1 Samuel 21

1 Forsooth David came into Nob to Ahimelech, the priest; and Ahimelech wondered, for David had come (and Ahimelech wondered why David had come there); and he said to David, Why art thou alone, and no man is with thee?
2 And David said to Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded to me a word, and said, No man know this thing, for which thou art sent from me, and what manner behests I have given to thee; for I said also to my young men, that they should go into that and that place (and so I said to my young men, that they should go to such and such a place);
3 now therefore if thou hast anything at hand, either five loaves (even five loaves), give thou (them) to me, either whatever thing thou findest.
4 And the priest answered to David, and said to him, I have not lay, that is, common, loaves at hand, but only holy bread; whether the young men be clean, and mostly of women? (And the priest answered David, and said to him, I do not have any lay loaves, or common bread, at hand, only holy bread; thy young men, be they clean, at least from women?)
5 And David answered to the priest, and said to him, And soothly if it is done of women, we have abstained us from yesterday and the third day ago, when we went out, and the vessels, that is, (the) bodies, of the young men were clean; certainly this way is defouled, but and it shall be hallowed today in the vessels. (And David answered the priest, and said to him, If it is asked of women, we have abstained ourselves from yesterday and the third day ago, when we went out, and so the young men's bodies be clean; truly, that way is defiled, but their bodies remain pure.)
6 Therefore the priest gave to him hallowed bread, for none other bread was there, but only loaves of setting forth, that were taken away from the face of the Lord, that hot loaves shall be set forth. (And so the priest gave him the consecrated bread, for there was no other bread there, but only the loaves of setting forth, that is, the loaves of proposition, or the showbread, which had been taken away from before the Lord, and replaced with fresh hot loaves.)
7 And a man of the servants of Saul was there that day, within in the tabernacle of the Lord; and his name was Doeg of Idumea, the mightiest man of the herds(men) of Saul.
8 And David said to Ahimelech, If thou hast here at hand (a) spear, either (a) sword, give it to me; for I took not with me my sword, neither mine armours (nor my own arms, or my own weapons); for why the king's word constrained me to go in haste.
9 And the priest said, Lo! the sword of Goliath (the) Philistine, whom thou killedest in the valley of Terebinth, is wrapped in a cloth next after [the] ephod; if thou wilt take this, take it; for (t)here is none other except that. And David said, None other is like this, give thou it to me. (And the priest said, Lo! the sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom thou killedest in the Elah Valley, is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod; if thou wilt have it, then take it; for there is nothing else here except that. And David said, There is no other like it, give it to me.)
10 And so David rose up, and fled in that day from the face of Saul, and came to Achish, the king of Gath.
11 And the servants of Achish said to him, when they had seen David, Whether this is not David, [the] king of the land? Whether they sang not to him by quires/by carols, and said, Saul smote a thousand, and David smote ten thousand? (Did they not sing about him as they danced, saying, Saul struck down thousands, but David struck down tens of thousands?)
12 And David took these words in his heart, and he dreaded greatly of the face of Achish, king of Gath. (And David took these words to heart, and so he greatly feared King Achish of Gath.)
13 And David changed his mouth before Achish, and felled down betwixt their hands, and he painted on the doors of the gate, and his dribbles, that is, spittles, flowed down into his beard.
14 And Achish said to his servants, See ye the mad man? (See ye not that the man is mad?) why brought ye him to me?
15 whether mad men fail to us? why have ye brought in him, that he should be mad, while I am present? Deliver ye him from hence, lest he enter into mine house. (do we not have enough mad men here already? why have ye brought him in, so that he can be deranged right in front of me! Get ye him away from here, lest he enter into my house, and touch things!)

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.

Chapter Summary


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

Copyright © 2001 by Terence P. Noble. For personal use only.