21 David went to the priest Ahimelech at Nob. Ahimelech was afraid to meet David, so he said to him, “Why are you alone and no one is with you?”2 David answered the priest Ahimelech, “The king gave me a mission, but he told me, ‘Don’t let anyone know anything about the mission I’m sending you on or what I have ordered you to do.’ I have stationed my young men at a certain place. 3 Now what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread or whatever can be found.”4 The priest told him, “There is no ordinary bread on hand. However, there is consecrated bread, but the young men may eat it[a] only if they have kept themselves from women.”5 David answered him, “I swear that women are being kept from us, as always when I go out to battle. The young men’s bodies[b] are consecrated even on an ordinary mission, so of course their bodies are consecrated today.” 6 So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, for there was no bread there except the Bread of the Presence that had been removed from the presence of the Lord. When the bread was removed, it had been replaced with warm bread.7 One of Saul’s servants, detained before the Lord, was there that day. His name was Doeg the Edomite, chief of Saul’s shepherds.8 David said to Ahimelech, “Do you have a spear or sword on hand? I didn’t even bring my sword or my weapons since the king’s mission was urgent.”9 The priest replied, “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 want to take it for yourself, then take it, for there isn’t another one here.”“There’s none like it!” David said. “Give it to me.”
David Flees to Gath
10 David fled that day from Saul’s presence and went to King Achish of Gath. 11 But Achish’s servants said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Don’t they sing about him during their dances:Saul has killed his thousands,
but David his tens of thousands?”12 David took this to heart[c] and became very afraid of King Achish of Gath, 13 so he pretended to be insane in their presence. He acted like a madman around them,[d] scribbling[e] on the doors of the city gate and letting saliva run down his beard.14 “Look! You can see the man is crazy,” Achish said to his servants. “Why did you bring him to me? 15 Do I have such a shortage of crazy people that you brought this one to act crazy around me? Is this one going to come into my house?”
Saul’s Increasing Paranoia
22 So David left Gath and took refuge in the cave of Adullam. When David’s brothers and his father’s whole family heard, they went down and joined him there. 2 In addition, every man who was desperate, in debt, or discontented rallied around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.3 From there David went to Mizpeh of Moab where he said to the king of Moab, “Please let my father and mother stay with you until I know what God will do for me.” 4 So he left them in the care of the king of Moab, and they stayed with him the whole time David was in the stronghold.5 Then the prophet Gad said to David, “Don’t stay in the stronghold. Leave and return to the land of Judah.” So David left and went to the forest of Hereth.6 Saul heard that David and his men had been discovered. At that time Saul was in Gibeah, sitting under the tamarisk tree at the high place. His spear was in his hand, and all his servants were standing around him. 7 Saul said to his servants, “Listen, men of Benjamin: Is Jesse’s son going to give all of you fields and vineyards? Do you think he’ll make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? 8 That’s why all of you have conspired against me! Nobody tells me[f] when my own son makes a covenant with Jesse’s son. None of you cares about me or tells me[g] that my son has stirred up my own servant to wait in ambush for me, as is the case today.”9 Then Doeg the Edomite, who was in charge of Saul’s servants, answered: “I saw Jesse’s son come to Ahimelech son of Ahitub at Nob. 10 Ahimelech inquired of the Lord for him and gave him provisions. He also gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.”
