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Bible: What Does 1 Samuel 21-23 Teach Us About David?

Updated on May 30, 2016

David Receives Showbread From Ahimelech

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Ahimelech, the Priest

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1 Samuel 21

As David flees from Saul, he visits Ahimelech the priest who asks him why he travels alone (v. 1).

Stuck for a reasonable answer, David resorts to lying again, claiming that he is on some kind of secret mission for the king and that his men are elsewhere (v. 2).

[Did Ahimelech suspect that David was lying?]

His real reason for stopping by Ahimelech's abode is to obtain some food; he is famished from his days in the field and now after his escape (v. 3).

Having only holy bread, the priest informs David that (sexually?) clean men alone can eat of it (v. 4).

Because he fulfills this requirement, David receives day-old showbread which once lay before the LORD (vv. 5-6; cf. Mk. 2:23-28).

[Why did not God strike down David for eating bread meant only for priests?]

Needing a weapon, David inquires of Ahimelech, and the latter brings Goliath's sword to him (vv. 8-9).

David takes it gladly, but is unaware that Doeg the Edomite, one of Saul's hired men, is observing the whole transaction (v. 7; cf. 22:9 ff).

From there, the fugitive-king travels to Gath where, hearing his name glorified in song, he fears what Achish the king might do to him (vv. 10-12).

Thinking quickly, David decides to act insane. Achish commands his servants to show the Israelite "nut'' to the door (vv. 13-15).

King David

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Murderer of Eighty-Five Priests


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1 Samuel 22

From Gath, the exile finds his way to the cave of Adullam, where relatives and many disaffected in Israel soon join him (vv. 1-2).

In a short while David moves again, this time to Mizpah; his parents stay with him in the stronghold of the king of Moab (vv. 3-4).

Soon the prophet Gad's warning hastens David to the forest of Hereth in Judah (v. 5).

Meanwhile in Gibeah, Saul's paranoia and self-pity begin to overpower his mind.

Hearing the latest news about David and his men (v. 6) turns the deposed king against his most loyal servants, charging all of them with ungratefulness (v. 7), conspiracy (v. 8), and lack of compassion (v. 8).

Sensing an opportunity to enhance his status, Doeg reveals what he witnessed between David and Ahimelech, as well as something that he did not see (vv. 9-10; cf. 21:7).

Saul therefore summons Ahimelech and all the other priests in his father's house, and the king accuses him of conspiracy (vv. 11-13).

[Saul is still convinced that David is lying in wait to assassinate him!]

Ahimelech speaks nothing but praise for David (v. 14), yet afterwards denies that he or any in his family sought the LORD on his behalf (v. 15).

Adamantly set against any excuse, however plausible, Saul orders his guards to kill all the priests (vv. 16-17a).

When they refuse to obey, the king turns to Doeg, and he murders eighty-five men (vv. 17b-18).

Not only does he put the priests to death, but he also annihilates the entire city of Nob—animals and all (v. 19).

[Saul's servants feared the eternal consequences of murdering the priests more than experiencing the wrath of their king, but Doeg the Edomite had no such God-fearing scruples].

Abiathar, one of Ahimelech's sons, escapes and tells David about the executions (vv. 20-21).

With sincere remorse, David confesses his responsibility in all these deaths, for he believes he could have stopped Doeg on that earlier day (v. 22; cf. 21:7).

[Did he also realize that his lie put Ahimelech in mortal danger? (See v. 2)].

The hunted invites another to join his clan, assuring him of safety (v. 23).

[Perhaps David could say this word confidently because he felt a sense of destiny; he realized that he was God's anointed].

1 Samuel 23

David comes to Keilah's rescue, but not without first helping his men overcome their fear.

[Keilah was a town in the lowlands of Judah, north of Hebron].

When he hears that the Philistines are stealing grain from that village, Judah's king asks the LORD for guidance (vv. 1-2a).

[A sign of spiritual maturity].

After receiving God's permission to save the people, David then confronts the obstacle of his frightened "soldiers" (vv. 2b-3).

He returns to the LORD with this problem, and God assures him of His salvation (v. 4).

Through his confidence in the LORD, David is able to convince his followers of certain victory. Surely enough they join him, and the LORD comes through for him (v. 5).

Abiathar's ephod comes in handy in Keilah (v. 6).

While Saul, thinking that God is still on his side, plans to besiege David in that "fortress" (vv. 7-8), the latter uses the ephod to make his next move, asking, “Should I leave town or stay put?” (vv. 9-12).

[The text appears to indicate that David heard a voice, but it may only mean that he received an inaudible answer while using this priestly garment].

David obeys the message and leaves Keilah with six hundred men, effectively cutting short Saul's stratagem (v. 13).

By abiding in the wilderness and in the mountains day by day, David succeeds in eluding Saul's grasp (vv. 14-15a).

Jonathan manages to visit him in the forest of Ziph, and encourage him to rely upon God (vv. 15b-17).

After renewing their covenant, the young king's best friend returns home (v. 18).

Then certain Ziphites seek to betray David into his enemy's hand (vv. 19-20).

Saul, wishing to know with greater certainty his quarry's exact whereabouts and even his hiding places, sends them back.

Once he possesses this information, Saul determines to chase down his prey (vv. 21-23).

The Ziphites inform David that Saul will soon pursue him in their town, so David journeys to Maon (vv. 24-25a).

[The text appears unclear as to whether the Ziphites told David, or his men informed him].

Saul discovers his foe's new location, so he seeks for him there (v. 25b).

The cat continues to chase the mouse from one hole to the next (v. 26).

Suddenly called away from the chase, Saul returns to fight the Philistines who are invading the land again (vv. 27-28).

Again, David escapes and dwells this time in the stronghold at En Gedi (v. 29).

© 2013 glynch1

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    • glynch1 profile image
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      glynch1 23 months ago

      If I correctly understand your point about 9:12, I can respond that sometimes God spoke audibly to the patriarchs. On other occasions, He communicated His will to the Israelites through devices like the Urim and Thummim and lots.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Interesting observation on 9:12. Thank you for helping us revise the facts on these Old Testament episodes.