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Sabbath School Lessons on Background Characters in the Old Testament
About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 7: Abiathar: The Priest *
Introduction: What do you do when you have a problem? How do you
decide what to do when you lack good information? What if the matter
is complicated by the people around you acting unreasonably or
dishonestly? Life is not always fair. God's servants face these
kinds of problems. This week our study looks at the actions of
several of God's people who are faced with an unfair situation.
Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn to
help us deal with the problems of life!
- David's Visit
- Read 1 Samuel 20:1 and 1 Samuel 21:1. David is a fighting
man who is on the run because he fears King Saul will
kill him. Why would the High Priest tremble to see one
fighting man instead of several? (David was not just a
fighting man, he was a commander of at least a 1,000
soldiers. ( 1 Samuel 18:13.) Ahimelech obviously knows
David and believes that something is wrong.)
- Read 1 Samuel 21:2-3. What is David's response to the
High Priest? (David is on a secret mission! He will join
up with his men, but in the mean-time he is hungry.)
- Why would the King send David on a secret mission
without enough food?
- Let's skip ahead and read 1 Samuel 21:8-9. Not only is
David missing food for his secret mission, he is missing
a weapon! If you were the High Priest, would you be
- Recall that David is going to shortly join up with
his men. Wouldn't they have plenty of swords?
- Read 1 Samuel 21:4-6 and Leviticus 24:8-9. Is it proper
for David to be eating the consecrated bread? (Read
Matthew 12:3-4. No. This was reserved for the priests.)
- Let's step back for a moment. Is David's story true? (No.
None of it is true.)
- Is it proper to lie in such a circumstance?
- Read 1 Samuel 20:4-8. Was David in the habit of
lying to preserve his life?
- Is the assumption in the last question correct?
Did David need to lie to preserve his
life?(Neither lie seems necessary for what
David has in mind. If anything, I suppose the
lie is to help the High Priest or Jonathan.)
- Re-read 1 Samuel 21:9. Imagine you are David, holding the
sword of Goliath. What should be going through your mind?
(Now there was a time when his life was really in
- What lesson should that history lesson have taught
David about lying as a solution to a tough
situation? (Last week Uriah was a reminder to David
of what it meant to be devoted to God and the army.
This week Goliath's sword was a reminder to David of
what it meant to trust God to overcome the worst
kind of situation - without relying on your own
- Let's revisit what Jesus said by reading Matthew 12:1-8.
Is Jesus commending what David did? (Jesus does not
endorse the lie. However, He does seem to endorse the
eating of the consecrated bread.)
- What is Jesus' point? God's law is not absolute?
Certain situations demand an exception? (No. Jesus
asks us to look beyond the rule and find why it is
we have the rule. Both the sanctuary system and the
Sabbath direct our attention to the God who created
us and then saved us. Jesus was the God to whom
these rules pointed. We must not let the point get
trumped by the rule.)
- Read 1 Samuel 21:7. Now we have a new fact that makes the
plot thicken! What problem has now arisen? (David's
dishonest conduct with the High Priest will now be known!
The priest's conduct will also be known.)
- How do you think Doeg pronounces his name? Dog?
Last week it was a Hittite. This week an Edomite.
With all of the foreigners running around David is
finding it hard to sin without someone blowing the
whistle on him!
- Read 1 Samuel 22:1-2. How would you describe David's
followers? (Malcontents and family! Other than the
family, these were not regular citizens.)
- Read 1 Samuel 22:7-8. Does King Saul have a legitimate
- Is Saul right that people gravitate to David for
money? That he will give debtors the property of
others? (Samuel had already told King Saul that his
kingdom would be passed to another. (1 Samuel 15)
Saul knows this is God's will, not the promise of
- Read 1 Samuel 22:9-10. Is "Dog" a rat? (Doeg did not run
to King Saul right away. It was only when Saul was
pleading with his supporters to tell him about plots
against him that Doeg told the King about David and the
- Read 1 Samuel 22:11. You and your entire family of
priests have been summoned to see the King. What are your
- Would you have been reviewing those inconsistencies
in David's story?
- Read 1 Samuel 22:12-13. What would you answer if you were
- Read 1 Samuel 22:14-15. Is this a good answer? (Yes.
Intent is required for a conspiracy. Ahimelech said we
had absolutely no intent to commit treason against the
- Do you blame David for putting this priest in this
position? Should he have anticipated this? (Yes.
David had two reasons to lie. He lied to get the
priest to do something he might not otherwise have
done. He may have also lied to protect the priest.)
- Did David have an obligation to fully inform
Ahimelech of his situation so that Ahimelech
could evaluate the risk and decide what to do?
(Of course. Who is David to evaluate the risk
for another person? This is pure pride and
- Read 1 Samuel 22:16-17. What does the reaction of the
guards who heard the entire exchange tell us? (They
thought the priests had a good explanation. They thought
that King Saul was out of control. He was mentally
unbalanced. The guards knew that these were God's men,
and they would give them the benefit of any doubt.)
- What reason does Saul have to give such an order?
- If the contest is between Saul and David to be king,
who is better qualified? (David might have put the
priests in great danger by his dishonesty, but Saul
makes the executive decision to execute them.)
- Read 1 Samuel 22:18-19. What does this tell us about
Doeg? (He did not hold God's priests in such high regard.
Note that Doeg is an Edomite. Edomites were the
descendants of Esau. Genesis 36:9. Perhaps, like Uriah,
he saw the opportunity to be promoted - from head
shepherd to head of the King's guard.)
- What influence on Doeg's actions, if any, is the
fact that he made the report that caused King Saul
to pronounce the death penalty? (Read Deuteronomy
17:6-7. Saul is obviously not following this rule
because he has only one witness. However, the idea
that the witness must stand behind his testimony may
have been a factor in Doeg's decision to do this
- Abiathar the Survivor
- Read 1 Samuel 22:20. Only one priest survived. Is this
the direction you would run if you were Abiathar?
- Read 1 Samuel 22:21-22. If David knew this, why did he
not warn the priests or do something else to help protect
- Would it be fair to leave this to God? (David's lie
set this whole sequence of events in motion. David
did not let God do the heavy lifting when he
approached the priests. It seems a bit presumptuous
to make a mess, and then walk away as if you had no
responsibility. They can trust God, but you do not
- Read 1 Samuel 22:23. Would you trust David after what
just happened? (I would not trust David if his interests
conflicted with my interests. But, David explains to
Abiathar that their interests are the same. Apparently,
that convinced Abiathar.)
- Abiathar stayed with David and performed the role of a
priest when David was on the run and later when David
became King. With the passage of time, David and Abiathar
became old men. In his later years, Abiathar faced a very
difficult challenge. Read 1 Kings 1:5-7. King David was
old, but he was still alive. What would you do if you
- Should Abiathar have consulted with King David?
- Why would he not consult David? (This was his
chance to help make a king!)
- King David intervened and Solomon became king instead of
Adonijah. However, Adonijah later made a request that
King Solomon understood to be a step towards revolting
against his authority. Read 1 Kings 2:22. How did King
Solomon now view Abiathar? (As one who was still a
- Read 1 Kings 2:25-27. Compare King Solomon with King Saul
on the issue of priests and rebellion? (Solomon does not
act like he is crazy. This time, the priest Abiathar
really had been a part of the opposition team.)
- Friend, our study shows that unfair things happen to
God's servants. The sins of dishonesty, intrigue, and
rage can victimize any of us. Our best course is to seek
God's will and trust Him. Fighting fire with fire is not
the right answer. Will you determine today to trust God
and not yourself?
- Next week: Joab: David's Weak Strongman.
* Copr. 2010, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.