Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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1 KINGS - Chapter 21

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1 Kings xxi.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Nobe. A city in the tribe of Benjamin, to which the tabernacle of the Lord had been translated from Silo. (Challoner) --- It was about 12 miles south-west of Gabaa. (Tudelensis.) --- There was another Nobe on the east side of the Jordan, to which Serarius thinks David was three days in travelling. But when David made that assertion, he wished to conceal the real state of his affairs, as he had not seen Saul since he was at Najoth, ver. 5. Nobe was afterwards accounted a sacerdotal city, ver. 19., and 2 Esdras xi. 32. --- Achimelech, who is perhaps the same with Achia (chap. xiv. 3,) and Abiathar, Mark ii. 32. --- With thee. He would not expose his men to the resentment of Saul, (Calmet) though he afterwards gave the priest to understand that he had some attendants, (ver. 2) as the gospel relates, Matthew xii. 3. He dismissed them before he entered Geth. (Calmet)

Ver. 2. The king, &c. This was an untruth, which David, like many other great men, might think lawful in such an emergency. But it is essentially evil. (Calmet) --- And such, which he deems it unnecessary to specify. Septuagint retain the Hebrew words, "Phelanni almoni." See Ruth iv. 1.

Ver. 4. If the young men be clean, &c. If this cleanness was required of them that were to eat that bread, which was but a figure of the bread of life which we receive in the blessed sacrament [the Eucharist]; how clean ought Christians be when they approach to our tremendous mysteries? And what reason hath the Church of God to admit none to be her ministers, to consecrate and daily receive this most pure sacrament, but such as devote themselves to a life of perpetual purity. (Challoner) --- Women. God required this on many occasions, Exodus xix. 15. Urgent necessity determined Achimelech to grant the loaves, as our Saviour intimates, though it is probable that he first consulted the Lord, chap. xxii. 16. (Calmet) --- David perhaps went to Nobe on purpose to ask advice. (Menochius) --- We have here an example of a dispensation, and of the distinction between lay, or common, and holy bread. (Worthington)

Ver. 5. Vessels, i.e., the bodies, have been holy; that is, have been kept from impurity: (Challoner) in which sense St. Paul uses the word, 1 Thessalonians iv. 4. It also includes garments, arms, &c. All was to be clean. Septuagint, "my men are all purified." (Calmet) --- Defiled. Is liable to expose us to dangers of uncleanness, (Challoner) as we shall perhaps have to fight. (Haydock) --- Sanctified. That is, we shall take care, notwithstanding these dangerous circumstances, to keep our vessels holy; that is, keep our bodies from every thing that may defile us. (Challoner) --- The text is very obscure. Hebrew, "the way is impure, because to-day it shall be purified in the vessel." (Calmet) --- Protestants, "and the bread is in a manner common, yea though it were sanctified this day in the vessel." We might eat of it in a case of such necessity. (Haydock) --- Though laics be commonly debarred from tasting of it, we will partake of it with all due respect. (Calmet) --- Septuagint, "the journey is (of a disagreeable nature, or) impure, therefore it will be rendered holy by my vessels," or arms, in the king's cause. (Haydock) --- He seemed to be going towards the infidel nations. (Menochius)

Ver. 7. Within. Hebrew nehtsar, "detained, or assembles before the Lord." Theodoret thinks he was possessed; others believe he had made a vow, &c. --- Edomite. Some Greek copies read, a Syrian, as also chap. xxii. 9. (Calmet) --- He had embraced the Jewish religion. (Menochius)

Ver. 9. This. Chaldean observes, he gave this sword "after he had consulted the Lord with the ephod." In a just war, the ornaments of the temples may be used. Pro republic î plerumque templa nudantur. (Seneca) (Grotius, Jur. iii. 5, 2.) (Calmet) --- Tostatus believes that David would restore this sword, as soon as he had procured other arms.

Ver. 10. Achis. He is elsewhere called Achimelech. This bold step was taken by God's order, (Salien) or secret impulse, as the high priest and Doeg knew not whither David had directed his course. (Haydock) --- Sanchez thinks David received no express declaration, as the event was not very prosperous. (Menochius) --- Many great men have taken refuge among their greatest enemies, as Themistocles, Alcibiades, and Coriolanus fled respectively to the Persians, Lacedæmonians, and Volscians, and were received with great respect. Indeed the acquisition of such men is equivalent to a victory. (Calmet) --- Though David might expect that his name would be hateful at Geth, as he had slain their great champion, &c., yet he had done it in an open manner, and had displayed the most heroic courage, so that the king and nobility might raise their thoughts above the vulgar sentiments of jealousy and revenge. (Salien) --- David only retired from the court of this king, to avoid the hatred of the courtiers; he returned again, and was kindly received, chap. xxvii. 1. (Calmet)

