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1 Samuel 26-31 Common English Bible (CEB)

David spares Saul’s life a second time

26 The Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah. “David is hiding on Hachilah’s hill, which faces Jeshimon,” they said. So Saul got up and went down to the Ziph wilderness to look for David there. He had three thousand handpicked soldiers from Israel with him. Saul camped on Hachilah’s hill opposite Jeshimon beside the road, but David stayed in the wilderness. When David learned that Saul had come after him into the wilderness, he sent spies and discovered that Saul had definitely arrived.

So David got up and went to the place where Saul camped, and saw the place where Saul and Abner, Ner’s son and Saul’s general, were sleeping. Saul was sleeping inside the camp with the troops camped all around him. David asked Ahimelech the Hittite and Joab’s brother Abishai, Zeruiah’s son, “Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?”

“I’ll go down with you,” Abishai answered.

So David and Abishai approached the troops at night and found Saul lying there, asleep in the camp, with his spear stuck in the ground by his head. Abner and the army were sleeping all around him.

Abishai said to David, “God has handed your enemy over to you today! Let me pin him to the ground with my spear. One stroke is all I need! I won’t need a second.”

But David said to Abishai, “Don’t kill him! No one can lift a hand against the Lord’s anointed and go unpunished. 10 As surely as the Lord lives,” David continued, “it will be the Lord who will strike him down, or his day will come and he will die, or he’ll fall in battle and be destroyed. 11 The Lord forbid that I lift my hand against the Lord’s anointed! But go ahead and take the spear by Saul’s head and the water jug and let’s go!” 12 So David took the spear and the water jug that were by Saul’s head, and he and Abishai left. No one saw them, no one knew they were there, and no one woke up. All of them remained asleep because a deep sleep from the Lord had come over them.

13 David crossed over to the other side and stood on top of a hill with considerable distance between them. 14 Then David shouted to the army and to Abner, Ner’s son, “Abner! Aren’t you going to answer me?”

“Who are you to shout to the king?” Abner asked.

15 David answered Abner, “You are a man, aren’t you? And you have no equal in Israel, right? Then why haven’t you kept watch over your master the king? One of the soldiers came to kill your master the king. 16 What you’ve done is terrible! As surely as the Lord lives, all of you are dead men because you didn’t keep close watch over your master, the Lord’s anointed. Have a look around! Where are the king’s spear and the water jug that were by his head?”

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

David said, “Yes it is, my master the king. 18 Why,” David continued, “is my master chasing me, his servant? What have I done and what wrong am I guilty of? 19 My master the king, please listen to what your servant has to say. If it is the Lord who has incited you against me, then let him accept an offering! But if human beings have done it, then let them be cursed before the Lord because they have now driven me off, keeping me from sharing in the Lord’s inheritance. ‘Go!’ they tell me. ‘Worship other gods!’ 20 Don’t let my blood spill on the ground apart from the Lord’s presence, because the king of Israel has come out looking for a single flea[a] like someone hunting a partridge[b] in the mountains.”

21 Then Saul said, “I have sinned! David, my son, come back! Because you considered my life precious today, I won’t harm you again. I have acted foolishly and have made a huge mistake.”

22 “Here is the king’s spear,” David answered. “Allow one of your servants to come over and get it. 23 Remember: The Lord rewards every person for their righteousness and loyalty, and I wasn’t willing to lift a hand against the Lord’s anointed, even though the Lord handed you over to me today. 24 And just as I considered your life valuable today, may the Lord consider my life valuable, and may he deliver me from all trouble.”

25 Then Saul said to David, “Bless you, David, my son! You will accomplish much and will certainly succeed.” Then David went on his way, but Saul went back home.

David serves the Philistine Achish

27 David thought, One day I will be destroyed by Saul’s power. The best thing for me to do is to escape to Philistine territory. Then Saul will give up looking for me in Israelite territory, and I will escape his power. So David set out with his six hundred soldiers and went to Achish, Maoch’s son and Gath’s king. David and his soldiers stayed there at Gath with Achish. Each man had his family with him, and David had his two wives, Ahinoam from Jezreel and Abigail, Nabal’s widow from Carmel. When Saul was told that David had fled to Gath, he didn’t pursue him anymore.

