1 Samuel 21

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Read 1 Samuel 21

David at Nob

1 David went to Nob, to Ahimelek the priest. Ahimelek trembled when he met him, and asked, “Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?”

David answered Ahimelek the priest, “The king sent me on a mission and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about the mission I am sending you on.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.”

But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here—provided the men have kept themselves from women.”

David replied, “Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out. The men’s bodies are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!” So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away.

Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the Lord; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief shepherd.

David asked Ahimelek, “Don’t you have a spear or a sword here? I haven’t brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king’s mission was urgent.”

The priest replied, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one.”

David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.”

David at Gath

10 That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. 11 But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances:

“‘Saul has slain his thousands,
    and David his tens of thousands’?”

12 David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. 13 So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.

14 Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? 15 Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?”

Go Deeper

This chapter is the beginning of Saul’s pursuit of David: a high-speed, action-packed chase full of many twists and turns. Leading up to this point, a lot has happened: the ark of the covenant was lost and recovered; Samuel became a priest and anointed both Saul and David; Jonathan helped David escape from the murderous wrath of his own father—the list could go on for a while. 

At this point in the story, David has just left his home and his best friend. He is alone, tired, and hungry. He runs to a nearby town and finds the priest, asking for help. Here, David lies to the priest to get food, which may seem harmless at first glance, but has disastrous implications that will be explored in the next chapter. 

In response to David’s plea for food, the priest gives David the only food available—the Bread of Presence. In this time, it was practice for a priest to enter the Holy Place in the Tabernacle with twelve freshly baked pieces of bread. This bread symbolized God’s presence and His care for our physical needs, and the bread that was replaced was to be eaten only by the priests. So, how does this apply to our story today? David ate the bread, even though he wasn’t a priest. Did God punish him for violating the law? Did lightning rain down from the heavens to strike him dead? No. David simply got the bread and the sword he had used to chop off Goliath’s head, and he left. 

God is just, but He is also loving and understanding. He put the law in place to help His people remember that they would never measure up to His standards. In this reading, the priest put David’s needs and life ahead of religious ceremony because of the higher law of love. The laws were put in place to show the people how to live, but God also commands us to do good and to value life. Sin has consequences, but God is forgiving and understanding. Let’s remember that as we continue in our daily lives.


  1. What qualities do we see God display in this chapter?
  2. How did David fall short of God’s standards in this chapter? How have you fallen short recently?
  3. Read Matthew 12:1-8, in which the author references these events. What is one takeaway from this passage?

By The Way

Many of David’s psalms were written during this period of pursuit. In Psalms 18, 52, 53, and 57, we can see David’s many emotions during this time, but also his faith in God’s deliverance and His promises. 

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3 thoughts on “1 Samuel 21”

  1. Ella Snodgrass

    David must have been thinking that desperate times call for desperate measures, especially when your life is at stake. When faced with life’s challenges, I’m grateful for the gift of the Holy Spirit who gives wisdom, understanding, counsel, and fear of the Lord. Turning toward, tuning my heart & tapping into this gift will keep my feet on the straight and narrow path and my feet from stumbling.

  2. Historically, instead of having a fear of the Lord, I have had a fear of man (or woman in regards to my wife). Ever since I was a victim of assault when I was 20, I have lived with a sense of fear of others – especially those in authority. But even if they weren’t in a position of authority, if they acted intimidating, often I would be afraid to confront them. Now at 45, this approach to life I see does not serve me nor help me to achieve the great things I long to accomplish in life. Therefore, I must move beyond fearing others and fearing my destiny and call upon the Lord to be my victor. I no longer want to act like a madman nor like a man scared of his own shadow. I’m ready to embrace the challenges ahead for I only have so much time before I die and I’m not getting any younger. It’s time I rise above the ashes and take my stand.

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