1 Samuel 21

I Samuel 21 Devotional
by Pastor Mark Hudson

                       This chapter belongs with the next chapter, but we will try to stay on chapter 21.  Jonathan and the readers know from chapter 20 that Saul wants to kill David.  So, the anointed but not-yet-king is on the run from Saul, the current king.   David is running for his life.

In 21, David first goes to Nob, a city a few miles from Jerusalem.  Nob is where the tabernacle is and 86 priests.  This is a major city for the nation of Israel.  David arrives in Nob and speaks to Ahimelech, the great grandson of Eli and brother to Saul’s chaplain,  to ask for food and whatever else the priest had on hand.  The priest cannot understand why David is alone.  He is afraid when he sees David alone.  Has he heard about the tension between Saul and David?  Does Ahimelech want to stay away from any personal friction between Saul and David? 

Every question that the priest asks David is not clearly answered.  David cannot tell Ahimelech that Saul is trying to kill him, so David is fleeing the king.  Rather, David tells him he had to leave in such a hurry that David had no time to gather food.  David, running for his life, needs food and is saying anything to stay alive.  Ahimelech has no idea what is going on.  Or does he?  We are not told what Ahimelech knows or thinks.  It does appear that David is not good at making up stories.  But David is lying.  The narrator shows no approval or disapproval.  It is not until 22:22 that we see David admitting his role in these gruesome deaths.  Just because a Biblical character does something does not make it right. 

However, David and his men are fed from the temple.  The bread that is kept out showing God’s presence and provision is being changed this day.  So, Ahimelech gives David all the bread (12 large loaves) that has been kept out and is being replaced the same day David arrives (Lev. 24:5-9).  This sounds like a story we know – someone fleeing and being feed by bread from `heaven.’  This is David going into the wilderness like God’s people after the exodus.  Is David trying to protect Ahimelech by keeping from the priest the real story?  As we see in chapter 22, it failed miserably, even violently. 

The Lord Jesus uses this story in Matt. 12:3-4; Mark 2:25-26;  and Luke 6:3-4 to remind His listeners that He is Lord of the Sabbath.  I doubt any of us would draw such a conclusion from this episode in David’s life.  Yet Jesus reminds us that He wrote the story through Samuel and that He is the fulfillment of all Scripture.

It is not until verse 7, that the narrator lets us know additional information.  Doeg, the Edomite, is overhearing the conversation.  This is an ominous note.  Later, we learn that David sees Doeg there.  Then, in the next verse, the conversation turns to Goliath’s sword.  This has been kept by the priests at Nob.  The last time we heard anything about the sword of Goliath, David used it to finish off Goliath (17:51).  Now we learn that the sword was kept here.  Did David know this?  Is this why he came to this city?  Ahimelech is not assisting David in David’s fight against Saul as Doeg wants Saul to understand it (22:10), Ahimelech seems unsure of the situation, and we wonder what he is thinking about what as David is saying all these things.

In 10ff the story is even more unusual.  David takes Goliath’s sword into Goliath’s hometown!  He is so anxious to get away from Saul he goes into Philistia, the very people who are enemies of Israel.  David killed their most famous warrior.  David, with Goliath’s sword appears in Gath.  Is he captured (in their hands v. 13)?  Does he want to appear before Achish, the king of Gath or did he hope to remain incognito?  This is a man on the run, running for his life.  We don’t know if Achish was warming up to the idea of having David in his army fighting against Israel or what causes the servants to say in v. 11, “Is not this David king of the land?”  Here is another group acknowledging David as the King.   But David’s reputation is well known, even quoting the songs about David killing his “ten thousands.” 

We are told that David is very much afraid of Achish in v. 12, the only time we are told David is afraid in the Bible.  Now, the warrior, politician, musician, and shepherd is an actor.  He acts out before Ahimelech but the acting before Achish  and his servants is more convincing.  Achish wants nothing to do with David and kicks him out!  That deceptive acting saved his life. 

This is an unpleasant time for David.  We can’t imagine the inner turmoil, the fear, the looking over his shoulder, and the lifestyle that is unsettling and nomadic.  As you read the narrative, listen carefully to the narrator and follow him.  It is his story he is telling.  While he does not come out and say David was wrong in chapter 21, he lets David tell you in chapter 22. 

Some of the godliest people had difficult lives or rough years.  Think of the prophets, David fleeing Saul, the Apostle Paul, and of course our Lord Jesus.  And many, many believers thoughout the world fill up what is lacking in Christ’s affliction (Col. 1:24).  God used that in David’s life in ways we will only understand in heaven.

No matter the deceit, sin, and treachery from the enemies of God or God’s people, His will cannot be thwarted.  He is not dependent on our obedience yet He deserves it and commands it.  

Father, all things do work together for good for those who love You and are called according to Your purpose.  How you weave all the loss, deceit, rebellion, and treason into the holiness of your people, the growth of the church, and Your glorification of Jesus is beyond us.  We who are always looking down, cause us to look up and not be discouraged.  We flee away from many things so help us to flee to You for our comfort and help.  In the name of the true King – Jesus.  Amen.