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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Samuel 21:7

Now one of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the Lord ; and his name was Doeg the Edomite, the chief of Saul's shepherds.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Betrayal;   Confidence;   Doeg;   Thompson Chain Reference - Herdsman;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Kings;   Ox, the;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Shepherd;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - David;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Persecution;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Prayer;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Ahimelech;   Doeg;   Herdsman;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Doeg;   Herd;   Nehemiah;   Nob;   Proselytes;   Shepherd;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Abiathar;   Ahimelech;   Chief;   Detained before the Lord;   Doeg;   Nob;   Samuel, Books of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Doeg;   Nob;   Priests and Levites;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Ahimelech ;   Doeg ;   Herd, Herdsman;   Nob;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - David;   Doeg;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Do'eg;   Herd;   Shepherd;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Shepherds;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Abiathar;   Ahimelech;   Doeg;   Elhanan;   Ezekiel;   Herdsman;   Names, Proper;   Samuel, Books of;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Ahimelech;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Altar;   Bread;   Doeg;   Nob;   Pentecost;   Sacrifice;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Verse 1 Samuel 21:7. Detained before the Lord — Probably fulfilling some vow to the Lord, and therefore for a time resident at the tabernacle.

And his name was Doeg — From 1 Samuel 22:9 we learn that this man betrayed David's secret to Saul, which caused him to destroy the city, and slay eighty-five priests. We learn from its title that the Psalms 52:1 was made on this occasion; but titles are not to be implicitly trusted.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 21:7". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Flight from Saul (21:1-15)

The first place to which David fled was Nob, which, since the destruction of Shiloh, had become the city of priests (21:1). About this time a few personal servants joined him, according to an arrangement he had made with them earlier. David obtained food for himself and his men by deceiving Ahimelech the priest concerning the purpose of his journey. Unfortunately for him, and for Ahimelech and the other priests, he was seen by someone sympathetic to Saul (2-9).

From Nob David went to the Philistine city of Gath. He expected that the Philistines would welcome him as a deserter from the Israelite army and so give him refuge (10). But the Philistines had not yet heard of David’s break with Saul. They knew only that David had killed thousands of their own Philistine people. Thinking he may have been spying in preparation for more attacks, they decided to kill him. David acted quickly, and escaped by pretending he had gone mad (11-15; see Psalms 34:0; Psalms 56:0).

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 21:7". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible


"Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the Lord; he was Doeg the Edomite, the chief of Saul's herdsmen. And David said to Ahimelech, "And have you here a spear or a sword at hand? For I have brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king's business required haste." And the priest said, "The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the valley of Elah, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod; if you will take that, take it, for there is none but that here." And David said, "There is none like that; give it to me."

"Doeg the Edomite" (1 Samuel 21:7). This evil character is mentioned here for two reasons. (1) He would be the chief actor in the destruction of the entire company of the priests at Nob; and (2) David's recognition of him meant that David was required to get out of Nob as rapidly as possible. Doeg would certainly have notified Saul of David's presence there.

"Detained before the Lord" (1 Samuel 21:7). "It is not impossible that Doeg was detained in the sanctuary for some crime."[10] The usual explanation of this, however, is that of Porter, "It is generally assumed that Doeg was detained in the sanctuary under some priestly discipline. Doeg was an Edomite, and the descendants of Esau were a continual thorn in Israel's flesh."[11] Payne thought that, "Doeg was unclean that day, and waiting to perform some religious obligation the next day."[12] "Ephrem Syrus thought that Doeg had committed some trespass, and was detained till he offered the appointed sacrifice."[13] It could be that the enforcement upon Doeg of some disciplinary action resulted in the hatred that must have entered into his heartless slaughter of that whole priestly community.

"The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the valley of Eiah" (1 Samuel 21:9). "This supports the historicity of the event of David's slaying Goliath,"[14] showing that Ahimelech already knew David as the giver who had brought that trophy of his victory to Nob.

