1 Samuel 26
Obsessed with a Single Flea
Some Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Did you know that David is hiding out on the Hakilah Hill just opposite Jeshimon?” Saul was on his feet in a minute and on his way to the wilderness of Ziph, taking three thousand of his best men, the pick of the crop, to hunt for David in that wild desert. He camped just off the road at the Hakilah Hill, opposite Jeshimon.
David, still out in the backcountry, knew Saul had come after him. He sent scouts to determine his precise location. Then David set out and came to the place where Saul had set up camp and saw for himself where Saul and Abner, son of Ner, his general, were staying. Saul was safely inside the camp, encircled by the army.
Taking charge, David spoke to Ahimelech the Hittite and to Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother: “Who will go down with me and enter Saul’s camp?”
Abishai whispered, “I’ll go with you.”
So David and Abishai entered the encampment by night, and there he was—Saul, stretched out asleep at the center of the camp, his spear stuck in the ground near his head, with Abner and the troops sound asleep on all sides.
Abishai said, “This is the moment! God has put your enemy in your grasp. Let me nail him to the ground with his spear. One hit will do it, believe me; I won’t need a second!”
But David said to Abishai, “Don’t you dare hurt him! Who could lay a hand on God’s anointed and even think of getting away with it?”
He went on, “As God lives, either God will strike him, or his time will come and he’ll die in bed, or he’ll fall in battle, but God forbid that I should lay a finger on God’s anointed. Now, grab the spear at his head and the water jug and let’s get out of here.”
David took the spear and water jug that were right beside Saul’s head, and they slipped away. Not a soul saw. Not a soul knew. No one woke up! They all slept through the whole thing. A blanket of deep sleep from God had fallen on them.
Then David went across to the opposite hill and stood far away on the top of the mountain. With this safe distance between them, he shouted across to the army and Abner son of Ner, “Hey, Abner! How long do I have to wait for you to wake up and answer me?”
Abner said, “Who’s calling?”
“Aren’t you in charge there?” said David. “Why aren’t you minding the store? Why weren’t you standing guard over your master the king, when a soldier came to kill the king your master? Bad form! As God lives, your life should be forfeit, you and the entire bodyguard. Look what I have—the king’s spear and water jug that were right beside his head!”
By now, Saul had recognized David’s voice and said, “Is that you, my son David?”
David said, “Yes, it’s me, O King, my master. Why are you after me, hunting me down? What have I done? What crime have I committed? Oh, my master, my king, listen to this from your servant: If God has stirred you up against me, then I gladly offer my life as a sacrifice. But if it’s men who have done it, let them be banished from God’s presence! They’ve expelled me from my rightful place in God’s heritage, sneering, ‘Out of here! Go get a job with some other god!’ But you’re not getting rid of me that easily; you’ll not separate me from God in life or death. The absurdity! The king of Israel obsessed with a single flea! Hunting me down—a mere partridge—out in the hills!”
Saul confessed, “I’ve sinned! Oh, come back, my dear son David! I won’t hurt you anymore. You’ve honored me this day, treating my life as most precious. And I’ve acted the fool—a moral dunce, a real clown.”
David answered, “See what I have here? The king’s spear. Let one of your servants come and get it. It’s God’s business to decide what to do with each of us in regard to what’s right and who’s loyal. God put your life in my hands today, but I wasn’t willing to lift a finger against God’s anointed. Just as I honored your life today, may God honor my life and rescue me from all trouble.”
Saul said to David, “Bless you, dear son David! Yes, do what you have to do! And, yes, succeed in all you attempt!”
Then David went on his way, and Saul went home.
1 Samuel 27
David thought to himself, “Sooner or later, Saul’s going to get me. The best thing I can do is escape to Philistine country. Saul will count me a lost cause and quit hunting me down in every nook and cranny of Israel. I’ll be out of his reach for good.”
So David left; he and his six hundred men went to Achish son of Maoch, king of Gath. They moved in and settled down in Gath, with Achish. Each man brought his household; David brought his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, widow of Nabal of Carmel. When Saul was told that David had escaped to Gath, he called off the hunt.
