1 Samuel 26:1
And the Ziphites came to Saul to Gibeah, saying, Does not David hide himself in the hill of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) The Ziphites came unto Saul.—There is grave difficulty connected with the recital contained in this chapter. Is it another account of the incident told in 1 Samuel 24, 26 by a different narrator? This is the opinion of some modern expositors of weight: for instance, Ewald and the Bishop of Bath and Wells in the Speaker’s Commentary. The question at issue is as follows:—We have in this First Book of Samuel, in 1 Samuel 23, 24, 26, two recitals of David sparing his great adversary’s life, at first sight under very similar circumstances. For instance: in both these occurrences (1) it is the same people, the Ziphites, who call Saul’s attention to David’s presence in their neighbourhood; (2) in both, Saul comes from Gibeah with the same number of men, 3,000; (3) the general bearing of the incident is identical in both—viz., the persuasions of David’s followers to induce their leader to take Saul’s life when in his power resisted by the noble-minded chieftain; the taking of something personal by David from the sleeping king, as a proof that the royal life had been in his hands; the sequel, which describes the heartfelt temporary repentance of Saul for the past. But here the resemblance ends. The circumstances of the night raid by David and his companions into the camp of the sleeping Saul are, when examined closely, so entirely different from the circumstances of the midday siesta of Saul in the En-gedi cavern, where David and his band were dwelling, that it is really impossible to assume that they are versions of one and the same incident. We conclude, therefore, with some certainty, that the accounts contained in 1 Samuel 23, 24, , 26 refer to two distinct and separate events; and so Keil, Erdmann and Lange, Dean Payne Smith in the Pulpit Commentary, Wordsworth, &c. Bishop Hervey, in the Speaker’s Commentary, is, however, supported in his hypothesis of the two accounts referring to only one incident by Ewald, De Wette, and others. In the course of this exposition, the more striking agreements and divergencies will be discussed.

There remains, however, a still graver question to be considered, the gravity and difficulty of which remains the same whether we assume, as we propose to do, that twice in the course of the outlaw life of David the king’s life was in his power, or that only once David stood over the sleeping king, sword in hand, and that the two accounts refer to one and the same event—For what purpose did the compiler of the First Book of Samuel insert in his narrative this twenty-sixth chapter—where either the old story of 1 Samuel 23, 24 is repeated with certain variations, or else an incident of a similar nature to one which has been told before in careful detail is repeated at great length? To this important question no perfectly satisfactory reply can be given. The object of one such recital in an account of the early life of the great founder of Israelitic greatness is clear, but we may well ask why was a second narrative of an incident of like nature inserted in a book where conciseness is ever so carefully studied? All we can suggest is, that everything which conduced to the glory of the favourite hero of Israel was of the deepest interest to the people, and the surpassing nobility and generosity of the magnanimity of David to his deadly foe was deemed worthy of these detailed accounts even in the necessarily brief compilation of the inspired writer of the history of this time.

1 Samuel 26:1-2. Doth not David hide himself with us? — The number of men whom David supported would not allow him to continue long in the same place, and therefore he was often obliged to shift his quarters for subsistence. We now find him again in the wilderness of Ziph. How much time had elapsed between his marriage of Abigail and his going thither, we are not informed, nor is it easy to determine, but it is probable it was considerable. Then Saul arose — Probably he would have pursued David no more if these Ziphites had not thus excited him.26:1-12 How soon do unholy hearts lose the good impressions convictions have made upon them! How helpless were Saul and all his men! All as though disarmed and chained, yet nothing is done to them; they are only asleep. How easily can God weaken the strongest, befool the wisest, and baffle the most watchful! David still resolved to wait till God thought fit to avenge him on Saul. He will by no means force his way to the promised crown by any wrong methods. The temptation was very strong; but if he yielded, he would sin against God, therefore he resisted the temptation, and trusted God with the event.The incident related in this chapter of the meeting between Saul and David bears a strong general resemblance to that recorded in 1 Samuel 24, and is of a nature unlikely to have occurred more than once. Existing discrepancies are explained by the supposition that one narrative relates fully some incidents on which the other is silent. On the whole the most probable conclusion is that the two narratives relate to one and the same event. (Compare the two narratives of the Creation, Genesis 1; Genesis 2:4 ff; the two narratives of David's war, 2 Samuel 8; and 2 Samuel 10; and those of the death of Ahaziah, 2 Kings 9:27 ff; and 2 Chronicles 22:9.) CHAPTER 26

1Sa 26:1-4. Saul Comes to the Hill of Hachilah against David.

