1 Samuel
Introduction 1-3 Saul Pursues David 4-7 David Goes to Saul 8-12 The Spear and the Jug 13-16 David Addresses Abner 17-20 David Addresses Saul 21-25 A Final Separation

In this chapter we see David again at a spiritual high point, while in the next chapter he fails again. We also saw that in 1 Samuel 24-25. It teaches us that we are constantly dependent on grace in all things.

Saul Pursues David

1Then the Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is not David hiding on the hill of Hachilah, [which is] before Jeshimon?” 2So Saul arose and went down to the wilderness of Ziph, having with him three thousand chosen men of Israel, to search for David in the wilderness of Ziph. 3Saul camped in the hill of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon, beside the road, and David was staying in the wilderness. When he saw that Saul came after him into the wilderness,

We have also seen the Ziphites before as the traitors of David (1Sam 23:1919Then Ziphites came up to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is David not hiding with us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hachilah, which is on the south of Jeshimon?). Now they betray again to Saul where David is. Their communication is reason for Saul to continue his pursuit of David. Although Saul knows that the LORD is with David, he is tireless in his attempts to eliminate David. Saul does not want to hand over the kingdom to the hand of the man God has chosen in his place.

It is the attitude of every man who does not bow to the authority of Christ, still rejected today, while God has already “made Him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:3636Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”). Christ means ‘Anointed’. He is the anointed King of God. In Saul’s attitude we see how the flesh is. It never gives in, it never bends before God. We will always have to be careful that it does not assert itself in our lives.

David Goes to Saul

4David sent out spies, and he knew that Saul was definitely coming. 5David then arose and came to the place where Saul had camped. And David saw the place where Saul lay, and Abner the son of Ner, the commander of his army; and Saul was lying in the circle of the camp, and the people were camped around him. 6Then David said to Ahimelech the Hittite and to Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, saying, “Who will go down with me to Saul in the camp?” And Abishai said, “I will go down with you.” 7So David and Abishai came to the people by night, and behold, Saul lay sleeping inside the circle of the camp with his spear stuck in the ground at his head; and Abner and the people were lying around him.

David doesn’t go for rumors, but wants to know for sure if it’s true that Saul is looking for him again. That’s why he sends out spies. If the messages turn out to be correct, David takes the initiative to go to Saul. David’s approach this time is different than in 1 Samuel 24. He doesn’t flee further, but goes towards Saul. What happens next is very similar to what we read in 1 Samuel 24.

Yet he exposes himself to much greater dangers here. In the first case Saul, without knowing it, came close to David. It was a more or less accidental ‘meeting’. Here David goes to Saul himself. Saul is not alone here, but is in the circle of the camp, surrounded by his soldiers. What David does seems overconfident, but God is with him, for he puts a deep sleep upon Saul and all who are with him (verse 1212So David took the spear and the jug of water from [beside] Saul’s head, and they went away, but no one saw or knew [it], nor did any awake, for they were all asleep, because a sound sleep from the LORD had fallen on them.).

With his action David puts his life again at risk. He must have a great deal of peace in his heart to venture this adventure. He asks two men to go with him. Abishai has the same courage as David and offers to join him. The sense of this action of David seems to be a new attempt to prove his innocence.

Striking is again the remark about Saul’s spear, which says that Saul “stuck in the ground at his head”. He has the spear within reach to seize it at the slightest threat of danger. It is the spear with which he has tried to kill David several times.

The Spear and the Jug

8Then Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hand; now therefore, please let me strike him with the spear to the ground with one stroke, and I will not strike him the second time.” 9But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can stretch out his hand against the LORD’s anointed and be without guilt?” 10David also said, “As the LORD lives, surely the LORD will strike him, or his day will come that he dies, or he will go down into battle and perish. 11The LORD forbid that I should stretch out my hand against the LORD’s anointed; but now please take the spear that is at his head and the jug of water, and let us go.” 12So David took the spear and the jug of water from [beside] Saul’s head, and they went away, but no one saw or knew [it], nor did any awake, for they were all asleep, because a sound sleep from the LORD had fallen on them.

When David and Abishai are with Saul, Abishai speaks to David that it is God’s guidance to deal with his enemy now. Last time, when Saul came into the cave with David and his men, his men made the same proposal and with the same motivation (1Sam 24:55It came about afterward that David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul’s [robe].). There they said David could do whatever he wanted with Saul. It seems that Abishai learned from last time that David himself will not do it and that he therefore offers to do it. He would do it with Saul’s own spear, with the certainty that one stroke is sufficient. With great self-confidence he says that a second time will not be necessary.

