David vs. Saul, Part 1

Last week we talked about Jonathan, Saul’s son who should have been heir to the throne if God had not decided that he wanted David to be king instead. We saw how Jonathan chose his friendship and loyalty to David over power, and helped David escape Saul’s wrath.

Which means David is now on the run, and Saul wants him dead.

David’s been living in the palace up to this point, as part of Saul’s court. And he can’t go home to Bethlehem because that’ll probably be the first place that Saul looks for him. So he’s kind of lost and just running, not knowing where to go.

Can someone read 1 Samuel 21:1-6?

21  David came to Nob to the priest Ahimelech. Ahimelech came trembling to meet David, and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” 2 David said to the priest Ahimelech, “The king has charged me with a matter, and said to me, ‘No one must know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.’ I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place. 3 Now then, what have you at hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.” 4 The priest answered David, “I have no ordinary bread at hand, only holy bread—provided that the young men have kept themselves from women.” 5 David answered the priest, “Indeed women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition; the vessels of the young men are holy even when it is a common journey; how much more today will their vessels be holy?” 6 So the priest gave him the holy bread; for there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the Lord, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away.

David—not knowing where to go—goes to a priest. And the priest is surprised to see him alone. David basically lies, afraid that he might get turned in or turned away, and says that Saul trusted him alone with an urgent matter of which no one is to know. And then follows it up with “I’m hungry.”

The priest is like, “We don’t have anything here except for holy bread.” This holy bread is basically bread that only priests can eat. David basically argues the priest into giving him the bread, saying that he’s not making himself unclean with women—but more importantly that a mission can be holy even if it doesn’t seem like it is on the outside. So the priest allows it and gives him the bread.

Someone read 1 Samuel 21:7-9 please.

7 Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the Lord; his name was Doeg the Edomite, the chief of Saul’s shepherds.

8 David said to Ahimelech, “Is there no spear or sword here with you? I did not bring my sword or my weapons with me, because the king’s business required haste.” 9 The priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the valley of Elah, is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod; if you will take that, take it, for there is none here except that one.” David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.”

David also asks the priest for a weapon, and turns out Goliath’s weapon is there! David takes it and it’s appropriate, because Saul is like a Goliath—in that he is very powerful and a man like David shouldn’t be able to take him down.

But the most important thing in this section is that a man named Doeg sees the whole thing, and that he works for Saul. What do you think a man loyal to Saul will do when he sees the man Saul wants to kill? Tell the king of course.

David leaves this place and goes to a couple of different cities, gathering to him men who are loyal to him. Meanwhile Saul is looking for him. Can someone read 1 Samuel 21:11-15?

11 The king sent for the priest Ahimelech son of Ahitub and for all his father’s house, the priests who were at Nob; and all of them came to the king. 12 Saul said, “Listen now, son of Ahitub.” He answered, “Here I am, my lord.” 13 Saul said to him, “Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, by giving him bread and a sword, and by inquiring of God for him, so that he has risen against me, to lie in wait, as he is doing today?”

14 Then Ahimelech answered the king, “Who among all your servants is so faithful as David? He is the king’s son-in-law, and is quick[a] to do your bidding, and is honored in your house. 15 Is today the first time that I have inquired of God for him? By no means! Do not let the king impute anything to his servant or to any member of my father’s house; for your servant has known nothing of all this, much or little.”

So Saul hears about this priest helping David out and basically is like “Why did you help David? Don’t you know he’s like trying to kill me?”

And the priest is like “Umm, no? David is your servant, and works for you.” He also points out David is his son-in-law, which is true. David is married to one of Saul’s daughters. The priest is just over all confused, because he didn’t know David was a threat. He thought David was a trusted member of the court.

Do you think Saul is going to accept this answer? That the Saul never actually told the priest that David was an enemy now? [Let them answer.]

Well let’s see what Saul does. Someone please read 1 Samuel 22:16-19.

16 The king said, “You shall surely die, Ahimelech, you and all your father’s house.” 17 The king said to the guard who stood around him, “Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because their hand also is with David; they knew that he fled, and did not disclose it to me.” But the servants of the king would not raise their hand to attack the priests of the Lord. 18 Then the king said to Doeg, “You, Doeg, turn and attack the priests.” Doeg the Edomite turned and attacked the priests; on that day he killed eighty-five who wore the linen ephod. 19 Nob, the city of the priests, he put to the sword; men and women, children and infants, oxen, donkeys, and sheep, he put to the sword.

Saul orders the guards to kill the priest. Saul literally orders the priest to be killed because he did his job. The guards, however, are all like “Uhmm, this sounds like a bad idea. I’m not going to kill a priest of God!”

But Doeg is willing to kill the priests. The Bible points out every time this guy Doeg is mentioned that he’s an Edomite. Does anyone know what Edomite means? [Let them answer.]

