Verse 1: And the Ziphites came unto Saul to Gibeah, saying, (1 Sam. 23:19; Ps. 54 title) Doth not David hide himself in the hill of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon?
[And the Ziphites came, etc.] Since they had once begun to betray David, they were unwilling to desist from the undertaking. For they despaired that they would ever afterwards return unto favor with David (Martyr, similarly Lyra). But why would not David withdraw from the country of the Ziphites, whose perfidy he had previously experienced? Response: Because Abigail’s wealth and resources were set in those places (Martyr).
The Ziphites came unto Saul, etc.: Having once betrayed him before, they thought their case desperate with David; and therefore did more strenuously assist Saul in discovering him, in order to his ruin. Doth not David hide himself? he is returned to his former haunt; of which see 1 Samuel 23:19. This place might be convenient for him, either for its nearness to Abigail’s estate; or because he might think that Saul was mollified, and the Ziphites cautioned by the unsuccessfulness of their former attempt; or because he could from thence make good his retreat into other places, if need were.
Verse 2: Then Saul arose, and went down to the wilderness of Ziph, having three thousand chosen men of Israel with him, to seek David in the wilderness of Ziph.
Verse 3: And Saul pitched in the hill of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon, by the way. But David abode in the wilderness, and he saw that Saul came after him into the wilderness.
[In Gibeah-Hachilah] Rather, in the hill of Hachilah (Menochius, Sanchez).
[In the way (thus the Syriac, Arabic, Osiander), עַל־הַדָּרֶךְ] Upon (by [Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus]) the way (Septuagint, Jonathan, Montanus).
And he saw, etc.: that is, He understood by information, probably from his dear friend Jonathan.
Verse 4: David therefore sent out spies, and understood that Saul was come in very deed.
[He learned that he had come there most certainly, אֶל־נָכוֹן] For a certain thing (Montanus); for a certain matter (Tigurinus, Strigelius, Dutch, certain interpreters in Munster); certainly or for certain (Munster, Pagnine), actually (Hebrews in Munster), verily (Castalio, similarly Jonathan, English); to a certain place, that is, because he had already taken a certain place by pitching camp (Osiander). [But the Septuagint has, because Saul came ready.]
Verse 5: And David arose, and came to the place where Saul had pitched: and David beheld the place where Saul lay, and (1 Sam. 14:50; 17:55) Abner the son of Ner, the captain of his host: and Saul lay in the trench (or, midst of his carriages, 1 Sam. 17:20), and the people pitched round about him.
[He arose secretly] That is, covertly, and with a changed appearance (Lyra).
[He came to the place] Either he himself came, or through his spies (Menochius). This belongs to an eminent General, to spy out the positions of places; whence the alterations of affairs are often great (Grotius). David, although certain of his own safety, let nothing pass by through inaction (Martyr).
Came to the place where Saul had pitched; came near to the skirts of Saul’s camp; which he might easily discover from some neighboring hill or wood, and yet not be discerned himself. And it is probable he came thither disguised, and towards night.
[And when he had seen, etc.] He is said to have seen those sleeping, because they were actually sleeping, and he was observing no movement, and was seeing the people composed for rest (Menochius).
[Sleeping in a tent, בַּמַּעְגָּל] In a rotundity (Montanus, Aquila in Nobilius), in a cavity (Aquila in Nobilius); on the path (Syriac); on the road (Arabic); in the entrenchment (Pagnine, Jonathan, Vatablus); near the entrenchment (Tigurinus); within the camp, or in the circuit of the camp, which is made out of the chariots, horses, and watchmen, and is called the entrenchment (Munster); in the circuit of the carts (Junius and Tremellius). Hebrew: in the cart; that is, in the midst of the carts. An Enallage of number (Piscator). Of course, he had fortified his camp with all the heavy baggage, being afraid of David (Junius). In coverings distinguished and costly (Lucifer in Nobilius). Septuagint: ἐν λαμπήνῃ, in a covered chariot. Thus is the royal chariot called, as Pollux testifies; most satisfactorily. For Kings are wont, when they are not at home, to sleep in chariots; and the term עֲגָלָה, from the same origin, often signifies chariot/cart, and among the Arabs the term retains the same signification (Grotius).
Saul lay in the trench, encompassed with his carriages for better security. Compare 1 Samuel 17:20.
