Saul Comes to the Hill of Hachilah against
1, 2. the Ziphites came unto Saul to
Gibeah—This people seem to have thought it impossible for
David to escape, and therefore recommended themselves to Saul, by
giving him secret information (see on 1Sa
23:19). The knowledge of their treachery makes it appear strange
that David should return to his former haunt in their neighborhood;
but, perhaps he did it to be near Abigail's possessions, and under the
impression that Saul had become mollified. But the king had relapsed
into his old enmity. Though Gibeah, as its name imports, stood on an
elevated position, and the desert of Ziph, which was in the hilly
region of Judea, may have been higher than Gibeah, it was still
necessary to descend in leaving the latter place; thence Saul (1Sa 26:2) "went down to the wilderness of
4, 5. David … sent out spies … and
David arose, and came to the place where Saul had
pitched—Having obtained certain information of the locality,
he seems, accompanied by his nephew (1Sa 26:6), to have hid himself, perhaps
disguised, in a neighboring wood, or hill, on the skirts of the royal
camp towards night, and waited to approach it under covert of the
1Sa 26:5-25. David Stays
Abishai from Killing Saul, but Takes His Spear and Cruse.
5. Saul lay in the trench, and the people pitched
round about him—Among the nomad people of the East, the
encampments are usually made in a circular form. The circumference is
lined by the baggage and the men, while the chief's station is in the
center, whether he occupy a tent or not. His spear, stuck in the
ground, indicates his position. Similar was the disposition of Saul's
camp—in this hasty expedition he seems to have carried no tent,
but to have slept on the ground. The whole troop was sunk in sleep
8-12. Then said Abishai to David, God hath
delivered thine enemy into thine hand—This midnight stratagem
shows the activity and heroic enterprise of David's mind, and it was in
unison with the style of warfare in ancient times.
let me smite him … even to the earth at
once—The ferocious vehemence of the speaker is sufficiently
apparent from his language, but David's magnanimity soared far above
the notions of his followers. Though Saul's cruelty and perfidy and
general want of right principle had sunk him to a low pitch of
degradation, yet that was no reason for David's imitating him in doing
wrong. Besides, he was the sovereign; David was a subject. Though God
had rejected him from the kingdom, it was in every way the best and
most dutiful course, instead of precipitating his fall by imbruing
their hands in his blood and thereby contracting the guilt of a great
crime, to wait the awards of that retributive providence which sooner
or later would take him off by some sudden and mortal blow. He who,
with impetuous haste was going to exterminate Nabal, meekly spared
Saul. But Nabal refused to give a tribute to which justice and
gratitude, no less than custom, entitled David. Saul was under the
judicial infatuation of heaven. Thus David withheld the hand of
Abishai; but, at the same time, he directed him to carry off some
things which would show where they had been, and what they had done.
Thus he obtained the best of victories over him, by heaping coals of
fire on his head.
11. the spear that is at his bolster, and the
cruse of water—The Oriental spear had, and still has, a spike
at the lower extremity, intended for the purpose of sticking the spear
into the ground when the warrior is at rest. This common custom of Arab
sheiks was also the practice of the Hebrew chiefs.
at his bolster—literally, "at his
head"; perhaps, Saul as a sovereign had the distinguished luxury of a
bolster carried for him. A "cruse of water" is usually, in warm
climates, kept near a person's couch, as a drink in the night time is
found very refreshing. Saul's cruse would probably be of superior
materials, or more richly ornamented than common ones, and therefore by
its size or form be easily distinguished.
13-20. Then David … stood on the top of an
hill afar off … and cried to the people—(See on Jud 9:7). The extraordinary purity and elasticity of
the air in Palestine enable words to be distinctly heard that are
addressed by a speaker from the top of one hill to people on that of
another, from which it is separated by a deep intervening ravine.
Hostile parties can thus speak to each other, while completely beyond
the reach of each other's attack. It results from the peculiar features
of the country in many of the mountain districts.
15. David said to Abner, Art not thou a valiant
man: … wherefore then hast thou not kept thy lord the
king?—The circumstance of David having penetrated to the
center of the encampment, through the circular rows of the sleeping
soldiers, constituted the point of this sarcastic taunt. This new
evidence of David's moderation and magnanimous forbearance, together
with his earnest and kindly expostulation, softened the obduracy of
19. If the Lord have stirred thee up against
me—By the evil spirit He had sent, or by any spiritual
offenses by which we have mutually displeased Him.
let him accept an offering—that is,
let us conjointly offer a sacrifice for appeasing His wrath against
if they be the children of men—The
prudence, meekness, and address of David in ascribing the king's enmity
to the instigations of some malicious traducers, and not to the
jealousy of Saul himself, is worthy of notice.
saying, Go, serve other gods—This was
the drift of their conduct. By driving him from the land and ordinances
of the true worship, into foreign and heathen countries, they were
exposing him to all the seductions of idolatry.
20. as when one doth hunt a
partridge—People in the East, in hunting the partridge and
other game birds, pursue them, till observing them becoming languid and
fatigued after they have been put up two or three times, they rush upon
the birds stealthily and knock them down with bludgeons [Shaw, Travels]. It was exactly in this manner
that Saul was pursuing David. He drove him from time to time from his
hiding-place, hoping to render him weary of his life, or obtain an
opportunity of accomplishing his destruction.
25. So David went on his
way—Notwithstanding this sudden relenting of Saul, David
placed no confidence in his professions or promises, but wisely kept at
a distance and awaited the course of Providence.