“Now therefore what is under thine hand? give me five loaves of bread in mine hand, or what there is present. And the priest answered David, and said, There is no common bread under mine hand, but there is hallowed bread; if the young men have kept themselves at least from women. And David answered the priest, and said unto him, Of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days, since I came out, and the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in a manner common, yea, though it were sanctified this day in the vessel. So the priest gave him hallowed bread: for there was no bread there but the showbread, that was taken from before the LORD, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away” (1 Samuel 21:3-6).
David’s lie meant that he had to compound his sin before he could receive the holy bread from Ahimelech. David was claiming that he and the men with him were holy enough to eat the showbread, but the opposite was true.
The showbread was dedicated to the Lord; therefore it became holy the moment it was placed before Him. There would have been twelve loaves of bread on the Table of Showbread, of which only the priests could eat. “And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth deals shall be in one cake. And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the LORD. And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the LORD. Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the LORD continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons’; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the LORD made by fire by a perpetual statute” (Leviticus 24:5-9). The bread had been removed from the Table of Showbread, being a day old, and was now warming in an oven.
Ahimelech had compassion for David and gave him the bread. The Law stated that the bread was to remain before the Lord and was for the priests alone, but Ahimelech understood the spirit of the Law too. God is not honoured by strict observance of a rule at the expense of compassion. “At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Matthew 12:1-8). Our duty to those around us is of greater importance to God than keeping rules and regulations. It impossible to serve God and keep His commandments without love. “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10). This is not given as an excuse for doing carnal things on the Lord’s day.
David cheated and lied to receive this hallowed bread. He was God’s chosen man, but he had lost sight of the holiness of God, and as a result did not consider the sanctity of the offering. He even claimed that he and the four men with him were living up to the commandments of the Word of God, “And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives” (Exodus 19:15). David’s lies were so convincing that the priest thought that everything was above board. How can an unholy man eat the holy bread of God without feeling convicted? Though he had fallen from grace, we have to believe that David must have been pierced by the guilt of what he had done. “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). We wonder if Psalm 37:25 has any connection to this, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”
Though David is guilty of many sins in this event, God’s plans and purposes were still on track. David would have to suffer the consequences of his deception and lack of holiness, but for the moment he was under the protective care of God. Maybe Ahimelech ought to have consulted God before accepting David’s word, but the result would have been exactly the same. “But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice” (Matthew 12:7).