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1 Samuel Chapter Twenty-two                            


1 Samuel 22

Chapter Contents

David at Adullam, Many resort to him. (1-5) Saul destroys the priests of Nob. (6-19) Abiathar escapes to David. (20-23)

Commentary on 1 Samuel 22:1-5

(Read 1 Samuel 22:1-5)

See what weak instruments God sometimes uses, to bring about his own purposes. The Son of David is ready to receive distressed souls, who will be commanded by him. He receives all who come unto Him, however vile and miserable; he changes them into a holy people, and employs them in his service: those who would reign with him must be contented first to suffer with and for him. Observe with what tender concern David provided for his aged parents. The first thing he does is to find them a quiet habitation, whatever became of himself. Let children learn to honour their parents, in every thing consulting their ease and satisfaction. Though highly preferred, and much employed, let them not forget their aged parents. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. And the Lord will preserve his people for their appointed work, however they may be hated and exposed.

Commentary on 1 Samuel 22:6-19

(Read 1 Samuel 22:6-19)

See the nature of jealous malice and its pitiful arts. Saul looks upon all about him as his enemies, because they do not just say as he says. In Ahimelech's answer to Saul we have the language of conscious innocence. But what wickedness will not the evil spirit hurry men to when he gets the dominion! Saul alleges that which was utterly false and unproved. But the most bloody tyrants have found instruments of their cruelty as barbarous as themselves. Doeg, having murdered the priests, went to the city, Nob, and put all to the sword there. Nothing so vile but those may do it, who have provoked God to give them up to their hearts' lusts. Yet this was the accomplishment of the threatenings against the house of Eli. Though Saul was unrighteous in doing this, yet God was righteous in permitting it. No word of God shall fall to the ground.

Commentary on 1 Samuel 22:20-23

(Read 1 Samuel 22:20-23)

David greatly lamented the calamity. It is great trouble to a good man to find himself any way the cause of evil to others. He must have been much pained, when he considered that his falsehood was one cause of this fatal event. David speaks with assurance of his own safety, and promises that Abiathar should have his protection. With the Son of David, all who are his may be sure they shall be in safeguard, Psalm 91:1. In the hurry and distraction David was continually in, he found time for communion with God, and found comfort in it.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on 1 Samuel


1 Samuel 22

Verse 2

[2] 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.

Debt - Probably poor debtors, whom the creditors were obliged to spare, Exodus 22:25. And though their persons were with David, yet their lands and goods were liable to their creditors.

Captain over them — He did not 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.

Verse 3

[3] 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.

'Till I know, … — He expresses his hopes very modestly, as one that had entirely cast himself upon God, and committed his way to him, trusting not in his own arts or arms, but in the wisdom, power and goodness of God.

Verse 4

[4] And he brought them before the king of Moab: and they dwelt with him all the while that David was in the hold.

Hold — In holds; the singular number being put for the plural; as is frequent; that is, 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 while he was in the hold of Mizpeh, or of Adullam, which was but a little while.

Verse 5

[5] 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 — Do not shut up thyself here.

Judah — Go and shew thyself in the land of Judah, that thou mayest 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.

Verse 6

[6] 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;)

Spear — It seems, as an ensign of majesty, for in old times kings carried a spear instead of a sceptre.

Verse 7

[7] 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 among you Benjamites, as I have done? Will he not rather prefer those of his own tribe before you?

Verse 8

[8] 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?

That all, … — See the nature of jealousy, and its arts of wheedling to extort discoveries of things that are not.

Verse 10

[10] And he enquired of the LORD for him, and gave him victuals, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.

He enquired — David chargeth him with the sin of lying, Psalms 52:3, and it is not improbable, that he told many lies not here expressed; and withal, he was guilty of concealing part of the truth, which in this case he was obliged to declare for Ahimelech's just defence, namely, the artifice whereby David circumvented Ahimelech: making him believe, that he was then going upon the king's business, so that the service he did to David, was designed in honour to Saul.

Verse 11

[11] 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.

The priests — Of the house of Eli, which God had threatened to cut off, chap. 2:31.

Verse 14

[14] 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 said — He doth not determine the difference between Saul and David; nor affirm what David now was: but only declared what David formerly had been, and what he was still, for anything he knew to the contrary.

Verse 15

[15] Did I then begin to enquire 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.

Knew nothing of all this — Of any design against thee.

Verse 18

[18] 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.

