Saul Pursues David

1 Samuel 21-24 and Psalm 44

David is alone and on the run. He ends up in Nob and Ahimelek the priest is frightened to see David appear by himself. He gives David food and the sword of Goliath.

But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here—provided the men have kept themselves from women.” 1 Samuel 21:4

David makes up a story about being sent on a secret mission; Ahimelek has no reason to doubt the story, but Doeg the Edomite is there listening and will prove to be a deadly servant of Saul shortly.

Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the Lord; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief shepherd. 1 Samuel 21:7

Still alone, David goes to Achish where he is recognized by the men there. The second act is to appear insane:

David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. So he pretended to be insane 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. 1 Samuel 21:12-13

It must have been a good acting job because the king wanted nothing to do with yet another madman! David continues to hide.

Remarkably, David’s family finds out out his hiding place and they gather around him:

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 around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him. 1 Samuel 22:1-2

This is now much different than Joseph’s story as alluded to in an earlier post. There is no bitterness here. Perhaps Saul’s motivation and actions are apparent to the people, but he is there king, so there is little they can do about it. David and his relatively small band of men continue to hide.

Saul is openly complaining that his men are protecting David or at least passively resisting by not earnestly looking for David. Doeg the Edomite chimes in and reports he has seen David in Nob. Saul orders his men to kill the priests, but they refuse.

Doeg the Edomite turned and struck them down. That day he killed eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod. 1 Samuel 22:18

One son escaped and told David what had happened.

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 22:22-23

David and his men hear about some Philistine advances at Keilah, so he asks the Lord for guidance. After receiving assurance, David and his forces chase them away, delivering Keilah. Saul, of course, here’s about this and prepares to march on Keilah. Given the horrible consequence at Nob, David asks God and is told Keilah will be attacked, so David leaves and spares them twice, once by the Philistines and once by Saul’s forces.

David’s band is now up to 600 men. Jonathan learns about his hideout and meets David. Once again these brothers make a covenant then depart ways. 1 Samuel 23:18

The Ziphites are sucking up to Saul, assuring him they will call David out if they see him. Saul blesses the Ziphites and continues to chase David. At one point they were on opposite sides of a mountain when a messenger tells Saul that the Philistines have invaded somewhere, so Saul breaks off the pursuit of David in favor of defending the Israelites. This is rather remarkable.

Chapter 24 provides the first account of David sparing Saul when he we vulnerable. Saul goes into a cave to relieve himself (David’s men are in the depths of the cave). Some of his men see the opportunity and encourage David to strike!

He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.1 Samuel 24:6-7

After Saul leaves, and probably from a good, safe distance, David calls out to Saul to let him know he was within his grasp, “some urged me to kill you, but I spared you” 1 Samuel 24:10.

May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 1 Samuel 24:12

Even Saul is humbled (momentarily) by David’s honorable actions. Lord, teach me these ways of David when the battles rage in my life. I’m sure they will never be as important or great, but in the small things, may I show this kind of great wisdom.

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