Verse 6: Then answered David and said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Abishai (1 Chron. 2:16) the son of Zeruiah, brother to Joab, saying, Who will (Judg. 7:10, 11) go down with me to Saul to the camp? And Abishai said, I will go down with thee.
[To Ahimelech the Hittite] That is, born of that nation, yet an Israelite with respect to religion (Junius, Piscator).
Ahimelech the Hittite; so called, either because he was one of that nation, but converted to the Jewish religion; compare 2 Samuel 11:3; 15:18; or from his habitation amongst, or some relation, to some of that people. Zeruiah; David’s sister: see 1 Chronicles 2:16. His father is not named, either because he was now dead, or because he was an obscure person.
[Who will go down with me?] He exposed himself to great danger, but not rashly; for he was perceiving that he was divinely prompted to the deed (Menochius, similarly Martyr, Willet). Now, God willed there to be a second example of David’s mercy, so that he might be more highly esteemed by the people, and the ingratitude of Saul appear more clearly (Menochius); and so that from David might be removed that calumny, which the soldiers of Saul had spread, that David laid ambushes for the life of Saul. Rightly did David study to preserve Saul, at risk of losing eternal salvation, imperiling his own life. But he had discovered that the soul of Saul was able to be turned by kindness. Moreover, David was certain that he was going to escape and become King (Martyr).
Verse 7: So David and Abishai came to the people by night: and, behold, Saul lay sleeping within the trench, and his spear stuck in the ground at his bolster: but Abner and the people lay round about him.
To the people, that is, to Saul’s host and camp. It might seem a bold and strange attempt; but many things are to be considered: 1. That heroical persons have oft attempted things of no less difficulty and danger than this was; as many credible historians relate. 2. That David did and might easily perceive that they were all fast asleep. 3. That David had a particular assurance that God would preserve him to the kingdom. 4. That he had a special instinct from God to this work; and possibly God might inform him that he had cast them into a dead sleep, that he might have this second opportunity of manifesting his innocency towards Saul, and the justice of his cause.
[His spear stuck in the ground at his head (similarly Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Montanus), מְעוּכָה, impressed (Montanus), placed (Syriac, Arabic), מְרַאֲשֹׁתָיו] From his heads (Montanus); near his cervical/pillow (Jonathan, Junius and Tremellius, Vatablus), so called, because it was place under his head (Vatablus). Towards his cervicalia/pillows, or cushions (Malvenda).
Verse 8: Then said Abishai to David, God hath delivered (Heb. shut up, 1 Sam. 24:18) thine enemy into thine hand this day: now therefore let me smite him, I pray thee, with the spear even to the earth at once, and I will not smite him the second time.
[Let me pierce him with the spear in the earth, or into the earth (Septuagint, similarly Munster, Tigurinus, Pagnine), בַּחֲנִ֤ית וּבָאָ֙רֶץ֙] Both in the spear and in the earth (Montanus) (into the earth [Vatablus]); let me pierce him with the spear, and strike it into the earth (Jonathan). Let me pierce him with this spear, which is fixed in the ground (Syriac). Or with the javelin, which is by his head (Arabic). I will smite in such a way that, with him pierced, I will implant the spear in the earth (Vatablus).
I will not smite him the second time: I will nail him to the ground at one blow, that I shall not need a second stroke.
Verse 9: And David said to Abishai, Destroy him not: (1 Sam. 24:6, 7; 2 Sam. 1:16) for who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD’S anointed, and be guiltless?
[Who shall stretch forth…and be innocent?] David’s clemency nowhere shines more brightly than in this place, and in 1 Samuel 24: for, although he is incited by Abishai, he does not allow his mercy to be wrested from him (Martyr). For a private man (which sort David was still, and not actually King: See 1 Samuel 16:13 [Estius]) it is not lawful to kill his King (Estius, thus Menochius, Martyr), although he be a tyrant (Martyr, Estius). Let us learn from this to revere and honor all that sit at the helm of affairs (Calvin).
Destroy him not, etc.: Though Saul be a cruel tyrant, and rejected by God, yet he is our sovereign lord and king; and I, though designed king, as yet am but a private person, and his subject; and therefore cannot kill him without sin, nor will I consent that thou shouldst do it.
Verse 10: David said furthermore, As the LORD liveth, (1 Sam. 25:38; Ps. 94:1, 2, 23; Luke 18:7; Rom. 12:19) the LORD shall smite him; or (see Gen. 47:29; Deut. 31:14; Job 7:1; 14:5; Ps. 37:13) his day shall come to die; or he shall (1 Sam. 31:6) descend into battle, and perish.
