A Partridge in the Mountains – 1 Samuel 26

After a brief moment of respite, Saul resumed his hunt to capture and kill his predecessor David. As David was traversing through the desert of Ziph, the natives were informing Saul about his every move. Saul went down to the desert, with three thousand of his troops and made his camp on the hill of Hakilah. Unbeknownst to him, David was hiding in the wilderness and when he heard about Saul’s arrival, formed a scouting party of his own to gather information on his enemy’s whereabouts. When David was told that the Israel army had arrived, he and Abishai went to the place where Saul and his commander Abner were staying.

The Spear and the Jug

So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him. Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t strike him twice.” But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the LORD lives,” he said, “the LORD himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish.

1 Samuel 26:7-10

David had just witnessed how God had prevented him from committing genocide by sending a beautiful and intelligent woman. Abigail was able to make David see the madness in his ways and calm him down. Her husband Nabal, who had refused to offer help to David, died ten days later after he had a stroke. David, rather than learning to trust God as his provider, took away a different message from this incident, that God will strike down those who offend him. He is applying the same learning when he talks about Saul’s death with Abishai. Saul eventually dies in the battlelines but according to God’s will and timing. It is always good to leave things up to God but wishing that God should deal harshly with someone who has wronged us, only shows that we have not understood God’s love.

When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the LORD, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.”

1 Samuel 25:31 NIV

David resisted the urge to pin Saul with his own spear and that would have been sweet revenge for all the time Saul threw his spear at David, to try and make him one of the wall hangings in his palace. But David simply took the spear and the Jug and made his way to the other side of the valley.

The Commander

David called out to the army and to Abner son of Ner, “Aren’t you going to answer me, Abner?” Abner replied, “Who are you who calls to the king?”
David said, “You’re a man, aren’t you? And who is like you in Israel? Why didn’t you guard your lord the king? Someone came to destroy your lord the king. What you have done is not good. As surely as the LORD lives, you and your men must die, because you did not guard your master, the LORD’s anointed. Look around you. Where are the king’s spear and water jug that were near his head?”

1 Samuel 26:14-16 NIV

Abner was not only the commander of Saul’s troops but also his cousin. The king and the commander would go into battle together and bounce war strategies off of each other. Undoubtedly, a close bond would exist between Saul and Abner. David was perhaps right to assume that Abner had a hand in the breakdown of his own relationship with his father in law Saul. David himself chose his uncle Joab as the commander of his troop and confided in him to such an extent that they both planned the murder of Uriah. It is not a farfetched thought to think that Abner who is next in command of Israel’s army would want to get rid of David, the most popular general of Saul. But it is Saul who sees David as a threat and it is the evil spirit in him that is making him relentlessly hunt for David.

Often times we end up blaming the wrong person for our problems. If a father scolds the elder brother, he, in turn, takes out his anger on his younger sibling, putting them at fault. In the office, if we are reprimanded by our boss for our tardiness, we try to find out the brown nose, who has ratted us out. Similarly, in our spiritual lives, when we are being corrected by someone, our mind tries to find out who has told them about our problems. We seldom hear the voice of God that is trying to correct us, as we are too busy masking our inequities and hiding behind fake photo ops that help us portray something we are not.

The Same Old Confession

Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have been terribly wrong.” But David still did not trust Saul and asked for one of his men to crossover to the other side to collect his spear. He repeated his case for innocence with the proof being the restraint he had shown when being presented with the opportunity to kill his oppressor.

David had already spared Saul’s life once before and made a rousing speech, hoping it would turn his heart in favour of him. Even though his act of kindness did not stop Saul from chasing him he still is trying to appeal to Saul’s conscience. He tries the same strategy again to show Saul that he is still loyal to him. We tend to keep giving people another chance in hopes of mending our broken relationships, thinking that they would eventually change their ways. The abused in the relationship cannot help but keep giving chances to their oppressors.

Even with sin, we do the same as we keep falling down the rabbit hole thinking we can withstand the temptations associated with it. In our abusive relationship with sin, we keep giving it chances and think we will be careful the next time and do things differently. In the end, we are separating ourselves from God because of wasting time with people who seperate us from Him and lead us into a downward spiral. Saul gave David his blessing to be the next king of Israel but David knew that Saul would not give up his throne that easily. So David went with Abishai back to his men and headed off in another direction while Saul returned home.

Discussion Questions

  • V10: How did David get this enlightenment?
  • V16&19: Does David think that Abner and his men are poisoning the king against him? Do we do the same blaming someone else for the problems in our relationships?
  • V20: Isn’t David insane for doing the same thing again and again and expecting something different to happen. What makes us do the same?


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