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Deeper Commentary

1Sa 22:1 David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him-
As noted on 1 Sam. 21:14,15 and Ps. 34, this was all an amazing deliverance by God through raising up situations in Achish's life where he apparently wanted to help David escape. David's brothers had originally been followers of Saul and appeared jealous and dismissive of David. Perhaps Saul's irrational obsession had led him to persecute them, even though they were his supporters, simply because they were David's family. 

1Sa 22:2 Everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt and everyone who was discontented gathered themselves to him and he became their captain. About four hundred men were with him-
We could assume that the distress and discontent was with Saul, and the debts due to his excessive taxation of them. David was therefore their logical captain. "Distress" is the word usually used of suffering for disobedience to the covenant (Dt. 28:53,55,57; Jer. 19:9). But all the same, they were driven by their disobedience towards David. The lesson for the exiles was that despite their suffering "distress" in exile in response to their breaking of covenant, there was a way out- if they accepted the greater son of David.

"In debt" is translated 'taxed' in Ps. 89:20-22: "I have found David My servant, I have anointed him with My holy oil, with whom My hand shall be established; My arm will also strengthen him. No enemy will tax him, no wicked man will oppress him". By being on the run from Saul, David paid no tax; and this attracted those who were heavily taxed by Saul.

"Discontented" is literally 'bitter of soul'. The same phrase is used of Hannah (1 Sam. 1:10); these were her spiritual descendants.

David's men represent the followers of the Lord Jesus (cp. Heb. 13:13). David's motley crew were bitter men, "them that are set on fire... whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword" (Ps. 57:4). It was push factors [such as the debts created by Saul's merciless taxation] rather than pull factors which led them to David, as it is sometimes with those who come to the Lord Jesus today. So rough were they that David says that having to live with them almost destroyed him spiritually (1 Sam. 26:19). This typology would explain why the body of Christ seems [at times] full of mixed up men and women with hard words- who eventually will be the rulers in Messiah's Kingdom, after the pattern of David's men.

1Sa 22:3 David went from there to Mizpeh of Moab, and he said to the king of Moab, Please let my father and my mother come and stay with you-
Samuel had commanded Saul to wait until God would show him what he must do (the very same phrase is in 1 Sam. 10:8). Then in 1 Sam. 16:3, God was telling Samuel to do what Samuel had told Saul to do. And Samuel had observed Saul's testing, his initial obedience and his later failure. This is how God works, repeating circumstance between the lives of people, bringing people into our lives from whom we are to learn; and then we are tested just as they were. David may have reflected on this, for he in turn uses the phrase of how he was waiting for God to lead him further. He would have remembered how Samuel had come to his father's house and likewise waited for God to show him what he had to do. We recall that David was descended from Ruth, a Moabitess. At the time of the Assyrian onslaught upon Jerusalem, "Let My outcasts dwell with you, Moab" (Is. 16:4) alludes here- and thus reflects how God saw Saul as being as bad as the Gentile, hate filled Assyrians.

Until I know what God will do for me-
This phrase is used in 1 Sam. 28:15 about waiting for a prophetic revelation. David had only been told that he would be king; the path there was not revealed to him, rather like our path to the Kingdom. Again it is hard to know David's level of faith here. He could on one hand be seeking God's guidance; or he could be overlooking the obvious plan of God that he should be king. "Know" can mean to understand or know, or, to experience. Again we are invited to ponder whether this was a calm statement of trust that he would experience what God would do for him in making him king; or whether he means that he has no idea what God has in store for him. Which would reflect a low point in his faith in God's promise to make him king. Time and again we have these invitations to ponder David's real spiritual strength, and to conclude that his strength was only made perfect through much weakness. 

1Sa 22:4 He brought them before the king of Moab and they lived with him all the while that David was in the stronghold-
The singular "stronghold" may suggest that throughout David's time running from one hiding place to another, he was in fact in one great fortress provided by God. But "the stronghold" in :5 seems to refer to a fortress in Mizpeh.  

