1 Samuel 21:7–9 In 1 Samuel 14:47 Saul fought against the Edomites. However, in 1 Samuel 21:7–9, another Edomite named Doeg appears in the story. Reportedly, Doeg was chief of Saul’s shepherds. Perhaps Doeg was a prisoner of war who had proven unusually useful to Saul. Or, maybe Doeg had been a mercenary. The purpose of Doeg’s presence at Nob is not clearly understood, but it may be related to some form of punishment or penance.
Besides bread, David also needed a weapon. He also asked Ahimelech about obtaining “a spear or a sword” (1 Samuel 21:8). It is reasonable to assume that David asked about these items because he had deposited Goliath’s weapons there earlier as a gift of dedication. Ahimelech, who had carefully preserved David’s dedicated item “wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod” (1 Samuel 21:9). He returned the sword granted David permission to reclaim it, which he did without hesitation.
In 1 Samuel 21:10–15 David was seeking to find safety “from Saul” (1 Samuel 21:10). He also wanted to avoid endangering the lives of family and friends, David “went to Achish king of Gath,” some twenty-three miles west southwest of Nob.
However, David’s arrival in the city aroused suspicions among the royal servants there. Achish’s attendants were poorly informed concerning David—they mistakenly called him “the king of the land” (1 Samuel 21:11). At the same time, they were aware of his status as a Hebrew hero who was celebrated with song and dance.
Knowing what was being said about him, David realized that his life was as much at risk in Gath as it was in of Gibeah. Curiously, he found it necessary to act with the same wisdom here that enabled him to survive in Saul’s court. For the present situation he used a different tactic: David “pretended to be insane in their presence. He acted like a madman around them” (1 Samuel 21:13)
David’s act was certainly convincing to Achish, who pronounced David “insane” (1 Samuel 21:14). David effectively convinced the Philistines that he was no longer a threat to them. Achish questioned why they had even allowed David into the royal palace.
Ironically, David’s actions also widened the contrast between himself and Saul. David took upon himself the features of insanity to hide his sanity; Saul surrounded himself with the features of sanity to cloak his insanity.