Friday, September 23, 2011

Sourdough Sabbath

Jesus revealed that it is God's pleasure to keep things hidden from certain people, and that He is selective about to whom He shows God. Then Jesus claimed that obeying and following Him was an easy burden and a light yoke, but the reality seems quite the contrary. Next, we move into a couple anecdotes about the Sabbath.

Sourdough Sabbath
If anyone should know what is in the Bible, it is God. The Bible is called the Word of God for a reason. All but the most liberal believers consider the content of the Bible to be at least divinely inspired, if not divinely dictated. It is no surprise, then, that Jesus should know the Bible well, given that He is part of God. The Gospels even record the authority with which Jesus spoke about the Scriptures (Matthew 7:29, Mark 1:21-22, Luke 4:31-32). So what are we to think when Jesus gets it wrong?

Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 2:23-28, and Luke 6:1-5 all record the story of how Jesus and His disciples were walking through a field of grain one Sabbath. The disciples were hungry, so they picked some grain and ate it. Coincidentally, some Pharisees happened to be around to see this act, and they confronted Jesus because they thought that gathering grain on the Sabbath was against God's Law.

The response Jesus provided varied a little, depending on which Gospel account you read. However, Matthew 12:3-4, Mark 2:25-26, and Luke 6:3-4 all strike on the same chord as part of the reply. As Matthew 12:3-4 renders it:
[Jesus] answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated breadwhich was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests." NIV

It is interesting to note that in Jesus' response, He implicitly confirms that the work involved in picking the grain would indeed be against God's Law. As we learned in Numbers 15:32-36 where God commanded for a man be stoned to death for gathering wood on a Sabbath, God takes such a transgression very seriously. Yet here, in this case, Jesus seems a little more lenient.

It is also interesting to note that neither David nor Jesus' disciples were to the point of starving to death when they made this transgression. At least that is not the way either story is framed. Besides, Jesus had previously reminded everyone that man does not live by bread alone but by God's will during a 40 day period fasting when He was tempted by Satan. That is a great reminder that this religion promotes fasting! So for Jesus' disciples to skip eating grain to honor the Sabbath should have been no big deal at all!

Yet, perhaps the most interesting parts of this whole affair is the story which Jesus references and the way in which He does so. If you did not know anything of the story, you might get the impression that David walked into the temple and took the sacred bread because he and his companions were hungry. That is not at all what happened...

In 1 Samuel 20, Jonathan, David's beloved friend and one of King Saul's sons, discovers that Saul is planning on killing David. So at the end of the chapter, David is fleeing. Fleeing by himself.

The part which Jesus references is in 1 Samuel 21:1-9. In the town of Nob, David seeks out Ahimelek the priest. Ahimelek is surprised to find David traveling alone. David lies to Ahimelek, saying that he is on a secret mission given to him by the king, and that his men are in a secret meeting spot. David does not say “I am hungry, do you have anything to eat?” Instead he demands five loaves of bread, or whatever Ahimelek can find. Ahimelek says that the only bread around is the consecrated bread (reference Leviticus 24:5-9) which David and his men could have, provided they had kept themselves from women! David continues the lie, saying that his men's bodies are holy (thus implying that having sex with women, even their own wives, would have made them unholy!).

Before leaving the temple, David took the sword of Goliath there, which was further proof that he was not with companions, as anyone would have given a leader, such as David, a weapon. According to 1 Samuel 21:10-15, later that same day David fled to the presence of Achish, the king of Gath, where David (all by himself) pretended to be insane for his own protection.

Jesus was wrong. David did not share the bread with his companions. David was fleeing for his life alone. How is it possible that Jesus does not know the Word of God? Furthermore, David procured this consecrated bread by lying to one of God's anointed priests, which is not exactly a good example to follow.

Finally, from the way in which Jesus made the reference to this story, you may think that anything David did, be it against God's Law or not, was OK to do. If so, you would be right, almost. Check out 1 Kings 15:5:
For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite. NIV

Jesus claimed that it was against God's Law for David and his imaginary companions to eat the consecrated bread. God said that David upheld all of His commands (implicitly including God's Law) except for the case of Uriah. (Uriah was Bathsheba's husband. David had Uriah killed in battle after David impregnated Bathsheba. Reference 2 Samuel 11.) Who is right, God or Jesus?

It turns out that they are both wrong. Jesus was wrong about David's companions. God was wrong because of David eating the consecrated bread and because David had many wives, something prohibited according to Deuteronomy 17:17. How many many wives David had is not certain. He had three before becoming king (1 Samuel 25:42-44), he had some other random wife Eglah (2 Samuel 3:5), then he “took more concubines and wives” after becoming King of Judah (2 Samuel 5:13), then upon becoming King of all of the Israelites he took King Saul's (unnumbered) wives (2 Samuel 12:8), and, of course, he married Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:27).

That, my friends, is a double strike against both Biblical inerrancy and divine omniscience. When Jesus gets the Bible wrong, and God does too, you have pretty good evidence suggesting that, at best, there are errors recorded in the Bible, and, at worst, that it is all make believe and man-made.


  1. I'm really enjoying your exploration of Biblical inconsistencies. Keep up the good work.

  2. TWF:
    On this point of David's men, I found this explanation from here:


    One of Saul's herdsmen named Doeg observed David with Ahimelech and reported it to Saul. This led to 85 priests being slaughtered. (I Samuel 22)

    In Psalm 52 David says of Doeg, "You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking the truth." Many other Psalms of David similarly criticize lies. (7:14; 34:13; 36:3; 38:12; 58:3; 62:4; 63:11; 101:7; 144:8, 11)

    David, in I Samuel 21:2, did not overtly lie but spoke truths that could be misunderstood – he used ambiguity. His claim "The king has charged me with a matter…" was probably assumed by Ahimelech to mean King Saul.

