Matthew 12:3
But he said to them, Have you not read what David did, when he was an hungered, and they that were with him;
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(3) Have ye not read . . .?—The question was an appeal to the Pharisees on the ground where they thought themselves strongest. For them it was an argument à fortiori. Would they accuse David of sacrilege and Sabbath-breaking because he, in a case of urgent need, set at nought the two-fold law of ordinances? If they shrank from that, was it not inconsistent to condemn the disciples of Jesus for a far lighter transgression?

12:1-8 Being in the corn-fields, the disciples began to pluck the ears of corn: the law of God allowed it, De 23:25. This was slender provision for Christ and his disciples; but they were content with it. The Pharisees did not quarrel with them for taking another man's corn, but for doing it on the sabbath day. Christ came to free his followers, not only from the corruptions of the Pharisees, but from their unscriptural rules, and justified what they did. The greatest shall not have their lusts indulged, but the meanest shall have their wants considered. Those labours are lawful on the sabbath day which are necessary, and sabbath rest is to froward, not to hinder sabbath worship. Needful provision for health and food is to be made; but when servants are kept at home, and families become a scene of hurry and confusion on the Lord's day, to furnish a feast for visitors, or for indulgence, the case is very different. Such things as these, and many others common among professors, are to be blamed. The resting on the sabbath was ordained for man's good, De 5:14. No law must be understood so as to contradict its own end. And as Christ is the Lord of the sabbath, it is fit the day and the work of it should be dedicated to him.But he said unto them ... - To vindicate his disciples, he referred them to a similar case, recorded in the Old Testament, and therefore one with which they ought to have been acquainted. This was the case of David. The law commanded that twelve loaves of bread should be laid on the table in the holy place in the tabernacle, to remain a week, and then to be eaten by the "priests only." Their place was then supplied by fresh "bread." This was called the "showbread," Leviticus 24:5-9. David, fleeing before Saul, weary and hungry, had come to Ahimelech the priest; had found only this bread; had asked it of him, and had eaten it contrary to the "letter" of the law, 1 Samuel 21:1-7. David, among the Jews, had high authority. This act had passed uncondemned. It proved that in "cases of necessity the laws did not bind a man" - a principle which all laws admit. So the "necessity" of the disciples justified them in doing on the Sabbath what would have been otherwise unlawful. 3. But he said unto them, Have ye not read—or, as Mark (Mr 2:25) has it, "Have ye never read."

what David did when he was an hungered, and they that were with him—(1Sa 21:1-6)

See Poole on "Matthew 12:4". But he said unto them, have ye not read,.... If they had not read the Scriptures, they were very unfit persons either to be teachers, or censurers of others, and must have been very slothful and negligent; and if they had, they could not but have observed the case of David, which Christ produces in vindication of his disciples:

what David did when he was an hungred; which was the case of the disciples, and is therefore mentioned; it being also the circumstance which could, and did excuse what was done by David and his men: and the Jews themselves own, that in case of hunger the showbread might be eaten, by those that were not priests; not only that which was removed from the table, but that which was upon it; yea, even when there was none to put in its room (l); and that David was in the utmost distress, and therefore desired it, and it was granted him on that account. They represent him as thus saying to the priest (m),

"when he found there was none but showbread, give it me, that we may not die with hunger; , "for danger of life drives away the sabbath";''

which perfectly agrees with our Lord's argument, and justifies the apostles conduct: and this was not a single fact of David's, but of others also;

and they that were with him; for though in 1 Samuel 21:1 he is said to be "alone, and no man with him"; yet this must be understood either comparatively, having but very few with him, and which were as none, considering his dignity; or thus, though none came with him to Ahimelech, pretending to the priest he had a secret affair of the king's to transact; and therefore had left his servants in a certain place, and desires bread for himself and them; concerning whom the priest and he discourses, as may be seen in the place referred to: so that though no man was with him at the priest's house, yet there were some with him, and who partook with him in eating of the showbread.

(l) R. David Kimchi in 1 Samuel 21.5. (m) Laniado Cli Jaker, fol. 227. 2.

