Acts 13:22-23 says, “After removing [King Saul], He raised up David to be their king. He also testified about him and said, ‘I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do My will.’ From this man’s seed, in keeping with His promise God brought to Israel a Savior – Yeshua.”[Read 1 Sam. 26-27]
Since this story is almost an exact repetition of chapter 25, we need to ask ourselves the two fundamental questions of Hermeneutics: Why is the author telling me this, and why in this way? Let’s see if we can see the differences, and gain some more understanding.
Once again the Ziphites come back into the story, and just like in Chapter 23, they are betraying David to Saul (See Ps. 54). However this time, it is David’s spies that see Saul coming instead of the other way around. David then turns to two of his men and asks them, “Who wants to go on a suicide mission?” Abishai, the brother of Joab, and the leader of David’s top 30 men (2 Sam. 23:18) said, “Sounds fun!”
Abishai and David walk down into the rocky valley (without turning any ankles, or creating any rock slides), walk through 3000 men camped in a circle around the supply wagons. The word used for “camp” or “barricade” is literally “wagon-wheel track” (vs. 5, 7). They then tip-toed around the wagons, sleeping men, and animals, and had a heated conversation about whether or not to kill Saul. All this time, no one wakes up, which is why the author mentions that a “deep sleep from Adonai had fallen upon them.” Abishai wants to pin Saul to the ground with the spear, possibly the same spear that Saul had used to pin David to the wall. This test is both of David’s resolve, and his ability to command his men.
David’s statement, “Do not destroy him! For who can lay his hand on Adonai’s anointed (moshiach) and be guiltless? (vs. 9)” is about as clear as can be. David then goes on to reiterate that vengeance is in Adonai’s hand. The “Do not destroy” could also be the origin of the titles of Psalms 57-59 which we have read before. David then takes a symbol of life and a symbol of death (water and spear) and leaves, without anyone waking up. The spear was also a symbol of Saul’s authority.
I want to focus in on the words of David in vs. 17-20. Firstly notice that although Saul still refers to David as “my son”, David does not return with “my father” as he did the previous time. David then gives two alternative possibilities for why Saul has come down after David this time. The first is “if Adonai has stirred him up” and the second is if men have done so.
Often we like to talk about how Adonai stirred up Cyrus of Persia to send the Jews back to Israel (Ezra 1:1, 2 Chron. 36:22), or how He stirred up Bezalel to build the Tabernacle, and Zerubbabel to build the 2nd Temple. But we then like to skip the places where Adonai stirs up the Philistines and Arabs against the Jews (2 Chron. 21:16), or how Adonai stirred up Hadad the Edomite, Rezon of Damascus and Jereboam to come against Solomon, or on a larger scale, how He stirred up the Medes against the Babylonians in Jer. 51:11. David was himself stirred up years later by Adonai to take an illegal census (2 Sam. 24:1) and 70,000 Israelites died. Adonai is not random, however, in why and when He brings judgement. In all the above cases moral decay predicated the justice/judgement of Adonai.
The second possibility that David gives, which we already know from the Narrator is the correct one, is that men have incited Saul. David makes an interesting analysis of the situation: Saul’s exile of David is “driving [him] out” from God’s inheritance, and away from the presence of Adonai. While we can see from the Psalms, written at this time, that this was not the case, David’s own actions almost produced the same result. In [Ps. 51:12-16] we see that David realizes that it is his sin that has driven him away from Adonai’s presence, not his proximity to the Tabernacle.
Saul’s apology, “Behold I have played the fool and erred so seriously” is reminiscent of the previous chapter. Here Saul has acted the fool, the nabal. David then gives back the spear (the symbol of death), but keeps the jug of water (the symbol of life). This is possibly to demonstrate David’s control over the whole situation, and also links in to the next few verses. David is well aware that his action, of sparing Saul’s life, is “sowing good seed.” He is directly acknowledging that Adonai rewards people for their righteousness and faithfulness. This is exactly what Yeshua is called in [Rev 19:11-13]. In addition David is calling on Adonai to reward him for his righteous deeds, just as Yeshua taught in [Matt. 6:1-4].
This is the last time David and Saul shall meet, and for the next 5 chapters their stories diverge. David moves to Philistia, and Saul moves away from Adonai. We see that David does not consult Adonai before moving to Ziklag, this is possibly because of what he said earlier in vs. 19. There was a perception that leaving one’s land also included leaving one’s god. This misconception is refuted later, when David is forced to call out to Adonai from the distant land he found himself in. This story of Saul and David shows the last big test of David’s character, the last temptation to take the promised kingdom by force.
This brings to mind the last trial of Yeshua, to take the promised kingdom himself. In [Mk. 14:32-42] we see that Yeshua longed for there to be another way. And yet He humbled Himself and submitted to the will of the Father. [Phil 2:6-11, Heb. 5:5-10]
- David’s resolve was tested, and in the same way we must be sure that we wait on Adonai’s timing, and not take our promises by force.
- David acknowledges that Adonai can stir up enemies against us. We must realize that not all negatives circumstances are sent by the enemy. Rom. 8:28 says, “Now we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”
- David learned that people cannot drive us away from the presence of Adonai, but our sin can.
- Yeshua is the ultimate example of submitting to Adonai’s will, especially when circumstances are against us.
 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from the Tree Of Life Version (TLV), 2014.
 Frank E. Gaebelein, 1 Samuel. (12 Vols.; The EBC; Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 1992), 3:769.