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David Spares Saul’s Life

24 (24:2) When Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “Look, David is in the desert of En Gedi.” So Saul took 3,000 select men from all Israel and went to find[a] David and his men in the region of[b] the rocks of the mountain goats.[c] He came to the sheepfolds by the road, where there was a cave. Saul went into it to relieve himself.[d]

Now David and his men were sitting in the recesses of the cave. David’s men said to him, “This is the day about which the Lord said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hand, and you can do to him whatever seems appropriate to you.’”[e] So David got up and quietly cut off an edge of Saul’s robe. Afterward David’s conscience bothered him[f] because he had cut off an edge of Saul’s robe. He said to his men, “May the Lord keep me far away from doing such a thing to my lord, who is the Lord’s chosen one,[g] by extending my hand against him. After all,[h] he is the Lord’s chosen one.” David restrained his men with these words and did not allow them to rise up against Saul. Then Saul left the cave and started down[i] the road.

Afterward David got up and went out of the cave. He called out to Saul, “My lord, O king!” When Saul looked behind him, David kneeled down and bowed with his face to the ground. David said to Saul, “Why do you pay attention when men say, ‘David is seeking to do you harm’? 10 Today your own eyes see how the Lord delivered you—this very day—into my hands in the cave. Some told me to kill you, but I had pity[j] on you and said, ‘I will not extend my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s chosen one.’[k] 11 Look, my father, and see the edge of your robe in my hand! When I cut off the edge of your robe, I didn’t kill you. So realize and understand that I am not planning[l] evil or rebellion. Even though I have not sinned against you, you are waiting in ambush to take my life. 12 May the Lord judge between the two of us, and may the Lord vindicate me over you, but my hand will not be against you. 13 It’s like the old proverb says: ‘From evil people evil proceeds.’ But my hand will not be against you. 14 Who has the king of Israel come out after? Who is it that you are pursuing? A dead dog? A single flea? 15 May the Lord be our judge and arbiter. May he see and arbitrate my case and deliver me from your hands.”

16 When David finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is that your voice, my son David?” Then Saul wept loudly.[m] 17 He said to David, “You are more innocent[n] than I, for you have treated me well, even though I have tried to harm you. 18 You have explained today how you have treated me well. The Lord delivered me into your hand, but you did not kill me. 19 Now if a man finds his enemy, does he send him on his way in good shape? May the Lord repay you with good this day for what you have done to me. 20 Now look, I realize that you will in fact be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. 21 So now swear to me in the Lord’s name[o] that you will not kill[p] my descendants after me or destroy my name from the house of my father.”

22 David promised Saul this on oath.[q] Then Saul went to his house, and David and his men went up to the stronghold.


  1. 1 Samuel 24:2 tn Heb “to search [for].”
  2. 1 Samuel 24:2 tn Heb “upon the face of.”
  3. 1 Samuel 24:2 tn Or “the region of the Rocks of the Mountain Goats,” if this expression is understood as a place name (cf. NASB, NIV, NRSV, TEV, CEV).
  4. 1 Samuel 24:3 tn Heb “to cover his feet,” an idiom (euphemism) for relieving oneself (cf. NAB “to ease nature”).
  5. 1 Samuel 24:4 tn Heb “is good in your eyes.”
  6. 1 Samuel 24:5 tn Heb “the heart of David struck him.”
  7. 1 Samuel 24:6 tn Heb “anointed.” Also at the end of this verse.
  8. 1 Samuel 24:6 tn Or “for.”
  9. 1 Samuel 24:7 tn Heb “went on.”
  10. 1 Samuel 24:10 tn Heb “it had pity,” apparently with the understood subject being “my eye,” in accordance with a common expression.
  11. 1 Samuel 24:10 tn Heb “anointed.”
  12. 1 Samuel 24:11 tn Heb “there is not in my hand.”
  13. 1 Samuel 24:16 tn Heb “lifted his voice and wept.”
  14. 1 Samuel 24:17 tn Or “righteous” (so KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV); NAB “you are in the right”; NLT “are a better man than I am.”
  15. 1 Samuel 24:21 tn Heb “by the Lord.”
  16. 1 Samuel 24:21 tn Heb “cut off.”
  17. 1 Samuel 24:22 tn Heb “and David swore an oath to Saul.”

David Spares Saul’s Life Again

26 The Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Isn’t David hiding on the hill of Hakilah near[a] Jeshimon?” So Saul arose and went down to the wilderness of Ziph, accompanied by 3,000 select men of Israel, to look for David in the wilderness of Ziph. Saul camped by the road on the hill of Hakilah near Jeshimon, but David was staying in the wilderness. When he realized that Saul had come to the wilderness to find[b] him, David sent scouts and verified that Saul had indeed arrived.[c]

So David set out and went to the place where Saul was camped. David saw the place where Saul and Abner son of Ner, the general in command of his army, were sleeping. Now Saul was lying in the entrenchment, and the army was camped all around him. David said to Ahimelech the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, “Who will go down with me to Saul in the camp?” Abishai replied, “I will go down with you.”

