Useful Bible Studies > 1 Samuel Commentary > chapter 21

Sacred bread

1 Samuel 21:3-4

David had to leave Israel at once, because Saul had decided to kill him. First, David went to Ahimelech, the chief priest, at a town called Nob.

It seems likely that David first asked Ahimelech to inquire of God for him (22:9-10). David needed God to show him where he should go. Clearly, God told David to go to Gath in Philistia (21:10).

That was a long journey: about 40 miles (60 kilometres). So David next asked the chief priest to help him. David needed food for himself and his men on the journey. He asked for bread. However, Ahimelech had no ordinary bread. People in Israel kept grain, not flour; they only prepared bread when they wanted to eat it. It was a long, slow process to make bread, and David needed to leave urgently.

However, there were always 12 large loaves of sacred bread in the tabernacle (the sacred tent which was Godís house). You can read the rules about that bread in Leviticus 24:5-9. Each week, before the Sabbath (Saturday, which was their holy day), the priests replaced that bread with fresh bread. They then ate the bread in a holy place; nobody else could eat it.

David was not a priest, so he had no right to eat that bread. In fact, it was against Godís law for him to eat it. However, David needed food urgently. The chief priest recognised that fact. He probably also understood that God was sending David on a long and important journey. Perhaps he also knew that God had appointed David to be Israelís future king. So he gave the bread to David. David ate it, and he also gave some to his companions.

Jesus taught a lesson from this event in Luke 6:3-5. The purpose of Godís law is to teach people how they can serve him, and not merely to control their behaviour.

Next part: The proper use of something holy (1 Samuel 21:5-6)

 

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© 2014, Keith Simons.