1 Samuel 21-25 New Living Translation (NLT)
David Runs from Saul
21 [a]David went to the town of Nob to see Ahimelech the priest. Ahimelech trembled when he saw him. “Why are you alone?” he asked. “Why is no one with you?”
2 “The king has sent me on a private matter,” David said. “He told me not to tell anyone why I am here. I have told my men where to meet me later. 3 Now, what is there to eat? Give me five loaves of bread or anything else you have.”
4 “We don’t have any regular bread,” the priest replied. “But there is the holy bread, which you can have if your young men have not slept with any women recently.”
5 “Don’t worry,” David replied. “I never allow my men to be with women when we are on a campaign. And since they stay clean even on ordinary trips, how much more on this one!”
6 Since there was no other food available, the priest gave him the holy bread—the Bread of the Presence that was placed before the Lord in the Tabernacle. It had just been replaced that day with fresh bread.
7 Now Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief herdsman, was there that day, having been detained before the Lord.[b]
8 David asked Ahimelech, “Do you have a spear or sword? The king’s business was so urgent that I didn’t even have time to grab a weapon!”
9 “I only have the sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the valley of Elah,” the priest replied. “It is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. Take that if you want it, for there is nothing else here.”
“There is nothing like it!” David replied. “Give it to me!”
10 So David escaped from Saul and went to King Achish of Gath. 11 But the officers of Achish were unhappy about his being there. “Isn’t this David, the king of the land?” they asked. “Isn’t he the one the people honor with dances, singing,
‘Saul has killed his thousands,
12 David heard these comments and was very afraid of what King Achish of Gath might do to him. 13 So he pretended to be insane, scratching on doors and drooling down his beard.
14 Finally, King Achish said to his men, “Must you bring me a madman? 15 We already have enough of them around here! Why should I let someone like this be my guest?”
David at the Cave of Adullam
22 So David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. Soon his brothers and all his other relatives joined him there. 2 Then others began coming—men who were in trouble or in debt or who were just discontented—until David was the captain of about 400 men.
3 Later David went to Mizpeh in Moab, where he asked the king, “Please allow my father and mother to live here with you until I know what God is going to do for me.” 4 So David’s parents stayed in Moab with the king during the entire time David was living in his stronghold.
5 One day the prophet Gad told David, “Leave the stronghold and return to the land of Judah.” So David went to the forest of Hereth.
6 The news of his arrival in Judah soon reached Saul. At the time, the king was sitting beneath the tamarisk tree on the hill at Gibeah, holding his spear and surrounded by his officers.
7 “Listen here, you men of Benjamin!” Saul shouted to his officers when he heard the news. “Has that son of Jesse promised every one of you fields and vineyards? Has he promised to make you all generals and captains in his army?[c] 8 Is that why you have conspired against me? For not one of you told me when my own son made a solemn pact with the son of Jesse. You’re not even sorry for me. Think of it! My own son—encouraging him to kill me, as he is trying to do this very day!”
9 Then Doeg the Edomite, who was standing there with Saul’s men, spoke up. “When I was at Nob,” he said, “I saw the son of Jesse talking to the priest, Ahimelech son of Ahitub. 10 Ahimelech consulted the Lord for him. Then he gave him food and the sword of Goliath the Philistine.”
The Slaughter of the Priests
11 King Saul immediately sent for Ahimelech and all his family, who served as priests at Nob. 12 When they arrived, Saul shouted at him, “Listen to me, you son of Ahitub!”
“What is it, my king?” Ahimelech asked.
13 “Why have you and the son of Jesse conspired against me?” Saul demanded. “Why did you give him food and a sword? Why have you consulted God for him? Why have you encouraged him to kill me, as he is trying to do this very day?”
14 “But sir,” Ahimelech replied, “is anyone among all your servants as faithful as David, your son-in-law? Why, he is the captain of your bodyguard and a highly honored member of your household! 15 This was certainly not the first time I had consulted God for him! May the king not accuse me and my family in this matter, for I knew nothing at all of any plot against you.”
16 “You will surely die, Ahimelech, along with your entire family!” the king shouted. 17 And he ordered his bodyguards, “Kill these priests of the Lord, for they are allies and conspirators with David! They knew he was running away from me, but they didn’t tell me!” But Saul’s men refused to kill the Lord’s priests.
18 Then the king said to Doeg, “You do it.” So Doeg the Edomite turned on them and killed them that day, eighty-five priests in all, still wearing their priestly garments. 19 Then he went to Nob, the town of the priests, and killed the priests’ families—men and women, children and babies—and all the cattle, donkeys, sheep, and goats.
20 Only Abiathar, one of the sons of Ahimelech, escaped and fled to David. 21 When he told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord, 22 David exclaimed, “I knew it! When I saw Doeg the Edomite there that day, I knew he was sure to tell Saul. Now I have caused the death of all your father’s family. 23 Stay here with me, and don’t be afraid. I will protect you with my own life, for the same person wants to kill us both.”
David Protects the Town of Keilah
23 One day news came to David that the Philistines were at Keilah stealing grain from the threshing floors. 2 David asked the Lord, “Should I go and attack them?”
“Yes, go and save Keilah,” the Lord told him.
3 But David’s men said, “We’re afraid even here in Judah. We certainly don’t want to go to Keilah to fight the whole Philistine army!”
4 So David asked the Lord again, and again the Lord replied, “Go down to Keilah, for I will help you conquer the Philistines.”
5 So David and his men went to Keilah. They slaughtered the Philistines and took all their livestock and rescued the people of Keilah. 6 Now when Abiathar son of Ahimelech fled to David at Keilah, he brought the ephod with him.
7 Saul soon learned that David was at Keilah. “Good!” he exclaimed. “We’ve got him now! God has handed him over to me, for he has trapped himself in a walled town!” 8 So Saul mobilized his entire army to march to Keilah and besiege David and his men.
9 But David learned of Saul’s plan and told Abiathar the priest to bring the ephod and ask the Lord what he should do. 10 Then David prayed, “O Lord, God of Israel, I have heard that Saul is planning to come and destroy Keilah because I am here. 11 Will the leaders of Keilah betray me to him?[d] And will Saul actually come as I have heard? O Lord, God of Israel, please tell me.”
And the Lord said, “He will come.”
12 Again David asked, “Will the leaders of Keilah betray me and my men to Saul?”
And the Lord replied, “Yes, they will betray you.”
David Hides in the Wilderness
13 So David and his men—about 600 of them now—left Keilah and began roaming the countryside. Word soon reached Saul that David had escaped, so he didn’t go to Keilah after all. 14 David now stayed in the strongholds of the wilderness and in the hill country of Ziph. Saul hunted him day after day, but God didn’t let Saul find him.
15 One day near Horesh, David received the news that Saul was on the way to Ziph to search for him and kill him. 16 Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God. 17 “Don’t be afraid,” Jonathan reassured him. “My father will never find you! You are going to be the king of Israel, and I will be next to you, as my father, Saul, is well aware.” 18 So the two of them renewed their solemn pact before the Lord. Then Jonathan returned home, while David stayed at Horesh.
19 But now the men of Ziph went to Saul in Gibeah and betrayed David to him. “We know where David is hiding,” they said. “He is in the strongholds of Horesh on the hill of Hakilah, which is in the southern part of Jeshimon. 20 Come down whenever you’re ready, O king, and we will catch him and hand him over to you!”
21 “The Lord bless you,” Saul said. “At last someone is concerned about me! 22 Go and check again to be sure of where he is staying and who has seen him there, for I know that he is very crafty. 23 Discover his hiding places, and come back when you are sure. Then I’ll go with you. And if he is in the area at all, I’ll track him down, even if I have to search every hiding place in Judah!” 24 So the men of Ziph returned home ahead of Saul.
