Shmuel 1-Chapter 22: Dovid flees and leads to the destruction of the city of Nov by Shaul

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Chapter 22: Dovid flees and leads to the destruction of the city of Nov by Shaul

1. Dovid’s various areas of escape and refuge:

  • Dovid escapes to a cave: Dovid left the area of Gath and he ran away to a cave named Adulam.
  • Dovid’s family comes to join him: The brothers of Dovid and all of his father’s household heard [about Dovid’s escape from death from the king and worried for their own safety is the possibility of the king may take vengeance against them Dovid’s family[1]], and they went to join him there.
  • An army of dissidents gather with Dovid: All people who were oppressed and poor and who were in debt and who were bitter, went to Dovid and accepted him as a prince over them. There were approximately about 400 men with Dovid.
  • Dovid brings his parents and family to the king of Moav: Dovid went Dragon turnoff from there to the hills of Moav. Dovid requested from the king of Moav, that he should allow his father and mother to remain with him until he can decide what G-d has in store for him. So Dovid brought his parents the presence of the king of Moab and they remained there with him throughout all the days that Dovid was in the citadel [which was close to the land of Moab[2]].
  • Gad the prophet tells Dovid to go to Judea: Gad the prophet told Dovid that he should no longer remain in the citadel [as he knew through prophecy that the king of Moav wanted to kill him and hand them over to Shaul[3]] and rather he should go to the land of Judea. So, Dovid went to the forest of Chares [which is in the land of Judea]. [After the king of Moav heard of Dovid’s leave from the citadel he killed both of his parents his father and mother and his brothers with the exception of one brother which Nachash the Ammonite allowed to live.[4]]

2. Shaul hears of the whereabouts of Dovid:

  • Shul heard of the whereabouts of Dovid and the people who were with him [they were settled in the land of Judea[5], without fear[6]]. At that time Shaul was settled in the valley under a tree in Rama with a spear in his hand and with all the servants standing over him.
  • Shaul accuses his servants of treason: Shaul said to his servants who were standing over him, “Please listen to me members of my tribe Benjamin, is it possible that the son of Yishaiy will give all of you fields and orchards and appoint you generals of thousands and hundreds. You have all conspired against me [as if  Dovid has already promised you benefits for doing so] and you did not reveal to my ears the pack that my son made with the son of Yishai,  and none of you feel my pain or feel a need to reveal it to me. My son has conspired against me and persuaded my servants to allow him to ambush me on this day.”

3. The destruction of the city of Nov and the murder of all its inhabitants:

  • Doeg the Edomite informs Shaul of Dovid’s visitation to Nov: Doeg the Edomite, who was the head of the servants of Shaul, told Shaul that he had seen the son of Yishaiy come to the city of Nov and speak with Achimelech the son of Achituv. Achimelech had consulted with God on his behalf, and he then gave him provisions for his journey. He also gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.
  • Shaul summons Achimelech to appear before him and confronts him: Shaul sent a messenger to summon Achimelech the son of Achituv the Cohen, and all of his father’s household who are in Nov to appear before him. So they all appeared before the king. Shaul said to Achimelech, “Listen to me the son of Achituv,” and he replied to him “Yes my master,” and Shaul confronted him saying, “Why have you and the son of Yishai conspired against me by giving him bread and a sword and by consulting with G-d regarding him [which symbolizes that you believe him to be the king, as one who is not of the monarchy may not consult with the Urim Vetumim[7]]. You have set him up to become an ambush for me on this day.”
  • Achimelech defends himself and his intents: Achimelech replied to the king saying, “Who almost all your servants is as trustworthy and dedicated as Dovid who is the son-in-law of the king and abide by all your edicts and is well respected in your home. For some time now I have been consulting with G-d regarding his questions [due to him being appointed over the armies and being a leader amongst Israel, and therefore how can I consulting be viewed as treasonous[8]]. Heaven forbid that I would rebel against the king. Please king do not place guilt on your servant and amongst my father’s household as your servant knew nothing about this neither large or small.”
  • The king decrees death on Achimelech and his entire household: The king said to the, “You Achimelech and all of your father’s household shall be put to death.”
  • Shaul asks Avner and Amsa to murder the priests of Nov but they refuse: The king said to his messengers which surrounded him [i.e. Avner and Amsa[9]] that they should go and attack the city of Nov and put to death all the priests of G-d as they to have conspired together with Dovid, as they knew that he was running away from me and they did not bother to reveal this to me. However, the servants of the king did not agree to murder the priests of G-d [as they derived from verse in Scripture at the king has no authority to send them on a sinful mission[10]].
  • Shaul asks of Doeg to kill the Kohanim of Nov: The king said to Doeg [being that you are the one who informed on them you should be the one to carry out the verdict[11], and therefore] you should go and attack the city and kill all of the priests. So Doeg the Edomite went and killed the priests.
  • The number of people killed by Doeg: Doeg killed on that day 85 priests, who carry and where the priestly garment of the Eiphod [which was a fancy garment worn by the servants of G-d in those days[12]]. The city of Nov which was the city of Kohanim was completely decimated by the sword; every man, woman, child and even infant was killed by the sword. All the animals were killed by the sword including the ox the donkey and the sheep. [The Mefarshim explain that the city of Nov was liable for death due to other reasons and G-d arranged that their punishment would be exacted through Shaul. Nonetheless, Shaul was punished severely for having killed the city of the Kohanim, as he and three of his sons were killed by the sword in battle, as will be learned later on in Scripture.[13]]
  • Avyasar survives the slaughter: There was one son of a Achimelech the son of Achitav who survived, and his name was Avyasar. He fled towards the area of Dovid. Avyasar told Dovid all that happened and that Shaul had killed all the priests of G-d. Dovid replied to Avyasar, “I had known on that day [that I was in Nov] that Doeg the Edomite was present. It is I that have caused the decimation of all of the souls of your father’s household. Now, you shall sit with me and do not fear [as I will protect you], as the same people who are trying to kill me are also trying to kill you. You will be guarded with me [i.e. I will guard you just as I guard my own so from death[14]].


[1] Malbim 22:2

[2] Rashi 22:4

[3] Pirush Rabbeinu Yeshaya 22:5

[4] Rashi 22:4

[5] Pirush Rabbeinu Yeshaya 22:6

[6] See Metzudas David 22:6

[7] Rashi 22:13

[8] Rashi 22:15

[9] Rashi 22:17

[10] Rashi 22:17

[11] Rashi 22:18

[12] Metzudos David 22:18

[13] Radak 22:18

[14] Radak 22:18

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