In 1 Samuel 26:1–4 Saul’s allies from Ziph, continued to supply him with valuable intelligence reports about David’s location. They informed him where David was “hiding.”
Acting on the basis of their information, Saul accompanied by 3000 young men, came and camped. David remained hidden and inaccessible to Saul. But he did send out scouts who came close enough to the royal troops to learn “that Saul had definitely arrived.” Knowing Saul’s location, David and a select group of men sneaked into Saul’s camp at night. Under the cloak of darkness, David saw with his own eyes that Saul was accompanied by his cousin Abner.
Possessing this information, David was now in a position to use a favored military tactic that Saul also had employed, a nighttime raid. David’s objective in this nighttime raid was to invade the very center of the camp. Abishai, David’s nephew, agreed to accompany him on this dangerous journey. They made their way past the perimeter of the 3000 young soldiers, and found Saul. “Stuck in the ground near his head,” they found the kings spear. The king’s spear was a symbol of his authority and power. He could also quickly grab it in an emergency.
Abishai, David’s nephew, interpreted the success of the nighttime raid as proof that “God has delivered your enemy to you.” (1 Samuel 26:8). Abishai requested the honor of killing David’s enemy for him, offering to pin Saul “to the ground with one thrust of my spear.”
David responded to Abishai with a convincing spiritual reason why he would not have Saul killed. He said Saul must be left untouched, for no one “can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless” (1 Samuel 26:9).
David perceived the situation as a divine trial. He thought God was giving him an opportunity to demonstrate restraint and goodwill toward one of the Lord’s anointed leader. It was not David’s role to punish Saul. He believed that God would bring judgement on Saul in His own time and way. God had established His sovereignty in judgment.
David commanded Abishai to take Saul’s “spear”—symbol of his power in society—and “water jug”—symbol of his life-sustaining resources. He did and they left.
David and Abishai accomplished this entire act with God’s help. It was the Lord who was at work on David’s behalf. The Lord used “a deep sleep” to provide exactly what was needed to rescue David and Abishai.