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The troubles of David are prosecuted in history through this chapter. Being driven from home, and like one banished the land, he visits Nob; receives from Ahimelech, the priest, hallowed bread: and the sword of Goliath, which was there. David hastens to Achish, at Gath; is but poorly received, and full of fears lest the men of Gath should betray him, he feigns himself mad. These are the principal points in this chapter.
1 Samuel 21:1
(1) ¶ Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech the priest: and Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David, and said unto him, Why art thou alone, and no man with thee?
Poor David, though the conqueror of Goliath, and the deliverer of his country, yet being proscribed by the king, and wandering about in the preservation of his life, excites fear in all that he approacheth. If what Doeg, the Edomite, told Saul be true, as is related in the succeeding chapter, (see 1 Samuel 22:9-10 ), the priest Ahimelech, enquired of the Lord about him; that is David came to the tabernacle to seek counsel from the Lord. And what more proper for a tried, exercised soul? Reader! it is sweet when our afflictions lead us to the Lord; and do not keep us from the Lord. Beloved Jesus! in his unequalled agonies, cried unto his Father; and in proportion as his sorrows increased, the more vehement was his prayer. Luke 22:44 . It is not meant by Ahimelech's saying, Why art thou alone, and no man with thee? that he had no company; for our blessed Lord in referring to this history of David, speaks of him and those that were with him, as eating of the show-bread. See Mark 2:26 . But it means that David had no suit able companions, so that he looked as if he were in haste for his life, and which was really the case.
(2) And David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded me a business, and hath said unto me, Let no man know anything of the business whereabout I send thee, and what I have commanded thee: and I have appointed my servants to such and such a place.
Let the Reader observe, and observe with concern, not like the carnal triumph of the ungodly over the frailties of good men, whose hearts rejoice in the view, saying, Aha! Aha! So would we have it: but let the Reader observe, how the want of faith and confidence in the Lord, leads men, even true believers, into sin. Had David trusted in Him and his support, who anointed him Saul's successor, he needed not to have run up and down in such apprehensions for his life. David could, and did, say upon another occasion, my times are in thine hands. Psalms 31:15 . I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13 .
(3) Now therefore what is under thine hand? give me five loaves of bread in mine hand, or what there is present.
David wanted bread: he felt the force of hunger, and therefore scrupled not to take of what the priest would give him in his distress. Do I not see Jesus's hunger here pointed out, when he was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil? But oh! how vast the superiority? Though that holy, harmless, undefiled High Priest, felt all the pressure of hunger; for he was in points tempted like as we are, sin only excepted, yet Jesus permitted not a miracle to supply his own wants, though he graciously wrought many to supply the wants of others.
(4) And the priest answered David, and said, There is no common bread under mine hand, but there is hallowed bread; if the young men have kept themselves at least from women. (5) And David answered the priest, and said unto him, Of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days, since I came out, and the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in a manner common, yea, though it were sanctified this day in the vessel. (6) So the priest gave him hallowed bread: for there was no bread there but the shewbread, that was taken from before the LORD, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away.
The Reader, if he consults Leviticus 24:5-9 , will understand what this hallowed bread was. Being set apart to God's service, it could not be used in common. Abstinence from even lawful things, at certain times, and upon certain occasions, was enjoined by the law. See Exodus 19:15 . And this is what is meant here, by the young men being kept from women: namely their wives. As to the bread, the observation which our blessed Lord makes on this passage, in his discourse with the Pharisees, (see Matthew 12:1-4 ,) throws the best light upon it. The show-bread was peculiarly for the priest's use, having been sanctified. See Leviticus 24:5-9 . But David's necessity pleaded for the dispensing with this law; and Ahimelech judged it right. But is there not much of gospel in it? Did it not mean to show, that in the dispensation by the Lord Jesus, the bodies of his people were the temples of the Holy Ghost, and were holy, being sanctified by the Spirit? And as Jesus himself, which this show-bread represented, is the bread of life to his people; so his people are made kings and priests to God, and the Father; and consequently, are privileged to eat that bread of life, and live forever. Lord, evermore give us this bread. John 6:32-34 .
(7) Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the LORD; and his name was Doeg, an Edomite, the chiefest of the herdmen that belonged to Saul.