    However, "king" could also refer to:

    God since to the Israelites God was king (I Samuel 12:12; Psalm 5:2);
    David himself, since David had been anointed as king by Samuel. (Chapter 16)

    Therefore, "The king has charged me with a matter…" was true. The "matter" was that David should act on his anointing and progress toward becoming actual king. Saul "charged" David with this "matter" indirectly by forcing David's hand by seeking to kill him, and God, in David's viewpoint, had "charged" him with this "matter" when Samuel the prophet anointed him.

    David's first statement to Ahimelech, therefore, was not an outright lie but a truth worded ambiguously. What about his subsequent statements?


    Let's get a bird's eye view of I Samuel 10-22:

    Chapter 10. Samuel anointed Saul as king after which Saul lived in his home town, Gibeah.
    Chapter 16. Samuel anointed David to replace Saul as king.
    Chapter 17. David killed Goliath and entered Saul's service.
    Chapter 18. David moved to Gibeah (18:2), was befriended by Saul's son Jonathan, became an army commander, survived several attempts by Saul to kill him, and married Saul's daughter.
    Chapter 19. Under sentence of death David fled his house at night, went to Ramah (Samuel's birthplace 1:19-20) and "dwelt" with Samuel in Naioth (a part of Ramah).
    Chapter 20. David fled from Naioth to Gibeah, met Jonathan, and learned that Saul still wanted him dead.
    Chapter 21. The "holy bread" incident with Ahimelech at Nob. That same day David fled to Gath (Goliath's home-town).
    Chapter 22. David escaped to the cave of Adullam where 400 men joined him.

    In Chapters 20 and 21 David seems a solitary fugitive travelling alone except for his statement to Ahimelech about rendezvousing with his men. Since David asked for five loaves, let's assume he's implying there were four men.

    The four men could have joined David at Ramah/Naioth because:
    And he [David] and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth. (19:20)

    "Dwelt" implies a lengthy stay, which is borne out by the rest of the chapter. Therefore, at Naioth there was time and opportunity for David's first active supporters to arrive.

    In Chapter 20 David fled from Naioth and consulted with Jonathan at Gibeah. (20:11)

  4. Jonathan agreed to sound out Saul's attitude during the feast of the new moon and report to David two days later. (20:5, 12) David would meanwhile hide in a field.

    Note the time periods:

    20:5, 18 Tomorrow is the new moon
    20:24 …when the new moon came, the king sat down to eat food.
    20:27-34 But on the second day, the morrow after the new moon…Jonathan ate no food the second day of the month…
    20:35 In the morning Jonathan went out into the field to the appointment with David…

    For two days and parts of two more "David hid himself in the field…" (20:24) David and any men keeping watch or scouting around would have been extremely hungry.

    After hearing from Jonathan that King Saul still wanted him dead David walked SE, 8km, from Gibeah to Nob (near Jerusalem).

    Nob was the location of the tabernacle – the elaborate tent which constituted the centre of Israelite worship and where the "showbread" or holy bread was kept. (Exodus 25:30; Leviticus 24:5ff)

    At Gibeah David had exercised great caution to stay inconspicuous. Why then did he go to Nob, which bustled with activity? Probably because:

    David had not eaten at least 3 days and at Nob there should be food;
    David had no network of safe-places to go to;
    To get Goliath's sword – metal weapons were scarce;
    It was only 8km.

    Ahimelech wanted assurance that David's men were pure enough to eat holy bread and therefore asked if they had been with women. David said:

    Indeed women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition; the vessels of the young men are holy even when it is a common journey; how much more today will their vessels be holy?

    The law required that a man who had sexual intercourse be ritually unclean until he bathed. (Leviticus 15:18) Men going into battle also had to be sexually clean. (Deuteronomy 23:10ff) This involved a three-day abstinence from sex. (Exodus 19:15)

    David had hidden three days in the field at Gibeah. Previous to that David "dwelt" with Samuel at Naioth. The time requirement for sexual holiness fits with men having joined David at Naioth who were now rendezvousing with him near Nob. David's story rings true.

    "Holy bread" was for priests. The loaves were made from 2/10 of an "ephah" of flour. (Exodus 25:30; Leviticus 24:5-9) An ephah was a measure of capacity equal to 22 litres. Therefore David wanted bread equivalent to 22 litres of flour – (i.e. 2/10 x 22 x 5).

    Ahimelech gave David the sword of Goliath stored in the tabernacle because David said he had no weapons. Again this rings true since David had left his wife hurriedly at night (19:11-12) without opportunity to take weapons.

    David left Ahimelech that same day (21:10) and fled 40km west to Gath the home town of Goliath.

    Carrying five loaves plus Goliath's sword, and walking 40km after three days without food seems too strenuous – unless David shared the loaves and did not carry them.

    At Gath the Philistines recognized David, which made him afraid:

    So he changed his behavior before them; he pretended to be mad when in their presence. He scratched marks on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle run down his beard. (I Samuel 21:13; Psalm 34 & 56)

    Then David fled Gath and went SE to the "cave of Adullam" where 400 men joined him:

    David departed there [Gath] and escaped to the cave of Adullam; and when his brothers and all of his father's house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt; and everyone who was discontented, gathered to him; and he became captain over them. And there were with him about four hundred men. (22:1-2; Psalm 57, 142)

    How did these 400 men from far and wide "hear" where David was?

  5. David would not have told the Philistines where he was going next. Nor could David press-gang strangers to pass word since they might report to King Saul or to the Philistines.

    The plausible answer is David's men.

    David must have had a few men who joined him at Naioth as watchmen and messengers and contacted trusted supporters.

    The non-mention of these men in Chapters 19-21 is explained if they travelled separately except for several rendezvous.

    Furthermore, in the Bible bodyguards, messengers, entourages and servants are not mentioned unless there's good reason. At Saul's feast on the new moon only Saul, Jonathan and a commander are mentioned. Yet, others such as servants and guards must have been present. At Nob we initially meet only Ahimelech as if he lived there alone – in the next chapter, however, we realize that 85 priests and their families implies hundreds of people.

    Even whole armies are sometimes only implied. For example, when David was still in Saul's service we read:

    And there was war again; and David [alone?] went out and fought with the Philistines, and made a great slaughter among them… (19:8)

    If people are often unmentioned even when they're swarming all around why shouldn't four men travelling separately also remain unmentioned in a narrative?

    After 400 men joined David at the cave of Adullam he became a guerrilla marauder. Only then does I Samuel repeatedly mention his "men". (22:6; 23:3, 5, 8, 13, 24, 26; 24:2, 3, 4, 6, 7 etc)

    This is because there were no longer just four, but 400 and then 600. And most were close and not scouting around. It was the beginning of David getting significant support from the population. The 600 men also did stuff that directly involved David. They "came", they "said", they "fought with the Philistines". (23:3, 5; 24:4, 6) Nevertheless, many verses still mention only David when context shows other men are included. (22:5; 23:14, 19, 25, 29; 24:8; 25:2)


    David's statement to Ahimelech about having men (21:2-5) was truthful because:

    David spent enough time at Ramah/Naioth for some men to meet him there;
    Except for his initial ambiguity David was truthful with Ahimelech;
    It required "men" to pass word to, and summon 400 supporters.

    David's men were otherwise unmentioned because they were few and rendezvoused with him infrequently."

    I do, however, think it would be at least fair to characterize what David said in this explanation (a truth worded in a "deliberately ambiguous" manner. You may already be familiar with this explanation, though.

  6. Hello Felix,

    Thanks for the comments! I regret that I am up against some tight constraints tonight, but hope to provide an answer to you tomorrow evening. I'm not even really able to fully consider them tonight. :-( Such is life. But I am looking forward to reading, considering, and responding.

    In the mean time, I invite you to ponder to yourself the following question, and perhaps share the response upon your consideration:

    What made you compelled to respond to this particular post?

  7. TWF:

    Ran into a response while on the internet.

    Gnawing Conscience. I mentioned in one of my previous posts about being caught on a "even demons believe and tremble" range of belief--putting stock into both the Bible, reports of the miraculous, etc. yet being stubborn and having some opposition to the presentation of persons in the book. Nevertheless, being in such a state of belief puts some drive to respond against objections which would impede against the untimely fate threatened therein.

  8. Thanks for responding, sorry for repeatedly sending choppy comments.

  9. Hello Felix! You mention your posts... assuming that is from a blog, would you like to share your blog address? Clicking on you name only pulls up the Google+ profile, which does not have a link to your blog.

    Do not worry about the choppy comments. I have left a couple before too, and I will have to here!

    The resource you copied from obviously spent a lot of time gathering information in an attempt to be thorough. That is good, but it can be perilous when doing so from the perspective of already "knowing" the answer, that what Jesus is recorded as saying must be right. When you "know" the answer, you have a tendency to skip over details which may run contrary to your belief in a flaw that all of us experience known as cognitive bias.

    That is not to say that I can absolutely prove that the conclusion made in that argument is wrong, but I believe I can provide enough of a counterargument to make that conclusion seem rather weak.

    For example, here is a very significant point to David's mission from the "king", where David claimed "The king has charged me with a matter..." and that that matter was for David to start becoming the king. However, if you look at what follows in the later interactions between David and Saul, it is quite clear that David goes out of his way not to become king while Saul lived, because Saul was God's anointed leader (even though omniscient God regretted anointing him 1 Samuel 15:11). David could have seized the throne, but instead waited for it to be delivered according to God's timeline.

    The response makes use of many inflated assumptions, often to build the case for men traveling with David, despite having much more simple reasoning available to explain what happened. Here are a few:

  10. 1) No safe place for David: Unlikely. David was a national hero, both for slaying Goliath and for leading many successful war campaigns. The people loved him, chanting
    “Saul has slain his thousands,
    and David his tens of thousands.”
    More likely is that there was inherently a network of people who loved David and supported him, but also a group that was devoutly loyal to the throne (in no small part from wanting to obey God's Law), and it was this latter group that provided the real, limited risk.

    2) David had to have men traveling with him to spread the word: Not really. I think it is much more likely that word spread like wildfire when Saul flipped out and tried to kill David, the national hero, without any kind of provocation.

    3) David had no food while hiding in the field: Really? A man with a killer sling-shot accuracy and the ability to successfully plan massive war campaigns was unable to figure out that he may want to bring some supplies along while waiting to hear from Jonathan?

    4) Multiple loaves of bread must mean multiple people: Or, instead, could it just mean that David was using some forethought, not knowing for certain when he would get to gather supplies again, and so was procuring extra supplies for himself in case he had to travel far to get away from Saul's loyalist network?

    5) 40 km is too long to walk carrying bread and a sword: Hardly. I'm only in above-average shape, and I've done 35+ km in one day of hiking, with a full pack of gear on my back. And I spend most of my time sitting in office chairs and driving when I need to go places. I suspect David was more fit than I am.

    6) David criticizes lying, so he would never do it: Really? So, all lying is bad, even in cases of self-preservation? That is not what the Bible shows, such as when the midwives protected the Jewish newborns in Egypt by lying, or Rahab who helped the Israelite spies in Jericho by lying.

