1 Samuel 21


‘David went to Nob, to Ahimelek the priest. Ahimelek trembled when he met him, and asked, ‘Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?’ David answered Ahimelek the priest, ‘The king sent me on a mission and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about the mission I am sending you on.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.’ But the priest answered David, ‘I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here—provided the men have kept themselves from women.’ David replied, ‘Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out. The men’s bodies are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!’ So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the LORD and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away.’ 1 Samuel 21:1-6

David At Nob

After saying his heart-breaking goodbyes to Johnathon, David goes to a place called Nob, Isaiah 10:28 / Isaiah 10:32 / Nehemiah 11:32. There were eighty-five priests who lived at Nob, serving the tabernacle which had been set up there following the Philistine’s destruction of Shiloh.

Although Ahimelek the priest trembled when he met David and asked why he was alone, David goes on to say he’s on a secret mission and asks for some bread. Ahimelek tells David he has no ordinary bread, and the only bread he did have was consecrated bread which was used for sacred things and only to be eaten by the priests, Exodus 25:30 / Exodus 35:13 / Leviticus 24:9.

This is a reference to the Showbread or the bread of the Presence as prescribed in the Mosaic Law, Exodus 24:5-9. The bread was a featured provision of the tabernacle and was replaced each week with hot bread. It was holy from the fact it was being used in the tabernacle and only the priests were qualified to eat it.

However, Ahimelech was willing to allow David and his men to eat the bread if they had kept themselves from women, Leviticus 15:18, and so by permitting David to eat the bread, it’s clear that Ahimelech understood what the law was really about.

Jesus refers to this event in Matthew 12:3-4 / Mark 2:23-28, Jewish tradition regarding the Sabbath Day prohibited all activity, including plucking grain to eat, but Jesus and His followers ignored these cherished doctrines.

When the Jewish officials criticised the disciples, Jesus defended their actions by noting His opponents’ inconsistency, they justified David when he broke God’s law, Leviticus 24:5-9, but they condemned Jesus when He merely violated men’s traditions.

Then He explained that God had intended for the Sabbath command to provide relief for man, not be an additional burden. Finally, Jesus proclaimed His authority over the Sabbath saying that He Himself was Lord of the Sabbath. If Jesus created the Sabbath, surely, He knew what activities violated it.

The Sabbath was supposed to be a day of blessings and relaxation, free from work but the Jews had turned into a bunch of rules which consisted of dos and don’ts, and with over 613 laws, they always found a way around them.

‘Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the LORD; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief shepherd. David asked Ahimelek, ‘Don’t you have a spear or a sword here? I haven’t brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king’s mission was urgent.’ The priest replied, ‘The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one.’ David said, ‘There is none like it; give it to me.’ 1 Samuel 21:7-9

Doeg, the Edomite was one of Saul’s servants and Ahimelech’s action toward David would eventually lead to his death by Doeg, whom Saul later commanded to kill him, 1 Samuel 22:11-23. David’s recognition of him meant that David was required to get out of Nob as quickly as possible because he knew that Doeg would certainly have notified Saul of David’s presence there.

David needed a weapon and the only one he wanted was Goliath’s sword, the very the sword with which he defeated Goliath, 1 Samuel 17:51-54.

David At Gath

‘That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. But the servants of Achish said to him, ‘Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’? David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. Achish said to his servants, ‘Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?’ 1 Samuel 21:10-15

Achish, the king of Gath, which was a Philistine city and all those who lived in Achish were well aware of David and his many victories. The servants of Achish recognised David and assumed that he was king of Israel on the basis of that song sung by the women of Israel, 1 Samuel 18:7.

As a result of knowing who he was, they were all afraid, they were afraid that David would do to them what he had done to so many others. Psalm 34, Psalms 52 and Psalm 56 are written based on what happens here.

Although the servants of Achish and the king himself, were afraid of David, it appears that David was afraid of them and pretends to be insane.

This was a wise move because now wasn’t the time to get into another battle, and more importantly, he was able to continue to hide from Saul, whilst staying in this Philistine city for protection. This would be the last place Saul would go looking for David.

Go To 1 Samuel 22