1 Samuel 26

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Read 1 Samuel 26

David Again Spares Saul’s Life

1 The Ziphites went to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding on the hill of Hakilah, which faces Jeshimon?”

So Saul went down to the Desert of Ziph, with his three thousand select Israelite troops, to search there for David. Saul made his camp beside the road on the hill of Hakilah facing Jeshimon, but David stayed in the wilderness. When he saw that Saul had followed him there, he sent out scouts and learned that Saul had definitely arrived.

Then David set out and went to the place where Saul had camped. He saw where Saul and Abner son of Ner, the commander of the army, had lain down. Saul was lying inside the camp, with the army encamped around him.

David then asked Ahimelek the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, “Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?”

“I’ll go with you,” said Abishai.

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.

Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t strike him twice.”

But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless? 10 As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. 11 But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.”

12 So David took the spear and water jug 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.

13 Then David crossed over to the other side and stood on top of the hill some distance away; there was a wide space between them. 14 He called out to the army and to Abner son of Ner, “Aren’t you going to answer me, Abner?”

Abner replied, “Who are you who calls to the king?”

15 David said, “You’re a man, aren’t you? And who is like you in Israel? Why didn’t you guard your lord the king? Someone came to destroy your lord the king. 16 What you have done is not good. As surely as the Lord lives, you and your men must 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?”

17 Saul recognized David’s voice and said, “Is that your voice, David my son?”

David replied, “Yes it is, my lord the king.” 18 And he added, “Why is my lord pursuing his servant? What have I done, and what wrong am I guilty of? 19 Now let my lord the king listen to his servant’s words. If the Lord has incited you against me, then may he accept an offering. If, however, people have done it, may they be cursed before the Lord! They have driven me today from my share in the Lord’s inheritance and have said, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ 20 Now do not let my blood fall to the ground far from the presence of the Lord. The king of Israel has come out to look for a flea—as one hunts a partridge in the mountains.”

21 Then Saul said, “I have sinned. 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 been terribly wrong.”

22 “Here is the king’s spear,” David answered. “Let one of your young men come over and get it. 23 The Lord rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness. The Lord delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. 24 As surely as I valued your life today, so may the Lord value my life and deliver me from all trouble.”

25 Then Saul said to David, “May you be blessed, David my son; you will do great things and surely triumph.”

So David went on his way, and Saul returned home.

Go Deeper

David was an ordinary man who knew the heart of God. He did not attend a special school or have special military training. He was a man, taught by God throughout his day to day responsibilities. He knew God because he had walked with God and seen His power, provision and protection. 1 Samuel 26 displays the calm confidence that comes from a heart that truly trusts the Lord. When word of Saul’s pursuit comes to David he does not freeze in fear. Instead, he gets up and goes to see if the rumors are true. The threat is real, David finds himself pursued by a crazy man and 3,000 warriors. What allowed David to stay calm in threatening situations was who he allowed himself to fear. His fear of God was greater than his fear of man.

When circumstances feel out of our control, our natural and fleshly reaction may be to work harder, worry more, and grasp until we feel like we have control again. David couldn’t protect his flock without the help of the Lord and he certainly couldn’t preserve his own life in the face of great danger.  Just a few chapters earlier he revealed some of his challenges. He experienced the power, provision, and protection of God in his deliverance from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear (1 Samuel 17).  Most of us are less likely to fight a lion or a bear but how often do we try to take matters into our own hands when we are face to face with another person? Instead of taking matters into his own hands, David positions himself under the Lord’s power, protection, and provision, demonstrating absolute trust in his God. David wanted to fulfill his call to be the next King of Israel but not at the expense of God’s blessing. He refused to take the throne out of anger through murder or rebellion. David demonstrated quiet, confident trust by waiting until the throne came in the way God intended. In this, he learned that God would continue to protect him when he eventually did come to reign over Israel. 

When David finds himself in a position of power over Saul, he looks to the One who truly holds all power. Instead of acting out of his justified frustration and anger, David extends mercy to Saul. David says, “may the Lord repay every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness.” As we read more about David’s life, we will see that the Lord does indeed bless him and allow him to prosper. There are also times in David’s life when we see the Lord repay him in great mercy, withholding the punishment that he deserves, and restoring him once again. 


  1. Think about times in your life when God has shown you mercy. Who in your life can you extend mercy to today?
  2. How good are you at waiting for God’s timing on His promises? Is there a situation where you can surrender to Him today?
  3. By sparing Saul’s life, David was found righteous in something he chose not to do. Are there times in your life when you have restrained yourself in order to honor the Lord?

By the Way

Check out Psalm 18 for a more in depth picture of the emotions that David was experiencing as Saul continued to pursue him. Specific parallels to 1 Samuel 26:23 are seen in Psalm 18:20-27.

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2 thoughts on “1 Samuel 26”

  1. Ella Snodgrass

    Saul is the very 1st king of Israel that was anointed by Samuel. He is bent on his personal vendetta rather than fighting true enemies or governing the country. Even though Saul has relentlessly pursued David to take his life, David spares Saul’s life twice. David doesn’t take matters into his own hands, but leaves the outcome to God. Notice how Saul melts when he hears David’s voice and even calls him “my son David”. I’m reminded how jealousy can completely destroy peace of mind and heart. It, like any other sin, makes a terrible master.

  2. My heart has been stricken by jealousy lately. Jealous that others have received a position I feel I should have. What I need to do is seek to bless those and edify those who have received those positions that I would not be a stumbling block to them but a help. Lord, bless those who have received the positions that I feel are rightfully mine. Teach me to be sober in my own eyes and not think myself higher than I ought. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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