After the heart wrenching farewell in between Jonathan and David in 1 Samuel 20, in 1 Samuel 21:1-6, David went to the priest named Ahimelech, at a place called Nob. Ahimelech was afraid to meet David, so he said to him, “Why are you alone and no one is with you?” Maybe Ahimelech was aware of the recent events at Naioth (1 Samuel 19:19–24).
David’s answer may be taken as self-serving deception or as a shrewd but honest use of language. David noted first that “The king gave me a mission.” What he failed to clarify in his opening words to Ahimelech, however, was the name of the king to which he was referring. If it was his King Yahweh (1 Samuel 8:7; 12:12; Psalm 5:2; 20:9; 24:7–10; 29:10; 68:24; 145:1), then David was telling the truth.
Secrecy and solitude were essential aspects of the special mission given him by King Yahweh. Others would join him in this undertaking, but they were to meet David later. Due to the urgency and haste, David was now several miles from Gibeah and he was famished. Boldly he asked Ahimelech for “five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.” Receiving food from others while on a journey is a time-honored tradition in the Middle East, so David’s request was not unusual.
There was one problem associated with honoring David’s request; Ahimelech did not “There is no ordinary bread on hand. However, there is consecrated bread.” Consecrated bread”—that is “bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread.” The replacement of the bread may have occurred in connection with the new moon festival celebrated a day or two earlier. Under normal circumstances the Torah required that such food be consumed only by “Aaron and his sons … in a holy place.”
Ahimelech ruled that David and his men could eat bread reserved for Levites if they did so in a Levite-like way—that is, with due consideration for ritual purity laws. That having been agreed to, David was given the consecrated bread.