Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 22:1
Having been driven away by Achish, the Philistian king at Gath, David took refuge in the cave Adullam, where his family joined him. The cave Adullam is not to be sought for in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem, as some have inferred from Sa2 23:13-14, but near the town Adullam, which is classed in Jos 15:35 among the towns in the lowlands of Judah, and at the foot of the mountains; though it has not yet been traced with any certainty, as the caves of Deir Dubban, of which Van de Velde speaks, are not the only large caves on the western slope of the mountains of Judah. When his brethren and his father's house, i.e., the rest of his family, heard of his being there, they came down to him, evidently because they no longer felt themselves safe in Bethlehem from Saul's revenge. The cave Adullam cannot have been more than three hours from Bethlehem, as Socoh and Jarmuth, which were near to Adullam, were only three hours and a half from Jerusalem (see at Jos 12:15).
There a large number of malcontents gathered together round David, viz., all who were in distress, and all who had creditors, and all who were embittered in spirit (bitter of soul), i.e., people who were dissatisfied with the general state of affairs or with the government of Saul, - about four hundred men, whose leader he became. David must in all probability have stayed there a considerable time. The number of those who went over to him soon amounted to six hundred men (Sa1 23:13), who were for the most part brave and reckless, and who ripened into heroic men under the command of David during his long flight. A list of the bravest of them is given in 1 Chron 12, with which compare Sa2 23:13. and Ch1 11:15.
David proceeded thence to Mizpeh in Moab, and placed his parents in safety with the king of the Moabites. His ancestress Ruth was a Moabitess. Mizpeh: literally a watch-tower or mountain height commanding a very extensive prospect. Here it is probably a proper name, belonging to a mountain fastness on the high land, which bounded the Arboth Moab on the eastern side of the Dead Sea, most likely on the mountains of Abarim or Pisgah (Deu 34:1), and which could easily be reached from the country round Bethlehem, by crossing the Jordan near the point where it entered the Dead Sea. As David came to the king of Moab, the Moabites had probably taken possession of the most southerly portion of the eastern lands of the Israelites; we may also infer this from the fact that, according to Sa1 14:47, Saul had also made war upon Moab, for Mizpeh Moab is hardly to be sought for in the actual land of the Moabites, on the south side of the Arnon (Mojeb). אתּכם ... יצא־נא, "May my father and my mother go out with you." The construction of יצא with את is a pregnant one: to go out of their home and stay with you (Moabites). "Till I know what God will do to me." Being well assured of the justice of his cause, as contrasted with the insane persecutions of Saul, David confidently hoped that God would bring his flight to an end. His parents remained with the king of Moab as long as David was בּמּצוּדה, i.e., upon the mount height, or citadel. This can only refer to the place of refuge which David had found at Mizpeh Moab. For it is perfectly clear from Sa1 22:5, where the prophet Gad calls upon David not to remain any longer בּמּצוּדה, but to return to the land of Judah, that the expression cannot refer either to the cave Adullam, or to any other place of refuge in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem. The prophet Gad had probably come to David from Samuel's school of prophets; but whether he remained with David from that time forward to assist him with his counsel in his several undertakings, cannot be determined, on account of our want of information. In Ch1 21:9 he is called David's seer. In the last year of David's reign he announced to him the punishment which would fall upon him from God on account of his sin in numbering the people (Sa2 24:11.); and according to Ch1 29:29 he also wrote the acts of David. In consequence of this admonition, David returned to Judah, and went into the wood Hareth, a woody region on the mountains of Judah, which is never mentioned again, and the situation of which is unknown. According to the counsels of God, David was not to seek for refuge outside the land; not only that he might not be estranged from his fatherland and the people of Israel, which would have been opposed to his calling to be the king of Israel, but also that he might learn to trust entirely in the Lord as his only refuge and fortress.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 22:6
Murder of the Priests by Saul. - Sa1 22:6. When Saul heard that David and the men with him were known, i.e., that information had been received as to their abode or hiding-place, he said to his servants when they were gathered round him, "Hear," etc. The words, "and Saul was sitting at Gibeah under the tamarisk upon the height," etc., show that what follows took place in a solemn conclave of all the servants of Saul, who were gathered round their king to deliberate upon the more important affairs of the kingdom. This sitting took place at Gibeah, the residence of Saul, and in the open air "under the tamarisk." בּרמה, upon the height, not "under a grove at Ramah" (Luther); for Ramah is an appellative, and בּרמה, which belongs to האשׁל תּחת, is a more minute definition of the locality, which is indicated by the definite article (the tamarisk upon the height) as the well-known place where Saul's deliberative assemblies were held. From the king's address ("hear, ye Benjaminites; will the son of Jesse also give you all fields and vineyards?") we perceive that Saul had chosen his immediate attendants form the members of his own tribe, and had rewarded their services right royally. גּם־לכלּכם is placed first for the sake of emphasis, "You Benjaminites also," and not rather to Judahites, the members of his own tribe. The second לכלּכם (before ישׂים) is not a dative; but ל tub merely serves to give greater prominence to the object which is placed at the head of the clause: As for all of you, will he make (you: see Ewald, 310, a.).
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 22:8
"That you have all of you conspired against me, and no one informs me of it, since my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse." בּכרת, lit. at the making of a covenant. Saul may possibly have heard something of the facts related in Sa1 20:12-17; at the same time, his words may merely refer to Jonathan's friendship with David, which was well known to him. ואין־חלה, "and no one of you is grieved on my account ... that my son has set my servant (David) as a lier in wait against me," i.e., to plot against my life, and wrest the throne to himself. We may see from this, that Saul was carried by his suspicions very far beyond the actual facts. "As at this day:" cf. Deu 8:18, etc.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 22:9
The Edomite Doeg could not refrain from yielding to this appeal, and telling Saul what he had seen when staying at Nob; namely, that Ahimelech had inquired of God for David, and given him food as well as Goliath's sword. For the fact itself, see Sa1 21:1-10, where there is no reference indeed to his inquiring of God; though it certainly took place, as Ahimelech (Sa1 22:15) does not disclaim it. Doeg is here designated נצּב, "the superintendent of Saul's servants," so that apparently he had been invested with the office of marshal of the court.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 22:11
On receiving this information, Saul immediately summoned the priest Ahimelech and "all his father's house," i.e., the whole priesthood, to Nob, to answer for what they had done. To Saul's appeal, "Why have ye conspired against me, thou and the son of Jesse, by giving him bread?" Ahimelech, who was not conscious of any such crime, since David had come to him with a false pretext, and the priest had probably but very little knowledge of what took place at court, replied both calmly and worthily (Sa1 22:14): "And who of all thy servants is so faithful (proved, attested, as in Num 12:7) as David, and son-in-law of the king, and having access to thy private audience, and honoured in thy house?" The true explanation of אל־משׁמעתּך סר may be gathered from a comparison of Sa2 23:23 and Ch1 11:25, where משׁמעת occurs again, as the context clearly shows, in the sense of a privy councillor of the king, who hears his personal revelations and converses with him about them, so that it corresponds to our "audience." סוּר, lit. to turn aside from the way, to go in to any one, or to look after anything (Exo 3:3; Rut 4:1, etc.); hence in the passage before us "to have access," to be attached to a person. This is the explanation given by Gesenius and most of the modern expositors, whereas the early translators entirely misunderstood the passage, though they have given the meaning correctly enough at Sa2 23:23. But if this was the relation in which David stood to Saul, - and he had really done so for a long time, - there was nothing wrong in what the high priest had done for him; but he had acted according to the best of his knowledge, and quite conscientiously as a faithful subject of the king. Ahimelech then added still further (Sa1 22:15): "Did I then begin to inquire of God for him this day?" i.e., was it the first time that I had obtained the decision of God for David concerning important enterprises, which he had to carry out in the service of the king? "Far be from me," sc., any conspiracy against the king, like that of which I am accused. "Let not the king lay it as a burden upon thy servant, my whole father's house (the omission of the cop. ו before בּכל־כּית may be accounted for from the excitement of the speaker); for thy servant knows not the least of all this." בּכל־זאת, of all that Saul had charged him with.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 22:16
Notwithstanding this truthful assertion of his innocence, Saul pronounced sentence of death, not only upon the high priest, but upon all the priests at Nob, and commanded his רצים, "runner," i.e., halberdiers, to put the priests to death, because, as he declared in his wrath, "their hand is with David (i.e., because they side with David), and because they knew that he fled and did not tell me." Instead of the Chethibh אזנו, it is probably more correct to read אזני, according to the Keri, although the Chethibh may be accounted for if necessary from a sudden transition from a direct to an indirect form of address: "and (as he said) had not told him." This sentence was so cruel, and so nearly bordering upon madness, that the halberdiers would not carry it out, but refused to lay hands upon "the priests of Jehovah."
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 22:18
Saul then commanded Doeg to cut down the priests, and he at once performed the bloody deed. On the expression "wearing the linen ephod," compare the remarks at Sa1 2:18. The allusion to the priestly clothing, like the repetition of the expression "priests of Jehovah," serves to bring out into its true light the crime of the bloodthirsty Saul and his executioner Doeg. The very dress which the priests wore, as the consecrated servants of Jehovah, ought to have made them shrink from the commission of such a murder.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 22:19
But not content with even this revenge, Saul had the whole city of Nob destroyed, like a city that was laid under the ban (vid., Deu 13:13.). So completely did Saul identify his private revenge with the cause of Jehovah, that he avenged a supposed conspiracy against his own person as treason against Jehovah the God-king.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 22:20
The only one of the whole body of priests who escaped this bloody death was a son of Ahimelech, named Abiathar, who "fled after David," i.e., to David the fugitive, and informed him of the barbarous vengeance which Saul had taken upon the priests of the Lord. Then David recognised and confessed his guilt. "I knew that day that the Edomite Doeg was there, that he (i.e., that as the Edomite Doeg was there, he) would tell Saul: I am the cause of all the souls of thy father's house," i.e., of their death. סבב is used here in the sense of being the cause of a thing, which is one of the meanings of the verb in the Arabic and Talmudic (vid., Ges. Lex. s. v.). "Stay with me, fear not; for he who seeks my life seeks thy life: for thou art safe with me." The abstract mishmereth, protection, keeping (Exo 12:6; Exo 16:33-34), is used for the concrete, in the sense of protected, well kept. The thought is the following: As no other is seeking thy life than Saul, who also wants to kill me, thou mayest stay with me without fear, as I am sure of divine protection. David spoke thus in the firm belief that the Lord would deliver him from his foe, and give him the kingdom. The action of Saul, which had just been reported to him, could only strengthen him in this belief, as it was a sign of the growing hardness of Saul, which must accelerate his destruction.