In chapters 21-22, David is depicted as a "captain" (22:2) in charge of a number of "men" (21:2, 4-5; 22:6). The three incidents recorded here (21:1-9; 21:10-22:5; 22:6-23) are arranged in such a way that the first and last, dealing with the priests at Nob in Benjamin, frame the second, which deals with David's escape to three different locales:
1. Gath in Philistia: Goliath's hometown (17:4), where David feigned prophetic madness in order to preserve his life in the face of Achish, the king. The story speaks to David's widening fame and belittles the Philistines who cannot discern true prophets from the insane (21:10-15).
2. Adullam in Judah: outside Bethlehem, David's hometown (16:1), where David set up his headquarters and swelled his forces with the marginalized who fled to him, increasing his guerilla band (22:1-2).
3. Mizpeh in Moab: the home of David's family (Ruth 1:4; 4:13, 16-17), where David demonstrates his care and concern for his parents and is warned by God through the prophet Gad (22:3-5).
7 Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the Lord; his name was Doeg the Edomite, the chief of Sauls shepherds.
8 David said to Ahimelech, Is there no spear or sword here with you? I did not bring my sword or my weapons with me, because the kings business required haste. 9The priest said, The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the valley of Elah, is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod; if you will take that, take it, for there is none here except that one. David said, There is none like it; give it to me.
10 David rose and fled that day from Saul; he went to King Achish of Gath.
11The servants of Achish said to him, Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances,
Saul has killed his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands?
12David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of King Achish of Gath. 13So he changed his behaviour before them; he pretended to be mad when in their presence.* He scratched marks on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle run down his beard. 14Achish said to his servants, Look, you see the man is mad; why then have you brought him to me? 15Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?
22David left there and escaped to the cave of Adullam; when his brothers and all his fathers house heard of it, they went down there to him. 2Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them. Those who were with him numbered about four hundred.
3 David went from there to Mizpeh of Moab. He said to the king of Moab, Please let my father and mother come* to you, until I know what God will do for me. 4He left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him all the time that David was in the stronghold. 5Then the prophet Gad said to David, Do not remain in the stronghold; leave, and go into the land of Judah. So David left, and went into the forest of Hereth.
6 Saul heard that David and those who were with him had been located. Saul was sitting at Gibeah, under the tamarisk tree on the height, with his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing around him. 7Saul said to his servants who stood around him, Hear now, you Benjaminites; will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, will he make you all commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? 8Is that why all of you have conspired against me? No one discloses to me when my son makes a league with the son of Jesse, none of you is sorry for me or discloses to me that my son has stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as he is doing today. 9Doeg the Edomite, who was in charge of Sauls servants, answered, I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech son of Ahitub; 10he inquired of the Lord for him, gave him provisions, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.
11 The king sent for the priest Ahimelech son of Ahitub and for all his fathers house, the priests who were at Nob; and all of them came to the king. 12Saul said, Listen now, son of Ahitub. He answered, Here I am, my lord. 13Saul said to him, Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, by giving him bread and a sword, and by inquiring of God for him, so that he has risen against me, to lie in wait, as he is doing today?
14 Then Ahimelech answered the king, Who among all your servants is so faithful as David? He is the kings son-in-law, and is quick* to do your bidding, and is honoured in your house. 15Is today the first time that I have inquired of God for him? By no means! Do not let the king impute anything to his servant or to any member of my fathers house; for your servant has known nothing of all this, much or little. 16The king said, You shall surely die, Ahimelech, you and all your fathers house. 17The king said to the guard who stood around him, Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because their hand also is with David; they knew that he fled, and did not disclose it to me. But the servants of the king would not raise their hand to attack the priests of the Lord. 18Then the king said to Doeg, You, Doeg, turn and attack the priests. Doeg the Edomite turned and attacked the priests; on that day he killed eighty-five who wore the linen ephod. 19Nob, the city of the priests, he put to the sword; men and women, children and infants, oxen, donkeys, and sheep, he put to the sword.
20 But one of the sons of Ahimelech son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David. 21Abiathar told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord. 22David said to Abiathar, I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I am responsible* for the lives of all your fathers house. 23Stay with me, and do not be afraid; for the one who seeks my life seeks your life; you will be safe with me.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
10 February 2011