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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.

The Death of Samuel

25 Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned him. They buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David left and went down to the wilderness of Paran.[r]

David Marries Abigail the Widow of Nabal

There was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel. This man was very wealthy;[s] he owned 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats. At that time he was shearing his sheep in Carmel. The man’s name was Nabal,[t] and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was both wise[u] and beautiful, but the man was harsh and his deeds were evil. He was a Calebite.

When David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep, he[v] sent ten servants,[w] saying to them,[x] “Go up to Carmel to see Nabal and give him greetings in my name.[y] Then you will say to my brother,[z] ‘Peace to you and your house! Peace to all that is yours! Now I hear that they are shearing sheep for you. When your shepherds were with us, we neither insulted them nor harmed them the whole time they were in Carmel. Ask your own servants; they can tell you! May my servants find favor in your sight, for we have come[aa] at the time of a holiday. Please provide us—your servants[ab] and your son David—with whatever you can spare.’”[ac]

So David’s servants went and spoke all these words to Nabal in David’s name. Then they paused. 10 But Nabal responded to David’s servants, “Who is David, and who is this son of Jesse? This is a time when many servants are breaking away from their masters! 11 Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have slaughtered for my shearers and give them to these men? I don’t even know where they came from!”

12 So David’s servants went on their way. When they had returned, they came and told David[ad] all these things. 13 Then David instructed his men, “Each of you strap on your sword!” So each one strapped on his sword, and David also strapped on his sword. About 400 men followed David, while 200 stayed behind with the equipment.

14 But one of the servants told Nabal’s wife Abigail, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet[ae] our lord, but he screamed at them. 15 These men were very good to us. They did not insult us, nor did we sustain any loss during the entire time we were together[af] in the field. 16 Both night and day they were a protective wall for us the entire time we were with them, while we were tending our flocks. 17 Now be aware of this, and see what you can do. For disaster has been planned for our lord and his entire household.[ag] He is such a wicked person[ah] that no one tells him anything!”

18 So Abigail quickly took 200 loaves of bread, two containers[ai] of wine, five prepared sheep, five seahs[aj] of roasted grain, 100 bunches of raisins, and 200 lumps of pressed figs. She loaded them on donkeys 19 and said to her servants, “Go on ahead of me. I will come after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.

20 Riding on her donkey, she went down under cover of the mountain. David and his men were coming down to meet her, and she encountered them. 21 Now David had been thinking,[ak] “In vain I guarded everything that belonged to this man in the wilderness. I didn’t take anything from him. But he has repaid my good with evil. 22 God will severely punish David,[al] if I leave alive until morning even one male[am] from all those who belong to him!”

23 When Abigail saw David, she got down quickly from the donkey, threw herself facedown before David, and bowed to the ground. 24 Falling at his feet, she said, “My lord, I accept all the guilt! But please let your female servant speak to you! Please listen to the words of your servant! 25 My lord should not pay attention to this wicked man Nabal. He simply lives up to his name! His name means ‘fool,’ and he is indeed foolish![an] But I, your servant, did not see the servants my lord sent.[ao]

26 “Now, my lord, as surely as the Lord lives and as surely as you live, it is the Lord who has kept you from shedding blood and taking matters into your own hands. Now may your enemies and those who seek to harm my lord be like Nabal. 27 Now let this present[ap] that your servant has brought to my lord be given to the servants who follow[aq] my lord. 28 Please forgive the sin of your servant, for the Lord will certainly establish a lasting dynasty for my lord, because my lord fights the battles of the Lord. May no evil be found in you all your days! 29 When someone sets out to chase you and to take your life, the life of my lord will be wrapped securely in the bag[ar] of the living by the Lord your God. But he will sling away the lives of your enemies from the sling’s pocket! 30 The Lord will do for my lord everything that he promised you,[as] and he will make[at] you a leader over Israel. 31 Your conscience will not be overwhelmed with guilt[au] for having poured out innocent blood and for having taken matters into your own hands. When the Lord has granted my lord success,[av] please remember your servant.”

