Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 22

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-5

First Samuel - Chapter 22

David Acquires Follower, vs. 1-5

From Gath David returned to the cave of Adullam in Judah, some fifteen miles east of Gath and about twenty straight-line miles southwest of Jerusalem. David was in home territory here, and when his brothers and other relatives heard of his whereabouts they left their homes and came to join him. Possibly they were sympathetic toward him, but more than that their lives were in danger from Saul. In addition to these there gathered round David those who were distressed by the times, those who were in debt, and those who were simply discontented with affairs. These things did not speak well for the reign of Saul. They also indicate that the law of Moses was not being applied as it should have been relative to debtors. In a short time they numbered four hundred men, and David became their captain. With this band David could be considered to be irrevocably opposed to Saul, and Saul could brand David as a rebel before the people. Of course Saul had driven him to this course.

At this time David made a trip to Mizpeh in Moab to the king of that country to seek asylum for his aged parents. The Moabite king granted refuge to Jesse and his wife all through the time of David’s flight from Saul. This was a logical place for David to seek refuge for his father and mother, for Jesse’s grandmother had been Ruth, the Moabite daughter-in-law of Naomi.

Finally, God sent His representative to abide with David in the person of Gad the prophet. Gad arrived with a message from the Lord. God did not want David to hold up in the cave of Adullam, but to move among the people of his tribe of Judah. Acting on this advice David left Adullam and moved his men into the forest of Hareth, its exact vicinity unknown.

(Author’s NOTE: The following passage from Chronicles is discussed here because it comes here chronologically. There is no parallel in Samuel.)

Newcomers, l Chronicles 12:16-18

16. And there came of the children of Benjamin and Judah to the hold unto David 17. And David went out to meet them, and answered and said unto them, If ye be come peaceably unto me to help me, mine heart shall be knit unto you: but if ye be come to betray me to mine enemies, seeing there Is no wrong In mine hands, the God of our fathers look thereon, and rebuke It. 18. Then the spirit came upon Amasai, who was chief of the captains, and he said. Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse: peace, peace be unto thee, and peace be to thine helpers; for thy God helpeth thee. Then David received them, and made them captains of the band.

This passage gives insight into the plight of David often voiced in his psalms, the times when he was uncertain of his friends, when those he had trusted turned against him (see, e.g., Psalms 41). David met them with hesitation, saying his heart would be knit with theirs in gratitude if they came in peace, but that the Lord would rebuke them if they had not. God’s people of the same mind and heart should be knit together in perfect harmony (Acts 4:32).

The chief captain, Amasai, answered. "Amasai" is the same name as Amasa, so he may well be the famous captain of Absalom’s host in later years (2 Samuel 17:25). He was a nephew of David, son of David’s sister, and if the same man, later betrayed his king. On this occasion, however, he was moved by the spirit of the Lord to answer for the men who had come to join David in exile from Saul. He said, "We belong to you, David, and we are on your side." He then expressed desire for peace on David’s part and on the part of those who helped him. He expected this because he believed David was helped by God. Peace should be characteristic of God’s people (Romans 12:18). These early adherents to David’s cause became captains in his band.]

Verses 6-16

Saul’s Frustration, vs. 6-16

Saul is presented in these verses in his city of Gibeah, with his spear in his hand, and his men gathered around him. The symbol of his obsession, his spear, seems to be with him at all times, indicating again the extremity of his insanity. Further he is seen to have been filled with much self-pity and suspicion of his own servants. He still can refer to David only with the scurrilous term "son of Jesse". He suspected that his servants preferred David over him and reminded these, his fellow tribesmen, how he had elevated them in his kingdom. Would the "son of Jesse" have done that?

Somehow Saul had learned of the covenant of friendship between David and Jonathan. He suspected that everyone had known about it but himself, and he chided these around him for concealing it from him. None of them felt sorry for him, he said.

Among his servants was the chief herdman, Doeg, who had been at Nob the morning that David fled and heard David’s deceit of the priest. This was his opportunity to ingratiate himself with the king at the expense of the priests. He proceeded to tell a story about it which would recommend him highly to the king’s favor. He reported that David had received food and the sword of Goliath from Ahimelech, which was true. He also said that David had inquired of the Lord, implying that he sought the Lord against Saul, through the high priest, which he did not do.

As intimated earlier in this study it is possible that Saul held an enmity for Ahimelech (or Ahiah) because he could not inquire of the Lord for him in the war with the Philistines (1 Samuel 14:18-19; 1 Samuel 14:37). Thus he sent for all the priests, who came humbly and obediently to Saul. He began immediately to charge Ahimelech with conspiracy against him by giving David food, weapons, and inquiring of the Lord for him.

Ahimelech gave Saul a very reasonable answer. There was among Saul’s servants none more loyal than David, he was the king’s son-in-law, he willingly obeyed all Saul’s commands, and behave himself honorably in all of Saul’s family. How could Ahimelech have thought David intended to do King Saul harm? or that he was raising an insurrection against him as Saul implied to the priest? As for inquiring of the Lord for David, the king was imputing a thing to the priest which was untrue.

But Saul had determined to take out his spite for David on the house of the high priest. He said, "Thou shaft surely die, Ahimelech, thou, and all thy father’s house."

Verses 17-23

Saul Kills the Priests, vs. 17-23

Saul ordered his soldiers to fall out and kill the priests for treason against him and support of David. He even refers to them as "priests of the Lord," thus showing his obstinate defiance of the Lord. But the men feared the Lord and not one would slay the priests. So Saul repeated his order to Doeg, his chief herdsman, who seems to have been only too glad to accomplish the bloody and cruel command.

It is probable that Doeg harbored some kind of resentment toward the priests, in that he had been detained by them on the morning that David had come to Nob and precipitated the act that called down Saul’s wrath on Ahimelech. Doeg, being an Edomite, was probably a pagan, but was compelled to obey the stringencies of the Mosaic law because he dwelt in Israel. How could one man single-handedly put to death eighty-five priests, then proceed to put the entire priest city to the sword? Perhaps it is not to be thought that he did it without the aid of his fellow-herdmen, over whom he was chief and had command.

All the people of Nob were murdered, even the aged, the women, the children, and babies. Only Abiathar escaped, the son of Ahimelech, who went down and joined David in Judah. This was fulfillment (though not quite complete) of the prophecy to Eli (1 Samuel 2:31 and context). David received Abiathar kindly, and admitted that he had occasioned the death of the priest by his duplicity at the meeting with Ahimelech. Too late he has learned that others are hurt by his own failure to be faithful to the Lord. He even realized when committing his false act that the evil Doeg would probably report it to Saul.

Psalms 52 is ascribed to David when he learned of Doeg’s slaughter of the priests. In it he condemns lying tongues. Most commentators believe that he is referring to Saul, or to those who have lied to him about David. Certainly Doeg is included in the condemnation. However, it also seems that David is issuing a kind of self-reprimand also, in that he has been guilty of a lying tongue. However, he confesses his own trust in the Lord and is made to flourish by the Lord.

Lessons from chapter 22: 1) Though the Lord promises protection for His children, He expects them to exercise prudence in relation to their enemies; 2) those who adamantly defy the Lord exalt themselves instead of Him and expect others to recognize their preeminence as well; 3) Satan’s forces seek revenge against the Lord by attacking His servants; 4) though it be long in coming the Lord’s Word will not fail to come to pass; 5) guilt once committed can hardly be undone.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 22". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. 1985.