Shmuel 1-Chapter 21: Dovid flees from Shaul to the city of Nov and Gath

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Chapter 21: Dovid flees from Shaul to the city of Nov and Gath

1. Dovid and Yehonason

  • They [i.e. Dovid and Yehonason] left each other’s presence and Yehonason and went towards the city.

2. Dovid arrives in the city of Nov:

  • Dovid arrived in the city of Nov, by Achimelech the Kohen. Achimelech came towards Dovid with trepidation asking him why he is alone and why no man has come with him [despite being the son in law of the king and the general of his army[1]].
  • Dovid tells Achimelech that Shaul sent him on a secret mission: Dovid [cunningly] replied to Achimelech the Kohen [so that he would not suspect him for running away from the king[2]] that the king had instructed him something [i.e. a secret mission] and he told him that he should not inform anyone of this matter for which he was sent, and that he instructed him. The lads that had left with him were sent off to a certain undisclosed location.
  • Dovid asks for bread to eat: Now, what you have under your arm, please give me five loaves of bread or whatever you have available. The priest answered Dovid and told him, “I do not have any mundane bread under my hand but rather holy bread [i.e. Lechem Hapanim[3]] which can only be fed to those who are pure from the impurity of being with a woman [and hence they cannot be given to your lads unless they are pure].” Dovid replied to the priest and told him: “We have not been with a woman for two days, since we left, and the vessels of the lads are pure and holy, while the bread that you have is now mundane [being that it has left the Shulchan, and thus no longer has a status of holiness of the Lechem Hapanim]. Furthermore, even if in truth it were to be holy thing that I am in danger and must eat.” So, the priest gave him holy bread as there was no other bread that they had but the bread of the Lechem Hapanim which was placed in front of G-d and replaced with new bread when it was removed, and even when it was removed it still remained hot.

3. Doeg Hadomi was present by Achimelech that day:

  • On that day [that Dovid arrived to Nov] there was a certain man from the servants of Shaul would stop before G-d [to study Torah before the Ohel Moed[4]]. His name was Doeg the Edomite [as he lived in Edom even though he was a Jew from birth[5]] who was the head of the Beis Din of Shaul and carried the title “Abir Haroim.”

4. Dovid requests weapons from Achimelech:

  • Dovid said Achimelech, “Do you have a spear or sword, as I did not take with me my sword or other weapons, as the instruction from the king was urgent for me to fulfill right away.”
  • Dovid takes the sword that he used to kill Goliath: The priest replied to Dovid that the sword of Goliath the Philistine which you used to smite him in the valley of Ala is wrapped in a garment. [Achimelech only told this to Dovid after he had first asked the Urim Vitumim which is[6]] behind the Eiphod. [Alternatively, the sword was hanging in an area that was behind the Eiphod.[7]] “You may take this sword if you desire as there is no other sword available but this one.” So, Dovid replied that there is none like it please give it to me.

 5. Dovid runs away to Gath:

  • Dovid got up and fled [from Israel[8]] on that day from Shaul and he arrived by Akish the king of Gath [otherwise known as Avimelech[9]]. The servants of Akish said to him “Is this not Dovid the king of the land, and is not the man whom they dance and sing to saying that Shaul killed thousands while Dovid killed tens of thousands?” Dovid paid attention to these words entering them into his heart, and it caused him to have great fear of Akish the king of Gath.
  • Dovid acts like a person who is insane: Dovid made himself appear like an insane person, acting erratically. He sat by the doors of the gate and drooled on his beard. Akish then said to his servants, “Look at this man who is insane, why should you bring him to me? Do I lack insane people that you have brought me this man to make me crazy? Can I enter this man into my house [as I already have an insane wife and insane daughter and don’t need any more insane people at home[10]]?”


[1] Mahariy Karo 21:2

[2] Mahariy Karo 21:2

[3] See verse 21:7 and Rashi ibid, however see Radak ibid that he was given from the breads of the Todah offering which are permitted to be given to non-priests, as opposed to the Lechem Hapanim which may not be given to non-priests. This matter is debated amongst the Mefarshim.

[4] Rashi 21:8; See however Metzudos David ibid that in truth this term means that he was appointed that in truth this term means that he was appointed the head shepherd of the sheep of the king

[5] Metzudos Tziyon 21:8

[6] Rashi 21:10

[7] Radak 21:10

[8] Radak 21:11

[9] Radak 21:11

[10] Metzudos David 21:16

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