1 Samuel
Introduction 1-6 David Comes to Ahimelech 7 Doeg 8-9 David Gets the Sword of Goliath 10-15 David with Achish

David’s way as a fugitive begins. He is outlawed and hunted by Saul. His path begins with two mistakes. His first mistake is that he involves Ahimelech in his case by deceit. The result is that the whole family of Ahimelech is exterminated. His second mistake is that he goes to Achish. At the same time David has written several psalms during his run that express his feelings. In these psalms the Spirit of Christ is expressed.

David Comes to Ahimelech

1Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest; and Ahimelech came trembling to meet David and said to him, “Why are you alone and no one with you?” 2David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has commissioned me with a matter and has said to me, ‘Let no one know anything about the matter on which I am sending you and with which I have commissioned you; and I have directed the young men to a certain place.’ 3Now therefore, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever can be found.” 4The priest answered David and said, “There is no ordinary bread on hand, but there is consecrated bread; if only the young men have kept themselves from women.” 5David answered the priest and said to him, “Surely women have been kept from us as previously when I set out and the vessels of the young men were holy, though it was an ordinary journey; how much more then today will their vessels [be holy]?” 6So the priest gave him consecrated [bread]; for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence which was removed from before the LORD, in order to put hot bread [in its place] when it was taken away.

David first had protection from Samuel. Yet he was not safe there for Saul. His friend, prince Jonathan, was also unable to offer him lasting protection. Now that he is a real fugitive, deprived of all help and protection, he goes to the priest Ahimelech in Nob. He does so to ask the will of God (1Sam 22:1010He inquired of the LORD for him, gave him provisions, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.”). The priest has the urim and tummim to know God’s will.

Ahimelech is surprised that David is alone. There are others with him (Mk 2:2626how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar [the] high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for [anyone] to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?”), but they are probably some of his men and not members of the court of Saul who have gone with him as usual when he had to do something for Saul. Ahimelech does not know that David is on the run and David is also silent about it. Instead of honestly saying that he’s fleeing from Saul, he comes up with a story about a secret command from Saul. He lies to the priest. His trust in the LORD is gone and he lives in fear of men. This brings a person to an action by which a reproach is cast upon the Name of the LORD and others are wronged. He is a warning example for us here.

David asks Ahimelech for two things: bread (verse 33Now therefore, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever can be found.”) and a sword (verse 88David said to Ahimelech, “Now is there not a spear or a sword on hand? For I brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s matter was urgent.”). He wishes five loaves of bread. Ahimelech answers that there is only “holy bread”, that is to say the bread of the Presence (verse 66So the priest gave him consecrated [bread]; for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence which was removed from before the LORD, in order to put hot bread [in its place] when it was taken away.). These have been on the golden table in the holy place for a week and must be replaced by hot or new breads. David may have the old ones for himself and his men on the condition that the men have abstained from their wives.

David replies that the men had no contact with their wives for three days and that “the vessels of the young men were holy”. The “vessels” are their clothing and other personal belongings. Also they have not been in contact with anything unclean (Lev 13:5858The garment, whether the warp or the woof, or any article of leather from which the mark has departed when you washed it, it shall then be washed a second time and will be clean.”; Exo 19:1010The LORD also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments;). The term “vessels” also their bodies may be meant (1Thes 4:3-43For this is the will of God, your sanctification; [that is,] that you abstain from sexual immorality;4that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,).

The old bread has performed its task before the LORD and can now be consumed. The Lord Jesus, the Son of David, approves this conclusion (Mt 12:3-43But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions,4how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?). The Lord refers to this history because it aptly illustrates what His people are doing to Him at that time. He shows with the citation of this history that keeping ceremonial practices is of no value to Him if the King, anointed by God, is rejected by His people.


7Now one of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the LORD; and his name was Doeg the Edomite, the chief of Saul’s shepherds.

In between all activities, the presence of Doeg “that day” is reported. Doeg is there when David appears and may even have heard some things. Why he is at the tabernacle is not mentioned. It seems that this enemy of God’s people is not unreligious. It is said of him that he was “detained before the LORD”. Maybe he has made a vow. If that is the case, his religion is not different from Saul’s religion. He is “one of the servants of Saul”. However, he is not just a servant. Saul has given him a high position, because he is his chief shepherd.