    So, I think you can see that there are some potential issues with the defense you found. I will leave it to you to determine which you think is the more reasonable story.

    On a side note, and because it was mentioned above, have you ever thought about how odd it is that becoming "one flesh" with your other half could possibly make you unholy?

    Anyway, thanks for sharing the counter-position. It was great to read through.

  11. TWF:

    As far as whether or not David lied, I am certain he did. It's more of a matter of how much he lied. For example, David was at least truthful when he said that he had been away from women (some translations indicate for three days, corresponding to his time in the field).

    Some response to some of your points:

    2.) His argument, I think, rests more on spreading information about David outside of the borders of Israel. If it was not required while David was in the inhabited city of Gath, it probably would have been necessary once he went out to the Cave of Adullam, as, while it was near a city--scratch some of that, the cave may have been located outside of Adullam, which was a city (near Gath) in the territory allotted to Judah (, hopefully reliable). I suppose I can guess a response. I may be missing information that would have put the cave in Phillistine territory at the time, however. Minding, I think the failure of Saul to discover where David was until after 400 people gathered at Adullam--which appears to indicate a difficulty in the dissemination of information--lends credibility on this point. This might also be used to reason against 4.)

    3.) On this point, it should be remembered he is also the sort of man that wasn't carrying a sword while his life was at risk (as evidenced by his request for a weapon). This instance of wanting foresight may also be pushed to legitimize David's decision to appear before Ahimilek in person rather than sending a companion, with his encounter with Doeg the Edmomite to explain why he later, going with that author's idea, spread the word by proxy rather than in person.

    On the general point of whether or not there were men with David, it appears the opinion he was--to some extent--accompanied is also held outside of Christianity (i.e. from my reading, at least on entry on a Jewish website that I stumbled on)

    a.) Generally, if the attribution of at least 1 Psalm is correct--Psalm 34--would appear to indicate David had access to at least minimal writing supplies, which may have required someone to purchase for him, or to have had on hand. That said, it may have been written after he had a 400 man army.

    On the aforementioned point of my conscious, it was also due to the fact that I felt quickly convinced by at least some of the writer's argument after spending several days going through Farrel Till's pro-error argument and responses to Turkel/ J.P. Holding.

    Thanks for responding.

  12. Second note:
    On the point of the relationship between David's claim of having companions somewhere, I almost think the "David lied" option is more understandable, as it can put the proposed men nearer to him than in some undisclosed and unmentioned city (unless its Gath in Phillistia). The only thing that may be agreed upon by both sides is that David met with Abimilech alone.

  13. TWF:
    On 1.) and 3.), I'm not certain the information would have been allowed to get out much farther than the royal house (since David was a national hero). Moreover, the text only appears to mention that it became known Saul was made to prophesy naked while going towards Ramah, and, given that such is also claimed to have happened to his messengers, an attempt on the part of Saul to seize David at least at that point may have gone unnoticed. That is, first because the attempt was prematurely cut off (concealing the attempt), second because of the spread of what was heard about Saul doing (covering his attempted violence with a more embarrassing tale).

    On the side note, no. Now that I think about it, however, this appraisal seems to continue (maybe redouble in the New Testament). At the very least I think one of the Epistles to the Corinthians mention abstaining from intercourse for the sake of fasting to seek the Lord.


  14. TWF:

    If I really wanted to raise quibbles about things that are not mentioned that would be necessary for David to take 5 loaves as supplies, I might bring up that it is never mentioned (or hinted in any significant form) he had a bag, although this is less than several men, and a bag may have been required to help carry 5 loaves to wherever the men would have been. Thinking about it, it's possible the writer had been thinking a distance would have been too far to traverse without a bag (that is, with 5 loaves cradled in his arms and his sword, I guess, in his sash) but did not bring up that part of their thinking.

    Side note: The mention of three days appears to be a variant in translation. Some seem to translate the phrase along the lines of "yesterday, the day before, and the third day" or "heretofore" (which appear to be more literal), others as "these three days since I came out" or such. This seems to result in a a myriad of translations that vary in truth content (some seeming to tie into David's time in the field, others more into his initial lie about being on a "secret mission" from the king). The LXX appears to have gone for the third day rendering, as well as the translation available on (an Orthodox Jewish website).

    Thanks for spending time responding to my comments, and you're welcome for putting up a counter-posiiton.

  15. Thanks for the replies, Felix.

    It is rather difficult to come to a definite resolution on issues like these because all of the information you would want to build a case one way or another is not in the text, so we are forced to rely on implications, speculations, and extrapolations. Even so, I still think that the bulk of evidence favors the David-was-alone hypothesis. And, as I think about it again this morning, David procuring the consecrated bread is an even more compelling reason to believe so. Why?

    Let us suppose that David was in fear for his life, and he had men at his disposal who he was traveling with. Naturally, these men, (who were just common men, not uniformed soldiers in David's army to where they would be easily identifiable as David's men) would have had great liberty to walk into towns inconspicuously. There is a need for food. Which option below makes more sense to get food:

    a) Have the wanted man, David, go into town, to a public place, speak to a public figure, and grab bread that was against God's Law for him to eat?
    b) Have one or more of his men go into town to procure food?

    Anyway, about your replies... which I managed to publish out of order somehow. :-( I'll try to respond in your order

    A Bag) It is difficult to say how good of an argument the having/not having a bag for carrying is, but it is an interesting point.

    Number of days) It does get a little confusing at times with translations and interpretations because the Jewish day, as you know, begins at nightfall, so the next day can mean later that night in our vernacular. I suspect that is where some of the discrepancy comes into play.

