1 Samuel 20:6
If thy father at all miss me, then say, David earnestly asked leave of me that he might run to Bethlehem his city: for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family.
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(6) A yearly sacrifice.—The Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 12:5 and following verses) strictly required these great sacrificial feasts to be kept at the Tabernacle, “unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes;” but ever since the destruction of the Tabernacle of Shiloh there had been no central sanctuary, and these solemn feasts had been held, most probably, in tribal centres. “In the then disorganised condition of public worship to which David first gave regular form, family usages of this sort, after the manner of other nations, had established themselves, which were contrary to the (Mosaic) prescriptions concerning the unity of Divine worship.”—O. von Gerlach, in Lange. It is highly probable that the festival in question was at this time being held at Bethlehem. It is, however, clear that David did not purpose being present at it, and therefore the excuse was a feigned one. The morality of this request of David is by no means sanctioned by the compiler of the history; he simply relates the story.

1 Samuel 20:6. Say, David earnestly asked of me — Jonathan, being the king’s son and deputy, used, it seems, to give license to military men to depart for a season upon just occasions. There is a yearly sacrifice for all the family — It is likely it was a custom among pious families to meet together once a year, and praise God for his mercies toward them all.

20:1-10 The trials David met with, prepared him for future advancement. Thus the Lord deals with those whom he prepares unto glory. He does not put them into immediate possession of the kingdom, but leads them to it through much tribulation, which he makes the means of fitting them for it. Let them not murmur at his gracious appointment, nor distrust his care; but let them look forward with joyful expectation to the crown which is laid up for them. Sometimes it appears to us that there is but a step between us and death; at all times it may be so, and we should prepare for the event. But though dangers appear most threatening, we cannot die till the purpose of God concerning us is accomplished; nor till we have served our generation according to his will, if we are believers. Jonathan generously offers David his services. This is true friendship. Thus Christ testifies his love to us, Ask, and it shall be done for you; and we must testify our love to him, by keeping his commandments.The new moon, or beginning of each month, was celebrated with especial sacrifices and blowing of trumpets (marginal references.) The feast was kept with great solemnity as "a day of gladness," and we may presume that the "peace offerings" offered on the occasion furnished the tables of those that offered. 5. David said unto Jonathan, Behold, to-morrow the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at meat—The beginning of a new month or moon was always celebrated by special sacrifices, followed by feasting, at which the head of a family expected all its members to be present. David, both as the king's son-in-law and a distinguished courtier, dined on such occasions at the royal table, and from its being generally known that David had returned to Gibeah, his presence in the palace would be naturally expected. This occasion was chosen by the two friends for testing the king's state of feeling. As a suitable pretext for David's absence, it was arranged that he should visit his family at Beth-lehem, and thus create an opportunity of ascertaining how his non-appearance would be viewed. The time and place were fixed for Jonathan reporting to David; but as circumstances might render another interview unsafe, it was deemed expedient to communicate by a concerted signal. Quest.

How could David imagine that Saul would expect his company, whom he had once and again endeavoured to kill?

Answ. First, He might suppose that David would ascribe all that to his madness and frantic fits, which being over, he would promise himself safety in the king’s presence. Secondly, David might not think that Saul would indeed expect him to feast with him, considering his late and great danger from Saul; but that Saul would make use of this pretence, and require his presence, that he might lay hold upon him; and therefore he desired to try the experiment.

Asked leave of me, who being the king’s son and deputy, used to give licence to military men to depart for a season upon just occasions.

His city, i.e. the place of his birth and education, John 7:42.

A yearly sacrifice; a sacrifice which was offered up in some high place there yearly, upon some special occasion not mentioned in Scripture, which was accompanied with a feast; or, a yearly feast, as the Hebrew word is sometimes used.

For all the family; wherein all the members of our family used to meet together, when they will earnestly expect me above others, and will charge me with pride and unnaturalness, if I neglect their invitation.

If thy father at all miss me,.... Or diligently inquires after me:

then say, David earnestly asked leave of me, that he might run to Bethlehem his city: the place of his birth, called the city of David, where he was born and had lived, Luke 2:4, which was not far from Gibeah, and whither he could soon run; and which shows the haste he proposed to make, and his eager desire to be there, and which also is signified by his earnest and importunate request; for all this might be true, and no lie of David, framed for an excuse; and after he had hid himself some time in the field, until it was evening, he might go to Bethlehem, and return soon enough to meet Jonathan in the field at the time fixed by them on the third day:

for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family; it was customary for the family of Jesse one day in a year, and as it should seem on a first day of the month, and perhaps the first day of the first month, or New Year's Day, to have an anniversary feast by way of gratitude and thankfulness for the mercies of the year past, and for the continuance of them for time to come; in which the family rejoiced together at the great goodness of God unto them, 1 Samuel 9:12.

If thy father at all miss me, then say, David earnestly asked leave of me that he might run to Bethlehem his city: for there is a {d} yearly sacrifice there for all the family.

(d) Read 1Sa 1:21.

6. a yearly sacrifice there for all the family] This request incidentally throws light on the religious customs of the age. The annual meeting of the family or clan for sacrifice may have been a partial observance of the command in Deuteronomy 12:5 ff.; but in the unsettled state of religion the obligation to go up to the central sanctuary was neglected. It is not clear whether David really wanted to go to Bethlehem, and meant to hide “in the field” afterwards, or whether he regarded the story as a justifiable deception to avoid exciting Saul’s anger.

1 Samuel 20:6"If thy father should miss me, then say, David hath asked permission of me to hasten to Bethlehem, his native town; for there is a yearly sacrifice for the whole family there." This ground of excuse shows that families and households were accustomed to keep united sacrificial feasts once a year. According to the law in Deuteronomy 12:5., they ought to have been kept at the tabernacle; but at this time, when the central sanctuary had fallen into disuse, they were held in different places, wherever there were altars of Jehovah - as, for example, at Bethlehem (cf. 1 Samuel 16:2.). We see from these words that David did not look upon prevarication as a sin.
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