David, son of Jesse

“Now the LORD said to Samuel, How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons. And Samuel said, How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me. But the LORD said, Take a heifer with you, and say, I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.” (1Sam 16:1)

It was time for Samuel to stop mourning for Saul and accept God's will in the matter. Samuel was commanded to fill his horn with oil and go to Bethlehem where the Lord had “provided Myself a king” from among Jesse's sons. This time the king would not be the people's choice, but God's choice. Samuel was afraid to go because the road from Ramah to Bethlehem ran right through Gibeah of Saul, and Saul would view Samuel's action as treason if he knew the purpose of Samuel's journey to Bethlehem was for the purpose of anointing a new king. God told Samuel to take a heifer with him for sacrifice and go to Bethlehem to “anoint for Me the one I name to you.” Besides being a prophet, Samuel was also a judge and the elders of the town trembled at his coming. Samuel reassured them that he had not come to pronounce judgment upon them, but that he had come in peace. He told the town's people to sanctify themselves, which would be by ritual immersion, and come to the sacrifice. Samuel personally consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice. As soon as Jesse's first son Eliab, who was tall and attractive came before him, Samuel immediately jumped to the conclusion that “Surely the LORD's anointed is before Him!”

“But the LORD said to Samuel, Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1Sam 16:7)

In succession, Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel but the Lord chose none of them. Samuel knew there must be another, and therefore said to him:

“...Are all the young men here? Then he said, There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep. And Samuel said to Jesse, Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here. So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him; for this is the one! Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.” (1Sam 16:12-13)

The Hebrew word translated as ruddy is admoni, meaning red or reddish. David had red hair and fair skin and the Hebrew literally reads he was “of beautiful eyes.” God commanded Samuel to “anoint him; for this is the one!” Although Samuel certainly knew, the purpose of this anointing is never publicly stated and no one could know the exact purpose because anointing's in the Old Testament for were done for a variety of reasons. David was about 15 years old at this time, and this approximation can be surmised from three clues: 1) He came to the throne at the age of twenty-nine. 2) According to 1Ch 29:26-28 he ruled for forty years. 3) He died at the age of sixty-nine or seventy. We read here concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit: “and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward.” David was already a believer “that day” and he had already experienced the regeneration work of the Holy Spirit, but this action empowered him for service. Having fulfilled his calling, Samuel rose up and returned to Ramah.

This anointing before the local town's people and his family was the first of three different anointing's that David would experience. His second anointing would be before the assembly of his tribe, Judah; and his third anointing would be before the nation of Israel to establish him publicly as king (2Sam 2:7; 5:3). The basic meaning of the name David is “lover” or “beloved.”

In 1Sam 16:14-23 we are given a glimpse into Saul's court, and his spiritual condition is first described:

“But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him. And Saul's servants said to him, Surely, a distressing spirit from God is troubling you.” (1Sam 16:14-15)

When David's ascent to the throne began, Saul's slow sad descent began also. Without God's empowering Holy Spirit, Saul was effectively no longer king over Israel, although his physical removal from the throne, and his death occurred many years later. This verse shows that God does use demons for His own purposes, and the Hebrew implies that the demon terrified Saul. The demonic torment he experienced included the following: manic depression, insecurity, periods of intense gloom, homicidal tendencies for no reason, and delusions of conspiracies against him. All of these manifestations were by products of demonic activity in the life of Saul. His servants rightly identify the problem as a troubling spirit and advise Saul to seek out a skillful harp player to play “when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well.” Saul said to make it so, and one of his servants replied:

“Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the LORD is with him. Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” (1Sam 16:18-19)

It was divine providence that a servant of Saul would know about David and his skills and that God's favor was upon him. The hand of God was slowly moving to bring David into the royal court and begin the process of transference. Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, "Send me your son David, who is with the sheep. Jesse complied and sent his son to Saul with gifts of a donkey loaded with bread and a skin of wine, and a young goat. David stood before Saul, and he loved him greatly and he became his armorbearer.

