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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 Samuel 22

 

 

Verse 1

1 Samuel 22:1. To the cave Adullam Which was in the tribe of Judah, and to the east of Eleutheropolis: a place fortified by nature, and so fitted for the security of persons in distress, that we are told it has frequently given a refuge from the Turks to Christians, who fled thither with their families, flocks, and herds. See the note on chap. 1 Samuel 24:3.


Verse 2

1 Samuel 22:2. And every one that was in distress, &c.— See 1 Chronicles 12:8. This has been represented as a gang of ruffians, a parcel of banditti, who united themselves to David with the worst designs. But the original words by no means convey any such meaning as this. The מצוק אישׁ ish matzok, is the man straitened or oppressed; the נשׁא לו אשׁר אישׁ ish asher lo noshe, is the man that hath a creditor, an exacting, cruel creditor; the Jews frequently using their debtors with great severity, Nehemiah 5:5 taking away their lands and vineyards, and bringing into bondage their sons and daughters: and finally, the נפשׁ מר אישׁ ish mar nepesh, is the man bitter of soul, one aggrieved in his mind, or uneasy and discontented; probably, with Saul's tyrannical government, and his implacable persecution of David, who, by this time, must have been well known to have been the intended successor of Saul. Thus all David's people were men of bitter spirit, extremely distressed and grieved for the loss of their wives and children, chap. 1 Samuel 30:6.; and their conduct shews them to have been of a very contrary character from desperadoes and banditti: for we read nothing of their plundering and murdering; on the contrary, we find them always kept in good discipline and order, frequently employed in services of a very beneficent nature, ready to do every friendly office, and often employed in defence of their country against the enemies of it. The judgment that Grotius passes upon David, when the company gathered to him at Adullam, deserves to be regarded. David (says he), who was very observant of the law, had about him at first four hundred armed persons, and afterwards a somewhat greater number. For what? To repel any force that might be offered him. But then this is to be remarked, that David did not do this till he found out by Jonathan's information, and many other most certain proofs, that Saul determined to have his life. Besides, he invaded no cities, nor took any opportunities for fighting, but went into lurking holes, and inaccessible places, and to foreign nations, religiously abstaining from injuring his countrymen, and, let me add, from doing any hurt to Saul, or disturbing his government. See de Jure B. & P. lib. 1: cap. 4 sect. 7 parag. 4.


Verse 4

1 Samuel 22:4. They dwelt with him all the while that David was in the hold David could not bear that his aged parents should be confined to a cold cave, exposed to all the hardships of a siege, to dearth, to damps, and dangers of various kinds; and therefore he commends them to the care of the king of Moab, under whose protection they continued all the time that he was in the hold, or, as some would have it, all the time he continued in a strong hold; during the whole time of his exile, while he was constrained to fly from one strong place to another, to avoid the fury of Saul.


Verse 5

1 Samuel 22:5. The prophet Gad said unto David, Abide not in the hold It was natural to think that David would be more safe in his own tribe, and in a thick forest, than in the tribe of Saul, and a cave; and safety was all that he wanted, or God intended him before the death of Saul. But the principal reason of God's advising him to go into the land of Judah, was, I apprehend, because God intended to do him the honour of delivering one of the cities of Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, chap. 1 Samuel 23:3, &c.; and therefore sent him thither, that he might be near at hand, to protect it at the proper season from the invasion and plunder of their enemies: this he effected whilst he abode with his men in that part of the country; and it was a brave action: it was, as Grotius observes upon the place, an instance of his great love to his country; who, though proscribed as a rebel by the king, was so far from injuring his country, that he served it at the cost of his enemies.

REFLECTIONS.—Since innocence could be no longer his security, David seeks it by his sword. Having pitched on a fortress strong by nature, he resolves to maintain himself there.

1. Here his brethren came to him, having perhaps become obnoxious to Saul's displeasure by their relation to him; or willing to share his lot, in confidence of his future advancement. And as he wanted an armed force, not to act against his king, but to defend himself from the malice of his persecutor, he entertained all who resorted to him. Note; (1.) They who take part in the afflictions of the people of God, shall share with them in their kingdom of glory. (2.) The Lord Jesus refuses none; let the desperate sinner, who knows not where to flee; let the miserable debtor, obnoxious to the arrests of Divine Justice; let the discontented, who are weary of the dominion of sin and Satan, come to him; he will be a captain unto them, for he receiveth such.

2. Having a guard for his own person, David is solicitous to remove his parents to a place of safety, as Saul would now probably wreak his vengeance on them and theirs. With the permission of the king of Moab, he brings them to Mizpeh, in Moab, and leaves them there, till he should know what God would do with him; how long, or in what manner he would exercise his faith and patience, before he fulfilled his promises. Note; (1.) A good man cannot but be a dutiful child, and earnest to secure the repose of his aged parents. (2.) Whilst we have the fullest assurance of God's protection, we must be waiting upon him in the way of means, and patiently expect his salvation.

