Massacre of Ministers

I Samuel 21-22

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
October 2020

We are studying the Book of I Samuel and we are looking at the life of David.  David was the ancestor of the Messiah.  Jesus called himself “the Son of David.”  He would one day become Israel’s greatest king.  In many ways David is a type of Jesus.  What happened to Jesus is happening to David.  In some ways, David is very much like Jesus.

David: A Type of Christ

1) Like Jesus, David had people who wanted to kill him

David was anointed and yet rejected.  He did not just have people who hated him.  He had people who wanted to kill him.  His life was constantly in danger.  Jesus had people who wanted to kill him and plotted how to do it.  Both were hated without a cause.

2) Like Jesus, David’s enemies were motivated by envy.

Saul was jealous that God rejected him as king and anointed David.  He was jealous that David was more popular than he was.  The Bible says that Jesus was delivered over out of envy (Matthew 27:18).  Jesus was popular with the people and so was David.  That made a lot of people jealous.

3) Like Jesus, he was falsely accused of a crime

Jesus was charged with treason.  He was charged with sedition.  The same thing was said of David.  Saul believed he was trying to take over the throne and overthrow the government.  Jesus was accused of breaking some religious rules (e.g., breaking the Sabbath).  David also broke some religious rules.

David eats bread that only the priests were supposed to eat.  He broke Leviticus 24:9. Only the priests were supposed to eat this bread, and David was not a priest.  and yet Jesus said that he did not do anything wrong.  Human need takes precedence over ceremonial rules.

4) Like Jesus, David was homeless.

David spends ten years as a fugitive.  King Saul is trying to kill him.  He is on the run.  I Samuel 21-27 deal with that period.  One writer entitled this section “The Adventures of a Fugitive.”[1]

David never stays in any one place very long, because he is running from a madman.  He is running from a psychotic killer.  Jesus said, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20 NIV).  In some ways, foxes and birds had more than Jesus did.

David goes to five different places in these chapters (Nob, Gath, Cave of Adullum, Mitzpah, and ends up at the Forest of Hereth in the land of Judah).

He spends time in three countries (Israel, Philistia, Moab).  If you look on a map, Gath and Moab are on opposite ends of the country.  Gath is west of Israel Moab is east of Israel past the Jordan River.

5) Like Jesus, David had compassion for people

Jesus is the good shepherd.  David is also a good shepherd.  He wants to take care of his parents and family and make sure they are safe (I Samuel 22:3-4). He wants to make sure that Saul does not hurt them.

6) Like Jesus, David had some followers

Four hundred people follow him while he is rejected (I Samuel 22:1-2).  There is a similarity between those who followed David and those who follow Jesus.  The four hundred people are a picture of the church. They are a bunch of nobodies.  They were a bunch of losers.  They are a people with problems.

7) Like Jesus, David was betrayed

Jesus was betrayed by Judas.  David was betrayed by a man named Doeg.

A Backslidden Believer

In some ways, David is a type of Christ, but in other ways he is not like Jesus at all.  David, in reality, was a lot like us.  He had flaws.  He had problems.  In I Samuel 21, he tells a lie and goes completely crazy.

In previous chapters, King Saul went completely crazy.  He was demonized.  He had an evil spirit.  He acted completely crazy. In this chapter, David goes crazyDavid acts like Saul.

The Bible does not whitewash its heroes.  It records everything about him.  It describes the good and the bad.  Aren’t you glad the Bible does not have a few chapters about your life?  Aren’t you glad that it does not tell the world about your good points and your bad points?

David was a believer.  David was saved.  David had the Holy Spirit on him.  He was anointed by God.  He was a man after God’s own heart and yet, in this chapter, he acted crazy.  He started foaming at the mouth and acting insane.  God’s man acted like a mad man.  He did that because he was afraid.  Fear will get you to do some crazy things.

The man we see in this chapter does not even seem like the same man we saw earlier in the book.  He was full of faith.  He had no fear.  He faced danger without fear.  He lived for God.  He was a man of absolute integrity.  That is NOT the man we see in this chapter.

How could a man after God’s heart do this?  How could the one who wrote some of the greatest Psalms act this way?  How could this national hero act like a madman?  How could Israel’s greatest king act this way?  How can you be saved, filled with the Spirit, on fire for God, serve God one moment and go absolutely crazy the next moment?

We are all sinners.  We have a sin nature.  After we get saved, we don’t lose our sin nature.  Believers can sin.  Believers can backslide.  They can do some terrible things.  They can do some dumb things.  They can do some wicked things.  The same one who walked on water one day, denied Jesus another day.  Have you ever backslidden?

David is on the run in these two chapters.  He did not commit any crime, but he is running for his life.  He is running from a madman.  The king is trying to kill him.  David has become an outlaw.  He became a fugitive.  The king is hunting him like a dog.

David faces another Goliath in these chapters.  Both Goliaths were bigger than he was.  Goliath was physically bigger.  Saul completely outnumbered David.  David was the underdog in both cases.

