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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 21

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

Verses 1-15

1 Samuel 21. David at Nob and Gath.

1 Samuel 21:1-9 (J). From one of the ancient documents; it is not clear which of the previous sections finds its sequel here. It is often connected with 1 Samuel 19:17: if this is right, David fled straight from his own house to Nob. It is likely that originally stories of single episodes of David’ s adventures circulated separately by oral tradition or otherwise, not forming a connected narrative. When they were collected, different editors might arrange and connect them in different ways.

David fled to Nob to Ahimelech the priest. Nob was probably a little N. of Jerusalem, on the way from Gibeah to Bethlehem. According to 1 Samuel 22:9 Ahimelech was the son of Ahitub, and therefore ( 1 Samuel 14:3) the great-grandson of Eli. Probably Ahijah ( 1 Samuel 14:3) and Ahimelech are equivalent names of the same person, the Divine title Melech, “ king,” replacing the Divine name Jah. In LXX this priest appears as Abimelech, and in Mark 2:26 as Abiathar. Ahimelech is usually the father of Abiathar, but in 2 Samuel 8:17, we have Ahimelech, the son of Abiathar; facts which illustrate the tendency to an inaccurate transmission of names; a tendency not confined to the Bible. The LXX has Abimelech here. The genealogies imply that after the destruction of the sanctuary at Shiloh, (p. 277), its priesthood migrated to Nob. They no longer had charge of the Ark ( 1 Samuel 7:1).

David appeared before Ahimelech alone, unarmed, and without provisions, showing in his person the signs of sudden departure and hurried flight; all of which would be explained by precipitate descent from a house beset by enemies. Ahimelech is startled to see the foremost captain of his day, the king’ s son-in-law, in this plight. David asks for food; the priest can only offer him the shewbread ( Leviticus 24:5-9 *); but he is willing to give him this, if he and the companions, whom David has invented for the occasion, are ceremonially clean. David reassures him on this point, entering into technical details which we cannot altogether understand, partly because both text and translation are uncertain. David also obtained Goliath’ s sword, which was kept behind the ephod (here again something standing by itself and not a garment; cf. p. 275). All this was witnessed by Doeg, one of Saul’ s officers. The nature of Doeg’ s office is uncertain, owing to doubtful text and translation: alternatives are, “ chief of the herdmen, muleherd, chief of the runners.” He was detained before Yahweh, i.e. he had to remain in the sanctuary for some time in order to undergo purificatory rites— spiritual quarantine.

1 Samuel 21:10-15 . David at Gath.— Another anecdote, of uncertain origin and not connected with its present context: it is a premature duplicate of 1 Samuel 27:1 f. It is commonly regarded as a late addition; possibly the sequel of 1 Samuel 19:18-24, and by the same hand. “ The conception of the author who could put the question [Is not this David, the king of the land?] into the mouth of the Philistines at this date is naively unhistorical” (ICC).

David flees to the court of Achish, king of Gath: fearing the vengeance of the Philistines, he feigns madness, taking advantage of the fact that in the East then, as now, Junatics were respected as inspired.

1 Samuel 21:13 . scrabbled: scrawled; LXX has “ drummed.”

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 21". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/1-samuel-21.html. 1919.
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