1, 2. the Ziphites came unto Saul to Gibeah—This people seem to have thought it impossible for David to escape, and therefore recommended themselves to Saul, by giving him secret information (see on [251]1Sa 23:19). The knowledge of their treachery makes it appear strange that David should return to his former haunt in their neighborhood; but, perhaps he did it to be near Abigail's possessions, and under the impression that Saul had become mollified. But the king had relapsed into his old enmity. Though Gibeah, as its name imports, stood on an elevated position, and the desert of Ziph, which was in the hilly region of Judea, may have been higher than Gibeah, it was still necessary to descend in leaving the latter place; thence Saul (1Sa 26:2) "went down to the wilderness of Ziph."Saul, by the discovery of the Ziphites, cometh to Hachilah against David, 1 Samuel 26:1-3; who cometh with Abishai to Saul’s camp; stayeth him from killing Saul, but taketh his spear and cruse, 1 Samuel 26:4-12. He upbraideth Abner, 1 Samuel 26:16; exhorteth Saul, 1 Samuel 26:17-20, who acknowledgeth his sin, 1 Samuel 26:21-25.

Having once betrayed him before, they thought their case desperate with David; and therefore did more strenuously assist Saul in discovering him, in order to his ruin. Doth not David hide himself? he is returned to his former haunt; of which see 1 Samuel 23:19. This place might be convenient for him, either for its nearness to Abigail’s estate; or because he might think that Saul was mollified, and the Ziphites cautioned by the unsuccessfulness of their former attempt; or because he could from thence make good his retreat into other places, if need were.

And the Ziphites came unto Saul to Gibeah,.... Of Benjamin, called sometimes Gibeah of Saul, because it was the place of his birth and residence; hither Saul had returned after his last interview with David; whether, notwithstanding what had passed between him and David, he had privately encouraged the Ziphites to watch David, and give him information of him where he was, and when it was a proper opportunity to seize him; or whether the Ziphites were so officious as of themselves to acquaint him with it, is not certain; the latter is probable, since having attempted to betray David, they might fear, that should he come to the throne, he would remember it, and therefore they might be desirous of having him cut off by the hand of Saul:

saying, doth not David hide himself in the hill of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon? the same place where he was when the Ziphites before gave information of him, 1 Samuel 23:10; here he might choose to be, supposing that the Ziphites now would not meditate anything against him, since Saul had declared he would be king after him, and had made him swear that he would not cut off his posterity; and as he thought it his wisdom to provide against the worst, knowing the inconstancy of Saul, he might judge this the most proper place of safety, and from whence he could, on occasion, easily retreat into the wilderness; and it may be also, because it was near to Abigail's estate and possessions, which were now a good resource for him.

And the Ziphites came unto Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself in the hill of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Ch. 1 Samuel 26:1-4. Saul’s renewed pursuit of David

1. And the Ziphites came] On the theory that this is only another account of the incidents related in 1 Samuel 23:19 to 1 Samuel 24:22, see Note VII. p. 243. The view there taken that the narratives refer to different events, is assumed in the notes.

Psalms 54 is referred by its title either to this occasion or to that of 1 Samuel 23:19 ff.

the hill of Hachilah] See on 1 Samuel 23:19.

is before Jeshimon] Looketh towards the Waste. See on 1 Samuel 23:19, where the position of the hill of Hachilah is more particularly defined as “on the south of the Waste.”Verse 1. - The Ziphites came unto Saul. There are so many points of similarity between this narrative and that contained in 1 Samuel 23:19-24; 1 Samuel 24:1-22, that it has been argued that in these two accounts we have substantially the same fact, only modified by two different popular traditions, and not recorded until a late subsequent period, at which the narrator, unable to decide which was the true form of the story, determined upon giving both. The main points of similarity are -

(1) The treachery of the Ziphites (1 Samuel 26:1; 1 Samuel 23:19).

