1 Samuel 22
David, being driven from Achish, returns into the land of Israel to be
hunted by Saul.
I. David sets up his standard in the cave of Adullam, entertains his
(1 Samuel 22:1),
(1 Samuel 22:2),
but removes his aged parents to a more quiet settlement
(1 Samuel 22:3,4),
and has the prophet Gad for his counsellor,
1 Samuel 22:5.
Saul resolves to pursue him and find him out, complains of his servants
(1 Samuel 22:6-8),
and, finding by Doeg's information that Ahimelech had been kind to
David, he ordered him and all the priests that were with him,
eighty-five in all, to be put to death, and all that belonged to them
(1 Samuel 22:9-19)
from the barbarous execution of which sentence Abiathar escaped to
1 Samuel 22:20-23.
|David in the Cave of Adullam.
||B. C. 1057.|
1 David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave
Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father's house heard
it, they went down thither to him.
2 And every one that was in distress, and every one that
was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered
themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there
were with him about four hundred men.
3 And David went thence to Mizpeh of Moab: and he said unto the
king of Moab, Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come
forth, and be with you, till I know what God will do for me.
4 And he brought them before the king of Moab: and they dwelt
with him all the while that David was in the hold.
5 And the prophet Gad said unto David, Abide not in the hold;
depart, and get thee into the land of Judah. Then David departed,
and came into the forest of Hareth.
I. David shelters himself in the cave of Adullam,
1 Samuel 22:1.
Whether it was a natural or artificial fastness does not appear; it is
probable that the access to it was so difficult that David thought
himself able, with Goliath's sword, to keep it against all the forces
of Saul, and therefore buried himself alive in it, while he was waiting
to see (and he says here,
1 Samuel 22:3)
what God would do with him. The promise of the kingdom implied a
promise of preservation to it, and yet David used proper means for his
own safety, otherwise he would have tempted God. He did not do any
thing that aimed to destroy Saul, but only to secure himself. He that
might have done great service to his country as a judge or general is
here shut up in a cave, and thrown by as a vessel in which there was no
pleasure. We must not think it strange if sometimes shining lights be
thus eclipsed and hidden under a bushel. Perhaps the apostle refers to
this instance of David, among others, when he speaks of some of the
Old-Testament worthies that wandered in deserts, in dens and caves
of the earth,
It was at this time that David penned
which is entitled, A prayer when David was in the cave; and
there he complains that no man would know him and that refuge
failed him, but hopes that shortly the righteous would compass him
II. Thither his relations flocked to him, his brethren and all his
father's house, to be protected by him, to give assistance to him,
and to take their lot with him. A brother is born for adversity.
Now, Joab, and Abishai, and the rest of his relations, came to him, to
suffer and venture with him, in hopes shortly to be advanced with him;
and they were so. The first three of his worthies were those that first
owed him when he was in the cave,
1 Chronicles 11:15-25,
III. Here he began to raise forces in his own defence,
1 Samuel 22:2.
He found by the late experiments he had made that he could not save
himself by flight, and therefore was necessitated to do it by force,
wherein he never acted offensively, never offered any violence to his
prince nor gave any disturbance to the peace of the kingdom, but only
used his forces as a guard to his own person. But, whatever defence his
soldiers were to him, they did him no great credit, for the regiment he
had was made up not of great men, nor rich men, nor stout men, no, nor
good men, but men in distress, in debt, and discontented, men of
broken fortunes and restless spirits, that were put to their shifts,
and knew not well what to do with themselves. When David had fixed his
headquarters in the cave of Adullam, they came and enlisted themselves
under him to the number of about 400. See what weak instruments God
sometimes makes use of, by which to bring about his own purposes. The
Son of David is ready to receive distressed souls, that will appoint
him their captain and be commanded by him.
IV. He took care to settle his parents in a place of safety. No such
place could he find in all the land of Israel while Saul was so
bitterly enraged against him and all that belonged to him for his sake;
