Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.Ch. 1 Samuel 22:1-5. David’s band of Followers
1. the cave Adullam] Rather, the cave of Adullam. Adullam was an ancient royal city of the Canaanites, in the neighbourhood of Jarmuth, Socoh, Azekah, and Shaaraim, all places in or near the valley of Elah (Joshua 12:15; Joshua 15:35). In this valley, about 2½ miles S. of the point where it takes an abrupt turn to the west, some ruins have been discovered bearing the name Aid el Ma, which is thought to be a corruption of Adullam. They lie at the foot of a high rounded hill, almost isolated by subordinate valleys, and commanding a fine view over the main valley to the east. It forms a natural fortress, well adapted for the site of a city, which numerous ruins shew once stood there. The sides of the tributary valleys are lined with rows of caves, amply sufficient to accommodate David’s 400 men, and still used for habitations. See Conder’s Tent Work, II. 157 ff. The traditional identification of Adullam with the cave at Khureitun, five miles S.E. of Bethlehem, is quite untenable.
they went down thither to him] For fear lest Saul might wreak his vengeance upon them. In the East it was not uncommon for a whole family to be put to death for the fault of one member, and the massacre at Nob soon shewed them what they might expect.
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.2. And every one, &c.] To the cave of Adullam resorted some who were smarting under the oppression of Saul’s tyranny; some who were involved in debt through the neglect of the laws concerning usury (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35-37); some who were in despair at the condition of the kingdom, and desired a leader from whom they might hope for better things.
he became a captain over them] That he could keep such a motley band in order is an evidence of David’s natural genius for ruling, which was further developed by this training.
about four hundred men] Soon increased to six hundred (1 Samuel 23:13). Among them were the three heroes who brought water from the well at Bethlehem (2 Samuel 23:13 ff.; 1 Chronicles 11:15 ff.); possibly the stalwart Gadites whose names are given in 1 Chronicles 12:8-15; and also the detachment from Judah and Benjamin led by Amasai (1 Chronicles 12:16-18).
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.3. Mizpeh of Moab] Mentioned here only. Perhaps either the strong rock citadel afterwards known as Kir-Moab, now Kerak is meant: or some place not in Moab proper, but on the mountains of Abarim or Pisgah north of the Arnon, which would be more easily accessible from Bethlehem by way of Jericho. The long purple wall of the mountains of Moab is a striking feature in the view from Bethlehem (Sin. and Pal. p. 104), and would naturally suggest a retreat thither: but no doubt it was his connexion with Moab through his great-grandmother Ruth, which chiefly induced David to choose that country as a refuge for his parents.
And he brought them before the king of Moab: and they dwelt with him all the while that David was in the hold.4. in the hold] “Hold” = stronghold or fortress: here apparently the Mizpeh of 1 Samuel 22:3. What became of David’s parents when he quitted the hold does not appear. A Jewish tradition affirms that the king of Moab betrayed his trust and murdered them, for which David exacted a heavy vengeance when he came to the throne (2 Samuel 8:2).
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.5. the prophet Gad] Mentioned here for the first time, and not again till David had come to the throne, when he appears as holding the office of “the king’s seer.” He was one of the chroniclers of David’s reign (1 Chronicles 29:29); helped in the arrangement of the musical services in the Temple (2 Chronicles 29:25); and was sent to offer David his choice of punishments for his sin in numbering the people (2 Samuel 24:11 ff.).
Abide not in the hold] The future king must not remain in a foreign land, but in the face of all risk return to his own country, in order that by such exploits as the relief of Keilah he might gain reputation, and prepare his way to the throne.
the forest of Hareth] Nowhere else mentioned and not identified with any certainty. Perhaps the name survives in Kharâs on the edge of the mountain chain two or three miles east of Keilah.
Psalms 63. is referred by its title to the time when David was in the wilderness of Judah: but internal evidence points rather to his flight from Absalom; 1 Samuel 22:11 implies that he was already king.
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;)6–19. Saul’s vengeance on the priests of Nob
6. that David was discovered] Lit. “was known.” Saul found out that some of his courtiers knew of David’s hiding-place in the forest of Hareth.
now Saul abode, &c.] Render, Now saul was sitting at Gibeah under the tamarisk tree on the height. We have here a vivid picture of a solemn conclave met to deliberate on affairs of state or to administer justice. The king sits in state under some venerable tamarisk (cp. 1 Samuel 14:2; Jdg 4:5); his spear, the emblem of royalty (see on 1 Samuel 18:10), is in his hand; his servants, still chiefly the men of his own tribe (1 Samuel 22:7), stand round him.