We must compare Moab's apparent help of David with 2 Sam. 8:2 "And he smote Moab, and measured them with a line, casting them down to the ground; even with two lines measured he to put to death, and with one full line to keep alive. And so the Moabites became David's servants, and brought gifts". This could be because Moab had murdered or betrayed David's parents, or it could be another example of David just using people and being ungrateful. Despite his being a loyal friend to Jonathan and Abiathar, rewarding them for their loyalty.

1Sa 22:5 The prophet Gad said to David, Don’t stay in the stronghold. Depart, and go into the land of Judah. Then David departed, and went into the forest of Hereth-
This could be the time of Ps. 63. This was completely counter instinctive, just as many of God's directions are to us. They appeared to finally have found refuge in Moab, and the king had accepted David's parents. But now they were bidden return to Judah. There was to be an exact equivalent in the Lord's experience (Jn. 11:7,8 cp. Jn. 7:1).

David’s whole experience with Saul was of course led and arranged by a loving Father. The sensible thing would have been for David to get out of Saul’s way and lay quiet- and this is what he tried to do, by going to Moab. But then God tells him to go back into Judah. This was political suicide. It made no human sense to expose himself to Saul again. And then God tells David to go and fight with the Philistines in order to rescue the people of Keilah (1 Sam. 23:2). Yet the men of Keilah weren’t allies worth having- even they were prepared to betray David to Saul, and by this action he made the Philistines hate him yet more, so refuge amongst them was no longer possible. Again and again, God led David into situations that were politically suicidal, that only made things worse for him… because He wanted David to trust in Him alone. And so it happens in our lives. Time and again.

1Sa 22:6 Saul heard that David and his men had been discovered. Now Saul was sitting in Gibeah under the tamarisk tree in Ramah with his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing about him-
Again the Divine cameraman zooms in close up upon this man Saul, just as the record does as he sat under a pomegranate tree in 1 Sam. 14:2. However the Hebrew eshel is the usual word translated "grove", which has associations with idol worship. Saul's daughter Michal had an idol in her home and we suspect Saul was not totally averse to idolatry despite his obedience to parts of the Mosaic law. "Ramah" may be better translated "on the height", unless we take "Gibeah" as the name of the general district. 

"With his spear in his hand" is the image we are repeatedly given of Saul in the records. It was the symbol of his kingship, and he was desperately gripping hold of it rather than giving it up as he should have done. Whether at home, sitting under a tree (1 Sam. 22:6)... he is pictured as madly gripping on to it. He even sleeps with the spear in the ground next to him (1 Sam. 26:7). In this lies the significance of David taking the spear from Saul but then returning it to him. What should Saul's response have been? To tell David to keep the spear and be king, whilst he retired and walked quietly with his God (1 Sam. 26:21,22). And it was that gripping on to power that was his death. If the Amalekite is to be believed, he said that Saul at his last end "was leaning on his spear" (2 Sam. 1:6), presumably before falling upon his own sword in suicide (1 Sam. 31:4). David by contrast had learnt from his victory over Goliath "that Yahweh can give victory without sword or spear” (1 Sam. 17:47).

1Sa 22:7 Saul said to them, Listen now, you Benjamites!-
Saul had failed to unite Israel into one nation as was intended for the king of Israel. He may have reasoned that although he was not to be king of Israel, he could still be king of Benjamin his tribe. Or his focus upon his own tribe reflects how Saul never really seriously wanted to act as king of all Israel, but only sought his own benefit. Thereby he himself showed that he was not fit to be king of Israel; his attitude asked for his rejection, just as the fool's mouth asks for the strokes of condemnation.

Will the son of Jesse-
Saul finds it impossible to speak of "David", the "beloved" of God. His despite of Jesse explains why Jesse had to flee to Moab as we have just read.

Give each of you fields and vineyards? Will he make you all captains of thousands and captains of hundreds?-
The idea is that this is what Saul claims to have done for the men standing around him.

