Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
1 Kings (1 Samuel)
The Ziphites inform Saul of David's hiding place, Sa1 26:1. Saul, with three thousand men, goes in pursuit of him, Sa1 26:2, Sa1 26:3. David sends out spies; and finds where Saul had pitched his camp; and he and Abishai come to the camp by night, find all asleep, and bring away Saul's spear, and the cruse of water that was at his head, Sa1 26:4-12. David goes to the opposite hill; awakes Abner, captain of Saul's host; chides him for being so careless of his master's life; and calls on Saul to send one of his servants for the spear; and severely chides him for his continued hostility to him, Sa1 26:13-24. Saul humbles himself to David; promises to persecute him no more; and returns to his own place, Sa1 26:25.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 26:1
The Ziphites came - This is the second time that these enemies of David endeavored to throw him into the hands of Saul. See Sa1 23:19.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 26:2
Three thousand chosen men - Though they knew that David was but six hundred strong, yet Saul thought it was not safe to pursue such an able general with a less force than that mentioned in the text; and, that he might the better depend on them, they were all elect or picked men out of the whole of his army.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 26:5
David arose - As David and his men knew the country, they had many advantages over Saul and his men; and no doubt could often watch them without being discovered.
Saul lay in the trench - The word במעגל bammaegal, which we translate in the trench, and in the margin in the midst of his carriages, is rendered by some in a ring of carriages, and by others in the circle, i.e., which was formed by his troops. Luther himself translates it wagenburg, a fortress formed of wagons or carriages.
As עגל agal signifies any thing round, it may here refer to a round pavilion or tent made for Saul, or else to the form of his camp. The Arabs, to the present day, always form a circle in their encampments, and put their principal officers in the center.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 26:6
Abishai the son of Zeruiah - She was David's sister; and therefore Abishai and Joab were nephews to David.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 26:8
God hath delivered thine enemy into thine hand - Here Abishai uses the same language as did David's men, when Saul came into the cave at En-gedi, (see Sa1 24:4, etc.), and David uses the same language in reply.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 26:10
The Lord shall smite him - He shall die by a stroke of the Divine judgment; or his day shall come to die - he shall die a natural death; which in the course of things must be before mine, and thus I shall get rid of mine enemy; or he shall descend into the battle, and perish - he shall fall by the enemies of his country. These are the three ordinary ways by which man accomplishes, as a hireling, his day. Murder David could not consider to be lawful; this would have been taking the matter out of God's hand, and this David would not do.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 26:12
David took the spear and the cruse - The spear, we have already seen, was the emblem of power and regal dignity. But it is usual, in Arab camps, for every man to have his lance stuck in the ground beside him, that he may be ready for action in a moment. The cruse of water resembled, in some measure, the canteens of our soldiers. In such a climate, where water was always scarce, it was necessary for each man to carry a little with him, to refresh him on his march.
A deep sleep from the Lord - It is the same word which is used, Gen 2:21, to describe the sleep which God caused to fall upon Adam, when he formed Eve out of his side.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 26:15
Art not thou a valiant man? - This is a strong irony. Ye are worthy to die; ye are sons of death - ye deserve death for this neglect of your king. And had not Saul been so deeply affected with David's generosity in preserving his life, he had doubtless put Abner and his chief officers to death; though they were not to blame, as their apparent neglect was the effect of a supernatural sleep.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 26:19
Let him accept an offering - If God have stirred thee up against me, why, then, let him deliver my life into thy hand, and accept it as a sacrifice. But as the word is מנחה minchah, a gratitude-offering, perhaps the sense may be this: Let God accept a gratitude-offering from thee, for having purged the land of a worker of iniquity; for, were I not such, God would never stir thee up against me.
But if they be the children of men - If men have, by false representations, lies, and slanders, stirred thee up against an innocent man, then let them be cursed before the Lord. If I am guilty, I deserve to die; if not, those who seek my life should be destroyed.
Saying, Go, serve other gods - His being obliged to leave the tabernacle, and the place where the true worship of God was performed, and take refuge among idolaters, said in effect, Go, serve other gods.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 26:20
As when one doth hunt a partridge - It is worthy of remark that the Arabs, observing that partridges, being put up several times, soon become so weary as not to be able to fly; they in this manner hunt them upon the mountains, till at last they can knock them down with their clubs.
It was in this manner that Saul hunted David, coming hastily upon him, and putting him up from time to time, in hopes that he should at length, by frequent repetitions of it, be able to destroy him. See Harmer.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 26:21
I have sinned - Perhaps the word חטאתי chatathi, "I have sinned," should be read, I have erred, or, have been mistaken. I have taken thee to be a very different man from what I find thee to be. Taken literally it was strictly true. He often purposed the spilling of David's blood; and thus, again and again, sinned against his life.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 26:25
Thou shalt both do great things, and also shalt still prevail. - The Hebrew is גם עשה תעשה וגם יכל תוכל gam asoh thaaseh, vegam yachol tuchal; "Also in doing thou shalt do, and being able thou shalt be able; which the Targum translates, also in reigning thou shalt reign, and in prospering thou shalt prosper; which in all probability is the meaning.
There is a vast deal of dignity in this speech of David, arising from a consciousness of his own innocence. He neither begs his life from Saul, nor offers one argument to prevail upon him to desist from his felonious attempts, but refers the whole matter to God, as the judge and vindicator of oppressed innocence. Saul himself is speechless, except in the simple acknowledgment of his sin; and in the behalf of their king not one of his officers has one word to say! It is strange that none of them offered now to injure the person of David; but they saw that he was most evidently under the guardian care of God, and that their master was apparently abandoned by him. Saul invites David to return, but David knew the uncertainty of Saul's character too well to trust himself in the power of this infatuated king. How foolish are the counsels of men against God! When he undertakes to save, who can destroy? And who can deliver out of his hands?