1 Samuel
Chapter 21

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1 Then came Dauid to Nob, to Ahimelech the Priest, and Ahimelech was afraide at the meeting of Dauid, and said vnto him, Why art thou alone, and no man with thee?

2 And Dauid said vnto Ahimelech the Priest, The king hath commanded me a businesse, and hath said vnto me, Let no man know any thing of the businesse whereabout I send thee, and what I haue commanded thee: and I haue appointed my seruants to such and such a place.

3 Now therefore what is vnder thine hand? giue me fiue loaues of bread in mine hand, or what there is present.

4 And the Priest answered Dauid, and said, There is no common bread vnder mine hand, but there is hallowed bread: if the young men haue kept themselues at least from women.

5 And Dauid answered the Priest, and said vnto him, Of a trueth women haue beene kept from vs about these three dayes, 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 vessell.

6 So the Priest gaue him hallowed bread; for there was no bread there, but the Shewbread that was taken from before the Lord, to put hote bread in the day when it was taken away.

7 Now a certaine man of the seruants of Saul was there that day, detained before the Lord, and his name was Doeg an Edomite, the chiefest of the heardmen that belonged to Saul.

8 And Dauid said vnto Ahimelech, And is there not here vnder thine hand speare or sword? for I haue neither brought my sword nor my weapons with mee, because the kings businesse required haste.

9 And the Priest said, The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whome thou slewest in the valley of Elah, behold, it is heere wrapt in a cloth behinde the Ephod: if thou wilt take that, take it; for there is no other saue that, here. And Dauid saide, There is none like that, giue it me.

10 And Dauid arose, and fled that day, for feare of Saul, and went to Achish, the king of Gath.

11 And the seruants of Achish sayd vnto him, Is not this Dauid the king of the land? Did they not sing one to another of him in daunces, saying, Saul hath slaine his thousands, and Dauid his ten thousands?

12 And Dauid layd vp these wordes in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath.

13 And he changed his behauiour before them, and fained himselfe mad in their hands, and scrabled on the doores of the gate, and let his spittle fall downe vpon his beard.

14 Then saide Achish vnto his seruants, Loe, you see the man is mad: wherefore then haue yee brought him to mee?

15 Haue I need of mad-men, that ye haue brought this fellow to play the mad-man in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?

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Commentary for 1 Samuel 21

David with Ahimelech. (1-9) David at Gath feigns himself mad. (10-15)1-9 David, in distress, fled to the tabernacle of God. It is great comfort in a day of trouble, that we have a God to go to, to whom we may open our cases, and from whom we may ask and expect direction. David told Ahimelech a gross untruth. 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. David thought upon it afterward with regret. David had great faith and courage, yet both failed him; he fell thus foully through fear and cowardice, and owing to the weakness of his faith. Had he trusted God aright, he would not have used such a sorry, sinful shift for his own preservation. It is written, not for us to do the like, no, not in the greatest straits, but for our warning. David asked of Ahimelech bread and a sword. Ahimelech supposed they might eat the shew-bread. The Son of David taught from it, that mercy is to be preferred to sacrifice; that ritual observances must give way to moral duties. Doeg set his foot as far within the tabernacle as David did. We little know with what hearts people come to the house of God, nor what use they will make of pretended devotion. If many come in simplicity of heart to serve their God, others come to observe their teachers and to prove accusers. Only God and the event can distinguish between a David and a Doeg, when both are in the tabernacle.

10-15 God's persecuted people have often found better usage from Philistines than from Israelites. David had reason to put confidence in Achish, yet he began to be afraid. His conduct was degrading, and discovered wavering in his faith and courage. The more simply we depend on God, and obey him, the more comfortably and surely we shall walk through this troublesome world.

Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.

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