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?
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(1) Then came David to Nob.—Before leaving his native land, David determined once more to see, and if practicable to take counsel with, the old high priest of Israel, with whom, no doubt, in the past years of his close connection with Samuel, he had had frequent and intimate communion. He hoped, too, in that friendly and powerful religious centre to provide himself and his few companions with arms and other necessaries for his exile; nor is it improbable that he purposed, through the friendly high priest, to make some inquiry of the Divine oracle, the Urim and Thuinmim, concerning his doubtful future. The unexpected presence of Doeg, the powerful and unscrupulous servant of Saul, at the sanctuary, no doubt hurried him away in hot haste across the frontier.

The town of Nob, situated between Anathoth and Jerusalem—about an hour’s ride from the latter—has been with great probability identified with the “village of Esau,” El-Isaurizeb, a place bearing all the marks of an ancient town, with its many marble columns and ancient stones. There, in these latter days of Saul, “stood the last precious relic of the ancient nomadic times—the tabernacle of the wanderings, round which, since the fall of Shiloh, had dwelt the descendants of the house of Eli. It was a little colony of priests; no less than eighty-five persons ministered there in the white linen dress of the priesthood, and all their families and herds were gathered round them. The priest was not so ready to befriend as the prophet (we allude to David’s reception by Samuel at Naioth by Ramah, 1 Samuel 19). As the solitary fugitive, famished and unarmed, stole up the mountain side, he met with but a cold welcome from the cautious and courtly Ahimelech.”—Stanley, Lectures on the Jewish Church, Lect. 12

To Ahimelech the priest.—He was the great grandson of Eli, thus—

Died at Shiloh after news of capture of Ark,







Slain by Philistines in battle

Reign of Saul—High Priest,

Reign of David—High Priest, (See 1Samuel 22:19-20.)

He was probably identical with Ahiah (1Samuel 14:3); this, however, is not certain. Dean Payne Smith believes Ahiah was a younger brother of Ahimelech, who, while Ahimelech remained with the Ark, acted as high priest at the camp for Saul, especially in consulting God for him by means of the ephod with the breastplate (the Urim).

Why art thou alone?—The not unfriendly but cautious priest, who, though unaware of the final rupture of Saul and David, was of course cognisant of the strained relations of the king and his great servant, was uneasy at this sudden appearance of the king’s son-in-law—the well-known military chieftain, David—alone and travel-stained at the sanctuary.

1 Samuel 21:1. Then came David to Nob — A city of the priests in the tribe of Benjamin, about twelve miles from Gibeah, not far from Anathoth and Jerusalem, Nehemiah 11:32; Isaiah 10:32. The tabernacle, it appears, had been removed hither, and hither David now resorts, in hopes of finding shelter for a season, and a supply of his necessities, which he supposed he might obtain here without danger of being betrayed into the hands of Saul; and principally that in this great distress he might receive direction and comfort from the Lord. To Ahimelech the priest — Probably the chief priest. David, in his first flight from Saul, had recourse to the prophet of God, and now his next is to his priest. Ahimelech was brother to that Ahiah, mentioned 1 Samuel 14:3, (who was now dead,) and his successor in the priesthood, for they were both sons of Ahitub. Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David — “Lest he was forced to flee from Saul,” say some commentators, “and so it might be dangerous to entertain him.” But it seems evident that Ahimelech knew nothing of the circumstances that David was in, or of Saul’s enmity to him, and determined purpose to destroy him. But, as David was the king’s son-in- law, he was surprised to see him without any attendants, and suspected that there must be some extraordinary cause of his coming in such a manner. Why art thou alone? — It appears from 1 Samuel 21:4-5, and from Mark 2:25, that David had some persons with him, probably servants, whom Jonathan had sent to meet him some where, and accompany him; yet David had left these at another place, as he himself affirms, (1 Samuel 21:2,) and he was now alone, as he was when he fled to Achish. He who had been suddenly advanced to the highest honour, is as soon reduced to the desolate condition of an exile. Such are the changes which are frequently happening in this world, and so uncertain are its smiles.

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.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. CHAPTER 21

1Sa 21:1-7. David, at Nob, Obtains of Ahimelech Hallowed Bread.

1. Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech—Nob, a city of the priests (1Sa 22:19), was in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives—a little north of the top, and on the northeast of the city. It is computed to have been about five miles distant from Gibeah. Ahimelech, the same as Ahiah, or perhaps his brother, both being sons of Ahitub (compare 1Sa 14:3, with 1Sa 22:4-11, 20). His object in fleeing to this place was partly for the supply of his necessities, and partly for comfort and counsel, in the prospect of leaving the kingdom.

Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David—suspecting some extraordinary occurrence by his appearing so suddenly, and in such a style, for his attendants were left at a little distance.David cometh to Nob to Ahimelech the priest; pretendeth secret business from Saul; asketh bread: Ahimelech giveth him the shew-bread, 1 Samuel 21:1-6. Doeg seeth this, 1 Samuel 21:7. David asketh arms: Ahimelech giveth him Goliath’s sword, 1 Samuel 21:8,9. David cometh to Achish; is known; and afraid; feigneth himself mad, 1 Samuel 21:10-13. Achish is angry with his servants for bringing him, 1 Samuel 21:14,15.

Nob; a city of priests, as it is called 1 Samuel 22:19; either,

1. Because it was assigned to the priests. For though it be not expressed by this name among their cities, Jos 21, yet it might be one of those cities there named by some other name, which name might be changed; or another new name added to the old for some reason now unknown, as was very usual among the Hebrews: compare 1Ch 6. Or,

2. Because it was now inhabited by the priests for the service of the tabernacle, which now was here; as appears from 1 Samuel 21:7,9; for as the kings of Israel were to consult with God’s oracle in all their weighty affairs, so they endeavoured to have it in or near their own habitations. Hence it was first carried by Joshua to Shiloh in his tribe of Ephraim; and afterwards by David into his tribe and city; and now, as it seems, had been by Saul carried to Nob, a city in the tribe of Benjamin, Nehemiah 11:32, near to Anathoth, 1 Kings 2:26. Hither David resorted, partly for a supply of his necessities, which he supposed he might receive here, without danger of being betrayed into Saul’s hands; and principally, that in this great distress, and his resolution of going out of the kingdom, he might seek and receive comfort and counsel from the Lord. Ahimelech the priest, to wit, the chief priest, brother to that Ahiah, 1 Samuel 14:3; and he being now dead, his successor in the priesthood, for they were both sons of Ahitub, 1 Samuel 14:3 22:11. Ahimelech was afraid; suspecting some extraordinary cause of his coming in such a manner, and fearing the worst, as men usually do in such cases. Why art thou alone? for though David had some servants and companions, as is manifest from 1 Samuel 21:4,5, and from Matthew 12:3,4, whom Jonathan probably had sent to a place appointed to serve and guard him; yet they were left at another place, as David himself affirmeth, 1 Samuel 21:2. And David was now alone, as also he was when he fled to Achish, 1 Samuel 21:10.

Then came David to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest,.... The high priest, as Abarbinel rightly calls him; he was the brother of Ahijah, the son of Ahitub, who being dead he succeeded him; though some say (a) he was the same; see 1 Samuel 14:3; who was now at Nob, the tabernacle being there, whither probably it was removed by Saul, and where and at Gibeon, according to the Jews (b), it continued fifty seven years; as in the times of Joshua it was in Shiloh, in the tribe of Ephraim, of which tribe he was; and in the times of David it was placed in the tribe of Judah, to which he belonged; so in the times of Saul it was in Nob, a city of his tribe, twelve miles from Gibeah, according to Bunting (c); for that it was in the tribe of Benjamin appears by its being mentioned along with Anathoth, Nehemiah 11:32; and according to Jarchi and Kimchi (d) it was near Jerusalem, and so near that it might be seen from thence; some say they are the same (e); Jerom (f) speaks of it as near Diospolis or Lydda. David, before he departed further off, was willing to see the tabernacle once more, and there worship his God, and inquire of him by the high priest, as he did, 1 Samuel 22:10; to direct him what way he should take, and that he would prosper and succeed him in it, grant him his presence, and keep him in safety:

and Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David; hearing that he was come or coming, he went out to meet him, but when he saw him alone he trembled; especially if he had heard of his having fallen under the displeasure of Saul, and that he now fled from him, therefore he might fear that he should fall into disgrace and danger should he entertain him:

and he said unto him, why art thou alone, and no man with thee? he might well wonder at it, and put such a question, seeing he was so great a man, both in the court and camp, and the king's son in law; he might therefore reasonably suspect something more than ordinary was the case, and which occasioned his fears.

(a) Hieron. Trad. Heb. in lib. Reg. fol. 76. H. (b) Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Zebachim, c. 14. sect. 7. (c) Travels, &c. p. 136. (d) Comment. in lsa. x. 32. (e) Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 8. 1.((f) Epitaphium Paulae, fol. 59. A.

Then came David to {a} 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?

(a) Where the ark then was to ask counsel of the Lord.

1 Samuel 21:1-9. David’s visit to Nob

1. to Nob] Nob was at this time a city of the priests (1 Samuel 22:19), though it is not specified among the places assigned to them by Joshua: here, as is clearly to be inferred from 1 Samuel 21:6, the Tabernacle, which has not been mentioned since the death of Eli, was now standing. The site of Nob has not been identified. The description of Sennacherib’s march in Isaiah 10:28-32 shews that it was a day’s march south of Geba on the road to Jerusalem, and within sight of the city. Dean Stanley supposes it to be the northern summit of Mount Olivet, the place of worship which David passed in his flight from Absalom (2 Samuel 15:31). Sin. and Pal. p. 187. Hither David betook himself not as a permanent refuge, but to inquire the will of God concerning his future movements, and to procure food and weapons, for in the hurry of his flight he had brought nothing away with him.

