Several questions from I Samuel


We are continuing our study of I Samuel in our ladies class.  We had a couple of questions.  If you have time, we would appreciate your input.    

     In I Samuel 21:5 do you think that the term "vessels" refers to the bodies of David's men?  Does this indicate that they were "clean" as far as not being with a woman was concerned?  And, the word vessel is used again in the same verse, but seems to be referring to the bread.  Is this something different?

    In I Samuel 23:9 (and in other places) the ephod is mentioned.  From what we can find the ephod was the vest that was worn by the priest.  Was Saul and David sanctioned to wear this?  Did they wear it for going before God?  Was this a semblance of the act of a priest?  Also in I Samuel 21:9 it says that Goliath's sword was wrapped in a cloth and was behind the ephod.  This confused us because we didn't know how the ephod that is referred to as a vest could have Goliath's sword behind it?  Are there different kinds of ephods?

    I Samuel 26:20 talks about fleas and partridges.  Is this supposed to mean that partridges were hard to find in the mountains (or impossible) and that Saul was wasting his time in hunting for David?

    In I Samuel 27:1, do you think this indicates that David did not believe Saul's promise to not seek to kill him?  And, did David have doubts about him becoming King.  We wondered if his faith was weak here and he didn't think he would live to become the King of Israel as he had been anointed.

     And, finally, in I Samuel 27:8-12, was David attacking the enemies of Israel and then letting on to Achish that he was attacking the Israelites?


"Then David answered the priest, and said to him, "Truly, women have been kept from us about three days since I came out. And the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in effect common, even though it was sanctified in the vessel this day"" (I Samuel 21:5).

There is a play on words being done in this passage, something that is commonly done in the Bible. David is saying the bodies (vessels) of the young men are holy in the sense of Exodus 19:14-15. That is they are clean because none have had sex within the last several days. David is also stating that the bread is set apart as holy when it is on the plates on the table of showbread (Exodus 25:29-30), but when it is replaced by fresh bread it is now nothing more than common bread (I Samuel 21:6). Thus he is arguing that it is the container that determines whether the bread is holy or not and not the bread itself. Since the young men are technically holy, they can partake of the old showbread. Other verses where a person is referred to as a vessel are Psalms 31:12; Isaiah 65:4 (play on words); Jeremiah 22:28; 25:34; Acts 9:15; Romans 9:21-23; II Corinthians 4:7; I Thessalonians 4:4; II Timothy 2:20-21; I Peter 3:7).

In this argument, David was incorrect; he is stretching things too far. What he did was unlawful (Matthew 12:3-4; Leviticus 24:8-9). Yet it is clear that God offered David and his men mercy by overlooking this sin and not holding it against them (Matthew 12:7).

"When David knew that Saul plotted evil against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, "Bring the ephod here."" (I Samuel 23:9).

An ephod is a linen garment. Samuel wore one when he was a boy (I Samuel 2:18) as did David when he brought the ark to Jerusalem (II Samuel 6:14). It was the required garment for priests when they were working in the tabernacle and later the temple (I Samuel 2:28). The High Priest had a special ephod (Exodus 28) that was clasped with two stones on the shoulder from which two loops of gold chain were attached. From the chains a double layered material hung, covering the chest like a breastplate. In the pocket formed by the breastplate where kept two stones which were used to receive answers from God. Thus, when David told Abiathar to bring the ephod, it is implied that he is talking about the High Priest's ephod. He wanted to ask God a question and he is telling Abiathar to get dressed for official duties as a High Priest. The ephod wasn't worn all the time, it was too precious. Thus it was generally left hanging in the tabernacle or the temple until needed.

"So now, do not let my blood fall to the earth before the face of the LORD. For the king of Israel has come out to seek a flea, as when one hunts a partridge in the mountains" (I Samuel 26:20).

David calls himself a flea, that is a creature who is so insignificant that killing him would bring about no value.

In regards to the partridge, Adam Clarke on this passage states, "It is worthy of remark that the Arabs, observing that partridges, being put up several times, soon become so weary as not to be able to fly; they in this manner hunt them upon the mountains, till at last they can knock them down with their clubs. It was in this manner that Saul hunted David, coming hastily upon him, and putting him up from time to time, in hopes that he should at length, by frequent repetitions of it, be able to destroy him."

"And David said in his heart, "Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines; and Saul will despair of me, to seek me anymore in any part of Israel. So I shall escape out of his hand"" (I Samuel 27:1).

Yes, David is expressing his despair of ever escaping from Saul. In his despondency, he resolves to go into the land of the Philistines, even though earlier he was told to remain in Judah (I Samuel 22:5). This passage explains why he left. Even great men have moments of weakness and make mistakes. David illustrates this on several occasions. Here he shows a weakness in faith and comes up with a "solution" to solve his problem without consulting God.

"And David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites. For those nations were the inhabitants of the land from of old, as you go to Shur, even as far as the land of Egypt. Whenever David attacked the land, he left neither man nor woman alive, but took away the sheep, the oxen, the donkeys, the camels, and the apparel, and returned and came to Achish. Then Achish would say, "Where have you made a raid today?" And David would say, "Against the southern area of Judah, or against the southern area of the Jerahmeelites, or against the southern area of the Kenites." David would save neither man nor woman alive, to bring news to Gath, saying, "Lest they should inform on us, saying, 'Thus David did.'" And thus was his behavior all the time he dwelt in the country of the Philistines. So Achish believed David, saying, "He has made his people Israel utterly abhor him; therefore he will be my servant forever"" (1 Samuel 27:8-12).

Yes, you have it correct. David was campaigning against other enemies of Israel, along its borders. When Achish, a king of the Philistines, asked David where he had been battling, David only mentioned the region. He never stated who he was fighting. Achish just assumed it was against the Israelites because it was Israelite territory. Since David made sure no one survived his raids, word never got back to Achish to let him suspect he made the wrong conclusion.