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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 21

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-9

David at Nob

v. 1. Then came David to Nob, a city of priests between Gibeah and Jerusalem, on a hill in whose neighborhood the Tabernacle seems to have been located for some years, at least temporarily,4) to Ahimelech, the priest, either he or his father or his son also bearing the name Abiathar, Mark 2:26; and Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David, full of apprehension, since he may have known of Saul's hatred of David, and said unto him, Why art thou alone, and no man with thee? For David had left the few companions who had joined him in a safe place, since he wanted to talk to the high priest alone.

v. 2. And David said unto Ahimelech, the priest, The king hath commanded me a business, and hath said unto me, Let no man know anything of the business whereabout I send thee, and what I have commanded thee, he was to reveal neither the reason for, nor the contents of, his commission; and I have appointed my servants to such and such a place. The glib falsehood which David here told had evil results, and was not even justified by the fact that Ahimelech might have refused to assist him in case he had known that he was fleeing from the wrath of the king.

v. 3. Now, therefore, what is under thine hand? David wanted anything in the line of food upon which the priest could quickly lay his hand. Give me five loaves of bread in mine hand, or what there is present, whatever he could find in a hurry.

v. 4. And the priest answered David and said, There is, no common bread under mine hand, no kind of ordinary bread, such as was commonly used for food, but there is hallowed bread, for apparently the cakes of showbread had just been replaced by a fresh set, Leviticus 24:8, the ordinance requiring that the bread which had been removed be eaten by the priests in the Holy Place; if the young men have kept themselves at least from women, Leviticus 15:18. The high priest was willing to make an exception in this case, but felt that he must insist upon ceremonial, Levitical purity.

v. 5. And David answered the priest and said unto him, of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days, the time since they had started on this expedition, since I came out, and the vessels, the gear and baggage of the soldiers, which might also become Levitically unclean, Leviticus 11:32-33; Leviticus 13:47-48, of the young men are holy, and the bread is in a manner common, yea, though it were sanctified this day in the vessel, literally, "Though it is a profane way or procedure, yet it is sanctified today by the vessel," namely, by David himself as a chosen, anointed servant of the Lord; that fact set aside the ceremonial impurity of the act, particularly since it was a work of mercy which the high priest performed.

v. 6. So the priest gave him hallowed bread; for there was no bread there but the showbread, that was taken from before the Lord, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away; the cakes having been standing on the golden table for seven days, they had just been renewed or replaced by a new set, Leviticus 24:6-9.

v. 7. Now, a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the Lord, either as a proselyte, expecting to be received into the congregation of the Lord, or for the sake of some purification, or under suspicion as a leper; and his name was Doeg, an Edomite, the chiefest of the herdmen that belonged to Saul. This remark is here inserted on account of the subsequent history of Ahimelech. Note: Love is the fulfillment of the Law; love is the queen of all commandments, since all our works should be done in love. Even the outward ordinances of the Church are intended to serve the ends of love and peace.

v. 8. And David said unto Ahimelech, And is there not here under thine hand, in his charge, spear or sword? For I have neither brought my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king's business required haste, literally, "it was pressed," David had to be on his way without a moment's delay.

v. 9. And the priest said, The sword of Goliath, the Philistine, whom thou slewest in the Valley of Elah, 1 Samuel 17:2-50, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod, deposited for safe-keeping in the national Sanctuary, as a thanksgiving offering to the Lord and as a constant reminder of His merciful help in overcoming the enemies; if thou wilt take that, take it; for there is no other save that here. And David said, There is none like that; give it me. It was valuable not only on account of its great size and good workmanship, but also on account of its associations. David may have felt that it was a holy weapon, promising him victory. He who goes forth to the battles of life with the blessing of God, with the weapons sanctified by His presence, may rest assured that no danger can really harm him.

Verses 10-15

David at Gath

v. 10. And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish, whose official title was Abimelech, Psalms 34, the king of Gath, in the Philistine country.

v. 11. And the servants of Achish said unto him, Is not this David the king of the land, for as such they designate him on account of his victorious campaigns, which entirely overshadowed those of Saul? Did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands? Cf 1 Samuel 18:7.

v. 12. And David, who may have hoped to remain in the country of the Philistines unrecognized, laid up these words in his heart, he was worried about what they might lead to, and was sore afraid of Achish, the king of Gath, since the Philistines might, in a fit of revenge, fall on him and kill him.

v. 13. And he changed his behavior before them, he perverted his understanding, and feigned himself mad in their hands, he played the madman as they tried to get hold of him, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, pounded on them with his fists, and let his spittle, the foam at the mouth which he produced after the manner of madmen, fall down upon his beard.

v. 14. Then said Achish unto his servants, Lo, ye see the man is mad, he has gone insane; wherefore, then, have ye brought him to me?

v. 15. Have I need of madmen that ye have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? The king evidently feared personal harm from David, who, as he thought, had gone insane. While David's plan to remain unrecognized among the Philistines did not succeed, the presence of mind which caused him to simulate an attack of insanity undoubtedly saved his life. Thus God is able to protect and to deliver His children in the midst of the enemies. Without His will not one hair of our heads falls to the ground.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 21". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/1-samuel-21.html. 1921-23.
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