he therefore goes with them to the king of Moab, and puts them under
1 Samuel 22:3,4.
1. With what a tender concern he provided for his aged parents. It was
not fit they should be exposed either to the frights or to the fatigues
which he must expect during his struggle with Saul (their age would by
no means bear such exposure); therefore the first thing he does is to
find them a quiet habitation, whatever became of himself. Let children
learn from this to show pity at home and requite their parents
(1 Timothy 5:4),
in every thing consulting their ease and satisfaction. Though ever so
highly preferred, and ever so much employed, let them not forget their
2. With what a humble faith he expects the issue of his present
distresses: Till I know what God will do for me. He expresses
his hopes very modestly, as one that had entirely cast himself upon God
and committed his way to him, expecting a good issue, not from his own
arts, or arms, or merits, but from what the wisdom, power, and goodness
of God would do for him. Now David's father and mother forsook him, but
God did not,
V. He had the advice and assistance of the prophet Gad, who probably
was one of the sons of the prophets that were brought up under Samuel,
and was by him recommended to David for his chaplain or spiritual
guide. Being a prophet, he would pray for him and instruct him in the
mind of God; and David, though he was himself a prophet, was glad of
his assistance. He advised him to go into the land of Judah
(1 Samuel 22:5),
as one that was confident of his own innocency, and was well assured of
the divine protection, and was desirous, even in his present hard
circumstances, to do some service to his tribe and country. Let him not
be ashamed to own his own cause nor decline the succours that would be
offered him. Animated by this word, there he determined to appear
publicly. Thus are the steps of a good man ordered by the
|Saul Destroys the Lord's Priests; the City of Nob Destroyed.
||B. C. 1057.|
6 When Saul heard that David was discovered, and the men that
were with him, (now Saul abode in Gibeah under a tree in Ramah,
having his spear in his hand, and all his servants were
standing about him;)
7 Then Saul said unto his servants that stood about him, Hear
now, ye Benjamites; will the son of Jesse give every one of you
fields and vineyards, and make you all captains of thousands,
and captains of hundreds;
8 That all of you have conspired against me, and there is
none that sheweth me that my son hath made a league with the son
of Jesse, and there is none of you that is sorry for me, or
sheweth unto me that my son hath stirred up my servant against
me, to lie in wait, as at this day?
9 Then answered Doeg the Edomite, which was set over the
servants of Saul, and said, I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob,
to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub.
10 And he enquired of the LORD for him, and gave him victuals,
and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.
11 Then the king sent to call Ahimelech the priest, the son of
Ahitub, and all his father's house, the priests that were in
Nob: and they came all of them to the king.
12 And Saul said, Hear now, thou son of Ahitub. And he
answered, Here I am, my lord.
13 And Saul said unto him, Why have ye conspired against me,
thou and the son of Jesse, in that thou hast given him bread, and
a sword, and hast enquired of God for him, that he should rise
against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?
14 Then Ahimelech answered the king, and said, And who is so
faithful among all thy servants as David, which is the king's son
in law, and goeth at thy bidding, and is honourable in thine
15 Did I then begin to enquire of God for him? be it far from
me: let not the king impute any thing unto his servant, nor
to all the house of my father: for thy servant knew nothing of
all this, less or more.
16 And the king said, Thou shalt surely die, Ahimelech, thou,
and all thy father's house.
17 And the king said unto the footmen that stood about him,
Turn, and slay the priests of the LORD; because their hand also
is with David, and because they knew when he fled, and did not
shew it to me. But the servants of the king would not put forth
their hand to fall upon the priests of the LORD.
18 And the king said to Doeg, Turn thou, and fall upon the
priests. And Doeg the Edomite turned, and he fell upon the
priests, and slew on that day fourscore and five persons that did
wear a linen ephod.
19 And Nob, the city of the priests, smote he with the edge of
the sword, both men and women, children and sucklings, and oxen,
and asses, and sheep, with the edge of the sword.
We have seen the progress of David's troubles; now here we have the
progress of Saul's wickedness. He seems to have laid aside the thoughts
of all other business and to have devoted himself wholly to the pursuit
of David. He heard at length, by the common fame of the country, that
David was discovered (that is, that he appeared publicly and
enlisted men into his service); and hereupon he called all his servants
about him, and sat down under a tree, or grove, in the high place at
Gibeah, with his spear in his hand for a sceptre, intimating the force
by which he designed to rule, and the present temper of his spirit, or
its distemper rather, which was to kill all that stood in his way. In
this bloody court of inquisition,
I. Saul seeks for information against David and Jonathan,
1 Samuel 22:7,8.
Two things he was willing to suspect and desirous to see proved, that
he might wreak his malice upon two of the best and most excellent men
he had about him:--
1. That his servant David did lie in wait for him and seek his
life, which was utterly false. He really sought David's life, and
therefore pretended that David sought his life, though he could not
charge him with any overt act that gave the least shadow of suspicion.
