1 Samuel 22 introduces the polarization of Israel over the conflict between Saul and David, for the first time the conflict reaches out and brings suffering and destruction to a whole city of innocent people. The chapter records yet another step in the decline of Saul’s ability to lead Israel and another step in David’s preparation to be king.
Until now David had been alone, but at this point he begins to gather people around him. The Lord used these people to prepare him to be king. First, they taught him the problems of the common people. Had he stayed in the palace, eating with the king and enjoying the company of those surrounding the king, he would have never been able to understand the people who came to him.
When people suffer they discover others who are suffering and are able to communicate with them at a deeper level than is ever possible for those who have not shared the experience. A second contribution the four hundred made was that they forced him to develop leadership skills that would serve him well during the years he was to be king. If David could mold these men into a disciplined fighting unit, he could lead anyone.
1 Samuel 22:1-2 – David went to the cave of Adullam after leaving Gath and fleeing from the Philistines. After settling down at the cave, David’s brothers and his father’s household came to join him at the cave, fearing Saul’s reprisal against them. This meant that David’s older brothers deserted Saul’s army and became fugitives just like David. Eventually a force of 400 men rallied around David, men who were distressed, indebted, or just disgusted with the way Saul was running the government.
Psalm 142 tells us that an overwhelming sense of loneliness, and being forsaken, was in David’s spirit during these early days of living in the cave. But he cried to the Lord in deep anguish of spirit, and the Lord heard him. We too should come to the Lord when we are facing all kinds of afflictions and problems we will learn as David that in the Lord there is great hope. We can cry out to the Lord in prayer and He will hear us and meet our need.
1 Samuel 22:3-4 David took responsibility for his parents and even took care of them during his days as a fugitive. David moved to Mizpah and asked the king of Moab to grant sanctuary to his parents. Remember that David’s great-grandmother was Ruth who was from Moab (Ruth 4:13-22).
Probably for this reason the king of Moab granted the request. They stayed in Moab as long as David was hiding out in a stronghold in the land of Moab. Just where the stronghold or fortress was located is not stated, but it obviously gave David a secure and safe place to hide from the pursuit of Saul. This is an example for us as well concerning our responsibility to our parents.
1 Samuel 22:5 David was guided by God through the prophet Gad. For some reason it was unwise for David to remain in the stronghold, we are not told why, but God wanted David to leave Mizpah and return to Judah. The Lord sent the prophet Gad to give David instructions, and David left the fortress and returned to Judah, setting up camp in the forest of Hereth. This is the first mention of the prophet Gad who was now to join forces with David and become his own personal prophet.
Gad was later to provide music for the temple services, write a history of David’s kingship, and rebuke David for taking a census of the Israelites (2 Samuel 24:11-25; 1 Chronicles 29:25; 29). As God guided David, so He will guide us. Day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment.
1 Samuel 22:6-10 Meanwhile Saul’s paranoia was in full bloom. Saul heard of David’s return to Judea with followers flocking to him. Saul received the spy’s report while conducting some official business out in the open, under a tree on the hill of Gibeah. Saul flew into a rage, and launched a barrage of insane accusations against his officials, suggesting they would lose their wealth and leadership positions if they allowed David to usurp or seize the throne.
He believed that his officers had been lax maybe even traitorous in failing to capture David and was filled with rage and hostility. His doubts went so far as to suggest that Jonathan was actually the ringleader of the conspiracy, that he had hired David as an assassin, charging him to kill his father, King Saul. Stunned by Saul’s outburst, the commanders stood in stone silence, most likely wondering how best to defend themselves against such insane accusations.
What happened next was to cause one of the greatest tragedies in David’s life. Doeg the Edomite revealed that David had visited the High Priest Ahimelech at the Tabernacle in Nob. He told Saul that he had personally witnessed David’s visit and saw the priest pray for David, giving him provisions and the sword of Goliath. In Saul’s distorted mind, this was a very serious charge against the High Priest, it meant that Ahimelech was supporting and giving aid to his enemy, David and in on the conspiracy against him.
1 Samuel 22:11-19 Saul had the priests arrested and then leveled his false, perverted charges against them. Saul directed the charge against the High Priest Ahimelech himself, charging him and the other priests with joining the conspiracy of David. Saul charged that by giving David food and a sword and by praying for him, they had aided and encouraged him to revolt against the king.
Saul concluded that all the priests were guilty of a capital crime of being traitors to Saul and the nation. Ahimelech shocked by barrage of insane accusations, offered what was a simple, truthful and powerful defense.
First, Ahimelech defended David saying that David had been loyal to Saul, in fact, more loyal than Saul’s other servants. David was Saul’s son-in-law and highly respected by those in Saul’s royal household.
Secondly, Ahimelech’s prayer were not unusual but part of his ministry as he was charged to do.
Third, Ahimelech said that he was Saul’s servant and loyal to him.
Fourth, Ahimelech claimed that he knew absolutely nothing about a conspiracy.
But Saul was determined to eliminate any who stood opposed to him, so the priests and their families were to be executed. Saul ordered his guards to execute the priests. But they refused, they would not raise a hand against the priests they felt that murdering the priests would be opposing God Himself.
By the grace of God Saul somehow understood the reluctance of his personal guards to carry out his order. Saul instead ordered Doeg the Edomite to execute the priests. Sadly, this son of Esau obeyed and killed 85 priests who had been appointed by God to serve His people and all the men, women, children, and animals in the city.
1 Samuel 22:20-23 One of the sons of Ahimelech escaped the slaughter of the priests and fled to join David. Arriving at David’s hideout, he reported the horrible atrocity committed against the priests and charged Saul with being the instigator. Shocked and stunned, David was stricken with grief for the priests and he accepted responsibility for their deaths. There were at least two reasons why David accepted responsibility:
1) He had neglected to kill Doeg when he discovered that Doeg was in the Tabernacle while he was seeking the help of the priest.
2) He had sought the help of the priests by lying to them, claiming that he was on a secret mission for the king. His lie and deception had led to the massacre of the priests would be a burden that David would bear for the rest of his life, the priests were completely innocent of any crime.
No doubt, he sought the forgiveness of God. David granted protection to Abiathar, the only survivor of the massacre inviting him to join his band of fugitives, assuring him that he would be safe. Abiathar however did not join David until David moved on to Keilah.