David Again Spares Saul’s Life (26:1–25)
1–4 Again the Ziphites disclosed David’s location to Saul (1 Samuel 23:19), and again Saul went into the desert in search of David. Meanwhile, David sent out scouts in order to find out where Saul and his men were encamped (verse 4).
5–6 Then from a distance David saw that Saul had lain down to sleep in the middle of his camp, with his army encamped around him (verse 5). David then asked two of his men97 if they would go with him into Saul’s camp when it was dark and all Saul’s men were asleep. And Abishai agreed to go with David (verse 6).
7–11 David and Abishai then went quietly to where Saul lay sleeping. Abishai wanted to kill Saul then and there, but David restrained him, using the same argument he had used earlier when his men wanted to kill Saul in the cave (see 1 Samuel 24:6–7). David told Abishai that the Lord Himself would strike Saul, either through natural means or through military conflict (verse 10); therefore, there was no need for David or Abishai to strike him.
However, just as David had earlier cut off a corner of Saul’s robe as proof that Saul had been at his mercy (1 Samuel 24:4,11), so now he told Abishai to take Saul’s spear and water jug for the same purpose (verse 11). David wanted to prove that he had no intention of harming Saul—even when he had the opportunity to do so.
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.