2. That his son Jonathan stirred him up to do so, and was confederate
with him in compassing and imagining the death of the king. This also
was notoriously false. A league of friendship there was between David
and Jonathan, but no conspiracy in any evil thing; none of the articles
of their covenant carried any mischief to Saul. If Jonathan had agreed,
after the death of Saul, to resign to David, in compliance with the
revealed will of God, what harm would that do to Saul? Yet thus the
best friends to their prince and country have often been odiously
represented as enemies to both; even Christ himself was so. Saul took
it for granted that Jonathan and David were in a plot against him, his
crown and dignity, and was displeased with his servants that they did
not give him information of it, supposing that they could not but know
it; whereas really there was no such thing. See the nature of a jealous
malice, and its pitiful arts to extort discoveries of things that are
not. He looked upon all about him as his enemies because they did not
say just as he said; and told them,
(1.) That they were very unwise, and acted against the interest both of
their tribe (for they were Benjamites, and David, if he were advanced,
would bring the honour into Judah which was now in Benjamin) and of
their families; for David would never be able to give them such rewards
as he had for them, of fields and vineyards, and such
preferments, to be colonels and captains.
(2.) That they were unfaithful: You have conspired against me.
What a continual agitation and torment are those in that give way to a
spirit of jealousy! If a ruler hearken to lies, all his servants are
that is, they seem to be so in his eyes.
(3.) That they were very unkind. He thought to work upon their good
nature with that word: There is none of you that is so much as
sorry for me, or solicitous for me, as some read it. By
these reasonings he stirred them up to act vigorously, as the
instruments of his malice, that they might take away his suspicions of
II. Though he could not learn any thing from his servants against David
or Jonathan, yet he got information from Doeg against Ahimelech the
1. An indictment is brought against Ahimelech by Doeg, and he himself
is evidence against him,
1 Samuel 22:9,10.
Perhaps Doeg, as bad as he was, would not have given this information
if Saul had not extorted it, for had he been very forward to it he
would have done it sooner: but now he thinks they must be all deemed
traitors if none of them be accusers, and therefore tells Saul what
kindness Ahimelech had shown to David, which he himself happened to be
an eye-witness of. He had enquired of God for him (which the
priest used not to do but for public persons and about public affairs)
and he had furnished him with bread and a sword. All this was
true; but it was not the whole truth. He ought to have told Saul
further that David had made Ahimelech believe he was then going upon
the king's business; so that what service he did to David, however it
proved, was designed in honour to Saul, and this would have cleared
Ahimelech, whom Saul had in his power, and would have thrown all the
blame upon David, who was out of his reach.
2. Ahimelech is seized, or summoned rather to appear before the king,
and upon this indictment he is arraigned. The king sent for him and all
the priests who then attended the sanctuary, whom he supposed to be
aiding and abetting; and they, not being conscious of any guilt, and
therefore not apprehensive of any danger, came all of them to the
(1 Samuel 22:11),
and none of them attempted to make an escape, or to flee to David for
shelter, as they would have done now that he had set up his standard if
they had been as much in his interests as Saul suspected they were.
Saul arraigns Ahimelech himself with the utmost disdain and indignation
(1 Samuel 22:12):
Hear now, thou son of Ahitub; not so much as calling him by his
name, much less giving him his title of distinction. By this it appears
that he had cast off the fear of God, that he showed no respect at all
to his priests, but took a pleasure in affronting them and insulting
them. Ahimelech holds up his hand at the bar in those words: "Here I
am, my lord, ready to hear my charge, knowing I have done no
wrong." He does not object to the jurisdiction of Saul's court, nor
insist upon an exemption as a priest, no, not though he is a high
priest, to which office that of the judge, or chief magistrate, had not
long since been annexed; but Saul having now the sovereignty vested in
him, in things pertaining to the king, even the high priest sets
himself on a level with common Israelites. Let every soul be
subject (even clergymen) to the higher powers.
3. His indictment is read to him
(1 Samuel 22:13),
that he, as a false traitor, had joined himself with the son of Jesse
in a plot to depose and murder the king. "His design" (says Saul) "was
to rise up against me, and thou didst assist him with victuals
and arms." See what bad constructions the most innocent actions are
liable to, how unsafe those are that live under a tyrannical
government, and what reason we have to be thankful for the happy
constitution and administration of the government we are under.
