Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
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?6. David’s Varied Experiences
1. David at Nob with Ahimelech (1Samuel 21:1-9)
2. David’s flight to Achish, King of Gath (1Samuel 21:10-15)
With this chapter begins the record of David’s wanderings as an exile. A number of Psalms were written by him during this period of the rejection of the Lord’s anointed. We shall point out some of them. These Psalms are prophetic also foreshadowing the rejection and the sufferings of Christ as well as the tribulations of the pious remnant of Israel during the closing years of the age, preceding the coming and enthronement of the King of Israel, our Lord. He reached Nob after his separation from Jonathan. At Nob the tabernacle of the Lord had been established and Ahimelech (my brother is King) the son of Ahitub (22:9) and great-grandson of Eli, was now exercising the priesthood. Nob was not far from Jerusalem, north of the city (Isaiah 10:32).
He appeared before Ahimelech in a deplorable condition. It was on a Sabbath when the King’s son-in-law appeared unarmed and hungry. Ahimelech became afraid and suspicious, but David invented a falsehood to allay the suspicions of the high priest. The truthfulness of the Word of God is demonstrated in this faithful report of David’s failure. He was not fully trusting in his God and the result was the exercise of an endeavour to protect himself which led to the deception. How different the actions of Him who according to the flesh was the son of David! “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth; who when He was reviled, reviled not again” (1Peter 2:22-23). Then he and his companions ate the hallowed bread. Our Lord called the attention of the Pharisees to this when they murmured because His disciples had plucked the ears of corn on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5). There are no discrepancies between the account in Samuel and the words of our Lord. Our Lord speaks of David and they that were with him, while in the record here we read that Ahimelech asked David “Why art thou alone, and no man with thee?” The young men who are mentioned later (verses 4 and 5) may have at first kept out of sight. In Mark 2:26 our Lord mentions Abiathar as high priest. This is not a discrepancy, for Abiathar was the son of Ahimelech and exercised priestly function and also was high priest (1Samuel 30:7). The story of eating the shewbread which was not lawful for him to eat is full of interest if compared with the words of our Lord. There was an inquiry of the Lord and then Ahimelech gave him the hallowed bread. (See 1Samuel 22:10.) On account of the ruin in Israel everything had become common and David and his companions did not sin in eating the shewbread; the “bread of presence” as it is called. And so our Lord was rejected, as David was, and justifies the conduct of His disciples by referring the Pharisees to David’s action. (For a complete exposition see the annotations on Matthew, chapter 12.) “We can see in David rejected the type of a greater, who as such has abrogated Jewish and legal ordinances in order to give to His, people the true communion with Himself of which the shewbread speaks.” Thus the shewbread typifies the true bread, which we use for our sustenance, as David needed it for his physical keeping.
Then Doeg (the fearful) is mentioned. He was an Edomite and a prominent servant of Saul. David knew with the presence of Doeg that his secret was now discovered and Doeg later told Saul about it (1Samuel 22:9). He also received the sword of Goliath. With it he had slain the giant and, as we showed before, it is the type of Him who by death has destroyed him who has the power of death. The victory our Lord has won through death is the weapon against all our enemies.
Then we find David in Gath among the Philistines. Strange place he had selected for his protection! Why should he have gone to the strongest enemies of God and of His people? He had acted in unbelief and unbelief was dragging him down lower and lower. Instead of fleeing to God, he turned to Gath. And then for self preservation, because he had been discovered, he feigned madness. The King of Gath drove him away. The Lord was far better than his fears. The gracious deliverance set his heartstrings vibrating with praise. Here we would ask the reader to turn to Psalm 34, which David wrote, according to the inscription, when Ahimelech drove him away and when he departed. (There is no discrepancy here. The Philistine kings were called “Abimelech” as the rulers of Russia are called “Czar,” the rulers of Turkey, “Sultan.” Achish was Abimelech of the Philistines.)