1 Samuel 21

1 Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest. Ahimelech came to meet David trembling, and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no man with you?” 2 David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has commanded me to do something, and has said to me, ‘Let no one know anything about the business about which I send you, and what I have commanded you. I have sent the young men to a certain place.’ 3 Now therefore what is under your hand? Please give me five loaves of bread in my hand, or whatever is available.” 4 The priest answered David, and said, “I have no common bread, but there is holy bread; if only the young men have kept themselves from women.” 5 David answered the priest, and said to him, “Truly, women have been kept from us as usual these three days. When I came out, the vessels of the young men were holy, though it was only a common journey. How much more then today shall their vessels be holy?” 6 So the priest gave him holy bread; for there was no bread there but the show bread 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 the Edomite, the best of the herdsmen who belonged to Saul. 8 David said to Ahimelech, “Isn’t there here under your hand spear or sword? For I have neither brought my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s business required haste.” 9 The priest said, “Behold, the sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the valley of Elah, is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you would like to take that, take it; for there is no other except that here.” David said, “There is none like that. Give it to me.” 10 David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. 11 The servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David the king of the land? Didn’t they sing to one another about him in dances, saying, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?’” 12 David laid up these words in his heart, and was very afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 He changed his behavior before them, and pretended to be insane in their hands, and scribbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down on his beard. 14 Then Achish said to his servants, “Look, you see the man is insane. Why then have you brought him to me? 15 Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Should this fellow come into my house?”

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 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. (1Sa 21:10-15)

Verses 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.

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