4. To this indictment he pleads, Not guilty,
1 Samuel 22:14,15.
He owns the fact, but denies that he did it traitorously or
maliciously, or with any design against the king. He pleads that he was
so far from knowing of any quarrel between Saul and David that he
really took David to have been then as much in favour at court as ever
he had been. Observe, He does not plead that David had told him an
untruth, and with that had imposed upon him, though really it was so,
because he would not proclaim the weakness of so good a man, no, not
for his own vindication, especially to Saul, who sought all occasions
against him; but he insists upon the settled reputation David had as
the most faithful of all the servants of Saul, the honour the king had
put upon him in marrying his daughter to him, the use the king had
often made of him, and the trust he had reposed on him: "He goes at
thy bidding, and is honourable in thy house, and therefore any one
would think it a meritorious piece of service to the crown to show him
respect, so far from apprehending it to be a crime." He pleads that he
had been wont to enquire of God for him when he was sent by Saul
upon any expedition, and did it now as innocently as ever he had done
it. He protests his abhorrence of the thought of being in a plot
against the king: "Be it far from me. I mind my own business,
and meddle not with state matters." He begs the king's favour: "Let
him not impute any crime to us;" and concludes with a declaration
of his innocency: Thy servant knew nothing of all this. Could
any man plead with more evidences of sincerity? Had he been tried by a
jury of honest Israelites, he would certainly have been acquitted, for
who can find any fault in him? But,
5. Saul himself gives judgment against him
(1 Samuel 22:16):
Thou shalt surely die, Ahimelech, as a rebel, thou and all
thy father's house. What could be more unjust? I saw under the
sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there,
(1.) It was unjust that Saul should himself, himself alone, give
judgment in his own cause, without any appeal to judge or prophet, to
his privy council, or to a council of war.
(2.) That so fair a plea should be overruled and rejected without any
reason given, or any attempt to disprove the allegations of it, but
purely with a high hand.
(3.) That sentence should be passed so hastily and with so much
precipitation, the judge taking no time himself to consider of it, nor
allowing the prisoner any time to move in arrest of judgment.
(4.) That the sentence should be passed not only on Ahimelech, himself,
who was the only person accused by Doeg, but on all his father's
house, against whom nothing was alleged: must the children be put
to death for the fathers?
(5.) That the sentence should be pronounced in passion, not for the
support of justice, but for the gratification of his brutish rage.
6. He issues out a warrant (a verbal warrant only) for the immediate
execution of this bloody sentence.
(1.) He ordered his footmen to be the executioners of this sentence,
but they refused,
1 Samuel 22:17.
Hereby he intended to put a further disgrace upon the priests; they may
not die by the hands of the men of war (as
1 Kings 2:29)
or his usual ministers of justice, but his footmen must triumph over
them, and wash their hands in their blood.
[1.] Never was the command of a prince more barbarously given: Turn
and slay the priests of the Lord. This is spoken with such an air
of impiety as can scarcely be paralleled. Had he seemed to forget their
sacred office or relation to God, and taken no notice of that, he would
thereby have intimated some regret that men of that character should
fall under his displeasure; but to call them the priests of the
Lord, when he ordered his footmen to cut their throats, looked as
if, upon that very account, he hated them. God having rejected him, and
ordered another to be anointed in his room, he seems well pleased with
this opportunity of being revenged on the priests of the Lord, since
God himself was out of his reach. What wickedness will not the evil
spirit hurry men to, when he gets the dominion! He alleged, in his
order that which was utterly false and unproved to him, that they knew
when David fled; whereas they knew nothing of the matter. But malice
and murder are commonly supported with lies.
[2.] Never was the command of a prince more honourably disobeyed. The
footmen had more sense and grace than their master. Though they might
expect to be turned out of their places, if not punished and put to
death for their refusal, yet, come on them what would, they would not
offer to fall upon the priests of the Lord, such a reverence had they
for their office, and such a conviction of their innocence.
(2.) He ordered Doeg (the accuser) to be the executioner, and he
obeyed. One would have thought that the footmen's refusal would awaken
Saul's conscience, and that he would not insist upon the doing of a
thing so barbarous as that his footmen startled at the thought of it.
But his mind was blinded and his heart hardened, and, if they will not
do it, the hands of the witness shall be upon the victims,
The most bloody tyrants have found out instruments of their cruelty as
barbarous as themselves. Doeg is no sooner commanded to fall upon the
priests than he does it willingly enough, and, meeting with no
resistance, slays with his own hand (for aught that appears) on that
same day eighty-five priests that were of the age of ministration,
between twenty and fifty, for they wore a linen ephod
(1 Samuel 22:18),
and perhaps appeared at this time before Saul in their habits, and were
slain in them. This (one would think) was enough to satiate the most
blood-thirsty; but the horseleech of persecution still cries, "Give,
give." Doeg, by Saul's order no doubt, having murdered the priests,
went to their city Nob, and put all to the sword there
(1 Samuel 22:19),
men, women, and children, and the cattle too. Barbarous cruelty,
and such as one cannot think of without horror! Strange that ever it
should enter into the heart of man to be so impious, so inhuman! We may
see in this,
[1.] The desperate wickedness of Saul when the Spirit of the Lord had
departed from him. Nothing so vile but those may be hurried to it who
have provoked God to give them up to their hearts' lusts. He that was
so compassionate as to spare Agag and the cattle of the Amalekites, in
disobedience to the command of God, could now, with unrelenting bowels,
see the priests of the Lord murdered, and nothing spared of all that
belonged to them. For that sin God left him to this.
