Saul’s Water Jug

            In this chapter David again spared Saul. Only this time David’s faith was stronger. He didn’t wait for an obviously handcrafted divine moment in the back of a cave. He rose up and went to Saul.

First Samuel 26

The Ziphites went to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding on the hill of Hakilah, which faces Jeshimon?” (verse 1)

Though Saul repented outside the cave in which David had spared his life, he didn’t “stay repented”, which is a classic Saul heart trait. This provided David another even more dramatic opportunity to spare Saul and confront him with who he was.

So Saul went down to the Desert of Ziph, with his three thousand chosen men of Israel, to search there for David.

Saul made his camp beside the road on the hill of Hakilah facing Jeshimon, but David stayed in the desert. When he saw that Saul had followed him there, he sent out scouts and learned that Saul had definitely arrived.

Then David set out and went to the place where Saul had camped. He saw where Saul and Abner son of Ner, the commander of the army, had lain down. Saul was lying inside the camp, with the army encamped around him.

David then asked Ahimelech the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, “Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?” “I’ll go with you,” said Abishai (verses 2-6).

David had become David again. Walking into the center of a camp of 3,000 hostile soldiers was suicidal madness … unless God was on his side.

So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him (verse 7).

Saul always had his spear close by. In this scene it was “near his head,” suggesting, I believe, that he had it on his mind.

Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of my spear; I won’t strike him twice” (verse 8).

Abishai was amazed at their opportunity. Like David’s men in the back of the cave, he was sure God was saying to attack. He knew God was protecting them. After all, they had managed to sneak unnoticed into a camp of 3,000 men, so to him it was obvious that God was saying they should kill Saul.

But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?

“As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “the Lord himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish” (verses 9-10).

David had just seen what the Lord had done to Nabal, so his faith was strong that God would deal with Saul in His own good time. In fact, without the near disaster of the Nabal episode, David might not have been wise enough to pass the test he faced in this chapter. Even the sin of cutting of the hem of Saul’s robe turned out to be something God used to grow David. When David repented, he did it thoroughly, and then he never looked back. He even expected that God might well use his mistakes for His Glory. This is the David heart.

Also David discerned that the supernatural favor from God they were experiencing as they stood by Saul’s bedroll was like they were walking on water. The only thing holding them up was their faith and God’s faithfulness. To commit wrongdoing at this point could cause them to immediately sink.

As I said, one of the primary themes of First Samuel is hearing from God. The hardest part of hearing God is the interpretation of such things as prophetic events. What obviously meant one thing to Abishai meant another thing entirely to the heart of David.

“But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.”

So David took the spear and water jug near Saul’s head, and they left. No one saw or knew about it, nor did anyone wake up. They were all sleeping, because the Lord had put them into a deep sleep.

Then David crossed over to the other side and stood on top of the hill some distance away; there was a wide space between them (verses 11-13).

 Indeed there was a “wide space” between Saul and David, both physically and spiritually. Across this great divide David called to Saul. His carefully constructed appeal to Saul’s conscience was designed to make the king’s malignant madness obvious to all.

14 He [David] called out to the army and to Abner son of Ner, “Aren’t you going to answer me, Abner?”

Abner replied, “Who are you who calls to the king?”

15 David said, “You’re a man, aren’t you? And who is like you in Israel? Why didn’t you guard your lord the king? Someone came to destroy your lord the king. 16 What you have done is not good. As surely as the Lord lives, you and your men must die, because you did not guard your master, the Lord’s anointed. Look around you. Where are the king’s spear and water jug that were near his head?”

17 Saul recognized David’s voice and said, “Is that your voice, David my son?”

David replied, “Yes it is, my lord the king.” 18 And he added, “Why is my lord pursuing his servant? What have I done, and what wrong am I guilty of? 19 Now let my lord the king listen to his servant’s words. If the Lord has incited you against me, then may he accept an offering. If, however, people have done it, may they be cursed before the Lord! They have driven me today from my share in the Lord’s inheritance and have said, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ 20 Now do not let my blood fall to the ground far from the presence of the Lord. The king of Israel has come out to look for a flea—as one hunts a partridge in the mountains.”

