David at Adullam and Mizpah
v1 David left Gath and went to a cave near Adullam. His brothers and his father’s family discovered where he had gone. So they all went to visit him. v2 Many people who had troubles went to David. People who had debts or who were not content also went to him. About 400 people went to David and he became their leader.
v3 David then went to the town of Mizpah in the country of Moab. David said to the king of Moab, ‘Please let my father and mother stay with you for a short time. I need to learn what God will do for me’. v4So David left his parents with the king of Moab. They stayed with the king all the time that David hid in the safe place.
v5 Gad the *prophet said to David, ‘Do not stay in the safe place. Go to the land of *Judah’. So, David left the safe place and went to the forest at Hereth.
David’s family was from the town of Bethlehem (16:1) in the country that belonged to the *tribe of *Judah. Adullam was half way between Gath and Bethlehem. So, David was now returning to his home area. There were some caves near Adullam. People who had no home used to live in the caves. Many people went to David. Perhaps the people who had debts and troubles wanted to escape from the leaders of their towns. Perhaps other people opposed Saul as their king. All these men trusted David. He trained them to become a small army. This army never attacked Saul or the *Israelites. They were loyal to David.
David’s family left Bethlehem. They did not want Saul to kill them. David obeyed the law of God that is in Exodus 20:12, ‘Give honour to your father and mother’. He could not protect his parents so he sent them to a safe place. David’s great grandmother Ruth came from Moab (Ruth 4:17). So, the king of Moab kept David’s parents safe from Saul. We do not know where Mizpah was. But we believe that it was the royal town.
David ‘hid in the safe place’. This often referred to a cave up in a cliff. Or it referred to a town that people guarded very well. Verse 5 shows that this safe place was not in *Judah. David and his men had to keep hiding in different places. When David wrote some of the Psalms he described God as a ‘safe place’ (for example Psalms 18:2; 37:39; 144:2). David trusted God and God kept him safe. Men tried to kill David but God protected him.
Gad, who was a *prophet, now came and joined David. Gad spoke God’s words and directed David. (Samuel had done this for Saul in the past.) Later, Gad wrote about the events that happened while David was king (1 Chronicles 29:29). Gad also decided how people should *worship in the house of the *Lord (2 Chronicles 29:25). In 2 Samuel 24:11-25 Gad had to oppose David when he *sinned. Now Gad told David to go back to the country of *Judah. David and his men could easily hide in a forest.
Saul kills Ahimelech’s family at Nob
v6 Then Saul heard that someone had found David and his men. Saul was sitting under the large tree on the hill near Gibeah. He was holding a *spear. All his officers surrounded him. v7 Saul said to them, ‘Men from the *tribe of Benjamin, listen to me and understand what I say. The son of Jesse will not give you fields and vineyards. He will not make you officers of men in his army. v8 So why have you made plans against me? No one tells me when my son makes a special promise with the son of Jesse. No one cares about me. No one tells me that one of my servants wants to kill me now. And my son has encouraged him’.
v9 But Doeg, from the country of Edom, was standing with Saul’s officers. Doeg said, ‘I saw the son of Jesse. He came to the town of Nob and visited Ahimelech who is the son of Ahitub. v10 Ahimelech asked the *Lord what David should do. Then he gave David some food and the sword that belonged to Goliath the *Philistine’.
v11 Then king Saul sent for the priest Ahimelech son of Ahitub and all his relatives. They were all priests and they lived in the town of Nob. They all came to the king. v12 Saul said, ‘Listen to me, son of Ahitub’.