David was not afraid of the Philistine Goliath.  In fact, he ran towards him without fear.  He runs away from the Hebrew Goliath.  He trusted God in the first Goliath.  He trusted God when he faced a lion and a bear but did not trust him against the second Goliath.

There was one important difference.  David fought the fight Goliath and killed him.  He couldn’t fight the second Goliath.  He respected the office of king.  He was not a political rebel.  He wasn’t a radical.  He wasn’t part of a militia group.  He wasn’t trying to overthrow the government.  No matter what Saul did to him, he could not retaliate, so he is constantly moving around.

The first place to run to was Ramah where Samuel the prophet lived.  That was the first place he went to.  His second stop was the Tabernacle. He runs to church.  It sounds like the right place to go.

He went to a town called Nob.  Everyone pronounces it “Nob” but in Hebrew it is pronounced know-v.  In Hebrew the b sound is a v sound. David went from talking to the PROPHET in Ramah to talking to the HIGH PRIEST in Nob.

Nob was a center of worship.  It replaced Shiloh as the center of worship after Israel’s defeat in battle in I Samuel 4:1-11.  It was a suburb of Jerusalem (about a mile away).  Saul was close by, but he stops because he was starving.  He has no food.

He did not see any golden arches near him.  There was not any fast food available.  There were no grocery stores either.  Food was not as accessible three thousand years ago as it is today.  He goes to the Tabernacle.  He did not go there for spiritual help.  He went there for physical help. He went to church to get some bread.

Many go to church today for the same reason.  They do not go to hear the voice of God.  They don’t go to learn the Word of God or to pray or to worship.  Some go for potluck meals, bake sales, flea markets or for showers.  Some go for social reasons or for a handout.   Most of those things are not wrong but it is not the primary purpose of church.

David talked to Ahimelech the high priest.  Ahimelech was the grandson of Phinehas, the great grandson of Eli (I Samuel 14:3).  He went to the Tabernacle, but he is not there to worship.  He is not there to pray.  He is not there to hear from God.

He is there to get food and weapons.  That makes nonsense of his alibi.  He said he was on a dangerous, top secret mission but he brought no weapons with him and no food with him.  It made absolutely no sense.

The priest had bread but the only bread he had was holy bread, the consecrated bread, what the OT calls “the Bread of the Presence” (Exodus 25:30).  He did not have regular bread but only sanctified bread that was used in the worship at the Tabernacle.  That is like having no food in church but communion bread and juice.  Only the priests were supposed to eat this holy bread, and David was not a priest.

It would have been a violation of Leviticus for David to eat this bread. The priest broke the law but gave him the bread anyway.  He would give the bread to a person who was not a priest as long as that person was ceremonially clean.  David was on the run.  He was starving and he needed food.  Ahimelech gave him some.

Jesus says in the NT that he did the right thing (Matthew 12; Mark 2).  Human need takes precedence over religious rules.  Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6 (“I desire mercy, not sacrifice”) in Matthew 12:7. Mercy and compassion are more important than religious rules.

David’s White Lies

Apparently, David was not perfect.  He had a little problem with honesty. He found it very easy to lie.  Are you like David?  He lied in the last chapter and he lies in this chapter.  He was married to a woman who lied.  Are we like David?  Are we honest?

Everyone seems to lie.  Politicians lie, especially during election season.  They will say anything to get elected.  We like to make a distinction between big lies and little white lies.  A big lie is if we get on the witness stand and are asked if we killed someone and are not honest.

A little lie is when we say something that is not true, so we do not offend someone or when someone asks us how we are feeling, and we say fine when we feel miserable.

The priest gives David bread and Goliath’s sword.  The sword used to be David’s anyway.  He gave it to the Lord and now he gets it back but David tells him a lie in this chapter and a whole town gets wiped out. Some say that this little lie had big consequences.

David answered Ahimelek the priest, “The king sent me on a mission and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about the mission I am sending you on.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. 3 Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find. David was hungry and asks for five loaves of bread. (I Samuel 21:2-3 NIV).

What is the lie?  The priest asks him why he is there, and he says he is there because he is on a top-secret mission from the king.  That was not true.  He was not on a mission FOR the king.  He was running FROM the king.

Why did he lie?  He may have lied to protect himself.  There was a bounty on his head.  He was number one on Saul’s Top Ten List.  The priest may not have helped him if he knew that he was a wanted man with some outstanding warrants out for his arrest.  He may not have helped him if he knew that he was an enemy of the state.

On the other hand, he may have lied to protect the priest.  It might mean death to anyone who helps him.  It would put at risk anyone who aided and abetted a fugitive.  Maybe David thought it would be okay if he did it out of ignorance.  He must have believed in the philosophy that then ends justified the means.

It did not quite work.  The priests all got killed.  A whole town got wiped out.  David felt bad.  He felt responsible.  He blamed himself.  He did not blame Doeg, the dirty Doeg.  He blamed himself (I Samuel 22:21).

I would have blamed Saul.  He was the one who ordered the execution.  He was the one responsible, not David.  Saul would have killed the priest, regardless of whether David lied or told the truth, if he helped him in any way.