    Information escaping) I operate with the hypothesis that people today act essentially like people back then, with exceptions owed to the culture, norms, etc. specific to that time and location. Before David had fled, Saul had already tried to attack David twice in the palace (1 Samuel 18:10-11). (By the way, 1 Samuel 18:16 explicitly states how the nation loved David.) (This was before David paid for his wife with 100 foreskins. Yuck.) David then led more successful war campaigns. 1 Samuel 19:1-3 opens with Saul telling a lot of people that he wants David dead, but was later convinced by Jonathan not to kill him. David again led another successful war campaign. Saul then personally attacks David in the palace again (1 Samuel 19:9-10). And then we catch up to the point where Saul sends troops to capture and kill David. So, at this point in time, a lot of people already know that Saul wants David dead. Michal, David's wife, explicitly knows this as well (1 Samuel 19:11). I submit to you that the information had already been leaked outside of the palace walls. People are generally not good at keeping scandalous information like that a secret unless they are specifically trained to do so, and even then it is difficult, if not impossibly, when those keeping the secret are highly opposed to keeping that information secret, which would certainly be the case in wanting to slay a public hero who had done so much for their nation.

  16. Sword/wanting foresight) Remember that he escaped from his house through a window, and was trying to do so without capturing the attention of the guys who were there to kill him (1 Samuel 19:11-13). Not carrying a weapon at that time may have been a deliberate choice to keep from making noise while escaping. Also, not getting a sword until later may have been the result of strategic thinking, as he became more aware that hanging out in cities may not be the best thing for him to be doing at this time, he started to prepare for the potential of traveling/staying in rural areas, where supplies and the rule of law were not as readily available. So what did he do? Grab a lot of food and a way to protect himself from bandits, animals, etc. that he may encounter in his travels.

    Interesting about the Jewish website information. Given the grand tradition of Jewish exegesis, Midrash, etc., I would bet that you could find a counter opinion to that view within that community, but I don't know. It could be an interesting study. But if that had been the common Jewish opinion by the time of Jesus, that would help explain why He thought it was the case. My memory fails me now, but it seems like I encountered at least one other case where the Jewish "expanded" tradition was what was referenced in the NT as opposed to the strict Biblical text.

    Psalm 34 and writing materials) Writing materials may not have been necessary. Obviously, the Psalm was written down, but when? It could have been created in David's mind while he was acting insane, and then transcribed at a later point. That may seem a little far fetched to you and I in our times, but many things I have read suggest that back in those days it was common to memorize large tracts of text, stories, poems, etc. I guess they had fewer distractions back then. ;-)

    Best wishes

  17. TWF:

    On sending his men to procure food, this would require, at the least, for the men to have money with them. Such might easily be forgotten in the rush between cities or not have concerned themselves to do so following in David's indefinite expectancy of having to go on the run into Gath after Saul came to Ramah resulting in a flight to Jonathon.

    On the point of days, I'm referring to a specific term when I speak of translations.

    On information, it seems that Doeg managed to keeps his lips sealed until after David had a 400-man army gathered to him. Given that he did tell Saul, and that David latter states he expected Saul's slave to tell, seems to imply Doeg's loyalty rested with Saul. Thus there is at least one instance of one man keeping his mouth shut. This may also imply he was not aware of his master's ongoing hunt. Additionally, that David even was willing to expose himself at the Tabernacle implies either desperation or a lack of expectancy of giving himself away by going to the Tabernacle. The latter would seem to imply a degree of difficulty in information being spread. The latter may also be implied even if he were desperate.

    On wanting foresight, it should be recalled David did not carry a sword from Ramah, although his life was presently at risk, neither after meeting with Jonathon and planning to be in a field for up to three days.

    Psalm 34 is a weaker argument admittedly, as its explicitly stated to originate after his flight and so even if it originated in written form it could be placed between his gathering of 400-men but before the slaughter of priests (which would be when Psalm, I think, 69 would have been written as it says it was written when Doeg told Saul about David's presence at the Tabernacle, which likely would not have been an even widely known until after the slaughter). That said, I would say its basic origin would be before this point as it would be odd to refer to the last major occurrence prior to the major occurrence of gaining a small army. Some immediacy is expected.

  18. TWF: (cnt.)

    There also more detailed references to the timing events, such as Elijah's drought being stated to have lasted 3 years and 4 months although the Bible only states 3 years (rounding down?) or that Moses departed not simply "when he was grown" but at 40.

    On David being cautious, this would seem to make it more difficult for information to spread about David unassisted, especially information about him once he decided to take refuge outside of a city by hiding in the Cave of Adullam as he would be unwilling to expose himself directly or without care. Moreover, if information did spread quickly, then if David was instead discovered due to a sighting, it would seem that Saul would have more immediately known about David's location and reached him before David amassed his small army, which would have required some traveling time.

    Best wishes to you, too. Thanks for your responses in spite of your business.

  19. The pro-men argument also have some clout owing to the House of Jesse being noted as gathering to David. They, I think, would be located in Bethlehem which was near Jerusalem, so if there were an informational free-flow it seems that Saul would have heard considerably before David had gathered his men, unless the reference to the men appearing with David is intended to be his few number just now being directly mentioned in narration.

  20. TWF (sorry):

    Scratch some of that again, internet says Hebron would have been the capital at the time, so that should be where Jerusalem ought to be. If possible could you point this out in your own comments, I don't want to take up more space with my hasty argument.


  21. TWF:

    Double scratch, Gibeah.

    Also found a webpage with a (less-than-detailed) map of David flight here:
    and some towns: and and

    I probably should argue more from the fact that for information being hard to reach Bethlehem unintentionally due to being in the relative boonies of the region than to reach Gibeah which was nearer more cities, each of which would require less transit. That is, while I could understand how rumor spread from nearby city to nearby city, I'm less certain of how it could spread to Bethlehem. And given the lack of mention of the house of Jesse in the narrative up to this point (especially of them hearing at all of David) I can't say the average person would be inclined to travel the distance there to tell David's family.

