1 Samuel 22
Clarke's Commentary
David flees to the cave of Adullam, where he is joined by four hundred men of various descriptions, 1 Samuel 22:1, 1 Samuel 22:2. He goes afterwards to Moab; and by the advice of the prophet Gad, to the forest of Hareth, 1 Samuel 22:3-5. Saul, suspecting his servants of infidelity, upbraids them, 1 Samuel 22:6-8. Doeg informs him of David's coming to Nob; of his being entertained by Ahimelech; on which Saul slays Ahimelech and all the priests, to the number of eighty-five, and destroys the city of Nob, 1 Samuel 22:9-19. Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech, only escapes; he joins with David, by whom he is assured of protection, 1 Samuel 22:20-23.

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.
The cave Adullam - This was in the tribe of Judah, and, according to Eusebius and Jerome, ten miles eastward of what they call Eleutheropolis.

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.
And every one that was in distress - debt - discontented - It is very possible that these several disaffected and exceptionable characters might at first have supposed that David, unjustly persecuted, would be glad to avail himself of their assistance that he might revenge himself upon Saul, and so they in the mean time might profit by plunder, etc. But if this were their design they were greatly disappointed, for David never made any improper use of them. They are never found plundering or murdering; on the contrary, they always appear under good discipline, and are only employed in services of a beneficent nature, and in defense of their country. Whatever they were before they came to David, we find that he succeeded in civilizing them, and making profitable to the state those who were before unprofitable. It is not necessary to strain the words of the original in order to prove that these were oppressed people, and not exceptionable characters, as some have done.

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.
He said unto the king of Moab - David could not trust his parents within the reach of Saul, and he found it very inconvenient to them to be obliged to go through all the fatigues of a military life, and therefore begs the king of Moab to give them shelter. The king of Moab, being one of Saul's enemies, would be the more ready to oblige a person from whom he might at least expect friendship, if not considerable services.

And he brought them before the king of Moab: and they dwelt with him all the while that David was in the hold.
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.
Get thee into the land of Judah - Gad saw that in this place alone he could find safety.

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;)
Saul abode in Gibeah - Saul and his men were in pursuit of David, and had here, as is the general custom in the East, encamped on a height, for so Ramah should be translated, as in the margin. His spear, the ensign of power (see on 1 Samuel 18:11 (note)), was at hand, that is stuck in the ground where he rested, which was the mark to the soldiers that there was their general's tent.

And all his servants were standing about him - That is, they were encamped around him, or perhaps here there is a reference to a sort of council of war called by Saul for the purpose of delivering the speech recorded in the following verses.

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;
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?
There is none that showeth me - He conjectured that Jonathan had made a league with David to dethrone him, and he accuses them of disloyalty for not making the discovery of this unnatural treason. Now it was impossible for any of them to show what did not exist, no such league having ever been made between David and Jonathan.

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.
Doeg the Edomite, which was set over the servants of Saul - In 1 Samuel 21:7 he is said to be the chiefest of the herdmen that belonged to Saul, and the Septuagint intimate that he was over the mules of Saul. Probably he was what we call the king's equery or groom.

And he inquired of the LORD for him, and gave him victuals, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.
And he inquired of the Lord for him - This circumstance is not related in history; but it is probably true, as David would most naturally wish to know where to direct his steps in this very important crisis.

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?
And who is so faithful - The word נאמן neeman, which we here translate faithful, is probably the name of an officer. See the note on Numbers 12:7.

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.
Did I then begin to inquire of God - He probably means that his inquiring now for David was no new thing, having often done so before, and without ever being informed it was either wrong in itself, or displeasing to the king. Nor is it likely that Ahimelech knew of any disagreement between Saul and David. He knew him to be the king's son-in-law, and he treated him as such.

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.
But the servants of the king would not - They dared to disobey the commands of the king in a case of such injustice, inhumanity, and irreligion.

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.
And Doeg - fell upon the priests - A ruthless Edomite, capable of any species of iniquity.

Fourscore and five persons - The Septuagint read τριακοσιους και πεντε ανδρας, three hundred and five men; and Josephus has three hundred and eighty-five men. Probably the eighty-five were priests; the three hundred, the families of the priests; three hundred and eighty-five being the whole population of Nob.

That did wear a linen ephod - That is, persons who did actually administer, or had a right to administer, in sacred things. The linen ephod was the ordinary clothing of the priests.

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.
And Nob - smote he with the edge of the sword - This is one of the worst acts in the life of Saul; his malice was implacable, and his wrath was cruel, and there is no motive of justice or policy by which such a barbarous act can be justified.

And one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped, and fled after David.
Abiathar, escaped - This man carried with him his sacerdotal garments, as we find from 1 Samuel 23:6, 1 Samuel 23:9.

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.
I knew it that day - When I saw Doeg there, I suspected he would make the matter known to Saul.

I have occasioned the death of all the persons - I have been the innocent cause of their destruction.

Abide thou with me, fear not: for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: but with me thou shalt be in safeguard.
He that seeketh my life seeketh thy life - The enmity of Saul is directed against thee as well as against me, and thou canst have no safety but in being closely attached to me; and I will defend thee even at the risk of my own life. This he was bound in duty and conscience to do.

Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke [1831].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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