David Gets the Sword of Goliath

8David said to Ahimelech, “Now is there not a spear or a sword on hand? For I brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s matter was urgent.” 9Then the priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the valley of Elah, behold, it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod; if you would take it for yourself, take [it]. For there is no other except it here.” And David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.”

David wants not only bread but also a weapon. To explain why he is unarmed, he says the king’s matter was urgent. Here he lies again. A good warrior will never leave without a weapon. This is a lesson for us that there is no excuse for not taking God and the spiritual weapon of His Word into account in our daily work. Especially when a matter is urgent, it is important to be dependent on God’s guidance through His Word and Spirit.

Ahimelech points out to David the only weapon he can provide, and that is Goliath’s sword, noting that this Philistine was killed by David. He offers David to take it with him. In practical terms, it means that David is not a little boy. Otherwise he would not be able to handle that big sword. Even when he fought against Goliath, he was not a little boy. Already then he had taken this sword and cut off the head of the Philistine with it (1Sam 17:5151Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.). He did not keep it with him then, but as it were he dedicated it to the LORD. That is why it now lies with Ahimelech, behind the ephod.

Here the sword and the ephod are connected. This points out the connection between the Word of God and the service of the Lord Jesus as High Priest. That there is no sword that can match Goliath’s sword applies in absolute terms to the Word of God, which is called “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph 6:1717And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.).

David with Achish

10Then David arose and fled that day from Saul, and went to Achish king of Gath. 11But the servants of Achish said to him, “Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of this one as they danced, saying,
‘Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands’?”
12David took these words to heart and greatly feared Achish king of Gath. 13So he disguised his sanity before them, and acted insanely in their hands, and scribbled on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva run down into his beard. 14Then Achish said to his servants, “Behold, you see the man behaving as a madman. Why do you bring him to me? 15Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this one to act the madman in my presence? Shall this one come into my house?”

David feels compelled to leave his land, the land over which he will reign according to God’s promises. He seeks refuge with Achish, the king of Gath, a Philistine city. Saul will certainly not seek him among Israel’s greatest enemies. Saul will also not dare to get there. However, he is recognized by the servants of Achish. They even call him “the king of the land”. They tell Achish what was sung about David. This song was sung after his victory over the champion of the Philistines (1Sam 18:6-76It happened as they were coming, when David returned from killing the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy and with musical instruments.7The women sang as they played, and said,
“Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands.”

When David notices that he has been recognized, he becomes afraid. Fear is always a bad counselor and an enemy of faith and love. For perfect love drives out fear (1Jn 4:1818There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.). Someone grows and gains victories to the extent that in faith he conquers fear. However, David is not guided by his faith during this period. He knows that the Philistines see in him a mighty enemy which by chance they have gotten in their hands by his coming (Psa 56:11For the choir director; according to Jonath elem rehokim. A Mikhtam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath.
Be gracious to me, O God, for man has trampled upon me;
Fighting all day long he oppresses me.
). He knows no other solution to this problem than to behave like a madman. He presents himself as someone who has lost his mind.

David descends here far below the level of a believer. This is not a stratagem, but a desperate act. A believer who consciously behaves like an idiot gives a totally wrong example. He casts a reproach upon the Name of the Lord. Let's not judge David too harshly. How many times have we consciously behave ourselves differently out of fear of manifestations of enmity in the world and not been witnesses to the Lord Jesus, to put it mildly?

The downfall of David is great. His conduct causes Ahimelech to chases him away (Psa 34:11[A Psalm] of David when he feigned madness before Abimelech, who drove him away and he departed.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
). Certainly, he has escaped from a dangerous situation, but how insulting is his salvation. There is a lot to be ashamed of. What remains is the grace of God.

That God’s grace also plays a role in this whole event, is shown by the two psalms that originated in his heart during his stay with Achish in Gath. [Ahimelech and Achish are two names for the same person. Ahimelech is the title of the prince of the Philistines (Gen 20:22Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.), like ‘Pharaoh’ among the Egyptians. Achish is his own name (1Sam 21:1010Then David arose and fled that day from Saul, and went to Achish king of Gath.).] In the event described here, we see his outward behavior. In both psalms we see what is going on in his heart during that event.

Psalm 56 shows that his outward behavior is not the language of his heart. His heart has gone out to the LORD in these circumstances. Psalm 34 shows what is in his heart when he is afraid of Achish. His heart calls to God and He saves him, for his heart is broken and he has a contrite spirit.

Read more