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?
Nob was a city of the priests, the high priest resided there, and the tabernacle was pitched there 1 Samuel 21:4, 1 Samuel 21:6,1 Samuel 21:9; 1 Samuel 22:10. It was situated on the road from the north to Jerusalem, near Anathoth, and within sight of the holy city Isaiah 10:32; Nehemiah 11:32. But the site has not been identified with certainty.
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.
A fresh instance of David's unscrupulous readiness of invention (compare 1 Samuel 20:6).
Now therefore what is under thine hand? give me five loaves of bread in mine hand, or what there is present.
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.
Common - As opposed to holy. (See the marginal references, and compare the use of the word in Acts 10:14-15, Acts 10:28.) It gives an idea of the depressed and poor condition of the priesthood at that time, that Ahimelech should have had no bread at hand except the showbread.
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.
The vessels of the young men ... - i. e., their clothes Deuteronomy 22:5 or wallets (marginal reference), or other articles which might be Levitically unclean and need cleansing (Leviticus 13:58; Exodus 19:10, etc.; Mark 7:4), as well as the person.
And the bread ... - The meaning is; "Though it is treating it like common bread to give it to me and my young men, there is fresh showbread baked and put on the table in place of what you give us;" the day being Friday. as is indicated in the verse following.
So the priest gave him hallowed bread: for there was no bread there but the shewbread, that was taken from before the LORD, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod - Rather, "in the cloak," Goliath's military cloak, which was part of the dedicated trophy. The ephod was naturally hung up where the high priest alone could get at it.
And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath.
Achish king of Gath - It appears from the title that Psalm 34 was composed on this occasion. (See the note there.) Nothing can give a more lively impression of the straits to which David was reduced than the fact of his going to the country of the Philistines.
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?
The king of the land - The Philistines gave him the title which their own lords bore.
And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath.
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.
Scrabbled - literally, made marks (margin), namely, the mark of the "tau" (t), which in the ancient Hebrew and Phoenician was in the shape of a cross. (See Ezekiel 9:4.)
Then said Achish unto his servants, Lo, ye see the man is mad: wherefore then have ye brought him to me?
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?