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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 Samuel 21

 

 

Verse 1

1 Samuel 21:1 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?

Ver. 1. Then came David to Nob.] Not to that Nob beyond Jordan, [Numbers 32:42 8:11] - as more remote from Saul; Procul a Iove, et procul a fulmine, - but to Nob a city of Benjamin near unto Anathoth, [Nehemiah 11:32 1 Kings 2:26] where, at this time, was the tabernacle, with the altar; and therefore great store of priests attending upon it. (a) Hither resorted David in this distress: as to consult with God, [1 Samuel 22:10; 1 Samuel 22:13; 1 Samuel 22:15] so to get relief in that necessity from the high priest: to whom he flieth, when hunted from the prophet Samuel; as knowing that justice and compassion should dwell in those breasts which are consecrated to God.

To Ahimelech the priest.] Otherwise called Ahiah, [1 Samuel 14:3] but certainly Abiathar. [Mark 2:26]

And Ahimelech was afraid.] As were likewise the Bethlehemites at the coming of Samuel. [1 Samuel 16:4] See the note there. The priest suspected David fled as a proscribed person.

Why art thou alone?]

Tempera si fuerint nubila, solus eris.

Herein appeareth the inconstancy of courtly favour, saith Peter Martyr. David, who was before beloved, admired, and reverenced of all, is now left and forsaken of all. If the sun shine not on the dial, no man will look at it; so fareth it with great subjects, when out of favour with their prince.


Verse 2

1 Samuel 21:2 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.

Ver. 2. The king hath commanded me a business.] Here David uttereth two lies in a breath, - as before him Jacob had done three, [Genesis 27:19-20] though lying be a blushful sin, - whereunto he addeth another lie, [1 Samuel 21:8] and all deliberate. The like he doth to Achish, king of Gath. [1 Samuel 21:8; 1 Samuel 21:10] If the best man’s faults were written in his forehead, it would make him pull his hat over his eyes, saith the proverb. Some go about to excuse David’s lying here: but that cannot be. The consequents of it were very sad, viz., that bloody massacre of the priests, and all the inhabitants of Nob, [1 Samuel 23:18-19] which he could not but foresee and suspect, when he saw Doeg - that flatter - present, [1 Samuel 22:22] and afterwards it made his soul melt for very heaviness, whilst he bewailed it, and begged pardoning and prevailing grace. [Psalms 119:28-29]


Verse 3

1 Samuel 21:3 Now therefore what is under thine hand? give [me] five [loaves of] bread in mine hand, or what there is present.

Ver. 3. Or what there is present.] Heb., Found; anything to preserve life. Eat that which is set before you, (a) said our Saviour to his disciples. Eat to live; hunger is the best sauce, and can well season homely dainties.


Verse 4

1 Samuel 21:4 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.

Ver. 4. There is no common bread under mine hand.] He kept house at Anathoth, where doubtless he had common bread; but David’s haste called for present supply.

If the young men have kept themselves at least from women.] From companying with their wives; which, though lawful enough, [Hebrews 13:4] yet through men’s corruption, it sometimes is not without sin; and some legal uncleanness was contracted by it. See Leviticus 15:18, Exodus 19:15. Howbeit this was not a sufficient impediment to David and his followers in this necessity: and therefore Jerome saith that this was a ridiculous and preposterous objection.


Verse 5

1 Samuel 21:5 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.

Ver. 5. And the vessels of the young men.] That is, Their bodies, as 2 Corinthians 4:7, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, or as some understand it, their knapsacks, wallets, baskets, &c., as 1 Samuel 9:7. Vatablus understandeth it of their garments.

Yea, though it were sanctified this day in the vessel.] Or, Especially when this day there is other sanctified in the vessel: and this seemeth to be the better translation. Hence some collect that it was on the Sabbath day that David came to Nob: since then the shewbread was to be renewed.


Verse 7

1 Samuel 21:7 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.

Ver. 7. Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day.] Doeg may set his foot as far within the tabernacle as David, and seem to be as devout: "but God knoweth your hearts," saith our Saviour to the Pharisees, [Luke 16:15] and will wash off your paint with rivers of brimstone.

