Matthew 12:4

4 how they entered the sanctuary and ate fresh bread off the altar, bread that no one but priests were allowed to eat?

Matthew 12:4 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 12:4

How he entered into the house of God
Not the temple, which was not then built; but the tabernacle, which was then at Nob, the city of the priests, and which probably adjoined to Abimelech's house:

and did eat the shewbread;
for that this is meant by the hallowed bread, in ( 1 Samuel 21:6 ) is certain; though R. Joseph Kimchi F14 thinks it was the bread of the thank offering; to which R. Levi ben Getsom


F15 seems to incline: but the general sense of the Jewish doctors
F16 is, that it was the showbread; and which is very clear from that text, and is rightly affirmed by Christ;

which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were
with him, but only for the priests:
see ( Leviticus 24:5 Leviticus 24:9 ) and so the Jews say that this bread (Myrzl rwoa) , "is forbidden to strangers" F17; that is, to any but the priests, which, after the burning of the frankincense, was divided equally among them: that course of priests that came into the service had six cakes, and that which went out six; though the high priest had a right to half himself, but he did not use to take it, it being judged not to his honour to do so F18. No hint is here given, nor in the history, in ( 1 Samuel 21:1 ) that it was on the sabbath day that David came to Ahimelech, and ate the showbread; but this is observed, and disputed, by the Jewish writers. Some indeed are in a doubt about it; but others F19 readily give into it, that it was on the sabbath day, which he chose to flee in, for the greater safety and preservation of his life: and indeed it seems reasonable it should be on that day; since on that day only the showbread was removed from the table, and other loaves put in the room. One of their writers F20 says,

``that showbread was not to be eaten, but on the day, and night of the sabbath day; and on the going out of the sabbath day; and on the going out of the sabbath David came there.''

Now our Lord's argument stands thus, that if David, a holy, good man, and, the men that were with him, who were men of religion and conscience, when in great distress, through hunger, ate of the showbread, which was unlawful for any to eat of but priests, the high priest himself assenting to it; then it could not be criminal in his disciples, when an hungred, to pluck, rub, and eat a few ears of corn, which were lawful for any man to eat, even though it was on the sabbath day: and for the further vindication of them, he adds,

F14 Apud R. David Kimchi in 1 Sam. xxi. 6.
F15 In ib.
F16 T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 95. 2. R. David Kimchi, Abarbinel & Laniado in 1 Sam. xxi. 6.
F17 Laniado & Abarbinel in ib.
F18 Maimon. Hilch. Tamidin, c. 4. sect. 12. 14.
F19 Bemidbar Rabba Parash. 23. fol. 231. 9. Laniado Cli Jaker, fol. 226. 4. & 227. 2, 3, 4. & Jelammedenu in ib.
F20 R. Isaiah in 1 Sam. xxi. 5.

Matthew 12:4 In-Context

2 Some Pharisees reported them to Jesus: "Your disciples are breaking the Sabbath rules!"
3 Jesus said, "Really? Didn't you ever read what David and his companions did when they were hungry,
4 how they entered the sanctuary and ate fresh bread off the altar, bread that no one but priests were allowed to eat?
5 And didn't you ever read in God's Law that priests carrying out their Temple duties break Sabbath rules all the time and it's not held against them?
6 "There is far more at stake here than religion.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved.