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1 Samuel 21-25 Common English Bible (CEB)

David helped at Nob

21 [a] David came to Nob where Ahimelech was priest. Ahimelech was shaking in fear when he met David. “Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?” he asked.

David answered Ahimelech the priest, “The king has given me orders, but he instructed me, ‘Don’t let anyone know anything about the mission I’m sending you on or about your orders.’ As for my troops, I told them to meet me at an undisclosed location. Now what do you have here with you? Give me five loaves of bread or whatever you can find.”

“I don’t have any regular bread on hand,” the priest answered David, “just holy bread—but only if your troops have abstained from sexual activity.”

“Definitely,” David answered the priest. “Whenever I go out to war, women are off-limits; that’s our standard operating procedure. Even on regular missions, the men’s gear is[b] kept holy. That’s even more true today, with the mission holy along with the gear.”[c] So the priest gave David holy bread, because there was no other bread except the bread of the presence, which is removed from the Lord’s presence and replaced by warm bread as soon as it is taken away.

Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained in the Lord’s presence. His name was Doeg. He was an Edomite and Saul’s head shepherd.

David asked Ahimelech, “Do you have a spear or sword on hand? I didn’t bring my sword or gear with me because the king’s mission was urgent.”

The priest said, “The sword of Goliath, the Philistine you killed in the Elah Valley, is here wrapped in a cloth behind a priestly vest.[d] If you want it, take it, because there are no other swords here.”

David said, “No sword is as good as that one! Give it to me!”

David pretends to be crazy

10 So David got up and continued running from Saul. He went to Achish, Gath’s king. 11 Achish’s servants said to him, “Isn’t that David, king of the land? He’s the one people sing about in their dances,

‘Saul has killed his thousands,
    but David has killed his tens of thousands!’”

12 David took these words very seriously and became very frightened of Achish, Gath’s king. 13 So he changed the way he acted with them, pretending to be insane while he was with them.[e] He scratched marks on the doors of the city gates[f] and let spit run down his chin.

14 “Can’t you see he’s crazy?” Achish asked his servants. “Why bring him to me? 15 Am I short on insane people that you’ve brought this person to go crazy right in front of me? Do you really think I’m going to let this man enter my house?”

David gathers support

22 David left Gath and escaped to Adullam’s fortress.[g] When David’s siblings and all his extended family learned of this, they went to join him there. Everyone who was in trouble, in debt, or in desperate circumstances gathered around David, and he became their leader. Approximately four hundred men joined him.

From there David went to Mizpeh in Moab. He said to the Moabite king, “Please let my father and mother stay with you until I know what God will do to me.” So David left his parents with the Moabite king, and they stayed with him the whole time David was in the fortress.

Then the prophet Gad told David, “Don’t stay in the fortress any longer. Leave now and go to the land of Judah.” So David left and went to Hereth forest.

Saul kills the priests of Nob

Saul learned that David and his soldiers had been located. Saul was sitting under the tamarisk tree on the hill at Gibeah, spear in hand, with all his servants waiting on him. He said to them, “Listen up, Benjaminites! Will Jesse’s son give fields and vineyards to each and every one of you? Will he make each one of you commanders of units of one thousand men or commanders of units of one hundred? Is that why all of you have conspired against me? No one informed me when my son made a covenant with Jesse’s son! Not one of you is concerned about me or informs me when my own son sets my servant against me in an ambush—but that’s what has happened today!”

Doeg the Edomite, who was standing with Saul’s servants, responded, “I saw Jesse’s son go to Ahimelech, Ahitub’s son, at Nob. 10 Ahimelech questioned the Lord for David, and gave him provisions as well as the sword of Goliath the Philistine.”

11 The king then sent for the priest Ahimelech, Ahitub’s son, and all his extended family, who were the priests at Nob. All of them came to the king.

12 “Listen here, son of Ahitub,” Saul said.