The Edomite — This is noted to wipe off the stain of this butchery from the Israelitish nation, and to shew, 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.

Verse 19

[19] 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.

Both men, … — In all the life of Saul, there is no wickedness to be compared to this. He appears now to be wholly under the power of that evil spirit which had long tormented him. And this destruction could not but go to the heart of every pious Israelite, and make them wish a thousand times, they had been content with the government of Samuel.

Verse 20

[20] And one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped, and fled after David.

Abiathar — Who by his father's death was now high-priest.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on 1 Samuel


22 Chapter 22


Verses 1-23

Verse 1-2

1 Samuel 22:1-2

David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave of Adullam.

David at the cave of Adullam

David had strangled a lion, slain a giant, and overcome two hundred Philistines; but he is himself overcome by his needless fear. The fear that terrified David arose as much from his own sin as from Saul’s fury. Had David been truthful to the priest at Nob he would not have had to dissemble before the king of Gath, and hide like a traitor in the cave of Adullam. One misstep leads to another. The troubles of life frequently spring from our own folly.

I. David’s escape to the cave of Adullam.

1. It was a place of perfect safety.

2. It was a place of comparative seclusion. David needed rest and quiet. The tremendous excitement through which he had passed had exhausted both body and mind.

3. It was a place of earnest supplication. If David sinned at Nob, he sincerely repented at Adullam. David sought for forgiveness for his sin. David sought protection from his enemies. David sought deliverance from his prison. There is a cave of Adullam in every life. Doubt may be such a cave. Persecution may be such a cave. Sickness may be such a cave. Bereavement may be such a cave. There is no cave deep and dark enough to shut out God.

II. David’s associates in the cave of Adullam. Notice three things respecting David’s followers:

1. It was an affectionate association. In time of trouble God will raise up friends to comfort His believing children.

2. It was a mixed association.

3. It was a faithful association. These men proved both their courage and constancy. When David longed for water from Bethlehem they imperilled their lives to gratify his desire. David’s experience agrees in some points with Christ’s. David was concealed in a cave, Christ was laid in a manger. David was an outlaw, Christ was despised and rejected of men. David was sustained by men in distress, Christ selected for His disciples men who were poor and unknown. David was made a captain over four hundred, Christ is the Captain and Saviour of all who are in distress. If any man is weary of Satan’s service, he may become a soldier of the cross.

III. David’s thoughtfulness in the cave of Adullam. David was therefore deeply concerned for their safety, and his ardent attachment manifested itself in three ways:

1. By his dangerous journey to promote the comfort of his parents. “David went thence to Moab.” This was not a long journey, but it was difficult, to accomplish.

2. By his earnest intercession to obtain protection for his parents.

3. By his special endeavour to secure respect for his parents. “He brought them before the king:” This was a prudent introduction. “And they dwelt with him”: This was gracious reception. “All the while that David was in the hold:” This was generous hospitality. We cannot too highly commend David’s devotion to his parents. He was willing to sacrifice his life and liberty for their safety.

IV. David’s departure from the cave of Adullam. We may learn three things from David’s departure from the cave of Adullam.

1. Good men receive timely direction from God. “Abide not in the hold.” God will not disappoint those who wait for his guidance. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.

2. Good men receive minute direction from God. “Get thee into the land of Judah.” All the agencies of life--seen and unseen--known and unknown--are regulated by God.

3. Good men promptly obey the direction of God. “Then David departed.” Whether God call us to serve or suffer, we must cheerfully obey. We dare not resist, the leadings of Divine providence. There is a time coming when we must all depart. (J. T. Woodhouse.)

Verse 2

1 Samuel 22:2

And everyone that was in distress, and everyone that was in debt, and everyone that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him.

