David spares Saul

Summary: A group from the town of Ziph disclosed David’s whereabouts to Shaul sparking a deployment of troops to track David down. Yet David found Shaul’s camp first arriving while the entire troop, including Shaul and his general Avner lay sleeping. David and his nephew Avishai took Shaul’s spear and flask of water, but once again David refrained from killing him. David called out to Avner, rebuking him for being remiss in protecting the King. Shaul awoke, realised what had happened and admitted his sins. He asked for reconciliation before returning home. Fearing for his life, David travelled to the town of Gat in Philistine. There he convinced the king, Achish to give him a town for him and his men.

A deeper look: As David is once again given the opportunity to kill Shaul, he reminds his nephew Avishai that he swore an oath not to harm the anointed king of Israel. When he admonished Avner, Shaul’s general he was once again proving once again that he had the chance to strike but had chosen to spare Shaul’s life.

In what would be their last meeting and exchange, David pleads with Shaul to desist from hunting him down. He pointed out that due to Shaul’s relentless pursuit he was now forced to exile himself to the lands of the Philistines (Samuel I 26:17-19).

David declared ‘Let my blood not be cast down to the ground away from God’s attention, for the king of Israel has sought a single flea, as one would pursue a partridge in the mountains’ (Samuel I ibid. 20). Rabbi David Kimchi (d. 1235) remarks that David was praying to God to not forget him during his ensuing exile to a place of both spiritual and physical danger. His blood being cast to the ground symbolised his life being forgotten by God (Radak on Samuel I 26:20). He then compares himself to a flea symbolising a diminutive, objectionable creature that has been hunted like the valuable and desirable partridge.

On hearing this, Saul entreats David, begging him for reconciliation. Rabbi Yitzchak Magriso (18th Century) notes that this is the first time he confesses to any sin. When he had wronged Samuel (Samuel I 13:13) or spared the Agag’s life (ibid. 15:15) he had not expressed any significant remorse (Meam Loez on Samuel I 26:21).


David fled to Philistine leaving Shaul to face his final battle and ultimate demise.