1 Samuel 26
The Stealth of David
Saul Renews the Chase of David (1-5)
Saul had returned home from having proclaimed to David in the wilderness of En-gedi that he would be the next king. It would seem he remained in Gibeah without returning to his obsession of chasing David. In the short pause of being chased, David was hoping life as a fugitive was coming to an end. Being so hopeful, David decided to add to his life a couple of wives.
Then it happened—the short-lived fugitive status of David ended when the Ziphites once again came to Saul and told him David had returned to the hill of Hakilah (1).
Saul's repentance of chapter 23 was short-lived. Saul mounted 3,000 of his best forces as the battle-tested best to renew the chase for David (2). Saul made his camp at the very spot where David had been seen by the Ziphites. David, meanwhile, had moved from the hill into the wilderness, having been told by his spies that Saul was once again on the chase (3-4).
As Saul camped on the hill with his men, David decided to move close to where the men were sleeping. David, having camped in that exact spot, was well-acquainted with the terrain and was confident that he could come near the camp at night when Saul and his men were sleeping.
As Saul lay sleeping in the middle of the camp, surrounded by his men in sleeping formation, while Abner, his nephew and commander of his army, slept next to him. The soldiers formed an impenetrable human wall around King Saul (5).
David Enters Saul's Camp (6-12)
David then had an idea: he didn't just want to spy on Saul's camp from afar, but he wanted to enter the camp. David then asked Ahimelech the Hittite and Abishai, the son of his sister, who would go down with him into the camp (1 Chronicles 2:16). Abishai, a man who was in the habit of taking risks, agreed to go with David down into the camp of Saul (6).
Most of the night it would seem they carefully and stealthy worked their way through the bodies of sleeping soldiers. Eventually the impossible became possible and they were before Saul who lay sleeping. Saul's spear, the one he had chucked at David, was stuck in the ground at his head, and Abner lay beside him sleeping (7).
Abishai urged David to consider the providence of God in allowing them to reach the sleeping king and to further allow him to take Saul's spear and run him through. Abishai assured David that he would be so precise that Saul would be dead on the first strike and would not make a sound as to arouse anyone else in the camp (8).
David commanded his nephew that nothing had changed in his heart, even though Saul was breaking his oath and the repentance he had announced outside the cave to David at En-gedi. David further explained that Saul was Yahweh's anointed and no one could strike him without being guilty of striking one who belonged to God (9).
David further declared that King Saul would die one of three ways: natural causes, the Lord would directly strike him, or he would die in battle. The one fact Abishai could count on was that he would not die by David's hand, for Saul belonged to Yahweh. David had sworn allegiance to Yahweh and to Saul at Gilgal when Saul was affirmed as king, and he was not going to break his oath—Saul would remain untouched.
David then told his nephew to take the spear and his water jug, and they would depart (10-11).
During all this, David and Abishai were in the camp where Yahweh had caused a deep sleep to fall upon all 3,000 men. Not one of them were aroused by David's entrance into the camp so not one man was aware that he and Abishai had been there and had left with the spear and jug (12).
David Awakens Saul (13-18)
David then went some distance away and stood on a hill opposite to where Saul and his men lay sleeping (13). David began to yell and call out to Abner to wake him up and to answer him at this early hour in the morning. It was likely still dark or darkened. Abner could not make out who was calling—they could not pinpoint the owner of the voice.
Abner was appalled and wanted to know what offensive soul would dare awaken the king (14).
David then began to mock Abner just a bit and ask if he was a real man. Then David hinted that if he were indeed the man he was proclaimed to be, the greatest man in Israel with the highest military position, how had he not done his heroic best to protect and defend the king? Abner had failed, as a heroic man, to put his own life at peril to defend the king in his sleep. Abner had allowed his camp to be compromised and the greatest man in Israel could not stop it (15). David then announced that Abner and his men had deserved to die because they had failed to guard the king, allowing an enemy into the camp to take the spear and jug, putting the king's life in grave jeopardy (16).
Finally, Saul was well-awakened by this time and thought he recognized David's voice in all the bluster. Saul then asked David if he indeed was the one speaking. David confirmed to Saul that he was and asked the king why he was in pursuit of him who was servant to the king.
David then once again sought to reason with the king, asking what he had done, what evil could Saul cite that was causing him to chase David's life (18).
David's Appeal to Saul (19-20)
From across the ravine, David continued to communicate with Saul. He entreated him as his lord and David as his servant. David announced to Saul if the Lord had stirred Saul against David for some sin in David's heart, then David wished Saul to accept his offering of confession of sin and forgive him. If his men were stirring up the hatred, he prayed upon them a curse from Yahweh. David then announced what Saul and his men were ultimately doing: they were squeezing him out from the heritage of Yahweh. They were making it impossible for him to be in the land where the worship and service of Yahweh was rich and souls were encouraged to do such. To live in the land of Yahweh's presence and be given the freedom to worship was the promised privilege to every Israelite. David wanted to know why Saul and his men were taking it away from him.
David further added that to drive him from the land was putting him and his men at risk of being seduced by other false gods in the land of those who did not worship Yahweh (19).
David pleaded with Saul not to make it necessary for him to flee Israel and potentially die away from the place he prized for its worship and the presence of Yahweh.
David also told Saul that he was wasting his time chasing him. David was as harmless as a flea and as common as a partridge. In other words, why cross deserts and drought-ridden terrain to chase a common bird that Saul could find at home? (20)
Saul Again Turned (21-25)
Saul once again confessed that he had sinned and invited David back to court, back to his position in his army, promising he would not be harmed. He told David that because his life had been found precious in David's sight, he was open and completely willing to forgive. He then admitted that Samuel was right: he had done and had been acting foolishly (1 Samuel 13:13). Saul confessed that he had made a grave mistake in chasing David (21).
David then had Saul send a young man over the ravine to fetch his spear. In this act, David was telling Saul that he would not return home with him. David kept the water jug for no given reason (22).
David then told Saul that Yahweh rewarded men who were righteous and faithful, and he had been righteous before Yahweh and faithful to his king in not striking Saul down in his sleep. David told Saul once again that he was committed to not ever striking Yahweh's anointed (23). David hoped Yahweh would value his life in the future the way he had valued Saul's life, praying before Saul to Yahweh that he would be kept from any further trouble or tribulation that Saul might mount against him in the future (24).
Saul then blessed David as his son and prophesied that he would do great things and would triumph; thus Saul admitted David would someday prevail in his struggle. Saul then returned home and David went his own way (25). The two never saw each other again.