The men of Zif now betrayed David to Saul for a second time, and the king - instantly forgetting his earlier repentance and contrition - hurried off with 3000 choice soldiers in pursuit of his bugbear. The ensuing action once again took place in the barren mountain wilderness area southeast of Hebron towards the "Dead" Sea area.

If David had spared Saul's life only the one time when he went to relieve himself in a cave, as narrated in Chapter 25, it could have been seen as some kind of fluke. However, his doing so a second time - even though he knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that Saul was out to kill him - makes it clear that David's forbearance stemmed from true nobility and perfect integrity. David "SAW that Saul was coming after him to the wilderness" (v 3) - his very SOUL saw it - yet he had the utmost respect for the sanctity of the kingship and for the authority of his own teacher, Samuel, who had anointed Saul. Even when the latter was literally delivered into his hands, David would not strike God's anointed.

Saul and all his men were all FAST ASLEEP. While it is said of David that, like a horse, he never slept for longer than it takes to breathe sixty breaths (Berachos 3b) - which is typical of the true Tzaddik, who is constantly awake, alert and advancing in his service - Saul and his top ministers had ceased moving forward and had fallen into deep spiritual slumber and complacency.

On entering Saul's camp together with Avishai, David initially invited his companion to take the king's spear and water flask (v 11). However, David evidently did not trust Avishai not to give way to his desire to kill Saul and therefore David took them himself (v 12) in order to be able to prove his loyalty to Saul by showing him that he had stood right by the sleeping king yet still did not kill him.

It was a veritable "slumber of God" that had fallen upon Saul and his men. One Midrash tells that David was actually saved by a stinging wasp. It is said that the stinging wasp was one of three creatures the purpose of whose creation had always puzzled David, the other two being the madman and the web-spinning spider. David had already discovered the benefits of madness when he used feigned madness for self-protection during his first stay with Achish king of Gath (ch 21 v 13). He discovered the benefits of spiders' webs when once forced to hide in a cave, over the entrance to which a spider spun a web, making those searching for David assume he could not have entered the cave. Now, as he entered the circle of Saul's sleeping henchmen, Avner moved his leg in his sleep, barring David's exit. Had anyone woken up while David was thus trapped, he would have surely been killed. There was no way for him to escape - until God sent a wasp that stung Avner in the leg, causing him to move his leg again while remaining fast asleep, thereby making a gap in the circle that enabled David to escape (Midrash). God was protecting David at every step of the way, but it was through the minute details of His all-encompassing providence that David had to learn to believe it.

After snatching the spear and water flask and making his getaway, David called to Avner, chiding him for sleeping while supposedly being on duty "guarding" God's anointed. When Saul woke up and again heard the VOICE of the noble, saintly David, his sanity and lucidity returned once again and he knew that he had sinned (v 21). So great was David's power of TIKKUN that whenever Saul actually came into direct contact with him, his madness was immediately dispelled.

Among David's complaints to Saul were that accursed men were seeking to "drive me out today so as not to be attached to God's inheritance, saying, Go serve other gods" (v 19). The rabbis asked, "Who ever told David to go and serve other gods? Rather, this comes to teach you [since they were trying to force David to live outside the Land of Israel , which he considered tantamount to "serving other gods"] that everyone who dwells outside Land is as if he had worshiped idols" (Talmud Kesubos 110b). I quote this not to upset readers who live outside of Israel , but only to encourage you to think carefully what your purpose is in being there.

Saul relented and said he would do David no further harm (v 21) - and indeed the dire situation caused by the imminent massive Philistine war gave Saul no further opportunity to go after David even if he had wanted to. Nevertheless, while "David went on his way"(v 25) - continuing to ascend constantly, rising from level to level - "Saul went back to his place" (ibid.): not only was he not moving forwards, he was going backwards!


Saul's end was rapidly approaching, and with it the dawn of David's kingship. In the period of barely more than four months before Saul was killed and David became king, the latter took one of those mysterious twists that characterize the dark clock of concealment which accompanies the revelation of Mashiach by going across to the Philistines and appearing to collaborate with them.

[Could this mean that the puzzling behavior exhibited by certain "Neturey Karta" adherents in turning out for marches in London and Washington to demonstrate AGAINST Israel and FOR the "Palestinians" - which thoroughly disgusts many of their fellow Jews - is actually in some sense a sign of the imminence of Mashiach??? Likewise many Jews to the left and far left of the political spectrum can also be found supporting Israel's sworn enemies, but perhaps it is because they are so assimilated and hardly identify as Jews that they do not arouse the same disgust.]

Thus David now returned to the territory of the Philistines to stay with Achish king of Gath . On his earlier visit he had felt so insecure that he resorted to feigning madness and fled soon afterwards (ch 21 vv 13ff and ch 22 v 1), but now he was no longer alone as he had been before. This time he arrived with an army of 600 men as well as his entourage of wives, and moreover, it was common knowledge that Saul and the whole army of Israel "abhorred" him (v 12) and had been chasing after him, and this was enough to persuade Achish that David was not a danger to the Philistines.

Achish gave him the city of Tziklag where he could reside with dignity, but David preferred to spend his time operating as a kind of Israeli undercover agent, ostensibly protecting the Philistines from their enemies in the desert regions of the Negev but actually campaigning against Israel's own endemic enemies, including Amalek. David was wise enough to kill off all he fought against so that there would be no survivors to come and tell Achish what was really going on. Thus Achish thought he had David "in his pocket" (v 12), but the Philistine king was merely deceiving himself.



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
© AZAMRA INSTITUTE 5767 - 2006-7 All rights reserved