"It is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod" (1 Samuel 21:9). Cook wrote that, "The words here rendered `a cloth' actually refer to Goliath's military cloak, which was part of the dedicated trophy."[15] This fact also supports the figures given in the Bible for the weight of Goliath's armour, figures which were dismissed by one `scholar' as `pure guesswork.' The priests of Nob had every opportunity to weigh it.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 21:7". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Detained before the Lord - Either to fulfill a vow Acts 21:23-27, or on account of uncleanness, or under the law of lepers Leviticus 13:4, Leviticus 13:11, Leviticus 13:21, or as a proselyte. It is not impossible that Doeg may have been in custody or in sanctuary for some crime.

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These files are public domain.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 21:7". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

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. "

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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 21:7". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

David’s flight to Nob 21:1-9

Nob stood one and one-half miles northeast of Jerusalem and two and one-half miles southeast of Gibeah. It stood on what is now called Mt. Scopus. There Ahimelech served as high priest. Priestly activity, and evidently the tabernacle, were now there (cf. 1 Samuel 17:54). It is significant that David’s first place of refuge was among God’s chosen representatives on earth. He wanted to get help from the Lord through them (cf. 1 Samuel 22:10) as he had done in the past (1 Samuel 22:15). Apparently Ahimelech was trembling because David was alone (cf. 1 Samuel 16:4). Had Saul sent him to harm the priests (cf. 1 Samuel 22:6-23), or was David in some kind of trouble? Bear in mind that David was Saul’s general, and as such he usually traveled with escorting soldiers.

David appears to have lied to Ahimelech (1 Samuel 21:2). However, he may have been referring to Yahweh when he mentioned "the king" who had sent him (cf. 1 Samuel 20:22; 1 Samuel 21:8). Even so he wanted Ahimelech to think that Saul had sent him. This was deception at best and a lie at worst, rooted ultimately in selfishness and lack of faith in God. David made some mistakes in his early years as a fugitive. He handled himself better as time passed. During this time God was training him for future service. David proceeded to explain that the reason he was alone was that he had sent his soldiers elsewhere. He intended to rendezvous with them shortly, and had come to Nob by himself to obtain provisions, protection, and prayer (cf. 1 Samuel 22:10).

Ahimelech gave David the showbread that the priests ate (Exodus 25:30; Leviticus 24:5-9). This was the bread that for a week lay on the table of showbread in the tabernacle. Each Sabbath the priests replaced this bread with fresh loaves. Ahimelech was careful that David’s men were ritually clean, not having had sexual relations with women that day (1 Samuel 21:4; cf. Leviticus 15:8; Exodus 19:14-15). David assured him that their bodies were clean ritually (1 Samuel 21:5). This made it permissible for them to eat the consecrated bread. Ahimelech correctly gave David the provisions he needed (1 Samuel 21:6).

Jesus said this was proper for David to have done (Matthew 12:1-4). The reason was that human life takes precedence over ceremonial law with God. [Note: See F. F. Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus, p. 33.] David was probably not at the point of starvation. Certainly the Lord’s disciples were not (Matthew 12). Nevertheless human need should always be a higher priority than the observance of a ritual used to worship God. We acknowledge the same priority today. Suppose you pass a house that is on fire. You stop, run up to the front door, bang on the door, and ring the doorbell. You look in the window and see someone lying on the floor. You then kick in the door and drag the unconscious person outside to safety. Even though breaking into someone else’s house is a criminal offense, the law will not prosecute you since you saved that person’s life.

The mention of Doeg, an Edomite who had risen high in Saul’s government (1 Samuel 21:7), prepares the reader for his informing Saul about what happened at Nob (1 Samuel 22:9-19). Perhaps Doeg was "detained before the Lord" because he had come to the tabernacle to present an offering or to conduct some other business there.

