Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.David cometh to Adullam, where companies resort to him, 1 Samuel 22:1,2. He goeth to Mizpeh, and commendeth his parents to the king of Moab, 1 Samuel 22:3,4. Admonished by Gad, he returneth to Judah: Saul pursueth him; complaineth of his servants’ unfaithfulness, 1 Samuel 22:5-8. Doeg accuseth Ahimelech: Saul sentenceth him, the high priest, and the rest of the priests, to die: Doeg slayeth eighty-five priests: the city Nob and all in it is laid waste; only Abiathar the priest remained alive fleeing to David, 1 Samuel 22:9-21. David acknowledgeth himself to be the cause hereof, 1 Samuel 22:22,23.
The cave Adullam; a place of considerable strength, 2 Samuel 23:13 1 Chronicles 11:15, in the land of Judah, Joshua 15:21,35, which being his own tribe, and the tribe to which God had first promised the kingdom, Genesis 49:10, he hoped for some protection and assistance there.
They went down thither to him; partly, to comfort and assist him; partly, to secure themselves at the present from Saul’s rage, which they knew to be fierce and cruel, and thought he might extend it to David’s friends; especially, because they had so lately entertained him, 1 Samuel 20:6,29; and partly, that they might share with David in his honour and advancement; which they now concluded certain and near, though it was interrupted with some difficulties.
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.Every one that was in distress, through want, or oppression, or otherwise.
Every one that was in debt. How could David receive and countenance such persons to the wrong of their creditors?
1. David might be ignorant of their debts; and it is most likely they concealed that, and pretended other causes of their coming to him, as the protection of the innocent, and the defence of his just rights, &c.
2. They might be, and probably were, poor debtors, whom their creditors were obliged to spare and favour, Exodus 22:25. And though their persons were with David, yet their land and goods were liable to their creditors.
Every one that was discontented, or, bitter in soul, i.e. in an afflicted and calamitous condition.
He became a captain over them; he did not justify nor maintain any injustice or wickedness, which some of them possibly might be guilty of; but, on the contrary, he instructed and obliged them to the practice of all justice and honesty; as appears from 1 Samuel 25:15; and he only used them for his just defence.
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.Mizpeh of Moab; so called, to distinguish it from that Mizpeh, 1 Samuel 7:5.
He said unto the king of Moab; partly because he was related to and descended from one of his people, Ruth 4:10; and partly because he was Saul’s enemy, 1 Samuel 14:47, and therefore more likely to be David’s friend.
My father and my mother, who being very aged, were not able to endure those journeys and hardships which David foresaw that he was likely to be exposed to.
Till I know what God will do for me; till I see the accomplishment of God’s promise made to me.
And he brought them before the king of Moab: and they dwelt with him all the while that David was in the hold.Before the king of Moab; into his presence, that he might see them, and give them leave to dwell in his dominion.
In the hold; either,
1. In Mizpeh of Moab, which was a very strong hold. But it is apparent he speaks of some hold where his father and mother were exposed to fear and danger from Saul, which they were not in the king of Moab’s royal city. Or,
2. In the cave of Adullam, mentioned above, 1 Samuel 22:1. Or,
3. In holes; the singular number being put for the plural, as is frequent; i.e. as long as David was forced to go from place to place, and from hold to hold, to secure himself; for it concerned David to secure his father, and he did doubtless secure him for all that time; and not only whilst he was in the hold of Mizpeh, or of Adullam, which was but a little while.
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.Abide not in the hold; do not shut up thyself in holes and holds.
Get thee into the land of Judah; go and show thyself in the land of Judah, that thou mayst publicly put in thy claim to the kingdom after Saul’s death, and that thy friends may be invited and encouraged to appear on thy behalf. Hereby also God would exercise David’s faith, and wisdom, and courage; and so prepare him for the kingdom, and uphold and increase his reputation among the people.
In the forest of Hareth there were many caves and lurking-places.
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;)In Ramah, i.e. in the territory of Gibeah, in or near (for so the Hebrew particle is oft used, as hath been showed) Ramah. Or, in the town of Gibeah—in a high place; for so the word Ramah unquestionably signifies; and so it is here rendered by some, both ancient and modern, interpreters.
Having his spear in his hand; either as an ensign of majesty, for in old times kings carried a spear instead of a sceptre; as Justin and others note; or as an instrument of self-defence or cruelty, as occasion required.
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;Ye Benjamites; you that are of my own tribe and kindred, from whom David designs to translate the kingdom to another tribe, will he distribute profits and preferments amongst you
Benjamites as I have done, and intend still to do? will he not rather prefer those of his own tribe before you?
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?My son hath made a league with the son of Jesse: this he suspected, partly from Jonathan’s passionate love for David, which he had formerly and constantly declared; and from his late discontent and departure from his father, mentioned 1 Samuel 20:34; and partly from David’s confidence, in invading the land with four hundred men, which he thought he would never presume to do, without some encouragement or promise of assistance from Jonathan.
To lie in wait, i.e. to design against my crown and life (which will appear to be a most groundless suspicion and false accusation).
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.See Poole "1 Samuel 21:7".
And he inquired of the LORD for him, and gave him victuals, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.He inquired of the Lord for him: this is not recorded 1Sa 21, and therefore some think that Doeg, to curry favour with Saul, feigned this; for it is certain David chargeth him with the sin of lying, Psalm 52:3, though it is not improbable that he told other lies also, not here expressed; and withal, he was guilty of concealing part of the truth, which in this case he was also obliged to declare for Ahimelech’s just defence, to wit, the cunning pretence and artifice whereby David circumvented Ahimelech. Others think this was true, because Ahimelech seems to confess it, 1 Samuel 22:15, though that may be spoken by way of concession. If it were so as Doeg declares, this was no new thing. Then he might add that it was not so, though this be not here mentioned; for it is evident that all his answer or apology is not here expressed; for here is not a word of the victuals or sword which he gave him.
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.All his father’s house; of the house of Eli, which God had threatened to cut off, 1 Samuel 2:31.
And Saul said, Hear now, thou son of Ahitub. And he answered, Here I am, my lord.Thou son of Ahitub; he shows his contempt and anger, that he would not vouchsafe to name him: See Poole "1 Samuel 20:27".
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?No text from Poole on this verse.
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?He doth not determine the differences between Saul and David, nor affirm what David now was; but only declared what David had formerly been, both really, and in public fame and opinion.
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.Any thing, or, this thing, to wit, which thou now chargest me with, that I should assist David in any evil design against thee.
Thy servant knew nothing of all this; or, of thy suspicion concerning him. For as for Saul’s attempts upon David, well might Ahimelech impute them wholly to the violence of Saul’s passion and disease, seeing even Jonathan did so, as may be gathered from 1 Samuel 20:2.
And the king said, Thou shalt surely die, Ahimelech, thou, and all thy father's house.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Choosing rather to offend the king, by disobeying his wicked and bloody command, than to offend God, by shedding the blood of such innocent and sacred persons.
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.Turn thou; or, go about, to wit, from man to man, till thou hast killed all.
The Edomite; which is noted to wipe off the stain of this butchery from the Israelitish nation, and to show why he was so ready to do it, because he was one of that nation which had an implacable hatred against all Israelites, and against the priests of the Lord.
Slew on that day fourscore and five persons, with his own hand; which was not difficult, when no resistance was made.
That did wear a linen ephod; not at that time, as some fancy, but usually; such as used to minister to the Lord in a linen ephod, which priests and Levites used to do. See Exodus 28:40, &c.; 1 Samuel 2:18.
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.He; either Saul, or Doeg, with the help of some others whom Saul appointed to that work. By this barbarous and bloody fact Saul thought to affright all his subjects from giving any countenance or assistance to David.
And one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped, and fled after David.Abiathar, by his father’s death, was now high priest,
Fled after David, to Keilah, 1 Samuel 23:6,7.
And Abiathar shewed David that Saul had slain the LORD'S priests.No text from Poole on this verse.
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; his malice and ambition made me suspect that he would do it.
Abide thou with me, fear not: for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: but with me thou shalt be in safeguard.Because God will certainly preserve me to the kingdom which he hath promised; and I by his help will protect thee.