1 Samuel 21
David Pretends to Go Crazy
David went on his way and Jonathan returned to town.
David went to Nob, to Ahimelech the Priest. Ahimelech was alarmed as he went out to greet David: “What are you doing here all by yourself—and not a soul with you?”
David answered Ahimelech the Priest, “The king sent me on a mission and gave strict orders: ‘This is top secret—not a word of this to a soul.’ I’ve arranged to meet up with my men in a certain place. Now, what’s there here to eat? Do you have five loaves of bread? Give me whatever you can scrounge up!”
“I don’t have any regular bread on hand,” said the priest. “I only have holy bread. If your men have not slept with women recently, it’s yours.”
David said, “None of us has touched a woman. I always do it this way when I’m on a mission: My men abstain from sex. Even when it is an ordinary mission we do that—how much more on this holy mission.”
So the priest gave them the holy bread. It was the only bread he had, Bread of the Presence that had been removed from God’s presence and replaced by fresh bread at the same time.
One of Saul’s officials was present that day keeping a religious vow. His name was Doeg the Edomite. He was chief of Saul’s shepherds.
David asked Ahimelech, “Do you have a spear or sword of any kind around here? I didn’t have a chance to grab my weapons. The king’s mission was urgent and I left in a hurry.”
The priest said, “The sword of Goliath, the Philistine you killed at Oak Valley—that’s here! It’s behind the Ephod wrapped in a cloth. If you want it, take it. There’s nothing else here.”
“Oh,” said David, “there’s no sword like that! Give it to me!”
And at that, David shot out of there, running for his life from Saul. He went to Achish, king of Gath. When the servants of Achish saw him, they said, “Can this be David, the famous David? Is this the one they sing of at their dances?
Saul kills by the thousand,
David by the ten thousand!”
When David realized that he had been recognized, he panicked, fearing the worst from Achish, king of Gath. So right there, while they were looking at him, he pretended to go crazy, pounding his head on the city gate and foaming at the mouth, spit dripping from his beard. Achish took one look at him and said to his servants, “Can’t you see he’s crazy? Why did you let him in here? Don’t you think I have enough crazy people to put up with as it is without adding another? Get him out of here!”
1 Samuel 22
Saul Murders the Priests of God
So David got away and escaped to the Cave of Adullam. When his brothers and others associated with his family heard where he was, they came down and joined him. Not only that, but all who were down on their luck came around—losers and vagrants and misfits of all sorts. David became their leader. There were about four hundred in all.
Then David went to Mizpah in Moab. He petitioned the king of Moab, “Grant asylum to my father and mother until I find out what God has planned for me.” David left his parents in the care of the king of Moab. They stayed there all through the time David was hiding out.
The prophet Gad told David, “Don’t go back to the cave. Go to Judah.” David did what he told him. He went to the forest of Hereth.
Saul got word of the whereabouts of David and his men. He was sitting under the big oak on the hill at Gibeah at the time, spear in hand, holding court surrounded by his officials. He said, “Listen here, you Benjaminites! Don’t think for a minute that you have any future with the son of Jesse! Do you think he’s going to hand over choice land, give you all influential jobs? Think again. Here you are, conspiring against me, whispering behind my back—not one of you is man enough to tell me that my own son is making deals with the son of Jesse, not one of you who cares enough to tell me that my son has taken the side of this, this . . . outlaw!”
Then Doeg the Edomite, who was standing with Saul’s officials, spoke up: “I saw the son of Jesse meet with Ahimelech son of Ahitub, in Nob. I saw Ahimelech pray with him for God’s guidance, give him food, and arm him with the sword of Goliath the Philistine.”
Saul sent for the priest Ahimelech son of Ahitub, along with the whole family of priests at Nob. They all came to the king.
Saul said, “You listen to me, son of Ahitub!”
“Certainly, master,” he said.
“Why have you ganged up against me with the son of Jesse, giving him bread and a sword, even praying with him for God’s guidance, setting him up as an outlaw, out to get me?”
Ahimelech answered the king, “There’s not an official in your administration as true to you as David, your own son-in-law and captain of your bodyguard. None more honorable either. Do you think that was the first time I prayed with him for God’s guidance? Hardly! But don’t accuse me of any wrongdoing, me or my family. I have no idea what you’re trying to get at with this ‘outlaw’ talk.”
