The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 64: David a Fugitive
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Again the persecutor was defeated in his purpose. He assured
David that he was at peace with him, but David had little
confidence in the king's repentance. He took this opportunity to
escape, lest the mood of the king should change, as formerly. His
heart was wounded within him, and he longed to see his friend
Jonathan once more. Conscious of his innocence, he sought the
king's son and made a most touching appeal. "What have I
done?" he asked, "what is mine iniquity? and what is my sin
before thy father, that he seeketh my life?" Jonathan believed
that his father had changed his purpose and no longer intended
to take the life of David. And Jonathan said unto him, "God
forbid; thou shalt not die: behold, my father will do nothing
either great or small, but that he will show it me: and why
should my father hide this thing from me? It is not so." After
the remarkable exhibition of the power of God, Jonathan could
not believe that his father would still harm David, since this
would be manifest rebellion against God. But David was not
convinced. With intense earnestness he declared to Jonathan, "As
the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between
me and death."
At the time of the new moon a sacred festival was celebrated
in Israel. This festival recurred upon the day following the
interview between David and Jonathan. At this feast it was
expected that both the young men would appear at the king's
table; but David feared to be present, and it was arranged that [p. 655] he should visit his brothers in Bethlehem. On his return he was
to hide himself in a field not far from the banqueting hall, for
three days absenting himself from the presence of the king; and
Jonathan would note the effect upon Saul. If inquiry should be
made as to the whereabouts of the son of Jesse, Jonathan was to
say that he had gone home to attend the sacrifice offered by his
father's household. If no angry demonstrations were made by
the king, but he should answer, "It is well," then it would be safe
for David to return to the court. But if he should become
enraged at his absence, it would decide the matter of David's flight.
On the first day of the feast the king made no inquiry
concerning the absence of David; but when his place was vacant the
second day, he questioned, "Wherefore cometh not the son of
Jesse to meat, neither yesterday nor today? And Jonathan
answered Saul, David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem:
and he said, Let me go, I pray thee; for our family hath a
sacrifice in the city; and my brother, he hath commanded me
to be there: and now, if I have found favor in thine eyes, let me
get away, I pray thee, and see my brethren. Therefore he cometh
not unto the king's table." When Saul heard these words, his
anger was ungovernable. He declared that as long as David lived,
Jonathan could not come to the throne of Israel, and he
demanded that David should be sent for immediately, that he might
be put to death. Jonathan again made intercession for his friend,
pleading, "Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done?"
This appeal to the king only made him more satanic in his fury,
and the spear which he had intended for David he now hurled
at his own son.
The prince was grieved and indignant, and leaving the royal
presence, he was no more a guest at the feast. His soul was bowed
down with sorrow as he repaired at the appointed time to the
spot where David was to learn the king's intentions toward him.
Each fell upon the other's neck, and they wept bitterly. The dark
passion of the king cast its shadow upon the life of the young
men, and their grief was too intense for expression. Jonathan's
last words fell upon the ear of David as they separated to pursue
their different paths, "Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn
both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, The Lord be between
me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed forever."
The king's son returned to Gibeah, and David hastened to [p. 656] reach Nob, a city but a few miles distant, and also belonging to
the tribe of Benjamin. The tabernacle had been taken to this
place from Shiloh, and here Ahimelech the high priest ministered.
David knew not whither to flee for refuge, except to the
servant of God. The priest looked upon him with astonishment,
as he came in haste and apparently alone, with a countenance
marked by anxiety and sorrow. He inquired what had brought
him there. The young man was in constant fear of discovery,
and in his extremity he resorted to deception. David told the
priest that he had been sent by the king on a secret errand, one
which required the utmost expedition. Here he manifested a
want of faith in God, and his sin resulted in causing the death
of the high priest. Had the facts been plainly stated, Ahimelech
would have known what course to pursue to preserve his life.
God requires that truthfulness shall mark His people, even in the
greatest peril. David asked the priest for five loaves of bread.
There was nothing but hallowed bread in the possession of the
man of God, but David succeeded in removing his scruples, and
obtained the bread to satisfy his hunger.
A new danger now presented itself. Doeg, the chief of Saul's
herdsmen, who had professed the faith of the Hebrews, was now
paying his vows in the place of worship. At sight of this man
David determined to make haste to secure another place of refuge,
and to obtain some weapon with which to defend himself
if defense should become necessary. He asked Ahimelech for a
sword, and was told that he had none except the sword of
Goliath, which had been kept as a relic in the tabernacle. David
replied, "There is none like that; give it me." His courage
revived as he grasped the sword that he had once used in destroying
the champion of the Philistines.
David fled to Achish, the king of Gath; for he felt that there
was more safety in the midst of the enemies of his people than
in the dominions of Saul. But it was reported to Achish that
David was the man who had slain the Philistine champion years
before; and now he who had sought refuge with the foes of Israel
found himself in great peril. But, feigning madness, he deceived
his enemies and thus made his escape.
The first error of David was his distrust of God at Nob, and
his second mistake was his deception before Achish. David had
displayed noble traits of character, and his moral worth had won [p. 657] him favor with the people; but as trial came upon him, his faith
was shaken, and human weakness appeared. He saw in every
man a spy and a betrayer. In a great emergency David had looked
up to God with a steady eye of faith, and had vanquished the
Philistine giant. He believed in God, he went in His name. But
as he had been hunted and persecuted, perplexity and distress had
nearly hidden his heavenly Father from his sight.
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