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Bible Commentaries

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

1 Samuel 22

 

 

Verses 1-23

1 Samuel 22

1. David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam [in the great valley of Elah which forms the highway from Philistia to Hebron]: and when his brethren and all his fathers house heard it, they went down thither to him.

2. And every one that was in distress [persecuted by Saul and his house], and every one that was in debt [notwithstanding such passages as Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:36; Deuteronomy 23:19], and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them [for they were not an undisciplined band]: and there were with him about four hundred men.

3. And David went thence to Mizpeh [mentioned nowhere else] of Moab: and he said unto the king of Moab [David was descended from Ruth the Moabitess], Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come forth, and be with you, till I know what God [Elohim, not Jehovah] will do for me.

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

5. And the prophet Gad [probably a fellow-student of David"s in the Naioth of Samuel by Ramah] said unto David, Abide not in the hold [in the land of Moab]; depart, and get thee into the land of Judah. Then David departed, and came into the forest [city] of Hareth.

6. When Saul heard that David was discovered, and the men that were with him, (now Saul abode in Gibeah [his own royal city] under a [tamarisk] tree in Ramah, having his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing about him;)

7. Then Saul said unto his servants that stood about him, Hear now, ye Benjamites [Saul suspects even the chosen men of his own tribe]; will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, and make you all captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds;

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 [" It may be there were some of them that were sorry for his malice and madness against innocent David, but durst not show it, lest Saul should have used them, as afterwards Cambyses, king of Persia, did some of his servants, whom in his rage he commanded to kill Croesus, who was left as a counsellor to him by his father Cyrus, and had now by reproving him for his cruelty, fallen under his displeasure. His servants thinking that he would afterwards repent it, hid Croesus, and slew him not; and when Cambyses shortly after wanted Croesus for his faithful counsel, and wished for him again, his servants expecting a great reward, brought him forth. Cambyses was glad that Croesus was alive: but yet he put his servants to death, for sparing him contrary to his command."] or sheweth unto me that my son hath stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?

9. Then answered Doeg the Edomite, which was set over [who stood with] the servants [mules?] of Saul, and said, I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub.

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

11. Then the king [probably with a view to a wholesale massacre] 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.

12. And Saul said, Hear now, thou son of Ahitub. And he answered, Here I Amos , my lord.

13. 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 enquired of God for him, that he should rise against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?

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?

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.

16. And the king said, Thou shalt surely die, Ahimelech, thou, and all thy father"s house.

17. And the king said unto the footmen [runners] 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.

18. And the king said to Doeg, Turn thou, and fall upon the priests. And Doeg the Edomite turned, and [with the assistance of his servants] he fell upon the priests, and slew on that day fourscore and five persons that did wear a linen ephod [clothed officially in honour of the king],

19. And Nob [whose only offence was that Ahimelech the priest had shewn kindness to David], 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.

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

21. And Abiathar [the one priest who had escaped the general massacre] shewed David that Saul had slain the Lord"s priests.

22. 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.

23. Abide thou with me, fear not: for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: but with me thou shalt be in safeguard.

David an Outlaw

1 Samuel 22

REMEMBERING that David was specially called to high honour, it is curious and instructive to notice through what distressing processes he is obliged to pass. All our ideas of a divine vocation are upset by this process. Foremost amongst those ideas would have been the assurance that a man called of heaven would have before his feet a smooth and sunny road, and that every day would witness to the concurrence of nature and society in the sacred appointment. Had a man rushed upon this destiny, we should not have been surprised if his audacity had been punished in the most exemplary manner. Where, then, is the law of just recognition and retribution? Here we have a man divinely called to the highest position, yet he is chastised with whips and scorpions night and day; on the other hand, we have a man who rushes in a spirit of usurpation into lofty dignities, and he also is punished in like manner. Who can say which is the divinely elected and which the self-elected man? Not only so; sometimes the usurper seems to carry everything his own way and to be aided in his riotous progress by legions of angels, whilst the man who is known to have been divinely called is baffled and perplexed at every turn. All these circumstances show that the judgment does not lie within narrow limits, and certainly does not lie within the immediate day. Large breadths of time are essential to a correct criticism of the providence of God. The whole circle of the divine purpose must be completed before men can pronounce upon it any solid and rational opinion. We are now, then, in the midst of a most harrowing and vexatious process, and can only patiently work our way through it, and steadfastly believe that in the end God will vindicate his own methods of education.

