Old Testament

1 Samuel 21
David and the Priests
211David came to Ahimelek the priest at Nob. When he came to meet David, Ahimelek was trembling with fear, and he said to David, “Why are you alone? Why isn't there anyone with you?”[]
2David said to Ahimelek the priest, “The king sent me on a mission and told me, ‘Don't let anyone know anything about where I am sending you or about your orders.’ I have instructed the young men to wait for me at a certain place. 3So what do you have on hand? Please give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is available.”
4The priest answered David, “I do not have any ordinary bread, but there is holy[] bread—I can give it to you[] only if your young men have kept themselves away from women.”[]
5David answered the priest, “Yes indeed, women have been kept away from us just as they have been on previous occasions. Whenever I go out on a mission, the bodies[] of the young men are kept holy even if it is only an ordinary journey. How much more then shall their bodies be holy today?”
6So the priest gave him holy bread, because there was no bread there except for the Bread of the Presence which had been removed from the presence of the Lord and replaced with hot bread.
7Now one of Saul's servants was present that day, detained before the Lord. His name was Doeg the Edomite. He was in charge of Saul's shepherds.
8David said to Ahimelek, “Don't you have a spear or sword on hand here? I didn't bring my sword or my gear with me, because the king's mission was so urgent.”
9The priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here. It is wrapped in a cloth behind the place where the special vest is kept. If you would like to take that, take it, because there is nothing else here.”
David said, “There is no other like that one. Give it to me.”
David Among the Philistines
10David quickly fled from Saul that day and went to Achish king of Gath. 11The officials of Achish said to him, “Isn't this David, the king of the land? Didn't they dance and sing songs about him, saying, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?”
12David took those words to heart, so he was very afraid of Achish king of Gath. 13He changed his behavior in their presence and pretended to be insane while he was in their hands. He scribbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spit run down his beard. 14Then Achish said to his servants, “Look, can't you see that the man is insane? Why have you brought him to me? 15Don't I have enough madmen? Did you have to bring this madman into my presence? Should I keep this man in my house?”


  • 21:1 In the Hebrew text, chapter 21 starts at English 20:42. In chapter 21, the rest of the Hebrew verse numbers are one number higher than the English verse numbers.
  • 21:4 In this context holy means ceremonially pure or set aside for a sacred purpose.
  • 21:4 The words I can give it to you are added to make the sentence clear in English.
  • 21:4 Sexual relations made a man ceremonially unclean, as did touching a woman during her period.
  • 21:5 Literally vessels. Some translations understand this as a reference to the men's weapons, but it is clear from the priest's question that he is concerned about the effect of sexual relations on the purity of their bodies.