A view towards Bishopsteignton in mist. As the mist clears, everything becomes clearer

1 Samuel 22:1-23, 23:1-29

David in cave of Adullam
Saul kills priests at Nob
Saul persues David.

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In chapter 21 we left David on the run from Saul, who was intent on killing him.

He had attempted to find safe haven with the Philistines at Gath, but had been turned away.

With David’s life threatened, His parents and brothers were also at risk.

Obviously, there were many people who were loyal to David and as soon as the rumours got out as to where he might be hiding, his family were the first to be told.

Map: David flees

Now read 1 Samuel 22:1-4

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered round him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.

3 From there David went to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab, ‘Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what God will do for me?’ 4 So he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him as long as David was in the stronghold.

Moab was an independent peaceful nation, reasonably near, and probably the best place for David’s parents to take refuge. It would appear that his brothers may have remained with David.

Note too ‘those who were in distress or in debt or discontented’! Obviously there were many who saw David’s flight as a chance to make a fresh start and were happy to throw their lot in with him.

Read 1 Samuel 22:5

5 But the prophet Gad said to David, ‘Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah.’ So David left and went to the forest of Hereth.

Who was the prophet Gad? Where did he come from? We don’t know but we will meet him again during David’s life. Obviously David knew him as a prophet of God and was happy to obey him.

Amazingly, all this time Jonathan remained loyal to his father.

Again we now have a large portion of narrative which is best uninterrupted! Maybe several could share, reading 1 Samuel 22:6-23

6 Now Saul heard that David and his men had been discovered. And Saul was seated, spear in hand, under the tamarisk tree on the hill at Gibeah, with all his officials standing at his side. 7 He said to them, ‘Listen, men of Benjamin! Will the son of Jesse give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? 8 Is that why you have all conspired against me? No one tells me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is concerned about me or tells me that my son has incited my servant to lie in wait for me, as he does today.’

9 But Doeg the Edomite, who was standing with Saul’s officials, said, ‘I saw the son of Jesse come to Ahimelek son of Ahitub at Nob. 10 Ahimelek enquired of the Lord for him; he also gave him provisions and the sword of Goliath the Philistine.’

11 Then the king sent for the priest Ahimelek son of Ahitub and all the men of his family, who were the priests at Nob, and they all came to the king. 12 Saul said, ‘Listen now, son of Ahitub.’

‘Yes, my lord,’ he answered.

13 Saul said to him, ‘Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, giving him bread and a sword and enquiring of God for him, so that he has rebelled against me and lies in wait for me, as he does today?’

14 Ahimelek answered the king, ‘Who of all your servants is as loyal as David, the king’s son-in-law, captain of your bodyguard and highly respected in your household? 15 Was that day the first time I enquired of God for him? Of course not! Let not the king accuse your servant or any of his father’s family, for your servant knows nothing at all about this whole affair.’

16 But the king said, ‘You shall surely die, Ahimelek, you and your whole family.’

17 Then the king ordered the guards at his side: ‘Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because they too have sided with David. They knew he was fleeing, yet they did not tell me.’

But the king’s officials were unwilling to raise a hand to strike the priests of the Lord.

18 The king then ordered Doeg, ‘You turn and strike down the priests.’ So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck them down. That day he killed eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod. 19 He also put to the sword Nob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep.

20 But one son of Ahimelek son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled to join David. 21 He told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord. 22 Then David said to Abiathar, ‘That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your whole family. 23 Stay with me; don’t be afraid. The man who wants to kill you is trying to kill me too. You will be safe with me.’

I believe the term ‘insane rage’ would be appropriate to apply to Saul – yet even at his most vengeful, killing the priests and their families – this act was in line with God’s punishment ordered on the wicked priests Hophni and Phinehas (1 Samuel 2:27-33). But note too that this whole priestly line was not wiped out, Abiathar was spared.

