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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father's house heard it, they went down thither to him.
To the cave Adullam - Or rather "of Adullam." Adullam was the name of a town of Judah in the "Shephelah," not far from Bethlehem, and below it. Innumerable caverns, one nearly 100 feet long, are excavated in the soft limestone hills in the neighborhood of Beit-Jibrin. (The cave is placed by Ganneau and Conder on the hill (500 feet high) over 'Aid el Ma or Miyeh.) David's brethren and kinsmen joined him partly from sympathy with him, and partly because their own lives were in jeopardy front Saul's furious enmity.
2And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.
Discontented - See the margin. (Compare 1 Samuel 30:6; 2 Samuel 17:8.) The phrase here denotes those who were exasperated by Saul's tyranny.
3And David went thence to Mizpeh of Moab: and he said unto the king of Moab, Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come forth, and be with you, till I know what God will do for me.
Mizpeh of Moab - A good conjecture connects it with "Zophim" (a word of the same root as Mizpeh) on the top of Pisgah Numbers 23:14. It is probable that David's descent from Ruth the Moabitess may have had something to do with his seeking an asylum for Jesse, Ruth's grandson, in the land of her birth. It would be very easy to get to the Jordan from the neighborhood of Bethlehem, and cross over near its embouchure into the Dead Sea.
Come forth, and be with you - The construction of the Hebrew is very strange. The Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic seem to have read "dwell" instead of "come forth."
4And he brought them before the king of Moab: and they dwelt with him all the while that David was in the hold.
He brought them before ... - The Septuagint renders it "he persuaded (the face of) the king."
In the hold - Where David was after he left the cave of Adullam, probably in the land of Moab.
The phrase "all the while," would indicate that David sojourned a considerable time in Moab.
5And the prophet Gad said unto David, Abide not in the hold; depart, and get thee into the land of Judah. Then David departed, and came into the forest of Hareth.
The prophet Gad - Mentioned here for the first time. One may conjecture that Samnel had sent him privately from Naioth to tell David not to abide in the hold. Whether he stayed with David or returned to the College of the prophets does not appear. For later notices of him see marginal references.
The forest of Hareth is unknown.
6When Saul heard that David was discovered, and the men that were with him, (now Saul abode in Gibeah under a tree in Ramah, having his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing about him;)
Under a tree in Ramah - Rather, "under the tamarisk-tree on the high place," where he always held such meetings. It was a kind of parliament in the open air, and all his tribesmen gathered round him. (Compare Judges 4:5.)
7Then Saul said unto his servants that stood about him, Hear now, ye Benjamites; will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, and make you all captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds;
Ye Benjamites - Showing how isolated the tribes still were, and how for the most part Saul was surrounded by his own tribesmen only.
8That all of you have conspired against me, and there is none that sheweth me that my son hath made a league with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you that is sorry for me, or sheweth unto me that my son hath stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?
9Then answered Doeg the Edomite, which was set over the servants of Saul, and said, I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub.
10And he inquired of the LORD for him, and gave him victuals, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.
He inquired of the Lord ... - This was not true, but Ahimelech's going to fetch the sword from behind the ephod might have given occasion to the belief on Doeg's part that he had put on the ephod to inquire of the Lord for David.
11Then the king sent to call Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub, and all his father's house, the priests that were in Nob: and they came all of them to the king.
12And Saul said, Hear now, thou son of Ahitub. And he answered, Here I am, my lord.
13And Saul said unto him, Why have ye conspired against me, thou and the son of Jesse, in that thou hast given him bread, and a sword, and hast inquired of God for him, that he should rise against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?
14Then Ahimelech answered the king, and said, And who is so faithful among all thy servants as David, which is the king's son in law, and goeth at thy bidding, and is honourable in thine house?
Goeth at thy bidding - Better, "has access to thy (private) audience," or council (compare 2 Samuel 23:23, margin).
15Did I then begin to inquire of God for him? be it far from me: let not the king impute any thing unto his servant, nor to all the house of my father: for thy servant knew nothing of all this, less or more.
Did I then begin ... - Some lay the stress upon the word "begin," as though Ahimelech's justification was that he had often before inquired of the Lord for David when employed on the king's affairs. But it is much better to understand the words as Ahimelech's solemn denial of having inquired of the Lord for David, a duty which he owed to Saul alone as king of Israel. The force of the word "begin" lies in this, that it would have been his first act of allegiance to David and defection from Saul. This he strenuously repudiates, and adds, "thy servant knew nothing of all this" conspiracy between Jonathan and David of which Saul speaks: he had acted quite innocently.
16And the king said, Thou shalt surely die, Ahimelech, thou, and all thy father's house.
17And the king said unto the footmen that stood about him, Turn, and slay the priests of the LORD; because their hand also is with David, and because they knew when he fled, and did not shew it to me. But the servants of the king would not put forth their hand to fall upon the priests of the LORD.
18And the king said to Doeg, Turn thou, and fall upon the priests. And Doeg the Edomite turned, and he fell upon the priests, and slew on that day fourscore and five persons that did wear a linen ephod.
We are not to suppose that Doeg killed them all with his own hand. He had a band of men under his command, many or all of whom were perhaps foreigners like himself, and very likely of a Bedouin caste, to whom bloodshed would be quite natural, and the priests of the Lord of no more account than so Early sheep or oxen.
19And Nob, the city of the priests, smote he with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and sucklings, and oxen, and asses, and sheep, with the edge of the sword.
Both men and women ... - The language employed in the case of the Amalekites 1 Samuel 15:3 and of Jericho Joshua 6:21. Nothing could be more truculent than Saul's revenge.
20And one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped, and fled after David.
Abiathar - He may have remained at Nob to take care of the sanctuary when the other priests went to Saul, and so escaped. He continued David's faithful friend throughout his reign 1 Samuel 23:9; 1 Samuel 30:7; 2 Samuel 15:24, 2 Samuel 15:29, 2 Samuel 15:35, but gave offence by taking Adonijah's part against Solomon 1 Kings 1:7, 1 Kings 1:19, 1 Kings 1:42, and in consequence was deprived of the high priesthood 1 Kings 2:26-27. In Mark 2:26, he is spoken of as the High Priest who gave the showbread to David. Perhaps he was the instigator of this act of kindness to David; and for this cause, as well as his constancy to David, is mentioned by our Lord instead of Ahimelech. It is also possible that, as sagan to his father, he may have performed most of the priestly functions, as Hophni and Phinehas did in the lifetime of Eli. Abiathar did not actually join David until he went to Keilah (marginal reference).
21And Abiathar shewed David that Saul had slain the LORD'S priests.
22And David said unto Abiathar, I knew it that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul: I have occasioned the death of all the persons of thy father's house.
23Abide thou with me, fear not: for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: but with me thou shalt be in safeguard.
The characteristic generosity of David's disposition breaks out in these words. He never forgot a friend. (Compare 2 Samuel 1:26; 2 Samuel 9:1, etc.) David acknowledges that Saul's enmity against Abiathar is the consequence of his enmity against himself, and therefore David makes common cause with him.