Would it not be a just retribution to kill Saul with the weapon with which he himself wanted to kill David several times? Would this not fulfill the Word of God that whoever digs a pit for another, falls into it himself (Pro 26:2727He who digs a pit will fall into it,
And he who rolls a stone, it will come back on him.

As for Abishai’s remark that it is God’s guidance that David Saul has in his hands, there is still a lesson to be learned. In some faith communities, it is common for someone to say to another what God wants that other person to do. This can even be introduced with the words ‘thus saith the Lord’, a way of saying which we do not find anywhere in the New Testament regarding the church. Such a use of words can sound impressive, but it is usually manipulation and in any case arrogant.

Someone may say that we must do something and appeal to the will of the Lord, but we must first of all be convinced ourselves that something is the will of the Lord. Others cannot determine for us the will of the Lord. God makes His will known to each of His own personally through His Word. By reading it ourselves, or by testing what someone else has said about it, we can get to know His will for our lives.

David resists the temptation with the same argument as last time. Saul is still for him “the LORD’s anointed”. Here again we see that beautiful character trait in David that he recognizes the authority established by God. He does not look at the character of the dignitary, but at the position of the dignitary. This is an important lesson for us in our attitude towards government, to which the same applies (Rom 13:1-21Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.2Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.).

In 1 Samuel 24 David gave the matter into the hands of the LORD. He does the same here, but he also says how Saul will come to an end. David knows that the LORD will deal with Saul. The LORD can deal with him by striking him that he dies, as He did to Nabal (1Sam 25:3838About ten days later, the LORD struck Nabal and he died.). He can also let him die in battle, which indeed happens later. Faith awaits God’s actions and does not take them forward by taking the matter into its own hands.

David does something else. He takes Saul’s spear and jug with him. With this he deprives Saul of his defense or royal dignity and his refreshment. The spear is still the symbol of Saul’s power. He is a weak person without a spear.

David Addresses Abner

13Then David crossed over to the other side and stood on top of the mountain at a distance [with] a large area between them. 14David called to the people and to Abner the son of Ner, saying, “Will you not answer, Abner?” Then Abner replied, “Who are you who calls to the king?” 15So David said to Abner, “Are you not a man? And who is like you in Israel? Why then have you not guarded your lord the king? For one of the people came to destroy the king your lord. 16This thing that you have done is not good. As the LORD lives, [all] of you must surely die, because you did not guard your lord, the LORD’s anointed. And now, see where the king’s spear is and the jug of water that was at his head.”

Before David addresses his pursuers, he first makes sure that there is a large area between him and them. It also indicates the enormous spiritual distance between David and Saul. They live in two worlds that have nothing in common. David is connected to God, Saul thinks only of his own position. Between these two ways of life yaws a large gap, which is impossible to bridge.

When David has come at a safe distance from Saul and his men, he calls the people and Abner awake. In 1 Samuel 24 it is a matter between David and Saul, but here David speaks to the ears of all the people. This time he has not only to do with Saul, but also with Abner, the commander of Saul, who has a better character than his commander, Joab. Abner must realize that he is fighting for a lost cause. Saul must realize that he cannot count on any human help. He first addresses Abner. Abner’s reaction shows that he understands that it is about Saul.

David expresses his respect for Abner, but at the same time shows him that he has failed. As proof of this he points Abner to the spear and the jug and mentions the place where they stood. It is clear that David was close to Saul, without anyone noticing. In a sense, this failure means the death of the king. It is due to the inattentiveness of Abner, who guarantees the king’s safety, that Saul was under an immediate threat of death.

In David’s words, there seems to be an invitation for Abner to join him. However, Abner seems to be taking a neutral position. He is not a great supporter of Saul, because his guarding of Saul is not done with real dedication.

David Addresses Saul

17Then Saul recognized David’s voice and said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And David said, “It is my voice, my lord the king.” 18He also said, “Why then is my lord pursuing his servant? For what have I done? Or what evil is in my hand? 19Now therefore, please let my lord the king listen to the words of his servant. If the LORD has stirred you up against me, let Him accept an offering; but if it is men, cursed are they before the LORD, for they have driven me out today so that I would have no attachment with the inheritance of the LORD, saying, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ 20Now then, do not let my blood fall to the ground away from the presence of the LORD; for the king of Israel has come out to search for a single flea, just as one hunts a partridge in the mountains.”

While David is talking to Abner, Saul wakes up. He hears the conversation and recognizes the voice of David. David then addresses Saul, as he did in 1 Samuel 24. Yet it is not in the same way. David speaks more clearly here, there is more indignation in it, but without insulting Saul. He asks Saul a few questions, from which Saul must be able to see that he is completely wrong. Can Saul mention just one reason that can justify his pursuit? Is there anything evil in David to point out?