[The Lord liveth, כִּ֥י אִם־יְהוָ֖ה יִגָּפֶ֑נּוּ אֽוֹ וגו״] That if the Lord smite him (Montanus). [They variously connect and supplement these words.] The Lord lives, understanding, if I smite him, or allow him to be smitten (Vatablus). The Lord lives, in that the Lord shall smite, etc.; that is to say, there is no need, that thou shouldest kill him, for he will die soon (certain interpreters in Vatablus). Jehovah lives, but Jehovah shall smite, etc. (Pagnine). As the Lord lives, I will not allow it, but the Lord, etc. (Junius and Tremellius). [Others continue with the following words:] The Lord lives, unless the Lord smite, etc. (Strigelius, similarly the Septuagint, Syriac, Arabic, Malvenda).
[Unless the Lord smite him] That is, with sickness (Menochius, similarly Lyra). David here touches upon three sorts of death, by illness, by old age, by accident, for example, in war (Menochius, similarly the Rabbis in Martyr, Lyra).
[Or his day] That is, his final day (Lyra). The period to his life (Vatablus).
[Or, descending into battle, he shall perish, וְנִסְפָּה] And he be added (Septuagint). [Understand, to his fathers, or to the many, that is, to the dead.] And he perish (Syriac, Munster), or be killed (Jonathan, Arabic).
The Lord shall smite him, by some sudden and mortal stroke. Or his day shall come to die, according to the course of nature.
Verse 11: (1 Sam. 24:6, 12) The LORD forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the LORD’S anointed: but, I pray thee, take thou now the spear that is at his bolster, and the cruse of water, and let us go.
[The Lord be merciful to me] Hebrew: Far be this to me, or from me, from Jehovah (Pagnine, Vatablus); that is, let Him not permit me to smite (Vatablus).
[Take thou the spear, etc.] But in verse 12, David took the spear, etc. For he was fearing that Abishai would lay violent hands upon him (Vatablus, thus the Rabbis in Martyr). It could have happened, that Abishai took them first, then delivered them to David (Martyr).
Take thou now the spear, which will show where we have been, and what we could have done. The cruse of water might be put there, either to wash himself, in case of any accidental pollution, which oft happened in the night; or to refresh him, and quench his thirst in that hot climate and season; or for divers other uses.
Verse 12: So David took the spear and the cruse of water from Saul’s bolster; and they gat them away, and no man saw it, nor knew it, neither awaked: for they were all asleep; because (Gen. 2:21; 15:12) a deep sleep from the LORD was fallen upon them.
[And the vessel of water, which was near the head of Saul] Question: What was it, and for what use? Responses: 1. It was a chamber pot, wherein urine was received (Castalio in Serarius). Among the Hebrews, urine is called water of the feet, Ezekiel 7:17, all knees shall flow with waters, that is, urine, as it happens in great fear (Menochius, Serarius, Sanchez). And among the Latins, sumere aquam, to take water, is used in the place of, to urinate: thus in Ovid, though time be given to you for taking water (Malvenda). 2. I would say that it was able to indicate the watches of the night: since in Cæsar and Vegetius’ Military Institutions of the Romans 3 we read that water-clocks were used for this end in camps (Serarius); in which, not sand (as it happens in ours), but water, flowed (Lapide). 3. Perhaps the water was at hand for washing, if any pollution had happened. For the Jews always wash after bed, says Clement (Serarius).Blots were easily contracted by them; whence they were having water-pots in their private houses, John 2. It was possible that something impure happened in their dreams; wherefore they were often washed at night and in bed, says Clement, Stromata 4:7 (Sanchez, similarly Lapide out of Josephus). 4. It was rather a vessel of water for allaying thirst, or for cooling heat (Sanchez, similarly Menochius, Serarius, Sanchez). It was the time of shearing sheep, and so it was hot (Sanchez), and Saul was weary from his journey (Menochius). The drink of the Jews in military service does not appear to have been wine, but water, says Stucki in Antiquities Pertaining to Feasts 1 (Serarius). In those hot regions, the drinking of wine was not ordinary, and out of sobriety Saul got used to drinking water (Calvin).