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;7. ye Benjamites] Saul appeals to tribal jealousies. Will not David promote his own fellow-tribesmen rather than the Benjamites?
captains of thousands, &c.] The sarcasm of these words gains point, if we may suppose that Saul had just heard of the organization of David’s handful of men (1 Chronicles 12:16-18).
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?8. hath made a league] Hath made a covenant, as in 1 Samuel 20:16. Saul seems to have heard what happened upon that occasion.
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.9. Then answered Doeg] The title of Psalms 52 states that it was composed by David in reference to this occasion. 1 Samuel 22:1-4 describe such a character as we may well suppose Doeg to have been. His tongue was “a false tongue,” because, though the facts he reported were true, he helped to confirm Saul in a false and cruel suspicion. It “devised destruction,” and “loved devouring words,” for his story was told with malicious intent and fatal result.
which was set over the servants of Saul] Or, for he was standing with the servants of Saul. The presence of the foreigner Doeg among the Benjamites is specially noticed. The Sept. (cp. 1 Samuel 21:7) reads, “Doeg the Syrian who was set over Saul’s mules.”
And he inquired of the LORD for him, and gave him victuals, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.10. he inquired of the Lord for him] See on 1 Samuel 10:23. This, though not expressly mentioned in ch. 21, was probably the chief object of David’s visit, and Ahimelech does not disclaim the charge (1 Samuel 22:15).
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.
And Saul said, Hear now, thou son of Ahitub. And he answered, Here I am, my lord.
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 inquired of God for him, that he should rise against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?
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 house?14. goeth at thy bidding] Probably, “has access to thy audience,” i.e. is a trusted privy-councillor. Cp. 2 Samuel 23:23, marg.
Did I then begin to inquire 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.15. Did I then begin] That day did I begin, &c.? The stress is upon these words. Ahimelech pleads that there was no harm in doing as he had often done before.
be it far from me] To plot against the king.
knew nothing of all this] Was in no way a party to the alleged conspiracy.
And the king said, Thou shalt surely die, Ahimelech, thou, and all thy father's house.
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.17. the footmen] Lit. “the runners.” See on ch. 1 Samuel 8:11; and for their employment as executioners comp. 2 Kings 10:25 (E. V. guard).
would not put forth their hand] They shrank from executing a command at once so cold-blooded and sacrilegious.
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.18. that did wear a linen ephod] See on 1 Samuel 2:18. The distinctive priestly dress should have reminded Saul of the sacredness of their persons.
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.19. And Nob, &c.] In the madness of his self-willed fury Saul wreaked upon an innocent city in his own kingdom the vengeance he had failed to execute upon a guilty heathen nation at God’s command (1 Samuel 15:3). Thus the doom upon the house of Eli (1 Samuel 2:31) received a fresh fulfilment. So heavy a blow was inflicted upon the family of Ithamar, that when David organized the courses of the priests for the temple service only eight “chief men” could be found in it, against sixteen in the family of Eleazar (1 Chronicles 24:4).
And one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped, and fled after David.20–23. Abiathar’s escape to David
20. Abiathar] Possibly Abiathar had remained at Nob in charge of the Tabernacle, and got timely warning of the approach of Doeg’s ruffians. Henceforward he was the companion of David’s wanderings, and helped him by “inquiring of the Lord” for him (1 Samuel 23:9, 1 Samuel 30:7; 2 Samuel 2:1, &c.). He held the office of high-priest till the close of David’s reign, when by some strange infatuation, after remaining faithful through Absalom’s rebellion, and “being afflicted in all wherein David was afflicted,” he took part in Adonijah’s rebellion, and was in consequence deposed by Solomon (1 Kings 2:26-27).
And Abiathar shewed David that Saul had slain the LORD'S priests.
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 house.22. I have occasioned, &c.] David’s conscience pricks him for having been, even indirectly, the cause of so great a calamity.
Abide thou with me, fear not: for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: but with me thou shalt be in safeguard.23. he that seeketh my life] Our lives are both in danger from one common enemy, so that our interests will be identical.