1Sa 22:8 Is that why all of you have conspired against me-
"None of you... You all conspired" reflects the extreme loneliness of the obsessively jealous man. This is where it leads to. We see here how his paranoia developed to such an extent that he felt so terribly alone. He had cursed his wife, Jonathan's mother, and had seen his children Michal and Jonathan defending David from his intentions.

So that there is no-one who tells me when my son makes a treaty with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you who is sorry for me or tells me that my son has stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as he does today?-
Saul's cursing of any who didn't feel sorry for him is repeated by David, who often in his Psalms brings down curses upon any who don't feel pity for him in his brokenness, even if that brokenness was a consequence of his own sins. See on Ps. 109:22. What Saul says here is conspiracy theory gone wrong, but this is what happens when jealousy takes a grip upon the human mind. They come to see everyone as suspicious and somehow against them.

We have an example here of conspiracy theories breeding other ones and becoming established in the mind as fact. Saul decides that his son Jonathan wants the throne from him, and was using David's rebellion to get it. But Jonathan had made it clear he didn't want the throne, and was loyal to David. And Samuel had made it clear to Saul that his dynasty wouldn't continue.

It seems the covenant Jonathan made with David in 1 Sam. 20:16 he had now spoken openly of. And that is indeed how it is, our secret covenant relationship with the Lord we inevitably speak of to others, even if initially we intend to keep it secret.

1Sa 22:9 Then Doeg the Edomite, who stood by the servants of Saul, said-
"Doeg" means 'the fearful one', and his name immediately suggests a connection between him and the paranoid Saul.

I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub-
The fawning courtier Doeg describes David as Saul does, "the son of Jesse". He gives Ahimelech's full name, which means "Brother of the king". He may even have somehow been Saul's relative by marriage. But jealousy leads to the destruction of every relationship.

1Sa 22:10 He inquired of Yahweh for him, gave him food, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine-
We only learn at this point that Ahimelech enquired of Yahweh for David. When David visited him, David was at a very low point spiritually. Scoring David out of ten for spirituality, he scores sadly here. He had turned down spear and sword when fighting Goliath, and had confidently stated that as the battles are Yahweh's, these weapons give no defence. And he lies about things in order to get them. And we even wonder whether he was correct to pretend to be a servant of Saul as king, when Yahweh had clearly rejected Saul as king and chosen David. But despite this weak point in his faith, he still also asked Ahimelech to enquire of God for him; we see here how complex is human faith and spirituality. Faith and unbelief can coexist, and only God can form the final judgment of men, simply because we cannot. 

Ahimelech confirms to Saul that he had enquired of Yahweh for David (1 Sam. 22:10), and that he had also done so previously. We wonder what at this point David enquired about. The fact he went to Gath right afterwards makes it likely that it was something to do with this. But I suggest it was unlikely that Yahweh would have confirmed David in that decision, nor that He required David to take Goliath's sword. So we may well imagine David being disobedient to the answer to his enquiry. It was also likely that this enquiry was about whether David should be given the shewbread.

1Sa 22:11 Then the king sent to call Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub and all his father’s house, the priests who were in Nob; and they all came to the king-
Clearly it was Saul's intention to destroy the priest and all his family; the verdict was decided well in advance. That they all came to the king, unsuspecting, indicates their loyalty to him.

1Sa 22:12 Saul said, Listen now, you son of Ahitub. He answered, Here I am, my lord-
Again we see Ahimelech's loyalty to Saul. It is a sad feature of jealousy that it leads men to destroy even their best supporters, so blinded do they become by the objective of destroying their enemy.

1Sa 22:13 Saul said to him, Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, in that you have given him bread and a sword, and have inquired of God for him, that he should rise against me, to lie in wait, as he does today?-
Again, we see how jealousy leads to an obsessive 'guilt by association'. And beyond that, an imagination of things which are simply not the case, e.g. that Ahimelech and David had made a conspiracy to murder Saul. And we see this sad nexus of broken down spirituality going on in groups of believers worldwide.