“And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.” (1Sam 16:23)

Following the anointing of David and his installation into the royal court, Scripture provides an update on Israel's military situation:

“Now the Philistines gathered their armies together to battle, and were gathered at Sochoh, which belongs to Judah; they encamped between Sochoh and Azekah, in Ephes Dammim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and they encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in battle array against the Philistines.” (1Sam 17:1-2)

The mention of “Sochoh, which belongs to Judah” shows that the Philistines were challenging Israelite control of the Shephelah, an area of low rolling hills located between the hill country of Judah and the flat coastal plain. The Valley of Elah is one the five valleys that cuts through the Shephelah and the site of the famous David and Goliath battle. It was a strategic area, fertile and fruitful as it is to this day, and both sides needed it for agricultural purposes. It also provided a line of defense buffering the hill country where Saul's capital of Gibeah was, and later where David's capital would be in Jerusalem. If the Philistines could take control, it provided a direct route through the hill country jeopardizing the security of Gibeah.

The two armies were encamped against each other on opposite sides of this valley. A nine plus foot tall physical giant of a man named Goliath of Gath went out every day from the Philistine camp to taunt Israel's army. Goliath was the Philistine champion, and the Hebrew word for champion means “the man of the between.” He wore a bronze helmet, a one-hundred-and-fifty pound coat of mail, and greaves (protective leg and foot armor). His offensive weapons included a bronze javelin carried between his shoulders, and a huge spear with a shaft as thick as a weaver's beam. The nasty business end of the weapon featured a twenty pound iron spearhead! Goliath had a shieldbearer that went before him carrying a tznizznah, which is a large sheild protecting the whole body. Needless to say his physical size, armor and weaponry was formidable, and his physical appearance was frightening. Over a forty day period, his verbal tirades against Israel developed into outright mockery:

“And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together. When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” (1Sam 17:10-11)

Goliath challenged Israel to send out their best man for a “duel” of hand-to-hand combat, the outcome of which would settle the battle for both sides. This was a common act in this period of time as seen for example in the Greek classics like the fight in the Iliad between Hector and Achilles' or Paris and Menelaus. Saul was a head taller than any Israelite, but he would not meet the challenge and Jonathan who was quite brave was likely forbidden to do so by his father. David was on temporary hiatus from the royal court and back home tending his father's sheep. Jesse sent him on a mission laden with food supplies for his older three brothers who were on the frontline's of battle with Saul. Coincidently, David arrived just in time to see Goliath descend into the valley from the Philistine side and hear him spout his daily satanic diatribe against Israel.

“And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid. So the men of Israel said, Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel; and it shall be that the man who kills him the king will enrich with great riches, will give him his daughter, and give his father's house exemption from taxes in Israel. Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1Sam 17:24-26)

David's words were reported back to Saul who then sent for him. David said to Saul, “Let no man's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine!” Saul replied “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” David told Saul of his supernatural successes in protecting his father's sheep, how he had single-handedly slain both lion and bear. He assured Saul that the same God who had delivered him from these ferocious beasts would also deliver him from Goliath. David's amazing faith was infectious. Convinced, Saul commanded him “Go, and the LORD be with you!” Saul outfitted the young sheepkeeper with his way too big and heavy armor, but David ditched the unwieldy war apparatus in favor of his trusty sling and five smooth stones hastily procured from a nearby brook. David with staff in hand, drew near to the Philistine. Goliath was shocked to see the good-looking youth moving towards him. Preceded by his shield bearer, the giant advanced toward the Israelite upstart and disdained him:

“So the Philistine said to David, Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field! Then David said to the Philistine, You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD's, and He will give you into our hands.” (1Sam 17:43-47)

Goliath came out to battle in his own name, but David came out to battle in the name of the LORD of hosts to fight for His glory. Unencumbered by armor or fear and emboldened by faith in God, David ran to meet Goliath. David loaded up and slung a stone with faithful force and supernatural accuracy. The all natural God-made projectile sunk deep into Goliath's forehead, and the giant fell down to the earth unconscious. Since David carried no sword, he withdrew Goliath's own massive sword from its sheath and severed his haughty head. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled in terror and did not honor the terms of Goliath if he lost. The army of Israel pursued the Philistines to the very gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell along the road to Shaaraim, even as far as Gath and Ekron. Then the children of Israel returned from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their tents.