Then David said to Achish, “If you approve of me, please give me a place in one of the towns in the country so I can live there. Why should I, your servant, live in the capital city with you?” So Achish gave the town of Ziklag to David at that time. That’s why Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah until now. David lived in the Philistine countryside for a total of one year and four months.

David and his soldiers went out on raids against the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites. They were the people who lived in the land from Telam[c] to Shur all the way to the land of Egypt. When David attacked an area, he wouldn’t leave anyone alive, man or woman. He would take the sheep, the cattle, the donkeys, the camels, and the clothes and would then go back to Achish. 10 When Achish asked, “Where did you raid today?”[d] David would say, “The southern plain of Judah,” or “The southern plain of the Jerahmeelites,” or “The southern plain of the Kenites.” 11 David never spared a man or woman so they could be brought back alive to Gath. “Otherwise,” he said, “they might talk about us, and say, ‘David did this or that.’” So this was David’s practice during the entire time he lived in the Philistine countryside.

12 Achish trusted David, thinking, David has alienated himself so badly from his own people in Israel that he’ll serve me forever.

28 At that time, the Philistines gathered their troops for war to fight against Israel. Achish said to David, “Count on you and your soldiers marching out with me in the army.”

“Excellent,” David answered Achish. “Now you’ll see for yourself what your servant can do.”

“Excellent,” Achish replied. “I will make you my permanent bodyguard.”

Saul and the woman of En-dor

Now Samuel had died, and all Israel mourned him and buried him in Ramah, his hometown. And Saul had banned all mediums and diviners from the land.

The Philistines gathered their forces and advanced to camp at Shunem. Saul gathered all Israel, and they camped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was so afraid that his heart beat wildly. When Saul questioned the Lord, the Lord didn’t answer him—not by dreams, not by the Urim, and not by the prophets. So Saul said to his servants, “Find me a woman who communicates with ghosts! I’ll then go to her and ask by using her techniques.”[e]

“There is such a medium in En-dor,” his servants replied.

So Saul disguised himself, dressing in different clothes. Then he and two men set out, going to the woman at nighttime.

“Please call up a ghost for me! Bring me the one I specify,” Saul said.

“Listen,” the woman said to him, “you know what Saul has done, how he has banned all mediums and diviners from the land. What are you doing? Trying to get me killed?”

10 But Saul promised to her by the Lord, “As surely as the Lord lives, you won’t get into trouble for this.”

11 So the woman said, “Who do you want me to bring up for you?”

“Bring up Samuel,” he said.

12 When the woman saw Samuel, she screamed at Saul, “Why have you tricked me? You are Saul!”

13 “Don’t be afraid!” the king said to her. “What do you see?”

The woman said to Saul, “I see a god[f] coming up from the ground.”

14 “What does he look like?” Saul asked her.

“An old man is coming up,” she said. “He’s wrapped in a robe.” Then Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed low out of respect, nose to the ground.

15 “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Samuel asked Saul.

“I’m in deep trouble!” Saul replied. “The Philistines are at war with me, and God has turned away from me and no longer answers me by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what I should do.”

16 “Why do you ask me,” Samuel said, “since the Lord has turned away from you and has become your enemy?[g] 17 The Lord has done to you[h] exactly what he spoke through me: The Lord has ripped the kingdom out of your hands and has given it to your friend David. 18 The Lord has done this very thing to you today because you didn’t listen to the Lord’s voice and didn’t carry out his fierce anger against the Amalekites. 19 The Lord will now hand over both you and Israel to the Philistines. And come tomorrow, you and your sons will be with me![i] The Lord will hand Israel’s army over to the Philistines.”

20 Saul immediately fell full length on the ground, utterly terrified at what Samuel had said. He was weak because he hadn’t eaten anything all day or night. 21 The woman approached Saul, and after seeing how scared he was, she said, “Listen, your servant has obeyed you. I risked my life and did what you told me to do. 22 Now it’s your turn to listen to me, your servant. Let me give you a bit of food. Eat it, then you’ll have the strength to go on your way.”

23 But Saul refused. “I can’t eat!” he said. But his servants and the woman urged him to do so, and so he did. He got up off the ground and sat on a couch. 24 The woman had a fattened calf in the house, and she quickly butchered it.[j] She took flour, kneaded it, and baked unleavened bread. 25 She served this to Saul and his servants, and they ate. They got up and left that very night.

David sent home from fighting Saul

29 The Philistines assembled all their forces at Aphek, and the Israelites camped by the spring in Jezreel. As the Philistine rulers went out marching in units of hundreds and thousands, David and his soldiers were in the rear with Achish.

“Who are these Hebrews?” the Philistine commanders asked.

“That’s David,” Achish told them, “the servant of Israel’s King Saul. He’s been with me a year or so now. I haven’t found anything wrong with him from the day he defected until now.”

But the Philistine commanders were angry with Achish. “Send the man home!” they told Achish. “He can go back to the place you gave him, but he won’t go with us into battle. Couldn’t he turn against us in the middle of the fight? How better to please his former master than by taking the heads of our soldiers? After all, this is the same David people sing about in their dances,

‘Saul has killed his thousands,
    but David has killed his tens of thousands!’”

So Achish summoned David and told him, “As surely as the Lord lives, you are an upstanding individual. I would very much like you to serve with me in the army because I haven’t found anything wrong with you from the day you came to me until now. But the rulers don’t approve of you. So go back home now, and go in peace. Don’t do anything to upset the Philistine rulers.”

“But what have I done?” David asked Achish. “What wrong have you found in me, your servant, from the day I came to you until now? Why shouldn’t I go and fight the enemies of my master the king?”

“I agree,” Achish answered David. “I think you’re as good as one of God’s own messengers. Despite that, the Philistine commanders have ordered, ‘He can’t go into battle with us.’ 10 So get up early in the morning, both you and your master’s servants who came with you, and return to the place I gave you. Don’t worry about this negative report, because you’ve done well before me.[k] Now get up early in the morning and leave as soon as it is light.”

11 So David and his soldiers got up early in the morning to go back to Philistine territory, but the Philistines went up to Jezreel.

The Amalekite raid on Ziklag

30 Three days later, David and his soldiers reached Ziklag. The Amalekites had raided the arid southern plain and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it down, taking the women and everyone in the city prisoner, whether young or old.[l] They hadn’t killed anyone but carried them off and went on their way. When David and his soldiers got to the town and found it burned down, and their wives, their sons, and their daughters taken prisoner, David and the troops with him broke into tears and cried until they could cry no more. David’s two wives had been captured as well: Ahinoam from Jezreel and Abigail, Nabal’s widow from Carmel.

David was in deep trouble because the troops were talking about stoning him. Each of the soldiers was deeply distressed about their sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God. David said to the priest Abiathar, Ahimelech’s son, “Bring the priestly vest[m] to me.” So Abiathar brought it to David.

Then David asked the Lord, “Should I go after this raiding party? Will I catch them?”

“Yes, go after them!” God answered. “You will definitely catch them and will succeed in the rescue!”

So David set off with six hundred men. They came to the Besor ravine, where some stayed behind. 10 David and four hundred men continued the pursuit, while two hundred men stayed there, too exhausted to cross the Besor ravine.

11 They found an Egyptian in the countryside and brought him to David. They gave him bread, and he ate, and they gave him water to drink. 12 They also gave him a piece of fig cake and two raisin cakes. He ate and regained his strength because he hadn’t eaten any food or drunk any water for three days and nights.

13 Then David asked him, “Whose slave are you? Where do you come from?”

“I’m an Egyptian servant boy,” he said, “and the slave of an Amalekite. My master abandoned me when I got sick three days ago. 14 We had raided the arid southern plain belonging to the Cherethites, the territory belonging to Judah, and the southern plain of Caleb. We also burned Ziklag down.”

15 “Can you guide me to this raiding party?” David asked him.

“Make a pledge to me by God that you won’t kill me or hand me over to my master,” the boy said, “and I will guide you to the raiding party.”

16 So the boy led David to them, and he found them scattered all over the countryside, eating, drinking, and celebrating over the large amount of plunder they had taken from Philistine and Judean territory.