1Sa 22:14 Then Ahimelech answered the king, Who among all your servants is as faithful as David, who is the king’s son-in-law, and is taken into your council, and is honourable in your house?
Ahimelech like Jonathan bravely speaks up for David, as we should for Jesus, despite knowing the consequences he faced. For he was accused of treason and conspiracy to murder the king. We note that David had been so close to Saul that he had once been in his inner council, the group of men who now stood around Saul. And David was still respected in Saul's family. Ahimelech is bravely trying to make a desperate appeal for David and for his own life. He begins by justifying David before he moves to justify himself as innocent of any plan to kill Saul.

1Sa 22:15 Is this the first time I have inquired of God for him? Be it far from me! Don’t let the king accuse his servant or any of the house of my father, for your servant knows nothing at all of all this-
He protests that it is strange indeed to condemn David and Ahimelech for inquiring of God. But so we see happening today; if you break bread with this one or that, then you are guilty by association. And worthy of spiritual death.

1Sa 22:16 The king said, You shall surely die Ahimelech, you and all your father’s house-
Saul is quoting the words of Yahweh concerning Adam and Eve's eating of the forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:17). We have observed this earlier with Saul; he quotes Biblical phrases or alludes to Biblical characters, but far out of context. It's as if he wants to justify his own native jealousy and pride beneath a veneer of spirituality and vague Biblical allusion. And the same thing can happen today.  

1Sa 22:17 The king said to the guards who stood around him, Turn and kill the priests of Yahweh because they have sided with David, and because they knew that he fled, and didn’t tell me-
What began as a passing suspicion in Saul's mind, that David was planning to murder him, developed into something grotesque. Saul now assumed Ahimelech was in league with David; and so were all the priests with him. And so they must all be slain for conspiracy to murder him. There was no Mosaic legislation calling for the execution of those who conspire to murder, if it doesn't come to pass. And the unspiritual mind will go the same path; fantasy and unpleasant imagination about someone is dwelt upon, until it actually becomes true in the person's mind.

But the servants of the king wouldn’t put forth their hand to strike the priests of Yahweh-
This reflects the tension which so many have felt, torn between loyalty to the politico-religious leadership of the time, and true spirituality. The same phrase "lift up the hand against" in the context of murder is used of how David refused to lift up his hand against Saul as Yahweh's anointed. But this family of Ahimelech were also that; for they too were anointed as priests. Yahweh's anointed referred to His priests as well as His kings. We see here how even Saul's inner circle had some conscience and were unhappy with Saul's position. But still they passively went along with him and legitimized his hold on power.

1Sa 22:18 The king said to Doeg, You turn and attack the priests! Doeg the Edomite turned and attacked the priests, and he killed on that day eighty-five people who wore a linen ephod-
Clearly ephods were worn apart from the high priestly ephod. We noted this when discussing how Samuel wore an ephod as he ministered to Yahweh as a child. LXX has 305 people. "Turn" may suggest he was to surround them, to round them up, and then murder them.

1Sa 22:19 He struck Nob, the city of the priests, with the edge of the sword, men, women, children and nursing babies, and cattle, donkeys and sheep-
This may account for the figure of 305 slain, according to :18 LXX. We see how guilt by association is like a disease which spreads. Saul had assumed Ahimelech was guilty by association with David, and he then made the other 85 priests guilty by association. And now in turn, Doeg extends this guilt to include the entire town, including newborn babies and animals. Guilt by association is one of the most insidious sins of the Christian life. And yet it so easily becomes somehow sanctified and made respectable by church policies. This total destruction of everyone in Nob suggests Saul kidded himself that he was called to practice the 'ban' of total destruction upon them, or to fulfil the prophecy of 1 Sam. 2:33 that all Eli's descendants would be wiped out. But this was precisely what he had failed to do with the Amalekites, as he saved their cattle and many of the people. It was for this that he had been rejected as king. We have an insight here into his psychology, and it is an absolutely psychologically credible picture. He has transferred his guilt over not totally destroying the Amalekites, and now is totally destroying the people of Nob- imagining that in fact he has to do this in obedience to God. And this would explain why he also killed the animals at Nob- because this was what he was supposed to have done to the Amalekites. In a perverted way, he is seeking to overturn the reason for his rejection as king. 

