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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 6–12
Verses 6–12

Here is, I. David’s bold adventure into Saul’s camp in the night, accompanied only by his kinsman Abishai, the son of Zeruiah. He proposed it to him and to another of his confidants (1 Sam. 26:6), but the other either declined it as too dangerous an enterprise, or at least was content that Abishai, who was forward to it, should run the risk of it rather than himself. Whether David was prompted to do this by his own courage, or by an extraordinary impression upon his spirits, or by the oracle, does not appear; but, like Gideon, he ventured through the guards, with a special assurance of the divine protection.

II. The posture he found the camp in Saul lay sleeping in the trench, or, as some read it, in his chariot, and in the midst of his carriages, with his spear stuck in the ground by him, to be ready if his quarters should by beaten up (1 Sam. 26:7); and all the soldiers, even those that were appointed to stand sentinel, were fast asleep, 1 Sam. 26:12. Thus were their eyes closed and their hands bound, for a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them; something extraordinary there was in it that they should all be asleep together, and so fast asleep that David and Abishai walked and talked among them, and yet none of them stirred. Sleep, when God gives it to his beloved, is their rest and refreshment; but he can, when he pleases, make it to his enemies their imprisonment. Thus are the stout-hearted spoiled; they have slept their sleep, and none of the men of might have found their hands, at thy rebuke, O God of Jacob! Ps. 76:5, 6. It was a deep sleep from the Lord, who has the command of the powers of nature, and makes them to serve his purposes as he pleases. Whom God will disable, or destroy, he binds up with a spirit of slumber, Rom. 11:8. How helpless do Saul and all his forces lie, all, in effect, disarmed and chained! and yet nothing is done to them; they are only rocked asleep. How easily can God weaken the strongest, befool the wisest, and baffle the most watchful! Let all his friends therefore trust him and all his enemies fear him.

III. Abishai’s request to David for a commission to dispatch Saul with the spear that stuck at his bolster, which (now that he lay so fair) he undertook to do at one blow, 1 Sam. 26:8. He would not urge David to kill him himself, because he had declined doing this before when he had a similar opportunity; but he begged earnestly that David would give him leave to do it, pleading that he was his enemy, not only cruel and implacable, but false and perfidious, whom no reason would rule nor kindness work upon, and that God had now delivered him into his hand, and did in effect bid him strike. The last advantage he had of this kind was indeed but accidental, when Saul happened to be in the cave with him at the same time. But in this there was something extraordinary; the deep sleep that had fallen on Saul and all his guards was manifestly from the Lord, so that it was a special providence which gave him this opportunity; he ought not therefore to let it slip.

IV. David’s generous refusal to suffer any harm to be done to Saul, and in it a resolute adherence to his principles of loyalty, 1 Sam. 26:9. David charged Abishai not to destroy him, would not only not do it himself, but not permit another to do it. And he gave two reasons for it:—1. It would be a sinful affront to God’s ordinance. Saul was the Lord’s anointed, king of Israel by the special appointment and nomination of the God of Israel, the power that was, and to resist him was to resist the ordinance of God, Rom. 13:2. No man could do it and be guiltless. The thing he feared was guilt and his concern respected his innocence more than his safety. 2. It would be a sinful anticipation of God’s providence. God had sufficiently shown him, in Nabal’s case, that, if he left it to him to avenge him, he would do it in due time. Encouraged therefore by his experience in that instance, he resolves to wait till God shall think fit to avenge him on Saul, and he will by no means avenge himself (1 Sam. 26:10): “The Lord shall smite him, as he did Nabal, with some sudden stroke, or he shall die in battle (as it proved he did soon after), or, if not, his day shall come to die a natural death, and I will contentedly wait till then, rather than force my way to the promised crown by any indirect methods.” The temptation indeed was very strong; but, if he should yield, he would sin against God, and therefore he will resist the temptation with the utmost resolution (1 Sam. 26:11): “The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth my hand against the Lord’s anointed; no, I will never do it, nor suffer it to be done.” Thus bravely does he prefer his conscience to his interest and trusts God with the issue.

V. The improvement he made of this opportunity for the further evidence of his own integrity. He and Abishai carried away the spear and cruse of water which Saul had by his bed-side (1 Sam. 26:12), and, which was very strange, none of all the guards were aware of it. If a physician had given them the strongest opiate or stupifying dose, they could not have been faster locked up with sleep. Saul’s spear which he had by him for defence, and his cup of water which he had for his refreshment, were both stolen from him while he slept. Thus do we lose our strength and our comfort when we are careless, and secure, and off our watch.