David took Goliath's head and brought it back to Jerusalem as victorious proof of God's deliverance from the Philistine threat. The gory prize likely served as warning to the Jebusites who occupied Jerusalem in stubborn resistance to Judah by acting as a predictive token of their impending fate (2Sam 5:6-10). As a more permanent testimonial, the giant's impressive armor was kept on exhibition in David's tent. Later, Goliath's weaponry was transferred to the tabernacle at Nob (1Sam 21:9).

“Then, as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. And Saul said to him, Whose son are you, young man? So David answered, I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.” (1Sam 17:57-58)

This famous event concludes with the above dialog between Saul and David. It is unclear why Saul would ask this since as a performer in his court, he certainly knew who David was. Perhaps, at this point he had been absent from the court tending sheep for several years and his appearance had so matured that Saul no longer immediately recognized him. Whatever the explanation, this public verification of David's lineage was very important to Saul because as the hero, his promised prize included marriage into Saul's family.

“Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father's house anymore. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.” (1Sam 18:1-4)

Jonathan quickly recognized the anointing upon David's life and loved him with a loyalty and devotion indicative of covenantal love. Their covenant relationship grows ever stronger and becomes an important aspect of David's later reign from Jerusalem (2Sam 9:1). Hiram of Tyre had much the same covenantal love for David (cf, 2Sam 5:11; 1Ki 5:1; 9:11). Saul drafted David into full time service, no more to return to keeping his father's sheep. As a permanent resident of his court, Saul could keep a watchful eye on his future son-in-law. Jonathan willingly and subserviently relinquished the vestures and emblems of his position as prince of Israel and heir to the throne. In so doing, he demonstrated an early and acute understanding that David was the true king of Israel according to God's will.

David journeyed with Saul wherever he went and consistently proved his worth and wisdom. Saul set him over the men of war and the people wholeheartedly accepted David and honored his authority.

“Now it had happened as they were coming home, when David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women had come out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy, and with musical instruments. So the women sang as they danced, and said: Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.” (1Sam 18:6-7)

The exuberant adulation of David by the people greatly angered Saul who began to wonder “what more can he have but the kingdom?” Saul's reasoning was tacit recognition that David was quite probably “the neighbor of yours, who is better than you” of Samuel's prophecy (1Sam 15:28). The song became so widely known that even the Philistines had heard of it and would use it against David later (1Sam 21:12). This event marked a sinister turn in Saul's behavior towards David:

“And it happened on the next day that the distressing spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied inside the house. So David played music with his hand, as at other times; but there was a spear in Saul's hand. And Saul cast the spear, for he said, I will pin David to the wall! But David escaped his presence twice.” (1Sam 18:10-11)

Saul's utterances within his house were the ravings of one troubled by a evil spirit like other false prophets (cf. 1Ki 22:19-23). His demonic stupor caused him to view life from a human perspective and Saul could only see David as a personal threat, rather than a divine blessing to Israel. The spear held in his hand functioned as a scepter, the sign of a kingship that was now threatened. He twice attempted to exterminate that threat, but David was able to avoid the deadly point of Saul's hurled spear both times (1Sam 18:11; 19:10). It was evident that God was with David, as it would be no small feat to dodge a javelin cast by such an experienced warrior as Saul. Fearful of him because of God's favor upon him, Saul next devised a plan to eliminate David at the hand of the Philistines. He removed David from his presence by making him a captain over a thousand and sent him out to battle.

“Then Saul said to David, Here is my older daughter Merab; I will give her to you as a wife. Only be valiant for me, and fight the LORD's battles. For Saul thought, Let my hand not be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him. So David said to Saul, Who am I, and what is my life or my father's family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?” (1Sam 18:17-18)

