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Thursday, July 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 22

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-23

1 Samuel 22:10 . He enquired of the Lord for him. This was a lie, which Doeg invented to ingratiate himself with Saul: 1 Samuel 22:22. Psalms 52:3.

1 Samuel 22:16 . Thou shalt surely die: another rash oath, in which the words of an informer were received before the attestations of the Lord’s anointed. Several hundreds of persons must have perished by this stroke; eighty five priests wearing their linen ephods over their breasts and shoulders, their wives and children, labourers and servants. The LXX read three hundred and five; Josephus three hundred and eighty five persons. Innocent blood, now shed, to purge temporally the stains of Eli’s house. These priests came in their robes, as is still the custom of the clergy at levees. When Napoleon was in Flanders, the protestant ministers came in their robes, and were politely received; but the catholic priests came in their usual clothes, and the emperor asked them whether they were attorneys?


Continuing the history of the Lord’s anointed in exile, we follow him from Gath to the cave of Adullam, a fortress of strength, and very deep. Here valiant men resorted to him; Joab, Abishai, &c. Here he laid the foundation of his own power, not against Saul, but for the defence of his life, and the kingdom.

In this perilous and eventful situation he kept his eye on God, and on the hope of his anointing. He touched not the flocks of his neighbour, but subsisted on the spoil of his enemies, on the gifts of his friends, and what the desert would produce. The wicked who came to share in his hopes he reformed; for he declared that no liar should be near his person, and that no man should serve him who did not serve the Lord. The work of righteousness shall stand, while the counsel of the wicked is brought to nought.

We may farther add, the man who fears God will revere his parents. Jesse, now more than a hundred years of age, terrified at Saul’s cruelty and crimes, durst not remain under his power, but fled to share the fortunes of his son, who discovered the utmost filial piety in soliciting a retreat for his father and mother with the king of Moab; for by Ruth they were descended from that country. David prospered in adversity. Not only valiant men, but those exposed to imprisonment for debt, and those who were oppressed with poverty and the heavy hand of power, resorted to him. What a blessing that he could afford afflicted men a refuge, and mitigate the rigours of justice, though he had scarcely a refuge for himself. So our blessed Lord, poor and despised in the world, is the sinner’s friend. He pays their debts, and delivers their souls from the power of Satan and the dominion of sin. David’s encrease of strength made Saul afraid. He intimated that all his servants were traitors; that none of them had discovered to him either David’s conspiracy, or Jonathan’s league. Guilt is jealous. Saul now seeking David’s life, naturally feared that David sought his life. Saul was afraid of himself, and of every one about his person. Surely the Spirit of God had departed from him.

Bad masters make bad servants. Saul’s wickedness and fears stirred up the lurking wickedness of Doeg the Edomite. This man had eaten bread at David’s table, and was at Nob when David fled to Ahimelech, probably to purge himself from some sin. This man had never suspected David of treason till he heard Saul suspect him. Now he avails himself of the king’s passion to ingratiate himself into the royal favour. He gives a false turn to every fact; he never once adds, that Ahimelech received him with fear, and altogether as Saul’s friend. Nay, he adds falsehood to guile. He says that Ahimelech had enquired of God for him. David did not ask him to enquire; and the unfortunate journey to Gath shows that he did not go thither by divine appointment. How unsafe is the life of man in the hands of the wicked; how unsafe is friendship with a Judas. Well: triumph wicked man, deceive and betray thy master with the kiss of kindness. Let thy counsel succeed: smite the innocent with the sword, and God shall requite thy wickedness in full reward. Thou shalt presently fall inglorious with thy master on Gilboa; thy wife shall be a widow, and thy children vagabonds in the land.

See next the venerable Ahimelech in all his pontifical array, with eighty four sons and brethren in his train, conducted by a military escort to answer his accuser in the presence of Saul. Hear the aged man protest his innocence; and more than innocence; for in serving David he thought he was serving Saul. Hear him declare also that most of the priests never so much as knew of David’s visit till after he was gone. His tears, his language, his accents carry conviction to all that hear; so much so, that the guards hazard their own lives in the refusal to slay the priests. Doeg the accuser is compelled to be the executioner. Nor did the calamity stop here; the whole city of Nob must perish, because Saul, often guilty of rash swearing, had pronounced them accursed. And Gibeah, some way implicated, it is supposed, suffered about the same time. But, oh God, if it be lawful for a mortal to ask, Why didst thou suffer so many innocent people to fall; and why didst thou suffer the wicked to triumph, and lies to prosper? Who will serve thee; who will trust in thy word, if thou wilt not protect thine own, and the persons of thine anointed? Thou canst not, it is known in all the earth, thou canst not but be righteous; but why do clouds surround thy throne, and darkness attend thy paths? Were these a race of wicked and degenerate priests? Were they the roots of the long sentenced, the long spared, but still impenitent branches of Eli’s house? chap. 2. Did they still rob thee of the shoulder, and of the fat? Did they still ravish the women, and cause them to abhor the offering of the Lord? And would nothing purge thy sanctuary of crimes so foul, but the blood of the guilty? And to accomplish the terrors of thy justice, didst thou avail thyself of David’s well-intended errors; of Doeg’s malice, and of Saul’s jealous and malignant temper! Oh adorable justice; the result of mercies long abused. Oh tragic Nob, still speak to the christian sanctuary. Let the men that handle thy covenant be sanctified by thy judgments, that all the earth may fear thy name. Meanwhile, as a nation, let England be grateful that our lives are in the hands of juries, and that the sentence of the guilty is ascertained by law.

However tremendous the ultimate vengeance on Eli’s house, justice was still mixed with mercy. Abiathar, a hopeful branch, escaped to David, being left behind, as is supposed, to attend the altar. Now David will rise, and Saul will sink. He has in his hand a prophet to direct his steps, and a priest with the ephod to enquire of God. Let him wait in the school of adversity, till providence, in conformity to the pledges of his anointing, shall call him to the throne.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 22". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/1-samuel-22.html. 1835.
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