3. Gad the prophet, who had joined him in his exile, perhaps sent of Samuel to be with him to advise him, persuades him to go into the land of Judah; which being his own tribe, he might expect more friends; and by appearing publicly, would shew his own innocence, and confidence in God. David consents, and takes up his abode in the forest of Hareth.


Verse 6

1 Samuel 22:6. (Now Saul abode in Gibeah, &c.— Though mean people, travelling in the East, might make use of trees for shelter, we may perhaps think it almost incredible that kings should; imagining that either proper houses would be marked out for their reception, or, if that could not be conveniently done in some of their routes, that, at least, they would have tents carried along with them, as persons of more than ordinary rank and condition are supposed by Dr. Shaw to do. For these reasons, we may possibly have been extremely surprised at the present passage: Now Saul abode in Gibeah, under a tree in Ramah, (or, according to the Margins, under a grove in an high place,) having his spear in his hand; and all his servants were standing about him. Yet, strange as this may appear to us, it is natural enough according to the present customs of the East, where we know the solemnity and awfulness of superiority is kept up as high as ever. Thus, when Dr. Pococke was travelling in the company of the governor of Faiume, who was treated with great respect as he passed along, they spent one night, he tells us, (vol. 1: p. 56.) in a grove of palm trees. The governor might, no doubt, had he pleased, have lodged in some village, but he rather chose a place which we think very odd for a person of figure. The position of Saul, which was on an high place, according to the Margin, reminds me of another passage in this author, (p. 127.) where he gives us an account of the going out of the caia or lieutenant of the governor of Meloui, on a sort of Arabic expedition, towards a place where there was an ancient temple, attended by many people with kettle-drums and other music: the bishop visited that temple, and upon his return from it he went to the caia, "whose carpet and cushions were laid on an height on which he sat, with the standard by him, which is carried before him when he goes out in this manner. I sat down by him, and coffee was brought. The sardar [or governor] himself came after, as incognito." Saul seems, by the description given of him, as well as by the following part of the history, to have been pursuing after David, and, stopping, to have placed himself, according to the present oriental mode, in the posture of chief. Whether the spear in his hand, or, at his hand, (see Noldius,) was the same thing to Saul's people that the standard was to those of the caia, I know not: if it was, there are three things in this text illustrated by the doctor's account; the stopping under a tree, or grove; the stopping on an high place; and the sacred historian's remarks, that he had his spear by him. It is certain, that when a long pike is carried before a company of Arabs, it is a mark that an Arab scheich, or prince, is there; which pike is carried before him, and when he alights, and the horses are fastened, the pike is fixed, as appears from Norden, part ii. p. 181. and p. 71. See Observations, p. 293. Bishop Patrick well observes, that Justin, speaking of the first times of the Romans, (about the reign of Saul,) says, "In those days kings had spears as signs of royal authority, which the Greeks call sceptres. From time immemorial the ancients worshipped spears for immortal gods, in memory of which religion, spears are still added to the images of the gods." Justin, lib. iii. c. 43.


Verse 7-8

1 Samuel 22:7-8. Then Saul said unto his servants If this complaint was true, Saul must have been an exceedingly bad master, to be so entirely deserted and unpitied by his own servants, even when he had estates and preferments to give them. But what was the complaint? that all of them had conspired against him. How did this appear? why, because none of them shewed him that his son had made a league with the son of Jesse. And why should they shew him this, when he himself well knew it already, and needed not to be informed of it by them: for he had told his son before, that he had chosen the son of Jesse, to the confusion of his mother's nakedness? He adds, as a farther matter of complaint, none of you is sorry for me; and, if they thought that Jonathan's league with David was a thing right in itself, and a very happy circumstance for the kingdom in general, there was no cause why they should for this be sorry for him: and to charge them with conspiring against him for not telling him what he knew before, and for their not being grieved, on his account, for what they thought neither he nor they had any reason to be sorry for, is the most evident symptom of a disordered mind. But what shall we say to the last part of this pathetic complaint, there is none of you that sheweth unto me, that my son hath stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait as it is this day? Why, that they could not discover what was not true in itself, and what they knew nothing of. Besides, Saul himself confesses, that it had no other foundation than his own surmise and jealousy, and that he had received no manner of proof of it. None of you, says Saul, shews unto me, &c.; he had, therefore, no proof from any of his servants of this wickedness of his son: Jonathan was innocent, and his father's complaint groundless and unjust.


Verse 9

1 Samuel 22:9. Then answered Doeg—(which was set over the servants of Saul)— Who happened then to be with the servants of Saul. Houbigant. See the foregoing chapter, 1 Samuel 22:7. It does not appear from the preceding chapter, nor is it likely, that Ahimelech, or the priests, knew any thing of Saul's displeasure against David; and therefore, as he was the king's son-in-law, and Ahimelech thought he was sent on some hasty errand to the king, the giving him bread and a sword was what he owed in duty to Saul, instead of its being an act of treason. Nor could Ahimelech's inquiring of God for him, 1 Samuel 22:10 supposing the fact true, be liable to such a charge; for if he did enquire of God for him, Ahimelech declares, that this was not the first time he had done it on the king's affairs; and that therefore it could be no more criminal in him to do it now, upon a like occasion, than in former times.


