King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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1 Samuel 21

David with Ahimelech. (1-9) David at Gath feigns himself mad. (10-15)

1 Samuel 21 Audio:

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David with Ahimelech

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?

2 And David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The 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.

3 Now therefore what is under thine hand? give me five loaves of bread in mine hand, or what there is present.

4 And the priest answered David, and said, There is no common bread under mine hand, but there is hallowed bread; if the young men have kept themselves at least from women.

5 And David answered the priest, and said unto him, Of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days, since I came out, and the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in a manner common, yea, though it were sanctified this day in the vessel.

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

7 Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the LORD; and his name was Doeg, an Edomite, the chiefest of the herdmen that belonged to Saul.

8 And David said unto Ahimelech, And is there not here under thine hand spear or sword? for I have neither brought my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s business required haste.

9 And the priest said, The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom thou slewest in the valley of Elah, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod: if thou wilt take that, take it: for there is no other save that here. And David said, There is none like that; give it me.

David at Gath feigns himself mad

10 And David arose and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath.

11 And the servants of Achish said unto him, Is not this David the king of the land? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?

12 And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath.

13 And he changed his behaviour before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard.

14 Then said Achish unto his servants, Lo, ye see the man is mad: wherefore then have ye brought him to me?

15 Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house?

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Nobe. A city in the tribe of Benjamin, to which the tabernacle of the Lord had been translated from Silo. Ch. — It was about 12 miles south-west of Gabaa. Tudelensis. — There was another Nobe on the east side of the Jordan, to which Serarius thinks David was three days in travelling. But when David made that assertion, he wished to conceal the real state of his affairs, as he had not seen Saul since he was at Najoth, v. 5. Nobe was afterwards accounted a sacerdotal city, v. 19. 2 Esd. xi. 32. — Achimelech, who is perhaps the same with Achia (C. xiv. 3,) and Abiathar. Mark ii. 32. — With thee. He would not expose his men to the resentment of Saul, (C.) though he afterwards gave the priest to understand that he had some attendants, (v. 2) as the gospel relates. Mat. xii. 3. He dismissed them before he entered Geth. C.

Ver. 2. The king, &c. This was an untruth, which David, like many other great men, might think lawful in such an emergency. But it is essentially evil. C. — And such, which he deems it unnecessary to specify. Sept. retains the Heb. words, “Phelanni almoni.” See Ruth iv. 1.

Ver. 4. If the young men be clean, &c. If this cleanness was required of them that were to eat that bread, which was but a figure of the bread of life which we receive in the blessed sacrament; how clean ought Christians be when they approach to our tremendous mysteries? And what reason hath the Church of God to admit none to be her ministers, to consecrate and daily receive this most pure sacrament, but such as devote themselves to a life of perpetual purity. Ch. — Women. God required this on many occasions. Ex. xix. 15. Urgent necessity determined Achimelech to grant the loaves, as our Saviour intimates, though it is probable that he first consulted the Lord. C. xxii. 16. C. — David perhaps went to Nobe on purpose to ask advice. M. — We have here an example of a dispensation, and of the distinction between lay, or common, and holy bread. W.

Ver. 5. Vessels, i.e. the bodies, have been holy; that is, have been kept from impurity: (Ch). in which sense S. Paul uses the word. 1 Thess. iv. 4. It also includes garments, arms, &c. All was to be clean. Sept. “my men are all purified.” C. — Defiled. Is liable to expose us to dangers of uncleanness, (Ch). as we shall perhaps have to fight. H. — Sanctified. That is, we shall take care, notwithstanding these dangerous circumstances, to keep our vessels holy; that is, keep our bodies from every thing that may defile us. Ch. — The text is very obscure. Heb. “the way is impure, because to-day it shall be purified in the vessel.” C. — Prot. “and the bread is in a manner common, yea though it were sanctified this day in the vessel.” We might eat of it in a case of such necessity. H. — Though laics be commonly debarred from tasting of it, we will partake of it with all due respect. C. — Sept. “the journey is (of a disagreeable nature, or) impure, therefore it will be rendered holy by my vessels,” or arms, in the king’s cause. H. — He seems to be going towards the infidel nations. M.

Ver. 7. Within. Heb. mehtsar, “detained, or assembles before the Lord.” Theodoret thinks he was possessed; others believe he had made a vow, &c. — Edomite. Some Greek copies read, a Syrian, as also C. xxii. 9. C. — He had embraced the Jewish religion. M.

Ver. 9. This. Chaldee observes, he gave this sword “after he had consulted the Lord with the ephod.” In a just war, the ornaments of the temples may be used. Pro republic i plerumque templa nudantur. Seneca. Grot. Jur. iii. 5. 2. C. — Tostatus believes that David would restore this sword, as soon as he had procured other arms.

Ver. 10. Achis. He is elsewhere called Achimelech. This bold step was taken by God’s order, (Salien) or secret impulse, as the high priest and Doeg knew not whither David had directed his course. H. — Sanchez thinks David received no express declaration, as the event was not very prosperous. M. — Many great men have taken refuge among their greatest enemies, as Themistocles, Alcibiades, and Coriolanus fled respectively to the Persians, Laced√¶monians, and Volscians, and were received with great respect. Indeed the acquisition of such men is equivalent to a victory. C. — Though David might expect that his name would be hateful at Geth, as he had slain their great champion, &c. yet he had done it in an open manner, and had displayed the most heroic courage, so that the king and nobility might raise their thoughts above the vulgar sentiments of jealousy and revenge. Salien. — David only retired from the court of this king, to avoid the hatred of the courtiers; he returned again, and was kindly received. C. xxvii. 1. C.

Ver. 11. Land, equal to a king in glory. M. — Perhaps they had heard of the rejection of Saul, and reflected that their own country belonged to him, according to the terms proposed by Goliath. C.

Ver. 13. Countenance. Heb. “sentiment, (C.) or, behaviour.” H. — Chal. “reason.” He no longer acted as a prudent man, but like a fool. — Down; not fainting, (C.) but like one in an epileptic fit. H. — Heb. “he feigned himself mad.” Chal. “stupid.” — Stumbled. Heb. “wrote, or made figures upon.” Sept. “beat the drum upon the gates of the city, and he was carried about, or acted the fool, in his hands, (parephereto en tais chersin, autou: Amama would have, auton, their) and he fell against the doors of the gate,” &c. They seem to give a double translation. S. Aug. says, “we cannot understand how David could be carried in his own hands. But we understand how it was verified in Christ. For Christ was carried in his own hands at his last supper, when he gave, or commending, his own body, he said, This, &c. for he then carried his own body in his own hands.” In Ps. xxxiii. conc. i.) Ferebat enim illud corpus in manibus suis. Amama may laugh at S. Augustine’s ignorance of Hebrew, but the holy doctor was at least a sincere Catholic. H. — Beard. We find some wretched objects doing the same. Mar. ix. 17. The spittle was deemed infectious. Et illic isti qui sputatur, morbus interdum venit. Plautus in Captivis.

Ver. 15. House. David had not rushed into the palace of his own accord, but wished to remain concealed. Some of the people however knew him, and would have him to enlist as one of the soldiers of Achis; (M.) or even designed to get him put to death, which made him have recourse to this expedient. Some of the saints have imitated him, to avoid worldly honours and dignities of the Church. H. — Thus the conduct of Jesus Christ himself, was accounted foolishness by worldlings. Mark iii. 21. Luke xxiii. 11. 1 Corinthians i. 23. V. Bede. W.