TEXT: 1 Samuel 22:1-23
D avid had some turbulent moments on his way to the throne. He had been a victim of a cruel persecutor who would stop at nothing to eliminate him simply because God had elevated him. Saul was in a hot chase for the son of Jesse who, by the help of the Lord, wrought deliverance for Israel against the Philistines. David had also been an instrument of relief to Saul when an evil spirit tormented him. For no fault of his, he had to be in flight from one place to another for fear that Saul’s multi-pronged fang would catch up with him. However, we see God working inexorably to protect and preserve him until the day of his coronation and elevation to the throne. David’s experience with Saul underscores the possibility of persecution of the righteous without a cause, suffering for righteousness’ sake and having to endure misunderstandings, misrepresentations and hatred on the way to heaven. Truly, “many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19). The chapter under examination exposes Saul’s degeneracy, depravity and cruel determination to destroy an innocent soul. It shows the depth to which the king of Israel had sunk morally because of jealousy and unfounded fear. King Saul’s savage elimination of an entire religious community is the height of sacrilege and cruelty.
DAVID’S REFUGE IN THE CAVE OF ADULLAM (1 Samuel 22:1-8; Psalm 142:1-5; 57:1-11; Isaiah 40:28-31; Matthew 11:28-31; Acts 27:20-25)
Due to King Saul’s relentless pursuit and determination to kill David, it was no longer safe for him (David) to go to his house, the palace or any other place within Israel’s territory. “David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave of Adullam…” The name ‘Adullam’ means refuge. It was located within the territory of Judah, not far from Israel’s border with Philistia, but between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. David must have found safety in this place so as to escape Saul’s tentacles. The location also afforded him the opportunity to rue his predicament, meditate on the ways of God and pour out his heart before Him. It is believed that the contents of Psalms 57:1-11 and 142:1-7 were penned in this place; this affirmed that the perplexing situation drew him to seek refuge in God. He said, “I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble. I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul. I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living” (Psalm 142:2,4,5). The import of this is that when we appear helpless, hopeless and disappointed, we can always find refuge in God. Secondly, it shows that the situation afforded him opportunity to wait on the Lord for strength, encouragement and victory. It enabled him to meditate, reflect on his past dealings, pray and possibly repent of his sin of lying to Ahimelech. Thirdly, with much more sublime and noble exercise of humility, he was able to seek God’s face, crying out, “Be merciful unto me, O God, Be merciful unto me” (Psalm 57:1). Finally, it was time to praise the Lord for past deliverances while trusting Him for future help (Psalm 57:5,11).
Unlike King Saul, David did not trade blames for his predicament; rather, he took time apart to exalt God’s mercy and power. His attitude is a challenge to believers to put up positive attitudes when they are under persecution, to remember to praise God for His past mercies while believing Him to give them victory. Believers who are under intense persecution or immobilized by circumstances should utilize the period for sober reflection, self-examination and, if need be, confession and repentance of any known sin. The situation in Israel at this time appeared so melancholic under Saul to the point that “every one that was in
distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him [David]; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.” These were people negatively affected under Saul’s tyranny – those in distress due to the situation in the kingdom and those in debt due to the neglect of God’s laws. Also, they perceived that David was being unjustly hounded and decided to switch loyalty to him with hope for a better future. Dreading their fate, David’s family also fled their homes to join him. There was a general discontent in the land. The Scripture
says, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).
The categories of people who resorted to David can be likened to the general state of humanity. Men and women without the grace of Christ are distressed, disoriented and discontented. And, like David received these people and became captain over them, giving them protection, purpose and direction in life, the Son of David is ready to receive the distressed sinning souls who He will transform, train and commission for Kingdom service. He says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). David’s effort to transfer his aged parents to a secure location is also worthy of mention. Our parents, the elderly and aged ones should be cared for despite our commitments and service in the Lord’s vineyard.
“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” (1 Samuel 22:5). Gad forewarned David to relocate from his stronghold. This counsel was definitely one of God’s ways of testing and making him exercise faith, wisdom and courage in Him in preparation for the kingdom. It was to teach David to walk by faith and not by sight. The ministry of true prophets of God is indispensable for the health, growth and safety of the flock of Christ. They are needed in the church to teach, warn and provide direction (Ephesians 4:11,12).
DOEG’S REPORT ABOUT DAVID AND AHIMELECH: (1 Samuel 22:6-10; 21:7; Exodus 23:1; Proverbs 6:18,19)
With a feeling of self-pity, Saul accused his aids of treason and disloyalty. He alleged: “…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? (1 Samuel 22:8). This suggests that many of his servants were not in agreement with him in the matter of David. His persistent murderous quest for
the innocent life of David did not go down well with everyone in his kingdom. They knew what David had done for their nation: how he risked his life to confront Goliath and fought many battles.
Saul combined worldly wisdom, politics and tribal sentiment to get information about David and Jonathan, his own son. He asked the people if a man from Judah would favour the tribe of Benjamin with riches. “Will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards…?” He became emotional and insinuated that the people were unfaithful for conspiring against him. “And all of you have conspired against me… there is none of you that is sorry for me.” “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” (1 Samuel 22:9). Doeg did a dirty job and indicted Ahimelech the priest to be David’s accomplice who gave him Goliath’s sword to fight against Saul. His action led to the destruction of the city of priests. Obviously, Doeg did not mean well for David and harbored
the same hatred for him. Being a descendant of Edom (Esau), he carried on a generational hatred for the Israelites. It is important to be objective when making reports about people. Reports and petitions that are meant to feather our nests of hatred and cause harm to others are not of God. “Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous
witness” (Exodus 23:1). This is different from reporting sin or any evil going on in the church. Believers need to be careful and prayerful in handling such matters.
DASTARDLY MURDER OF THE PRIESTS (1 Samuel 22:11-23; Exodus 20:13; Matthew 5:21; 1 John 3:15; Ecclesiastes 9:18; 2 Samuel 21:1,2)
Upon the indictment of Ahimelech by Doeg, Saul summoned him and his entire house to answer the charges against them which included conspiracy, giving bread and sword to David, and enquiring from God for him. Ahimelech pleaded his innocence: “for thy servant knew nothing of all this, less or more.” Grounds for Ahimelech’s innocence were that he believed David was one of the most faithful of all Saul’s servants; that he was only seeking to do good to Saul’s son in-law; that he was on errand for the king; and so on. He even remarked: “Who is as faithful among all your servants as David?” However, backslidden and demon-inspired Saul did not care for the reasons given by Ahimelech; rather, he rashly passed a sentence of death on and his household. To their credit, Saul’s servants declined his instruction to execute Ahimelech because they feared the Lord who said in His word, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalm 105:15). However, Doeg,
willing to please his master at any cost, carried out the king’s order and murdered eighty-five priests of the Lord. The vengeful king, not satisfied with this, went ahead to treat the innocent city of Nob as an enemy territory. “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” (1 Samuel 22:19). Only Abiathar, Ahimelech’s son, escaped the massacre. Saul’s order was cruel and barbaric, to say the least. Children of God should never, for fear of the consequences, bear false witness against anyone or carry out an ungodly decree. The Lord had said, thou shall not kill, but Doeg, the priest to offer him needed support. These, however, would neither expiate Saul’s guilt nor reduce Doeg’s punishment for the blood of the priests and inhabitants of Nob. Everyone involved in this evil deed or any other shall surely be judged. The Scripture says, “Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished…” (Proverbs 11:21). The only option of escape for all sinners and wicked persons is genuine repentance and turning away from evil; else, God’s fiery judgment will surely be visited upon them. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).