“David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him. And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men. And David went thence to Mizpeh of Moab: and he said unto the king of Moab, Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come forth, and be with you, till I know what God will do for me. And he brought them before the king of Moab: and they dwelt with him all the while that David was in the hold. And the prophet Gad said unto David, Abide not in the hold; depart, and get thee into the land of Judah. Then David departed, and came into the forest of Hareth” (1 Samuel 22:1-5).
Life was becoming increasingly difficult for David. It seems that his family back in Bethlehem were feeling the pressure too, and maybe they thought that Saul might seek to avenge himself on them since he could not get to David. Some commentators suggest that after fleeing from Gath, David came to terms with his spiritual condition, “David’s escape from Gath to the cave of Adullam marks a fresh starting point in his career” (B. Dale). He certainly appears to make better decisions and have a willingness to listen to God’s word since his ordeals.
David found a hiding place in a cave near Adullam, which was only ten miles away from Bethlehem. Adullam (Deir-Dubban) had a number of caves that were connected to underground caverns, one of which according to Dean Stanley was a “Subterranean palace.” So there would have been no problem housing over 400 people. A cave does not seem to be a blessing, but for David it was vastly superior to what he had experienced over the last few months.
David wrote two psalms to commemorate his stay in the cave of Adullam, which tell us something of his renewed faith. These are Psalms 57 and 142.
David became the leader of the group of refugees, which consisted of his family, and many who had problems living under Saul’s dominion. 1 Chronicles 12:16-18 reveals how David received them. “And there came of the children of Benjamin and Judah to the hold unto David. And David went out to meet them, and answered and said unto them, If ye be come peaceably unto me to help me, mine heart shall be knit unto you: but if ye be come to betray me to mine enemies, seeing there is no wrong in mine hands, the God of our fathers look thereon, and rebuke it. Then the spirit came upon Amasai, who was chief of the captains, and he said, Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse: peace, peace be unto thee, and peace be to thine helpers; for thy God helpeth thee. Then David received them, and made them captains of the band.” David was willing to take in the distressed, those in debt and the discontented. These people would prove to be loyal to David because of the kindness he showed them.
Having his family with him must have been a cause for joy to David. He did not call for them, but they obviously understood that he needed them by his side. They could now encourage and support him. As their captain, David was now responsible for all that came to him, so he could not make any further unwise choices or he might bring all of them into peril.
David realised that the cave was not a good place for his aging father Jesse to be in, so he took the whole group to Moab. “Amidst the gravest anxieties of his life, David manifested concern for the welfare of his parents” (Charles Chapman). He believed that the king of Moab would protect them from Saul. Since Jesse’s grandmother Ruth came from there it seemed like a wise choice. “So Saul took the kingdom over Israel, and fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, and against the children of Ammon, and against Edom, and against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines: and whithersoever he turned himself, he vexed them” (1 Samuel 14:47). King Saul was the enemy of David and of the Moabites, but that did not mean that this was a good foundation for mutual friendship. Nevertheless, at least for the time being, it was a good move for David, for at least he knew his family were safe while he figured out what God’s will was for him.
Mizpeh of Moab had a watchtower, which the name means, so it was a good place to watch for any enemy attacks. David did not have to wait for God’s guidance for too long. The prophet Gad told him to go back into Judah and wait in the forest of Hareth, though it is highly likely that his family remained in Moab. “Hereby also God would exercise David’s faith, and wisdom, and courage; and so prepare him for the kingdom” (John Wesley). Here we find David listening to God once again. He was back on track.
David’s kingdom would start to rise, not in a palace but in a cave. His loyal following would not be from the warriors but the worriers. It is on this pattern that Jesus would build His church. “The Son of David is ready to receive distressed souls, that will appoint him their captain and be commanded by him” (Matthew Henry). “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).