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1 Samuel 24:1-26:25 – David’s Respect for the Lord’s Anointed

Summary

The dramatic tension between David, the righteous and successful, and Saul, the depressed and jealous, reaches a climax in these chapters.

Analysis

Chapters 24 and 26 are virtually identical in their plot. Both begin with Saul learning of David's hideout (24:1; 26:1); narrate David's refusal to harm Saul, "the LORD's anointed" (24:6, 10; 26:11); and conclude with Saul's recognition that David is to be the next king (24:17-22; 26:21, 25). As such, they frame chapter 25, which relates the death of Samuel (v. 1).

All three stories portray David's nobility and magnanimous nature. This is clearly indicated in the sparing of Saul's life, not once but twice. The story of foolish Nabal ("fool" in Hebrew) and his clever wife Abigail also contributes to this impression.

  • David understandably asks for provisions in return for the protection he has afforded the wealthy Nabal and his shepherds (25:2-8).
  • Nabal, true to his name, refuses, betraying a selfish and ungrateful nature (vv. 9-11).
  • Upon hearing Nabal's response, David prepared to annihilate every male in Nabal's household (vv. 12-13, 21-22).
  • Fortunately, Abigail, Nabal's clever wife, stepped in to prevent David's reckless show of force against her foolish husband: first by arranging a meeting (vv. 18-20) and then, in a magnificent speech, convincing David to relent by reminding him that since the Lord has previously kept David from incurring bloodguilt (by sparing Saul?), it would be foolish to jeopardize his future position as "prince over Israel" by acting recklessly now (vv. 23-31).
  • Later, Abigail told her husband what she had done and "his heart died within him"; ten days later, "the LORD struck Nabal, and he died" (vv. 33-38). The story ends with David's courting of, and marriage to, Abigail (vv. 39-42).

1 Samuel 24:1-26:25

David Spares Saul’s Life

24When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, ‘David is in the wilderness of En-gedi.’ 2Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to look for David and his men in the direction of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. 3He came to the sheepfolds beside the road, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself.* Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave. 4The men of David said to him, ‘Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, “I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you.” ’ Then David went and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak. 5Afterwards David was stricken to the heart because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak. 6He said to his men, ‘The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to raise my hand against him; for he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 7So David scolded his men severely and did not permit them to attack Saul. Then Saul got up and left the cave, and went on his way.

8 Afterwards David also rose up and went out of the cave and called after Saul, ‘My lord the king!’ When Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance. 9David said to Saul, ‘Why do you listen to the words of those who say, “David seeks to do you harm”? 10This very day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you into my hand in the cave; and some urged me to kill you, but I spared* you. I said, “I will not raise my hand against my lord; for he is the Lord’s anointed.” 11See, my father, see the corner of your cloak in my hand; for by the fact that I cut off the corner of your cloak, and did not kill you, you may know for certain that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you are hunting me to take my life. 12May the Lord judge between me and you! May the Lord avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against you. 13As the ancient proverb says, “Out of the wicked comes forth wickedness”; but my hand shall not be against you. 14Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom do you pursue? A dead dog? A single flea? 15May the Lord therefore be judge, and give sentence between me and you. May he see to it, and plead my cause, and vindicate me against you.’

16 When David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, ‘Is that your voice, my son David?’ Saul lifted up his voice and wept. 17He said to David, ‘You are more righteous than I; for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. 18Today you have explained how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands. 19For who has ever found an enemy, and sent the enemy safely away? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. 20Now I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. 21Swear to me therefore by the Lord that you will not cut off my descendants after me, and that you will not wipe out my name from my father’s house.’ 22So David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home; but David and his men went up to the stronghold.

Death of Samuel

25Now Samuel died; and all Israel assembled and mourned for him. They buried him at his home in Ramah.

Then David got up and went down to the wilderness of Paran.

David and the Wife of Nabal

2 There was a man in Maon, whose property was in Carmel. The man was very rich; he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. He was shearing his sheep in Carmel. 3Now the name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was clever and beautiful, but the man was surly and mean; he was a Calebite. 4David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep. 5So David sent ten young men; and David said to the young men, ‘Go up to Carmel, and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name. 6Thus you shall salute him: “Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have. 7I hear that you have shearers; now your shepherds have been with us, and we did them no harm, and they missed nothing, all the time they were in Carmel. 8Ask your young men, and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favour in your sight; for we have come on a feast day. Please give whatever you have at hand to your servants and to your son David.”

9 When David’s young men came, they said all this to Nabal in the name of David; and then they waited. 10But Nabal answered David’s servants, ‘Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants today who are breaking away from their masters. 11Shall I take my bread and my water and the meat that I have butchered for my shearers, and give it to men who come from I do not know where?’ 12So David’s young men turned away, and came back and told him all this. 13David said to his men, ‘Every man strap on his sword!’ And every one of them strapped on his sword; David also strapped on his sword; and about four hundred men went up after David, while two hundred remained with the baggage.

14 But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, ‘David sent messengers out of the wilderness to salute our master; and he shouted insults at them. 15Yet the men were very good to us, and we suffered no harm, and we never missed anything when we were in the fields, as long as we were with them; 16they were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. 17Now therefore know this and consider what you should do; for evil has been decided against our master and against all his house; he is so ill-natured that no one can speak to him.’

18 Then Abigail hurried and took two hundred loaves, two skins of wine, five sheep ready dressed, five measures of parched grain, one hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs. She loaded them on donkeys 19and said to her young men, ‘Go on ahead of me; I am coming after you.’ But she did not tell her husband Nabal. 20As she rode on the donkey and came down under cover of the mountain, David and his men came down towards her; and she met them. 21Now David had said, ‘Surely it was in vain that I protected all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belonged to him; but he has returned me evil for good. 22God do so to David* and more also, if by morning I leave as much as one male of all who belong to him.’