David’s innocence and harmlessness were shining bright and strong, shaming Saul in front of 3,000 of his finest troops. Implicit in David’s words was the fact that any fool could see God was speaking through what had just transpired. Even Saul, who really didn’t want to hear God’s voice, was forced to hear Him in this event.

Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have erred greatly.”

“Here is the king’s spear,” David answered. “Let one of your young men come over and get it.

“The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness. The Lord delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed.

“As surely as I valued your life today, so may the Lord value my life and deliver me from all trouble.”

Then Saul said to David, “May you be blessed, my son David; you will do great things and surely triumph.” So David went on his way, and Saul returned home (verses 21-25).

Returning Saul’s spear represented David disowning of the spirit of murder and manipulation that was on Saul.

But David kept Saul’s water jug that was “near his head”. What is the significance of this subtle fact, so quietly recorded here by the Spirit of God?  

From the viewpoint of a man, a woman is compared in Scripture to a cistern, which is a water source (see Proverbs 5:15). When a man and a woman lie together, they become one. Whatever you drink permeates every cell in you body. (First Corinthians 6:16)

Well, so, what’s your point? you may say. David returned Saul’s spear, but not his water jug. [Brace yourself for the most unsettling suggestion I will make in this book.] Perhaps David had Saul’s wife and returning her to Saul just wasn’t feasible.

I believe Ahinoam, daughter of Ahimaaz, the wife of Saul, became Ahinoam of Jezreel, the wife of David. And I think that she had the same effect on David that Michal had: When he slept with her, David became like Saul for a season. (Substantiation of this wild idea will follow later.)

The following verses are an example of David suddenly, and “randomly” returning to being a “Saul Heart”:

I Samuel 27

But David thought to himself, “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.”

So David and the six hundred men with him left and went over to Achish son of Maoch king of Gath (verses 1-2).

This hardly sounds like the mighty man of faith who strolled into the middle of Saul’s camp! It is inconceivable to me that David would ever return to Gath. When he went there before, “he was ill,” as Michal said. He had to act like a slobbering, demonized fool just to keep Achish from killing him! Not exactly his finest hour! Now he was returning to the place of his deepest humiliation? How could he stoop to the position of being King Achish’s lackey and pretend to be a loyal Philistine captain just to put a little more distance between himself and Saul? I think I know why the same man that could walk up to Saul’s bed roll in the midst of 3,000 hostile soldiers could not abide in the Desert of Ziph. But brace yourself. This may sting a little.

David and his men settled in Gath with Achish. Each man had his family with him, and David had his two wives: Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail of Carmel, the widow of Nabal (verse 3).

As I said before, I believe Ahinoam, daughter of Ahimaaz, the wife of Saul, became Ahinoam of Jezreel, wife of David. And I think that she may have had the same effect on David that Michal, the daughter of Saul had. Here are eight reasons I believe this is true:

  1. 1.      Saul forcefully took away David’s wife, Michal, when David had to flee. I believe David responded by taking Saul’s wife. In Scripture, Ahinoam appears suddenly and without explanation at David’s side as he begins his flight. No details were offered. This seems a little odd, given the context.
  2. 2.      As I said before, a woman is compared in Scripture to a cistern (see Proverbs 5:15). When a man and a woman lie together, they become one. Whatever you drink permeates every cell in you body. David returned Saul’s spear, but not his “water jug”. Perhaps David had Saul’s wife and returning her to Saul just wasn’t feasible because the murderous king, embarrassed as he would have been, would likely have killed her. In any case, David never returned to Saul after Ahinoam is listed as his wife.
  3. 3.      When a king really wanted to supplant another king irreversibly, he slept with the former king’s wives. David was exhibiting Saul-like behavior when he fled. He may have taken Ahinoam to supplant Saul in this way.
  4. 4.      Saul called Jonathan “the son of a perverse and rebellious woman.” There may have been a long running conflict between Saul and Ahinoam.
  5. 5.      When God rebuked David through Nathan for the Bathsheba affair, He said to David: “I gave . . . your master’s wives into your arms” (see II Samuel 12:8).
  6. 6.      Nabal, the perfect reflection of Saul, had a wife who was as noble as he was base. Saul may have considered Ahinoam “perverse and rebellious” because she was Davidic. God judged Nabal and David took his wife. It’s possible that this was a shadow of what had already happened to Saul and Ahinoam.
  7. 7.      After the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth became king. When he suspected Abner, leader of his army, of plotting to take the throne, he asked him, “Why did you sleep with Rizpah, my father’s concubine?” (see II Samuel 3:7) Abner probably was indeed plotting to take the kingdom, but if so, why did he sleep with a lowly concubine, and not Saul’s actual wife? Perhaps Ahinoam, Saul’s wife, was not available for Abner to sleep with, because she had been in the house of David for years.
  8. 8.      There are only two people in the Bible named Ahinoam, the wife of Saul and the wife of David. Or maybe there is really only one.