[A deep sleep of the Lord] That is, either sent by God (that is, so that they might not sense the coming of David [Vatablus]). Or, an incredibly deep sleep, or the deepest (Vatablus, Junius, Piscator, Menochius, Estius, Munster). God sent a similar deep sleep upon Adam, Genesis 2 (Lapide). God by His own power had made the sleep deeper and had prolonged it: which sometimes Physicians also do (Grotius).
A deep sleep from the LORD: Sent upon them by the Lord, for David’s advantage.
 Hebrew: וַיָּבֹ֤אוּ הַזִּפִים֙ אֶל־שָׁא֔וּל הַגִּבְעָ֖תָה לֵאמֹ֑ר הֲל֙וֹא דָוִ֤ד מִסְתַּתֵּר֙ בְּגִבְעַ֣ת הַחֲכִילָ֔ה עַ֖ל פְּנֵ֥י הַיְשִׁימֹֽן׃  1 Samuel 26:1: “And the Ziphites came unto Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself in the hill of Hachilah, which is before (עַ֖ל פְּנֵ֥י, upon the face of) Jeshimon?”  1 Samuel 23:19: “Then came up the Ziphites to Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself with us in strong holds in the wood, in the hill of Hachilah, which is on the south (אֲשֶׁ֖ר מִימִ֥ין, which is from the right) of Jeshimon?”  Hebrew: וַיָּ֣קָם שָׁא֗וּל וַיֵּ֙רֶד֙ אֶל־מִדְבַּר־זִ֔יף וְאִתּ֛וֹ שְׁלֹֽשֶׁת־אֲלָפִ֥ים אִ֖ישׁ בְּחוּרֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל לְבַקֵּ֥שׁ אֶת־דָּוִ֖ד בְּמִדְבַּר־זִֽיף׃  Hebrew: וַיִּ֙חַן שָׁא֜וּל בְּגִבְעַ֣ת הַחֲכִילָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֛ר עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַיְשִׁימֹ֖ן עַל־הַדָּ֑רֶךְ וְדָוִד֙ יֹשֵׁ֣ב בַּמִּדְבָּ֔ר וַיַּ֕רְא כִּ֣י בָ֥א שָׁא֛וּל אַחֲרָ֖יו הַמִּדְבָּֽרָה׃ גִּבְעָה/gibeah means hill, and served as a place name for a city in Judah and a city in Benjamin.  Hebrew: וַיִּשְׁלַ֥ח דָּוִ֖ד מְרַגְּלִ֑ים וַיֵּ֕דַע כִּֽי־בָ֥א שָׁא֖וּל אֶל־נָכֽוֹן׃ כּוּן in the Niphal conjugation signifies to be established or fixed.  Hebrew: וַיָּ֣קָם דָּוִ֗ד וַיָּבֹא֮ אֶֽל־הַמָּקוֹם֮ אֲשֶׁ֣ר חָנָה־שָׁ֣ם שָׁאוּל֒ וַיַּ֣רְא דָּוִ֗ד אֶת־הַמָּקוֹם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר שָֽׁכַב־שָׁ֣ם שָׁא֔וּל וְאַבְנֵ֥ר בֶּן־נֵ֖ר שַׂר־צְבָא֑וֹ וְשָׁאוּל֙ שֹׁכֵ֣ב בַּמַּעְגָּ֔ל וְהָעָ֖ם חֹנִ֥ים סְבִיבֹתָֽי׃  Hebrew: בַּמַּעְגָּל.  1 Samuel 17:20: “And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench (וַיָּבֹא֙ הַמַּעְגָּ֔לָה), as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle.” מַעְגָּל appears to be related to עָגֹל/round.  