Slaughter of the Priests
11 The king sent messengers to summon the priest Ahimelech son of Ahitub, and his father’s whole family, who were priests in Nob. All of them came to the king. 12 Then Saul said, “Listen, son of Ahitub!”“I’m at your service, my lord,” he said.13 Saul asked him, “Why did you and Jesse’s son conspire against me? You gave him bread and a sword and inquired of God for him, so he could rise up against me and wait in ambush, as is the case today.”14 Ahimelech replied to the king: “Who among all your servants is as faithful as David? He is the king’s son-in-law, captain of your bodyguard, and honored in your house. 15 Was today the first time I inquired of God for him? Of course not! Please don’t let the king make an accusation against your servant or any of my father’s family, for your servant didn’t have any idea[h] about all this.”16 But the king said, “You will die, Ahimelech—you and your father’s whole family!”17 Then the king ordered the guards standing by him, “Turn and kill the priests of the Lord because they sided with David. For they knew he was fleeing, but they didn’t tell me.”[i] But the king’s servants would not lift a hand to execute the priests of the Lord.18 So the king said to Doeg, “Go and execute the priests!” So Doeg the Edomite went and executed the priests himself. On that day, he killed eighty-five men who wore linen ephods. 19 He also struck down Nob, the city of the priests, with the sword—both men and women, infants and nursing babies, oxen, donkeys, and sheep.20 However, one of the sons of Ahimelech son of Ahitub escaped. His name was Abiathar, and he fled to David. 21 Abiathar told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord. 22 Then David said to Abiathar, “I knew that Doeg the Edomite was there that day and that he was sure to report to Saul. I myself am responsible for[j] the lives of everyone in your father’s family. 23 Stay with me. Don’t be afraid, for the one who wants to take my life wants to take your life. You will be safe with me.”
Deliverance at Keilah
23 It was reported to David: “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and raiding the threshing floors.”2 So David inquired of the Lord: “Should I launch an attack against these Philistines?”The Lord answered David, “Launch an attack against the Philistines and rescue Keilah.”3 But David’s men said to him, “Look, we’re afraid here in Judah; how much more if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!”4 Once again, David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him: “Go at once to Keilah, for I will hand the Philistines over to you.” 5 Then David and his men went to Keilah, fought against the Philistines, drove their livestock away, and inflicted heavy losses on them. So David rescued the inhabitants of Keilah. 6 Abiathar son of Ahimelech fled to David at Keilah, and he brought an ephod with him.7 When it was reported to Saul that David had gone to Keilah, he said, “God has handed him over to me, for he has trapped himself by entering a town with barred gates.” 8 Then Saul summoned all the troops to go to war at Keilah and besiege David and his men.9 When David learned that Saul was plotting evil against him, he said to the priest Abiathar, “Bring the ephod.”10 Then David said, “Lord God of Israel, your servant has reliable information that Saul intends to come to Keilah and destroy the town because of me. 11 Will the citizens of Keilah hand me over to him? Will Saul come down as your servant has heard? Lord God of Israel, please tell your servant.”The Lord answered, “He will come down.”12 Then David asked, “Will the citizens of Keilah hand me and my men over to Saul?”“They will,” the Lord responded.13 So David and his men, numbering about six hundred, left Keilah at once and moved from place to place. When it was reported to Saul that David had escaped from Keilah, he called off the expedition. 14 David then stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hill country of the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul searched for him every day, but God did not hand David over to him.
A Renewed Covenant
15 David was in the Wilderness of Ziph in Horesh when he saw that Saul had come out to take his life. 16 Then Saul’s son Jonathan came to David in Horesh and encouraged him in his faith[k] in God, 17 saying, “Don’t be afraid, for my father Saul will never lay a hand on you. You yourself will be king over Israel, and I’ll be your second-in-command. Even my father Saul knows it is true.” 18 Then the two of them made a covenant in the Lord’s presence. Afterward, David remained in Horesh, while Jonathan went home.
