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David Takes Consecrated Bread

21 Then David went to [a]Nob to [b]Ahimelech the priest; and Ahimelech came trembling [in fear] to meet David and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has commissioned me with a matter and has told me, ‘Let no one know anything about the matter for which I am sending you and with which I have commissioned you. I have directed the young men to a certain place.’ Now what [food] do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever can be found.” The priest answered David, “There is no ordinary (unconsecrated) bread on hand, but there is [c]consecrated bread; [you may have it] if only the young men have kept themselves from women.” David answered the priest, “Be assured that [d]women have been kept from us in these three days since I set out, and the [e]bodies of the young men were consecrated (ceremonially clean), although it was an ordinary (unconsecrated) journey; so how much more will their vessels be holy today?” So the priest gave him the consecrated bread; for there was no bread there except the bread of the [f]Presence which was removed from before the Lord in order to put hot bread in its place when it was taken away.

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

David said to Ahimelech, “Do you not have a sword or spear here on hand? For I brought neither my sword nor my [other] weapons with me, because the king’s business was urgent.” Then 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 would take it for yourself, do so. For there is no other here except for it.” And David said, “There is none like that; give it to me.”

10 Then David arose and fled from Saul that day, and went to Achish king of [g]Gath. 11 The servants of Achish said to him, “Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing in praise of this one as they danced, saying,

‘Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands’?”

12 David took these words to heart and was greatly afraid of Achish king of Gath. 13 So [fearing for his life] he changed his behavior in their sight, and acted insanely in their hands, and he scribbled on the doors of the gate, and drooled on his beard. 14 Then Achish said to his servants, “Look, you see that the man is insane. Why have you brought him to me? 15 Do I lack madmen, that you bring this one to behave like a madman in my presence? Shall this one come into my house?”

The Priests Slain at Nob

22 So David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam; and when his brothers and all his father’s house heard about it, they went down there to him. Everyone who was suffering hardship, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them. There were about four hundred men with him.

And David went from there to Mizpah of Moab; and he said to the king of Moab, “Please let my [h]father and my mother come [out of Judah] and stay with you until I know what God will do for me.” Then he left them with the king of Moab; and they stayed with him all the time that David was in the [i]stronghold. Then the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not stay in the stronghold; leave, and go into the land of Judah.” So David left and went into the forest of Hereth.

But Saul heard that David and the men who were with him had been discovered. Now Saul was in Gibeah, sitting under the tamarisk tree on the high place with his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing around him. Saul said to his servants who were standing around him, “Listen now, you Benjamites! Will the son of Jesse also give every one of you fields and vineyards? Will he make you all commanders of thousands and hundreds? For all of you have conspired against me so that no one [j]informs me when my son [Jonathan] makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you cares about me or informs me that my son has stirred up my servant against me to lie in ambush, as he does this day?” Then Doeg the Edomite, who was standing with Saul’s servants, replied, “I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech [the priest] the son of Ahitub. 10 Ahimelech inquired of the Lord for him, and gave him provisions and the sword of Goliath the Philistine.”

11 Then the king sent someone to call Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub, and all his father’s household, the priests who were at Nob; and all of them came to the king. 12 Then Saul said, “Listen now, son of Ahitub.” He replied, “Here I am [at your service], my lord.” 13 Saul said to him, “Why have you and the son of Jesse conspired against me, in that you have given him bread and a sword and have inquired of God for him, so he would rebel against me by lying in ambush, as he does this day?”

14 Then Ahimelech answered the king, “And who among all your servants is as faithful and trustworthy as David, who is the king’s son-in-law, and who is captain over your guard [and your confidant], and is honored in your house? 15 Did I just begin to inquire of God for him today? Far be it from me! Do not let the king impute any guilt to his servant or to any of the household of my father, for your servant knows nothing at all about this entire matter.” 16 But Saul said, “Be assured that you shall die, Ahimelech, you and all your father’s household (extended family).” 17 And the king said to the guards who stood around him, “Turn around and kill the priests of the Lord, because their [k]loyalty also is with David, and because they knew that he was fleeing and did not inform me.” But the servants of the king were not willing to put out their hands to attack the Lord’s priests. 18 So the king said to Doeg, “You turn around and attack the priests.” And Doeg the Edomite turned and [l]attacked the priests, and that day he killed eighty-five men who wore the [priest’s] linen ephod. 19 And he struck Nob the city of the priests with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and infants; also he struck oxen and donkeys and sheep with the edge of the sword.

20 But one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled to David. 21 Abiathar told David that Saul had murdered the Lord’s priests. 22 Then David said to Abiathar, “I knew that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would certainly tell Saul. I have brought about the death of everyone in your father’s household (extended family). 23 Stay with me; do not be afraid, for he who seeks my life seeks your life, but you are safe with me.”

David Rescues Keilah

23 Then they told David, saying, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are plundering (robbing) the threshing floors [of the grain].” So David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” But David’s men said to him, “Listen, we are afraid here in Judah. How much more then if we go to Keilah against the battle lines of the Philistines?” Then David inquired of the Lord again. And the Lord answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will hand over the Philistines to you.” So David and his men went to Keilah and fought the Philistines; he drove away their cattle and struck them with a great slaughter. So David rescued the inhabitants of Keilah.

When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David at Keilah, he came down with an ephod in his hand. Now when Saul was informed that David had come to Keilah, Saul said, “God has handed him over to me, for he shut himself in by entering a city that has double gates and bars.” So Saul summoned all the people (soldiers) for war, to go down to Keilah to besiege David and his men. But David knew that Saul was plotting evil against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” 10 Then David said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, Your servant has heard for certain that Saul intends to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. 11 Will the men of Keilah hand me over to him? Will Saul come down just as Your servant has heard? O Lord, God of Israel, I pray, tell Your servant.” And the Lord said, “He will come down.” 12 Then David asked, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?” The Lord said, “They will surrender you.” 13 Then David and his men, about six hundred, arose and left Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the pursuit. 14 David stayed in the wilderness in strongholds, in the hill country of the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul searched for him every day, but God did not hand David over to him.

Saul Pursues David

15 Now David became aware that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the Wilderness of Ziph [in the woods] at Horesh. 16 And Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went [into the woods] to David at Horesh, and [m]encouraged him in God. 17 He said to him, “Do not be afraid; the hand of my father Saul will not find you. You will be king over Israel and I will be second in command to you; my father Saul knows this too.” 18 So the two of them made a covenant before the Lord; and David stayed [in the woods] at Horesh and Jonathan went to his house.

19 Then the Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is David not hiding with us in strongholds of Horesh, on the hill of Hachilah, which is south of [n]Jeshimon? 20 Now then, O king, come down [to Ziph] in accordance with all your heart’s desire to do so [and capture him]; and our part shall be to hand him over to the king.” 21 Saul said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, because you have had compassion on me. 22 Go now, be very persistent and investigate, and see where his [o]haunt is and who has seen him there; for I am told he is very cunning. 23 So look, and take note of all the places where he hides and come back to me with the established facts, then I will go with you. If he is [anywhere] in the land, I will search him out among all the thousands of Judah.”

24 So they arose and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. Now David and his men were in the Wilderness of Maon, in the Arabah south of Jeshimon. 25 Then Saul and his men went to search for him. When David was told about it, he went down to the rock and stayed [there] in the Wilderness of Maon. When Saul heard it, he pursued David in the Wilderness of Maon. 26 Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain. And David was hurrying to get away from Saul, for Saul and his men were surrounding David and his men to capture them. 27 But a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come, because the Philistines have attacked the land.” 28 So Saul returned from pursuing David and went to meet the Philistines; therefore they called that place the Rock of Escape. 29 [p]David went up from there and stayed in the strongholds of Engedi.

David Spares Saul’s Life

24 When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “Behold, David is in the [q]Wilderness of Engedi.” Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to search for David and his men in front of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. On the way he came to the [r]sheepfolds where there was a cave; and Saul went in to [s]relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the cave’s innermost recesses. David’s men said to him, “Behold, this is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will hand over your enemy to you, and you shall do to him as seems good to you.’” Then David arose [in the darkness] and stealthily cut off the hem (edge) of Saul’s robe. Afterward, David’s [t]conscience bothered him because he had cut off the hem of Saul’s robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, since he is the anointed of the Lord.” So David strongly rebuked his men with these words and did not let them rise up against Saul. Saul got up, left the cave and went on his way.

Then David also got up afterward and went out of the cave and called after Saul, saying, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the ground and lay himself face down. David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘David seeks to harm you?’ 10 Behold, your eyes have seen today how the Lord had given you into my hand in the cave. Some told me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not reach out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 Look, my father! Indeed, see the hem of your robe in my hand! Since I cut off the hem of your robe and did not kill you, know and understand [without question] that there is no evil or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you are lying in wait to take my life. 12 May the Lord judge between me and you; and may the Lord avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against you. 13 As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes wickedness’; but my hand shall not be against you. 14 After whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom do you pursue [with three thousand men]? A dead dog, a single flea? 15 May the Lord be the judge and render judgment between me and you; and may He see and plead my cause and vindicate me by saving me from your hand.”(A)

16 When David had finished saying these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” Then Saul raised his voice and wept. 17 He said to David, “You are more righteous and upright [in God’s eyes] than I; for you have done good to me, but I have done evil to you. 18 You have declared today the good that you have done to me, for when the Lord put me into your hand, you did not kill me. 19 For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away [u]unharmed? So may the Lord reward you with good in return for what you have done for me this day. 20 Now, behold, I know that you will certainly be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hand. 21 So now swear to me by the Lord that you will not cut off my descendants after me and that you will not destroy my name from my father’s household (extended family).” 22 David gave Saul his oath; and Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the mountain stronghold.


  1. 1 Samuel 21:1 The city of the priests was located on Mt. Scopus about a mile northeast of Jerusalem.
  2. 1 Samuel 21:1 Ahimelech was also known as Ahijah.
  3. 1 Samuel 21:4 I.e. the bread of the Presence (showbread) was an offering dedicated to God and was to be eaten only by the priests. The ancient rabbis maintained that any law may be superseded to save life, and that David’s life was in danger from hunger.
  4. 1 Samuel 21:5 I.e. intimate contact with women.
  5. 1 Samuel 21:5 Lit vessels, a euphemism for the human body.
  6. 1 Samuel 21:6 Lit Face.
  7. 1 Samuel 21:10 This was a dangerous place to go since it was not only one of the Philistine’s five major cities, but also the former home of Goliath.
  8. 1 Samuel 22:3 David’s father Jesse was the grandson of Ruth the Moabitess (Ruth 4:13, 17).
  9. 1 Samuel 22:4 This probably refers to a rugged mountain area with many secure hiding places. However, some suggest this may refer to Masada or the Cave of Abullam or another specific fortress.
  10. 1 Samuel 22:8 Lit uncovers my ears.
  11. 1 Samuel 22:17 Lit hand.
  12. 1 Samuel 22:18 This act of violence fulfilled the prophecy regarding the house of Eli (see 2:31).
  13. 1 Samuel 23:16 Lit strengthened his hand.
  14. 1 Samuel 23:19 Or the desert.
  15. 1 Samuel 23:22 Lit foot.
  16. 1 Samuel 23:29 In Hebrew this is v 1 of the next chapter.
  17. 1 Samuel 24:1 I.e. an oasis overlooking the Dead (Salt) Sea.
  18. 1 Samuel 24:3 This was a wall of stones that had been unearthed from the field and stacked on each other as an enclosure for the flocks. The wall probably was built from the mouth of the cave and back.
  19. 1 Samuel 24:3 Lit cover his feet, a euphemism for the squatting position that one would take, with the outer robe touching the ground and concealing one’s feet as a result.
  20. 1 Samuel 24:5 Lit heart struck him.
  21. 1 Samuel 24:19 Lit on a good road.

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