23 When Abigail saw David, she hurried and alighted from the donkey, and fell before David on her face, bowing to the ground. 24She fell at his feet and said, ‘Upon me alone, my lord, be the guilt; please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. 25My lord, do not take seriously this ill-natured fellow Nabal; for as his name is, so is he; Nabal* is his name, and folly is with him; but I, your servant, did not see the young men of my lord, whom you sent.

26 ‘Now then, my lord, as the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, since the Lord has restrained you from blood-guilt and from taking vengeance with your own hand, now let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be like Nabal. 27And now let this present that your servant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who follow my lord. 28Please forgive the trespass of your servant; for the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord; and evil shall not be found in you as long as you live. 29If anyone should rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living under the care of the Lord your God; but the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. 30When the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you prince over Israel, 31my lord shall have no cause of grief, or pangs of conscience, for having shed blood without cause or for having saved himself. And when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant.’

32 David said to Abigail, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you to meet me today! 33Blessed be your good sense, and blessed be you, who have kept me today from blood-guilt and from avenging myself by my own hand! 34For as surely as the Lord the God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there would not have been left to Nabal as much as one male.’ 35Then David received from her hand what she had brought him; he said to her, ‘Go up to your house in peace; see, I have heeded your voice, and I have granted your petition.’

36 Abigail came to Nabal; he was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk; so she told him nothing at all until the morning light. 37In the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him; he became like a stone. 38About ten days later the Lord struck Nabal, and he died.

39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, ‘Blessed be the Lord who has judged the case of Nabal’s insult to me, and has kept back his servant from evil; the Lord has returned the evildoing of Nabal upon his own head.’ Then David sent and wooed Abigail, to make her his wife. 40When David’s servants came to Abigail at Carmel, they said to her, ‘David has sent us to you to take you to him as his wife.’ 41She rose and bowed down, with her face to the ground, and said, ‘Your servant is a slave to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.’ 42Abigail got up hurriedly and rode away on a donkey; her five maids attended her. She went after the messengers of David and became his wife.

43 David also married Ahinoam of Jezreel; both of them became his wives. 44Saul had given his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to Palti son of Laish, who was from Gallim.

David Spares Saul’s Life a Second Time

26Then the Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah, saying, ‘David is in hiding on the hill of Hachilah, which is opposite Jeshimon.’* 2So Saul rose and went down to the Wilderness of Ziph, with three thousand chosen men of Israel, to seek David in the Wilderness of Ziph. 3Saul encamped on the hill of Hachilah, which is opposite Jeshimon* beside the road. But David remained in the wilderness. When he learned that Saul had come after him into the wilderness, 4David sent out spies, and learned that Saul had indeed arrived. 5Then David set out and came to the place where Saul had encamped; and David saw the place where Saul lay, with Abner son of Ner, the commander of his army. Saul was lying within the encampment, while the army was encamped around him.

6 Then David said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, ‘Who will go down with me into the camp to Saul?’ Abishai said, ‘I will go down with you.’ 7So David and Abishai went to the army by night; there Saul lay sleeping within the encampment, with his spear stuck in the ground at his head; and Abner and the army lay around him. 8Abishai said to David, ‘God has given your enemy into your hand today; now therefore let me pin him to the ground with one stroke of the spear; I will not strike him twice.’ 9But David said to Abishai, ‘Do not destroy him; for who can raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?’ 10David said, ‘As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him down; or his day will come to die; or he will go down into battle and perish. 11The Lord forbid that I should raise my hand against the Lord’s anointed; but now take the spear that is at his head, and the water-jar, and let us go.’ 12So David took the spear that was at Saul’s head and the water-jar, and they went away. No one saw it, or knew it, nor did anyone awake; for they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them.

13 Then David went over to the other side, and stood on top of a hill far away, with a great distance between them. 14David called to the army and to Abner son of Ner, saying, ‘Abner! Will you not answer?’ Then Abner replied, ‘Who are you that calls to the king?’ 15David said to Abner, ‘Are you not a man? Who is like you in Israel? Why then have you not kept watch over your lord the king? For one of the people came in to destroy your lord the king. 16This thing that you have done is not good. As the Lord lives, you deserve to die, because you have not kept watch over your lord, the Lord’s anointed. See now, where is the king’s spear, or the water-jar that was at his head?’

17 Saul recognized David’s voice, and said, ‘Is that your voice, my son David?’ David said, ‘It is my voice, my lord, O king.’ 18And he added, ‘Why does my lord pursue his servant? For what have I done? What guilt is on my hands? 19Now therefore let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If it is the Lord who has stirred you up against me, may he accept an offering; but if it is mortals, may they be cursed before the Lord, for they have driven me out today from my share in the heritage of the Lord, saying, “Go, serve other gods.” 20Now, therefore, 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 seek a single flea, like one who hunts a partridge in the mountains.’

21 Then Saul said, ‘I have done wrong; come back, my son David, for I will never harm you again, because my life was precious in your sight today; I have been a fool, and have made a great mistake.’ 22David replied, ‘Here is the spear, O king! Let one of the young men come over and get it. 23The Lord rewards everyone for his righteousness and his faithfulness; for the Lord gave you into my hand today, but I would not raise my hand against the Lord’s anointed. 24As your life was precious today in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the Lord, and may he rescue me from all tribulation.’ 25Then Saul said to David, ‘Blessed be you, my son David! You will do many things and will succeed in them.’ So David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place.

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10 February 2011

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