1David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and the rest of his family heard about it, they came down to him there.a 2He was joined by all those in difficulties or in debt, or embittered,* and became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.
3From there David went to Mizpeh of Moab and said to the king of Moab, “Let my father and mother stay with you, until I learn what God will do for me.” 4He left them with the king of Moab; they stayed with him as long as David remained in the stronghold.*
5But Gad the prophet said to David: “Do not remain in the stronghold! Leave! Go to the land of Judah.” And so David left and went to the forest of Hereth.b
Doeg Betrays Ahimelech. 6Now Saul heard that David and his men had been located. At the time he was sitting in Gibeah under a tamarisk tree on the high place, holding his spear, while all his servants stood by him.c 7So he said to them: “Listen, men of Benjamin! Will the son of Jesse give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he appoint any of you an officer over a thousand or a hundred men?d 8Is that why you have all conspired against me? Why no one told me that my son had made a pact with the son of Jesse? None of you has shown compassion for me by revealing to me that my son has incited my servant to ambush me, as is the case today.”e 9f Then Doeg the Edomite, who was standing with Saul’s officers, spoke up: “I saw the son of Jesse come to Ahimelech, son of Ahitub, in Nob. 10He consulted the LORD for him, furnished him with provisions, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.”
Slaughter of the Priests. 11So the king summoned Ahimelech the priest, son of Ahitub, and all his family, the priests in Nob. They all came to the king. 12“Listen, son of Ahitub!” Saul declared. “Yes, my lord,” he replied. 13Saul questioned him, “Why have you conspired against me with the son of Jesse by giving him food and a sword and by consulting God for him, that he might rise up against me in ambush, as is the case today?” 14Ahimelech answered the king: “Who among all your servants is as loyal as David, the king’s son-in-law, captain of your bodyguard, and honored in your own house? 15Is this the first time I have consulted God for him? No indeed! Let not the king accuse his servant or anyone in my family of such a thing. Your servant knows nothing at all, great or small, about the whole matter.” 16But the king said, “You shall certainly die, Ahimelech, with all your family.” 17The king then commanded his guards standing by him: “Turn and kill the priests of the LORD, for they gave David a hand. They knew he was a fugitive and yet failed to inform me.” But the king’s servants refused to raise a hand to strike the priests of the LORD.g
18The king therefore commanded Doeg, “You, turn and kill the priests!” So Doeg the Edomite himself turned and killed the priests that day—eighty-five who wore the linen ephod. 19Saul also put the priestly city of Nob to the sword, including men and women, children and infants, and oxen, donkeys and sheep.
Abiathar Escapes. 20One son of Ahimelech, son of Ahitub, named Abiathar,* escaped and fled to David.h 21When Abiathar told David that Saul had slain the priests of the LORD, 22David said to him: “I knew that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would certainly tell Saul. I am responsible for the slaughter of all your family. 23Stay with me. Do not be afraid; whoever seeks your life must seek my life also. You are under my protection.”*
* [22:2] Embittered: Hebrew mar-nephesh, “bitter of spirit,” used of Hannah, deprived of a child, in 1:10, and of David’s soldiers, whose women and children the Amalekites had seized (30:6). Cf. also 2 Sm 17:8. David becomes a hero for those who have endured loss or deprivation.
* [22:4–5] Stronghold: seemingly connected with the cave complex in v. 1.
* [22:20] Abiathar: the sole survivor of Eli’s household (2:27–36). David now has in his service the only priest of the Lord left in the land and exclusive access to the ephod for consulting the Lord (cf. 23:9–13). David later appoints Abiathar co-high priest with Zadok in Jerusalem (2 Sm 20:25), but Solomon exiles Abiathar to Anathoth when the priest does not support his bid for the throne. Cf. 1 Kgs 2:26–27.
* [22:23] You are under my protection: once again a sharp contrast is drawn between Saul, who kills the Lord’s priests, and David, who protects the lone survivor.
a. [22:1] 2 Sm 23:13; Ps 63; Mi 1:15.
b. [22:5] 2 Sm 24:11–13.
e. [22:8] 1 Sm 18:3; 20:8; 23:18.
f. [22:9–10] 1 Sm 21:2–10; Ps 52.
g. [22:17] 1 Sm 2:31, 33; 21:7.
h. [22:20] 1 Sm 23:6; 30:7; 2 Sm 20:25; 1 Kgs 2:26–27.