“Yes sir,” he replied.

13 Saul said to him, “Why have you conspired against me—you with Jesse’s son—giving him food and a sword and questioning God for him so that he is now against me, waiting in ambush, which is what has happened today?”

14 Ahimelech answered the king, “Out of all your servants, who is as trustworthy as David? He is the king’s son-in-law, does whatever you ask, and is well respected in your house. 15 Was that the first time I questioned God for him? Of course not! But please, the king shouldn’t accuse me, his servant, or anyone in my father’s household of any wrongdoing, because your servant knew nothing whatsoever about this matter.”

16 But the king said, “You will be executed, Ahimelech—you and all of your father’s household!”

17 The king ordered the guards waiting on him: “Go ahead and kill the Lord’s priests because they’ve joined up with David too. They knew he was on the run but didn’t inform me.”

But the king’s servants were unwilling to lift a hand to attack the Lord’s priests.

18 The king then ordered Doeg, “Doeg! You go attack the priests.” So Doeg the Edomite went and attacked the priests, killing eighty-five men who wore the linen priestly vest[h] that day. 19 He put the whole priestly city of Nob to the sword: men and women, children and infants, even oxen, donkeys, and sheep.

20 But one of the sons of Ahimelech, Ahitub’s son, escaped. His name was Abiathar, and he fled to David. 21 Abiathar reported to David that Saul had slaughtered the Lord’s priests.

22 David told Abiathar, “That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew that he would tell Saul everything. I am to blame[i] for the deaths in your father’s family. 23 Stay with me, and don’t be afraid. The one who seeks my life now seeks yours too. But you’ll be safe with me.”

Saul chases David

23 David was told, “The Philistines are now attacking Keilah and looting the threshing floors!”

David asked the Lord, “Should I go and fight these Philistines?”

“Go!” the Lord answered. “Fight the Philistines and save Keilah!”

But David’s men said to him, “Look how frightened we are here in Judah. It’ll be worse if we go to Keilah against Philistine forces!”

So David asked the Lord again, and the Lord reaffirmed, “Yes, go down to Keilah, because I will hand the Philistines over to you.”

Then David and his soldiers went to Keilah and fought the Philistines, driving off their cattle and defeating them decisively. And that’s how David saved the residents of Keilah.

Now after Abiathar, Ahimelech’s son, fled to David, he had accompanied David to Keilah,[j] bringing a priestly vest[k] with him. When Saul was told that David had gone to Keilah, he said, “God has handed him over[l] to me now because he has trapped himself by entering a town with gates and bars!” So Saul called up all his troops for war, to go down to Keilah and attack David and his soldiers.

When David learned that Saul was planning to harm him, he told the priest Abiathar, “Bring the priestly vest now.”

10 Then David said, “Lord God of Israel, I, your servant, have heard that Saul plans on coming to Keilah and will destroy the town because of me. 11 Lord God of Israel, will Saul come down as your servant has heard?[m] Please tell your servant.”

“Yes, he will come down,” the Lord answered.

12 Next David asked, “Will the citizens of Keilah hand me and my soldiers over to Saul?”

“Yes, they will hand you over,” the Lord replied.

13 So David and his troops—approximately six hundred men—got up and left Keilah. They kept moving, going from one place to the next. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he didn’t go there.

14 David lived in the fortresses in the wilderness and in the hills of the Ziph wilderness. Saul searched for him constantly, but God did not hand David over to Saul. 15 While David was at Horesh in the Ziph wilderness he learned that Saul was looking to kill him. 16 Saul’s son Jonathan came to David at Horesh and encouraged him with God. 17 Jonathan said to him, “Don’t be afraid! My father Saul’s hand won’t touch you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be your second in command. Even my father Saul knows this.” 18 Then the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David stayed at Horesh, but Jonathan went back home.