Meanwhile, David and his men had moved into the wilderness of Maon in the Arabah Valley south of Jeshimon. 25 When David heard that Saul and his men were searching for him, he went even farther into the wilderness to the great rock, and he remained there in the wilderness of Maon. But Saul kept after him in the wilderness.
26 Saul and David were now on opposite sides of a mountain. Just as Saul and his men began to close in on David and his men, 27 an urgent message reached Saul that the Philistines were raiding Israel again. 28 So Saul quit chasing David and returned to fight the Philistines. Ever since that time, the place where David was camped has been called the Rock of Escape.[e] 29 [f]David then went to live in the strongholds of En-gedi.
David Spares Saul’s Life
24 [g]After Saul returned from fighting the Philistines, he was told that David had gone into the wilderness of En-gedi. 2 So Saul chose 3,000 elite troops from all Israel and went to search for David and his men near the rocks of the wild goats.
3 At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave!
4 “Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the Lord is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe.
5 But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. 6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this to my lord the king. I shouldn’t attack the Lord’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him.” 7 So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul.
After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, 8 David came out and shouted after him, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked around, David bowed low before him.
9 Then he shouted to Saul, “Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? 10 This very day you can see with your own eyes it isn’t true. For the Lord placed you at my mercy back there in the cave. Some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm the king—he is the Lord’s anointed one.’ 11 Look, my father, at what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. This proves that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me.
12 “May the Lord judge between us. Perhaps the Lord will punish you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you. 13 As that old proverb says, ‘From evil people come evil deeds.’ So you can be sure I will never harm you. 14 Who is the king of Israel trying to catch anyway? Should he spend his time chasing one who is as worthless as a dead dog or a single flea? 15 May the Lord therefore judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one. He is my advocate, and he will rescue me from your power!”
16 When David had finished speaking, Saul called back, “Is that really you, my son David?” Then he began to cry. 17 And he said to David, “You are a better man than I am, for you have repaid me good for evil. 18 Yes, you have been amazingly kind to me today, for when the Lord put me in a place where you could have killed me, you didn’t do it. 19 Who else would let his enemy get away when he had him in his power? May the Lord reward you well for the kindness you have shown me today. 20 And now I realize that you are surely going to be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will flourish under your rule. 21 Now swear to me by the Lord that when that happens you will not kill my family and destroy my line of descendants!”
22 So David promised this to Saul with an oath. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went back to their stronghold.
The Death of Samuel
25 Now Samuel died, and all Israel gathered for his funeral. They buried him at his house in Ramah.
Nabal Angers David
Then David moved down to the wilderness of Maon.[h] 2 There was a wealthy man from Maon who owned property near the town of Carmel. He had 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats, and it was sheep-shearing time. 3 This man’s name was Nabal, and his wife, Abigail, was a sensible and beautiful woman. But Nabal, a descendant of Caleb, was crude and mean in all his dealings.
4 When David heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep, 5 he sent ten of his young men to Carmel with this message for Nabal: 6 “Peace and prosperity to you, your family, and everything you own! 7 I am told that it is sheep-shearing time. While your shepherds stayed among us near Carmel, we never harmed them, and nothing was ever stolen from them. 8 Ask your own men, and they will tell you this is true. So would you be kind to us, since we have come at a time of celebration? Please share any provisions you might have on hand with us and with your friend David.” 9 David’s young men gave this message to Nabal in David’s name, and they waited for a reply.
10 “Who is this fellow David?” Nabal sneered to the young men. “Who does this son of Jesse think he is? There are lots of servants these days who run away from their masters. 11 Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I’ve slaughtered for my shearers and give it to a band of outlaws who come from who knows where?”
12 So David’s young men returned and told him what Nabal had said. 13 “Get your swords!” was David’s reply as he strapped on his own. Then 400 men started off with David, and 200 remained behind to guard their equipment.
