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David and Abishai Enter Saul’s Camp

26 The people of Ziph went to see Saul at Gibeah and said to him, “David is hiding on Hakilah Hill, across from Jeshimon.”

Saul gathered 3000 of the best soldiers in Israel and went down to the desert of Ziph to search for David there. Saul set up his camp by the road at Hakilah Hill, across from Jeshimon.

David was out in the desert and saw that Saul had come out into the desert after him. So David sent out spies to know for certain that Saul had come after him again. Then David went to where Saul had set up his camp. David saw where Saul and Abner were sleeping. (Abner son of Ner was the commander of Saul’s army.) Saul was sleeping in the center of a circle of men that surrounded him.

David talked to Ahimelech the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah. (Abishai was Joab’s brother.) He asked them, “Who would like to go down into the camp with me after Saul?”

Abishai answered, “I’ll go with you.”

When night came, David and Abishai went into Saul’s camp. Saul was asleep in the middle of the circle of men. His spear was stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the other soldiers were asleep around Saul. Abishai said to David, “Today God has given your enemy to you. Let me pin Saul to the ground with his spear. I’ll only do it once!”

But David said to Abishai, “Don’t kill Saul! Anyone who hurts the Lord’s chosen king[a] must be punished. 10 As surely as the Lord lives, the Lord himself will punish Saul. Maybe Saul will die naturally or maybe he will be killed in battle. 11 But I pray that the Lord never lets me hurt the Lord’s chosen king. Now pick up the spear and water jug by Saul’s head and let’s go.”

12 So David took the spear and water jug that were near Saul’s head, and then David and Abishai left Saul’s camp. No one knew what had happened. No one saw it. No one even woke up. Saul and all of his soldiers slept because the Lord had put them into a deep sleep.

David Shames Saul Again

13 David crossed over to the other side of the valley. He stood on top of the mountain across the valley from Saul’s camp. David and Saul’s camp were far apart. 14 David shouted to the army and to Abner son of Ner, “Answer me, Abner!”

Abner answered, “Who are you? Why are you calling the king?”

15 David said, “You are an important man, aren’t you? You are better than any other man in Israel. Is that right? So why didn’t you guard your master, the king? An ordinary man came into your camp to kill your master, the king. 16 You made a big mistake. As surely as the Lord is alive, you and your men should die, because you didn’t protect your master, the Lord’s chosen king. Look for the king’s spear and the water jug that was near Saul’s head. Where are they?”

17 Saul knew David’s voice and said, “Is that your voice, David my son?”

David answered, “Yes, it is my voice, my lord the king. 18 Sir, why are you chasing me? What wrong have I done? What am I guilty of? 19 My lord the king, listen to me. If the Lord caused you to be angry with me, let him accept an offering. But if men caused you to be angry with me, I ask the Lord to curse them because they forced me to leave the land that the Lord gave me and told me to go serve other gods. 20 Now don’t make me die far away from the Lord’s presence. The king of Israel has come out looking for a flea. You are like a man hunting partridges in the mountains.”[b]

21 Then Saul said, “David, my son! I have sinned. Come back. Today you showed me that my life is important to you, so I won’t try to hurt you. I have acted foolishly. I have made a big mistake.”

22 David answered, “Here is the king’s spear. Let one of your young men come here and get it. 23 The Lord pays every man for what he does—he rewards him if he does right, and he punishes him if he does wrong. The Lord gave you to me today, but I wouldn’t harm the Lord’s chosen king. 24 Today I showed you that your life is important to me. In the same way the Lord will show that my life is important to him. He will save me from every trouble.”

25 Then Saul said to David, “God bless you, David my son. You will do great things and you will win.”

David went on his way, and Saul went back home.


  1. 1 Samuel 26:9 chosen king Literally, “anointed one.” Also in verses 16, 23.
  2. 1 Samuel 26:20 hunting partridges in the mountains People hunted these birds until the birds became too tired to go on. Then they killed the birds. Saul was chasing David the same way. This is also a wordplay. The Hebrew word for “partridge” is like the word for “calling” in verse 14.

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