17 David attacked them from twilight until evening of the next day. He killed them all.[n] No one escaped except four hundred young men who got on camels and fled. 18 David rescued everything that the Amalekites had taken, including his own two wives. 19 Nothing was missing from the plunder or anything that they had taken, neither old nor young, son nor daughter. David brought everything back. 20 David also captured all the sheep and cattle, which were driven in front of the other livestock. The troops said, “This is David’s plunder!”

21 David reached the two hundred men who were too exhausted to follow him and had stayed behind at the Besor ravine. They came out to greet him and the troops who were with him. When David approached them, he asked how they were doing. 22 But then all the evil and despicable individuals who had accompanied David said, “We won’t share any of the plunder we rescued with them because they didn’t go with us. Each of them can take his wife and children and go—but that’s it.”

23 “Brothers!” David said. “Don’t act that way with the things the Lord has given us. He has protected us and handed over to us the raiding party that had attacked us. 24 How could anyone agree with you on this plan? The share of those who went into battle and the share of those who stayed with the supplies will be divided equally.” 25 So from that day forward, David made that a regulation and a law in Israel, which remains in place even now.

26 When David returned to Ziklag, he sent some of the plunder to the elders of Judah and to his friends. “Here is a gift for you from the plunder of the Lord’s enemies,” he said. 27 It went to those in Bethel, Ramoth of the arid southern plain, Jattir, 28 Aroer,[o] Siphmoth, Eshtemoa, 29 Racal, the towns of the Jerahmeelites, the towns of the Kenites, 30 Hormah, Bor-ashan, Athach, 31 Hebron, and all the places where David and his soldiers had spent time.

Saul dies in the battle of Gilboa

31 When the Philistines attacked the Israelites, the Israelites ran away from the Philistines, and many fell dead on Mount Gilboa. The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons, and they killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua. The battle was fierce around Saul. When the archers located him, they wounded him badly.[p]

Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and kill me with it! Otherwise, these uncircumcised men will come and kill me or torture me.” But his armor-bearer refused because he was terrified. So Saul took the sword and impaled himself on it. When the armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also impaled himself on his sword and died with Saul. So Saul, his three sons, his armor-bearer, and all his soldiers died together that day.

When the Israelites across the valley and across the Jordan learned that the Israelite army had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their towns and fled. So the Philistines came and occupied the towns.

The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and his three sons lying dead on Mount Gilboa. They cut off Saul’s head and stripped off his armor, and then sent word throughout Philistine territory, carrying the good news to their gods’ temples and to their people. 10 They put Saul’s armor in the temple of Astarte, and hung his body on the wall of Beth-shan.

11 But when all the people of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 the bravest of their men set out, traveled all night long, and took the bodies of Saul and his sons off the wall of Beth-shan. Then they went back to Jabesh, where they burned them. 13 Then they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted seven days.


  1. 1 Samuel 26:20 Cf 24:14; LXX my life
  2. 1 Samuel 26:20 Or a caller, Heb sounds like verb to shout or call in 26:14.
  3. 1 Samuel 27:8 LXX; MT from long ago
  4. 1 Samuel 27:10 DSS (4QSama), LXX
  5. 1 Samuel 28:7 Or through her or by her
  6. 1 Samuel 28:13 Or I see gods or I see divine figures
  7. 1 Samuel 28:16 LXX is with your neighbor; cf 15:28; 28:17
  8. 1 Samuel 28:17 LXX; MT The Lord himself has done just what
  9. 1 Samuel 28:19 LXX you and your sons will fall in battle.
  10. 1 Samuel 28:24 Or sacrificed it
  11. 1 Samuel 29:10 LXX; MT lacks and return to the place… done well before me.
  12. 1 Samuel 30:2 LXX; MT lacks and everyone in the city.
  13. 1 Samuel 30:7 Heb ephod
  14. 1 Samuel 30:17 LXX; MT lacks He killed them all.
  15. 1 Samuel 30:28 LXX Ararah
  16. 1 Samuel 31:3 Correction; LXX wounded in the belly
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

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