Detained before the Lord.] Either because it was the Sabbath, or by reason of some vow, or for some other religious respect. Some render it Incluserat se ante tabernaculum, he had shut up himself - as a recluse - before the tabernacle; viz., that he might give himself wholly to reading and prayer. A wicked wretch he was, and of ill fame amongst the better sort; and therefore David was very sorry to see him there, [1 Samuel 22:22] as fearing that he would "carry tales to shed blood." [Ezekiel 22:9] A very Judas he was, and a type of Judas Iscariot.

Doeg, an Edomite.] By nation, but an Israelite by profession, as was also Ahimelech the Hittite, [1 Samuel 26:6] and Jether the Ismaelite. {1 Chronicles 2:17 2 Samuel 17:25, marg.}

The chiefest of the herdmen that belonged to Saul.] The Septuagint makes him his mule keeper: the Rabbis say that he was that armourbearer of his that slew him, and himself also with him, [1 Samuel 31:5] but that is uncertain.


Verse 8

1 Samuel 21:8 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.

Ver. 8. Is there not here under thine hand spear or sword?] He well knew there was Goliath’s sword, and he greatly desired it; as knowing that there was more in it than metal and form: he counted it as it were a sacrament, saith Peter Martyr; and his arm was not so much strengthened by it as his faith. At this therefore did his suit here aim. It is good to take all occasions of renewing the remembrance of God’s mercies to us, and our obligations to him.

Because the king’ s business.] Another lie. See 1 Samuel 21:2. Sin is of an encroaching nature, one lie makes way for another. See Psalms 119:69. {See Trapp on "Psalms 119:69"}


Verse 9

1 Samuel 21:9 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.

Ver. 9. And the priest said, The sword of Goliath.] This priest had no other weapon: the high priest of Rome is a great warrior: professeth to hold both the swords: and is herein the picture and successor of Timotheus Herulus, that warlike bishop of Alexandria, A.D. 467.

Wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod,] i.e., Behind the vestry, or priest’s wardrobe; kept there for a monument of that famous victory; dedicated by David, and therefore some (a) think, neither lawful nor fit for him, being to go among the Philistines, who could not but know it. But necessity hath no law; and why he desired it, see on 1 Samuel 21:8.

There is none like that.] Say we so of the sword of the Spirit, the word, when preached especially. As milk warmed is fitter for nourishment, and as the rain from heaven hath a fatness with it, and a special influence more than standing waters: so there is not that life, operation, and blessing in the word read as preached.


Verse 10

1 Samuel 21:10 And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath.

Ver. 10. And went to Achish,] i.e., Into his country, - any whither from Saul, that Hercules furens, that flung firebrands, - where he had little likelihood of being safe; but he hoped to live there secretly and unknown, as a sojourner; which yet could not be.


Verse 11

1 Samuel 21:11 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?

Ver. 11. And the servants of Achish.] Who had some way discovered and apprehended David, and then his sword - got by a lie - could not but be prejudicial to him. It was a great mercy that the Philistines had not slain him with it; like as it was to Peter, that the rude soldiers had not cut him in pieces when he cut off Malchus’s ear; but David prayed hard when he was in their hands, [Psalms 34:6] and so escaped.


Verse 12

1 Samuel 21:12 And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath.

Ver. 12. And David laid up.] He was much affected with them, and as greatly afflicted as if he had been crushed in a winepress: so the word Gath signifieth.


Verse 13

1 Samuel 21:13 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.

Ver. 13. And he changed his behaviour] See the title of Psalms 34:1 This was a sorry shift, and can hardly be excused. The chameleon, saith Pliny, is the most fearful of all creatures, and therefore turneth itself into all colours, that it may shift for itself: so fearful men.


Verse 14

1 Samuel 21:14 Then said Achish unto his servants, Lo, ye see the man is mad: wherefore [then] have ye brought him to me?

Ver. 14. Lo, ye see the man is mad.] Ay, or else you are infatuated to dismiss him for mad, to your further ruth {grief} and utter ruin.


Verse 15

1 Samuel 21:15 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?

Ver. 15. Have I need of mad men?] The Rabbis say that Achish’s wife and daughter were mad: and therefore was he so loath to be further troubled with any such creatures.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 21:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-samuel-21.html. 1865-1868.

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