1 Samuel 21
David at Nob
[a]David went to Nob, to Ahimelek the priest. Ahimelek trembled when he met him, and asked, ‘Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?’
David answered Ahimelek the priest, ‘The king sent me on a mission and said to me, “No one is to know anything about the mission I am sending you on.” As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. Now then, what have you to hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.’
But the priest answered David, ‘I don’t have any ordinary bread to hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here – provided the men have kept themselves from women.’
David replied, ‘Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever[b] I set out. The men’s bodies are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!’ So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away.
Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the Lord; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief shepherd.
David asked Ahimelek, ‘Don’t you have a spear or sword here? I haven’t brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king’s mission was urgent.’
The priest replied, ‘The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one.’
David said, ‘There is none like it; give it to me.’
David at Gath
That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. But the servants of Achish said to him, ‘Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances:
‘“Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands”?’
David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. So he feigned insanity in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.
Achish said to his servants, ‘Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?’
- 1 Samuel 21:1 In Hebrew texts 21:1-15 is numbered 21:2-16.
- 1 Samuel 21:5 Or from us in the past few days since
1 Samuel 22
David at Adullam and Mizpah
David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered round him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.
From there David went to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab, ‘Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what God will do for me?’ So he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him as long as David was in the stronghold.
But the prophet Gad said to David, ‘Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah.’ So David left and went to the forest of Hereth.
Saul kills the priests of Nob
Now Saul heard that David and his men had been discovered. And Saul was seated, spear in hand, under the tamarisk tree on the hill at Gibeah, with all his officials standing at his side. He said to them, ‘Listen, men of Benjamin! Will the son of Jesse give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? Is that why you have all conspired against me? No one tells me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is concerned about me or tells me that my son has incited my servant to lie in wait for me, as he does today.’
But Doeg the Edomite, who was standing with Saul’s officials, said, ‘I saw the son of Jesse come to Ahimelek son of Ahitub at Nob. Ahimelek enquired of the Lord for him; he also gave him provisions and the sword of Goliath the Philistine.’
Then the king sent for the priest Ahimelek son of Ahitub and all the men of his family, who were the priests at Nob, and they all came to the king. Saul said, ‘Listen now, son of Ahitub.’
‘Yes, my lord,’ he answered.
Saul said to him, ‘Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, giving him bread and a sword and enquiring of God for him, so that he has rebelled against me and lies in wait for me, as he does today?’
Ahimelek answered the king, ‘Who of all your servants is as loyal as David, the king’s son-in-law, captain of your bodyguard and highly respected in your household? Was that day the first time I enquired of God for him? Of course not! Let not the king accuse your servant or any of his father’s family, for your servant knows nothing at all about this whole affair.’
But the king said, ‘You shall surely die, Ahimelek, you and your whole family.’
Then the king ordered the guards at his side: ‘Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because they too have sided with David. They knew he was fleeing, yet they did not tell me.’
But the king’s officials were unwilling to raise a hand to strike the priests of the Lord.
The king then ordered Doeg, ‘You turn and strike down the priests.’ So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck them down. That day he killed eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod. He also put to the sword Nob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep.
But one son of Ahimelek son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled to join David. He told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord. Then David said to Abiathar, ‘That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your whole family. Stay with me; don’t be afraid. The man who wants to kill you is trying to kill me too. You will be safe with me.’
1 Samuel 23
David saves Keilah
When David was told, ‘Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing-floors,’ he enquired of the Lord, saying, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’
The Lord answered him, ‘Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’
But David’s men said to him, ‘Here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!’
Once again David enquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him, ‘Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.’ So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah. (Now Abiathar son of Ahimelek had brought the ephod down with him when he fled to David at Keilah.)
Saul pursues David
Saul was told that David had gone to Keilah, and he said, ‘God has delivered him into my hands, for David has imprisoned himself by entering a town with gates and bars.’ And Saul called up all his forces for battle, to go down to Keilah to besiege David and his men.
When David learned that Saul was plotting against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, ‘Bring the ephod.’ David said, ‘Lord, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? Lord, God of Israel, tell your servant.’
And the Lord said, ‘He will.’
Again David asked, ‘Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?’
And the Lord said, ‘They will.’
So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there.
David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.
While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that[a] Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him to find strength in God. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You shall be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.’ The two of them made a covenant before the Lord. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.
The Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah and said, ‘Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hakilah, south of Jeshimon? Now, Your Majesty, come down whenever it pleases you to do so, and we will be responsible for giving him into your hands.’
Saul replied, ‘The Lord bless you for your concern for me. Go and get more information. Find out where David usually goes and who has seen him there. They tell me he is very crafty. Find out about all the hiding-places he uses and come back to me with definite information. Then I will go with you; if he is in the area, I will track him down among all the clans of Judah.’
So they set out and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. Now David and his men were in the Desert of Maon, in the Arabah south of Jeshimon. Saul and his men began the search, and when David was told about it, he went down to the rock and stayed in the Desert of Maon. When Saul heard this, he went into the Desert of Maon in pursuit of David.
Saul was going along one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side, hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his forces were closing in on David and his men to capture them, a messenger came to Saul, saying, ‘Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land.’ Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines. That is why they call this place Sela Hammahlekoth.[b] And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi.[c]
- 1 Samuel 23:15 Or he was afraid because
- 1 Samuel 23:28 Sela Hammahlekoth means rock of parting.
- 1 Samuel 23:29 In Hebrew texts this verse (23:29) is numbered 24:1.