  22. TWF:

    Oh, also forgot to mention. That understanding was by Rashi, from the eleventh century.

    Another map:, since they seem to vary in what cities they plot. Not sure how reliable this one is since it just came from a webpage,seems to be missing some cities in the region of Gibeah

    Thanks, and sorry for this mess of comments. Cull as you wish.

  23. TWF:

    The spread of rumors also implies a signicant amount of movement by non-soldiers, so there would need to be a check on how frequent city-to-city movement was for such people (and messengers) as most of their movement would be focused outside of the land of Israel, and only occure during wartime. Given that the nomadic people of David's house seem to have stayed in Bethlehem for most of their life, high movement seems minimal.

  24. Hi Felix.

    Traveling men and provisions) The men who hypothetically joined David along the way before the 400, sure, they may have left hastily and forgot some things, but they would be at liberty to go back home and get supplies. Or, of course, we should not underestimate the love the general populous had for David. These men could have easily gone into nearby towns, felt people out for their allegiance, and solicited provision from those who sided with David. But we are really treading into speculation here.

    From a truly skeptical position, having David go get the holy bread from the priest is effectively a plot device to demonstrate 1) how David sought out God's help (via the priest), and 2) how God provided for him. This is essentially the message you find in the Psalms.

    Information Security) Let me tell you, in the business I am in, I have heard things which were not meant for my ears, spread by people who "knew better" than to share it, and it was shared precisely because the information was so shocking. I really cannot imagine it any other way. For while their were undoubtedly men who were loyal to the core to Saul, there surely had to be men with great affinity to David as well, and those contradicting loyalties would have loosened tongues.

    It is hard to know if Doeg really held his tongue, but probably not. 1 Samuel 22:6 says that all of Saul's officials were there at his side. This is the first mention of all of Saul's officials being present. Who knows where Doeg was prior to that? This may have been his first return to Saul, and so he was unaware of the manhunt. His actions suggest that being the case, given his other actions show loyalty to Saul.

    You said "Moreover, if information did spread quickly, then if David was instead discovered due to a sighting, it would seem that Saul would have more immediately known about David's location and reached him before David amassed his small army, which would have required some traveling time." I see it differently, given the explicit claim that the general populous favored David over Saul. News could have spread and actually helped David out, as those who favored David would have provided bad information and misguidance to those searching for David.

    Judgement/strategic thinking) You said "On wanting foresight, it should be recalled David did not carry a sword from Ramah, although his life was presently at risk, neither after meeting with Jonathon and planning to be in a field for up to three days." Well, here is where the Bible kind of trips over itself in telling the story. You see, David had fled for his life, and Saul knew that he had fled, and yet in 1 Samuel 20:26-27 you find that Saul was earnestly surprised and upset when David did not show up for dinner. So, that kind of blows all logic out the window here. Should David have been carrying a sword to protect himself from a man who expected him to be at dinner? Of course, the answer is yes, as you and I know Saul intended to kill David. And David knew that. And Saul knew that David knew. So why in the world would Saul then expect David to show up for dinner? It is truly one of the mysteries of the Bible. ;-)

    I hope no one is hunting you for dinner. Best wishes.

  25. TWF:

    On the point of Saul, the guy's not really depicted as bing in the best senses. I mean, he even goes off on his son and nearly spears him, is depicted as nearly spearing David while under an "evil-spirit" induced fit, and invites David into his household multiple times (occasionally tear-eyed) only to go back to trying to kill David. That is to say, he is not the most logical person (mind you I don't believe most act logically consistently, and that some can be very fickle) and expecting David to show up is not particularly surprising. His rationalization for why David didn't show up even seems to have that "muttering" quality modernly applied to those regarded as mentally unsound. It might also simply be read as his attempt to deny the obvious. Or, maybe I'll just guess he was REALLY hoping to get another throw of his spear at David and just threw sense out the window on that occasion.

  26. Hi Felix.

    Sure, Saul's "insanity" (inspired by a spirit sent form God, mind you) would be a reasonable defense for why Saul expected David to be at the table.

    The question is; how did David know that he was expected by Saul at Saul's table (1 Samuel 20:5)? ;-) Was he invited sometime after Saul's men were sent to kill him, while he was in hiding from Saul's men?

    That part of the story really stretches what can be reasonably believed.

    Best wishes.

  27. TWF:

    Probably a customary thing. By this point David not only was at Saul's beck and call to make music for him, but he was also married into the royal family and a famous commander of troops. Given that one of the spear incidents had David playing music before the evil spirit came on Saul, it doesn't seem surprising that was very knit into the household.

  28. Hi Felix,

    Your response on this issue is... intriguing. I wonder if you would be so kind as to conduct an informal survey on this issue. Of course, in the true spirit of collecting scientific data, you will have to abstract the events. Construct a similar story structure, but do not tell people the origin or inspiration behind the story. Ask something like this to some friends or family members, and let me know what they say:

    Suppose there were two men who were quite close, close even to the point of having a legal relationship where the one man married the daughter of the other man, and suppose that for 20 years they had a ritual celebration where they had always gathered together. However, throughout those years, the father-in-law became increasingly jealous and envious of his son-in-law's success. Shortly before one of the 21st ritual celebration, the father-in-law sent men to kill the son-in-law. The son-in-law had been aware of this plot by his father-in-law, and so fled for his life and went into hiding. Do you think that the son-in-law would think that his company would expected by his father-in-law at the upcoming ritual celebration?

