1 Samuel 22 Commentary: David’s Rise and Saul’s Downfall

1 Samuel 22 Commentary

1 Samuel 22 presents a pivotal chapter in the biblical narrative, chronicling David’s transformation from a fugitive to a leader amidst adversity.

This chapter vividly depicts the contrast between David’s rising destiny and King Saul’s tragic descent into paranoia and brutality. Key events include David’s time in the Cave of Adullam, the gathering of his followers, and the sobering incident at Nob, where Saul’s actions have dire consequences.

1 Samuel 22 not only advances the story of David but also offers profound insights into the challenges of leadership and the impact of decisions in times of crisis.

1 Samuel 22:1-2, David at the Cave of Adullam and Gathering of Followers

David, having fled from Saul, finds himself in the Cave of Adullam.

This cave, a place of refuge, becomes a symbol of David’s transition from being pursued to becoming a leader.

David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him.

1 Samuel 22:1, ESV

Interestingly, it’s here that David attracts a group of men who are in distress, in debt, or discontented. This diverse group of followers is significant, as they eventually form the core of David’s mighty warriors.

And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.

1 Samuel 22:2, ESV

The gathering of such men around David reflects his ability to lead and inspire loyalty, even in the most challenging circumstances.

This early formation of his followers lays the foundation for David’s future as a leader in Israel.

1 Samuel 22:3-5, David’s Family in Moab and the Prophet Gad’s Advice

David, concerned for the safety of his family due to Saul’s pursuit, makes a strategic decision to move them to Moab. This act not only shows his care for his family but also his political acumen in securing their safety.

And David went from there to Mizpeh of Moab. And he said to the king of Moab, “Please let my father and my mother stay with you, till I know what God will do for me.” And he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him all the time that David was in the stronghold.

1 Samuel 22:3-4, ESV

The arrival of the prophet Gad during this time provides divine direction.

Gad’s advice to David to leave the stronghold and head to Judah is a pivotal moment, emphasizing the role of prophetic guidance in David’s life.

Then the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not remain in the stronghold; depart, and go into the land of Judah.” So David departed and went into the forest of Hereth.

1 Samuel 22:5, ESV

This segment highlights the interplay between David’s personal responsibilities and his larger destiny, guided by prophetic insight.

1 Samuel 22:6-10, Saul’s Accusation and Doeg’s Report

King Saul, in his paranoia, expresses his suspicions to his servants, showcasing his fear and distrust.

This marks a significant point in Saul’s decline, as he becomes increasingly consumed by his obsession with David.

Now Saul heard that David was discovered, and the men who were with him. Saul was sitting at Gibeah under the tamarisk tree on the height with his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing about him. And Saul said to his servants who stood about him, “Hear now, people of Benjamin; will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, will he make you all commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds,

1 Samuel 22:6-7, ESV

The entrance of Doeg the Edomite into the narrative is crucial as his report about Ahimelech helping David serves to escalate Saul’s suspicions into action.

that all of you have conspired against me? No one discloses to me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is sorry for me or discloses to me that my son has stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day.” Then answered Doeg the Edomite, who stood by the servants of Saul, “I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub,

1 Samuel 22:8-9, ESV

This segment illustrates Saul’s descent into irrationality and mistrust, significantly impacting the lives of those around him, including Ahimelech and David.

1 Samuel 22:11-19, Saul’s Command and the Massacre at Nob

Saul’s confrontation with Ahimelech reveals Saul’s complete disregard for justice and truth. Ahimelech’s defense, highlighting his loyalty and unawareness of the conflict between Saul and David, is a key moment in this tragic episode.

Then the king sent to summon Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub, and all his father’s house, the priests who were at Nob, and all of them came to the king. And Saul said, “Hear now, son of Ahitub.” And he answered, “Here I am, my lord.” And Saul said to him, “Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, in that you have given him bread and a sword and have inquired of God for him, so that he has risen against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?”

1 Samuel 22:11-13, ESV

Saul’s order to kill the priests of Nob, and its execution by Doeg, is a horrifying act of brutality.

This massacre represents not only a physical but also a moral and spiritual decline in Saul’s reign.

And the king said, “You shall surely die, Ahimelech, you and all your father’s house.” And the king said to the guard who stood about him, “Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because their hand also is with David, and they knew that he fled and did not disclose it to me.” But the servants of the king would not put out their hand to strike the priests of the Lord.

1 Samuel 22:16-17, ESV

This is critical in understanding the depth of Saul’s fall from grace and the extent of his tyranny.

1 Samuel 22:20-23, Abiathar’s Escape and Joining David

Abiathar’s escape to David and the news of the massacre he brings is a turning point. David’s reaction, acknowledging his indirect role in the tragedy, reveals his sense of responsibility and compassion.

But one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David. And Abiathar told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord.

1 Samuel 22:20-21, ESV

David’s promise of protection to Abiathar not only ensures the priest’s safety but also signifies the alignment of David with the religious authority of the time.

This union foreshadows David’s eventual rise to kingship.

And David said to Abiathar, “I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I have occasioned the death of all the persons of your father’s house. Stay with me; do not be afraid, for he who seeks my life seeks your life. With me you shall be in safekeeping.”

1 Samuel 22:22-23, ESV

The conclusion of this chapter sets the stage for David’s continued rise and the further unraveling of Saul’s reign, intertwining political, spiritual, and personal themes.