The character of this man is somewhat singular. He was an Edomite; that is, one of the stock of Esau. How came he in the house of the Lord, or employed in the service of Saul? Perhaps from being skilful as an herdsman. And observe the expression; he was detained before the Lord; that is, his attendance in the sanctuary was constrained, not willingly. So that take him altogether, he was an enemy to God and his people. His presence, when David came to the sanctuary, foreboded no good. When the sons of God present themselves before the Lord, Satan comes also with them. Job 1:6 .
(8) And David said unto Ahimelech, And is there not here under thine hand spear or sword? for I have neither brought my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king's business required haste. (9) And the priest said, The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom thou slewest in the valley of Elah, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod: if thou wilt take that, take it: for there is no other save that here. And David said, There is none like that; give it me.
Poor David in his flight came unarmed. It is good to furnish our armoury from the sanctuary. The sword of the Spirit is the word of God. The sword of Goliath was a sword of remembrance, and no doubt peculiarly valuable, to David. It was hardly possible for him to look upon it without giving a new edge to his faith. There is great sweetness in all our past experiences of God's mercy.
(10) ¶ And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath.
It is astonishing to see how the Lord's most eminent servants have been obliged to seek shelter from their foes. Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab, (saith the Lord) be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler. Though they are outcasts, yet are they God's outcasts. And Moab, a sworn foe to God, shall protect them, if the Lord finds it necessary. Isaiah 16:4 .
(11) And the servants of Achish said unto him, Is not this David the king of the land? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?
Certainly the idea of David's succession to the kingdom of Israel must have been by this time generally understood, for the report of it had reached and gained belief in Gath.
(12) And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath. (13) And he changed his behaviour before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard. (14) Then said Achish unto his servants, Lo, ye see the man is mad: wherefore then have ye brought him to me? (15) Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house?
The fears and distresses of David were very great, no doubt, when: he feigned madness, in order to escape the danger which threatened him. Certainly there was enough to alarm him, had he not had resource in the Lord. For he was now in the very spot which Goliath came from. He had the very sword of Goliath on him. He was now surrounded with an host of foes. But, amidst all these dangers, and the feigning himself mad, never perhaps in any period of his life was his mind more composed and settled upon God. It was to this state of mind that we are indebted, under the Holy Ghost, for those most beautiful Psalms which he then wrote, and which have refreshed, and will continue to refresh, the church of the Lord in the afflictions of his people in all ages. I mean Psalms 34:0 and Psalms 56:0 , to which I refer the Reader. The latter is called Michtam of David; meaning a golden Precious Psalm of David. The title also, upon Jonath-elem-rechekim, some have thought intimates himself, because it means, the silent dove that is afar off, alluding perhaps to his distance from home, and in the midst of his enemies. How beautiful is it to see, in this man's experience, how faith works when the Lord gives grace. When his natural fears had prompted him to throw himself into the very bosom of his enemies, his spiritual faith, which the Lord had given him, led him to throw himself into the very bosom of his God. There, blessed Jesus, it is I would be found living and dying; in my best and in my weakest frames. For thou art my hiding place: thou shalt preserve me from trouble: thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah. Psalms 32:7 .
BLESSED Redeemer! I cannot behold the show-bread which David craved for himself and followers, from the hand of the Priest, without having my soul led to contemplate thee, thou bread of life, thou show-bread on the Golden Altar, before thy Father, as the everlasting food of all thy people. Thy flesh is meat indeed, and thy blood is drink indeed. Thou hast been the show-bread of thy Father before all worlds. As the corn is bruised, and broken, and prepared for nourishment to the body, so, precious Jesus! hast thou been bruised and broken for our sins, and prepared for the durable substance of thy people, from and to everlasting. And oh! the heavenly, the divinely prepared sustenance in thee! Thou art shown forth by our God and Father as the infinitely satisfying fulness on which thy people may live forever. Without thee all is empty and unsatisfying. in thee every want is answered. Thy Priests (for all thy people are a nation of kings and priests) enjoy thy fulness. The carnal world neither know thee nor enjoy thee. Oh! precious Lord God, enable me by true faith, with all the royal priesthood, to make a special appropriation of thy person and righteousness, with all thy saving benefits, to my soul. I would live upon thee, rejoice in thee, walk with thee, and make use of thee, as David did the show-bread of the sanctuary, upon every occasion. Be, thou my God, and acknowledge me for one of thy people. Never like Doeg, to be detained before thee; but, as a free-will offering, may I present myself by the mercies of my God a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is my reasonable service. And do thou, dearest Jesus, give me of the bread which is in secret, which the world knoweth not, because it knew thee not, that I may eat and live forever.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 21". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13