19 Some Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah. “David is hiding among us in the fortresses at Horesh on the hill of Hachilah, south of Jeshimon,” they said. 20 “So whenever you want to come down, Your Majesty, do it! Leave it to us to hand him over to the king.”

21 “The Lord bless you because you have shown this kindness to me!” Saul said. 22 “Go now and get everything ready. Find out everything you can: where he stays, where he goes, who has seen him. I am told he is very shrewd. 23 Find out every hiding place he uses there and come back to me when you know for certain. I will then go with you. If David is in the area, I will hunt him down among any of Judah’s clans!” 24 So they got up and left for Ziph ahead of Saul.

Meanwhile, David and his soldiers were in the Maon wilderness in the desert plain south of Jeshimon. 25 When Saul and his troops went looking for him, David was told about it, so he went down to a certain rock there and stayed in the Maon wilderness. When Saul heard that, he went into the Maon wilderness after David. 26 Saul was going around one side of a hill there while David and his soldiers were going around the other. David was hurrying to get away from Saul while Saul and his troops were trying to surround David and his soldiers in order to capture them. 27 But a messenger suddenly came to Saul. “Come quick!” he said. “The Philistines have invaded the land!” 28 So Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to fight the Philistines. That’s why that place is called Escape Rock. 29 [n] Then David went from there and lived at the En-gedi fortresses.

David spares Saul’s life

24 [o] Even as Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was informed that David was in the En-gedi wilderness. So Saul took three thousand men selected from all Israel and went to look for David and his soldiers near the rocks of the wild goats. He came to the sheep pens beside the road where there was a cave. Saul went into the cave to use the restroom.[p] Meanwhile, David and his soldiers were sitting in the very back of the cave.

David’s soldiers said to him, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he promised you, ‘I will hand your enemy over to you, and you can do to him whatever you think best.’” So David snuck up and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. But immediately David felt horrible that he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.[q]

“The Lord forbid,” he told his men, “that I should do something like that to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him, because he’s the Lord’s anointed!” So David held his soldiers in check by what he said,[r] and he wouldn’t allow them to attack Saul. Saul then left the cave and went on his way.

Then David also went out of the cave and yelled after Saul, “My master the king!” Saul looked back, and David bowed low out of respect, nose to the ground.

David said to Saul, “Why do you listen when people say, ‘David wants to ruin you’? 10 Look! Today your own eyes have seen that the Lord handed you over to me in the cave. But I refused[s] to kill you. I spared you, saying, ‘I won’t lift a hand against my master because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 Look here, my protector! See the corner of your robe in my hand? I cut off the corner of your robe but didn’t kill you. So know now that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I haven’t wronged you, but you are hunting me down, trying to kill me. 12 May the Lord judge between me and you! May the Lord take vengeance on you for me, but I won’t lift a hand against you. 13 As the old proverb goes, ‘Evil deeds come from evildoers!’ but I won’t lift a hand against you. 14 So who is Israel’s king coming after? Who are you chasing? A dead dog? A single flea? 15 May the Lord be the judge and decide between you and me. May he see what has happened, argue my case, and vindicate me against you!”

16 As soon as David finished saying all this to Saul, Saul said, “David, my son, is that your voice?” Then he broke down in tears, 17 telling David, “You are more righteous than I am because you have treated me generously, but I have treated you terribly. 18 Today you’ve told me the good you have done for me—how the Lord handed me over to you, but how you didn’t kill me. 19 When someone finds an enemy, do they send the enemy away in peace? May the Lord repay you with good for what you have done for me today. 20 Now even I know that you will definitely become king, and Israel’s kingdom will flourish in your hands. 21 Because of that, make a solemn pledge to me by the Lord that you won’t kill off my descendants after I’m gone and that you won’t destroy my name from my family lineage.”