Lucifer (died c. 370) was Bishop of Cagliari in Sardinia. He was a stalwart opponent of Arianism, and was exiled by Constantius II. While in exile, Lucifer wrote multiple works against Arianism to the Emperor; in these works, he quotes Scripture extensively, which quotations are useful as sources for the Vetus Latina.  Hebrew: וַיַּ֙עַן דָּוִ֜ד וַיֹּ֣אמֶר׀ אֶל־אֲחִימֶ֣לֶךְ הַחִתִּ֗י וְאֶל־אֲבִישַׁ֙י בֶּן־צְרוּיָ֜ה אֲחִ֤י יוֹאָב֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר מִֽי־יֵרֵ֥ד אִתִּ֛י אֶל־שָׁא֖וּל אֶל־הַֽמַּחֲנֶ֑ה וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲבִישַׁ֔י אֲנִ֖י אֵרֵ֥ד עִמָּֽךְ׃  Hebrew: וַיָּבֹא֩ דָוִ֙ד וַאֲבִישַׁ֥י׀ אֶל־הָעָם֮ לַיְלָה֒ וְהִנֵּ֣ה שָׁא֗וּל שֹׁכֵ֤ב יָשֵׁן֙ בַּמַּעְגָּ֔ל וַחֲנִית֥וֹ מְעוּכָֽה־בָאָ֖רֶץ מְרַאֲשֹׁתָ֑ו וְאַבְנֵ֣ר וְהָעָ֔ם שֹׁכְבִ֖ים סְבִיבֹתָֽו׃ מָעַךְ signifies to press or squeeze.  Thus the Qere.  Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֲבִישַׁי֙ אֶל־דָּוִ֔ד סִגַּ֙ר אֱלֹהִ֥ים הַיּ֛וֹם אֶת־אוֹיִבְךָ֖ בְּיָדֶ֑ךָ וְעַתָּה֩ אַכֶּ֙נּוּ נָ֜א בַּחֲנִ֤ית וּבָאָ֙רֶץ֙ פַּ֣עַם אַחַ֔ת וְלֹ֥א אֶשְׁנֶ֖ה לֽוֹ׃  Hebrew: סִגַּר.  1 Samuel 24:18: “And thou hast shewed this day how that thou hast dealt well with me: forasmuch as when the Lord had delivered me (סִגְּרַנִי) into thine hand, thou killedst me not.”  A woodenly literalistic rendering.  Hebrew: וַיֹּ֧אמֶר דָּוִ֛ד אֶל־אֲבִישַׁ֖י אַל־תַּשְׁחִיתֵ֑הוּ כִּ֠י מִ֣י שָׁלַ֥ח יָד֛וֹ בִּמְשִׁ֥יחַ יְהוָ֖ה וְנִקָּֽה׃  Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר דָּוִד֙ חַי־יְהוָ֔ה כִּ֥י אִם־יְהוָ֖ה יִגָּפֶ֑נּוּ אֽוֹ־יוֹמ֤וֹ יָבוֹא֙ וָמֵ֔ת א֧וֹ בַמִּלְחָמָ֛ה יֵרֵ֖ד וְנִסְפָּֽה׃ סָפָה signifies to sweep away.  Hebrew: חָלִ֤ילָה לִּי֙ מֵֽיהוָ֔ה מִשְּׁלֹ֥חַ יָדִ֖י בִּמְשִׁ֣יחַ יְהוָ֑ה וְ֠עַתָּה קַח־נָ֙א אֶֽת־הַחֲנִ֜ית אֲשֶׁ֧ר מְרַאֲשֹׁתָ֛ו וְאֶת־צַפַּ֥חַת הַמַּ֖יִם וְנֵ֥לֲכָה לָּֽנוּ׃  Hebrew: חָלִ֤ילָה לִּי֙ מֵֽיהוָ֔ה.  Hebrew: וַיִּקַּח֩ דָּוִ֙ד אֶֽת־הַחֲנִ֜ית וְאֶת־צַפַּ֤חַת הַמַּ֙יִם֙ מֵרַאֲשֹׁתֵ֣י שָׁא֔וּל וַיֵּלְכ֖וּ לָהֶ֑ם וְאֵ֣ין רֹאֶה֩ וְאֵ֙ין יוֹדֵ֜עַ וְאֵ֣ין מֵקִ֗יץ כִּ֤י כֻלָּם֙ יְשֵׁנִ֔ים כִּ֚י תַּרְדֵּמַ֣ת יְהוָ֔ה נָפְלָ֖ה עֲלֵיהֶֽם׃  Hebrew: וְכָל־בִּרְכַּ֖יִם תֵּלַ֥כְנָה מָּֽיִם׃. Ars Amandi 3:619.  Titus Flavius Clemens Alexandrinus (died c. 215) was the head of the Christian catechetical school in Alexandria, Egypt. He was trained in pagan philosophy before his conversion to Christianity.  Johann Wilhem Stuck (1542-1607) was a Swiss Reformed theologian, philologist, and educator. He served as Professor of Old Testament at Zurich (1571-1607). Antiquitatum Convivialium.