32 Then David said to Abigail, “Praised[aw] be the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you this day to meet me! 33 Praised be your good judgment! May you yourself be rewarded[ax] for having prevented me this day from shedding blood and taking matters into my own hands! 34 Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives—he who has prevented me from harming you—if you had not come so quickly to meet me, by morning’s light not even one male belonging to Nabal would have remained alive!” 35 Then David took from her hand what she had brought to him. He said to her, “Go back[ay] to your home in peace. Be assured that I have listened to you[az] and responded favorably.”[ba]

36 When Abigail went back to Nabal, he was holding a banquet in his house like that of the king. Nabal was having a good time[bb] and was very intoxicated. She told him absolutely nothing[bc] until morning’s light. 37 In the morning, when Nabal was sober,[bd] his wife told him about these matters. He had a stroke and was paralyzed.[be] 38 After about ten days the Lord struck Nabal down and he died.

39 When David heard that Nabal had died, he said, “Praised be the Lord who has vindicated me and avenged the insult that I suffered from Nabal![bf] The Lord has kept his servant from doing evil, and he has repaid Nabal for his evil deeds.”[bg] Then David sent word to Abigail and asked her to become his wife.

40 So the servants of David went to Abigail at Carmel and said to her, “David has sent us to you to bring you back to be his wife.” 41 She arose, bowed her face toward the ground, and said, “Your female servant, like a lowly servant, will wash[bh] the feet of the servants of my lord.” 42 Then Abigail quickly went and mounted her donkey, with five of her female servants accompanying her.[bi] She followed David’s messengers and became his wife.

43 David had also married[bj] Ahinoam from Jezreel; the two of them became his wives. 44 (Now Saul had given his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to Paltiel son of Laish, who was from Gallim.)

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[bk] 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[bl] him, David sent scouts and verified that Saul had indeed arrived.[bm]

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[bn] right through him into the ground with one swift jab![bo] 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[bp] 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![bq] As surely as the Lord lives, you people who have not protected your lord, the Lord’s chosen one, are as good as dead![br] 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?[bs] 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[bt] an offering. But if men have instigated this,[bu] 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[bv] 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[bw] this day. I have behaved foolishly and have made a very terrible mistake!”[bx] 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.[by] 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,[bz] may the Lord value my life[ca] and deliver me from all danger.” 25 Saul replied to David, “May you be rewarded,[cb] my son David! You will without question be successful!”[cc] So David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place.