22 David made a solemn pledge to Saul. Then Saul went back home, but David and his soldiers went up to the fortress.

Abigail saves David

25 Now Samuel died, and all Israel gathered to mourn for him. They buried him at his home in Ramah. David then left and went down to the Maon wilderness.[t]

There was a man in Maon who did business in Carmel. He was a very important man and owned three thousand sheep and one thousand goats. At that time, he was shearing his sheep in Carmel. The man’s name was Nabal, and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and attractive woman, but her husband was a hard man who did evil things. He was a Calebite.

While in the wilderness, David heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep. So David sent ten servants, telling them, “Go up to Carmel. When you get to Nabal, greet him for me. Say this to him: ‘Peace to you,[u] your household, and all that is yours! I’ve heard that you are now shearing sheep. As you know, your shepherds were with us in the wilderness.[v] We didn’t mistreat them. Moreover, the whole time they were at Carmel, nothing of theirs went missing. Ask your servants; they will tell you the same. So please receive these young men favorably, because we’ve come on a special day. Please give whatever you have on hand to your servants and to your son David.’”

When David’s young men arrived, they said all this to Nabal on David’s behalf. Then they waited. 10 But Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is David? Who is Jesse’s son? There are all sorts of slaves running away from their masters these days. 11 Why should I take my bread, my water, and the meat I’ve butchered for my shearers and give it to people who came here from who knows where?” 12 So David’s young servants turned around and went back the way they came. When they arrived, they reported every word of this to David.

13 Then David said to his soldiers, “All of you, strap on your swords!” So each of them strapped on their swords, and David did the same. Nearly four hundred men went up with David. Two hundred men remained back with the supplies.

14 One of Nabal’s servants told his wife Abigail, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master, but he just yelled at them. 15 But the men were very good to us and didn’t mistreat us. Nothing of ours went missing the whole time we were out with them in the fields. 16 In fact, the whole time we were with them, watching our sheep, they were a protective wall around us both night and day. 17 Think about that and see what you can do, because trouble is coming for our master and his whole household. But he’s such a despicable person no one can speak to him.”

18 Abigail quickly took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep ready for cooking, five seahs[w] of roasted grain, one hundred raisin cakes, and two hundred fig cakes. She loaded all this on donkeys 19 and told her servants, “Go on ahead of me. I’ll be right behind you.” But she didn’t tell her husband Nabal.

20 As she was riding her donkey, going down a trail on the hillside, David and his soldiers appeared, descending toward her, and she met up with them. 21 David had just been saying, “What a waste of time—guarding all this man’s stuff in the wilderness so that nothing of his went missing! He has repaid me evil instead of good! 22 May God deal harshly with me, David,[x] and worse still if I leave alive even one single one who urinates on a wall[y] belonging to him come morning!”

23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and fell facedown before him, bowing low to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said, “Put the blame on me, my master! But please let me, your servant, speak to you directly. Please listen to what your servant has to say. 25 Please, my master, pay no attention to this despicable man Nabal. He’s exactly what his name says he is! His name means fool,[z] and he is foolish![aa] But I myself, your servant, didn’t see the young men that you, my master, sent. 26 I pledge, my master, as surely as the Lord lives and as you live, that the Lord has held you back from bloodshed and taking vengeance into your own hands! But now let your enemies and those who seek to harm my master be exactly like Nabal! 27 Here is a gift, which your servant has brought to my master. Please let it be given to the young men who follow you, my master. 28 Please forgive any offense by your servant. The Lord will definitely make an enduring dynasty for my master because my master fights the Lord’s battles, and nothing evil will be found in you throughout your lifetime. 29 If someone chases after you and tries to kill you, my master, then your life will be bound up securely in the bundle of life[ab] by the Lord your God, but he will fling away your enemies’ lives as from the pouch of a sling. 30 When the Lord has done for my master all the good things he has promised you, and has installed you as Israel’s leader, 31 don’t let this be a blot or burden on my master’s conscience, that you shed blood needlessly or that my master took vengeance into his own hands. When the Lord has done good things for my master, please remember your servant.”