But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;
Matthew 12:3-4. Ἀνέγνωτε] 1 Samuel 21

The spurious αὐτός is unnecessary; καὶ οἱ μετʼ αὐτοῦ is connected with τί ἐποίησεν Δαυείδ. Comp. Thuc. i. 47. 2 : ἔλεγε δὲ ὁ Στύφων καὶ οἱ μετʼ αὐτοῦ, and Poppo’s note.

οἶκος τοῦ θεοῦ] in this instance the tabernacle, which was then at Nob. Comp. Exodus 23:19. For the twelve pieces of shew-bread, on this occasion called ἄρτοι τῆς προθέσεως, i.e. לֶחֶם הַמַּעֲרֶכֶת, loaves of the pile (1 Chronicles 23:29; Exodus 40:23), elsewhere named ἄρτοι τοῦ προσώπου, לֶחֶם הַפָּנִים, loaves of the presence (of God), 1 Samuel 21:7, which, as a meat-offering, stood in the holy place, arranged in two rows upon a golden table, and were renewed every Sabbath, those of the previous week being given to the priests, see Leviticus 24:5 ff.; Lund, Jüd. Heiligth., ed. Wolf, p. 134 ff.; Ewald, Alterth. pp. 37, 153; Keil, Arch. I. p. 91.

εἰ μή] only appears to stand for ἀλλά, and retains its usual meaning of nisi. The language, however, assumes the tone of absolute negation: which it was not lawful for Him to eat, nor for those who were with Him, not lawful except for the priests alone. The neuter (see the critical remarks) indicates the category: what, i.e. which kind of food. See Matthiae, p. 987; Kühner, II. 1, p. 55. Comp. note on Galatians 1:7; Galatians 2:16; Luke 4:26 f.; Dindorf in Steph. Thes. III. p. 190 C; Fritzsche, ad Rom. III. p. 195.Matthew 12:3-8. Christ’s defence. It is twofold. (1) He shields disciples by examples: David and the priests; to both the faultfinders would defer (Matthew 12:3-5); (2) He indicates the principles involved in the examples (Matthew 12:6-8). The case of David was apposite because (a) it was a case of eating, (b) it probably happened on Sabbath, (c) it concerned not only David but, as in the present instance, followers; therefore οἱ μετʼ αὐτοῦ, Matthew 12:3, carefully added. (b) does not form an element in the defence, but it helps to account for the reference to David’s conduct. In that view Jesus must have regarded the act of David as a Sabbatic incident, and that it was may not unnaturally be inferred from 1 Samuel 21:6. Vide Lightfoot, ad loc.—This was probably also the current opinion. The same remark applies to the attendants of David. From the history one might gather that David was really alone, and only pretended to have companions. But if, as is probable, it was usually assumed that he was accompanied, Jesus would be justified in proceeding on that assumption, whatever the fact was (vide Schanz, ad loc).3. Ahimelech, the priest at Nob, gave David and his companions five loaves of the shewbread (1 Samuel 21:1-7).Matthew 12:3. Οὐκ ἀνέγνωτε, have ye not read) They had read the letter, without perceiving the spirit. Our Lord convicts them of error by the authority of the Old Testament.—Δαυὶδ, David) whose conduct, in this instance, you do not find fault with.—ὅτε ἑπείνασεν, when he was hungry) This is left, in 1 Samuel 21:3, to be understood by the reader.—μετʼ αὐτοῦ, with him) See ibid. Matthew 12:4.Verse 3. - But he said unto them, Have ye not read. Our Lord answers them by showing that the principle of the action of his disciples was sanctioned in the Scriptures to which they implicitly appealed. He calls their attention first (more Rabbinico; cf. on ver. 5) to the Prophets (i.e. the former prophets, according to the Hebrew division), as teaching by example that holy things are of secondary importance compared with the benefit of God's people; and afterwards to the Law, which implies that the sabbath itself is of secondary importance compared with work necessary for the sanctuary. He then affirms that in the present case there is One present who is even greater than the sanctuary. He goes on to say that their complaint, however, was really due to the lack, not so much of intellectual as of spiritual knowledge; they had no rapprochement with the God of love, or they would not have condemned those who, both because they were men and because they were disciples of the Son of man, stood above the sabbath. What David did, when he was a hungred, and they that were with him (1 Samuel 21:1-7).
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