1 Samuel 22:1 - 23
ESV - 1 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. 2 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 captain over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.
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In 1 Samuel 8, the people of Israel demanded a king to replace the judges that God had periodically raised up for them after their entry into the Promised Land following the exodus from Egypt and the death of Joshua and his generation (Judges 2:10-23). As a result, God had selected Saul as Israel's first king (1 Samuel 9-10). However, Saul disobeyed God (1 Samuel 13-15), so God rejected him, and instructed Samuel (the last of Israel's judges) to anoint David as the new king in Saul's place (1 Samuel 16). Saul did not want to give up the throne. He was also jealous of the fact that David was more popular with the people than he was (1 Samuel 18:1-8). Saul therefore added to his previous disobedience and sin by seeking to have David killed. Anyone who tried to help David was regarded by Saul as an enemy who was conspiring with David against him. As indicated in 1 Samuel 21, while David was fleeing from Saul's attempts to kill him, David was in need of food. He therefore went to God's tabernacle at the city of Nob to see Ahimelech (who was one of the priests of God at that time, and who was also apparently unaware of Saul's efforts to kill David) in order to get some bread. (David did not tell Ahimelech that Saul was trying to kill him, but said that he was on a special mission from Saul.) The only bread that Ahimelech had was the "bread of the Presence" that was supposed to be a consecrated offering to God for the exclusive use of the priests (Leviticus 24:5-9), but Ahimelech allowed David to take it. (Jesus later referred to this incident in Luke 6:1-5.) Ahimelech also gave David the sword of Goliath, the Philistine giant whom David had earlier slain in 1 Samuel 17. One of Saul's herdsmen (Doeg the Edomite) was also present at the tabernacle when David was there. Doeg overheard the conversation between David and Ahimelech, and later reported back to Saul (in 1 Samuel 22, as cited in the question) that Ahimelech had given both bread and Goliath's sword to David. Saul therefore summoned Ahimelech and angrily demanded to know why Ahimelech had given help to David, and why Ahimelech was conspiring with David against him. Ahimelech protested that he had acted in innocence, since (as far as he had known) David had been on a mission from Saul (in addition to being Saul's own son-in-law (1 Samuel 18:22-27)). Nevertheless, Saul ordered his soldiers to kill Ahimelech. When they refused to do so, Saul told Doeg the Edomite to do it. Doeg then killed not only Ahimelech, but also eighty-four other priests of God. After that, Doeg went to the tabernacle at Nob, and killed nearly all the family members (men, women, children, and babies) of all those priests, as well, in addition to their oxen, donkeys, and sheep. The only person who escaped was one of Ahimelech's sons, who went to David and reported to him what had happened. Saul was eventually wounded in battle against the Philistines, and killed himself to avoid being captured alive (1 Samuel 31). (Three of Saul's four sons also died in the same battle.) Although Saul's followers continued to fight against David in order to continue Saul's dynasty through Saul's sole surviving son Ish-bosheth, David ultimately prevailed, and was recognized as king of all Israel (2 Samuel 5:1-5).
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