  29. TWF:

    Dunno, probably a propriety thing since Saul is a king. Might be comparable to a master-slave situation where certain actions are expected of the slave despite maltreatment. Besides that, it becomes increasingly obvious Saul is an emotional yo-yo. Or maybe, sorry to draw this comparison, to an abusive marriage wherein the abuser has continued expectancies despite their abuse. Honestly, any abusive relationship involving a parent and child could also be useful, as there seems to be a close-knitting of families in spite of the whole leaving father and mother to become one flesh. Some people fail to be very aware of themselves. Some expectancy might also be derived from David's near relationship with Jonathon who, in spite of Saul's repeated attempts on David (and attempt on Jonathon) stuck to the royal house in regards location.

    Or, to go from David's view he would have seen Saul employ him as a personal musician, try to spear him (twice, in one day), give him a "promotion" (which just so happens to then give him a wife--making him his son-in-law (unaware the "dowry" was intended to result in his death), and then been hunted (basically a prolonged form of the first event). Their relationship would be a fairly mixed experience.

    On the original topic, do you think the mention of Jonathon making his covenant with "the house of David" rather than with just "David" before the field incident is important to the original topic of "were there men with David"?

    Thanks for the response.

  30. Hi Felix,

    In my opinion, I think you are missing what the story is trying to convey about David. It is not a story about a sadomasochistic tale. It is about David fulfilling his duty to God by fulfilling his duty to God's anointed leader, Saul, despite the circumstances. The spear attacks are weird, for sure, but they were at least discrete acts of aggression. When Saul sent men to watch David's house and kill him in the morning, that represented a whole new level of aggression; a level of perpetual determination until the deed was done. That puts things into an entirely new frame of reference. Obviously from David's flight, he felt relieved of his obligations at that point.

    Now, you are, of course, welcome to entertain the idea that David, a man who had done nothing wrong (except for the matter with Uriah) and a man after God's own heart, was somehow hooked into an abusive relationship. And I will be entertained by the irony of that idea. ;-) (I do apologize if that comes off a little too harshly. I'm just joking around here.)

    On to your question:
    On the original topic, do you think the mention of Jonathon making his covenant with "the house of David" rather than with just "David" before the field incident is important to the original topic of "were there men with David"?

    No. The house of David is a reference to the family lineage of David, not David's supporters. And it was implicitly a two-way covenant, with the house of Jonathan, as well. This covenant was demonstrated with David's treatment of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9.

  31. TWF:
    My point was simply that he still had obligations in the sight of Saul. As far as sadomasochism, that would be more fitting if it happened between David and one of his wives. It only matters that Saul be concerned about the fulfillment and that David realize Saul still expects that fulfillment. I think such a situation is reflected in many stories (non-fictional and fictional) especially in ones involving a "parental" relationship.

    Sorry. On your second paragraph could you explain the irony? Bad stuff happens to all people, and the fact that David is characterized with such "undying loyalty" to "God's anointed" render him more susceptible.

    On your response:
    Thought so.

    Side note:
    Going with the idea that there were men with David, what do you think the implication of David pointing out that his men had not been with women for the prior three days (since proceeding from Ramah to Gibeah) have on where his men were prior David hiding out in Ramah? To me, in that line of interpretation it would seem to indicate the men had just been around their wives, although it could have been with other women and the duration of the stay in Ramah is not clearly stated (whether it was longer or shorter definitely affecting the implications of his comment)? Might also just be a reference back to the Sinai story?

  32. Hi Felix,

    Well, I suppose that is one way of looking at it, though, as I implicitly suggested with the survey request, I do not suspect that that is the norm.

    As for the irony, forgive me, but I will have to skip explaining it. I realize now that it was a bit of an esoteric comment, and the explanation does not lend itself to easy text communication. If we ever meet face to face in the future, feel free to ask me then. :-)

    But in the closing of your paragraph, you said something which I think I need to clarify: "the fact that David is characterized with such "undying loyalty" to "God's anointed" render him more susceptible." David's loyalty is not to God's anointed leader. David's loyalty is to God and God alone, as the story goes. David is obedient and respectful of God's anointed leader only because that is what God has required in His Law.You have got to put yourself into the character of David to understand this. Probably one of the best ways to do so is to meditate on how David said that he had sinned against God alone regarding the matter with Uriah and Bathsheba. You probably know that, but I just wanted to take a moment to refocus here.

    Anyway, regarding your question about the three days... I am not sure what you mean, in that, David does not mention it. Check out 1 Samuel 21 for yourself. I think you are having a minor short-circuit, integrating that information that you had found and posted in that comment thread, because there it does say something about 3 days, and the guy who gave that information explicitly referenced Exodus 19:15.

    Best wishes.

  33. TWF:

    Then all the more an explanation, given that honoring the king is required to honor God as the latter is of far-surpassing stature. Thanks for the refocusing.

    The "three days" presence in David's second response to Ahimilech vary based on translation due to the ambiguity of a translated term which means either "since yesterday and the day before yesterday" or, "heretofore", which result in considerably different reading of the second response.

    English Standard Version
    And David answered the priest, “Truly women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition. The vessels of the young men are holy even when it is an ordinary journey. How much more today will their vessels be holy?”

    King James Bible
    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.

    Jubilee Bible 2000
    And David answered the priest and said unto him, Of a truth women have been kept from us since yesterday and the day before yesterday since I came out, and the vessels of the young men were holy although the way is profane; how much more that today it shall be sanctified with the vessels.

    Young's Literal Translation
    And David answereth the priest, and saith to him, 'Surely, if women have been restrained from us as heretofore in my going out, then the vessels of the young men are holy, and it is a common way: and also, surely to-day it is sanctified in the vessel.'