Having previously requested provisions of Ahimelech (1 Samuel 21:3), David now asked for protection, namely, a sword (1 Samuel 21:8). Goliath’s huge sword, which had initially rested in David’s tent (1 Samuel 17:54), was now in the tabernacle wrapped in the priest’s ephod, perhaps because it was a historic relic. David eagerly accepted it from Ahimelech since there was no sword like it. It is interesting that David, and later Solomon, used the same expression to describe the Lord (2 Samuel 7:22; 1 Kings 8:23). Though there was no better protection than Goliath’s sword physically, the Lord was an even better protector spiritually. There is none like Him.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 21:7". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

1. David’s initial movements chs. 21-22

"The two chapters comprise a literary unit of three sections arranged in chiastic order. Chapters 1 Samuel 21:1-9 and 1 Samuel 22:6-23 are concerned with the priestly compound at Nob in Benjamin while the central section (1 Samuel 21:10 to 1 Samuel 22:5) summarizes David’s flight to Gath in Philistia, Adullam in Judah, and Mizpah in Moab." [Note: Youngblood, p. 727.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 21:7". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Now a certain man of the servants of Saul [was] there that day,.... When David came to Nob, and asked bread of the priest, and had it, which this man was an eyewitness of, 1 Samuel 22:9;

detained before the Lord; either because it was sabbath day, and so he might not travel, at least no more than two thousand cubits; or by some vow of his, which he was obliged to stay and perform; or on account of some impurity he had contracted, which he came to be cleansed from; or this detention was voluntary, in order to offer sacrifice to the Lord, or pray unto him, or to study the law of God in the tabernacle, pretending to be a very religious man:

and his name [was] Doeg, an Edomite, being by birth an Idumean, but a proselyte to the Jewish religion; or he was of the seed of Israel, but because he had dwelt in Edom, he was called an Edomite, as Kimchi thinks; just as Uriah is called for a like reason the Hittite:

the chiefest of the herdmen that [belonged] to Saul; Saul had his herds and men to look after them, and this man was set over them all, to see that they faithfully discharged their trust. The same officer the Romans called the praefect, or master of the cattle k; 1 Samuel 22:9- :, and 1 Samuel 22:9- :; though this man was not only over the king's cattle, but over those that kept them; and was in the same office as Phorbas was, under Laius king of Thebes l, and Melanthius in Homer m, and Faustulus to Amulius n: but Abarbinel is of opinion that this is to be understood not of the keepers of herds and flocks, but of the shepherds or rulers of the people; and that this man was set over all the other magistrates and rulers of the people, hence said to be "set over the servants of Saul", 1 Samuel 22:9; and so Jarchi calls him "Ab Beth Din", or father of the sanhedrim, or great court of judicature; who was detained in the tabernacle to learn the law there, that he might be the better qualified for his office; but Kimchi interprets it as we do, the chief of the keepers of the herd, and both the Septuagint and Josephus o say that he fed the king's mules.

k Vid. Pignorium de servis, p. 539. l Senecae Oedipus, Act. 4. v. 815, 816, 839. m Odyss. 20. ver. 21. n Aurel. Victor. orig. Gent. Roman. o Antiqu. l. 6. c. 12. sect. 1.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 21:7". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

David Obtains the Show-Bread; David Gets the Sword of Goliath. B. C. 1057.

      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?   2 And David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded me a business, and hath said unto me, Let no man know any thing 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.   3 Now therefore what is under thine hand? give me five loaves of bread in mine hand, or what there is present.   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 showbread, that was taken from before the LORD, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away.   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.   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.

      Here, I. David, in distress, flies in the tabernacle of God, now pitched at Nob, supposed to be a city in the tribe of Benjamin. Since Shiloh was forsaken, the tabernacle was often removed, though the ark still remained at Kirjath-jearim. Hither David came in his flight from Saul's fury (1 Samuel 21:1; 1 Samuel 21:1), and applied to Ahimelech the priest. Samuel the prophet could not protect him, Jonathan the prince could not. He therefore has recourse next to Ahimelech the priest. He foresees he must now be an exile, and therefore comes to the tabernacle, 1. To take an affecting leave of it, for he knows not when he shall see it again, and nothing will be more afflictive to him in his banishment than his distance from the house of God, and his restraint from public ordinances, as appears by many of his psalms. He had given an affectionate farewell to his friend Jonathan, and cannot go till he has given the like to the tabernacle. 2. To enquire of the Lord there, and to beg direction from him in the way both of duty and safety, his case being difficult and dangerous. That this was his business appears 1 Samuel 22:10; 1 Samuel 22:10, where it is said that Ahimelech enquired of the Lord for him, as he had done formerly, 1 Samuel 21:15; 1 Samuel 21:15. It is a great comfort to us in a day of trouble that we have a God to go to, to whom we may open our case, and from whom we may ask and expect direction.