Then David said to Achish, “If it’s agreeable to you, assign me a place in one of the rural villages. It doesn’t seem right that I, your mere servant, should be taking up space in the royal city.”
So Achish assigned him Ziklag. (This is how Ziklag got to be what it is now, a city of the kings of Judah.) David lived in Philistine country a year and four months.
From time to time David and his men raided the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites—these people were longtime inhabitants of the land stretching toward Shur and on to Egypt. When David raided an area he left no one alive, neither man nor woman, but took everything else: sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels, clothing—the works. Then he’d return to Achish.
Achish would ask, “And whom did you raid today?”
David would tell him, “Oh, the Negev of Judah,” or “The Negev of Jerahmeel,” or “The Negev of the Kenites.” He never left a single person alive lest one show up in Gath and report what David had really been doing. This is the way David operated all the time he lived in Philistine country.
Achish came to trust David completely. He thought, “He’s made himself so repugnant to his people that he’ll be in my camp forever.”
1 Samuel 28
During this time the Philistines mustered their troops to make war on Israel. Achish said to David, “You can count on this: You’re marching with my troops, you and your men.”
And David said, “Good! Now you’ll see for yourself what I can do!”
“Great!” said Achish. “I’m making you my personal bodyguard—for life!”
Saul Prayed, but God Didn’t Answer
Samuel was now dead. All Israel had mourned his death and buried him in Ramah, his hometown. Saul had long since cleaned out all those who held séances with the dead.
The Philistines had mustered their troops and camped at Shunem. Saul had assembled all Israel and camped at Gilboa. But when Saul saw the Philistine troops, he shook in his boots, scared to death.
Saul prayed to God, but God didn’t answer—neither by dream nor by sign nor by prophet.
So Saul ordered his officials, “Find me someone who can call up spirits so I may go and seek counsel from those spirits.”
His servants said, “There’s a witch at Endor.”
Saul disguised himself by putting on different clothes. Then, taking two men with him, he went under the cover of night to the woman and said, “I want you to consult a ghost for me. Call up the person I name.”
The woman said, “Just hold on now! You know what Saul did, how he swept the country clean of mediums. Why are you trying to trap me and get me killed?”
Saul swore solemnly, “As God lives, you won’t get in any trouble for this.”
The woman said, “So whom do you want me to bring up?”
“Samuel. Bring me Samuel.”
When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out loudly to Saul, “Why did you lie to me? You’re Saul!”
The king told her, “You have nothing to fear . . . but what do you see?”
“I see a spirit ascending from the underground.”
“And what does he look like?” Saul asked.
“An old man ascending, robed like a priest.”
Saul knew it was Samuel. He fell down, face to the ground, and worshiped.
Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by calling me up?”
“Because I’m in deep trouble,” said Saul. “The Philistines are making war against me and God has deserted me—he doesn’t answer me any more, either by prophet or by dream. And so I’m calling on you to tell me what to do.”
“Why ask me?” said Samuel. “God has turned away from you and is now on the side of your neighbor. God has done exactly what he told you through me—ripped the kingdom right out of your hands and given it to your neighbor. It’s because you did not obey God, refused to carry out his seething judgment on Amalek, that God does to you what he is doing today. Worse yet, God is turning Israel, along with you, over to the Philistines. Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. And, yes, indeed, God is giving Israel’s army up to the Philistines.”
Saul dropped to the ground, felled like a tree, terrified by Samuel’s words. There wasn’t an ounce of strength left in him—he’d eaten nothing all day and all night. The woman, realizing that he was in deep shock, said to him, “Listen to me. I did what you asked me to do, put my life in your hands in doing it, carried out your instructions to the letter. It’s your turn to do what I tell you: Let me give you some food. Eat it. It will give you strength so you can get on your way.”
He refused. “I’m not eating anything.”
But when his servants joined the woman in urging him, he gave in to their pleas, picked himself up off the ground, and sat on the bed. The woman moved swiftly. She butchered a grain-fed calf she had, and took some flour, kneaded it, and baked some flat bread. Then she served it all up for Saul and his servants. After dining handsomely, they got up from the table and were on their way that same night.