Concerning the Jews excusing David’s eating of the showbread, what are your sources?


I read an article in the Q&A section of your website in reference to I Samuel 21:1-6 and Matthew 12:1-5. Within the article you made this statement:

"They (Jews) found ways to excuse the fact that David clearly violated the law of God by eating the bread from the table of showbread."

Can you give me the supporting scriptures for this statement?


I cannot give you scriptures because it is based on the Jewish opinion of that event.

From Adam Clarke's Commentary:

"Here hearken to Kimchi, producing the opinion of the ancients concerning this story in these words: "Our rabbins of blessed memory say, that he gave him the shew-bread, &c. The interpretation also of the clause, Yea, though it were sanctified this day in the vessel, is this: It is a small thing to say, that it is lawful for us to eat THESE LOAVES, taken from before the Lord, when we are hungry; for it would be lawful to eat this very loaf which is now set on, which is also sanctified in the vessel, (for the table sanctifieth,) it would be lawful to eat even this, when another loaf is not present with you to give us, and we are so hunger-bitten. And a little after, There is nothing which may hinder taking care of life, beside idolatry, adultery, and murder. That is, a man, according to them, should do any thing but these in order to preserve life.""

From Barnes' Notes:

"David, among the Jews, had high authority. This act had passed uncondemned."

From The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Rashi's understanding is therefore more persuasive; he states that the reference here is indeed to shew-bread, and that the allowance stemmed from David's dire situation at the time, as is indirectly suggested by Chazal:

Since he found there nothing but shew-bread, David said to him: "Give me, so that we not die of hunger," for [even] a case of uncertain mortal danger sets aside Shabbat. How much did David eat at that time? Rav Huna said: David ate close to seven se'as to satisfy his hunger, for he was seized by ravenous hunger. (Yalkut Shimoni, I Shmuel 130)

It seems that with this statement, Chazal expressed their position on David's conduct in the entire story. David behaved as one who is overcome by ravenous hunger, that is, as one who acts out of irrational pressure. David's irrational behavior expressed itself not only in his request to eat of the shew-bread; the very fact that he was ready to put Achimelekh's life in jeopardy proves that David was not acting here with appropriate judgment.


Most teach that apparently, it is OK to break God's commands out of necessity. I have never agreed with that but could never quite understand why Christ used David, a man who lied about what he was doing to get the bread, as a defense for His disciples.

Thank you.


Jesus used an example where the Jews were willing to show mercy to one of their heroes, even though he clearly violated the law. It contrasts with the disciples who were shown no mercy, even though they did not violate the law. See Sabbath Rules and the Twelve Chosen for more details.

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