David’s Acting Career

10 That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. 11 But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances: “‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’?” (I Samuel 21:10-11 NIV)

David acts crazy.  We knew that David had a lot of skills.  He was extremely gifted.  He was a shepherd.  He was a musician.  He was a harpist.  He was a warrior.  He was a fighter.  He was a giant killer.  He was a soldier.  He was a commander.  He was a writer, a writer of Scripture.  He was a poet.  He was a politician.  He became a king.  Now, we see that he was an actor.  He knew how to act.  Beth Moore says, he would have won an Oscar for acting.[2]

David first fled to Nob.  That was only a few miles away from Saul.  It was close to Saul.  He did not stay very long there.  He knew he had to go somewhere else where he would be safe, so he decided to go to leave the Promise land and go to another country.  He fled to Gath.

Gath was thirty miles away and it was in another country.  It was not just any country.  It was a country that was an enemy of Israel.  David thought he would be safe there.  Saul would not think to look there.   Plus, he thought that no one would know him.  He thought he could just blend in and be anonymous.

The problem was that David was famous.  He did not know how famous he was.  Everybody knew him.  Not only was he famous in Israel.  He was famous in other countries.  It shows the power of music.  That tune really got around.

David was good at a lot of things, but he was not too good at concealment.  He was not good at secrecy.  He does not want anyone to recognize him but, he not only entered the country, he went to Goliath’s hometown and carried Goliath’s big sword on his belt.  That tipped him off right away.

He killed two hundred Philistines and walks around with Goliath’s sword, while he tries to apply for political asylum in Gath, but that plan does not work.  They instantly recognize him, and he is afraid.  Goliath was popular.  He was their hero and David killed him.  That is like someone killing Abraham Lincoln or George Washington.

David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. 13 So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. (I Samuel 21:12-13 NIV).

Fear got David to flee the country.  Fear of Saul got him to leave.  He gets to Gath and now fear gets him to act insane.  Fear causes people to do crazy things.  It can cause us to do crazy things.  Fear of the coronavirus gets some people to do crazy things.  They won’t even come to church.  They are too afraid.

David ran to the Philistines for help.  He went to the world for help.  That is like Christians today turning to their unsaved friends for help, for spiritual counsel for support.  Do you turn to the world for help?

He will go back to Gath a second time in I Samuel 27 and live there for over a year.  They were Israel’s enemies.  They were God’s enemies.  They worshipped idols.  If they accepted him and protected him, he would have to fight for them.  He would have to fight against God’s people.

David the Cave Man

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him. (I Samuel 22:1-2 NIV)

David goes on the run.  He decides to go back to Israel.  He goes ten miles east this time to a cave.  He was not safe in Gath or Nob but he was safe in this cave and he gets all kinds of support from people there.  He gets some followers.

His brothers come down to see him.  His family supports him.  He ends up in Moab but a prophet speaks to him and tell him to go back to the land of Israel (I Samuel 22:5).  Even when we backslide, God can send people into our life with a word from the Lord.  He has ways to get our attention.

Evil in the World Today

The chapter ends with a massacre.  It ends with an atrocity.  Saul commits mass murder.  He does not just kill anybody.  He orders the execution of eight-five priests and their families.  That is like killing eighty-five pastors today.

It is a massacre of ministers.  It is killing of religious leaders, some of the top leaders in the country.  They had not done anything wrong and they were massacred by Saul.  How do we respond when we are faced with incredible evil in the world?

1) Evil is a fact of life in this world

Evil in the world is real.  It is common.  It is shocking.  It is a fact of life because people are created with free will.  We are all created with the ability to do good or to do evil.  As a result, the innocent suffer in this world.  Bad things happen to believers.  Bad things even happen to religious leaders.  This is a sad chapter

2) Believers are not exempt from evil

The godliest Christians on the planet are not exempt from evil.  They are not exempt from terrible things that happen.  They were not exempt in Bible ties and they are not exempt today.  We do not have a guarantee in Scripture that nothing bad will ever happen to us or to our family.

3) Professing believers sometimes commit the evil

Bad things happen to believers from other people who claim to be believers.  Have you ever experienced evil form someone who claimed to be a Christian or perhaps from someone that went to the same church as you?

Saul claimed to worship the true God.  He did not worship idols.  Saul is the one who orders this execution of an entire village (men, women, children, animals).  Saul would not wipe out all of the Amalekites and then orders the extermination of an entire village of his own people.  He ordered a holocaust at Nob.

4) God uses the evil action of people to further His will

God is sovereign over all of the evil that takes place in the world.  He does not cause it, but He can use it for His own purposes.  This chapter shows the depravity of man, but it also shows something else.  This whole line of priests (the line of Eli) was under a curse (I Samuel 2:27-36).  We saw that earlier in the book.  That prophecy is being fulfilled here in a terrible way.

[1] John J. Davis, The Birth of a Kingdom, 75.

[2] Beth Moore, A Heart Like His, 76.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *