David goes to the town of Nob

Chapter 21

David goes to the town of Nob

v1 David went and visited Ahimelech the priest. He lived in the town of Nob. Ahimelech trembled when he went to meet David. Ahimelech asked David, ‘Why are you alone? Why did you come here by yourself?’

v2 David answered, ‘The king has given me a special job to do. He gave me these instructions, “Do not tell anyone where I have sent you. Do not tell them what I have told you to do”. And I have sent my men to meet me at a certain place. v3 Now, do you have anything available? Give me 5 loaves of bread or anything else that you have’.

v4 The priest answered David, ‘I do not have any ordinary bread. I only have some special holy bread. You can have it only if your men have not had sex with women’.

v5 David replied, ‘We have not been near women since we started our journey. The young men always keep themselves holy even when we have an ordinary journey. So they will certainly be holy today’.v6 So the priest gave David the special holy bread because he did not have any other bread. Every day the priest went to the holy place where God appeared. The priest replaced the old bread with some hot, fresh bread.

v7 One of Saul’s servants happened to be there that day. He had to remain near the place where the *Lord appeared for a longer time than usual. His name was Doeg. He came from the country of Edom. He was Saul’s chief *shepherd.

v8 David asked Ahimelech, ‘Do you have a sword or *spear that I could have? The king’s business was so important that I left without a sword or any *weapons’.

v9 Ahimelech answered, ‘The sword that belonged to Goliath the *Philistine is here. He is the man that you killed in the valley of Elah. We wrapped the sword in a cloth and put it behind the *ephod. If you want it, you may take it. We do not have any other sword except that one’.

David said, ‘Give it to me. There is no sword as good as that one’.

Jonathan returned to his home, which was at Gibeah. David went 3 kilometres (2 miles) to the town of Nob. The priests now lived in Nob (22:19) because the *Philistines had destroyed Shiloh. Chapter 7:1 tells us that the *ark of the Lord was in the town of Kiriath Jearim. But the tent where people met with the *Lord was now in Nob. David went to Nob because he needed food and *weapons. Usually Saul sent out David with soldiers, food and *weapons. David did not want the priest to suspect anything. So David lied to him.

Ahimelech was the main priest at that time. He was the grandson of Eli the priest (1:9). In verse 1, his body shook because he was afraid to meet David. He probably thought that David came with authority from King Saul. David told him that Saul had given him a secret job to do. Ahimelech believed all that David said. The only bread that Ahimelech had came from the tent of the *Lord. Leviticus 24:5-9 tells you more about this. Only the priests could eat it because they were clean and holy. But David needed food immediately. In verse 2, David refers to his men. But we do not know which men were with him at this time. Later (22:1-2), David had many men who stayed with him.

Verses 4-5 do not suggest that sex is something bad or dirty. 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 says that a man and his wife should have sex together. But in those days, when people went to the house of the *Lord, they had to be clean in a special way. In the *Old Testament, especially in Leviticus, God gave particular laws about how to be clean for the ceremonies. Leviticus 15:18 describes the law that Ahimelech applied here. These laws reminded people that God was holy. David said that he and his men were clean and holy in this way. Jesus refers to this incident in Luke 6:1-11. He said that we should save a life rather than obey the ceremony laws.

David probably knew that Goliath’s sword was in the house of the *Lord. The priests put it there to give God honour. They put it behind the *ephod that the chief priest wore. God had given David success when he killed Goliath. David was very happy to have that sword again.

In the middle of this account, the writer mentions Doeg. He causes trouble in the next chapter.

David goes to the town of Gath

v10 David escaped from Saul that day. He went to Achish who was the king of the town of Gath. v11 But the servants of King Achish said to him, ‘This man is David, the king of the *Israelites. He is the man that the people sing about when they dance. The people sing, “Saul has killed thousands of people, but David has killed tens of thousands of people”.’

v12 David became very serious. He thought about what the servants said. Then he became very afraid of Achish, king of Gath. v13 When David was near the king or his servants, David pretended to be crazy. He acted like a mad man. He scratched the doors of the gate. He did not swallow the water in his mouth but he let it go all down his beard.

v14 Achish said to his servants, ‘Look at that man. He behaves like a mad man. Why did you bring him to me? v15 I have enough mad men already. I do not need to see another mad man. And I do not want this man to come into my house’.

David left Nob quickly. Perhaps he suspected that Doeg would take information back to Saul. David then went about 50 kilometres (31 miles) to the *Philistine town of Gath. It was one of the 5 main *Philistine towns. The *ark of the Lord went to Gath in 5:8-9. Goliath came from Gath (17:4). Soldiers sometimes left their own army and went to the enemy army. Perhaps that army paid them more or gave them better food. David hoped that no one would recognise him. But the servants of King Achish knew who he was. They knew about David’s fame. The servants called him, ‘king of the *Israelites’. Perhaps they meant that he was the most famous leader in *Israel.

David became very afraid. He was an important enemy of the *Philistines. He knew that King Achish might kill him. David had to escape. So, David pretended that he was a mad man. A ‘mad man’ is someone who is ill in his mind. He behaves in strange ways. People are often afraid of such people. Perhaps that is why Achish sent David away. David wrote Psalm 34 to describe this event.

Later, in chapter 27, David went back to Achish.