I Samuel 22

The Word Made Fresh

1David left Gath and hid in Adullam’s cave. When his brothers and his father’s relatives got word of it, they went to him. 2About four hundred people in all, who were hurting, in debt, or displeased, came to him and made him their leader.

3Then David went to Mizpah in Moab and asked the king of Moab to look after his mother and father, “just until I know what God has in mind for me,” he told him. 4He left them there and they stayed as long as David was in hiding. 5But the prophet Gad told him, “Don’t stay there. Go to Judah.” So, David left and went to Judah to Hereth Forest.

6Word came to Saul that David and his followers had been located, so he took a seat under the tamarisk tree on Gibeah Hill, spear in hand, officers standing around him. 7“Listen, Benjaminites,” he said. “Is the son of Jesse going to give all of you fields and vineyards? Is he going to make each one of you a commander of thousands or hundreds? 8Is that why you’re plotting against me? Nobody told me when my son made a pact with the son of Jesse. None of you cares about me or tells me that my son has plotted with my servant to stay hidden until he can ambush me. That’s what seems to be going on here.”

9Then Doeg the Edomite, who was in charge of Saul’s shepherds, told Saul, “I saw the son of Jesse at Nob with Ahimelech son of Ahitub. 10Ahimelech asked the LORD to guide him, and gave him some of the consecrated bread, and also gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.”

11Then the king sent for Ahimelech and all the priests at Nob. When they arrived, 12Saul said “Listen to me, son of Ahitub.”

Ahimelech replied, “Yes, my lord.”.

13Saul said, “Why have you and the son of Jesse plotted against me? You gave him bread and a sword and you asked God to guide him. So now he has rebelled against me and today he is waiting to ambush me.”

14Ahimelech answered, “Who of all your servants is as faithful as David? He’s your son-in-law. He does whatever you ask and is quick about it. Your whole family honors him. 15This isn’t the first time I have sought guidance from the LORD for him. Please don’t think badly of me or anyone in my father’s house. I am your servant, but I know nothing about what you’re saying.”

16The king said, “You deserve to die, Ahimelech, you and your whole family.” 17He ordered his guards to kill the priests of the LORD, saying, “They’re in cahoots with David. They knew very well that he had fled and never said a word to me about it.”

But the servants would not attack the LORD’s priests, 18so he said to Doeg, “You do it!” And Doeg the Edomite attacked and killed the priests, everyone who was wearing the linen vestments, eighty-five of them in all. 19Then he attacked Nob, the priest’s town, and put every man, woman, and child to death, and killed the animals as well – all the oxen, donkeys, and sheep.

20One of the sons of Ahimelech son of Ahitub escaped, however. His name was Abiathar, and he ran to David. 21He told David that Saul had murdered the LORD’s priests. 22David said, “I knew the day I saw Doeg the Edomite there that he would report to Saul. I am responsible for the death of everyone in your father’s house. 23But you stay here with me and don’t be afraid. The one who is after my life is after yours, too, but you’ll be safe here.”

Commentary

1-2: David flees to the “cave of Adullam,” an unrecognized location, but probably in the territory of Judah. His family and others begin to gather around him until he has his own little militia of 400 men, all of them outcasts in Saul’s estimation.

3-5: David goes across the border into Moab, an ally (David’s great-grandmother was Ruth, a Moabite woman), and seeks protection for his parents. Now we learn that David has an advisor in his entourage, a prophet named Gad who appears later in David’s royal court (II Samuel 24:11-19).

6-10: Saul sits with spear in hand, and we have to wonder who he’s going to toss it at next. This passage is important because it shows us how completely Saul’s authority has been eroded. His own son is against him. He suspects just about everyone else of protecting Jonathan or of being in collusion with David. At the least he suspects them of not supporting him as their king. It is fascinating that, among all his servants, it is a foreigner, Doeg the Edomite, who offers information to lead to David’s capture. Doeg was at Nob when David took the holy bread (see 21:7). Saul summons Ahimelech and all the other priests from Nob – a few miles southwest of Gibeah. He accuses them of helping David, and Ahimelech denies knowing anything about David’s opposition to Saul.

16-19: Saul orders the guards to kill the priests, but they refuse – more evidence that his authority is slipping away. The foreigner Doeg the Edomite, however, is eager to please the king and does the work himself, killing 85 priests and then leading an attack on Nob in which every citizen is slaughtered.

20-23: But one of Ahimelech’s sons, Abiathar, somehow escapes and flees to David’s camp in the Judean forests. David takes responsibility for the massacre of innocents in Nob and offers Abiathar asylum. Abiathar will continue in David’s service throughout his reign, and into the reign of Solomon.

Takeaway

You may have noticed that Saul has taken to referring to David as “the son of Jesse.” His jealousy and fear have so disabled him that he cannot bear to speak David’s name. Did you notice that he also cannot bring himself to speak his own son’s name? When you begin to think of others as objects rather than as individuals, nothing good can come of it.