Bible Society of South Africa

To The Word – Day 77

1 Samuel 21–25, Psalms 34 & 54 (optional: Psalms 52 & 56)

Bible text(s)

David Flees from Saul

1David went to the priest Ahimelech in Nob. Ahimelech came out trembling to meet him and asked, “Why did you come here all by yourself?”

2“I am here on the king's business,” David answered. “He told me not to let anyone know what he sent me to do. As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. 3Now, then, what supplies have you got? Give me five loaves of bread or anything else you have.”

4The priest said, “I haven't any ordinary bread, only sacred bread; you can have it if your men haven't had sexual relations recently.”

5“Of course they haven't,” answered David. “My men always keep themselves ritually pure even when we go out on an ordinary mission; how much more this time when we are on a special mission!”

6So the priest gave David the sacred bread, because the only bread he had was the loaves offered to God, which had been removed from the sacred table and replaced by fresh bread.

7(Saul's chief herdsman, Doeg, who was from Edom, happened to be there that day, because he had to fulfil a religious obligation.)

8David said to Ahimelech, “Have you got a spear or a sword you can give me? The king's orders made me leave in such a hurry that I didn't have time to get my sword or any other weapon.”

9Ahimelech answered, “I have the sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah; it is behind the ephod, wrapped in a cloth. If you want it, take it — it's the only weapon here.”

“Give it to me,” David said. “There is not a better sword anywhere!”

10So David left, fleeing from Saul, and went to King Achish of Gath. 11The king's officials said to Achish, “Isn't this David, the king of his country? This is the man about whom the women sang, as they danced, ‘Saul has killed thousands, but David has killed tens of thousands.’ ”

12Their words made a deep impression on David, and he became very much afraid of King Achish. 13So whenever they were around, David pretended to be insane and acted like a madman when they tried to restrain him; he would scribble on the city gates and dribble down his beard. 14So Achish said to his officials, “Look! The man is mad! Why did you bring him to me? 15Haven't I got enough madmen already? Why bring another one to annoy me with his daft actions right here in my own house?”

1 Samuel 21GNBOpen in Bible reader

The Slaughter of the Priests

1David fled from the city of Gath and went to a cave near the town of Adullam. When his brothers and the rest of the family heard that he was there, they joined him. 2People who were oppressed or in debt or dissatisfied went to him, about 400 men in all, and he became their leader.

3David went on from there to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab, “Please let my father and mother come and stay with you until I find out what God is going to do for me.” 4So David left his parents with the king of Moab, and they stayed there as long as David was hiding in the cave.

5Then the prophet Gad came to David and said, “Don't stay here; go at once to the land of Judah.” So David left and went to the forest of Hereth.

6One day Saul was in Gibeah, sitting under a tamarisk tree on a hill, with his spear in his hand, and all his officers were standing round him. He was told that David and his men had been found, 7and he said to his officers, “Listen, men of Benjamin! Do you think that David will give fields and vineyards to all of you, and make you officers in his army? 8Is that why you are plotting against me? Not one of you told me that my own son had made an alliance with David. No one is concerned about me or tells me that David, one of my own men, is at this moment looking for a chance to kill me, and that my son has encouraged him!”

9Doeg was standing there with Saul's officers, and he said, “I saw David when he went to Ahimelech son of Ahitub in Nob. 10Ahimelech asked the LORD what David should do, and then he gave David some food and the sword of Goliath the Philistine.”

11So King Saul sent for the priest Ahimelech and all his relatives, who were also priests in Nob, and they came to him. 12Saul said to Ahimelech, “Listen, Ahimelech!”

“At your service, sir,” he answered.

13Saul asked him, “Why are you and David plotting against me? Why did you give him some food and a sword, and consult God for him? Now he has turned against me and is waiting for a chance to kill me!”

14Ahimelech answered, “David is the most faithful officer you have! He is your own son-in-law, captain of your bodyguard, and highly respected by everyone in the royal court. 15Yes, I consulted God for him, and it wasn't the first time. As for plotting against you, Your Majesty must not accuse me or anyone else in my family. I don't know anything about this matter!”

