26:1 The Ziphites [had revealed David’s whereabouts to Saul on a previous occasion (23:19)] went to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding on the hill of Hakilah [there were “strongholds” at Hakilah (23:19) that offered places to hide], which faces Jeshimon?”
26:2 So Saul went down [from Gibeah] to the Desert of Ziph, with his three thousand chosen men [cf. 1 Sam. 24:2] of Israel, to search there for David [David had six hundred men (1 Sam. 23:13)].
26:3 Saul made his camp beside the road on the hill of Hakilah facing Jeshimon, but David stayed in the desert. When he saw that Saul had followed him there,
26:4 he sent out scouts and learned that Saul had definitely arrived.
26:5 Then David set out and went to the place where Saul had camped. He saw where Saul and Abner [Saul’s chief military officer] son of Ner, the commander of the army, had lain down. Saul [note that Saul apparently was safely buffered on all sides by his army…] was lying inside the camp, with the army encamped around him.
26:6 David then asked Ahimelech the Hittite [a mercenary, not to be confused with the priest mentioned in 21:1] and Abishai [a nephew of David (1 Chron. 2:13-16)] son of Zeruiah [David’s sister; also mother of Joab (1 Chron. 2:15-16)], Joab’s brother, “Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul? [obviously a very dangerous mission]” “I’ll go with you,” said Abishai.
26:7 So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him.
26:8 Abishai said to David, “Today [indicates Abishai’s sense of urgency re: opportunity to kill Saul] God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now [indicates Abishai’s sense of urgency re: opportunity to kill Saul] let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of my spear; I won’t strike him twice.”
26:9 But David [David would not do wrong in order to execute justice] said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him [see the titles of Psalms 57–59 re: the tune “Do Not Destroy”]! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’S anointed and be guiltless?
Note: How do you handle opposition from people who have authority over you?
26:10 As surely as the LORD lives,” he said, “the LORD himself will strike him [David left Saul’s destiny in God’s hands; cf. 1 Sam. 25:38 re: Nabal]; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish [literally “be swept away”].
26:11 But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD’S anointed [David had respect for Saul’s authority and position]. Now get the spear [a symbol of Saul’s authority and a symbol of death] and water jug [a symbol of life] that are near his head, and let’s go.”
26:12 So David took the spear and water jug [both of these items helped David make his point that he respected God and God’s anointed king] near Saul’s head, and they left. No one saw or knew about it, nor did anyone wake up. They were all sleeping, because the LORD had put them into a deep sleep.
26:13 Then David crossed over to the other side and stood on top of the hill some distance [a safe distance] away; there was a wide space between them.
26:14 He called out to the army and to Abner son of Ner, “Aren’t you going to answer me, Abner [questions implies David had to call several times]?” Abner replied, “Who are you who calls to the king?”
26:15 David said [note that David taunted Abner…], “You’re a man, aren’t you? And who is like you in Israel? Why didn’t you guard your lord the king? Someone [Abishai] came to destroy your lord the king.
26:16 What you have done [failure to guard the king] is not good. As surely as the LORD lives, you and your men deserve to die, because you did not guard your master, the LORD’S anointed. Look around you. Where are the king’s spear and water jug that were near his head?”
26:17 Saul recognized David’s voice and said, “Is that your voice, David my son?” David replied, “Yes it is, my lord the king.”
26:18 And he added [cf. 1 Sam. 20:1], “Why is my lord pursuing his servant? What have I done, and what wrong am I guilty of?
26:19 Now let my lord the king listen to his servant’s words. [David wanted to know if Saul was pursuing him because he had listened to the Lord or to men…] If the LORD has incited you against me, then may he accept an offering. If, however, men have done it, may they be cursed before the LORD! They have now driven me from my share in the LORD’S inheritance [the land of Israel] and have said, ‘Go, serve other gods [or the gods of an alien land].’
26:20 Now do not let my blood fall to the ground far from [away from the Lord’s land] the presence of the LORD. The king [the most powerful person in the land] of Israel has come out to look for a flea—as one hunts a partridge in the mountains [implies that Saul’s search for David was not worthy of his time and beneath his dignity].”
26:21 Then Saul said, “I have sinned [cf. 1 Sam. 15:24,30]. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have erred greatly.”
26:22 “Here is the king’s spear [a symbol of death; note that David did not offer to return the water jug, the symbol of life],” David answered. “Let one of your young men come over and get it.
26:23 The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness. The LORD delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand [refers to a violent act] on the LORD’S anointed.
26:24 As surely as I valued your life today, so may the LORD value my life and deliver me from all trouble.”
26:25 Then Saul said to David, “May you be blessed, my son David; you will do great things and surely triumph.” So David went on his way, and Saul returned home.