Mark 2:26

26 so he went into the house of God and ate the bread offered to God. This happened when Abiathar was the High Priest. According to our Law only the priests may eat this bread - but David ate it and even gave it to his men." 1

Mark 2:26 Meaning and Commentary

Mark 2:26

How he went into the house of God
The tabernacle; for the temple was not yet built: thither David went to get bread for himself and his men, being hungry: so in a spiritual sense, where should such go, who are hungering and thirsting after righteousness, but into the house of God? Here is bread enough, and to spare; here is a table furnished with excellent provisions; here the Gospel is dispensed, which is milk for babes, and meat for strong men; here Christ, the bread of life, is set forth, whose flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed; here the ordinances are administered, which are breasts of consolation to the children of God; here is a feast of fat things, all things are ready, and souls are welcome, and therefore it must be right to attend here. And this was on the sabbath day that David went into the house of God: when the showbread loaves were removed, and divided, among the priests, and new ones were placed in their room: and so under the Gospel dispensation, on the Lord's day, the day set apart for public worship, it becomes the saints to go up to the house of the Lord, and feed upon the provisions of it: they are a royal priesthood, they are priests, as well as kings to God; and their business is in the house of the Lord, to offer up spiritual sacrifices to him; and as the goodness and fulness of his house appertains to them, they do well to attend and partake thereof.

In the days or Abiathar the high priest:
and yet from the history it is clear, that it was in the days of Ahimelech the high priest, the father of Abiathar; wherefore the Jew charges F11 Mark with an error, and Matthew and Luke too: whereas the two last make no mention of the name of any high priest; and it might be observed, that in the Persic version of Mark it is rendered, "under Abimelech the high priest"; and in an ancient copy of Beza's, the whole clause is omitted; though it must be owned, that so it is read in other Greek copies, and in the ancient versions, the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and others: wherefore let it be further observed, that the fact referred to was done in the days of Abiathar, though it was before he was an high priest; and the particle (epi) may be so rendered, about, or "before Abiathar was high priest", as it is in ( Matthew 1:11 ) . Besides, Abiathar was the son of an high priest, and succeeded his father in the office: and might be at this time his deputy, who acted for him, or he by has advice; and according to a rule the Jews F12 themselves give,

``the son of an high priest, who is deputed by his father in his stead, (rwma lwdg Nhk yrh) , "lo! he is called an high priest".''

So that Abiathar might at this time be called the high priest; and is the rather mentioned, because he was the more eminent and famous man; and whom the Jews call F13 Urim and Thummim, because there was much inquiry made by them; in his and his father's days, and very little after: to which may be added, that the names of the father and the son are sometimes changed; Ahimelech is called Abiathar, and this Abiathar is called Ahimelech, the son of Abiathar, ( 2 Samuel 8:17 ) , and Abimelech the son of Abiathar, ( 1 Chronicles 18:16 ) . And it seems as if both father and son had two names, and were sometimes called by the one, and sometimes by the other: for as the father is sometimes called Abiathar, the son is called Ahimelech, or Abimelech, as in the places mentioned; and which refer to the times when David was king of Israel, and long after the death of Saul, and consequently long after Ahimelech, and the rest of the priests at Nob, were killed by the order of Saul: wherefore Ahimelech, or Abimelech, in the said places, must be the son of Abiathar; and who afterwards was thrust out of the priesthood by Solomon, for joining with Adonijah in his usurpation, ( 1 Kings 1:25 ) ( 2:26 ) . And from whence it appears, that his father was called Abiathar also, and which some take to be their family name; and if so, then there is no difficulty, and the evangelist rightly says, that this affair was in the days of Abiathar: but be it that he intends the son, what has been before observed is a sufficient solution of this difficulty; for the evangelist does not say that Abiathar was high priest, when David came and eat the showbread; he only says, "it was in the days of Abiathar the high priest": for certain it is, that this happened in his days; and as certain, that he was an high priest; and Mark might with great propriety call him so, though he was not strictly one, till after this business was over: besides, he was not only the son of an high priest, and it may be his deputy, and some have thought officiated at this time, his father being sick or infirm through old age; but inasmuch as his father was directly killed by the order of Saul, he narrowly escaping, immediately succeeded him in the office of the high priesthood; and therefore his being an high priest so very near the time of this action, without any impropriety and impertinence, and especially without incurring the charge of falsehood, the evangelist might express himself as he does.

And did eat the showbread, which is not lawful to eat, but for the
priests, and gave also to them which were with him?
Who not only ate the showbread, which was set before the Lord, and was sacred, and which none but the priests might eat of, after it was removed from the table; but he did this on the sabbath day; and he not only eat of it himself, but the soldiers that were with him: and all this with the knowledge and leave of the high priest: for the Jews F14 have no reason to charge this evangelist and the others with an error, that others besides David ate of the showbread, urging that he came alone to Ahimelech; since it is evident from ( 1 Samuel 21:2 1 Samuel 21:4 1 Samuel 21:5 ) ,

that David had servants in company with him when he fled, though they did not attend him when he went to the high priest; and that he asked bread, and it was given him, not only for himself, but for the young men that he had appointed to be at such a place: and therefore, if this was allowed to David and his men, when hungry, it ought not to be charged as an evil upon the disciples, for plucking and rubbing a few ears of corn to satisfy their hunger, though on a sabbath day; and especially when he, who was Lord of the sabbath, was present, and admitted of it; (See Gill on Matthew 12:4).


F11 R. Isaac Chizzuk Emuna, par. 9. c. 28. p. 419.
F12 Siphra, fol. 17. 2. apud Kidder's Demonstration of the Messiah, par. 2. p. 73.
F13 Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 16. 2.
F14 R. Isaac Chizzuk Emuna, par. 2. c. 28. p. 420. Jacob Aben Amrara apud Kidder, Demonstr. of the Messiah, par. 3. p. 48.

Mark 2:26 In-Context

24 So the Pharisees said to Jesus, "Look, it is against our Law for your disciples to do that on the Sabbath!"
25 Jesus answered, "Have you never read what David did that time when he needed something to eat? He and his men were hungry,
26 so he went into the house of God and ate the bread offered to God. This happened when Abiathar was the High Priest. According to our Law only the priests may eat this bread - but David ate it and even gave it to his men."
27 And Jesus concluded, "The Sabbath was made for the good of human beings; they were not made for the Sabbath.
28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

Cross References 1

  • 1. 2.26Leviticus 24.9.+O+N2.25, 26 1 S 21.1-6.
Scripture taken from the Good News Translation - Second Edition, Copyright 1992 by American Bible Society. Used by Permission.