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Wednesday, July 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 21

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-9

First Samuel - Chapter 21

Involving the Priests, vs. 1-9

It will be well to note David’s circumstances at this time before looking further in the context. Remember that Saul had in the beginning sought again to thrust David through with his javelin (Review chapter 19). David had fled to his house and escaped with the aid of Michal when Saul sent there to apprehend him. He had gone to the school of the prophets with Samuel in Ramah, where Saul had again sent to apprehend him unsuccessfully. Then (chapter 20) he had sought out Jonathan and waited three days for him to learn the intent of his father toward David. So for more than three days David had been hiding, perhaps with little rest or food and alone. In desperation he came now to the priest at Nob, near Jerusalem.

Ahimelech was acting as high priest. He is also called Ahiah (1 Samuel 14:3; 1 Samuel 14:18), and it is well to remember that he was a descendant of Eli, whose priesthood had been cut off by the Lord in the time of Samuel’s childhood (1 Samuel 2:27-36). Yet the people allowed these rejected priests to continue in their office.

When David appeared at the tabernacle, now situated at Nob, Ahimelech was greatly afraid. This may have been because of Saul’s enmity as a result of Ahiah’s inability to reach the Lord on his behalf during the Philistine war (1 Samuel 14:18). Or it might have been because he knew of Saul’s madness and suspicion of David.

David lied to the high priest, in order to get bread and a weapon. Although he was alone David implied that he had men stationed in appointed places, and they were on urgent, secretive mission for the king. The priest seems to have accepted David’s story, for he was surely well acquainted with the bravery and popularity he had acquired. There was nothing for David, however, except the shewbread which had been sanctified for the priests.

But it was about to be replaced with fresh bread, and both David and the priest reasoned that it would be permissible for David and his "party" to have it if they were not ceremonially unclean. David assured the priest that none of them were unclean and was given the bread.

Doeg, an Edomite, chief herdman of Saul was being detained at the tabernacle for some purpose unknown, and very much against his will, it would appear. He took in the whole matter transpiring. David claimed he had left so hastily on his urgent business he had not brought his sword or weapons, so was given the sword of Goliath which had been preserved there in the tabernacle, seemingly as a kind of relic.

David cannot be condoned for his lie, though he was in desperate circumstances. It was a display of weak faith in the Lord who had preserved him to this point. The events of that morning would have strong influences in Israel’s later history and result in the fulfillment a large part of the prophecy of the cutting off of Eli’s priesthood (see 1 Samuel 22:9 ff).

The Lord used the incident of David’s taking of shewbread to justify the disciples’ taking the grain on the sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8). As the bread in itself only portrayed to men the Lord’s requirement for holiness, so the sabbath was for man’s teaching and not for his regulation.

Verses 10-15

David’s Right to Goth, vs. 10-15

David seems to have suffered a complete lapse of faith at this time. Though the Lord had anointed him to be king over Israel, he was fearful for his life. From the flesh standpoint he cannot be censured, and most today would react just as did he. He has lied and deceived the priest, and now he runs out of the country to a pagan king seeking shelter. Very soon he had reason to regret his move, for he seemed to be in even more immediate danger of the Philistines than of Saul. These resented David, as well they .might, for his many devastating assaults on their people from the time he had slain their champion, Goliath.

The Philistines recalled also the popularity of David in his own country, how they had sung of his feats on the battlefield and acclaimed him above their king. Thus, they concluded he was actual king of the land. They may have known that the Israelites expected him to be their king, and for this they feared and resented him. They were like to have killed him.

David was compelled to adopt the manner of a madman to escape the Philistines. He was shamed and humiliated by having to scratch on the door like a dog wanting out and allow the slobber to run out of his mouth and over his beard. Achish saw it as an act, but also realized that he wanted no such man in his presence. Thus David escaped.

In Psalms 56 David treats of his experience in Gath. He reveals the danger he found himself in from enemies in every place. However, he finally looked to the Lord and found deliverance. He can then conclude, "in God have I put my trust; I will not be afraid what man can do unto me." It was well for him to learn this lesson, for now he can praise the Lord for his goodness. Read the psalm with these comments.

Some lessons: 1) Lies always hurt persons other than the one dealing in falsehood; 2) falsehood’ never accomplishes what is needed in any person’s life; 3) trouble among the Lord’s people cannot be escaped by fleeing to the world; 4) when faith breaks down one will go further and further from the Lord.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 21". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-samuel-21.html. 1985.
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