Ver. 11. Land, equal to a king in glory. (Menochius) --- Perhaps they had heard of the rejection of Saul, and reflected that their own country belonged to him, according to the terms proposed by Goliath. (Calmet)

Ver. 13. Countenance. Hebrew, "sentiment, (Calmet) or, behaviour." (Haydock) --- Chaldean, "reason." He no longer acted as a prudent man, but like a fool. --- Down; not fainting, (Calmet) but like one in an epileptic fit. (Haydock) --- Hebrew, "he feigned himself mad." Chaldean, "stupid." --- Stumbled. Hebrew, "wrote, or made figures upon." Septuagint, "beat the drum upon the gates of the city, and he was carried about, or acted the fool, in his hands, (parephereto en tais chersin, autou: Amama would have, auton, their) and he fell against the doors of the gate," &c. They seem to give a double translation. St. Augustine says, "we cannot understand how David could be carried in his own hands. But we understand how it was verified in Christ. For Christ was carried in his own hands at his last supper, when he gave, or commending, his own body, he said, This, &c., for he then carried his own body in his own hands." (In Psalm xxxiii. conc. i.) Ferebat enim illud corpus in manibus suis. Amama may laugh at St. Augustine's ignorance of Hebrew, but the holy doctor was at least a sincere Catholic. (Haydock) --- Beard. We find some wretched objects doing the same, Mark ix. 17. The spittle was deemed infectious. Et illic isti qui sputatur, morbus interdum venit. (Plautus in Captivis.)

Ver. 15. House. David had not rushed into the palace of his own accord, but wished to remain concealed. Some of the people however knew him, and would have him to enlist as one of the soldiers of Achis; (Menochius) or even designed to get him put to death, which made him have recourse to this expedient. Some of the saints have imitated him, to avoid worldly honours and dignities of the Church. (Haydock) --- Thus the conduct of Jesus Christ himself, was accounted foolishness by worldlings, Mark iii. 21., Luke xxiii. 11., and 1 Corinthians i. 23. (Ven. Bede) (Worthington)


Bible Text & Cross-references:

David receiveth holy bread of Achimelech, the priest: and feigneth himself mad before Achis, king of Geth.

1 And* David came to Nobe, to Achimelech, the priest: and Achimelech was astonished at David's coming. And he said to him: Why art thou alone, and no man with thee?

2 And David said to Achimelech, the priest: The king hath commanded me a business, and said: Let no man know the thing for which thou art sent by me, and what manner of commands I have given thee: and I have appointed my servants to such and such a place.

3 Now therefore if thou have any thing at hand, though it were but five loaves, give me, or whatsoever thou canst find.

4 And the priest answered David, saying: I have no common bread at hand, but only holy bread, if the young men be clean, especially from women?

5 And David answered the priest, and said to him: Truly, as to what concerneth women, we have refrained ourselves from yesterday and the day before, when we came out, and the vessels of the young men were holy. Now this way is defiled, but it shall also be sanctified this day in the vessels.

6 *The priest therefore gave him hallowed bread: for there was no bread there, but only the loaves of proposition, which had been taken away from before the face of the Lord, that hot loaves might be set up.

7 Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, within the tabernacle of the Lord: and his name was Doeg, an Edomite, the chiefest of Saul's herdsmen.

8 And David said to Achimelech: Hast thou here at hand a spear, or a sword? for I brought not my own sword, nor my own weapons with me, for the king's business required haste.

9 And the priest said: Lo here is the sword of Goliath, the Philistine, whom thou slewest in the valley of Terebinth, wrapped up in a cloth behind the ephod: if thou wilt take this, take it, for here there is no other but this. And David said: There is none like that, give it me.

10 And David arose and fled that day from the face of Saul: and came to Achis, the king of Geth:

11 And the servants of Achis, when they saw David, said to him: Is not this David, the king of the land? Did they not sing to him in their dances, saying: *Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?

12 But David laid up these words in his heart, and was exceedingly afraid at the face of Achis, the king of Geth.

13 And he changed his countenance before them, and slipt down between their hands: and he stumbled against the doors of the gate, and his spittle ran down upon his beard.

14 And Achis said to his servants: You saw the man was mad: why have you brought him to me?

15 Have we need of mad men, that you have brought in this fellow, to play the madman in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house?



1: Year of the World 2944.

6: Matthew xii. 3. and 4.

11: 1 Kings xviii. 7.; Ecclesiasticus xlvii. 7.