1 Samuel 21:6
So the priest gave him hallowed bread: for there was no bread there but the show bread, that was taken from before the LORD, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away.
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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.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.

6. there was no bread there—in the tabernacle. The removal of the old and the substitution of the new bread was done on the Sabbath (Le 24:8), the loaves being kept warm in an oven heated the previous day. There was no bread there, to wit, in the tabernacle, where David and the priest now were.

In the day when it was taken away, which was done upon the sabbath day, Leviticus 24:8; for though they might not then kindle a fire to heat the bread in, yet they might and did keep it hot in an oven that had been heated before the sabbath. So the priest gave him hallowed bread,.... Being satisfied with the account he gave of himself, and his young men, and of the lawfulness of it in case of necessity, acts of mercy being to be preferred to ritual services. Whether he gave him five loaves, as he desired, is not said; but the reason of his giving him such sort of bread is observed:

for there was no bread there; in the tabernacle, whatever might be in the house of the priest:

but the shewbread that was taken from before the Lord; from off of the shewbread table; and it seems to have been just taken off, it being sabbath day, and not as yet carried to the house of the priest, and divided among the other priests as usual; and which was then removed, to put hot bread, in the day that it was taken away; that is, new bread, twelve fresh cakes; for when the twelve, that had stood a week on the shewbread table were removed, twelve more were immediately put in their room, and it seems by this they were put hot there; but here arises a difficulty, how they could be put hot there, when it was not lawful to bake on a sabbath day. About this the Jews are divided; some say they were baked on the sabbath day, but the greater part say that baking did not drive away the sabbath, or it was lawful on the sabbath day; but others say that they were baked on the evening of the sabbath, and kept in the oven until the time of their being set upon the table (h); and, as Abarbinel observes, the mouth of the oven might be stopped up till that time to keep in the heat; but others say (i) this heat was miraculous, or that a miracle was wrought for the sake of it; which is not probable.

(h) T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 95. 2.((i) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 2l. 1. Menachot, fol. 96. 2.

So the priest gave him hallowed bread: for there was no bread there but the showbread, that was taken from before the LORD, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away.
6. the shewbread] Lit. “the bread of the Presence” (Sept. ἄρτοι τοῦ προσώπου), so called because it was solemnly placed as an offering in the Presence of Jehovah. The mention of it implies that the Tabernacle with its furniture was at Nob. The directions for making the Table of Shewbread are given in Exodus 25:23-30; and the form of the table, as it existed in Herod’s Temple, is preserved in the sculptures on the Arch of Titus at Rome. For the instructions concerning the bread itself, see Leviticus 24:5-9. It was to be renewed every Sabbath, and the loaves then removed were to be eaten by the priests in the Holy Place.

Our Lord refers to this as an instance of the great principle that where moral and ceremonial obligations come into conflict, it is the latter which must give way, because the rite is only the means and the moral duty the end. The high priest was bound to preserve David’s life, even at the expense of a ceremonial rule. See Matthew 12:3-4; Mark 2:25-26; Luke 6:3-5. In St Mark the high priest is called Abiathar, perhaps by an accidental error; perhaps because he was associated with his father as Hophni and Phinehas were with Eli.

from before the Lord] From the table on which they had lain in the Presence of Jehovah in the Tabernacle. It seems probable that the shewbread had just been renewed and consequently that the day was the Sabbath; otherwise there would have been no difficulty in preparing ordinary bread for David’s use.All that is given of the conversation between the two friends is the parting word spoken by Jonathan to David: "Go in peace. What we two have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying, The Lord be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed for ever:" sc., let it stand, or let us abide by it. The clause contains an aposiopesis, which may be accounted for from Jonathan's deep emotion, and in which the apodosis may be gathered from the sense. For it is evident, from a comparison of 1 Samuel 20:23, that the expression "for ever" must be understood as forming part of the oath. - 1 Samuel 21:1. David then set out upon his journey, and Jonathan returned to the town. This verse ought, strictly speaking, to form the conclusion of 1 Samuel 20.

(Note: In our English version it does; but in the Hebrew, which is followed here, it forms the opening verse of 1 Samuel 21:1-15. In the exposition of the following chapter it has been thought better to follow the numbering of the verses in our version rather than that of the original, although the latter is conformed to the Hebrew. - Tr.)

The subject to "arose" is David; not because Jonathan was the last one spoken of (Thenius), but because the following words, "and Jonathan came," etc., are in evident antithesis to "he arose and went."

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