16The king said, “Ahimelech, you and all your relatives must die.” 17Then he said to the guards standing near him, “Kill the LORD's priests! They conspired with David and did not tell me that he had run away, even though they knew it all along.” But the guards refused to lift a hand to kill the LORD's priests. 18So Saul said to Doeg, “You kill them!” — and Doeg killed them all. On that day he killed 85 priests who were qualified to carry the ephod. 19Saul also ordered all the other inhabitants of Nob, the city of priests, to be put to death: men and women, children and babies, cattle, donkeys, and sheep — they were all killed.

20But Abiathar, one of Ahimelech's sons, escaped, and went and joined David. 21He told him how Saul had slaughtered the priests of the LORD. 22David said to him, “When I saw Doeg there that day, I knew that he would be sure to tell Saul. So I am responsible for the death of all your relatives. 23Stay with me and don't be afraid. Saul wants to kill both you and me, but you will be safe with me.”

1 Samuel 22GNBOpen in Bible reader

David Saves the Town of Keilah

1David heard that the Philistines were attacking the town of Keilah and were stealing the newly harvested corn. 2So he asked the LORD, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines?”

“Yes,” the LORD answered. “Attack them and save Keilah.”

3But David's men said to him, “We have enough to be afraid of here in Judah; it will be much worse if we go to Keilah and attack the Philistine forces!” 4So David consulted the LORD again, and the LORD said to him, “Go and attack Keilah, because I will give you victory over the Philistines.” 5So David and his men went to Keilah and attacked the Philistines; they killed many of them and took their livestock. And that was how David saved the town.

6When Abiathar son of Ahimelech escaped and joined David in Keilah, he took the ephod with him.

7Saul was told that David had gone to Keilah, and he said, “God has put him in my power. David has trapped himself by going into a walled town with fortified gates.” 8So Saul called his troops to war, to march against Keilah and besiege David and his men.

9When David heard that Saul was planning to attack him, he said to the priest Abiathar, “Bring the ephod here.” 10Then David said, “LORD, God of Israel, I have heard that Saul is planning to come to Keilah and destroy it on account of me, your servant. 11Will the citizens of Keilah hand me over to Saul? Will Saul really come, as I have heard? LORD, God of Israel, I beg you to answer me!”

The LORD answered, “Saul will come.”

12“And will the citizens of Keilah hand my men and me over to Saul?” David asked again.

“They will,” the LORD answered.

13So David and his men — about 600 in all — left Keilah at once and kept on the move. When Saul heard that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up his plan.

David in the Hill Country

14David stayed in hiding in the hill country, in the wilderness near Ziph. Saul was always trying to find him, but God did not hand David over to him. 15David saw that Saul was out to kill him.

David was at Horesh, in the wilderness near Ziph. 16Jonathan went to him there and encouraged him with assurances of God's protection, 17saying to him, “Don't be afraid. My father Saul won't be able to harm you. He knows very well that you are the one who will be the king of Israel and that I will be next in rank to you.” 18The two of them made a sacred promise of friendship to each other. David stayed at Horesh, and Jonathan went home.

19Some people from Ziph went to Saul at Gibeah and said, “David is hiding in our territory at Horesh on Mount Hachilah, in the southern part of the Judean wilderness. 20We know, Your Majesty, how much you want to capture him; so come to our territory, and we will make sure that you catch him.”

21Saul answered, “May the LORD bless you for being so kind to me! 22Go and make sure once more; find out for certain where he is and who has seen him there. I hear that he is very cunning. 23Find out exactly the places where he hides, and be sure to bring back a report to me straight away. Then I will go with you, and if he is still in the region, I will hunt him down, even if I have to search the whole land of Judah.”

