1 Samuel 21:1 through 22:19

Daybreak for Students

1 Samuel 21:1 through 22:19

1 Samuel 21
1 Samuel 22
And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. — 1 Samuel 21:10

To be the object of a search is a miserable and terrifying experience. About twenty-five years ago, when Romania was still under Communist rule, the police came one night to a pastor’s home. They were searching for religious books — specifically for a Bible. The pastor’s six-year-old daughter heard what was being said at the door of the house. She quickly took their Bible, wrapped it in a newspaper that was close by, and put it inside the oven of a wood-burning stove which was in use. The policemen searched the house, but without success.

Several hours after they left, the father commented about how they had not found the Bible, but then he wondered where it was. The girl remembered and said, “I put it in the stove.” The family opened the oven and found that the newspaper had burned off, but the Bible was fine. Had the police found the Bible, the pastor would have been arrested and severely beaten. However, God protected both His Book and His people.

In this text, David was the object of Saul’s search. For approximately ten years Saul tried to find David and kill him, while David sought refuge or hid in various places, yet God knew where David was and kept His hand over him.

Today, we are probably not running for our lives to flee a wicked king, and it may be unlikely that policemen will come to our doors searching for our Bibles. (There are, however, many Christians in the world now who are being pursued and persecuted for their faith, and we need to pray for these servants of God to have His strength to stand.) Even if we are not facing physical persecution, the enemy of our souls will pursue us with temptations and try to discourage us from following the Lord. We are running for our lives spiritually, and the safe refuge is Heaven. Until we reach that Goal, we need to be sure that we stay tuned to God’s directions for us, and then remember that He knows where we are and will be with us.


King Saul, a man who had been an example of humility and grace, had become the vicious pursuer of David, a man after God’s own heart. Something had happened to Saul. He lost his favor with God through disobedience. In today’s text, Saul hunted down one whose only crime was doing the will of God.

At this time, the Tabernacle was in Nob, a city south of Gibeah and north of Jerusalem. Nob could be seen from Jerusalem. The “common bread,” referred to in verse 4, meant bread that anyone could eat. Hallowed bread was also called “shewbread.” Each Sabbath, twelve fresh loaves were put in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle by a priest. Only the priests could eat the bread from the week before. Ahimelech confirmed with David that his men were ceremonially clean, and then he applied the spirit of God’s laws when he gave the bread to David. Jesus cited this occasion to illustrate that the spirit of the Law was more important than the letter of the Law (Mark 2:25-26).

The following details add to an understanding of this text. Gath was about twenty-three miles from Nob, and Achish was the Philistine king. David pretended insanity in order to gain refuge there. The word scrabbled means “scratched.” Sane men would not allow saliva to fall down upon their beards. The cave of Adullam was approximately ten miles east of Gath, and fifteen miles west of Bethlehem. His brothers, no doubt, deserted the army of Saul to join David. The “discontented” refers to those who did not like how Saul governed. Largely, this was a group of outlaws, yet David managed them wisely enough to make them become mighty and heroic.

The height of Saul’s spiritual depravity was clearly apparent when, in addition to pursuing David, he commanded the destruction of the priests of God. Eighty-five persons died because he felt that they supported David.

David ran farther from Saul and sought refuge for his family in Mizpeh under the king of Moab. Moab was not friendly toward Israel, however, Ruth, David’s great-grandmother, was from Moab, which may have made some difference. Saul’s hostile actions against David made him a greater threat than the heathen kings.


(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The reign of Saul
     B.   The decline of King Saul and the rise of David
           2.   David in exile from Saul
                 c.   His flight to Ahimelech at Nob (21:1-9)
                       (1)   His request for food (21:1-7)
                       (2)   His request for weapons (21:8-9)
                 d.   His flight to Achish, king of Gath (21:10-15)
                 e.   His flight to the cave of Adullam (22:1-2)
                 f.    His flight to Mizpah of Moab (22:3-5)
                 g.   Saul’s vengeance on Ahimelech
                       (1)   The discovery of Ahimelech’s aid to David (22:6-10)
                       (2)   The massacre of Ahimelech, the priests and Nob (22:11-19)


  1. Why do you suppose David fled to Ahimelech at Nob?

  2. What was the significance of David getting hold of Goliath’s sword?

  3. Who was Doeg?

  4. Name some areas of life from which we might like to run, and explain how God could give deliverance.


No matter what trials or temptations are “pursuing” us, we know that God can give us the victory. The key is in having a heart toward God, as David did.