Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to take my life?”
“Never!” Jonathan replied. “You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn’t do anything, great or small, without confiding in me. Why would he hide this from me? It’s not so!”
But David took an oath and said, “Your father knows very well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said to himself, ‘Jonathan must not know this or he will be grieved.’ Yet as surely as YAHWEH lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death.”
Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.”
So David said, “Look, tomorrow is the New Moon festival, and I am supposed to dine with the king; but let me go and hide in the field until the evening of the day after tomorrow. If your father misses me at all, tell him, ‘David earnestly asked my permission to hurry to Bethlehem, his hometown, because an annual sacrifice is being made there for his whole clan.’ If he says, ‘Very well,’ then your servant is safe. But if he loses his temper, you can be sure that he is determined to harm me. As for you, show kindness to your servant, for you have brought him into a covenant with you before YAHWEH. If I am guilty, then kill me yourself! Why hand me over to your father?”
“Never!” Jonathan said. “If I had the least inkling that my father was determined to harm you, wouldn’t I tell you?”
David asked, “Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?”
“Come,” Jonathan said, “let’s go out into the field.” So they went there together.
Then Jonathan said to David: “By YAHWEH, the Elohim of Israel, I will surely sound out my father by this time the day after tomorrow! If he is favorably disposed toward you, will I not send you word and let you know? But if my father is inclined to harm you, may YAHWEH deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I do not let you know and send you away safely. May YAHWEH be with you as he has been with my father. But show me unfailing kindness like that of YAHWEH as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family—not even when YAHWEH has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth.”
So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May YAHWEH call David’s enemies to account.” And Jonathan had David re-affirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.
Then Jonathan said to David: “Tomorrow is the New Moon festival. You will be missed, because your seat will be empty. The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid when this trouble began, and wait by the stone Ezel. I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I were shooting at a target. Then I will send a boy and say, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I say to him, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you; bring them here,’ then come, because, as surely as YAHWEH lives, you are safe; there is no danger. But if I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you,’ then you must go, because YAHWEH has sent you away. And about the matter you and I discussed—remember, YAHWEH is witness between you and me forever.”
So David hid in the field, and when the New Moon festival came, the king sat down to eat. He sat in his customary place by the wall, opposite Jonathan, and Abner sat next to Saul, but David’s place was empty. Saul said nothing that day, for he thought, “Something must have happened to David to make him ceremonially unclean—surely he is unclean.” But the next day, the second day of the month, David’s place was empty again. Then Saul said to his son Jonathan, “Why hasn’t the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today?”
Jonathan answered, “David earnestly asked me for permission to go to Bethlehem. He said, ‘Let me go, because our family is observing a sacrifice in the town and my brother has ordered me to be there. If I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away to see my brothers.’ That is why he has not come to the king’s table.”
Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he must die!”
WOW! Saul was really, really angry at his own son, wasn't he?
“Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Jonathan asked his father. But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David.
Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the month he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David.
In the morning Jonathan went out to the field for his meeting with David. He had a small boy with him, and he said to the boy, “Run and find the arrows I shoot.” As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. When the boy came to the place where Jonathan’s arrow had fallen, Jonathan called out after him, “Isn’t the arrow beyond you?” Then he shouted, “Hurry! Go quickly! Don’t stop!” The boy picked up the arrow and returned to his master. (The boy knew nothing of all this; only Jonathan and David knew.) Then Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said, “Go, carry them back to town.”
After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most.
Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of YAHWEH, saying, ‘YAHWEH is witness between you and me, between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.
David went to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. Ahimelech trembled when he met him, and asked, “Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?”
David answered Ahimelech the priest, “The king charged me with a certain matter and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about your mission and your instructions.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.”
But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here—provided the men have kept themselves from women.”
David replied, “Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out. The men’s things are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!” So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before YAHWEH and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away.
Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before YAHWEH; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s head shepherd.
David asked Ahimelech, “Don’t you have a spear or sword or any other weapon, because the king’s business was urgent.”
The priest replied, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one.”
David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.”
That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. But the servants of Achish said to him,
“Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances:
’Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands?'”
David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.
Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?”
David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.
From there David went to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab, "Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what YAHWEH will do for me?” So he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him as long as David was in the stronghold.
But the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah.” So David left and went to the forest of Hereth.
Now Saul heard that David and his men had been discovered. And Saul, spear in hand, was seated under the tamarisk tree on the hill at Gibeah, with all his officials standing around him. Saul said to them, “Listen, men of Benjamin! Will the son of Jesse give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? Is that why you have all conspired against me? No one tells me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is concerned about me or tells me that my son has incited my servant to lie in wait for me, as he does today.”
But Doeg the Edomite, who was standing with Saul’s officials, said, “I saw the son of Jesse come to Ahimelech son of Ahitub at Nob. Ahimelech inquired of YAHWEH for him; he also gave him provisions and the sword of Goliath the Philistine.”
Then the king sent for the priest Ahimelech son of Ahitub and his father’s whole family, who were the priests at Nob, and they all came to the king. Saul said, “Listen now, son of Ahitub.”
“Yes, my master,” he answered.
Saul said to him, “Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, giving him bread and a sword and inquiring of Elohim for him, so that he has rebelled against me and lies in wait for me, as he does today?”
Ahimelech answered the king, “Who of all your servants is as loyal as David, the king’s son-in-law, captain of your bodyguard and highly respected in your household? Was that day the first time I inquired of Elohim for him? Of course not! Let not the king accuse your servant or any of his father’s family, for your servant knows nothing at all about this whole affair.”
But the king said, “You will surely die, Ahimelech, you and your father’s whole family.”
Then the king ordered the guards at his side: “Turn and kill the priests of YAHWEH, because they too have sided with David. They knew he was fleeing, yet they did not tell me.”
But the king’s officials were not willing to raise a hand to strike the priests of YAHWEH.
The king then ordered Doeg, “You turn and strike down the priests.” So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck them down. That day he killed eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod. He also put to the sword Nob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep.
But Abiathar, a son of Ahimelech son of Ahitub, escaped and fled to join David. He told David that Saul had killed the priests of YAHWEH. Then David said to Abiathar: “That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your father’s whole family. Stay with me; don’t be afraid; the man who is seeking your life is seeking mine also. You will be safe with me.”