14 Meanwhile, one of Nabal’s servants went to Abigail and told her, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master, but he screamed insults at them. 15 These men have been very good to us, and we never suffered any harm from them. Nothing was stolen from us the whole time they were with us. 16 In fact, day and night they were like a wall of protection to us and the sheep. 17 You need to know this and figure out what to do, for there is going to be trouble for our master and his whole family. He’s so ill-tempered that no one can even talk to him!”
18 Abigail wasted no time. She quickly gathered 200 loaves of bread, two wineskins full of wine, five sheep that had been slaughtered, nearly a bushel[i] of roasted grain, 100 clusters of raisins, and 200 fig cakes. She packed them on donkeys 19 and said to her servants, “Go on ahead. I will follow you shortly.” But she didn’t tell her husband Nabal what she was doing.
20 As she was riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, she saw David and his men coming toward her. 21 David had just been saying, “A lot of good it did to help this fellow. We protected his flocks in the wilderness, and nothing he owned was lost or stolen. But he has repaid me evil for good. 22 May God strike me and kill me[j] if even one man of his household is still alive tomorrow morning!”
Abigail Intercedes for Nabal
23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed low before him. 24 She fell at his feet and said, “I accept all blame in this matter, my lord. Please listen to what I have to say. 25 I know Nabal is a wicked and ill-tempered man; please don’t pay any attention to him. He is a fool, just as his name suggests.[k] But I never even saw the young men you sent.
26 “Now, my lord, as surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, since the Lord has kept you from murdering and taking vengeance into your own hands, let all your enemies and those who try to harm you be as cursed as Nabal is. 27 And here is a present that I, your servant, have brought to you and your young men. 28 Please forgive me if I have offended you in any way. The Lord will surely reward you with a lasting dynasty, for you are fighting the Lord’s battles. And you have not done wrong throughout your entire life.
29 “Even when you are chased by those who seek to kill you, your life is safe in the care of the Lord your God, secure in his treasure pouch! But the lives of your enemies will disappear like stones shot from a sling! 30 When the Lord has done all he promised and has made you leader of Israel, 31 don’t let this be a blemish on your record. Then your conscience won’t have to bear the staggering burden of needless bloodshed and vengeance. And when the Lord has done these great things for you, please remember me, your servant!”
32 David replied to Abigail, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you to meet me today! 33 Thank God for your good sense! Bless you for keeping me from murder and from carrying out vengeance with my own hands. 34 For I swear by the Lord, the God of Israel, who has kept me from hurting you, that if you had not hurried out to meet me, not one of Nabal’s men would still be alive tomorrow morning.” 35 Then David accepted her present and told her, “Return home in peace. I have heard what you said. We will not kill your husband.”
36 When Abigail arrived home, she found that Nabal was throwing a big party and was celebrating like a king. He was very drunk, so she didn’t tell him anything about her meeting with David until dawn the next day. 37 In the morning when Nabal was sober, his wife told him what had happened. As a result he had a stroke,[l] and he lay paralyzed on his bed like a stone. 38 About ten days later, the Lord struck him, and he died.
David Marries Abigail
39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise the Lord, who has avenged the insult I received from Nabal and has kept me from doing it myself. Nabal has received the punishment for his sin.” Then David sent messengers to Abigail to ask her to become his wife.
40 When the messengers arrived at Carmel, they told Abigail, “David has sent us to take you back to marry him.”
41 She bowed low to the ground and responded, “I, your servant, would be happy to marry David. I would even be willing to become a slave, washing the feet of his servants!” 42 Quickly getting ready, she took along five of her servant girls as attendants, mounted her donkey, and went with David’s messengers. And so she became his wife. 43 David also married Ahinoam from Jezreel, making both of them his wives. 44 Saul, meanwhile, had given his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to a man from Gallim named Palti son of Laish.
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