    So I would like to repeat my initial questions: "Going with the idea that there were men with David, what do you think the implication of David pointing out that his men had not been with women for the prior three days (since proceeding from Ramah to Gibeah) have on where his men were prior David hiding out in Ramah? To me, in that line of interpretation it would seem to indicate the men had just been around their wives, although it could have been with other women and the duration of the stay in Ramah is not clearly stated (whether it was longer or shorter definitely affecting the implications of his comment)?"

    Hope all goes well with you.

  34. Hi Felix,

    Ah... my bad. I see the issue here. When I was studying the Scripture, I would often check the different versions of the text. is a great site to do that with, although it appears that they have changed the format a bit since last I was there.

    Anyway, this is more than just an interpretation discrepancy. This is a true version issue. If you do a little research into the different Bible translations, you find out that certain ones used certain manuscripts, and others used others, to build their translations. The KJV did not use the oldest extant manuscripts.

    When you encounter an issue like this, it is difficult to say which version is correct, because even being the oldest does not guarantee that it is the most correct.

    Anyway, as for your question... After reading through it again last night, David told lie upon lie upon lie in the passage, so it is difficult to say that what he said was not just said for the benefit of getting the priest's compliance. However, if I had to go with the theory that there were men who David directly contacted in his flight, my first inclination would be to accept what he said in 1 Samuel 21:2 as actually being somewhat accurate; that he told some men to meet him somewhere (probably the cave he ended up in, or, (deeper into mostly pointless speculation) he could have left messages along to way the men at different way points or with specific known allies to guide the men as his path evolved. So, even if David had men "with him", they may not have actually been with him but rather simply traveling to meet him somewhere, and still all of the bread may have been for himself to support the rest of his travel, and he had not been with a woman in three days.

    If the alleged men were actually "with him" with him, then, as Exodus 19:15 states, it is about sex, not proximity, but it could potentially be about proximity too, if the man's spouse or daughter was on her period, given that she would have the "power" to make things unclean then as well.

  35. TWF:

    I was beating around more about where David's statement would seem to place his men's wives (or other sexual partners) prior to his stay in the field, since it would seem strange for David to just point out that the men had not been with woman for three days if they had been for longer in according to that particular line of rendering. That in turn lead me to think, for whatever reason, that the implication of going with this rendering would have resulted in an oddity such as David's men having dragged their wives out to Ramah, or simply having been in Ramah. I said "just" in relation to the Sinai thing because that would give reason to only go up to three days and not result in my odd speculations...

    I don't know. Thanks for your responses. Hope all goes well for you. Sorrry if I accidentally submitted this comment in addition to a similar one. Could not tell if the first one went through.

  36. Hi Felix,

    And thanks for all your comments, sir. No double comment was made by you this time, so you were right to doubt that your first one went through.

    I see what you are saying now. Sorry for the misinterpretation of what you were driving at.

    That is a bit peculiar in relation to the timeline, now that you mention it.

    Indeed, my first instinct is to say (along the lines of what I've already said) that three days was explicitly mentioned to inform the priest of compliance to the Law, and that, for many reasons already discussed, we cannot say that it is a fully accurate statement.

    Going with the theory of men traveling with David from early on, I would suggest (perhaps along the lines of what you were thinking) that the mention of the three days was no so much a matter of precision (exactly 3), but rather a mention of meeting the bare minimum requirements set out in Exodus (at least 3).

    From the text in 1 Samuel 20, it is difficult to discern if David went back to Jonathan with a 3-day plan already in mind, or even that he had already committed himself to more permanent flight. So if I were to try to speculate favorably, I would guess that David had made connection with his trusted network of friends while in Ramah, perhaps instructing them to prepare themselves for possible travel on a holy mission while he went to speak with Jonathan. (Whether or not David's allies were all in Ramah is not knowable, but I would assume some were not.) Then, when things proved unfavorable for David to stay any longer, David headed to Nob, but likely informed his trusted network of the intent to leave in some way, either by direct communication or by some prearranged semaphore, like the arrows shot by Jonathan. So when David got to Nob, he would have assumed that his men had obeyed and purified themselves in the time that he had been with Jonathan. David did not necessarily know of what condition they had been in prior to that time, so he was not at liberty to vouch for more than 3 days. At what point in the journey these men would join David to break bread, who knows?

    I generally prefer the Occam's Razor approach to these passages. People can readily come up with stories and speculation to extrapolate why some passage doesn't look the way it "should" look. It is my conjecture that the more extrapolation you have to do, the greater the risk you are at that you have strayed far from the truth.

  37. TWF:

    Thanks for the response. Sorry for my lake of clarity. Once again, hope all goes well with you.

  38. Hi Felix,

    Thanks for your comments. No need to apologize about clarity. If there is one thing I've learned in my studies, it's that text is tricky. It can be difficult to truly understand if you are not in the right mind frame. Now that I understand the angle behind your question, in looking back at how you had asked it originally, there's nothing really wrong with how you had raised the question.

    Best wishes to you, and feel free to comment or question anytime. I'll even be happy to provide the best argument I can for particular passages from a believer's perspective. I've heard some really good arguments made over the years. I just feel that the weight of evidence rests on the opposite side.

  39. TWF:

    Probably should also mention the LXX indicates that David provides the name of the place where he intends to meet his comrades when speaking to Achimelech rather than say such-and-such a place.

  40. Hi Felix,

    That's pretty interesting. David tells the priest that he is on a secret mission, but goes ahead and tells Ahimelek where he's headed... I would say that the LXX version doesn't make much sense, as such information would be an impropriety on the account of David. Not to say that revealing one location give a lot of information, but it certainly would feed speculation of the direction he's headed and the possible intent of his journey (for example, if he was headed toward a Philistine stronghold, he may be spying, or going on a raid, etc.).

    Thanks for sharing!