The great valley of Elah is notable for the number of its natural caves, some of such great extent that Dean Stanley has characterised one of them as "a subterranean palace, with vast columnar halls and arched chambers." It is supposed that the name Adullam was given to the largest of the caverns on account of its nearness to the old royal Canaanitish city of Adullam, referred to in Joshua 15:35. A curious picture is presented by the gathering in the cave of Adullam: "And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented [bitter of soul], gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them. and there were with him about four hundred men" ( 1 Samuel 22:2). It is not to be supposed that all these persons were incapable outlaws, without knowledge of military operations and without any claim to personal integrity. In many instances they simply represented the gloominess and hopelessness of the age in which they lived. The kingdom had gone down under the administration of Saul, and everything being out of course, the people who under other circumstances would have been socially foremost were thrown into poverty and driven into momentary despair. Under such circumstances men are only too thankful to constitute themselves into a band under able captaincy; and David was in all respects pre-eminently the man to lead and inspire a host which had been demoralised and dispirited. But this picture certainly contributes a feature of interest to the story, which is of a most painful kind. Surrounded by such a discontented band, who could suppose that David was the chosen instrument of Heaven? His very followers appeared to discredit his divine vocation. On the other hand, even an arrangement of this kind is in strict accord with the great line of providence which has in many an instance passed by the proud, the noble, the strong, and the wealthy, and brought into irregular but successful service elements and forces which society had regarded as outcast or unavailable. There is no straining of the meaning in discovering in all this picture a type of the position of Jesus Christ in the world. He was despised and rejected of men; he had not where to lay his head; and the people who immediately surrounded him were characterised by unaccountable expectations, personal inferiority, social degradation, and also by need of every description: surely it was no valiant or brilliant host that gathered around the Son of God whilst he tenanted this Adullam cave which we call the earth; but we must await the completed issue before we pronounce upon the improbabilities, and even incredibilities, of the position and claims sustained by Jesus Christ.

"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. And he brought them before the king of Moab: and they dwelt with him all the while that David was in the hold" ( 1 Samuel 22:3-4).

In these verses it is beautiful to observe that amidst all the tumult and distress of the times the filial spirit of David was unquenched. Having left the cave of Adullam, David came to Mizpeh of Moab, a place which is not mentioned elsewhere in the Scriptures. "Mizpeh" means a watch-tower, and was probably some mountain fortress in Moab. David was not without kindred in Moab; as we have already seen, Jesse his father was the grandson of Ruth the Moabitess, and the distance from the south of Judah, where the band was wandering, was inconsiderable. Thus are the threads of life intermingled one with another, and thus do coincidences establish themselves in unlooked-for places. "Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth." David would not proceed further until he had assured himself of the divine purpose. He would first see what God would do for him. It is instructive to remember that when David addressed the Moabite king he spoke of God—that Isaiah , Elohim,—and not of Jehovah. The Moabites were idolaters, and they had nothing to do with the awful name by which the Most High was known to his covenant people. Jehovah is a word which no Gentile can ever properly pronounce. It was peculiarly the music of the Hebrew believer. But although the particular name, as originally uttered, has passed away from the earth, we have a Name that is above every name, which may be pronounced and loved by the mightiest and the weakest, the great angel and the little child. This unquenchable filial piety is not an indication of weakness, but a proof of strength, on the part of David. Do we strain words to unnatural meanings when we see in this filial care a type of the love which burned in the heart of Jesus Christ when on the cross he commended his mother to the disciple whom he loved? Whilst it is unwarrantable to force ancient instances into purely Christian relations, it is quite as unwarrantable to consider that in the matter of providence God had no thought of what was yet to take place in the world. Providence is a kind of parable of the Gospel. Blessed are they who have eyes to see its beauty and follow the outgoing of all its meaning.