David sees only two possibilities that make Saul pursue him so much. It may be that the LORD does it. If so, an offering is his only protection against the LORD’s wrath. In the picture it speaks of the fact that only an appeal to the fullness of the Lord Jesus in His God-dedicated life can deliver him from the wrath of God. Although there is no apparent evil with David, David knows of himself that he is not without sin. Only the Lord Jesus is without sin. It is also possible that David means that the LORD is angry with Saul and incites him to this wrong action and that David says to Saul how he can be pleasing to the LORD.

But if they are men, then they take upon themselves the curse of the LORD, for then they are the guilty because he had to leave his inheritance that the LORD gave him. Without directly accusing Saul, David is forced by Saul to leave his inheritance. The people who charge him with Saul chase him away from God’s land and in fact say that he should go and serve other gods, the idols. David knows that the LORD is with him, but he is not insensitive to all that he misses.

If people slander us, it can bring us to the point where we no longer enjoy the Lord’s things. There is even the danger of resorting to methods originating from the flesh. We see that in the next chapter even literally happen with David. His stay outside the place of blessing brings him into the realm and under the power of demons.

David knows that Saul is out on his blood. Although Saul does not have him in his hands, he asks Saul not to let his blood on the ground far away from the LORD’s face. David attributes to Saul the deed he intends to do. In doing so, he puts Saul’s plan on the same level as its execution.

A Final Separation

21Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Return, my son David, for I will not harm you again because my life was precious in your sight this day. Behold, I have played the fool and have committed a serious error.” 22David replied, “Behold the spear of the king! Now let one of the young men come over and take it. 23The LORD will repay each man [for] his righteousness and his faithfulness; for the LORD delivered you into [my] hand today, but I refused to stretch out my hand against the LORD’s anointed. 24Now behold, as your life was highly valued in my sight this day, so may my life be highly valued in the sight of the LORD, and may He deliver me from all distress.” 25Then Saul said to David, “Blessed are you, my son David; you will both accomplish much and surely prevail.” So David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place.

Saul’s reaction is a cheap “I’ve sinned”. It sounds good, but it’s just words. It is not the language of a convinced conscience. Saul acknowledges that David has shown him grace by letting him live and that his life is precious in David’s eyes. On the other hand, he says of himself that he has “played the fool”, that is, he acted as a wicked, and “a serious error”. Unfortunately there is no acknowledgement of sin before the LORD. There is no question of “sorrow that is according to [the will of] God”, for only that sorrow “produces a repentance without regret, [leading] to salvation” (2Cor 7:10a10For the sorrow that is according to [the will of] God produces a repentance without regret, [leading] to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.). Saul’s sorrow is “sorrow of the world” and that sorrow “produces death” (2Cor 7:10b10For the sorrow that is according to [the will of] God produces a repentance without regret, [leading] to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.).

His request to David to return and his promise that he will not harm David any more are implausible. David does not respond to his words. He doesn’t take them seriously. He hands over the judgment of his own conduct and that of Saul to Him Who judges righteous. For himself he knows that he has done nothing evil. As proof of this he mentions what Abishai gave as justification to kill Saul (verse 88Then Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hand; now therefore, please let me strike him with the spear to the ground with one stroke, and I will not strike him the second time.”).

David acknowledges that the LORD has indeed given Saul into his hand, not to kill him, but to show him grace. Saul’s life has been important in David’s eyes, and he expects his own life to be just as important in the LORD’s eyes. To Him he entrusts his life and he expresses the desire that the LORD will save him from all need.

Here David is still completely focused on the salvation by the LORD. A few verses further, at the beginning of the next chapter, he thinks that he will perish through Saul’s hand and makes his own decisions. This does not take away the sincerity of the wish of his heart that the LORD will be with him in all need. It does show that a sincere desire must be followed by a persevering trust in the Lord.

In the last words we have from Saul to David, he acknowledges that David will prevail. These are prophetic words and they come from the lips of the man who searched for David’s misfortune from the beginning. He can only testify of the faithfulness of this man of God’s choice (cf. Rev 3:99Behold, I will cause [those] of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and [make them] know that I have loved you.).

In the same way, the world has often had to acknowledge that God was with those they persecuted. The same will happen when the Lord Jesus returns with all His saints, “to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed” (2Thes 1:1010when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.). The whole company of the lost, Satan and all his angels, together with all who rejected Christ, will unite in the acknowledgment of the blessing of the redeemed by Christ and their victory by the blood of the Lamb.

Then David and Saul separate. They will never see each other again. Saul is facing his downfall. David goes “on his way”. What way that is, we see in the following chapter. It is its own way.

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