24So they left and returned to Ziph ahead of Saul. David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in a desolate valley in the southern part of the Judean wilderness. 25Saul and his men set out to look for David, but he heard about it and went to a rocky hill in the wilderness of Maon and stayed there. When Saul heard about this, he went after David. 26Saul and his men were on one side of the hill, separated from David and his men, who were on the other side. They were hurrying to get away from Saul and his men, who were closing in on them and were about to capture them. 27Just then a messenger arrived and said to Saul, “Come back at once! The Philistines are invading the country!” 28So Saul stopped pursuing David and went to fight the Philistines. That is why that place is called Separation Hill. 29David left and went to the region of Engedi, where he stayed in hiding.

1 Samuel 23GNBOpen in Bible reader

David Spares Saul's Life

1When Saul came back from fighting the Philistines, he was told that David was in the wilderness near Engedi. 2Saul took 3,000 of the best soldiers in Israel and went looking for David and his men east of Wild Goat Rocks. 3He came to a cave close to some sheep pens by the road and went in to relieve himself. It happened to be the very cave in which David and his men were hiding far back in the cave. 4They said to him, “This is your chance! The LORD has told you that he would put your enemy in your power and you could do to him whatever you wanted to.” David crept over and cut off a piece of Saul's robe without Saul's knowing it. 5But then David's conscience began to trouble him, 6and he said to his men, “May the LORD keep me from doing any harm to my master, whom the LORD chose as king! I must not harm him in the least, because he is the king chosen by the LORD!” 7So David convinced his men that they should not attack Saul.

Saul got up, left the cave, and started on his way. 8Then David went out after him and called to him, “Your Majesty!” Saul turned round, and David bowed down to the ground in respect 9and said, “Why do you listen to people who say that I am trying to harm you? 10You can see for yourself that just now in the cave the LORD put you in my power. Some of my men told me to kill you, but I felt sorry for you and said that I would not harm you in the least, because you are the one whom the LORD chose to be king. 11Look, my father, look at the piece of your robe I am holding! I could have killed you, but instead I only cut this off. This should convince you that I have no thought of rebelling against you or of harming you. You are hunting me down to kill me, even though I have not done you any wrong. 12May the LORD judge which one of us is wrong! May he punish you for your action against me, for I will not harm you in the least. 13You know the old saying, ‘Evil is done only by evil people.’ And so I will not harm you. 14Look at what the king of Israel is trying to kill! Look at what he is chasing! A dead dog, a flea! 15The LORD will judge, and he will decide which one of us is wrong. May he look into the matter, defend me, and save me from you.”

16When David had finished speaking, Saul said, “Is that really you, David my son?” And he started crying. 17Then he said to David, “You are right, and I am wrong. You have been so good to me, while I have done such wrong to you! 18Today you have shown how good you are to me, because you did not kill me, even though the LORD put me in your power. 19How often does a man catch his enemy and then let him get away unharmed? The LORD bless you for what you have done to me today! 20Now I am sure that you will be king of Israel and that the kingdom will continue under your rule. 21But promise me in the LORD's name that you will spare my descendants, so that my name and my family's name will not be completely forgotten.” 22David promised that he would.

Then Saul went back home, and David and his men went back to their hiding place.

1 Samuel 24GNBOpen in Bible reader

The Death of Samuel

1Samuel died, and all the Israelites came together and mourned for him. Then they buried him at his home in Ramah.

David and Abigail

After this, David went to the wilderness of Paran. 2-3There was a man of the clan of Caleb named Nabal, who was from the town of Maon, and who owned land near the town of Carmel. He was a very rich man, the owner of 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats. His wife Abigail was beautiful and intelligent, but he was a mean, bad-tempered man.

Nabal was shearing his sheep in Carmel, 4and David, who was in the wilderness, heard about it, 5so he sent ten young men with orders to go to Carmel, find Nabal, and give him his greetings. 6He instructed them to say to Nabal: “David sends you greetings, my friend, with his best wishes for you, your family, and all that is yours. 7He heard that you were shearing your sheep, and he wants you to know that your shepherds have been with us and we did not harm them. Nothing that belonged to them was stolen all the time they were at Carmel. 8Just ask them, and they will tell you. We have come on a feast day, and David asks you to receive us kindly. Please give what you can to us your servants and to your dear friend David.”

