The Man Worthy of the Sceptre
1 Samuel 26:1-12
And the Ziphites came to Saul to Gibeah, saying, Does not David hide himself in the hill of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon?…

And David took the spear and the cruse of water from Saul's bolster (ver. 12).

1. David's innocence with respect to any evil design against Saul was fully vindicated at their previous meeting. Saul himself was melted to tears, confessed, "Thou art more righteous than I," etc., prayed that the Lord might reward his preserver, and declared, "I know well that thou shalt surely be king" (1 Samuel 24:17-20); but his insincerity, instability, and. perversity were such that as soon as he was informed by the treacherous Ziphites that David was again in the hill of Hachilah (1 Samuel 23:19), he started in pursuit with his 3000 men (1 Samuel 13:2). His sin was now greater than before because of its opposition to his clearer conviction of the integrity of David and the purpose of God, and there are indications in this interview of the increased obduracy of his heart.

2. The aim of David is not so much to afford a further vindication of himself as to stay the persecution of Saul, and induce him to act in accordance with his former confession (ver. 18). For this purpose he proves to him that although he might have the power to deprive him of his authority and life, he has no wish to do so, and is his most faithful guardian (ver. 16); appeals to his best feelings, and warns him that he is fighting against God and exposing himself to his righteous judgment. He takes away his spear sceptre (an emblem of royal authority - Genesis 49:10; Numbers 24:17; Psalm 45:6) and his cruse of water (a necessary sustenance of life - 1 Samuel 25:11), but only to restore them into his hand (ver. 22).

3. In acting thus David shows his incomparable superiority to Saul, and that he alone is worthy to reign over Israel, even as he has been ordained to succeed to that exalted dignity. "Behold now, once more, our David, as he goes away with Saul's spear, the emblem of his sovereign power. At that moment he presents a symbolically significant appearance. Unconsciously he prophesied of his own future, while he stands before us as the projected shadow of that form in which we must one day behold him. In the counsel of the invisible Watcher it was indeed irrevocably concluded that the Bethlehemite should inherit Saul's sceptre, and here we see before us a dim pre-intimation of that fact" (Krummacher). As the man most worthy to rule, and furnishing in some respects a pattern to others, he was distinguished (see 1 Samuel 13:14) by -

I. PRE-EMINENT ABILITY (vers. 4-7). In the enterprise which he undertook during the night (either with the express intention of doing what he did, or from some internal impulse) he displayed those qualities for which Saul and his ablest general, Abner, were noted, and in a higher degree than they, viz. -

1. Sagacity, skill (Psalm 78:72), and practical wisdom; perceiving what was defective in the condition of his adversaries and how to take advantage of it. Tact, although by no means one of the highest mental endowments, is an indispensable qualification in a successful ruler.

2. Vigilance. His experiences in the desert had taught him to be ever on the alert, and he watched while others slept (vers. 4, 16).

3. Courage. "Who will go down with me to Saul to the camp?" (ver. 6). Even the brave Hittite dared not accept the challenge, and only Abishai (afterwards David's pre-server - 2 Samuel 21:17) would accompany him. They went fearlessly (like Jonathan and his armour bearer) right into the midst of danger.

4. Energy and activity, by which alone he could achieve success. Mental and physical strength is of God, should be ascribed to him and employed for him.

"For by thee I can scatter a troop,
And by my God do I break down walls;
Who maketh my feet like hinds' feet,
And setteth me on my high places;
Who traineth my hands for war,
So that mine arms can bend a bow of brass"

(Perowne, Psalm 18:29, 33, 81)

II. LOWLY REVERENCE, submission, and obedience. "The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the Lord's anointed" (ver. 11; 1 Samuel 24:6). There was in David (as there should be in others) -

1. An unbounded reverence for God as the source of power, justice, order, and all excellence. This was the principle from which his conduct toward Saul proceeded.

2. Profound respect for every authority ordained by God. Saul had been anointed king, and was still openly reigning by Divine permission (his rejection having been only privately declared to him); his person was therefore regarded by David as sacred. "Liable as the Israelite kings were to interference on the part of priest and prophet, they were, by the same Divine power, shielded from the unholy hands of the profane vulgar; and it was at once impiety and rebellion to do injury to the Lord's anointed" (Kitto, 'Cyc. of Bib. Lit.'). "He gives two reasons why he would not destroy Saul, nor permit another to do it: -

(1) It would be a sinful affront to God's ordinance.

(2) It would be a sinful anticipation of God's providence" (M. Henry).

3. Due subordination of the claims of every such authority to the claims of God; which both rulers and subjects, who have proper reverence for him, must observe.

4. Entire subjection of personal impulses, purposes, and aims to the will of God, in the assurance that he will" render to every man his righteousness and his faithfulness" (ver. 23). "Commit thy way unto the Lord," etc. (Psalm 37:5-9).

III. NOBLE GENEROSITY. "Destroy him not," etc. (vers. 8-11; Psalm 57., inscription, Altaschith = Destroy not; see Hengstenberg). The opportunity of slaying his enemy was again placed in his hands, and in sparing him a second time David showed still greater forbearance than before, because of -

1. The renewed persecution to which he was subjected, and the increased hopelessness of turning Saul from his purpose. "I say not unto thee, Until seven times," etc. (Matthew 18:22-35).

2. The peculiar circumstances of the case. He was there alone with Abishai in the night, and his companion entreated that he might be permitted to give but one stroke (ver. 8). None else would witness the deed. Moral restraint alone prevented his permission of it.

3. His not entertaining the temptation for a moment; even the thought of it could find no place in his breast. Recent experience had evidently strengthened his spirit (1 Samuel 25:32).

4. His fixed determination to leave the matter entirely with God (ver. 10). "It is evident that David's faith in God was one of the great roots out of which all these fruits of forbearance and compassion grew. He was confident that God would in his own way and in his own time fulfil the promises which had been made, and, therefore, instead of taking the matter into his own hands, he could rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him" (C. Vince). And he alone who will exercise power in mercy as well as in justice is worthy to have it intrusted to him.

IV. DIVINE APPROVAL. "A deep sleep from the Lord was fallen upon them" (ver. 12), indicative of the fact that the Lord 6, favoured David's enterprise." He was providentially preserved from harm, and this, along with many other circumstances (all concurring with his eminent personal qualifications), manifested it to be the will of God that he should rule over his people. The sceptre which he had no desire to wrest from the hand of Saul would be given to him by the hand of God, and be "a sceptre of uprightness." The highest realisation of these principles appears in One greater than David, and alone "worthy to receive" the sceptre of universal dominion (1 Samuel 2:10; 2 Samuel 23:2; Philippians 2:9; Hebrews 1:8; Revelation 5:5, 12). - D.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And the Ziphites came unto Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself in the hill of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon?

WEB: The Ziphites came to Saul to Gibeah, saying, "Doesn't David hide himself in the hill of Hachilah, which is before the desert?"

Love and Remorse
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