The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The First Book of Kings
When the men of Ziph brought news to Saul in Gabaa that David was in hiding on the slopes of Hachila, that look out towards the desert,
he set out with three thousand picked men from the ranks of Israel, and made his way to the desert of Ziph, to search for David there.
On the slopes of Hachila Saul encamped; David, meanwhile, who was out in the desert, knowing that Saul meant to follow him there,
had sent men to watch his movements, and it was Hachila they reported as Saul’s halting-place.
Then David himself went on a secret journey, and made his way to the spot; looked down at the place where Saul lay, where Abner lay, the commander of his army, and the very tent in which Saul slept, with all the rest of his men camped about him.
Thereupon David said to his companions, Achimelech the man of Heth, and Abisai, Sarvia’s son, that was brother to Joab, Which of you comes down with me to the camp where Saul lies? And Abisai said, I will bear thee company.
So, at dead of night, David and Abisai passed through into the Israelite lines, and found Saul asleep in his tent, with his spear driven into the ground by his pillow; all around him, Abner and the rest of his army lay sleeping too.
Now, said Abisai, the Lord has left thy enemy at thy mercy! Let me pin him to the ground as he lies with one thrust of yonder spear; there will be no need for a second.
Nay, answered David, kill him thou must not; none can lay hands on the king whom the Lord has anointed but he incurs guilt.
As the Lord is a living God, David said, I will wait for the Lord to smite him down, till death comes to him, or he falls on the field of battle.
The Lord be merciful to me, never will I lay hands on the king he has anointed! Come, take up the spear that is by his head, and yonder pitcher of water, and let us begone.
So David took away the spear, and the pitcher of water that was by Saul’s head, and back they went; none saw, none knew of it, none stirred; all lay tranced in a deep sleep the Lord had sent down upon them.
When David had crossed to the further slope, he stood on a peak of the hill far away, parted from them by a long distance,
and cried out to the army of Israel, cried out to Abner, son of Ner. What, Abner, he said, wilt thou never answer? And answer he did, Who art thou, that criest so, disturbing the king’s sleep?
Thou wast ever a brave man, Abner, David said, none like thee in Israel; what guard is this thou keepest over thy lord the king? The life of thy lord the king was in danger but now, from a subject of his that found his way into the camp. This was great fault in thee;
as the Lord is a living God, you are no better than dead men, you that watch so ill over your master, the king he has anointed. Look about thee, and see what has become of the king’s spear, and the pitcher of water that was by his head.
With that, Saul himself recognized David’s voice; Is it thy voice I hear, he asked, my son David? And David answered, It is mine, my lord king, no other.
My lord, said he, why wouldst thou hunt down this poor servant of thine? What have I done amiss, what guilt lies at my door? My lord king, give thy servant a hearing.
If it is the Lord that inspires thee with such hatred of me, then let him be appeased by sacrifice. But if it is the work of men, the Lord’s curse be on them; they have exiled me this day from the Lord’s domain, bidden me go and worship alien gods.
Why must the earth be stained with my blood, under the Lord’s eye?✻ A fine quarry for the king of Israel! A flea, a partridge on the hills,
were as well worth his chase. I have done thee wrong, Saul answered; return, my son David, return. Never again will I do thee hurt, after this day when thou hast spared my life. My folly, I see it now; my long blindness, I see it now.
Here is the king’s spear, said David; best that one of the king’s men should come across and take it.
The Lord will make every man the return his own faith and honour have deserved; this day the Lord put thee at my mercy, and I would not lift a hand against the king he has anointed.
I held thy life precious; may the Lord hold mine precious, and deliver me at all time of peril.
A blessing on thee, my son David, Saul answered; much thou shalt achieve, much win. And with that, David passed on, and Saul went back whence he came.
The Holy Bible