I once had a dream that my family and I had pitched a tent in a place like the Sahara. It appeared barren, vast, and beautiful, and I felt exposed. One morning we woke to find we had camped between two approaching armies.
We wanted to pack up and move, but feared it could be misconstrued by either army as aggressive. Not knowing which side we would be safe with we wanted to go home. We lamented the decisions we’d made that put us here and no matter how pleasant our camping experience we would trade it in now for the safety familiar surroundings.
In the caves of Adullum, while the Philistine army had invaded and camped themselves in Israel, I wonder if David didn’t come to that conclusion. David was a man without a country, a fugitive with a price on his head. Not until the death of Saul did he become accepted by Israel as King.
The ‘Philistines came up to seek him’, and David heard of it and went down to the hold. David and his mighty men knew all the ins and outs of the place, all the best places to eat, all the best lookouts. Like a vacation spot that we frequent often, it was so familiar he nick-named it. We like to camp at Deep Creek Lake and it has become so familiar to us that we simply call it The Lake.
Adullum means refuge. David’s hold was a place for many things, a refuge, his hunting cabin where he went ‘fishing’ for the Philistines and his ‘hideout’ from Saul. On one occasion David was overheard asking for water from the Well of Bethlehem. It turns out that three of his Mighty Men breached the Philistine encampment and brought that water back to David. We see the loyalty of these men to David to want to fill his request with what could have meant their lives. David’s response was to pour the water out.
David was overheard he never really commanded anyone to bring that water. Perhaps he was reminiscing of his growing up days in his hometown of Bethlehem, remembering boyhood explorations of the well and cisterns of his father’s property and all the surrounding area, as boys do. Perhaps he was thinking of the times he’d come home after days in the sheep fields and draw water to drink, splash it on his brothers, or carry it for his mother. I wonder if David didn’t just wish to be back in the field singing to the sheep.
We all come to places in our lives where responsibility becomes weighty, and we’d like to go back to a time when we were less encumbered. We can’t of course so we take camping trips for a refuge for our soul. The Bible isn’t specific about when this request is made or the circumstances surrounding this event. But David longed, had a deep desire for something to fill the emptiness in him. Bethlehem means house of bread, interesting that the water he longed for came from a well from the future place of the birth of the Bread of Life.
Although David frequented the caves of Adullum near the well of Bethlehem the place of refuge, the bread of life and the water that quenches all thirst, we don’t see a reference he ever mentioned the well or caves again. Perhaps, like a ‘tent’ he could set up and climb into, maybe he realized he could as easily come into the place of Refuge. His thirst satisfied by living water he could carry in a ‘canteen’ that never became empty and the Bread was a ‘campfire’ shut up deep within him.
When David pours out the water ‘he longed for’, he poured it out unto the Lord (2 Samuel 23:17); to him it would be like drinking the blood of the men who risked their lives to fill his desire. David’s ‘soul thirsts for the living God’ as he wrote in the forty-second Psalm. (NKJV)
When we would go camping we would do a little spelunking, cave exploration. Caves can be very safe places to dwell in as David may have found for his soul praises in Psalm 62:6. “He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defense I shall not be moved”. (KJV)