It is possible, following this act, that King Saul arranged for the Tabernacle to be moved to Gibeon and in 1 Chronicles 16:39 we read that Zadok, of the line of Eleazar, was its priest. (See the chart of Levi’s family tree in study 1)

Now read 1 Samuel 23:1-4

When David was told, ‘Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing-floors,’ 2 he enquired of the Lord, saying, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’

The Lord answered him, ‘Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’

3 But David’s men said to him, ‘Here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!’

4 Once again David enquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him, ‘Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.’

David and his small rebel army were hiding out in a forest about twelve miles from the city of Keilah, a town just on the Philistine border. News travelled amazingly quickly in those days so by now their whereabouts was probably known to Saul. And that meant David’s men were afraid.

But news of the Philistine raiders had also reached David and his reaction was to fight! But not before enquiring of the Lord. Read verse 6

6 (Now Abiathar son of Ahimelek had brought the ephod down with him when he fled to David at Keilah.)

How fortunate! David enquired of the Lord, twice, and both times the Lord said attack!

Read verse 5

5 So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah.

Having defeated the Philistines, David and his men enjoyed a few days of respite in Keilah. But back at the palace . . .

Read verses 7-8

7 Saul was told that David had gone to Keilah, and he said, ‘God has delivered him into my hands, for David has imprisoned himself by entering a town with gates and bars.’ 8 And Saul called up all his forces for battle, to go down to Keilah to besiege David and his men.

Again, news of Saul’s attack travelled faster than his army, so

Read verses 9-12

9 When David learned that Saul was plotting against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, ‘Bring the ephod.’ 10 David said, ‘Lord, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me.

11 Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? Lord, God of Israel, tell your servant.’

And the Lord said, ‘He will.’

12 Again David asked, ‘Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?’

And the Lord said, ‘They will.’

The Ephod, with its Urim and Thummim was no magic trick. It was simply a bag with stones in. But if you trusted the Lord completely to guide the hand of his priest, it was a very quick way to find the Lord’s will. David asked two very specific yes/no questions – will Saul attack? Will Keilah hand me and my men over to Saul?

The answers were predictable, so David and his men – now up from his original four hundred – have to move on quickly. They now headed back towards the Dead Sea.

Read verses 13-15

13 So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there.

14 David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.

15 While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life.

Now with an Army of six hundred men, David could not be ignored. Saul had to make a determined attack on him if he was to have any rest. Where could David run to? At this point the Lord decided to remind David that he didn’t need to run.

Read verses 16-18

16 And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him to find strength in God. 17 ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You shall be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.’ 18 The two of them made a covenant before the Lord. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.

It is such a comfort to have a true Godly friend to come alongside us when we are in trouble. Note verse 16 ‘helped him to find strength in God’ – Jonathan didn’t offer any ‘good ideas’, he simply encouraged David in his walk with the Lord, and the result was ‘David remained at Horesh’. He could Trust the Lord to protect him and he now knew Jonathan was right when he said ‘Saul will not lay a hand on you. You shall be king over Israel’.

Read verses 19-25

19 The Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah and said, ‘Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hakilah, south of Jeshimon? 20 Now, Your Majesty, come down whenever it pleases you to do so, and we will be responsible for giving him into your hands.’

21 Saul replied, ‘The Lord bless you for your concern for me. 22 Go and get more information. Find out where David usually goes and who has seen him there. They tell me he is very crafty. 23 Find out about all the hiding-places he uses and come back to me with definite information. Then I will go with you; if he is in the area, I will track him down among all the clans of Judah.’

24 So they set out and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. Now David and his men were in the Desert of Maon, in the Arabah south of Jeshimon. 25 Saul and his men began the search, and when David was told about it, he went down to the rock and stayed in the Desert of Maon. When Saul heard this, he went into the Desert of Maon in pursuit of David.

David’s army of six hundred men was not easy to hide, or even move about from place to place. Saul’s army of thousands should easily be able to catch them up and surround them.

Read verses 26-29

26 Saul was going along one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side, hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his forces were closing in on David and his men to capture them, 27 a messenger came to Saul, saying, ‘Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land.’ 28 Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines. That is why they call this place Sela Hammahlekoth. (Rock of parting) 29 And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi.

Can we have the same trust in the Lord that David did?

1 Samuel 13 1 Samuel 15 NIV Copyright