9David's men delivered this message to Nabal in David's name. Then they waited there, 10and Nabal finally answered, “David? Who is he? I've never heard of him! The country is full of runaway slaves nowadays! 11I'm not going to take my bread and water, and the animals I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give them to people who come from I don't know where!”

12David's men went back to him and told him what Nabal had said. 13“Buckle on your swords!” he ordered, and they all did. David also buckled on his sword and left with about 400 of his men, leaving 200 behind with the supplies.

14One of Nabal's servants said to Nabal's wife Abigail, “Have you heard? David sent some messengers from the wilderness with greetings for our master, but he insulted them. 15Yet they were very good to us; they never bothered us, and all the time we were with them in the fields, nothing that belonged to us was stolen. 16They protected us day and night the whole time we were with them looking after our flocks. 17Please think this over and decide what to do. This could be disastrous for our master and all his family. He is so pigheaded that he won't listen to anybody!”

18Abigail quickly collected 200 loaves of bread, two leather bags full of wine, five roasted sheep, seventeen kilogrammes of roasted grain, a hundred bunches of raisins, and 200 cakes of dried figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 19Then she said to the servants, “You go on ahead and I will follow you.” But she said nothing to her husband.

20She was riding her donkey round a bend on a hillside when suddenly she met David and his men coming towards her. 21David had been thinking, “Why did I ever protect that fellow's property out here in the wilderness? Not a thing that belonged to him was stolen, and this is how he pays me back for the help I gave him! 22May God strike me dead if I don't kill every last one of those men before morning!”

23When Abigail saw David, she quickly dismounted and threw herself on the ground 24at David's feet, and said to him, “Please, sir, listen to me! Let me take the blame. 25Please, don't pay any attention to Nabal, that good-for-nothing! He is exactly what his name means — a fool! I wasn't there when your servants arrived, sir. 26It is the LORD who has kept you from taking revenge and killing your enemies. And now I swear to you by the living LORD that your enemies and all who want to harm you will be punished like Nabal. 27Please, sir, accept this present I have brought you, and give it to your men. 28Please forgive me, sir, for any wrong I have done. The LORD will make you king, and your descendants also, because you are fighting his battles; and you will not do anything evil as long as you live. 29If anyone should attack you and try to kill you, the LORD your God will keep you safe, as someone guards a precious treasure. As for your enemies, however, he will throw them away, as someone hurls stones with a sling. 30And when the LORD has done all the good things he has promised you and has made you king of Israel, 31then you will not have to feel regret or remorse, sir, for having killed without cause or for having taken your own revenge. And when the LORD has blessed you, sir, please do not forget me.”

32David said to her, “Praise the LORD, the God of Israel, who sent you today to meet me! 33Thank God for your good sense and for what you have done today in keeping me from the crime of murder and from taking my own revenge. 34The LORD has kept me from harming you. But I swear by the living God of Israel that if you had not hurried to meet me, all of Nabal's men would have been dead by morning!” 35Then David accepted what she had brought him and said to her, “Go back home and don't worry. I will do what you want.”

36Abigail went back to Nabal, who was at home having a feast fit for a king. He was drunk and in a good mood, so she did not tell him anything until the next morning. 37Then, after he had sobered up, she told him everything. He suffered a stroke and was completely paralysed. 38Some ten days later the LORD struck Nabal and he died.

39When David heard that Nabal had died, he said, “Praise the LORD! He has taken revenge on Nabal for insulting me and has kept me his servant from doing wrong. The LORD has punished Nabal for his evil.”

Then David sent a proposal of marriage to Abigail. 40His servants went to her at Carmel and said to her, “David sent us to take you to him to be his wife.”

41Abigail bowed down to the ground and said, “I am his servant, ready to wash the feet of his servants.” 42She rose quickly and mounted her donkey. Accompanied by her five maids, she went with David's servants and became his wife.