So David and Abishai approached the army at night and found Saul lying asleep in the entrenchment with his spear stuck in the ground by his head. Abner and the army were lying all around him. Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me drive the spear[d] right through him into the ground with one swift jab![e] A second jab won’t be necessary!”

But David said to Abishai, “Don’t kill him! Who can extend his hand against the Lord’s chosen one[f] and remain guiltless?” 10 David went on to say, “As the Lord lives, the Lord himself will strike him down. Either his day will come and he will die, or he will go down into battle and be swept away. 11 But may the Lord prevent me from extending my hand against the Lord’s chosen one! Now take the spear by Saul’s head and the jug of water, and let’s get out of here!” 12 So David took the spear and the jug of water by Saul’s head, and they got out of there. No one saw them or was aware of their presence or woke up. All of them were asleep, for the Lord had caused a deep sleep to fall on them.

13 Then David crossed to the other side and stood on the top of the hill some distance away; there was a considerable distance between them. 14 David called to the army and to Abner son of Ner, “Won’t you answer, Abner?” Abner replied, “Who are you, that you have called to the king?” 15 David said to Abner, “Aren’t you a man? After all, who is like you in Israel? Why then haven’t you protected your lord the king? One of the soldiers came to kill your lord the king. 16 This failure on your part isn’t good![g] As surely as the Lord lives, you people who have not protected your lord, the Lord’s chosen one, are as good as dead![h] Now look where the king’s spear and the jug of water that was by his head are!”

17 When Saul recognized David’s voice, he said, “Is that your voice, my son David?” David replied, “Yes, it’s my voice, my lord the king.” 18 He went on to say, “Why is my lord chasing his servant? What have I done? What wrong have I done?[i] 19 So let my lord the king now listen to the words of his servant. If the Lord has incited you against me, may he take delight in[j] an offering. But if men have instigated this,[k] may they be cursed before the Lord! For they have driven me away this day from being united with the Lord’s inheritance, saying, ‘Go on, serve other gods!’ 20 Now don’t let my blood fall to the ground away from the Lord’s presence, for the king of Israel has gone out to look for a flea the way one looks for a partridge[l] in the hill country.”

21 Saul replied, “I have sinned. Come back, my son David. I won’t harm you anymore, for you treated my life with value[m] this day. I have behaved foolishly and have made a very terrible mistake!”[n] 22 David replied, “Here is the king’s spear! Let one of your servants cross over and get it. 23 The Lord rewards each man for his integrity and loyalty.[o] Even though today the Lord delivered you into my hand, I was not willing to extend my hand against the Lord’s chosen one. 24 In the same way that I valued your life this day,[p] may the Lord value my life[q] and deliver me from all danger.” 25 Saul replied to David, “May you be rewarded,[r] my son David! You will without question be successful!”[s] So David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place.


  1. 1 Samuel 26:1 tn Heb “upon the face of.”
  2. 1 Samuel 26:3 tn Heb “after.”
  3. 1 Samuel 26:4 tn Heb “and David sent scouts and he knew that Saul had certainly come.”
  4. 1 Samuel 26:8 tn Here “the spear” almost certainly refers to Saul’s own spear, which according to the previous verse was stuck into the ground beside him as he slept. This is reflected in a number of English versions: TEV, CEV “his own spear”; NLT “that spear.” Cf. NIV, NCV “my spear,” in which case Abishai refers to his own spear rather than Saul’s, but this is unlikely since (1) Abishai would probably not have carried a spear along since such a weapon would be unwieldy when sneaking into the enemy camp; and (2) this would not explain the mention of Saul’s own spear stuck in the ground beside him in the previous verse.
  5. 1 Samuel 26:8 tn Heb “let me strike him with the spear and into the ground one time.”
  6. 1 Samuel 26:9 tn Heb “anointed” (also in vv. 11, 16, 23).
  7. 1 Samuel 26:16 tn Heb “Not good [is] this thing which you have done.”
  8. 1 Samuel 26:16 tn Heb “you are sons of death.”
  9. 1 Samuel 26:18 tn Heb “What in my hand [is] evil?”
  10. 1 Samuel 26:19 tn Heb “may he smell.” The implication is that Saul should seek to appease God, for such divine instigation to evil would be a sign of God’s disfavor. For a fuller discussion of this passage see R. B. Chisholm, Jr., “Does God Deceive?” BSac 155 (1998): 19-21.
  11. 1 Samuel 26:19 tn Heb “but if the sons of men.”
  12. 1 Samuel 26:20 tn Heb “the calling [one],” which apparently refers to a partridge.
  13. 1 Samuel 26:21 tn Heb “my life was valuable in your eyes.”
  14. 1 Samuel 26:21 tn Heb “and I have erred very greatly.”
  15. 1 Samuel 26:23 tn Heb “and the Lord returns to the man his righteousness and his faithfulness.”
  16. 1 Samuel 26:24 tn Heb “your life was great this day in my eyes.”
  17. 1 Samuel 26:24 tn Heb “may my life be great in the eyes of the Lord.”
  18. 1 Samuel 26:25 tn Heb “blessed.”
  19. 1 Samuel 26:25 tn Heb “you will certainly do and also you will certainly be able.” The infinitive absolutes placed before the finite verbal forms lend emphasis to the statement.