Realizing he was unsafe with the Philistines in Gath , David went east to Adulam (where his ancestor Judah had also gone when he "went down" from his brothers Gen. 38:1). Adulam and nearby Ke'eela, which are among the places David went to escape as narrated in the present chapter and the earlier part of the next, are located in the hilly region a little south of present-day Beit Shemesh. Meanwhile Saul was in Giv'ah, a little to the north of the present-day Jerusalem suburb of Ramot, which is immediately south east of Ramah ("Nebie Samuel"), where Samuel lived. The town of Nob was further east, near the road to Ramallah.

There in Adulam the charismatic David attracted a bedraggled band of what may have somewhat resembled today's Baal Teshuvahs, each in their tight corner with their debts, physical and spiritual, and each bearing their own pack of sorrows!!!

From Adulam David went east of the Dead Sea into Moab , where he had a family connection with the king through his convert great grandmother, Ruth, who was daughter of Eglon king of Moab . Realizing that Saul was out to destroy him and his whole family, David sought to find a safe place in Moab for his parents, but as Rashi brings on v 4, the hoped-for haven was safe only while David was in Metzudah, but afterwards the king of Moab killed his mother, father and all his brothers except for one.

It was the prophet Gad who told David not to dwell in Metzudah but to return to the Land of Israel to his native tribal territory of Judah (v 5). Unlike Saul, we see that David had scrupulous respect for the prophets and carried out their words to the letter. Likewise, he consulted with the Urim ve-Thumim on all critical questions and - unlike Saul - received answers from God, as we see in the ensuing narrative.

The Midrash states that Giv'ah and Ramah mentioned in v 6 as where Saul was located at this time are actually two separate places, and that Saul was physically in Giv'ah, but he lived there in the merit of the "Tamarisk (ESHEL) in Ramah", namely the prophet Samuel, who did not cease to pray for him (Rashi on v 6).

Nevertheless, the divine decree against Saul was sealed and he descended ever-deeper into his paranoid delusions, seeing conspiracies against him from all around. In Saul's eyes David was a MOREID BE-MALCHUS, a "rebel against the throne", a national traitor, particularly now that he was evidently attracting a growing following from among the disaffected.


Once again the sinister brilliant Torah sage Do'eg steps in to further stir the pot of evil by disclosing that he had seen David at the Sanctuary and that Achimelech the High Priest had fed and armed him. Do'eg's telling on Achimelech - which led to Achimelech's death and that of all the priests of Nov - is seen as the archetype of RECHILUS - "tale-bearing", one of the main categories of LASHON HARA, "evil speech". Even if the story is true, it is forbidden to tell it to anyone when this is likely to lead to any kind of harm to the person involved.

From the interchange between Saul and Achimelech (vv 12-15) we learn that the main issue was why Achimelech had consulted the URIM VE-THUMIM for David. Do'eg maintained that only the king was allowed to consult the URIM VE-THUMIM, making Achimelech guilty of high treason, but the majority of the Sanhedrin followed the tradition that "they may be consulted for the king, the Sanhedrin, and for an individual who is needed by the community", and David came into the last category since his victory over Goliath. The other members of the Sanhedrin at this time were Avner and Amasa: they are the "runners" standing by the king in v 17: these are "the king's servants", who "DID NOT WANT TO PUT FORTH THEIR HANDS TO STRIKE THE PRIESTS OF HASHEM". They were not willing to strike because they did not believe it was justified.

Since Do'eg was in the minority, when Saul challenged him to strike the priests and he did so, he became a ZOKEN MAMRE, an elder who maintains his ruling in face of the majority of the Sanhedrin, who incurs the death penalty (Deut. 17:12). The Midrash tells that Do'eg ended up forgetting everything he had ever taught his students, who realized he was "ruling the pure to be impure and the impure to be pure" and put chains on his legs and dragged him away (Midrash Yelamdenu).

The consequence of Do'eg's evil words was that he ended up personally killing 85 Cohanim "bearing the linen EPHOD" (v 18, i.e. each was WORTHY to be High Priest) - from this we see Do'eg's strength - as well as the entire population of Nov, men, women, children and suckling babes, oxen, donkeys and sheep. In other words, Saul's regime, having FAILED to carry out God's command to completely destroy Amalek, now vented its frustration on the Israelites - the very holiest of them! In the words of Koheles (Ecclesiastes 7:16-17) "Don't be too righteous." (in sparing Amalek) ".and don't be too wicked" (in destroying Nov; Talmud Yoma 22b). [The present day Israeli high court and successive governments since Oslo have mirrored this behavior - also on the basis of a chronic campaign of malicious slander - in favoring the enemies of the Jews while victimizing the settlers, the haredim and anyone who stands up for Toras Moshe and the Halachah, which is according to David.]

Psalm 52 gives expression to David's response to Do'eg and his slander.


Only one son of Avimelech escaped the massacre of the priests of Nov and fled to David, who received him with his characteristic noble eloquence: "he that seeks my soul seeks your soul" (v 23), which can be understood to mean either "he who seeks to kill." or "he who seeks the good of" both of us (Targum, Rashi). Thus the bond between the kings of Judah and the priesthood - which began when Aaron married Elisheva sister of Nachshon prince of Judah (Exodus 6:23) - was further strengthened in preparation for the building of the Temple .


David was fleeing from his life against a murderous enemy, but as soon as he heard that Philistine marauders were fighting his brothers in Ke'eela and stealing all their hard-earned harvested produce (ch 23 v 1), he lost no time before consulting the new High Priest's URIM VE-THUMIM, not to ask if it was right to strike the Philistines - this he knew - but whether he would succeed. He repeated his question twice, not because he doubted the answer the first time, but in order to reassure his disheartened men (vv 3-4).

David went to Ke'eela and delivered the city but in spite of his courageous campaign on their behalf, the "bosses" of Ke'eela showed treacherous ingratitude in their willingness to hand him over to Saul, who was mobilizing the entire nation for war against David. Again consulting the URIM VE-THUMIM, David vacated Ke'eela, and went with his expanded following of 600 men to the Wilderness of Zif. Thus the action now moves eastwards from Ke'eela, an inhabited agricultural area which, as stated in the commentary on the previous chapter, is a little south of present-day Beit Shemesh, into the mountainous wilderness region south east of Hebron in the direction of Arad . Saul "sought him all the days, but God did not give him in his hand" (v 14), and the one who was closest to Saul - Jonathan - never let his filial duty to his father make him lose sight of the truth. Jonathan, and even Saul himself (perhaps unconsciously) knew that David would rule (v 17).

The people of Zif's betrayal of David by reporting his whereabouts to Saul is the subject of Psalm 54, which shows David's dauntless faith in God. Saul welcomed the men of Zif as being "blessed to HaShem", but although Saul spoke the LANGUAGE of faith and prayer, in ACTUALITY he used only TACHBULOS, man-devised strategies, while God was not with him but with David. Saul was rapidly closing in on David (v 26), but at the critical moment a MAL'ACH ("MAMASH" says Rashi on v 27, an "actual" angel) came to tell Saul that the Philistines were invading the entire country. Saul was divided in his own mind as to whether to go off to fight the national enemy or continue pursuing his own perceived demon-enemy (Targum and Rashi on v 28), which is why the place was called SELA HAMACHLOKES ("the rock of conflict"). Similarly the present-day Israeli government is unable to make up its mind whether to fight the country's real enemies of continue persecuting Jews who are loyal to Israel and its Torah.



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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