43David had married Ahinoam from Jezreel, and now Abigail also became his wife. 44Meanwhile, Saul had given his daughter Michal, who had been David's wife, to Palti son of Laish, who was from the town of Gallim.

1 Samuel 25GNBOpen in Bible reader

In Praise of God's Goodness

1I will always thank the LORD;

I will never stop praising him.

2I will praise him for what he has done;

may all who are oppressed listen and be glad!

3Proclaim with me the LORD's greatness;

let us praise his name together!

4I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me;

he freed me from all my fears.

5The oppressed look to him and are glad;

they will never be disappointed.

6The helpless call to him, and he answers;

he saves them from all their troubles.

7His angel guards those who honour the LORD

and rescues them from danger.

8Find out for yourself how good the LORD is.

Happy are those who find safety with him.

9Honour the LORD, all his people;

those who obey him have all they need.

10Even lions go hungry for lack of food,

but those who obey the LORD lack nothing good.

11Come, my young friends, and listen to me,

and I will teach you to honour the LORD.

12Would you like to enjoy life?

Do you want long life and happiness?

13Then hold back from speaking evil

and from telling lies.

14Turn away from evil and do good;

strive for peace with all your heart.

15The LORD watches over the righteous

and listens to their cries;

16but he opposes those who do evil,

so that when they die, they are soon forgotten.

17The righteous call to the LORD, and he listens;

he rescues them from all their troubles.

18The LORD is near to those who are discouraged;

he saves those who have lost all hope.

19Good people suffer many troubles,

but the LORD saves them from them all;

20the LORD preserves them completely;

not one of their bones is broken.

21Evil will kill the wicked;

those who hate the righteous will be punished.

22The LORD will save his people;

those who go to him for protection will be spared.

A Prayer for Protection from Enemies

1Save me by your power, O God;

set me free by your might!

2Hear my prayer, O God;

listen to my words!

3Proud men are coming to attack me;

cruel men are trying to kill me —

men who do not care about God.

4But God is my helper.

The Lord is my defender.

5May God use their own evil to punish my enemies.

He will destroy them because he is faithful.

6I will gladly offer you a sacrifice, O LORD;

I will give you thanks

because you are good.

7You have rescued me from all my troubles,

and I have seen my enemies defeated.

God's Judgement and Grace

1Why do you boast, great one, of your evil?

God's faithfulness is eternal.

2You make plans to ruin others;

your tongue is like a sharp razor.

You are always inventing lies.

3You love evil more than good

and falsehood more than truth.

4You love to hurt people with your words, you liar!

5So God will ruin you for ever;

he will take hold of you and snatch you from your home;

he will remove you from the world of the living.

6Righteous people will see this and be afraid;

then they will laugh at you and say,

7“Look, here is someone who did not depend on God for safety,

but trusted instead in his great wealth

and looked for security in being wicked.”

8But I am like an olive tree growing in the house of God;

I trust in his constant love for ever and ever.

9I will always thank you, God, for what you have done;

in the presence of your people

I will proclaim that you are good.

A Prayer of Trust in God

1Be merciful to me, O God,

because I am under attack;

my enemies persecute me all the time.

2All day long my opponents attack me.

There are so many who fight against me.

3When I am afraid, O LORD Almighty,

I put my trust in you.

4I trust in God and am not afraid;

I praise him for what he has promised.

What can a mere human being do to me?

5My enemies make trouble for me all day long;

they are always planning how to hurt me!

6They gather in hiding places

and watch everything I do,

hoping to kill me.

7Punish them, O God, for their evil;

defeat those people in your anger!

8You know how troubled I am;

you have kept a record of my tears.

Aren't they listed in your book?

9The day I call to you,

my enemies will be turned back.

I know this: God is on my side —

10the LORD, whose promises I praise.

11In him I trust, and I will not be afraid.

What can a mere human being do to me?

12O God, I will offer you what I have promised;

I will give you my offering of thanksgiving,

13because you have rescued me from death

and kept me from defeat.

And so I walk in the presence of God,

in the light that shines on the living.

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