1 Samuel 21:2
And David said to Ahimelech the priest, The king has commanded me a business, and has said to me, Let no man know any thing of the business about which I send you, and what I have commanded you: and I have appointed my servants to such and such a place.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) The king hath commanded me.—This is one of the sad episodes in a glorious life. Overwhelmed with dismay at his sudden fall, home and wife, friends and rank, all had been taken from him, and he who had been on the very steps of the throne, the darling of the people, strangely successful in all that he had up to this time put his hand to, was now a proscribed exile, flying for his life. These things must plead as his excuse for his falsehood to Ahimelech, and his flight to and subsequent behaviour among the hereditary enemies of his race, the Philistines. But here, as in so many places, the Holy Spirit who guided the pen of the compiler of this true history could not lie, but fearlessly tells the repulsive truth which must ever be deeply damaging to the favourite hero of Israel. “The Holy Spirit is become the chronicler of men’s foolish, yea, sinful actions. He has narrated the lies of Abraham, the incest of Lot, the simulation of the man after God’s heart.”—Lange.

I have appointed my servants.—This portion of his words to Ahimelech was, no doubt, strictly true. It is unlikely that one in the high position of David at the court of Saul, possessing, too, such powers over men’s hearts, would be allowed to go even into exile without any friends or attendants. Those alluded to here probably joined him soon after his parting with Jonathan. Our Lord, in Mark 2:25-26, speaks of the priest giving the shewbread to David and to those that were with him, when both he and they that were with him were an hungred.

1 Samuel 21:2. The king hath commanded, &c. — This is a plain lie, extorted from him by fear, and one that was very pernicious to all the priests there. Whence David afterward declares his repentance for it, (1 Samuel 22:22,) and prays against the sin of lying, Psalm 119:29. To such and such a place — To certain places which, he insinuates, it was not proper to mention, because the whole business required concealment.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.A fresh instance of David's unscrupulous readiness of invention (compare 1 Samuel 20:6). 2. The king hath commanded me a business, and hath said unto me, Let no man know—This was a direct falsehood, extorted through fear. David probably supposed, like many other persons, that a lie is quite excusable which is told for the sole purpose of saving the speaker's life. But what is essentially sinful, can never, from circumstances, change its immoral character; and David had to repent of this vice of lying (Ps 119:29). The king hath commanded me a business: this seems to be a plain lie, extorted from him by fear and necessity. But as it was officious for himself, so it was pernicious to all the priests there. Whence David afterwards declares his repentance for this sin of lying, Psalm 119:29.

To such and such a place; to a certain place which is not material nor convenient now to mention, because the whole business requires concealment. And David said unto Ahimelech the priest,.... In reply to his question, and to account for such an appearance he made without an equipage:

the king hath commanded me a business, and hath said unto me, let no man know anything of the business thereabout I send thee, and what I have commanded thee; he pretended he was upon a secret expedition, by the order of Saul, which none were to know of, no, not his own servants, and that was the reason why he came to him alone; which was a downright lie, and was aggravated by its being told only for the sake of getting a little food; and especially told to an high priest, and at the tabernacle of God, and when he was come to inquire of the Lord there; and was attended with a dreadful consequence, the slaughter of the Lord's priests there, which afterwards lay heavy on David's mind, 1 Samuel 22:22; and is the very sin he is thought to refer to in Psalm 119:28. This shows the weakness of the best of men, when left to themselves; David who as much hated lying as any man did, fell into it himself:

and I have appointed my servants to such and such a place; to such a place, of such an one, not naming place nor person, that they might not be known; so the Targum calls it a place hidden and kept; and that David had some servants, though not now with him, who ate of the shewbread, appears from Matthew 12:3; whom Jonathan might send after him, to a place agreed on and appointed between them; so that this might be true.

And David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The {b} 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.

(b) These infirmities that we see in the saints of God, teach us that no one has his justice in himself, but receives it from God's mercy.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. The king, &c.] Again David has, recourse to a lie. See 1 Samuel 20:6, and note on 1 Samuel 19:17. The consequences of it were disastrous.

my servants] The young men, as in 1 Samuel 21:4. The words are David’s own, not the continuation of Saul’s directions. They were probably true. He must have had friends at court who were prepared to share his flight, and with whom he had made arrangements for a rendezvous.Verse 2. - The king hath commanded me a business. This pretence of a private commission from the king was a mere invention, but his "appointing his servants to meet him at such and such a place" was probably the exact truth. After parting with Jonathan, David probably did not venture to show himself at home, but, while Saul still supposed him to be at Bethlehem, gave orders to some trusty officer to gather together a few of his most faithful men, and await him with them at some fit place. Meanwhile alone he sets out on his flight, and, having as yet no settled plan, goes to Nob, because it was out of the way of the road to Bethlehem, whither Saul would send to arrest him. Naturally such a visit would seem strange to Ahimelech; but David needed food and arms, and probably counsel; and. but for the chance of the presence of Doeg, no harm might have ensued. As it was, this visit of David completed the ruin of Eli's house. When the boy came to the place of the shot arrow (i.e., to the place to which the arrow had flown), Jonathan called after him, "See, the arrow is (lies) away from thee, farther off;" and again, "Quickly, haste, do not stand still," that he might not see David, who was somewhere near; and the boy picked up the arrow and came to his lord. The Chethibh החצי is evidently the original reading, and the singular is to be understood as in 1 Samuel 20:37; the Keri החצּים is an emendation, according to the meaning of the words. The writer here introduces the remark in 1 Samuel 20:39, that the boy knew nothing of what had been arranged between Jonathan and David.
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