      II. Ahimelech the priest is surprised to see him in so poor an equipage; having heard that he had fallen into disgrace at court, he looked shy upon him, as most are apt to do upon their friends when the world frowns upon them. He was afraid of incurring Saul's displeasure by entertaining him, and took notice how mean a figure he now made to what he used to make: Why art thou alone? He had some with him (as appears Mark 2:26), but they were only his own servants; he had none of the courtiers, no persons of quality with him, as he used to have at other times, when he came to enquire of the Lord. He says (Psalms 42:4) he was wont to go with a multitude to the house of God; and, having now but two or three with him, Ahimelech might well ask, Why art thou alone? He that was suddenly advanced from the solitude of a shepherd's life to the crowd and hurries of the camp is now as soon reduced to the desolate condition of an exile and is alone like a sparrow on the housetop, such charges are there in this world and so uncertain are its smiles! Those that are courted to-day may be deserted to-morrow.

      III. David, under pretence of being sent by Saul upon public services, solicits Ahimelech to supply his present wants, 1 Samuel 21:2; 1 Samuel 21:3.

      1. Here David did not behave like himself. He told Ahimelech a gross untruth, that Saul had ordered him business to despatch, that his attendants were dismissed to such a place, and that he was charged to observe secresy and therefore durst not communicate it, no, not to the priest himself. This was all false. 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, as David reflected upon it afterwards with regret, 1 Samuel 22:22; 1 Samuel 22:22. It was needless for him thus to dissemble with the priest, for we may suppose that, if he had told him the truth, he would have sheltered and relieved him as readily as Samuel did, and would have known the better how to advise him and enquire of God for him. People should be free with their faithful ministers. David was a man of great faith and courage, and yet now both failed him, and he fell thus foully through fear and cowardice, and both owing to the weakness of his faith. Had he trusted God aright, he would not have used such a sorry sinful shift as this for his own preservation. It is written, not for our imitation, no, not in the greatest straits, but for our admonition. Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall; and let us all pray daily, Lord, lead us not into temptation. Let us all take occasion from this to lament, (1.) The weakness and infirmity of good men; the best are not perfect on this side heaven. There may be true grace where yet there are many failings. (2.) The wickedness of bad times, which forces good men into such straits as prove temptations too strong for them. Oppression makes a wise man do foolishly.

      2. Two things David begged of Ahimelech, bread and a sword.

      (1.) He wanted bread: five loaves,1 Samuel 21:3; 1 Samuel 21:3. Travelling was then troublesome, when men generally carried their provisions with them in kind, having little money and no public houses, else David would not now have had to seek for bread. It seems David had known the seed of the righteous begging bread occasionally, but not constantly, Psalms 37:25. Now, [1.] The priest objected that he had none but hallowed bread, show-bread, which had stood a week on the golden table in the sanctuary, and was taken thence for the use of the priests and their families, 1 Samuel 21:4; 1 Samuel 21:4. It seems the priest kept no good house, but wanted either a heart to be hospitable or provisions wherewithal to be so. Ahimelech thinks that the young men that attended David might not eat of this bread unless they had for some time abstained from women, even from their own wives; this was required at the giving of the law (Exodus 19:15), but otherwise we never find this made the matter of any ceremonial purity on the one side or pollution on the other, and therefore the priest here seems to be over-nice, not to say superstitious. [2.] David pleads that he and those that were with him, in this case of necessity, might lawfully eat of the hallowed bread, for they were not only able to answer his terms of keeping from women for three days past, but the vessels (that is, the bodies) of the young men were holy, being possessed in sanctification and honour at all times (1 Thessalonians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:5), and therefore God would take particular care of them, that they wanted not necessary supports, and would have his priest to do so. Being thus holy, holy things were not forbidden them. Poor and pious Israelites were in effect priests to God, and, rather than be starved, might feed on the bread which was appropriated to the priests. Believers are spiritual priests, and the offerings of the Lord shall be their inheritance; they eat the bread of their God. He pleads that the bread is in a manner common, now that what was primarily the religious use of it is over; especially (as our margin reads it) where there is other bread (hot,1 Samuel 21:6; 1 Samuel 21:6) sanctified that day in the vessel, and put in the room of it upon the table. This was David's plea, and the Son of David approves it, and shows from it that mercy is to be preferred to sacrifice, that ritual observance must give way to moral duties, and that may be done in a case of an urgent providential necessity which may not otherwise be done. He brings it to justify his disciples in plucking the ears of corn on the sabbath day, for which the Pharisees censured them, Matthew 12:3; Matthew 12:4. [3.] Ahimelech hereupon supplies him: He gave him hallowed bread (1 Samuel 21:6; 1 Samuel 21:6), and some think it was about this that he enquired of the Lord,1 Samuel 22:10; 1 Samuel 22:10. As a faithful servant he would not dispose of his master's provisions without his master's leave. This bread, we may suppose, was the more agreeable to David for its being hallowed, so precious were all sacred things to him. The show-bread was but twelve loaves in all, yet out of these he gave David five (1 Samuel 21:3; 1 Samuel 21:3), though they had no more in the house; but he trusted Providence.