Ahimelech answered, ‘Yes, master’.
v13 Saul said to him, ‘Why are you and the son of Jesse plotting against me? You gave him bread and a sword. You prayed to God for him. He opposes me. Now he is even waiting to attack me’.
v14 Ahimelech answered, ‘David is the most loyal servant that you have. He is your son-in-law. He is the captain of the men who guard you. Everyone in your family gives him honour.
v15 I have prayed to God for David many times in the past. This was not the first time. King Saul, do not accuse me or my family. We know nothing about what is happening’.
v16 King Saul said, ‘Ahimelech, you and all your relatives must die’.
v17 Then the king gave orders to the officers who guarded him, ‘Go and kill the priests of the *Lord. They are supporting David. They knew that he was escaping from me. But they did not tell me’.
But the king’s officers refused to kill the priests of the *Lord.
v18 So the king commanded Doeg, ‘Go and kill the priests’. So, Doeg the Edomite went and killed the priests. He killed 85 priests who wore the *linen *ephod. v19 He also killed all the people in the town of Nob, which was the town of the priests. He killed the men and women, children and babies. He also killed the cows, *donkeys and sheep.
v20 But Abiathar escaped. He was a son of Ahimelech (who was the son of Ahitub). Abiathar ran away and joined David. v21 He told David that Saul had killed the priests of the *Lord. v22 David said to him, ‘When I went to the town of Nob, Doeg the Edomite was there too. I knew that he would tell Saul about me. I am responsible that he killed your father’s family. v23 Stay here with me. Do not be afraid. Saul wants to kill you and he wants to kill me too. You will be safe with me’.
Saul was sitting in the shade of a big tree. (This is similar to 14:2.) The name of this type of tree was a ‘tamarisk’ tree. Saul’s officers surrounded him. They protected and served him. Saul’s family and his officers came from the *tribe of Benjamin. But Saul did not know whom he could trust. He held a *spear so that he was ready to attack anyone. He did not trust even his own son. David was a popular person. Saul was probably afraid that some of his men might join David. Saul reminded his men that he had given them gifts of land. The plants in a ‘vineyard’ have fruit that people make into wine. Saul had given these gifts to his loyal men. Sometimes a king bought men’s friendship with gifts. Saul had also made the men leaders. David came from the *tribe of *Judah. If David became king he would probably choose leaders from the *tribe of *Judah and not from Benjamin. Saul called David ‘the son of Jesse’. He said this to insult David. However, Saul also called David ‘one of my servants’. Saul imagined that David wanted to kill him. In fact, Saul had tried to kill David several times.
Doeg told Saul what he had seen. Perhaps Doeg hoped that Saul would give him a reward. So, Saul wanted to talk to Ahimelech and all his relatives. Ahimelech was not afraid to meet Saul. He did not know that there was trouble. Ahimelech believed that David was still serving Saul. He also knew that David was a loyal member of Saul’s family. Ahimelech had an innocent conscience. But Saul thought that the priests had supported David instead of him. A king has great authority. People have to obey the king’s commands. But Saul’s officers refused to kill the priests. They would not hurt the men who served the *Lord. The officers had more respect for the *Lord than Saul had.
Doeg did not *worship the *Lord. The people of Edom *worshipped other *gods. So Doeg obeyed the king’s command. When the priests served the *Lord they wore a simple *ephod. *Linen is a material like cotton. Doeg killed all the priests. Then he killed everyone in the priests’ town. He even killed all their animals. Doeg’s action contrasts with Saul and the *Amalekites in 15:9. Saul refused to kill all the *Amalekites and their animals. However, Saul now uses his power to kill the priests of the *Lord. This act completed what God said in 3:11-13. David wrote Psalm 52 about Doeg and this event.
The *Lord saved one priest who could continue to serve him. Abiathar knew that he had to escape from Saul. So he went to David. He took the special *ephod with him (23:6). David now had a *prophet and a priest with him. The *Lord gave his messages to a *prophet. And the priest could give *sacrifices and ask the *Lord for his directions. Saul did not have any priests of the *Lord to help him now. Saul had killed all the other priests. But David felt responsible for this. So David now wanted to protect Abiathar. God had kept David safe from Saul. So, David knew that God would keep Abiathar safe too.