1 Samuel 21


David comes to Ahimelech at Nob, receives provisions from him,

and the sword of Goliath; and is noticed by Doeg, one of the

servants of Saul, 1-9.

He leaves Nob, and goes to Achish, king of Gath, 10.

But on being recognised as the vanquisher of Goliath by the

servants of Achish, he feigns himself deranged, and Achish

sends him away, 11-15.


Verse 1. Then came David to Nob] There were two places of this

name, one on this side, the second on the other side of Jordan;

but it is generally supposed that Nob, near Gibeah of Benjamin, is

the place here intended; it was about twelve miles from Jerusalem.

Why art thou alone] Ahimelech probably knew nothing of the

difference between Saul and David; and as he knew him to be the

king's son-in-law, he wondered to see him come without any


Verse 2. The king hath commanded me a business] All said here is

an untruth, and could not be dictated by the Spirit of the Lord;

but there is no reason to believe that David was under the

influence of Divine inspiration at this time. It is well known

that from all antiquity it was held no crime to tell a lie, in

order to save life. Thus Diphilus:-



"I hold it right to tell a lie, in order to procure my personal

safety; nothing should be avoided in order to save life."

A heathen may say or sing thus; but no Christian can act

thus, and save his soul, though he by doing so may save his life.

Verse 6. So the priest gave him hallowed bread] To this history

our Lord alludes, Mr 2:25, in order to show that in cases of

absolute necessity a breach of the ritual law was no sin. It was

lawful for the priests only to eat the shew-bread; but David and

his companions were starving, no other bread could be had at the

time, and therefore he and his companions ate of it without sin.

Verse 7. Detained before the Lord] Probably fulfilling some vow

to the Lord, and therefore for a time resident at the tabernacle.

And his name was Doeg] From 1Sa 22:9 we learn that this man

betrayed David's secret to Saul, which caused him to destroy the

city, and slay eighty-five priests. We learn from its title that

the fifty-second Psalm was made on this occasion; but titles are

not to be implicitly trusted.

Verse 9. The sword of Goliath] It has already been conjectured

(see 1Sa 17:1-58) that the sword of Goliath was laid up as a

trophy in the tabernacle.

Verse 10. Went to Achish the king of Gath.] This was the worst

place to which he could have gone: it was the very city of

Goliath, whom he had slain, and whose sword he now wore; and he

soon found, from the conversation of the servants of Achish, that

his life was in the most imminent danger in this place.

Verse 13. And he changed his behaviour] Some imagine David was

so terrified at the danger to which he was now exposed, that he

was thrown into a kind of frenzy, accompanied with epileptic fits.

This opinion is countenanced by the Septuagint, who render the

passage thus: ιδουιδετεανδραεπιλητον; "Behold, ye see an

epileptic man. Why have ye introduced him to me?" μηελαττουμαι

επιληπτωνεγω; "Have I any need of epileptics, that ye have

brought him to have his fits before me, (επιληπτευεσθαιπροςμε?")

It is worthy of remark, that the spittle falling upon the beard,

i.e., slavering or frothing at the mouth, is a genuine concomitant

of an epileptic fit.

If this translation be allowed, it will set the conduct of David

in a clearer point of view than the present translation does. But

others think the whole was a feigned conduct, and that he acted

the part of a lunatic or madman in order to get out of the hands

of Achish and his courtiers. Many vindicate this conduct of David;

but if mocking be catching, according to the proverb, he who

feigns himself to be mad may, through the just judgment of God,

become so. I dare not be the apologist of insincerity or lying.

Those who wish to look farther into this subject may consult Dr.

Chandler, Mr. Saurin, and Ortlob, in the first volume of

Dissertations, at the end of the Dutch edition of the Critici


Verse 15. Shall this fellow come into my house?] I will not take

into my service a man who is liable to so grievous a disease.

Chandler, who vindicates David's feigning himself, mad,

concludes thus: "To deceive the deceiver is in many instances

meritorious, in none criminal. And what so likely to deceive as

the very reverse of that character which they had so misconstrued?

He was undone as a wise man, he had a chance to escape as a

madman; he tried, and the experiment succeeded." I confess I

can neither feel the force nor the morality of this. Deceit and

hypocrisy can never be pleasing in the sight of God.

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