In the fifth verse a man arises who from this point occupies a considerable space in the history of David. Gad is mentioned as the king"s seer in 2 Samuel 24:11; in 1 Chronicles 29:29 he reappears as a narrator; and in 2 Chronicles 29:25 he is mentioned, with his brother Nathan, as the man who had drawn up the plan of the great temple services. It has been remarked that it was Gad who in the golden days of the kingdom dared to reprove the mighty king for his deed of numbering the people. It is supposed that he had been a fellow-student and friend of David"s in the Naioth of Samuel by Ramah. The conjecture which sees in Gad a messenger from the old prophet Samuel to his beloved pupil David, the anointed of the Lord, is supported by strong evidence. Gad now becomes the adviser of the greatest man in Hebrew history. Wonderful is the distribution of talent in the kingdom of God! Kings need advisers. The mightiest soldiers can do nothing without their rank and file. It is good that the highest man in society should have to turn aside to ask the advice of one who has no wealth but Wisdom of Solomon , the chiefest wealth of all. It is well also that wise men, who might be inclined to abstract study, even to lose themselves in metaphysical inquiries, should be called upon to consider practical problems and to give counsel in seasons of danger and panic. Thus does the hand that balances all things bring into relation men who are the counterparts of each other, and who indeed are necessary to each other, and thus is society held together like a boundless constellation, no star falling out of its place and no collision occurring amid all the mighty rush of incalculable forces.

Now we turn from David to Saul, who was in his royal city of Gibeah, and heard there respecting the movements of his supposed enemy. Abiding under a tamarisk tree on the height with a spear in his hand, Saul addressed the servants that stood about him. Saul"s love of trees was a remarkable feature in his character; there is something, therefore, harmonious in his holding this council under the spreading tamarisk branches. All the men who are round about him belong to his own tribe of Benjamin with one exception, the exception being his wicked counsellor the Edomite Doeg. This council is noticeable as one of the earliest of which there is any definite account in the history of the whole world. Saul has resolved on murder. Saul accuses his own fideles of conspiracy against him; he complains that his own son had made a league with the son of Jesse; and his greatest complaint of all is that not one man in all his band was sorry for him. These were sad words as uttered by King Saul; the evil spirit was then working mightily within his diseased mind; the words are full of tragedy and pathos. If Saul could have seen a tear in the eyes of his followers, it would have encouraged him, as showing that sympathy was still alive on his behalf. But every eye was tearless; in no face was there a trace of sorrow; in no voice was there a tone of condolence.

Truly a most vivid and impressive picture is that of the great king standing under the tamarisk tree complaining bitterly that no one had told him of the machinations of Jonathan and David. In that sad hour Doeg the Edomite came to the aid of the king, a man upon whom we need not spare more time than to remark that he became the instrument of Saul"s wrath in turning upon the priests and slaying in one day fourscore and five persons that did wear a linen ephod. The execration of ancient Jewish history followed the Edomite, and Jewish imagination was even strained to depict the horrible destiny to which that evil man was driven: we read that Doeg the Edomite was encountered by three destructive demons, one of whom deprived him of his learning, a second burned his soul, and a third scattered his dust in the synagogues. When the story was related by Abiathar, who alone escaped to David, David said, "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." David was a discerner of spirits. He knew that Doeg could never be associated with any noble thought or generous deed. There are men who carry their spirit in their countenances and whose every action shows how mean are their purposes. A sad thing indeed, and lamentable almost beyond all others, that the very spirit of fate seems to have decreed that some names can never be associated with justice, beauty, or generosity. There are men who have done unwisely and even wickedly in whose character there have been redeeming features of great attractiveness, but in the whole build and character of Doeg the Edomite there is not one line which honest men can admire, or one aspect which can fascinate an honourable mind.

Thus the troubles of David were increased by incidental occurrences in which he was not immediately concerned. Not only on the broad line distinctively his own, but in a hundred collateral lines, dangers thickened upon David, and accumulated into an evidence which, judged in a purely earthly light, would show that he must rather be opposing the will of Heaven than carrying out its high and sacred purpose. Is our way blocked up in this manner? Are we hunted and persecuted whilst we are endeavouring to carry out the designs of Providence? Are we in utter perplexity as to the sorrows which befall us, and the difficulties which are heaped upon all who take part and lot with us? Have we not only our own troubles to bear, but the troubles of which we are the indirect cause or occasion in others? Under such circumstances we can but go back into the venerable sanctuary of history, and learn there something of the astounding methods of divine discipline and culture, and consider whether even in the midst of tumult, danger, and anguish, we may not be steadfastly pursuing the upward way which will end in heaven and in rest.

 


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Bibliography Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 22:4". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jpb/1-samuel-22.html. 1885-95.

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