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David flees to the cave of Adullam, where he is joined by four hundred men of various descriptions, 1 Samuel 22:1, 1 Samuel 22:2. He goes afterwards to Moab; and by the advice of the prophet Gad, to the forest of Hareth, 1 Samuel 22:3-5. Saul, suspecting his servants of infidelity, upbraids them, 1 Samuel 22:6-8. Doeg informs him of David‘s coming to Nob; of his being entertained by Ahimelech; on which Saul slays Ahimelech and all the priests, to the number of eighty-five, and destroys the city of Nob, 1 Samuel 22:9-19. Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech, only escapes; he joins with David, by whom he is assured of protection, 1 Samuel 22:20-23.
The cave Adullam - This was in the tribe of Judah, and, according to Eusebius and Jerome, ten miles eastward of what they call Eleutheropolis.
And every one that was in distress - debt - discontented - It is very possible that these several disaffected and exceptionable characters might at first have supposed that David, unjustly persecuted, would be glad to avail himself of their assistance that he might revenge himself upon Saul, and so they in the mean time might profit by plunder, etc. But if this were their design they were greatly disappointed, for David never made any improper use of them. They are never found plundering or murdering; on the contrary, they always appear under good discipline, and are only employed in services of a beneficent nature, and in defense of their country. Whatever they were before they came to David, we find that he succeeded in civilizing them, and making profitable to the state those who were before unprofitable. It is not necessary to strain the words of the original in order to prove that these were oppressed people, and not exceptionable characters, as some have done.
He said unto the king of Moab - David could not trust his parents within the reach of Saul, and he found it very inconvenient to them to be obliged to go through all the fatigues of a military life, and therefore begs the king of Moab to give them shelter. The king of Moab, being one of Saul‘s enemies, would be the more ready to oblige a person from whom he might at least expect friendship, if not considerable services.
Get thee into the land of Judah - Gad saw that in this place alone he could find safety.
Saul abode in Gibeah - Saul and his men were in pursuit of David, and had here, as is the general custom in the East, encamped on a height, for so Ramah should be translated, as in the margin. His spear, the ensign of power (see on 1 Samuel 18:11 (note)), was at hand, that is stuck in the ground where he rested, which was the mark to the soldiers that there was their general‘s tent.
And all his servants were standing about him - That is, they were encamped around him, or perhaps here there is a reference to a sort of council of war called by Saul for the purpose of delivering the speech recorded in the following verses.
There is none that showeth me - He conjectured that Jonathan had made a league with David to dethrone him, and he accuses them of disloyalty for not making the discovery of this unnatural treason. Now it was impossible for any of them to show what did not exist, no such league having ever been made between David and Jonathan.
Doeg the Edomite, which was set over the servants of Saul - In 1 Samuel 21:7 he is said to be the chiefest of the herdmen that belonged to Saul, and the Septuagint intimate that he was over the mules of Saul. Probably he was what we call the king‘s equery or groom.
And he inquired of the Lord for him - This circumstance is not related in history; but it is probably true, as David would most naturally wish to know where to direct his steps in this very important crisis.
And who is so faithful - The word נאמן (neeman), which we here translate faithful, is probably the name of an officer. See the note on Numbers 12:7.
Did I then begin to inquire of God - He probably means that his inquiring now for David was no new thing, having often done so before, and without ever being informed it was either wrong in itself, or displeasing to the king. Nor is it likely that Ahimelech knew of any disagreement between Saul and David. He knew him to be the king‘s son-in-law, and he treated him as such.
But the servants of the king would not - They dared to disobey the commands of the king in a case of such injustice, inhumanity, and irreligion.
And Doeg - fell upon the priests - A ruthless Edomite, capable of any species of iniquity.
Fourscore and five persons - The Septuagint read τριακοσιους και πεντε ανδρας , three hundred and five men; and Josephus has three hundred and eighty-five men. Probably the eighty-five were priests; the three hundred, the families of the priests; three hundred and eighty-five being the whole population of Nob.
That did wear a linen ephod - That is, persons who did actually administer, or had a right to administer, in sacred things. The linen ephod was the ordinary clothing of the priests.
And Nob - smote he with the edge of the sword - This is one of the worst acts in the life of Saul; his malice was implacable, and his wrath was cruel, and there is no motive of justice or policy by which such a barbarous act can be justified.
Abiathar, escaped - This man carried with him his sacerdotal garments, as we find from 1 Samuel 23:6, 1 Samuel 23:9.
I knew it that day - When I saw Doeg there, I suspected he would make the matter known to Saul.
I have occasioned the death of all the persons - I have been the innocent cause of their destruction.
He that seeketh my life seeketh thy life - The enmity of Saul is directed against thee as well as against me, and thou canst have no safety but in being closely attached to me; and I will defend thee even at the risk of my own life. This he was bound in duty and conscience to do.