Who is Your Refuge in Times of Trouble? (1 Samuel 21-22)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 21-22

David is a man on the run! He is stalked by a king whom he had faithfully served, but who now seeks to kill him. What began as envy, festered into bitterness, until the king attempted to spear David on three occasions. As a man on the run, David recognized Saul would not rest until he had taken his life, so David fled to the wilderness where he would live in exile for the next ten years.

1 Samuel 21 

David’s Flight to Nob (21:1-10)

After his meeting with Jonathan (1 Samuel 20), David came to Nob, a Levite town some three miles south of Gibeah (Saul’s home). Nob was where the Tabernacle and Ark of the LORD was located at the time (21:1). As one of Saul’s captains, David would ordinarily have traveled with an entourage of soldiers: however, his arrival in Nob stirred up some consternation in Ahimelech the priest who wondered, “Why art thou alone, and no man with thee?” (21:1) David answered Ahimelech, The king hath commanded me a business” (21:2).

Who was Ahimelech? He was a descendant of Eli’s lineage, and became Saul’s spiritual advisor after Samuel departed from the king. It is almost certain he would have known the king’s determination to kill David, and no doubt realized his answer was a lie. We might suggest various motives for David lying, but no doubt fear had taken hold, and his faith had faltered.

Needing sustenance for his flight, David requested five loaves of bread (21:3), but was told the only bread available was “hallowed bread” (21:4-6). Having no other bread, Ahimelech gave David “shewbread,” that was reserved for the priests. David then asked, “Is there not here under thine hand spear or sword?” (21:8). There was one sword, and it was the sword of Goliath, that had been kept in the Tabernacle after he was slain by David (21:8).

Before continuing our narrative, notice the identification of one man: “Doeg, an Edomite, the chiefest of the herdmen that belonged to Saul” (21:7). An Edomite was a descendant of Esau, the son of Isaac, and Jacob’s brother. Though the Edomites were related to Israel, they were excluded from God’s covenant with Abraham. David knew Doeg was an enemy, and feared he would report to Saul that he had been to Nob, where he was assisted by Ahimelech the priest (22:9-11).

David Feigned Insanity (21:11-15)

Bearing the sword of Goliath, David fled “to Achish the king of Gath,” where he sought sanctuary in the midst of the Philistines (21:11). He was soon recognized, and “the servants of Achish [asked]… Is not this David the king of the land?” (21:11). Fearing for his life, David feigned insanity, and “scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard” (21:13). The act convinced King Achish, and he dismissed David as one was “mad” (21:14-15).

1 Samuel 22 – David’s Encampment in Adullam

David fled to the wilderness, where he “escaped to the cave Adullam”, which was near the valley where David had killed Goliath (22:1). Alone, destitute, and broken, David cried out to the LORD (Psalms 34; 57; 142), and He heard his cry.

Because he was a fugitive, David’s family feared for their lives, and joined him at Adullam (22:1). Seeking his parents’ welfare, David entrusted them to the King of Moab (22:3-4). Why Moab? David’s grandmother, Ruth, was herself a Moabite.

Four hundred fighting men joined David in Adullam. They were described as “in distress…in debt…and discontented” (22:2). Distress – perhaps bearing the abuses of Saul’s power; Debt, burdened by taxation, or unable to pay their creditors; Discontent-embittered souls who had suffered injustices. David was warned by the prophet Gad to, “Abide not in the hold; depart, and get thee into the land of Judah” (22:5).

Saul’s Rage (22:6-19)

Desperate to find, and kill David, Saul railed against the men of Benjamin, his own tribe (22:6-8). He accused them of taking bribes to conceal David, and slandered his own son, accusing him of conspiring with his enemy (22:8).

Doeg, the Edomite (21:7), betrayed Ahimelech the priest, and revealed how he had witnessed the priest aiding David (22:9-10; 21:7). Saul then commanded Ahimelech to come, and alleged he had conspired with his enemy (22:13); however, the priest pled innocent, and defended David’s character (22:14-15). Saul became enraged, and ordered the priest and his household slain (22:16-19). When his soldiers refused his orders, the king turned to Doeg the Edomite, and he slaughtered eighty-five priests, their families, and all that was in Nob (22:18-19).

David’s Empathy (22:20-23)

There was one survivor of the massacre in Nob, and his name was Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech (22:20). He reported to David all that had befallen his family, and the citizens of Nob (22:21). Bearing the weight of so many deaths (22:22), David invited Abiathar, “23Abide thou with me, fear not: for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: but with me thou shalt be in safeguard” (22:23).

Closing thought: We are all tempted to “live by our wits,” and our failure to seek the LORD often places us in places, and positions we come to regret.

David will come to learn that God is his refuge.

Who is your refuge?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith