Though David was confident of King Saul's intent, Jonathan likely was not confident. Not until Jonathan's message would the matter be certain. Nor could the urgency of the moment be determined prior to Jonathan's news. Remember, these were not times of cans, plastic, or vacuum packaging. In times when almost everything was prepared from basic ingredients for immediate consumption, there was not a lot of preparation that could be made. One often prepared when he or she knew an existing need.
When Jonathan informed David of his father's intention to kill David, both David and Jonathan knew David needed to leave the area immediately (1 Samuel 20:41,42). David left so quickly that he had neither provisions nor weapon.
The chronology of the recorded events in David's flight from King Saul is difficult to determine. Not all of the "whats," "whens," and "whys" can be determined. Rather than trying to reconcile all the events and happenings, your attention is directed to (1) the significance to David of the happening and (2) the effect of the happening on David. It is in noting David's reactions that you will understand the core reasons for David being a man after God's own heart. In noting these things you will see the things in David's character that appealed to God.
As a general context for these events, note several things. (1) David, prior to his flight from King Saul, was an important military figure in Saul's government. (2) With David's flight from King Saul, David went from the height of influence and power in Israel to the depths of humiliation. (3) The land in which the women sang David's praises for his military victories against the Philistines became a place in which David was no longer safe. (4) King Saul confronted a dual problem: (a) the necessity of continuing to press his war with the Philistines; (b) the desire to pursue David as an enemy. Securing his position in Israel depended on Saul's victory over the Philistines and Saul's killing David. Thus Saul was not able to devote himself exclusively to one objective.
As David fled from Gibeah of Benjamin (Saul's home), he moved toward the southwest increasing the distance between him and Saul. As he left the territory of Benjamin, he passed by the city of Nob. Since the destruction of Shiloh by the Philistines, Nob became the new city of the priests. The fact that the bread of presence was displayed there could indicate that at this time the tabernacle was located there. This city was near the area David left.
Ahimelech the priest was visibly concerned that David was alone. It was customary for David to be leading a group of men. What was the significance of David being alone? David tried to reassure Ahimelech by declaring he was on a secret mission for the King. The men that commonly accompanied him would meet him at another place. Because the situation apparently arose suddenly, David needed food. Could Ahimelech provide him anything?
The only bread Ahimelech had available was the holy bread--the 12 loaves that were replaced weekly to represent Israel's 12 tribes before God (Leviticus 24:5-9). This bread was to be eaten only by the priests. Ahimelech offered David this bread if his men had not had sexual intercourse. David assured Ahimelech that his warriors had not had intercourse (apparently this was a prerequisite for preparing for battle in Israel's military).
Having received the bread (five loaves, verse 3), David next asked for a weapon. The only weapon there was Goliath's sword (which David brought there as was customary), so David took Goliath's sword to arm himself.
Watching this entire incident was a man named Doeg, an Edomite. [Edomites were not Israelites (descendants of Jacob). They were descendants of Esau, Jacob's twin brother.] Why Doeg, an important servant in the King's service, was "detained before the Lord" at Nob is a source of considerable discussion. In the events to follow, the important matter is not "why" he was there, but the fact that he was there and witnessed Ahimelech's gift of bread and a sword to David.
The situation was so dangerous that David fled to the Philistines to the home town of Goliath. David, who had killed so many Philistine warriors beginning with Goliath, must flee the territory of Israel in an attempt to seek security among the Philistines. Some of the King's servants recognized David, partially were correct in their identification, thought David was Israel's king, wanted David arrested, and made David realize his enormous danger. When David understood the seriousness of his predicament, he "disguised his sanity." He pretended to be insane. He marked on the doors of the gate (likely the King's area). He drooled saliva down his beard.
His insanity ploy worked! Achish, the Philistine King of Gath, had no desire to arrest David. This allowed David to escape Gath and continue his flight from Saul.
For Thought and Discussion
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 5
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