David repeatedly went out to war, but returned successfully each time thwarting Saul's plan to do away with him by the dangers of conflict. David always exercised great wisdom is everything he did and all of Israel and Judah loved him. When it was time for Merab to be given to David, the offer was rescinded and she was given to another. Saul next learned that his daughter Michal was in love with David and this gave him another malicious opportunity. As a snare, he promised David her hand in marriage provided he paid a dowry of one hundred Philistine foreskins, by taking vengeance on the king's enemies. It pleased David well to become the king's son-in-law, and so he went out with his men to war and brought back the proof of two hundred slain Philistines. Backed into a corner this time, Saul gave him Michal his daughter as a wife. Because of David's prowess in whatever he did, the people esteemed him highly and his name became famous. Saul's fear of David grew and he became his enemy continually. His once subtle attacks against David became overt:

“Now Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David; but Jonathan, Saul's son, delighted greatly in David.” (1Sam 19:1)

Jonathan warned David about his father's intent to destroy him. He interceeded with his father, reminding him of how David had brought about a great deliverance for all Israel by killing Goliath. He reasoned that David had done nothing to deserve death, but on the contrary was worthy of honor for his good works toward the king and Israel. He pleaded with his father "Why then will you sin against innocent blood, to kill David without a cause?" Jonathan knew the spilling of innocent blood would affect all Israel, not just the house of Saul (Deu 21:8-9). Saul finally heeded his son and swore “As the Lord lives, he shall not be killed.” David was restored to the royal court and was in the king's presence as in times past. Sadly, the vow that Saul did take, he would soon break. When David returned in victory from another battle with the Philistines, Saul jealousy flared up yet again:

“Now the distressing spirit from the LORD came upon Saul as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand. And David was playing music with his hand. Then Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he slipped away from Saul's presence; and he drove the spear into the wall. So David fled and escaped that night.” (1Sam 19:9-10)

David returned home to seek refuge, but his wife warned him “If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.” Rather than being a snare as Saul had hoped, Michal loved David and was his ally. She helped him escape through an unguarded window, then placed a large teraphim in his bed and clothed it to look human. When Saul sent messengers to take David, she stalled them by saying that he was sick in bed. When the servants hauled the bed off containing what they thought was David back to Saul, the ruse was discovered:

“Then Saul said to Michal, 'Why have you deceived me like this, and sent my enemy away, so that he has escaped?' And Michal answered Saul, He said to me, 'Let me go! Why should I kill you?' So David fled and escaped, and went to Samuel at Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and stayed in Naioth.” (1Sam 19:17-18)

Psalm 59 contains an interesting record of David's feelings about this distressing night, an event which marked the beginning of his wanderings, a period that will continue for about ten years (1Sam 19:18 thru 1Sam 27:12). David's first flight to safety took him to the city of Ramah where he conferred with Samuel about his plight. Naioth was a neighborhood of Ramah containing the school of the prophets which provided him with a measure of sanctuary. Saul quickly learned of David's hiding place and sent three waves of messengers to procure him. Each time a group of messengers came to take David, as they came into the presence of Samuel and the other prophets, the Spirit of God fell upon them and they began to prophesy too. This was a form of judgment which humbled Saul's messengers before God and diverted them from their task. After three failed attempts, Saul gave up and went to Ramah himself:

“So he went there to Naioth in Ramah. Then the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on and prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he also stripped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1Sam 19:23-24)

Turning Saul's heart to prophesy and not to harm David, this was the last time the Spirit of God would rest on him. Saul was overwhelmed by God's Spirit and this caused him to strip off his armor and royal garments. Divinely constrained to lay down naked and prophesy for some twenty-four hours straight was a greatly humbling experience. This judgment of God gave David ample time to make his escape, and it also reinforced the idea by the people who asked “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (cf. 1Sam 10:12).

“Then David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and went and said to Jonathan, What have I done? What is my iniquity, and what is my sin before your father, that he seeks my life?” (1Sam 20:1)

With Saul temporarily incapacitated, David fled and headed toward Nob which is just outside of Jerusalem. On the way was Gibeah, and when he reached the city, David sought out Jonathan to see if he could explain why his father Saul was so intent upon killing him. At first Jonathan was in denial and asserted that his father was not seeking David's life. Jonathan was not aware of the most recent attempt on David's life and was trusting that his father's oath not to harm him was still in effect (cf. 19:6). He believed his father would have told him if he had changed his mind and protested “why should my father hide this thing from me? It is not so!”