      (2.) He wanted a sword. Persons of quality, though officers of the army, did not then wear their swords so constantly as now they do, else surely David would not have been without one. It was a wonder that Jonathan did not furnish him with his, as he had before done, 1 Samuel 18:4; 1 Samuel 18:4. However, it happened that he had now no weapons with him, the reason of which he pretends to be because he came away in haste, 1 Samuel 21:8; 1 Samuel 21:8. Those that are furnished with the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith cannot be disarmed of them, nor need they, at any time, to be at a loss. But the priests, it seems, had no swords: the weapons of their warfare were not carnal. There was not a sword to be found about the tabernacle but the sword of Goliath, which was laid up behind the ephod, as a monument of the glorious victory David obtained over him. Probably David had an eye to that when he asked the priest to help him with a sword; for, that being mentioned, O! says he, there is none like that, give it to me,1 Samuel 21:9; 1 Samuel 21:9. He could not use Saul's armour, for he had not proved it; but this sword of Goliath he had made trial of and done execution with. By this it appears that he was now well grown in strength and stature, that he could wear and wield such a sword as that. God had taught his hands to war, so that he could do wonders, Psalms 18:34. Two things we may observe concerning this sword:-- [1.] That God had graciously given it to him, as a pledge of his singular favour; so that whenever he drew it, nay, whenever he looked upon it, it would be a great support to his faith, by bringing to mind that great instance of the particular care and countenance of the divine providence respecting him. [2.] That he had gratefully given it back to God, dedicating it to him and to his honour as a token of his thankfulness; and now in his distress it stood him greatly in stead. Note, What we devote to God's praise, and serve him with, is most likely to redound, one way or other, to our own comfort and benefit. What we gave we have.

      Thus was David well furnished with arms and victuals; but it fell out very unhappily that there was one of Saul's servants then attending before the Lord, Doeg by name, that proved a base traitor both to David and Ahimelech. He was by birth an Edomite (1 Samuel 21:7; 1 Samuel 21:7), and though proselyted to the Jewish religion, to get the preferment he now had under Saul, yet he retained the ancient and hereditary enmity of Edom to Israel. He was master of the herds, which perhaps was then a place of as much honour as master of the horse is now. Some occasion or other he had at this time to wait on the priest, either to be purified from some pollution or to pay some vow; but, whatever his business was, it is said, he was detained before the Lord. He must attend and could not help it, but he was sick of the service, snuffed at it, and said, What a weariness is it!Malachi 1:13. He would rather have been any where else than before the Lord, and therefore, instead of minding the business he came about, was plotting to do David a mischief and to be revenged on Ahimelech for detaining him. God's sanctuary could never secure such wolves in sheep's clothing. See Galatians 2:4.

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Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on 1 Samuel 21:7". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.