James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech the priest: and Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David, and said unto him, Why art thou alone, and no man with thee?1 Samuel 21:1-24:22
DAVID IN EXILE
DECEIVING THE PRIEST (1 Samuel 21)
Nob was northeast of Jerusalem and about five miles from Gibeah. David’s unexpected presence there, and alone, caused alarm (1 Samuel 21:1). His falsehood was unnecessary and wrong (1 Samuel 21:2), and is not commended of God (Psalm 119:29). “Hallowed bread” (1 Samuel 21:4) was the shew-bread in the tabernacle, which we studied in Exodus and Leviticus. It was removed the day before the Sabbath when it became lawful for the priests to use it (Leviticus 24:9). David might have it under the circumstances, if only he and his companions (supposed to be elsewhere) had complied with a requirement of the Levitical law. (Compare verses 4-5 with Exodus 19:15.) The last clause of verse 5 is in the margin thus: “especially when this day there is other sanctified in the vessel.” It was the Sabbath, and with the new bread having been put on the table, there was no risk in giving David the old. (Compare 1 Samuel 22:10 with Matthew 12:3, Mark 2:25, and Luke 6:3.) Doeg, the Edomite, was a proselyte of the Jewish religion. Perhaps he was detained at Nob because of the law forbidding journeys on the Sabbath (1 Samuel 21:7).
David’s going down to the Philistines at Gath (1 Samuel 21:10-15) is unaccountable, except as he may have had special divine guidance. He was not safe in his own country. Go somewhere he must; Philistia was the less of two evils.
LEADING THE OUTLAWS (1 Samuel 22)
The cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1) has been identified as the present Deir-Dubbon, on the border of the Philistine plain and about six miles southwest from Bethlehem. It is a location of natural pits or vaults, some of them fifteen to twenty feet deep.
It was undesirable for David to dwell in hiding if innocent, and if he desired to commend himself to the people as Saul’s successor, hence Gaffs advice (1 Samuel 22:5).
Saul’s motive in seeking to arouse Benjamin against David of the tribe of Judah is not hard to find (1 Samuel 22:6-8), but it is notable that the Edomite is the first to respond (1 Samuel 22:9-10).
Abimelech, whom Doeg gets into trouble, is innocent of wrong against the king. David seemed faithful; he was the king’s son-in-law; why should he not aid him when asked, seeing he knew nothing of the trouble (1 Samuel 22:14-15)? But his plea is in vain, though only the Edomite would lift his hand against him (1 Samuel 22:16-19). Compare Psalm 52:1-3, and note that this slaughter of the priests was a fulfillment of the earlier prophecy against Eli.
DEFENDING A CITY (1 Samuel 23)
Keilah was southwest from Jerusalem and near the Philistine country, though not far from the wooded district of Hareth where David had located himself (1 Samuel 22:5). The event now recorded seems to have occurred prior to the destruction of Nob, as we judge by comparing 1 Samuel 22:6 with the closing verses of the preceding chapter.
How David inquired of the Lord (1 Samuel 23:2) is not stated, but is suggested by verse 8. We have seen what the ephod was, and know from Exodus 28:26-30 that it contained the breastplate of the high priest in which was the mysterious Urim and Thummim by means of which God was pleased to communicate with His people (Numbers 27:21).
It will be interesting to read Psalms 31, which David is supposed to have written and which remarkably tallies with his experiences here.
BEFRIENDING THE KING (1 Samuel 24)
Engedi will be found southeast of Keilah on the Dead Sea.
The diversion in Saul’s pursuit of David caused by the attack of the Philistines (1 Samuel 23:27-29) has come to an end, and he is seeking him again. “To cover his feet” (1 Samuel 24:5) means to go to sleep.
Notice David’s wonderful self-restraint and the motive for it (1 Samuel 24:4-6), another illustration of his being “a man after God’s own heart.” (Read Psalms 142.) The chapter affords a striking illustration of heaping coals of fire on an enemy’s head with the promised result of overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:20-21). But alas! the evil did not stay overcome, nor, if we may judge by the last verse, does David expect it will.
1. Can you identify Nob, Hareth, Keilah and Engedi on the map?
2. What is the meaning of “hallowed bread”?
3. What prophecy did the slaying of Abimelech’s family fulfill?
4. Describe the ephod.
5. Have you read Psalms 31, 52, 142?