from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Lesson 41

1 Samuel 26: David's Flight from Saul

The Story


David was in hiding from Saul, with a few faithful men, in the wild country in the south part of the land, especially in the desert toward the Dead Sea. This is a very wild country with steep cliffs and deep, rough valleys. The rocks are of many strange shapes and colors, and there are many caves and hiding-places. You might journey a long way in this country and not see a tree or a spring of water or any sign of life but some lonely bird or animal.

Saul heard that David was in the wilderness and came three times with his soldiers to catch him. Sometimes he came very near to him. One of these times we will read about today. David learned that Saul had come and that he was camping not far away. There was a "trench" about the camp, probably the baggage piled up as a sort of protection. Inside this defense Saul's men were sleeping at night, and Saul was asleep in the midst of his men, with Abner, who was his faithful captain. Saul's tall spear was stuck in the ground near his head, and a cruse or jar of water was standing by.

David and one of his men, Abishai, went among the sleeping soldiers to the very place where Saul was lying. Abishai wanted to kill Saul as he slept, but David would not let him: he would not do harm to the Lord's anointed. But they took the spear and the cruse of water and went away. Then David called to Abner and the rest and showed the spear and the cruse of water that they had taken. Saul knew David's voice, and when he saw how David had spared his life, he said that he had sinned in trying to do David harm. And Saul blessed David and went away to his home. Read 1 Sam. 26.


We are with David in his flight from Saul in the wild desert country extending the whole length of the Dead Sea on the west. It is called in the New Testament the wilderness of Judaea, and in the Old Testament Jeshimon, "the waste." It is a very desolate region, with bare hills and deep gorges. There are caves in the rocks. There is one spring called Engedi, "the spring of the kid" (notice 1 Sam. 24:1-2), at the middle of the west shore of the Dead Sea, and about it some greenness, almost the only spot of verdure in the region. In this wilderness David was fleeing and hiding from Saul, especially in the region between Hebron and Engedi, where were the wilderness of Ziph and the hill Hachilah, with excursions into the wilderness further south. Once Jonathan found David in his hiding-place, and they renewed their pledges of friendship. (1 Sam. 23:14-18) Twice Saul was in David's power, but David would not harm him. Once Saul came into the cave where David and his men were in hiding, and David cut off the skirt of Saul's robe (1 Sam. 24); and once David came into Saul's camp to the place where Saul was sleeping. This story we are to read today. Only a few words seem to need explaining.

The "trench" in verse 5 is the baggage piled around the camp. Remember the same word in the story of David and Goliath. (1 Sam. 17:20) As we read of the spear stuck in the ground near Saul's bolster we remember the long spears which the Bedouin chiefs carry and stick in the ground by their tent doors. The long spear is a sign of office, and it seems to be mentioned in verse 7 as marking the place where the king lay. The cruse of water was probably a small earthen jar. After taking the spear and cruse, David perhaps crossed some rough gorge, and spoke from a place of safety on the other side.

1. How did Saul's hatred toward David begin?

2. Did David wish to kill Saul? What shows that he did not?

3. Show me at least one Psalm which by its title is referred to this part of David's life when he was escaping from Saul.

Spiritual Study


What is represented by the wilderness country in which David hid and fled from Saul? A wilderness does not represent a happy, fruitful state, but a state that is barren, without much that is satisfying and beautiful, a state of conflict and privation. And it is such a spiritual wilderness while the natural rule is yielding to the spiritual. Such a state was represented by the wilderness through which the children of Israel journeyed between Egypt and Canaan, and by the wilderness of our Lord's temptation. (A. 2708, 6828) What is represented by the fact that at Adullam and at Engedi David was hiding in a cave? It suggests that the state of life is obscure and constrained, not yet bright and free and happy. (A. 2463, 10582) We have seen that Psalms ascribed to this period relate to states of temptation in the Lord's experience and in ours.

What spiritual thought is contained in the fact that while David would not injure Saul he took from him at one time the skirt of his robe and at another time the spear and the cruse of water? We may think of all these as emblems of Saul's kingly power. When David took them, it meant that he was rightfully the king. Saul so recognized the sign when he saw the skirt of his robe in David's hand. He said, "And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand." (1 Sam. 24:20)

Thinking a little more deeply, it is the truth that we have from the Lord which makes us a king, enabling us to rule our life wisely. (John 18:37) The robe is an emblem of truth, as it clothes and expresses the inner life. Remember the rending of Samuel's robe as a token that the kingdom was taken from Saul. (1 Sam. 15:27-28) The spear is an emblem of this truth, as it protects from evil. The water also represents this truth, as it cleanses and refreshes. David claimed these things as his because he represents the truth in a fuller, stronger sense than Saul. His taking these things from Saul means that the spiritual intelligence should take and use the things of natural truth and knowledge as its own. This is not to destroy them, but to lift them to a higher place. (E. 395; A. 9825)

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