A Fake Demon and a Real God – First Samuel 21

David went to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. Ahimelech trembled when he met him, and asked, “Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?”
(1 Samuel 21:1)

Ahimelech trembled for the same reason the men of Bethlehem trembled when Samuel came to visit in First Samuel 16. The Bethlehemites knew that Samuel was on the wrong side of a dangerous man, King Saul. The High Priest also knew it was hazardous to be seen as David’s friend. Fugitives are often alone, which made David look all the more dangerous. But ultimately, David was alone because he was a David-heart in a Saul-kingdom.

David answered Ahimelech the priest, “The king charged me with a certain matter and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about your mission and your instructions. As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place” (1 Samuel 21:2)

David obviously lied about having instructions from the king. But the part about meeting up with his men must have been true because Jesus later made reference to it (see Matthew 12:3-4).

“Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.” But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here—provided the men have kept themselves from women”
(1 Samuel 21:3-4)

A member of Eli’s family, Ahimelech, like Saul, was zealous for the ceremonial law. Amazingly, he was zealous for one law in particular, and it was the same one Saul seemed preoccupied with. He was ready to give David the consecrated bread as long as David and his men had not recently had marital relations.

David replied, “Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out. The men’s things are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!” (First Samuel 21:5)

Israelite warriors seemed to have a tradition of “fasting” marital relations during military campaigns. That is what David is alluding to here. (2 Samuel 11:11)

So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away. Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the Lord; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s head shepherd (1 Samuel 21:6-7)

Doeg was having some kind of powerful spiritual encounter, (he was “detained before the Lord), that was keeping him immobilized in or near the tabernacle. This scene is reminiscent of Saul being knocked down by the Spirit of God at Naioth of Ramah. God was “tweaking” the unfolding events here to make things go according to His plan. Doeg was paralyzed in place so that he would overhear a certain conversation.

David asked Ahimelech, “Don’t you have a spear or a sword here? I haven’t brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king’s business was urgent” (verse 8).

David lied to get bread because of his fear. He was also after the Philistine-like weapons.

The priest replied, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one.” David said, “There is none like it; give it to me” (verse 9).

David had sunk so low that he took the ultimate Philistine weapon: Goliath’s sword. He now eagerly grasped the very sword that he had previously described as useless against the God of Israel.

That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath.

But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’?” (verse 11)

Both Saul and the Philistines were very aware of David’s reputation.

David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath.

So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard (verses 12-13).

David had now hit bottom. He was helpless, and yet rather than trust the Lord to deliver him, he stooped to the lowest of indignities. God let His champion taste what it felt like to be, literally, in the hands of the enemy. This was not the old David.

Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me?

“Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?” (verses 14-15)

Achish was a military man; why did he release David? Saul himself later said, “if a man finds his enemy, will he let him get away safely?” (see First Samuel 24:19 NKJV) I believe the reason is as follows:

Demon possession was fairly common at this time, even as it was in the days of Jesus. When God sent an army to destroy a group like the Amalekites, they were killing many demonized people. The demons could not go into the ones killing their hosts, for they did not have permission to afflict those who were about God’s business. But when Saul disobeyed and took Agag and some of the Amalekite livestock home, he stepped out of his divine hedge of protection, and, when Samuel executed Agag, Saul immediately “caught” his demon and was terrorized by an “evil spirit”.

I believe the Philistines were aware that killing a demon-possessed person caused the demon to leave them and look around for a warm body to inhabit! If Achish thought David had a demon, he could have foreseen the possibility that killing David might cause David’s demon to jump on him. God in His mercy was allowing David to again be saved by a fake demon, (David was FAKING insanity). And, just as Michal’s idol, (a fake demon) had saved him earlier, he is being saved by a “faked” demon now! This was the awesome degree of the love God had for David even while he was acting out of fear instead of trust.