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1 Samuel 21:1-22:23 – David Grows in Military Might

Summary

In this section, David's military support grows in addition to the success he enjoys with all who meet him.

Analysis

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).

1 Samuel 21:1-22:23

David and the Holy Bread

21*David came to Nob to the priest Ahimelech. Ahimelech came trembling to meet David, and said to him, ‘Why are you alone, and no one with you?’ 2David said to the priest Ahimelech, ‘The king has charged me with a matter, and said to me, “No one must know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.” I have made an appointment* with the young men for such and such a place. 3Now then, what have you at hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.’ 4The priest answered David, ‘I have no ordinary bread at hand, only holy bread—provided that the young men have kept themselves from women.’ 5David answered the priest, ‘Indeed, women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition; the vessels of the young men are holy even when it is a common journey; how much more today will their vessels be holy?’ 6So the priest gave him the holy bread; for there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the Lord to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away.

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 Saul’s 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 king’s 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.’

David Flees to Gath

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?’

David and His Followers at Adullam

22David left there and escaped to the cave of Adullam; when his brothers and all his father’s 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.

Saul Slaughters the Priests

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 Saul’s 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 father’s 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 king’s 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 father’s 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 father’s 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 father’s 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.’

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10 February 2011

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