1Sa 22:20 One of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled to David-
If Doeg acted alone, as we have the impression he did from :18,19, the escape of at least one would be unsurprising. Again we see how the whole situation is so circumstantially credible.

1Sa 22:21 Abiathar told David that Saul had killed Yahweh’s priests-
Doeg slew them, but clearly Saul was the one counted responsible. Just as it was the Jews and not the Romans who slew God's Son. To slay such a large community of priests shows how Saul was not interested in true spirituality; for they would have been a major loss to God's people, and service of Yahweh would have been so much the harder without them.

1Sa 22:22 David said to Abiathar, I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul-
Yet again, the record has every semblance of absolute credibility. For this is the kind of premonition which is true to real life. Contemporary histories are full of flourishes and embellishments, in stark contrast to the truth of God's word.

I am responsible for the death of all the people of your father’s house-
As with his feeling of unnecessary guilt over the plague that struck Israel for refusing to pay the required tax when they were numbered, so here again we mull whether David was rather too emotionally taking at least some false guilt. But constantly we are left to ponder things with David- because the overall judgment of him appears to be that he was indeed a man after God's heart, a believer, but the good side in him only just tipped the balance against the other side. It would appear from Ps. 18:45 that Saul was supported by foreign mercenaries in his campaign against David. When Saul is no more, David therefore exalts that "The foreigners shall fade away, and shall come trembling out of their close places". This alludes to how Saul's persecutors of David included "foreigners" such as Cush (see on Ps. 7:1) and Doeg the Edomite.

David’s eager taking of the sword of Goliath (1 Sam. 21:9- “There is none like that; give it me”) contrasts sadly with his earlier rejection of such weapons in order to slay Goliath. And David later reflects how he knew that his faithless taking of that sword and the shewbread would lead to the death of Abiathar’s family (1 Sam. 22:22). But still he did it. This was one reason why he is criticized by God as having shed too much blood (1 Chron. 22:8).

1Sa 22:23 Stay with me, don’t be afraid, for he who seeks my life seeks your life. With me you will be safe
This is alluded to in Jn. 14:1 "Do not let your heart be disturbed. Believe in God, believe also in me"; 15:4 "Abide in me and I in you",20 "A servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you". David's men are clearly presented as the disciples of Jesus, and ourselves. Saul sought the life of David (s.w. 1 Sam. 20:1; 22:23; 23:15; 25:29; 2 Sam. 4:8). In the Psalms, David frequently imprecates judgment upon those who sought his life (s.w. Ps. 35:4; 38:12; 40:14; 54:3; 63:9; 70:2; 71:13; 86:14). He loved Saul, the life of Saul was precious in David's sight, indeed the historical records seem to emphasize David's patient love of Saul; and yet in the Psalms he gives vent before God to his anger with Saul and desire to see Saul punished and judged by God. This is absolutely true to human experience; we may act with great patience and apparent love toward those who abuse us, and yet within we fume about it. The lesson of David is that we are to pour out those feelings to God in prayer, leaving Him to judge.

"You will be safe" implies David was now confident that he would be kept safe from Saul until he became king and Saul was dead. David has been through a very weak period, taking Goliath's sword, fleeing to Gath, lying to Abiathar... but now his faith rallies and he is again confident that he will indeed be preserved from Saul. 1 Sam. 23 goes on to picture David as strong in faith again. This resurgence of faith was triggered by his repentance for his visit to Nob, and by his commitment to Abiathar, his looking out of himself to the salvation of another.

Psalm 34 was written as reflection upon his deliverance from Gath (Ps. 34:1). But in that Psalm, David reflects that it is good not to tell lies (Ps. 34:13 "Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking lies"). But David himself has been noted for how many lies he told, not least in this context both to Ahimelech [resulting in his flight to Gath] and then in Gath (Ps. 34:1). So here we have some kind of repentance for his behaviour in Gath. And this leads to his higher point of faith as discussed here on 1 Sam. 22:23.