32 David said to Abigail, “Bless the Lord God of Israel, who sent you to meet me today! 33 And bless you and your good judgment for preventing me from shedding blood and taking vengeance into my own hands today! 34 Otherwise, as surely as the Lord God of Israel lives—the one who kept me from hurting you—if you hadn’t come quickly and met up with me, there wouldn’t be one single one who urinates on a wall left come morning.” 35 Then David accepted everything she had brought for him. “Return home in peace,” he told her. “Be assured that I’ve heard your request and have agreed to it.”

36 When Abigail got back home to Nabal, he was throwing a party fit for a king in his house. Nabal was in a great mood and very drunk, so Abigail didn’t tell him anything until daybreak. 37 In the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him everything. Nabal’s heart failed inside him, and he became like a stone. 38 About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal, and he died.

39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Bless the Lord, who has rendered a verdict regarding Nabal’s insult to me and who kept me, his servant, from doing something evil! The Lord has brought Nabal’s evil down on his own head.” Then David sent word to Abigail, saying that he would take her as his wife.

40 When David’s servants reached Abigail at Carmel, they said to her, “David has sent us to you so you can become his wife.”

41 She bowed low to the ground and said, “I am your servant, ready to serve and wash the feet of my master’s helpers.” 42 Then Abigail got up quickly and rode on her donkey, with five of her young women going with her. She followed David’s messengers and became his wife.

43 David also married Ahinoam from Jezreel, so both of them were his wives. 44 But Saul had given his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to Palti, Laish’s son, from Gallim.


  1. 1 Samuel 21:1 21:2 in Heb
  2. 1 Samuel 21:5 MT; LXX all the men are
  3. 1 Samuel 21:5 Heb uncertain
  4. 1 Samuel 21:9 DSS (4QSamb); MT behind the priestly vest (Heb ephod)
  5. 1 Samuel 21:13 Or in their hand; Heb uncertain
  6. 1 Samuel 21:13 Or with correction he spit on the doors of the city gate or he fell down at the doors of the city gate (cf LXX).
  7. 1 Samuel 22:1 Correction; cf 22:4-5; MT cave
  8. 1 Samuel 22:18 Heb ephod
  9. 1 Samuel 22:22 LXX, Vulg; Heb uncertain
  10. 1 Samuel 23:6 LXX; MT lacks he had accompanied David to.
  11. 1 Samuel 23:6 Heb ephod
  12. 1 Samuel 23:7 LXX, Targ; MT made a stranger of him
  13. 1 Samuel 23:11 DSS (4QSamb), LXX; MT Lord God of Israel, will the citizens of Keilah hand me over to him? Will Saul come down as your servant has heard? Cf 23:12a.
  14. 1 Samuel 23:29 24:1 in Heb
  15. 1 Samuel 24:1 24:2 in Heb
  16. 1 Samuel 24:3 Or to cover his feet (a euphemism)
  17. 1 Samuel 24:5 LXX, Syr, Targ; MT lacks robe.
  18. 1 Samuel 24:7 Heb uncertain
  19. 1 Samuel 24:10 LXX; MT Some said
  20. 1 Samuel 25:1 LXX; MT Paran
  21. 1 Samuel 25:6 Heb uncertain
  22. 1 Samuel 25:7 LXX, Syr; MT lacks in the wilderness.
  23. 1 Samuel 25:18 One seah is approximately seven and a half quarts.
  24. 1 Samuel 25:22 LXX; MT with David’s enemies
  25. 1 Samuel 25:22 Descriptive phrase meaning "a male"; also in 25:34
  26. 1 Samuel 25:25 Heb nabal
  27. 1 Samuel 25:25 Heb nebalah
  28. 1 Samuel 25:29 Or bundle of the living; Heb uncertain; perhaps a tied-up scroll (cf Exod 32:32-33; Ps 69:28; Isa 8:16)
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

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