David Flees, Saul Kills 1 Samuel 22:1-23
Saul began in such a good way. When God chose him to be king, he had to be convinced to take the job. In the beginning he was not ambitious. Somewhere along the way this all changed. The LORD used Saul greatly and blessed him. Victory after victory came to Israel’s army until suddenly Saul decided that this all happened because of his natural brilliance and he did not need God. He offered sacrifices that only Samuel a priest was allowed to offer. He chose to edit God’s divine orders to please himself and spare the Amalekite king and their cattle. Because of this God rejected Saul and chose David, a man after His own heart to replace Saul as king. Because Dod rejected Saul as king. Saul determined to destroy the LORD’s anointed, David, and to declare war on God Himself. The purpose of this chapter is to detail Saul rejection of God entirely while highlighting David’s absolute embracing of the LORD.
Three scenes dominate this chapter. In scene one David fled to the cave of Adullam. David continued his fleeing from Saul, but not in Philistia (verse 1-2). “David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him.” At first David felt alone and abandoned in the cave.
We know how David felt because in the cave, David wrote Psalm 142. The LORD wanted us to understand that David was human and felt the same emotions we feel in difficult situations (Psalm 142:4–7). “No one cares for my soul. I cried out to You, O LORD: I said, ‘You are my refuge, My portion in the land of the living. Attend to my cry, For I am brought very low; Deliver me from my persecutors, For they are stronger than I. Bring my soul out of prison, That I may praise Your name; The righteous shall surround me, For You shall deal bountifully with me.”
Then, David’s family and the beginnings of his army come to him there. David provided for his family. When his family fled to him for protection, David had a problem. Where can Mom and Dad be safe? He turned to the king of Moab. Did the fact that his great grandmother, was Ruth the Moabitess help? Most likely it did, and God had worked all of that out divinely years in advance. He does the same thing for us if we are His children through faith in Christ.
Significantly, then when David got back to the land of Judah, he receives direct revelation from Gad the prophet. The last picture of David we see in this first scene is him obeying the Word of God through Gad the prophet. We may not have a prophet today but we do have the Word of the Lord, “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed [made more sure], which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19)
Now the literary scene changes. It is almost as if there is a sign that says, “Meanwhile, back at the tamarisk tree in Gibeah.” King Saul dumps all of the lies he told himself which have turned him into a insanely jealous lunatic (verses 7-8). “Then Saul said to his servants who stood about him, ‘Hear now, you Benjamites! Will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, and make you all captains of thousands and captains of hundreds? All of you have conspired against me, and there is no one who reveals to me that my son has made a covenant with the son of Jesse; and there is not one of you who is sorry for me or reveals to me that my son has stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as it is this day.’” Saul was consumed with hate because of the lies he told himself. Saul had lost touch with reality.
Then Doeg the Edomite, (do you remember him from 1 Samuel 21?) betrayed Ahimelech the priest and all of God’s priests. What follows is King Saul’s final rejection of the LORD. He ordered all of the priests killed. His last word in this text is “Kill the priests of the LORD.” Saul’s servants will not do it, because to kill the priests is to reject God. Yet, Doeg the Edomite, a non-Israelite became Saul’s instrument is his battle with God. In effect, Doeg attempted to wipe out the worship of God in Israel.
God’s worship was not gone. Saul hated the LORD, but God ultimately won. Before we consider the rest of the story we must recognize although God allowed this tragedy, it had a purpose. We see this principle in Peter’s prayer in Acts 4:27-28. “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.”
Now, we leave Saul and come back to David. Not everybody was killed, we learned Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech the priest, escaped and came to David with the ephod. “Now one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David.” (1 Samuel 22:20) Because Ahimelech is dead, Abiathar is now God’s high priest and he is with David. Saul tried to destroy those who represented the living God in Israel.
David, pledges to protect God’s priest because he is committed to the LORD (verses23). “Stay with me; do not fear. For he who seeks my life seeks your life, but with me you shall be safe.” While Saul tried to destroy God’s influence in Israel by destroying the LORD’s high priest, all the other priests, and Nob, David did just the opposite. He wanted God’s priest with Him because He loved the LORD and he provided protection.
Saul wanted God out of his life. He was happy when God blessed every move he made. However, when God made demands on his life and directed what he should do, Saul rebelled against God and then tried to destroy both God’s anointed, David, the son of Jesse and God’s representatives in Israel.
Saul actually tried to destroy God’s influence in Israel because he did not want God’s will to be supreme in his life. David, in contrast, loved the LORD and tried to obey Him. Saul hated God and attempted to destroy His representatives.
David had the ministry of the LORD’s prophet and the LORD’s priest. We too have the priest of God’s prophet and priest. This is because we have the final revelation of God in His Son and we have access in to the very throne room of God in our great high priest the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember 2 Peter 1:19, “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.”