“Then David took an oath again, and said, Your father certainly knows that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said, 'Do not let Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved.' But truly, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death.” (1Sam 20:3)

Convinced that his friend was indeed in danger, Jonathan wanted to help and told David “whatever you yourself desire, I will do it for you.” The next day happened to be the first of the month and the beginning of the New Moon festival, which was celebrated for two days (Num 10:10; 28:11-15). Normally, David would be present in the royal court for all such festivities but he asked leave of Jonathan so as to keep safe:

“And David said to Jonathan, Indeed tomorrow is the New Moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king to eat. But let me go, that I may hide in the field until the third day at evening. If your father misses me at all, then say, 'David earnestly asked permission of me that he might run over to Bethlehem, his city, for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family. If he says thus: 'It is well,' your servant will be safe. But if he is very angry, be sure that evil is determined by him.” (1Sam 20:5-7)

As his covenant friend, David asked Jonathan to kill him if he deserved to die because of any possible sin. Jonathan said “far be it from you!” and reiterated that if he had known about his father's evil plans he would have informed him. Jonathan promised David that he would ferret out the truth regarding his father's intentions and report back to him after the New Moon festival was over. They agreed to meet in a field and David was to hide behind a large landmark stone referred to as “Ezel.” Jonathan would fire three arrows in a mock target practice and send his servant to fetch them. Johnathan was to secretly signal David as to Saul's intentions by saying to his servant “the arrows are beside you” if it was safe for David to return to the royal court. However, if Jonathan said to his servant “the arrows are beyond you” then David's life was truly in danger and he was to flee from Saul. Acknowledging that David would would one day be Israel's king, Jonathan in exchange requested protection for his whole family when David took the throne:

“And you shall not only show me the kindness of the LORD while I still live, that I may not die; but you shall not cut off your kindness from my house forever, no, not when the LORD has cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth. So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, Let the LORD require it at the hand of David's enemies.” (1Sam 20:14-16)

David solemnly pledged to fulfill the covenant, a covenant that was not only binding on them both, but also upon the descendants of each. The New Moon festival began and Saul noticed that David was missing. He rationalized that David was probably ritually unclean and therefore unable to attend (cf. Lev 7:20, 21; 15:16). When David did not show up on the second day of the feast, Saul knew something was amiss and quizzed Jonathan “why has the son of Jesse not come to eat, either yesterday or today?” Jonathan delivered their mutally agreed upon and pre-planned response “David earnestly asked permission of me to go to Bethlehem.” Jonathan explained that David's older brother had wanted him to attend the family sacrifice and therefore he asked leave of Jonathan to do so.

“Then Saul's anger was aroused against Jonathan, and he said to him, You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother's nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, you shall not be established, nor your kingdom. Now therefore, send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.” (1Sam 20:30-31)

By this time Saul knew well that David was “the neighbor of yours, who is better than you” of Samuel's prophecy (1Sam 15:28). Saul's emotional tirade against his own son culminated with a shameful thrust spear which Jonathan artly dodged. Fiercely angry with his father, Jonathan arose from the table and fasted the remainder of the day while he grieved the fate of his friend. As planned, the next morning Jonathan fired off his arrows into the the field. Unfortunately, he was the bearer of sad tidings and had to yell out to his young servant “the arrows are beyond you.” David knew the meaning, things were not good. Jonathan gave his weapons to his servant and dismissed him to return to the city.

“As soon as the lad had gone, David arose from a place toward the south, fell on his face to the ground, and bowed down three times. And they kissed one another; and they wept together, but David more so. Then Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of the LORD, saying, 'May the LORD be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever.' So he arose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.” (1Sam 20:41-42)

By letting David go free, Jonathan was giving up a kingdom for the love of a friend. Their covenant involved three things: 1) A special friendship between Jonathan and David. 2) Jonathan will never betray David. 3). David will not cause a dynastic slaughter of the house of Jonathan. From this point until Saul's death, David was an outcast from the royal court. David's first flight landed him in the town of Nob:


“Now David came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech was afraid when he met David, and said to him, Why are you alone, and no one is with you?” (1Sam 21:1)

Nob was the “city of the priests” located on the top of what is now called Mount Scopus, which is where the tabernacle had been standing since the destruction of the city of Shiloh earlier in the book of Samuel. Today, one the campuses of Hebrew University sits atop that particular mount which is located about one mile northeast of Jerusalem. Ahimelech was fearful of David because he was the commander of Saul's army, and a person of his rank would normally not be travelling alone. Fearing Saul's discovery of his whereabouts, David deceived Ahimelech the priest into thinking he was on official business for the king. Sadly, David's lie would soon cost the priests of Nob their lives. Greatly hungered, David requested provisions from the priest who had nothing to offer him except the bread from off the altar. Consecrated bread was set apart for use in the tabernacle to be eaten only by the priests (Exo 25:30; Lev 24:5-9). The bread had already been replaced on the altar by fresh hot bread. Under the law of necessity and mercy, the spiritual obligation to preserve David's life superseded the ceremonial regulation concerning who could eat the bread (Mat 12:3-4; Mark 2:25-26). Ahimelech sought the Lord and received approval to give the bread to David (1Sam 22:10). Besides being hungry, David was also weaponless due the haste of his flight and he said to Ahimelech, “Is there not here on hand a spear or a sword?”

“So the priest said, 'The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, there it is, wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it. For there is no other except that one here.' And David said, 'There is none like it; give it to me.' Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath.” (1Sam 21:9-10)


In David's mind possibly, the idea of certain death by Saul outweighed the risk of fleeing to a Philistine city. A servant of Saul named Doeg the Edomite had witnessed David interacting with the Nob priests and it was only a matter of time before he would report back. So with the giant's sword in hand, David fled to Goliath's hometown! Achish's servants were shocked to see their greatest enemy enter the city:

“And the servants of Achish said to him, 'Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of him to one another in dances, saying: Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands'?” (1Sam 21:11)

Saul was technically the king of Israel, but the Philistines interestingly saw David as the rightful king. This instant recognition by Achish's servants caused him to greatly fear the inadvertent situation he had created. David began to act like a madman by scratching at the gates of Gath and letting drool run down his beard. Curiously, his feigned insanity attack did the trick:

“Then Achish said to his servants, Look, you see the man is insane. Why have you brought him to me? Have I need of madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?” (1Sam 21:14-15)

In those days a madman was considered to be possessed by the gods, and the customary course of action was to stay far away from the crazy person. This odd event in David's life led to the writing of two Psalms: Psalm 56 and Psalm 34.


“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.” (1Sam 22:1-2)

David fled to the western foothills of Judah about 17 miles southwest of Jerusalem and 10 miles southeast of Gath. This was an area of the Shephelah honeycombed with caves on the border between the armies of the two nations. It was a sort of “no man's land” which provided a good place to hole up for a season. At this point, David's own family was no longer safe from the wrath of Saul and so they joined him to seek refuge. Many who were suffering from Saul's monarchy, just as Samuel had predicted, came to David. Some four hundred men recognized him as their leader, and from among these was the origin of David's famous mighty men. As we shall see later in 1Sam 23:13, the number will grow to around six hundred. This time of refuge at Adullam resulted in two Psalms: Psalm 57 and Psalm 142.


“Then David went from there to Mizpah of Moab; and he said to the king of Moab, Please let my father and mother come here with you, till I know what God will do for me.” (1Sam 22:3)

David's contingent of refugees fled to the stronghold of Moab. Why David would journey to Moab may be related to the fact that he had a blood connection with the Moabites through his great-grandmother Ruth (Ruth 1:4-18; 4:13-22). David's parents were older and it was not easy for them to be on the run with him, and so he asked the king of Moab to give them a place of refuge until things improved. His request was granted and this shows the respect that the king of Moab had for David.


“Now the prophet Gad said to David, 'Do not stay in the stronghold; depart, and go to the land of Judah.' So David departed and went into the forest of Hereth.” (1Sam 22:5)

Here is the first mention of the prophet Gad, who along with Nathan will be the two prophets for king David. The prophet commanded him to leave the mountain fortress in Moab because although he is a fugitive in the land of Judah, it was over that land and only that land he was anointed king. David was obedient to the divine directive and fled to forest of Hereth.


