CHIVALRY? 1 Samuel 26

CONTEXT: This story picks up from ch. 23. The Zifim are still loyal to Sha’ul and keen to turn David over to the authorities. David remains pious about striking Yahh’s anointed, and eloquently demonstrates chivalry that Sha’ul must acknowledge.
v19 “let him smell my offering” would be an effort to appease an angry deity who had turned Sha’ul against David. In the context of this carefully constructed pious speech, it may refer to the generous, chivalric gesture of not harming the  anointed one.
v20 “seek my life” This follows the Septuagint, the Greek version. The Hebrew reads “a single flea,” similar to ch 24:15 where the metaphor makes sense.  It is out of place when coupled with hunting partridge. There seems to have been a textual corruption, a copyist’s error in which consonants were garbled and the scribe sought to solve the problem by inserting the “single flee” words.

1The Zifim came to Sha’ul at Giv’ah to say: “David is hiding out at Chachlilah Ridge, overlooking the badlands, [five miles east of Zif.] 2So Sha’ul rose and went down to the Zif wilderness, taking with him three battalions of Yisrael select, to search for David.  3On the way, Sha’ul camped at Chachlilah Ridge. David, dwelling in the wilderness, saw that Sha’ul had come there after him. 4He had sent out spies and determined that Sha’ul had arrived for sure. 5So David rose and went to the place where Sha’ul was camping and saw Sha’ul and Avner benNer, his general, lying in a circle, with the people camped around him.  
6Reacting, David said to Achimelech the Chiti and Avishai benTs’ruYahh, Yoav’s brother: “Who’s going down with me to Sha’ul in the camp?”
“I’ll go,” said Avishai.
7So David and Avishai entered the camp at night and saw Sha’ul lying asleep in the circle, his spear standing in the ground at his head, Avner and the people lying in a circle around him.
8Avishai said to David: “God today has shut your enemy in your hand.  Now I’ll strike him to the ground with his own spear, just once.  I won’t need two for him.”
9David said: “Don’t destroy him. Who ever laid hand on Yahh’s anointed and got away with it? 10By Yahh’s life, only Yahh can smite him. Or his day will come and he’ll die.  Or he’ll go down in battle, swept away. 11Chalilah from Yahh on me if I lay a hand on Yahh’s anointed.  So now just take the spear at his head and the canteen and let’s get out of here.”  
12David took the spear and the canteen by Sha’ul’s head and they left. No one saw or knew.  No one woke–they all slept. A deep sleep from Yahh had fallen over them. 13David crossed to the opposite side and stood at a distance on the top of a hill.  
14From the great distance between them David shouted to the people and to Avner benNer: “Hey! Answer me, Avner.”
Avner answered: “Who are you? Shouting about the king?”
15David said: “Hey!  You are the man!  And who is like you in Yisra’el? So why did you not guard your lord the king?  Any one of the people could have come to destroy the king, your lord. 16Not good, this thing you have done!  By Yahh’s life, you are sons of death for not guarding your lord, Yahh’s anointed. Look! Where is the king’s spear and canteen?”
17Sha’ul recognized the voice: “Is that your voice, David, my son?”
“It’s my voice, my lord the king. 18Why does my lord pursue his servant?  What have I done?  What’s bad in my hand? 19So hear, my lord the king, the words of his servant. If Yahh has turned you against me, let him smell my offering. But if humans, be they cursed before Yahh! For they have this day driven me from participation in the portion of Yahh! It’s as if they said, ‘Go serve other gods.’ 20But now let not my blood fall to the ground away from the presence of Yahh. The king of Yisrael goes out to seek my life the way he would hunt partridge in the mountains.”
21Sha’ul said: “ I have done wrong. Come back, David, my son.  I will not harm you further, for this very day my life was precious in your eyes. I have been a fool and very much mistaken.”  
22David replied: “Here’s the royal spear. Let one of the lads cross over and fetch it. 23May Yahh repay a person for his justice and faithfulness in that Yahh gave you today into my hand and I did not want to lay hand on Yahh’s anointed. 24So be it that as today your life was important in my eyes, my life will be important in Yahh’s eyes and he will rescue me from all trouble.”
25Sha’ul said to David: “Hail to you, David, my son.  You do what needs to be done and clearly prevail.”
David went his way and Sha’ul returned to his place.
© Rabbi David L. Kline  

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