Well first off it means he’s not an Israelites, which is why I think the Bible goes to great lengths to point that out, that only the non-Israelite is willing to kill the priests of God. But why is this non-Israelite hanging out with Israelites? Well becomes Edomites and Israelites are related.  Edomites are the descendants of Esau. So they live in the same area but aren’t considered outsiders like say the Philistines.

So all these priests are killed.

Someone please read 1 Samuel 22:20-23.

20 But one of the sons of Ahimelech son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David. 21 Abiathar told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord. 22 David said to Abiathar, “I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I am responsible[a] for the lives of all your father’s house. 23 Stay with me, and do not be afraid; for the one who seeks my life seeks your life; you will be safe with me.”

One of the priests escapes this massacre and goes to find David. And David actually blames himself for this. The reason why David blames himself is not because he killed those men, or even because he took refuge with them. But because he had known Doeg was there—and that Doeg was basically a spy of Saul’s—and he didn’t do anything about it. He could have stopped—whether by killing him or just taking him hostage. But David just saw him and did nothing.

The act of killing the priests is still Saul’s fault, but David knows he could have done something that could have prevented it.

Skipping ahead someone read 1 Samuel 23:1-5.

23 Now they told David, “The Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and are robbing the threshing floors.” 2 David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” The Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” 3 But David’s men said to him, “Look, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” 4 Then David inquired of the Lord again. The Lord answered him, “Yes, go down to Keilah; for I will give the Philistines into your hand.” 5 So David and his men went to Keilah, fought with the Philistines, brought away their livestock, and dealt them a heavy defeat. Thus David rescued the inhabitants of Keilah.

So the Philistines were attacking this city of Keilah, and David is told about it. He asks God what he should do—since he’s basically a fugitive in hiding protecting the city would definitely expose him to Saul, or at least let Saul know where he is. And God is like “Go protect them!”  

But David’s men are basically like “we’re scared” so David takes their concern back to God and God is just like “Dude, I have your back. If you fight I ensure you’ll win.” Which is exactly what happens. David leads his men, they go defeat the Philistines, and Keilah is saved!

Someone please read 1 Samuel 23:7-8.

7 Now it was told Saul that David had come to Keilah. And Saul said, “God has given[a] him into my hand; for he has shut himself in by entering a town that has gates and bars.” 8 Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men.

So sure enough, Saul hears that David has rescued Keilah and is in that town. So he’s like “aha! Now I have David! He’s in a town so I will lay siege to that town until David and his men come out!”

If you don’t know what besieging or sieging or laying siege means, it’s basically surrounding a place and keeping anything or anyone from coming in or out, while also often attacking the town and trying to get in. The keeping anything from going in or out is the big deal though, because a lot of these towns relied on produce from nearby farms or water from nearby rivers, and if they couldn’t get those things the town would starve. So Saul is basically thinking that if he sieges Keilah, David will come out to save everyone. This is a brutal move, because the people who live in Keilah are Isrealites, and Saul is showing over and over that he is willing to kill his own people if that’s what it takes to get to David.

The people of Keilah didn’t pick a side in this war, not really. They were just being attacked by Philistines and it was David—not Saul—who came to their aid. And now Saul is basically going to punish them for nothing they did.

Someone please read 1 Samuel 23:9-14.

9 When David learned that Saul was plotting evil against him, he said to the priest Abiathar, “Bring the ephod here.” 10 David said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, your servant has heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. 11 And now, will Saul come down as your servant has heard? O Lord, the God of Israel, I beseech you, tell your servant.” The Lord said, “He will come down.” 12 Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” The Lord said, “They will surrender you.” 13 Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, set out and left Keilah; they wandered wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition. 14 David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul sought him every day, but the Lord did not give him into his hand.

When David hears that Saul is coming to Keilah to attack him, he’s basically like “God, is Saul really going to kill this innocent city to get to me?” And God is like “Yep.”

And David is like “Well will the people of Keilah give me up to Saul to protect themselves from him or will they protect me?”

And God is like “They’re totally going to give you up.”

Now once again I don’t want you to think too poorly of these people here, because remember they were just being attacked by the Philistines and now their own king is coming to attack them. Giving up David is the move that will save the most lives. And David doesn’t really seem to blame them either, because basically they just escape before Saul and his army can get there.

And when Saul hears that David escaped before he even got there, he just gives up on the whole journey to Keilah. Instead they go back to this cat and mouse game in the wilderness, where David is in hiding and Saul is trying to find him. But God still has David’s back to Saul doesn’t find him.

In both of these stories we see that Saul is slowly losing touch with what it means to be a good king in his anger at David. He’s willing to sacrifice his own country, his own people, if it means taking David down. David on the other hand came to the aid of Keilah even though he knew that it meant Saul might find him. David is acting more kingly than Saul before he even becomes king.

Alright next week we’ll continue discussing this, and see how David and Saul’s battle continues.