“When Saul heard that David and the men who were with him had been discovered — now Saul was staying in Gibeah under a tamarisk tree in Ramah, with his spear in his hand, and all his servants standing about him — 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.” (1Sam 22:6-8)

Saul learned that David and his four hundred men had come back into the borders of Judah. He was in the high place in Gibeah holding the spear which functioned as his sceptre, with his military officers standing about him. Saul complained to the Benjamites, asking them if associating with David would provide for them more possessions and privileges than they already enjoyed from him. It is obvious from this that Saul used his kingship to primarily benefit his own tribe, and his complaint is purely of self pity. He said “all of you have conspired against me” and the means is that “there is none that discloses to me when my son makes a league with the son of Jesse.” In other words, there is none of you that is sorry for me — pure self pity. Furthermore, he had become paranoid of his son and accused Jonathan of turning David against him, although in reality it was all of Saul's doing. Saul insinuated by saying “...against me, to lie in wait” that David was plotting his death, a thing not true as David would later spare Saul's life on two occasions (1Sam 24, 26).

“Then answered Doeg the Edomite who was set over the servants of Saul and said 'I saw the son of Jesse going to Nob to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub. And he inquired of the LORD for him gave him provisions and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.' So the king sent to call Ahimelech the priest the son of Ahitub and all his father's house the priests who were in Nob. And they all came to the king.” (1Sam 22:9-11)

Saul accused the priests of conspiracy because they did not tell him about David. Ahimelech defended David's character as loyal to Saul, arguing that he knew nothing of situation between them, and protested this false assertion. Saul refused to hear the truth and charged his men to slay the priests. Being Jewish, his men knew better than to raise their weapons against the priests of the Lord. Furious at their insubordination, Saul then commanded the Edomite:

“And the king said to Doeg 'You turn and kill the priests!' So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck the priests and killed on that day eighty-five men who wore a linen ephod. Also Nob the city of the priests he struck with the edge of the sword both men and women children and nursing infants oxen and donkeys and sheep — with the edge of the sword.” (1Sam 22:18-19)

This horrific crime was a direct result of Saul's irrational jealousy. Indirectly, the lie David told to Ahimelech when he passed through Nob initiated this sad outcome. Interestingly, this event fulfilled the curse on Eli's house (1Sam 2:31), with the exception of Abiathar who Solomon ultimately removed from the priesthood (1Ki 2:26-27) and the priestly line of Eleazar prevailed, as God promised (cf. Num 25:18-19). The extreme irony is that what Saul failed to do rightously to the Amalekites who were the enemies of God under the cherem curse slated for utter destruction, he unrighteously did the to the innocent citizens of Nob. A contemplation of David regarding this deplorable circumstance is recorded in Psalm 52. Abiathar, one of Ahimelech's sons was able to flee from Nob and survive the slaughter. He came to David and told him that Saul had killed the LORD's priests:

“So David said to Abiathar I knew that day when Doeg the Edomite was there that he would surely tell Saul. I have caused the death of all the persons of your father's house. Stay with me; do not fear. For he who seeks my life seeks your life but with me you shall be safe.” (1Sam 22:22-23)

David confessed to the grievous error he had made in deceiving Abiathar's father. David promised that hereafter Abiathar would be under his protection. What should have been role of the king, that of protecting the priests now became the role of the fugitive.




“Then they told David saying Look the Philistines are fighting against KeIlah and they are robbing the threshing floors. Therefore David inquired of the LORD saying 'Shall I go and attack these Philistines?' And the LORD said to David Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” (1Sam 23:1-2)

The Urim and Thummim could only respond to yes and no questions.



grudging respect but the respect was there

Five ways Saul tried to kill David spear, philistines,

ARCHEOLOGICAL NOTE: Saul's palace were David served him has been discovered in the excavations of Gibeah. The structure measures 169' x 114' for a total of 19,266 square feet and features four towers, one at each corner for defensive purposes.


Man looks on the outward appearance, as Israel had done with Saul, but God looks upon the heart. David was a man after God's own heart. (Outworking Example: II Kings 8:19)

For a complete verse by verse exegesis of the Books of Samuel...