Verse 14

1 Samuel 22:14. And goeth at thy bidding Who is a prince under thy command. LXX, and Houbigant. See ch. 1 Samuel 21:1-2. Ahimelech's apology sufficiently shews his innocence. Saul's charge was, that he had conspired with David against him. What proof does he alledge? That he had given him bread and a sword, and had enquired of God for him. What was his vindication? And who amongst all thy servants is like David; faithful—and the king's son-in-law, &c.? He owns that he gave him bread and a sword, because he believed him to be the most faithful of all the king's servants; because he thought him employed in an affair of consequence for him; knew him diligent in executing his orders; and that he was of the highest esteem in his family: upon which accounts it was impossible that he could ever be justly thought to enter into conspiracy with him against his sovereign; and even Saul himself would have deeply resented it, had he refused thus to supply him upon any other occasion. As to the other part of the charge, his enquiring of God for him, Ahimelech replies, Did I then begin to enquire of God for him? be it far from me: or, "It is only what I have often done before, and that without any suspicion or blame," as some, and particularly Josephus, understand the words. Ant. Jud. l. vi. c. 12. sect. 5.

But it should be observed, that the sacred historian makes no mention at all of Ahimelech's consulting God for David. It was, indeed, what Doeg charged him with; but, I think, falsely and maliciously, only to heighten the king's resentment against the priests; and therefore the words may be very naturally so interpreted as to imply an absolute denial of the charge. "Did I then begin to enquire of God for him? I never did it before, nor did I begin to do it now." The verb החלתי hachillothi which we render begin, is frequently used almost as an expletive; not to denote the first beginning of an action, but the action itself as begun and finished. See Judges 20:31. Numbers 25:1. This vindication was honest and sufficient; but what was the effect of it? a resolution worthy of the tyrant that made it.


Verse 18-19

1 Samuel 22:18-19. Doeg—slew on that day fourscore and five persons Josephus says, that Doeg, taking to his assistance some men as wicked as himself, slew, in all, three hundred and eighty-five persons. The LXX says three hundred and five. A robe of linen was the common dress of the priests, and it is what the historian means by a linen ephod; very different from that of the high-priest. See chap. 1 Samuel 2:18. But why should all the priests have been involved in this barbarous massacre? Doeg mentions only Ahimelech as being applied to by David; and, in like manner, Saul himself, in the charge he brings against Ahimelech, accused him and David: why have ye conspired against me, thou and the son of Jesse? without a syllable of any other priests. As to the priests not acquainting Saul with David's flight, why should they do it, if they were not informed of it, but believed, as David had pretended, that he was in haste upon the king's business? And if they had known the reason of it, it was not in their power to have acquainted Saul with it time enough for him to have apprehended David; for the sacred writer informs us, ch. 1 Samuel 21:10 that David arose and fled that very day, for fear of Saul. It appears further, that Saul's guards thought Ahimelech and the priests wholly innocent; because, when he bid them put them all to the sword, 1 Samuel 22:17 they unanimously refused to obey his command; and one ruffian only was found, a foreigner, and by nation an enemy to the Jews, capable of imbruing his hands in the blood of so many respectable and innocent persons. It is further evident, from Saul's charge against Ahimelech, that his suspicion of the priests being in David's interest arose merely from the information of Doeg, and not from any thing they had done before this, contrary to their duty. For Saul confines himself to the facts which Doeg alleged against him, and never intimates that they had done any thing formerly to offend. Even Saul himself afterwards exculpates them, when he declares David to be more righteous than himself, chap. 1 Samuel 24:17 which David could not be, if really guilty of rebellion against him; and if he was totally free from this charge, the priests could not be concerned in any such rebellion with him. The massacre of them, therefore, was so outrageous, so bloody, and so horrible, that it paints the character of Saul in the blackest colours; and exposes him as a warning, not only to tyrannical monarchs, but likewise to private persons who give a loose to the instigations of jealous suspicion and intemperate wrath. Dr. Delaney observes, that Saul attained two ends by this massacre: First, He weakened the power of the priests, whom he had made his enemies, by slaying such a number of them and stripping the order of their possessions; and secondly, He strengthened the hands of his own family, and confirmed the faith of his tribe, then doubtful, by conferring those possessions upon them. It is observed by almost all the commentators, how remarkable an instance this massacre of the priests supplies of God's turning the worst devices of the wicked to the purposes of his Providence. Eli had grievously offended God, because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not: for this reason God denounced his vengeance against his race, and declared that they should be cut off by a sudden and surprising destruction in one day. See how terribly this denunciation was fulfilled by Saul's unparalleled cruelty!

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 22:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/1-samuel-22.html. 1801-1803.

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