Ahimelech the priest] See note on 1 Samuel 14:3.

was afraid at the meeting of David] Came to meet David trembling. Cp. 1 Samuel 16:4. Seeing the king’s son-in-law unattended, he may have suspected the truth, and have been afraid of incurring Saul’s displeasure.

Ver 1. - Then came David to Nob. Nob means a knoll or hill, and apparently was situated a little to the north of Jerusalem on the road leading to Gath. The ark had evidently been removed thither by Saul early in his reign, after it had remained for twenty years in the house of Abinadab; and as eighty-five priests wearing an ephod were murdered there by Doeg at Saul's command (1 Samuel 22:18, 19), it is plain that the worship of Jehovah had been restored by him with something of its old splendour. And this agrees with Saul's character. At the commencement of his reign we find Ahiah with him as high priest, and even when he fell his excuse was the necessity for performing the public rites of religion (1 Samuel 15:15). But with him the king's will was first, the will of Jehovah second; and while he restores God's public worship as part of the glory of his reign, he ruthlessly puts the priests with their wives and families to death when he supposes that they have given aid to his enemy. Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David. More literally, "went trembling to meet David." Ahiah, described as high priest in 1 Samuel 14:3, was either dead or, more probably, was a younger brother, who, while Ahimelech remained with the ark, acted as high priest at the camp for Saul, especially in consulting God for him by means of the ephod with the breastplate. Why art thou alone? Nevertheless, in Mark 2:26 our Lord speaks of those "who were with David," and the "young men" are mentioned in vers. 4, 5. While David went alone to consult Ahimelech, that his visit might be kept quite secret, he had taken a few of his servants with him, and had left them somewhere in the neighbourhood, or even, more probably, had instructed some one to meet him with such men as he could collect. The arrival of the king's son-in-law without an escort would naturally strike the high priest as strange, and therefore as alarming. 1 Samuel 21:1David at Nob. - The town of Nob or Nobeh (unless indeed the form נבה stands for נבה here and in 1 Samuel 22:9, and the ה attached is merely ה local, as the name is always written נב in other places: vid., 1 Samuel 22:11, 1 Samuel 22:19; 1 Samuel 21:1; Isaiah 10:32; Nehemiah 11:32) was at that time a priests' city (1 Samuel 22:19), in which, according to the following account, the tabernacle was then standing, and the legal worship carried on. According to Isaiah 10:30, Isaiah 10:32, it was between Anathoth (Anata) and Jerusalem, and in all probability it has been preserved in the village of el-Isawiyeh, i.e., probably the village of Esau or Edom, which is midway between Anata and Jerusalem, an hour from the latter, and the same distance to the south-east of Gibeah of Saul (Tell el Phul), and which bears all the marks of an ancient place, partly in its dwellings, the stones of which date from a great antiquity, and partly in many marble columns which are found there (vid., Tobler, Topogr. v. Jerusalem ii. p. 720). Hence v. Raumer (Pal. p. 215, ed. 4) follows Kiepert in the map which he has appended to Robinson's Biblical Researches, and set down this place as the ancient Nob, for which Robinson indeed searched in vain (see Pal. ii. p. 150). Ahimelech, the son of Ahitub, most probably the same person as Ahiah (1 Samuel 14:3), was "the priest," i.e., the high priest (see at 1 Samuel 14:3). When David came to him, the priest "went trembling to meet him" (לקראת יחרד) with the inquiry, "Why art thou alone, and no one is with thee?" The unexpected appearance of David, the son-in-law of the king, without any attendants, alarmed Ahimelech, who probably imagined that he had come with a commission from the king which might involve him in danger. David had left the few servants who accompanied him in his flight somewhere in the neighbourhood, as we may gather from 1 Samuel 21:2, because he wished to converse with the high priest alone. Ahimelech's anxious inquiry led David to resort to the fabrication described in 1 Samuel 21:2 : "The king hath commanded me a business, and said to me, No one is to know anything of this matter, in which (lit. in relation to the matter with regard to which) I send thee, and which I have entrusted to thee (i.e., no one is to know either the occasion or the nature of the commission): and the servants I have directed to such and such a place." יודע, Poel, to cause to know, point, show. Ahimelech had received no information as yet concerning the most recent occurrences between Saul and David; and David would not confess to him that he was fleeing from Saul, because he was evidently afraid that the high priest would not give him any assistance, lest he should draw down the wrath of the king. This falsehood brought he greatest calamities upon Ahimelech and the priests at Nob (1 Samuel 22:9-19), and David was afterwards obliged to confess that he had occasioned it all (1 Samuel 22:22).
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