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David’s flight to Adullam 22:1-2
The town of Adullam (lit. refuge) stood a mile or two south of the Elah Valley, where David had slain Goliath, and about 10 miles east-southeast of Gath. There are many huge caves in the limestone hills in that area, several of which can accommodate over 400 people. Evidently David’s family was no longer safe from Saul in Bethlehem, which was 10 miles east-northeast of Adullam.
"If Saul would attack his own family (1 Samuel 20:33), there was no telling what he might do to David’s." [Note: Gordon, I & II Samuel . . ., p. 172.]
David now became the leader of a group of people who, for various reasons, had become discontented with Saul’s government. One cannot read 1 Samuel 22:2 without reflecting on how needy people later sought and now seek refuge in David’s greatest son, Jesus Christ. This growing movement of support behind David led eventually to his crowning as king of all Israel.
David’s flight to Moab 22:3-4
Moab was a reasonable place for David’s parents to seek protection since David’s great-grandmother, Ruth, was a Moabitess. The exact location of Mizpah (lit. watchtower) of Moab is unknown. David may have wanted to secure the support of the Moabites since he could use help from neighboring kingdoms if Saul’s antagonism led to full-scale war. "The stronghold" (1 Samuel 22:4) was probably another name for Mizpah or another place close to it in Moab.
David’s flight to the forest of Hereth 22:5
Gad appears to have been a prophet who remained with David throughout his reign (cf. 2 Samuel 24:11). God provided another prophet through whom He communicated to the king-elect other than Samuel. The forest of Hereth was somewhere in Judah, but its exact location is unknown. [Note: On the alternate reading, "David . . . had departed," (1 Samuel 22:6), see D. Winton Thomas, "A Note on noda’ in I Samuel XXII. 6," Journal of Theological Studies 21:2 (October 1970):401-2.]
Saul’s slaughter of the priests 22:6-23
The writer’s attention focused next on Saul’s activities. He used the literary device of focusing on David, then on Saul, then on David, etc. He used the same technique in chapters 1-3 with Samuel and Eli’s sons to contrast Samuel’s goodness with the wickedness of Hophni and Phinehas. The same purpose is in view in chapters 21-31 with David and Saul.
Saul was aware that some in his army, apparently even some of his tribal kinsmen from Benjamin, had deserted to David (1 Samuel 22:7). He showed signs of paranoia when he claimed that Jonathan had encouraged David to ambush him (1 Samuel 22:8; 1 Samuel 22:13). There is no indication that Jonathan had done this. Doeg was obviously loyal to Saul (1 Samuel 22:9-10), but he proved disloyal to Yahweh (1 Samuel 22:18-19).
Ahimelech appealed to Saul on David’s behalf much as Jonathan had done earlier (1 Samuel 22:14-15; cf. 1 Samuel 17:4-5). Nevertheless this time Saul did not respond to reasonable persuasion (1 Samuel 22:16). Saul’s disregard for Yahweh’s will is obvious in his command to kill the priests-whom God had appointed to serve Him. This punishment was entirely too severe, since the crime Saul charged them with was simply failing to tell Saul where David was.
Saul’s soldiers had too much respect for the priesthood to slay the anointed servants of the Lord (1 Samuel 22:17). Moreover they probably realized that Saul’s order was irrational. Doeg was an Edomite, a foreigner who had less respect for the Mosaic Law (cf. 1 Samuel 21:7). He not only obeyed the king but went beyond Saul’s command and slaughtered all the men, women, children, and animals in Nob (1 Samuel 22:19). Nonetheless Saul was also responsible (1 Samuel 22:21). Earlier Saul had failed to slay all the Amalekites at the Lord’s command (1 Samuel 15:9). Now he was slaying all the Nobites without divine authorization.
"Through the hand of a foreigner, Saul perpetrates upon Israelites, priests of the Lord, what he himself did not perpetrate upon foreigners, the Amalekites." [Note: Miscall, p. 136.]
God preserved one of Eli’s descendants even though 85 other priests died. This man fled to David, so from then on the priesthood was with David rather than Saul. David acknowledged that his deception of Ahimelech was responsible for the slaughter of the priests (1 Samuel 22:22; cf. 1 Samuel 21:2). David became the protector of the priesthood. The king-elect and the priest-elect now became fellow fugitives from Saul. Psalms 52 provides insight into how David felt during this incident.
When people refuse to submit to God’s authority over them, they begin to die: spiritually, socially, psychologically, and physically (Romans 6:23). Eli and Saul had both refused to submit to God’s authority. Eli, the priest, put his family before God. Consequently God cut off his family. Even though David was the cause of 85 priests’ deaths, this was one way God partially fulfilled the prophecy concerning Eli’s descendants (1 Samuel 2:27-36). God used David’s folly to accomplish His will. So even in this David became a blessing. This in no way justifies David’s lie (1 Samuel 21:2), but it does show how even in his sinning, David was used by God for blessing (cf. Psalms 76:10; Romans 6:1-2). Saul, the king, put himself before God. Therefore God cut off his life. Saul became increasingly paranoid, isolated from others, hateful toward his supporters as well as his enemies, and guilty of shedding innocent blood.
Conversely, when people submit to God’s authority over them, they really begin to live (John 10:10). David submitted to God’s authority over him. His sins, including deceiving Ahimelech, bore bad consequences for himself and others. Nevertheless God continued to bless and use David. He blessed him personally: David continued to rise to the throne. God also blessed him by using him to accomplish God’s will, here the pruning of Eli’s descendants.
Therefore we conclude that the most important issue is one of long-term authority, not incidental acts. Acts are important, but who is in control-God or self-is even more important. For a believer the most important issue is authority. Believers can determine who is in control of our lives fairly easily by asking ourselves two test questions. Do I ask God for guidance, or do I ignore Him and make my own plans and decisions without praying? And, do I submit to His word, or do I disobey it, having ignored it or disregarded it?
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 22". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany