Summary: Jonathon demonstrates how we might be a friend indeed to a friend who is in need.
The key verse in our passage for today is verse 15: “While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul has come out to take his life.”
Now, this verse seems a bit redundant. After all, what is new about the fact that Saul was out to take David’s life? It could be that what is being emphasized is that David had become aware that Saul was nearby. But there is yet another possibility.
The Hebrew word translated “learned” is similar to the word for “fear.” Some have suggested the author must have meant to say that David was afraid. In other words, what we are told here is that the full weight of Saul’s pursuit and its implications seems to bear down on David at this point. He has known of Saul’s jealousy and his desire to take his life before this, but at this point, the reality of things really comes home to David and he is struggling with discouragement. And he had plenty of reason to be discouraged.
First, Saul had killed all the priests and their families at Nob.
In chapter 22:6-19, we read of how Saul was told by Doeg, who was present when David went to Ahemilech the priest at Nob, that David had come through there. So Saul went with his men to Nob to inquire about David’s where-a-bouts. Saul was so enraged that Ahemilech had helped David, that he ordered his men to kill all the priests. When the men refused, Saul ordered Doeg, who was not an Israelite, but an Edomite, to kill them, Doeg not only killed the priests, but city of Nob.
“The king then ordered Doeg, ‘You turn and strike down the priests.’ So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck them down. That day he killed eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod. He also put to the sword Nob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its
children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep.” - 1 Samuel 22:18-19 (NIV)
One of Ahimelech’s sons, Abiathar, escaped and reported this to David. David responded by saying: “That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your whole family,” (1 Samuel 22:22 NIV).
So, not only was David freshly confronted with the overwhelming rage of Saul toward him, but he knew Saul would stop at nothing, including innocent men, women, and children, to get at him. David felt personally responsible.
Second, David learned of the betrayal of those he had rescued.
In 1 Samuel 23:1-13, we are told how the Philistines had attacked the Israelite city of Keilah. David inquired of the Lord as to whether he should go and fight for them. The Lord told him to do so and David went and defeated them. He then inquired of the Lord again and asked “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?” to which the Lord replied, “They will,” (1 Samuel 23:12 NIV).
The number of David’s fighting men increased when he left Keilah, from 400 to 600 (v. 13). But, there is no doubt that the knowledge of the city’s betrayal unnerved David a bit. As grateful as he must have been for the 200 fighting men who had joined up with him, he was no doubt, grieved by those in Keilah who would betray him.