|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
21:1-9 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.
Verses 3, 4. - What is under thine hand? This does not mean that Ahimelech was himself carrying the shewbread out of the tabernacle, but simply, "What hast thou? The sense of the whole verse is, "Now, therefore, what hast thou at hand? Give me five loaves, or whatever there may be." Ahimelech answers, "There is no common bread at hand." I have no ordinary food; there is only hallowed bread, that is, the shewbread, which, after remaining in Jehovah's presence from sabbath to sabbath, was then to be eaten by the priests in the holy place (Leviticus 24:8, 9). As Ahimelech could not venture to refuse David's request, he asks if his attendants are at least ceremonially clean, as in that case the urgency of the king's business might excuse the breach of the letter of the commandment. Our Lord in Matthew 12:3 cites this as a case in which the inward spirit of the law was kept, and the violation of its literal precept thereby justified.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Now therefore what is under thine hand?.... Meaning, what food had he in his house?
give me five loaves of bread in mine hand; to take with him, for him and his servants in such a place:
or what there is present; or to be found (g) in the tabernacle; if not five loaves, two, or three, or four, or what food soever he had by him.
(g) "quicquid inveneris", V. L, "inventum", Montanus; "quicquid inventum fuerit", Tigurine version.
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