Under the New Covenant we have a whole different dynamic in play, thank God.

For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy (I Corinthians 7:14).

 If an Old Testament saint touched a leper he became unclean. If a New Testament believer lays hands on a leper, the leper, hopefully, becomes clean. We have all been born and bred under the New Covenant. Like a fish in water, we hardly notice what surrounds and sustains us. We have no perspective of what it was like before the blood of Jesus was carried to the Mercy Seat in heaven. Even when only one parent is a believer, the children are born holy, blessed, and set apart for Christ. This does not mean they don’t have to receive the new birth. It just means they are not considered unclean. As awesome as Moses, Elijah, David, and John the Baptist were, they were only born of women and were never born again.

I believe David was greatly weakened by Michal’s unbelief. I also believe Ahinoam somehow caused David to be similarly plagued. Today, because of the blood of Jesus, married Christians are protected from “catching” such spirits from their spouses. The power that protects married Christians also makes it possible to be in the world without letting the world in us.

What are the implications of this teaching? Does this mean a New Covenant Christian can be equipped for spiritual warfare in such a fashion so as to make him or her even mightier than David?

On that day the Lord will shield those who live in Jerusalem, [New Covenant believers] so that the feeblest among them will be like David, and the House of David will be like God, like the Angel [Messenger] of the Lord going before them (Zechariah 12:8).

Because of our shields, we are enabled to go beyond what was possible for David. There were places where he wavered that we can, by the grace of God, walk through faithfully. We can be like Christ, the “Messenger of the Lord”. We can save the souls of our Sauls instead of being pulled down by them.

            The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds (II Corinthians 10:4).

A spear of false guilt and witchcraft like the one Saul threw at Jonathan, (First Samuel 22: 6-8), can be easily deflected by the shield of faith and the breastplate of righteousness. If Jonathan had had the sword of the Spirit he would have known that it’s not about our righteousness but Christ’s righteousness. And by dying to guilt and facing up to his father’s wrath, Jonathan could have become strong enough to, ironically, save his father who was trying to weaken him.

David was tending sheep when he was called by God; Saul was herding donkeys. The sheep is a type of David, the donkey a type of Saul. The firstborn male of every animal was supposed to be sacrificed to the Lord. However, since the donkey was an unclean animal, it could not go on the altar. The owner of a firstborn male donkey foal was offered two options: He could let the donkey live if he could find a spotless lamb to sacrifice in its place. Otherwise, he would have to break the donkey’s neck and bury it (see Exodus 13:12-13, 34:19-20).

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again” (John 10:17).

 “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (see John 20:21).

 “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (see John 13:34).

Reaching the lost, whether they be our closest friends or our worst enemies, will require giving up our lives. The alternative is for our Sauls to have their necks broken. Eli, Dagon, Goliath, Saul, and Ish-Bosheth all had their necks broken. The Lord is not saying that saving our brother’s neck will be easy. He’s just saying it will be worth it.

The time for the redemption of all things is very near, donkey foals included. The Lamb of God has come, meek and lowly and riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. May He find redeemed donkeys to ride any time He needs one and so receive the full reward of His suffering.