|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
12:1-8 Being in the corn-fields, the disciples began to pluck the ears of corn: the law of God allowed it, De 23:25. This was slender provision for Christ and his disciples; but they were content with it. The Pharisees did not quarrel with them for taking another man's corn, but for doing it on the sabbath day. Christ came to free his followers, not only from the corruptions of the Pharisees, but from their unscriptural rules, and justified what they did. The greatest shall not have their lusts indulged, but the meanest shall have their wants considered. Those labours are lawful on the sabbath day which are necessary, and sabbath rest is to froward, not to hinder sabbath worship. Needful provision for health and food is to be made; but when servants are kept at home, and families become a scene of hurry and confusion on the Lord's day, to furnish a feast for visitors, or for indulgence, the case is very different. Such things as these, and many others common among professors, are to be blamed. The resting on the sabbath was ordained for man's good, De 5:14. No law must be understood so as to contradict its own end. And as Christ is the Lord of the sabbath, it is fit the day and the work of it should be dedicated to him.
Verse 4. - How he entered into the house of God, and did eat; rather, and they did eat, with Revised Version margin (ἔφαγον), the simple plural verb laying the action less at David's door than does the phrase in the parallel passages - "and he gave" them to eat. Observe that the mention of ordinary people, like David's attendants, adds to the force of our Lord's illustration. The shew-bread (Exodus 25:30; Leviticus 24:5-7). Which. Which kind of food (ὅ). Was not lawful (οὐκ ἔξον η΅ν). Reminding the Pharisees of their own words in ver. 2. For him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? (Leviticus 24:9).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
How he entered into the house of God,.... Not the temple, which was not then built; but the tabernacle, which was then at Nob, the city of the priests, and which probably adjoined to Abimelech's house:
and did eat the shewbread; for that this is meant by the hallowed bread, in 1 Samuel 21:6 is certain; though R. Joseph Kimchi (n) thinks it was the bread of the thank offering; to which R. Levi ben Getsom (o) seems to incline: but the general sense of the Jewish doctors (p) is, that it was the showbread; and which is very clear from that text, and is rightly affirmed by Christ;
which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests: see Leviticus 24:5 and so the Jews say that this bread , "is forbidden to strangers" (q); that is, to any but the priests, which, after the burning of the frankincense, was divided equally among them: that course of priests that came into the service had six cakes, and that which went out six; though the high priest had a right to half himself, but he did not use to take it, it being judged not to his honour to do so (r). No hint is here given, nor in the history, in 1 Samuel 21:1 that it was on the sabbath day that David came to Ahimelech, and ate the showbread; but this is observed, and disputed, by the Jewish writers. Some indeed are in a doubt about it; but others (s) readily give into it, that it was on the sabbath day, which he chose to flee in, for the greater safety and preservation of his life: and indeed it seems reasonable it should be on that day; since on that day only the showbread was removed from the table, and other loaves put in the room. One of their writers (t) says,
"that showbread was not to be eaten, but on the day, and night of the sabbath day; and on the going out of the sabbath day; and on the going out of the sabbath David came there.''
Now our Lord's argument stands thus, that if David, a holy, good man, and, the men that were with him, who were men of religion and conscience, when in great distress, through hunger, ate of the showbread, which was unlawful for any to eat of but priests, the high priest himself assenting to it; then it could not be criminal in his disciples, when an hungred, to pluck, rub, and eat a few ears of corn, which were lawful for any man to eat, even though it was on the sabbath day: and for the further vindication of them, he adds,
(n) Apud R. David Kimchi in 1 Samuel 21.6. (o) In ib. (p) T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 95. 2. R. David Kimchi, Abarbinel & Laniado in 1 Samuel 21.6. (q) Laniado & Abarbinel in ib. (r) Maimon. Hilch. Tamidin, c. 4. sect. 12. 14. (s) Bemidbar Rabba Parash. 23. fol. 231. 9. Laniado Cli Jaker, fol. 226. 4. & 227. 2, 3, 4. & Jelammedenu in ib. (t) R. Isaiah in 1 Samuel 21.5.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4. How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?—No example could be more apposite than this. The man after God's own heart, of whom the Jews ever boasted, when suffering in God's cause and straitened for provisions, asked and obtained from the high priest what, according to the law, it was illegal for anyone save the priests to touch. Mark (Mr 2:26) says this occurred "in the days of Abiathar the high priest." But this means not during his high priesthood—for it was under that of his father Ahimelech—but simply, in his time. Ahimelech was soon succeeded by Abiathar, whose connection with David, and prominence during his reign, may account for his name, rather than his father's, being here introduced. Yet there is not a little confusion in what is said of these priests in different parts of the Old Testament. Thus he is called both the son of the father of Ahimelech (1Sa 22:20; 2Sa 8:17); and Ahimelech is called Ahiah (1Sa 14:3), and Abimelech (1Ch 18:16).
Matthew 12:4 Parallel Commentaries
Matthew 12:4 NIV
Matthew 12:4 NLT
Matthew 12:4 ESV
Matthew 12:4 NASB
Matthew 12:4 KJV
Bible Hub: Online Parallel Bible