  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.”
  18. 1 Samuel 25:1 tc The LXX reads “Maon” here instead of “Paran,” perhaps because the following account of Nabal is said to be in Maon (v. 2). This reading is followed by a number of English versions (e.g., NAB, NIV, NCV, NLT). The MT, however, reads “Paran,” a location which would parallel this portion of David’s life with that of the nation Israel which also spent time in Paran (Num 10:12). Also, the desert of Paran was on the southern border of Judah’s territory and would be the most isolated location for hiding from Saul.
  19. 1 Samuel 25:2 tn Heb “great.”
  20. 1 Samuel 25:3 sn The name נָבָל (Nabal) means “foolish” or “senseless” in Hebrew, and as an adjective the word is used especially of persons who have no perception of ethical or religious claims. It is an apt name for this character, who certainly typifies such behavior.
  21. 1 Samuel 25:3 tn Heb “good of insight”; KJV “of good understanding”; NAB, NIV, TEV “intelligent”; NRSV “clever.”
  22. 1 Samuel 25:5 tn Heb “David”; for stylistic reasons the pronoun has been used in the translation.
  23. 1 Samuel 25:5 tn Or “young men.”
  24. 1 Samuel 25:5 tn Heb “and David said to the young men.”
  25. 1 Samuel 25:5 tn Heb “and inquire concerning him in my name in regard to peace.”
  26. 1 Samuel 25:6 tc The text is difficult here. The MT and most of the early versions support the reading לֶחָי (lekhai, “to life,” or “to the one who lives”). Some of the older English versions (KJV, ASV; cf. NKJV) took the expression to mean “to him who lives (in prosperity),” but this translation requires reading a good deal into the words. While the expression could have the sense of “Long life to you!” (cf. NIV, NJPS) or perhaps “Good luck to you!” this seems somewhat redundant in light of the salutation that follows in the context. The Latin Vulgate has fratribus meis (“to my brothers”), which suggests that Jerome understood the Hebrew word to have an ʾalef that is absent in the MT (i.e., לֶאֱחָי, leʾekhay). Jerome’s plural, however, remains a problem, since in the context David is addressing a single individual, namely Nabal, and not a group. However, it is likely that the Vulgate witnesses to a consonantal Hebrew text that is to be preferred here, especially if the word were to be revocalized as a singular rather than a plural. While it is impossible to be certain about this reading, the present translation essentially follows the Vulgate in reading “my brother” (so also NJB; cf. NAB, RSV, NRSV).
  27. 1 Samuel 25:8 tc The translation follows many medieval Hebrew mss in reading בָּאנוּ (baʾnu, “we have come”) rather than the MT’s בָּנוּ (banu, “we have built”).
  28. 1 Samuel 25:8 tn This refers to the ten servants sent by David.
  29. 1 Samuel 25:8 tn Heb “whatever your hand will find.”
  30. 1 Samuel 25:12 tn Heb “him”; the referent (David) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  31. 1 Samuel 25:14 tn Heb “bless.”
  32. 1 Samuel 25:15 tn Heb “all the days we walked about with them when we were.”
  33. 1 Samuel 25:17 tn Heb “all his house” (so ASV, NRSV); NAB, NLT “his whole family.”
  34. 1 Samuel 25:17 tn Heb “he is a son of worthlessness.”
  35. 1 Samuel 25:18 tn Heb “skins.”
  36. 1 Samuel 25:18 sn The seah was a dry measure equal to one-third of an ephah, or not quite eleven quarts.
  37. 1 Samuel 25:21 tn Heb “said.”
  38. 1 Samuel 25:22 tc Heb “Thus God will do to the enemies of David and thus he will add.” Most of the Old Greek ms tradition has simply “David,” with no reference to his enemies. In OT imprecations such as the one found in v. 22 it is common for the speaker to direct malediction toward himself as an indication of the seriousness with which he regards the matter at hand. In other words, the speaker invites on himself dire consequences if he fails to fulfill the matter expressed in the oath. However, in the situation alluded to in v. 22 the threat actually does not come to fruition due to the effectiveness of Abigail’s appeal to David on behalf of her husband Nabal. Instead, David is placated through Abigail’s intervention. It therefore seems likely that the reference to “the enemies of David” in the MT of v. 22 is the result of a scribal attempt to deliver David from the implied consequences of this oath. The present translation follows the LXX rather than the MT here.
