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Sunday, July 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 21

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-15

Chapter 21

So David now fled to Nob to Ahimelech who was the priest: and Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David, and said to him, Why are you alone, why aren't there men with you? [You know David was a captain over a thousand men, "Where's your-where are your troops?"] David said to Ahimelech the priest, The king has commanded me on a business, and said, Let no man know any thing of the business whereabouts I'm sending you, and what I've commanded thee: and I've appointed my servants to such and such a place ( 1 Samuel 21:1-2 ).

So David's saying, "I'm a CIA agent, I'm on a special mission for the king, and nobody knows about this special mission. It's just a secret mission that I'm on for King Saul. So my men are over here, and I need some bread for them.

The priest said, I don't have any common bread, all I have is this bread that I baked for the shew bread for the table of the Lord; [It was that bread that had been sanctified to set out before God on the table of shew bread. And David said, Well give it to me five loaves, and for me and my men. He said, Well are the men clean?] He said, Have they not touched women? He said, We've not been around women for at least three days since we've been on this trip. So the fellow gave them the holy bread [which was not lawful for any man to eat but the priest.] They took it and gave it to David and his men ( 1 Samuel 21:4-6 ).

Now in the New Testament Jesus makes reference to this particular incident. When the Pharisees are trying to nail Him in some of the fine, technical aspects of the law, Jesus said, "Did not David take the shew bread, which was not lawful for a man to eat?" They were getting on Him because they felt He had violated the Sabbath, one of the fine points of the law of the Sabbath. The disciples had gone through the field on the Sabbath day and they took some wheat, corn of wheat. They called it the wheat, the tassel of wheat tares, they called it the corn actually. They took it and they were rubbing it in their hands.

Now you can take the dry wheat from the stalk and you can rub it in your hands, and as you rub it in your hands it has the effect of sort of threshing it. What you're doing is rubbing off the hard, outside hull. Then you can hold it in your hands and blow on it and you can actually blow off the hulls, then you can eat the wheat raw. It's actually very good.

One of the trips over in Israel we were there in the latter part of May when the wheat fields were about ready for harvest. Up in the area near Mount Gilboa where Saul and Jonathan were ultimately killed, which is up at one end of the Valley of Megiddo. It's about eight miles, ten miles south of the Sea of Galilee, Mount Gilboa there. There in that valley are some beautiful wheat fields. So we were there and I went out and I took some of this wheat. I rubbed it in my hands, and blew off the hulls and ate this wheat.

Of course when we were kids we discovered out of the chicken feed, if we took the wheat out of the chicken feed, we were kids, it's soft enough that you can crunch it in your teeth and chew it. If you chew it long enough it turns into a gum. We used to always chew wheat gum when we were kids. We didn't have enough money to buy regular chewing gum. So we'd pick all the wheat out of the chicken feed and then we'd chew it and after awhile it turns into gum. Then we'd have our gum with wheat. So it's very nutritional, very healthy.

So the disciples were with Jesus, they were hungry; it was the Sabbath Day. They were going through the wheat fields, and they began to pick the corn of wheat and rub it in their hands, and blow it off and began to eat it. So they said, "Oh, look at your disciples. They're doing that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath day. You're not supposed to do any work." So that constituted work rubbing the wheat in your hands.

So Jesus said, "Don't you remember what David did when he was hungry, how he went in and ate the shew bread which was not lawful for a man to eat?" So Jesus makes an illusion to this thing of David showing that human need rises above the law. Human hunger, these guys are hungry, forget this little work bit of rubbing the wheat in your hands, their hunger. The hunger supercedes the fine point of the law, even as with David, the guys are hungry. Yes, it's not lawful that they should eat this shewbread. Yes, it's supposed to be only there for the priest to eat but the guys are hungry. The human hunger supercedes the fine points of the law. The point that Jesus was making, and of course using this particular instance with David as the illustration of the point, which of course everybody accepted that David had done. In other words, there was no wrong doing here.

"So the priest gave him the hallowed bread," verse six, "for there was no bread except the shewbread, that was taken from before the Lord, and put hot bread in the day it was taken away."

So they ate the bread that had been sitting there all week before the Lord when it was replaced by this new hot bread.

Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, and his name was Doeg, and he was an Edomite, ["Doeg", and you could very well pronounce it "dog," because he turned out to be a real dog.] and he was the head over the herdsmen that belonged to Saul. And David said to Ahimelech, Do you have here any spear or any sword? for I didn't bring any sword or weapons with me, for the king's business required haste. The priest said, Well, I have the sword of Goliath that you took from him when you killed him, and it's wrapped here in a cloth behind the ephod: if you will take it: there's no other but that one here. So David said, Ah, there's no sword like that one; give it to me. So David arose, for fear of Saul, and he went to Achish the king of Gath. [So actually he fled down to the camp of the Philistines, to the enemy, the city of Gath and to king Achish.] And the servants of Achish said unto him, Is not this David the king of the land? did not they sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands? And David laid up these words in his heart, and he was afraid of Achish the king of Gath. [I mean they said, "Hey, this is that David you know that wiped out the giant. This is David they were singing about killing his thousands," and so David thought, "Uh oh, the king's gonna do me in." So they brought David in before the king.] And David changed his behaviour, and he acted like he was a madman, he began to scrabble on the doors of the gate, and he let his spit run down his beard. [Just acted like he was insane.] And so Achish said to his servants, Hey, the guy is crazy: why have you brought him to me? I don't need any mad men, that you've brought this fellow to play a madman in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house ( 1 Samuel 21:7-15 )?

So he sent David away and he escaped, of course, out of the guy's hand. Of course he wasn't afraid of some guy that was so weird. I personally like it. I think David's just, you know, he's a neat kind of a shrewd kind of a guy. I just like him. Yet here's an interesting thing, my hero, but I sort of admire his wit and his little act here and getting out of trouble, yet there's an interesting verse of scripture that says, "The fear of man brings a snare" ( Proverbs 29:25 ).

Now it does definitely declare that David was afraid of Achish. The fear of man can oftentimes cause a person to act like a fool. It brings a snare. So my brave David, he's not afraid of the giant, he's afraid of the king. So acting like a madman, he's reduced to a man with spit running down his beard and scrabbling on the doors and gates, but he did escape out of the hand of Achish. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 21". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/1-samuel-21.html. 2014.
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