We are thrusted into chapter 22 where we see David in a cave rightly called the justice of the people – the cave of Abdullam. It is here that all those rejected outside the house of Saul are brought together: from David’s family which David was restrained from fellowshipping with (1 Samuel 18:2), to all those in distress, in debt, in bitterness (v.2). David was the captain over all four hundred of them, the same people who likely rejected Saul as king (1 Samuel 10:27).
And this is placed directly against the raving jealousy of Saul. Though David had the sword of Goliath, David was a man of gentle compassion who attracted the meek and the humble; his council of four hundred rejected men in a cave is compared to Saul who is in the open land, under a tree, and holding a spear awaiting war. Yet, is this not the picture of the rebellion in Eden? That David is thrown outside the garden and yet is rejoicing with the church of Christ in the cave of the justice of the people as they hold, by the Spirit, to the tree of life; and Saul who stands by the tree of good and evil, ready to murder. “All of you have conspired against me” he accuses (v.8); “No one discloses to me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse”. Yet, O Saul, did not you receive the blessings of David’s mediation upon the death of the enemy’s mediator Goliath? You are already within the covenant of David! Yet, your soul is not knit to his like Ahimelech, Samuel, or Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1). All that Saul could do is point his finger at the man to blame – who is causing the fall of Israel? Is it you, or is it you? (Genesis 3:12).
Yet, the retort is astounding – there is no need to conspire, when the David is a son of light and should shine brightly in the face of irony that Saul is the great deceiver and true conspirer: “…who among all your servants is so faithful as David, who is the king’s son-in-law, and captain over your bodyguard, and honored in your house?” (v.14) Indeed, who is as great as the Christ, in the face of the hypocrisy of the house of Israel? And yet, the apparent sin of Ahimelech is falsely imputed to him; where the innocent shall perish and the wicked shall laugh (Jeremiah 12:1). What has driven Saul to this madness? What lack of logic? “Kill the priests of the LORD because their hand also is with David and did not disclose it to me” (v.17); did they conspire to overthrow Saul? Is David a rapist like Barabbas, or a tax collector like Matthew? Even the Saul of the New Testament recognized his murderous sin, but the Saul of this chapter is blinded by his raging sin. Even his servants would not dare strike the priests of the LORD (v.17), that this sin is amplified by the aid of a non-Israelite – an Edomite, from the enemies of Israel (Genesis 25:30; Deuteronomy 23:7). This fruitful city of priests near Jerusalem, the city of peace, is thus destroyed by Saul’s sword. It is not Goliath’s sword which destroyed the fruit of Israel for it is a sign of Christ’s victory over sin, of David’s victory over the enemy’s head, of the crucified bronze serpent (John 3; Numbers 21:8) lifted high just as Christ was exalted. No – it is Saul, the false king of Israel, the one who wanted to sit on the throne like the Satan who tried to usurp the throne of the Anointed Witness: he is the one who is the first murderer and deceiver in this chapter.
And like Christ, could we blame Him to have occasioned the death of many martyrs – the countless saints who have died for His cause? What crime did He commit? The crime of compassion, of feeding his men, of hiding in a cave whilst being persecuted for sins he did not commit, of gathering those whom the king should have sheltered and served? Doeg had clearly witnessed that David did not conspire with Ahimelech, as David had kept the covenant with Jonathan close to his heart, and ensuring none other shall receive the brunt of Saul’s wrath (1 Samuel 20:10); yet Doeg deceived and Saul was deceived by the Edomite, furthermore exemplifying the hardness of his heart by the succumbing to the evil spirit. David committed no sin worthy of focus in these chapters, for Saul is the true antithesis here. He felt no remorse for the death of the mediators of Israel. Yet, David’s pain is apparent (v.22-23), and he takes Abiathar under his protection, the last seed of the house of righteous men – men whose brothers are good (Ahitub), whose brothers are kings (Ahimelech). Instead of hiding in the stronghold of Moab, his grandmother’s house, the prophet Gad in the Spirit advised David to be in Judah. Is Judah any more of a stronghold? No – but Gad’s purpose is not to put David in a place of safekeeping (c.f. “Do not remain in the stronghold” v.5). For David is already in safekeeping, outside of Moab; his purpose is to be in Judah, the lion of Judah who was the safekeeping for Abiathar. So we hide in Christ, who will provide us protection and whom we shall die for in the face of blatant persecution (2 Corinthians 1), that we may suffer, endure, build character, and have hope in the Anointed Son of God alone (Romans 5:19).