  39. 1 Samuel 25:22 tn Heb “one who urinates against a wall” (also in v. 34); KJV “any that pisseth against the wall.” At first this may seem to be a vulgar phrase because it refers to a bodily function and David is angry. But David uses the same phrase when he speaks in a conciliatory way to Abigail in v. 34. There is no clear point to his using a vulgar phrase in that context. Similarly for the narrator in 1 Kgs 16:11 and the Lord’s oracles in 1 Kgs 14:10; 21:21; 2 Kgs 9:8, any rhetorical reason for vulgarity is unclear. The phrase refers to males, is not with certainty crude, and the addition of the phrase “at a wall” does not communicate well in the modern setting. We we have chosen to simply use “male” for this phrase.
  40. 1 Samuel 25:25 tn Heb “and foolishness is with him.”
  41. 1 Samuel 25:25 tn Heb “my lord’s servants, whom you sent.”
  42. 1 Samuel 25:27 tn Heb “blessing.”
  43. 1 Samuel 25:27 tn Heb “are walking at the feet of.”
  44. 1 Samuel 25:29 tn Cf. KJV, NAB, NIV, NRSV “bundle”; NLT “treasure pouch.”
  45. 1 Samuel 25:30 tn Heb “according to all which he spoke, the good concerning you.”
  46. 1 Samuel 25:30 tn Heb “appoint.”
  47. 1 Samuel 25:31 tn Heb “and this will not be for you for staggering and for stumbling of the heart of my lord.”
  48. 1 Samuel 25:31 tn Heb “and the Lord will do well for my lord.”
  49. 1 Samuel 25:32 tn Heb “blessed” (also in vv. 33, 39).
  50. 1 Samuel 25:33 tn Heb “blessed.”
  51. 1 Samuel 25:35 tn Heb “up.”
  52. 1 Samuel 25:35 tn Heb “your voice.”
  53. 1 Samuel 25:35 tn Heb “I have lifted up your face.”
  54. 1 Samuel 25:36 tn Heb “and the heart of Nabal was good upon him”; NASB, NRSV “Nabal’s heart was merry within him”; NIV “he was in high spirits”; NCV, TEV “was in a good mood”; CEV “was very drunk and feeling good.”
  55. 1 Samuel 25:36 tn Heb “and she did not tell him a thing, small or large.”
  56. 1 Samuel 25:37 tn Heb “when the wine had gone out from Nabal.”
  57. 1 Samuel 25:37 tn Heb “and his heart died within him and he became a stone.” Cf. TEV, NLT “stroke”; CEV “heart attack.” For an alternative interpretation than that presented above, see Marjorie O’Rourke Boyle, “The Law of the Heart: The Death of a Fool (1 Samuel 25),” JBL 120 (2001): 401-27, who argues that a medical diagnosis is not necessary here. Instead, the passage makes a connection between the heart and the law; Nabal dies for his lawlessness.
  58. 1 Samuel 25:39 tn Heb “who has argued the case of my insult from the hand of Nabal.”
  59. 1 Samuel 25:39 tn Heb “his servant he has held back from evil, and the evil of Nabal the Lord has turned back on his head.”
  60. 1 Samuel 25:41 tn Heb “Here is your maidservant, for a lowly servant to wash.”
  61. 1 Samuel 25:42 tn Heb “going at her feet.”
  62. 1 Samuel 25:43 tn Heb “taken.”
  63. 1 Samuel 26:1 tn Heb “upon the face of.”
  64. 1 Samuel 26:3 tn Heb “after.”
  65. 1 Samuel 26:4 tn Heb “and David sent scouts and he knew that Saul had certainly come.”
  66. 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.
  67. 1 Samuel 26:8 tn Heb “let me strike him with the spear and into the ground one time.”
  68. 1 Samuel 26:9 tn Heb “anointed” (also in vv. 11, 16, 23).
  69. 1 Samuel 26:16 tn Heb “Not good [is] this thing which you have done.”
  70. 1 Samuel 26:16 tn Heb “you are sons of death.”
  71. 1 Samuel 26:18 tn Heb “What in my hand [is] evil?”
  72. 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.
  73. 1 Samuel 26:19 tn Heb “but if the sons of men.”
  74. 1 Samuel 26:20 tn Heb “the calling [one],” which apparently refers to a partridge.
  75. 1 Samuel 26:21 tn Heb “my life was valuable in your eyes.”
  76. 1 Samuel 26:21 tn Heb “and I have erred very greatly.”
  77. 1 Samuel 26:23 tn Heb “and the Lord returns to the man his righteousness and his faithfulness.”
  78. 1 Samuel 26:24 tn Heb “your life was great this day in my eyes.”
  79. 1 Samuel 26:24 tn Heb “may my life be great in the eyes of the Lord.”
  80. 1 Samuel 26:25 tn Heb “blessed.”
  81. 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.