A refuge for the distressed

At the period of which the text speaks, David was leading the life of an outcast and an outlaw. Being expelled from Israel and Philistia, nothing remained for him to do but to gather around him a band of equally unfortunate men and defend himself with his sword. Cannot we see in David collecting around him all who were in distress, in debt, or for any reason discontented, a foreshadow of the Friend of publicans and sinners, of Him who said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Again a man’s religion may be concealed in his heart, and may not do the good it ought to do as an example till distress come upon him and cause it to be seen in all its power. In many a true believer piety is like a drum, which nobody hears of unless it be beaten. The cave of Adullam was a refuge for debtors, and so is the Church of Christ. The third class of people who came to David at the cave of Adullam were those who were discontented. So, too, there is a “Divine discontent” which brings people to Christ. Are you dissatisfied? Then go to Christ and fill up the hollowness of your soul with Him. This is the truth which is contained in the common saying, that when people become disappointed with the world, it is the last resource to turn saint. The last thing we note about the miserable men who came for refuge to David is that they were taught by him to live good lives. They were a rough, lawless set of men, yet they could be kept in check by the influence of their beloved captain, David. So useful and helpful to their neighbours did these soldiers become, that the servants of Nabal could not help acknowledging as much. “But the men were very good unto us, and we were not hurt, neither missed we anything, as long as we were conversant with them.” Now surely if men’s lives were made good by coming to David, the effect which coming to Christ should have upon our characters is infinitely more beneficial. (E. J. Hardy, M. A.)

Verses 5-23

1 Samuel 22:5-23

And the prophet Gad said unto David.

A friend and a foe

I. The visit of Gad the seer. David had been brought very low through his own mistakes. God proved him in the hold. Then He sent to him. Wherever you are, wait for a message from God before you move,

II. Saul’s appeal to his servants. No one answered it but the alien Doeg. Notice, Herod was an Edomite. The race always conspicuous for hatred to Israel. What circumspection is necessary in God’s children! Always a Doeg looking on! (Exodus 23:13; 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 2:15-16.) False witness, often nearly true. “A lie that is half a truth is ever the worst of lies” (Mark 14:55-59; Matthew 26:61). Built on supposition (Acts 21:27-29).

III. “God fulfils Himself in many ways.” The massacre of Nob, though unjustifiable in Saul, was God’s sentence on Eli’s house (1 Samuel 3:12-14; Isaiah 5:7, etc.)

IV. Security with david (1 Samuel 22:23). This was beautiful faith. The outcast promising protection because the Lord was with him. He was willing to protect him with his life. So was Jesus. He was not only willing, but He did it (1 John 3:8; 1 John 3:16). (R. E. Faulkner.)

Verse 14

1 Samuel 22:14

And Ahimelech answered the king, and said, And who is so faithful among all thy servants as David.

In defence of the king

Now, it was for acts of kindness to David, the outcast and fugitive, that Ahimelech the high priest was confronted by the infuriated king. Ahimelech answered the king and said, “And who is so faithful among all thy servants as David, the king’s son-in-law, who goes at thy bidding and is honourable in thine house? Did I pray for him as against thee? That were far from me. Let not the king accuse me falsely; for as to trouble between Saul and David I knew nothing, less or more.” Brave words, O priest! Never did martyr witness more magnificently for the truth, and never with less hope of pardon. The gigantic figure of the king, clad in armour and terrible in wrath, towered before the white-robed priest. It is a vary beautiful, even if it be a very costly, thing to live a righteous life. The whole spirit and range of heroism is to be found in that order of piety which this high priest illustrated and adorned. Analyse this great high priestly life.

I. It was a life often up in defence of the king’s better nature against his worse nature. He aimed to rescue Saul from Saul. It is as if he had said, “Why do you so unking yourself as to injure a man who would not injure you? David is your friend. Jealousy demeans you. Jealousy and not David is your real foe.”

II. Again, it was a life given up in defence of Ahimelech’s own better nature against his lower nature. Doubtless this high priestly life was of value to him who had it. But he made no plea foe it. He pleaded only for the life of the outcast and fugitive.

III. It was a life given up in defence of the innocent fugitive. Ahimelech, friend of the king, dared to defend the outcast David.

IV. Now consider that this defence--three fold--is worth whatever it costs. The defence of my neighbour’s better nature against his worse nature; of my own better nature against my worse nature, and of Christ against the world, is worth whatever it may cost. First, because a man’s soul, or immortal nature, is of more value to him than any imaginable physical safety or comfort. Second, because my neighbour’s better nature is of more value to the world and to me, than anything else I can give to the world, or the world can give me. This world has enough of everything but goodness. It does not need that I give it anything, unless I can give it goodness. Let me help a man to conquer himself and I am a philanthropist. Third, it is worth all it costs because, in defending the outcast against the king, we may be defending the king against the outcast. In the councils of heaven Saul the king is the outcast and David the outcast is the king. This striking reversal of the real and the apparent is one of the most ordinary of processes when heaven looks at earth. Things are not what they seem. However little the evidence of it, Righteousness is the one true monarch over men. (Edward Braislin, D. D.)

──The Biblical Illustrator