Much can be written regarding the greatness of David’s faithful service to God and his promised eternal legacy, which will ultimately be fulfilled at Jesus Christ’s second coming when He will rule on David’s throne. However, the focus of this article, is of an entirely different aspect of King David’s greatness; the great sins he committed against God. Even though David was considered “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14, Ps. 89:20, Acts 13:22), God’s chosen king of Israel (1 Sam. 16:12, 1 Chr. 17:7), “the apple of God’s eye” (Ps. 17:8), and the recipient of God’s “unconditional [Davidic] covenant” (2 Sam. 7:12-16); he committed numerous sins against God. Moreover, some of those sins permanently affected the lives of many people, as will be shown. In fact, numerous lives were needlessly lost because of David’s foolishness and sin, yet God deemed him a man with “integrity of heart and of uprightness” (1 Kin. 9:4).
Furthermore, God is omniscient and foreknows all things (1 John 3:20) and obviously knew that David would fall into serious transgressions, yet He still chose David to be king of Israel: “I took you [David] from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be ruler over My people Israel.” (2 Sam. 7:8b). In fact, despite David’s iniquities God made an everlasting covenant with him: “…When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2 Sam. 7:12-13-brackets added).
Considering this glorious promise God had made to David, we will examine some of his sins.
The relatively young David had just learned from his dear friend Jonathan, that King Saul (Jonathan’s father), was seeking to kill him (1 Sam. 20). So, David, fearing for his life, fled. It would begin a time in David’s life when he lived in constant fear of King Saul. In fact, virtually the rest of the book of 1 Samuel (chapters 20-26), depicts David frantically evading Saul. At the onset of his flight, David came to the city of Nob where he met the priest Ahimelech. (1 Sam. 21:1). Being paranoid and afraid that Ahimelech would tell King Saul of his whereabouts, David proceeded to lie to the man of God. Instead of trusting that God would deliver him from evil [as David penned in many of his Psalms] and truthfully explain to Ahimelech his plight concerning King Saul, David chose to deceive the priest by telling a whopper of a lie: “The king has commissioned me with a matter, and has said to me, ‘Let no one know anything about the matter on which I am sending you and with which I have commissioned you; and I have directed the young men to a certain place.’” (1 Sam. 21:2). After David lied, he furthered his breach of the truth by audaciously asking Ahimelech for five loaves of bread (1 Sam.21:3) and weapons to take with him: “And David said to Ahimelech, ‘Now is there not a spear or a sword on hand? For I brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s matter was urgent.’” (1 Sam. 21:8). Receiving only old consecrated showbread and a sword [ironically Goliath’s], he hastily departed from the priest’s presence. Surprisingly, “the man after God’s own heart”, displayed a malignant heart by taking showbread that was once consecrated unto the Lord, for the priests, and in return offered a “lying tongue”. (1 Sam. 21:2-8, cf. Prov. 6:17). A servant of King Saul named Doeg, stealthily espied the entire scene between David and Ahimelech and reported to King Saul (1 Sam. 21:7, 22:9-10, 22).
Meanwhile, the fleeing David came upon Achish, the King of Gath (of Philistine) –this appeared to be foolish stratagem on David’s part, since the Philistines at that time were Israel’s greatest enemy. To make matters worse, David was toting Goliath’s own sword in the very town where he had decapitated the Philistine giant! (1 Sam. 17:40-51) Furthermore, King Achish’ servants had heard Israelite women singing in celebration and reported to him: “…Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of this one as they danced, saying, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?’ And David took these words to heart, and greatly feared Achish king of Gath.” (1 Sam. 21:11-12). For David had many battle triumphs over the Philistines and the “ten thousands” the Israelite women joyfully sang about, were slain under the leadership of David! So, it’s no wonder David was terror-stricken of Achish and not trusting him.
Whether or not those sobering thoughts exacerbated David’s already frazzled and sorrowed mindset is not revealed in Scripture, but it is possible, because David proceeded to feign madness in the presence of Achish. (1 Sam. 21:10-13). So convincing was David’s improvisation of an insane person (“[he] scribbled on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva run down into his beard.”), the disgruntled Achish hurriedly sent David away, exclaiming to his servants: “…Behold, you see the man behaving as a madman. Why do you bring him to me? Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this one to act the madman in my presence? Shall this one come into my house?’” (1 Sam. 21:14-15).
Again, David fled in fright and hid away in the cave of Adullam. (1 Sam. 22:1).
Meanwhile, when King Saul heard the report of David’s encounter with Ahimelech the priest (from his servant Doeg), the king became indignant and commanded the presence of Ahimelech and his father’s household. Saul interrogated Ahimelech as to why he conspired against him by aiding David. But Ahimelech remained loyal to David–insisting to know nothing of David’s endeavors or his whereabouts (1 Sam. 22:13-15). Greatly displeased with Ahimelech’s lack of information, King Saul ordered his execution and all his father’s household–eighty-five priests of the Lord were slain (1 Sam. 22:16-18). Moreover, “…he [Saul] struck Nob the city of the priests with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and infants; also, oxen, donkeys, and sheep, he struck with the edge of the sword.” (1 Sam. 22:19). Numerous people besides the eight-five priests perished because of David’s deception: men, women, children, infants, and even animals were slaughtered. A costly lie it was indeed! Abiathar one of Ahimelech’s sons had escaped and fled to David reporting the carnage that occurred by the sword of Saul (1 Sam. 22:20-21). A sorrowful David acknowledged his sin before Abiathar, the lone remnant of his father’s household: “…I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I have brought about the death of every person in your father’s household.” (1 Sam. 22:22). The MacArthur Study Bible states: “David recognized his responsibility for causing the deaths of the priests’ families and animals, acknowledging the devastating consequences of his lie to Ahimelech (cf. 1 Sam. 21:1-2).” 1
In conclusion, the book of James says; “And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6), and young David realized the destruction of his sin and need for repentance.
See Part 2, David: A Man After God’s Own Heart-David’s Adultery and Murder
1 The MacArthur Study Bible (NKJ), Word Publishing, 1997, pg. 412–Foot notes on v. 1 Sam. 22:22 “I have caused”–emphasis added