(2) David's position in the hill Hachilah (1 Samuel 26:1, 3; 1 Samuel 23:19).

(3) Saul's march with 3000 men (1 Samuel 26:2; 1 Samuel 24:2).

(4) The speech of David's men (1 Samuel 24:4; 1 Samuel 26:8).

(5) David's refusal to lay hands on the anointed of Jehovah (1 Samuel 24:6; 1 Samuel 26:9, 11).

(6) Saul's recognition of David's voice (1 Samuel 24:16; 1 Samuel 26:17).

(7) David's comparison of himself to a flea (1 Samuel 24:14; 1 Samuel 26:20).

Besides these there are several remarkable verbal coincidences; but some other matters which have been enumerated are either such as must have happened, supposing the two events to have occurred, or are even points of difference. Of these there are many. Thus the first occasion on which David spared Saul's life was in a cave at En-gedi; the latter was in Saul's entrenched camp. In this second narrative David's return to Maon was the natural result of his marriage with Abigail, and when the Ziphites report his presence there to Saul, which they were sure to do for fear of David's vengeance for their former betrayal of him, he awaits Saul's attack, whereas before he fled in haste, and was saved for the moment by the wonderful ravine which Conder has so unmistakably verified (see on 1 Samuel 23:26), and finally by an invasion of the Philistines. Mr. Conder's visit to the ground, and the way in which the difficulties in the previous narrative are cleared up by what he saw, sets the historical credibility of that account above all reasonable doubt. Had there been a mountain between David and his pursuers, he would have been safe enough; but as it was he was in full sight of his enemies, and the ravine alone enabled him to escape from Saul's vengeance. The number of Saul's army, 3000, was the number of the chosen men whom he always had in attendance upon him (1 Samuel 13:2); and it is Saul who encamps on the hill Hachilah, while David, instead of being all but caught as before, had scouts to watch Saul's movements, and was himself safe in the wilderness on the south. On the previous occasion Saul had withdrawn from his men, but here he lies in his camp surrounded by them, when David, accompanied only by Abishai, undertakes this bold enterprise, which was entirely in accordance with his growing sense of security. The argument, moreover, that Saul must have been a "moral monster" thus to seek David's life after his generous conduct towards him keeps out of view the fact that Saul was scarcely accountable for his actions. We have seen that he was subject to fits of madness, and that the form which it took was that of deadly hatred against David. Even this was but a form of the ruling passion which underlies all Saul's actions, namely, an extreme jealousy of everything that in the slightest degree seemed to trench upon his royal prerogative and supremacy. To what an extreme length his ferocity was capable of proceeding in punishing what he regarded as an overt act of resistance to his authority we have seen in the account of the massacre of the priests at Nob with their wives and children (1 Samuel 22:18, 19). No worse act is recorded of any man in history, and we may hope that Saul would not have committed such a crime had not his mental faculties been disturbed. Nor was Saul alone in his estimate of what was due to him as Jehovah's Messiah; David had equally high views of Saul's rights and position, and regarded them as fenced in by religious sanctions. But in Saul's case the passion had grown till it had become a monomania, and as he brooded over his relations to David, and thought of him as one that was to usurp his crown, and was already a rebel and an outlaw, the sure result was the return of his hatred against David, and when news was brought him that his enemy was so near, he gladly welcomed another opportunity of getting him into his power. On the hill of Hachilah. See 1 Samuel 23:19. It is there said to be "on the right hand," but here "over against," i.e. facing the desert which lies on the northeastern coast of the Dead Sea. When David heard of Nabal's death, he praised Jehovah that He had avenged his shame upon Nabal, and held him back from self-revenge. וגו רב עשׁר, "who hath pleaded the cause of my reproach (the disgrace inflicted upon me) against Nabal." "Against Nabal" does not belong to "my reproach," but to "pleaded the cause." The construction of ריב with מן is a pregnant one, to fight (and deliver) out of the power of a person (vid., Psalm 43:1); whereas here the fundamental idea is that of taking vengeance upon a person.
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