David’s Narrow Escape
19 Some Ziphites came up to Saul at Gibeah and said, “David is[l] hiding among us in the strongholds in Horesh on the hill of Hachilah south of Jeshimon. 20 Now, whenever the king wants to come down, let him come down. Our part will be to hand him over to the king.”21 “May you be blessed by the Lord,” replied Saul, “for you have shown concern for me. 22 Go and check again. Investigate[m] where he goes[n] and who has seen him there; they tell me he is extremely cunning. 23 Investigate[o] all the places where he hides. Then come back to me with accurate information, and I’ll go with you. If it turns out he really is in the region, I’ll search for him among all the clans[p] of Judah.” 24 So they went to Ziph ahead of Saul.Now David and his men were in the wilderness near Maon in the Arabah south of Jeshimon, 25 and Saul and his men went to look for him. When David was told about it, he went down to the rock and stayed in the Wilderness of Maon. Saul heard of this and pursued David there.26 Saul went along one side of the mountain and David and his men went along the other side. Even though David was hurrying to get away from Saul, Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them. 27 Then a messenger came to Saul saying, “Come quickly, because the Philistines have raided the land!” 28 So Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to engage the Philistines. Therefore, that place was named the Rock of Separation. 29 From there David went up and stayed in the strongholds of En-gedi.
David Spares Saul
24 When Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the wilderness near En-gedi.” 2 So Saul took three thousand of Israel’s fit young men and went to look for David and his men in front of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. 3 When Saul came to the sheep pens along the road, a cave was there, and he went in to relieve himself.[q] David and his men were staying in the recesses of the cave, 4 so they said to him, “Look, this is the day the Lord told you about: ‘I will hand your enemy over to you so you can do to him whatever you desire.’” Then David got up and secretly cut off the corner of Saul’s robe.5 Afterward, David’s conscience bothered[r] him because he had cut off the corner of Saul’s robe.[s] 6 He said to his men, “I swear before the Lord: I would never do such a thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed. I will never lift my hand against him, since he is the Lord’s anointed.” 7 With these words David persuaded[t] his men, and he did not let them rise up against Saul.Then Saul left the cave and went on his way. 8 After that, David got up, went out of the cave, and called to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David knelt low with his face to the ground and paid homage. 9 David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of people who say, ‘Look, David intends to harm you’? 10 You can see with your own eyes that the Lord handed you over to me today in the cave. Someone advised me to kill you, but I[u][v] took pity on you and said: I won’t lift my hand against my lord, since he is the Lord’s anointed. 11 Look, my father! Look at the corner of your robe in my hand, for I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. Recognize[w] that I’ve committed no crime or rebellion. I haven’t sinned against you even though you are hunting me down to take my life.12 “May the Lord judge between me and you, and may the Lord take vengeance on you for me, but my hand will never be against you. 13 As the old proverb says, ‘Wickedness comes from wicked people.’ My hand will never be against you. 14 Who has the king of Israel come after? What are you chasing after? A dead dog? A single flea? 15 May the Lord be judge and decide between you and me. May he take notice and plead my case and deliver[x] me from you.”16 When David finished saying these things to him, Saul replied, “Is that your voice, David my son?” Then Saul wept aloud 17 and said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have done what is good to me though I have done what is evil to you. 18 You yourself have told me today what good you did for me: when the Lord handed me over to you, you didn’t kill me. 19 When a man finds his enemy, does he let him go unharmed?[y] May the Lord repay you with good for what you’ve done for me today.20 “Now I know for certain you will be king, and the kingdom of Israel will be established[z] in your hand. 21 Therefore swear to me by the Lord that you will not cut off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.” 22 So David swore to Saul. Then Saul went back home, and David and his men went up to the stronghold.
Saul was an evil man. Killing those who helped David, even priests of God. and here, David has the opportunity to kill Saul, end his reign of terror, save his own life, and finally become the king God said he would be. And David doesn’t kill him. Why? It only seems just for David to enact judgement on Saul. Isn’t God a just God?
David continued to follow what God wanted. He chose to wait on God’s timing, because Saul was still God’s anointed king for now. And until God told David to act, or removed Saul himself, David would bow to God’s will.
That’s some pretty amazing self-control. To wait for God’s timing when he could have everything he wanted in one move that would be totally justified.
One of the fruit of the spirit is self-control. It is a character trait of God’s, and it should also be one of His people. Where can you exercise self-control today?