1 Samuel 21

David helped at Nob

1 David came to Nob where Ahimelech was priest. Ahimelech was shaking in fear when he met David. "Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?" he asked.
2 David answered Ahimelech the priest, "The king has given me orders, but he instructed me, ‘Don't let anyone know anything about the mission I'm sending you on or about your orders.' As for my troops, I told them to meet me at an undisclosed location.
3 Now what do you have here with you? Give me five loaves of bread or whatever you can find."
4 "I don't have any regular bread on hand," the priest answered David, "just holy bread—but only if your troops have abstained from sexual activity."
5 "Definitely," David answered the priest. "Whenever I go out to war, women are off-limits; that's our standard operating procedure. Even on regular missions, the men's gear is kept holy. That's even more true today, with the mission holy along with the gear."
6 So the priest gave David holy bread, because there was no other bread except the bread of the presence, which is removed from the LORD's presence and replaced by warm bread as soon as it is taken away.
7 Now one of Saul's servants was there that day, detained in the LORD's presence. His name was Doeg. He was an Edomite and Saul's head shepherd.
8 David asked Ahimelech, "Do you have a spear or sword on hand? I didn't bring my sword or gear with me because the king's mission was urgent."
9 The priest said, "The sword of Goliath, the Philistine you killed in the Elah Valley, is here wrapped in a cloth behind a priestly vest. If you want it, take it, because there are no other swords here." David said, "No sword is as good as that one! Give it to me!"

David pretends to be crazy

10 So David got up and continued running from Saul. He went to Achish, Gath's king.
11 Achish's servants said to him, "Isn't that David, king of the land? He's the one people sing about in their dances, ‘Saul has killed his thousands, but David has killed his tens of thousands!'"
12 David took these words very seriously and became very frightened of Achish, Gath's king.
13 So he changed the way he acted with them, pretending to be insane while he was with them. He scratched marks on the doors of the city gates and let spit run down his chin.
14 "Can't you see he's crazy?" Achish asked his servants. "Why bring him to me?
15 Am I short on insane people that you've brought this person to go crazy right in front of me? Do you really think I'm going to let this man enter my house?"

1 Samuel 21 Commentary

Chapter 21

David with Ahimelech. (1-9) David at Gath feigns himself mad. (10-15)

Verses 1-9 David, in distress, fled to the tabernacle of God. It is great comfort in a day of trouble, that we have a God to go to, to whom we may open our cases, and from whom we may ask and expect direction. David told Ahimelech a gross untruth. What shall we say to this? The Scripture does not conceal it, and we dare not justify it; it was ill done, and proved of bad consequence; for it occasioned the death of the priests of the Lord. David thought upon it afterward with regret. David had great faith and courage, yet both failed him; he fell thus foully through fear and cowardice, and owing to the weakness of his faith. Had he trusted God aright, he would not have used such a sorry, sinful shift for his own preservation. It is written, not for us to do the like, no, not in the greatest straits, but for our warning. David asked of Ahimelech bread and a sword. Ahimelech supposed they might eat the shew-bread. The Son of David taught from it, that mercy is to be preferred to sacrifice; that ritual observances must give way to moral duties. Doeg set his foot as far within the tabernacle as David did. We little know with what hearts people come to the house of God, nor what use they will make of pretended devotion. If many come in simplicity of heart to serve their God, others come to observe their teachers and to prove accusers. Only God and the event can distinguish between a David and a Doeg, when both are in the tabernacle.

Verses 10-15 God's persecuted people have often found better usage from Philistines than from Israelites. David had reason to put confidence in Achish, yet he began to be afraid. His conduct was degrading, and discovered wavering in his faith and courage. The more simply we depend on God, and obey him, the more comfortably and surely we shall walk through this troublesome world.

Footnotes 6

  • [a]. 21:2 in Heb
  • [b]. MT; LXX all the men are
  • [c]. Heb uncertain
  • [d]. DSS (4QSamb); MT behind the priestly vest (Heb ephod)
  • [e]. Or in their hand; Heb uncertain
  • [f]. Or with correction he spit on the doors of the city gate or he fell down at the doors of the city gate (cf LXX).

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO FIRST SAMUEL 21

This chapter relates that David went to Nob, and pretending he was on secret business for the king, got shewbread, and the sword of Goliath, from Ahimelech the priest, 1Sa 21:1-9; and that passing from thence to Gath, where he was known, through fear feigned himself mad, and so escaped from thence, 1Sa 21:10-15.

1 Samuel 21 Commentaries