The king said, “Death, Ahimelech! You’re going to die—you and everyone in your family!”
The king ordered his henchmen, “Surround and kill the priests of God! They’re hand in glove with David. They knew he was running away from me and didn’t tell me.” But the king’s men wouldn’t do it. They refused to lay a hand on the priests of God.
Then the king told Doeg, “You do it—massacre the priests!” Doeg the Edomite led the attack and slaughtered the priests, the eighty-five men who wore the sacred robes. He then carried the massacre into Nob, the city of priests, killing man and woman, child and baby, ox, donkey, and sheep—the works.
Only one son of Ahimelech son of Ahitub escaped: Abiathar. He got away and joined up with David. Abiathar reported to David that Saul had murdered the priests of God.
David said to Abiathar, “I knew it—that day I saw Doeg the Edomite there, I knew he’d tell Saul. I’m to blame for the death of everyone in your father’s family. Stay here with me. Don’t be afraid. The one out to kill you is out to kill me, too. Stick with me. I’ll protect you.”
1 Samuel 23
Living in Desert Hideouts
It was reported to David that the Philistines were raiding Keilah and looting the grain. David went in prayer to God: “Should I go after these Philistines and teach them a lesson?”
God said, “Go. Attack the Philistines and save Keilah.”
But David’s men said, “We live in fear of our lives right here in Judah. How can you think of going to Keilah in the thick of the Philistines?”
So David went back to God in prayer. God said, “Get going. Head for Keilah. I’m placing the Philistines in your hands.”
David and his men went to Keilah and fought the Philistines. He scattered their cattle, beat them decisively, and saved the people of Keilah. After Abiathar took refuge with David, he joined David in the raid on Keilah, bringing the Ephod with him.
Saul learned that David had gone to Keilah and thought immediately, “Good! God has handed him to me on a platter! He’s in a walled city with locked gates, trapped!” Saul mustered his troops for battle and set out for Keilah to lay siege to David and his men.
But David got wind of Saul’s strategy to destroy him and said to Abiathar the priest, “Get the Ephod.” Then David prayed to God: “God of Israel, I’ve just heard that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the city because of me. Will the city fathers of Keilah turn me over to him? Will Saul come down and do what I’ve heard? O God, God of Israel, tell me!”
God replied, “He’s coming down.”
“And will the head men of Keilah turn me and my men over to Saul?”
And God said, “They’ll turn you over.”
So David and his men got out of there. There were about six hundred of them. They left Keilah and kept moving, going here, there, wherever—always on the move.
When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he called off the raid.
David continued to live in desert hideouts and the backcountry wilderness hills of Ziph. Saul was out looking for him day after day, but God never turned David over to him. David kept out of the way in the wilderness of Ziph, secluded at Horesh, since it was plain that Saul was determined to hunt him down.
Jonathan, Saul’s son, visited David at Horesh and encouraged him in God. He said, “Don’t despair. My father, Saul, can’t lay a hand on you. You will be Israel’s king and I’ll be right at your side to help. And my father knows it.” Then the two of them made a covenant before God. David stayed at Horesh and Jonathan went home.
Some Ziphites went to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Did you know that David is hiding out near us in the caves and canyons of Horesh? Right now he’s at Hakilah Hill just south of Jeshimon. So whenever you’re ready to come down, we’d count it an honor to hand him over to the king.”
Saul said, “God bless you for thinking about me! Now go back and check everything out. Learn his routines. Observe his movements—where he goes, who he’s with. He’s very shrewd, you know. Scout out all his hiding places. Then meet me at Nacon and I’ll go with you. If he is anywhere to be found in all the thousands of Judah, I’ll track him down!”
So the Ziphites set out on their reconnaissance for Saul.
Meanwhile, David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the desert south of Jeshimon. Saul and his men arrived and began their search. When David heard of it, he went south to Rock Mountain, camping out in the wilderness of Maon. Saul heard where he was and set off for the wilderness of Maon in pursuit. Saul was on one side of the mountain, David and his men on the other. David was in full retreat, running, with Saul and his men closing in, about to get him. Just then a messenger came to Saul and said, “Hurry! Come back! The Philistines have just attacked the country!”
So Saul called off his pursuit of David and went back to deal with the Philistines. That’s how that place got the name Narrow Escape. David left there and camped out in the caves and canyons of En Gedi.