[2.] The accomplishment of the threatenings long since pronounced
against the house of Eli; for Ahimelech and his family were descendants
from him. Though Saul was unrighteous in doing this, yet God was
righteous in permitting it. Now God performed against Eli that at which
the ears of those that heard it must needs tingle, as he had told him
that he would judge his house for ever
1 Samuel 3:11-13.
No word of God shall fall to the ground.
[3.] This may be considered as a great judgment upon Israel, and the
just punishment of their desiring a king before the time God intended
them one. How deplorable was the state of religion at this time in
Israel! Though the ark had long been in obscurity, yet it was some
comfort to them that they had the altar, and priests to serve at it;
but now to see their priests weltering in their own blood, and the
heirs of the priesthood too, and the city of the priests made a
desolation, so that the altar of God must needs be neglected for want
of attendants, and this by the unjust and cruel order of their own king
to satisfy his brutish rage--this could not but go to the heart of all
pious Israelites, and make them wish a thousand times they had been
satisfied with the government of Samuel and his sons. The worst enemies
of their nation could not have done them a greater mischief.
||B. C. 1057.|
20 And one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named
Abiathar, escaped, and fled after David.
21 And Abiathar shewed David that Saul had slain the LORD's
22 And David said unto Abiathar, I knew it that day, when
Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul: I
have occasioned the death of all the persons of thy father's
23 Abide thou with me, fear not: for he that seeketh my life
seeketh thy life: but with me thou shalt be in safeguard.
1. The escape of Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech, out of the desolations
of the priests' city. Probably when his father went to appear, upon
Saul's summons, he was left at home to attend the altar, by which means
he escaped the first execution, and, before Doeg and his bloodhounds
came to Nob, he had intelligence of the danger, and had time to shift
for his own safety. And whither should he go but to David?
1 Samuel 22:20.
Let those that suffer for the Son of David commit the keeping of
their souls to him,
1 Peter 4:19.
2. David's resentment of the melancholy tidings he brought. He gave
David an account of the bloody work Saul had made among the priests of
(1 Samuel 22:21),
as the disciples of John, when their master was beheaded, went and
And David greatly lamented the calamity itself, but especially his
being accessory to it: I have occasioned the death of all the
persons of thy father's house,
1 Samuel 22:22.
Note, It is a great trouble to a good man to find himself in any way an
occasion of the calamities of the church and ministry. David knew
Doeg's character so well that he feared he would do some such mischief
as this when he saw him at the sanctuary: I knew he would tell
Saul. He calls him Doeg the Edomite, because he retained the
heart of an Edomite, though, by embracing the profession of the Jewish
religion, he had put on the mask of an Israelite.
3. The protection he granted to Abiathar. He perceived him to be
terrified, as he had reason to be, and therefore bade him not to fear,
he would be as careful for him as for himself: With me thou shalt be
1 Samuel 22:23.
David, having now time to recollect himself, speaks with assurance of
his own safety, and promises that Abiathar shall have the full benefit
of his protection. It is promised to the Son of David that God will
hide him in the shadow of his hand
and, with him, all that are his may be sure that they shall be in
David had now not only a prophet, but a priest, a high-priest, with
him, to whom he was a blessing and they to him, and both a happy omen
of his success. Yet it appears (by
1 Samuel 28:6)
that Saul had a high priest too, for he had a urim to consult: it is
supposed that he preferred Ahitub the father of Zadok, of the family of
(1 Chronicles 6:8),
for even those that hate the power of godliness yet will not be without
the form. It must not be forgotten here that David at this time penned
as appears by the title of that psalm, wherein he represents Doeg not
only as malicious and spiteful, but as false and deceitful, because
though what he said was, for the substance of it, true, yet he put
false colours upon it, with a design to do mischief. Yet even then,
when the priesthood had become as a withered branch, he looks upon
himself as a green olive-tree in the house of God,
In this great hurry and distraction that David was continually in, yet
he found both time and a heart for communion with God, and found
comfort in it.