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Poole on 1 Samuel 20:24-26: David's Absence on the New Moon

Verse 24:[1] So David hid himself in the field: and when the new moon was come, the king sat him down to eat meat.

[He hid, etc.] On the appointed day, verse 5, within which time those things that are described in the eleven following verses happened (Junius, Piscator). Tostatus asks, whence David had food on these days in which he was lying hidden; and he answers, that David brought something with him from the city (Tostatus, similarly Menochius). [But, according to some versions, he did not remain there for the three days; but he went there thrice, or more often, within the three days. See on verse 19.]

David hid himself, to wit, at the time appointed; for it seems probable that he went first to Bethlehem, as he bade Jonathan tell his father, verse 6, and thence returned to the field, when the occasion required; else we must charge him with a downright lie, which ought not to be imagined (without any apparent cause) concerning so good a man, especially in so distressed and dangerous a condition. And why should he hide himself there so long before the time when Jonathan was to come thither to inform him? Nor were there any need of appointing a certain time to meet, if David were there all the while.

[And the King sat to eat bread, עֶל־הַלֶּ֖חֶם לֶאֱכֽוֹל׃] [The Masoretes maintain that it is to be read אֶל/to, which the points also suggest. Nevertheless, perhaps it should be עַל/on/upon, which particle both Jonathan and the Syriac have in the text.] They translate it, he sat by (over [Jonathan]) bread to eat (Montanus, Jonathan); at meat, so that he might eat (Junius and Tremellius, similarly the Syriac); he reclined at the table to eat (Pagnine, similarly Strigelius, Munster, Tigurinus).

Verse 25:[2] And the king sat upon his seat, as at other times, even upon a seat by the wall: and Jonathan arose, and Abner sat by Saul’s side, and David’s place was empty.

[And when the King had sat upon his throne, etc., אֶל־מוֹשַׁב֙ הַקִּ֔יר] On the sat of the wall (Montanus), or by the wall (Pagnine, similarly all). Jonathan renders מוֹשָׁב as couch (Vatablus). It was the custom to eat on couches; for the ancients were reclining while eating (Hebrews in Vatablus). But Saul appears to have sat; for which reason the custom of reclining at table was later (Lapide).

[Jonathan arose (or stood up [Pagnine, Tigurinus, Vatablus, Junius], and Abner sat (thus Munster, Montanus)] He stood up, understanding, when Abner came (Vatablus), so that he might give place to him (Mariana). For Abner was Saul’s cousin, and the chief general of the army (Dutch). Perhaps Abner, captain of the army of Saul, arrived late; therefore, to himJonathan yield the place of honor, whose humility and modesty is worthy of our imitation (Osiander). [Others translate it otherwise.]

[וַיָּ֙קָם֙ יְה֣וֹנָתָ֔ן וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב אַבְנֵ֖ר] Arising, Jonathan reclined with Abner (Syriac). [He understood אֶת/with or עִם/with before אַבְנֵ֖ר/Abner.] And he went before Jonathan himself (so that it might be understood that Jonathan followed after Saul [Nobilius[3]]), and Abner sat (Septuagint). And Jonathan stood, and Abner sat (Jonathan); then Jonathan reclined after him on the right had of the King, and Abner reclined on the left of Saul (Arabic). The table appears to have been longer, at the head of which the King sat alone towards the all; from there Jonathan on his right hand, and thereafter the rest of his brothers and sisters. On his left, Abner in the first place, then David, and thereafter the remaining princes in their order (Menochius). [Others render the verse in this way: …and with the King being about to sit in his seat…Jonathan was arising, etc. (Junius and Tremellius), who had been in the king’s stead, with him absent; but, with him now having returned, he yields (Junius, Piscator, Malvenda).]

Jonathan arose, to wit, from his seat where he was sat next to the king, whence he arose, and stood up at Abner’s coming, to do honour to him, who was his father’s cousin, and the general of the army. David’s place seems to have been next to Abner, on the same side with him.

Verse 26:[4] Nevertheless Saul spake not any thing that day: for he thought, Something hath befallen him, he is (Lev. 7:21; 15:5, etc.) not clean; surely he is not clean.

[For he was thinking, that perhaps it had befallen him, that he was not clean and purified, מקְרֶ֣ה ה֔וּא בִּלְתִּ֥י טָה֛וֹר ה֖וּא כִּֽי־לֹ֥א טָהֽוֹר׃] An accident is that, because he is not pure, because not clean (Montanus); something has befallen him, in such a way that he is not clean; indeed, certainly he is not clean (Dutch). He is not clean, surely he is not clean (English). The repetition either has regard to the affront of David (Mariana); or (as ours indicates) is referred first to the uncleanness, then to the purification not undertaken (Mariana, thus the Septuagint, Osiander). It is an accident, he is unclean: because he is not clear, he has not come, etc. (Junius and Tremellius), namely, to the feast, etc. (Junius). An accident, one of those accidents, whereby men are made unclean. See Leviticus 11; etc. (Piscator out of Junius). The term קְרִי[5] pertains to that sort, of which we treated in Leviticus 15:16. Nor purified, which was done by washing and the coming of the evening (Grotius). Others thus: It is an accident without this, or apart from the fact, that he is clean, or because he is not clean (or, he was thinking him to be impure [Vatablus]); that is, it has happened that David has not come because of employment: he is indeed pure, but it has happened that he is occupied, and hindered from business. Or certainly he is impure, more particularly, with a nocturnal pollution (Vatablus). To him has happened something other than that he is unclean; or perhaps he is not clean, and therefore he does not come (Kimchi in Munster). Moreover, the Hebrews were easily contracting some legal uncleanness (Menochius). A Eucharistic Feast is celebrated on the new moon, Numbers 10:10, of which it was unlawful for the unclean to eat (Junius, Piscator, Malvenda). From this place it is evident that this feast of Saul was of peace offerings, which perhaps were customarily offered to God at the beginning of each month for a felicitous course to the whole month (Tirinus out of Tostatus and out of Sanchez). On that day was made a number of excellent offerings, as it is evident from Numbers 28:11 (Sanchez).

Something hath befallen; some accident which hath rendered him unclean, and so unfit to partake of this feast, which consisted in part of the remainders of these peace-offerings, according to the law, Leviticus 7:20; unfit also to come into any company, much more into the king’s company, lest he should pollute them also. See above, on 1 Samuel 20:5. See also Leviticus 11; 15.

[1] Hebrew: וַיִּסָּתֵ֥ר דָּוִ֖ד בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה וַיְהִ֣י הַחֹ֔דֶשׁ וַיֵּ֧שֶׁב הַמֶּ֛לֶךְ עַל־הַלֶּ֖חֶם לֶאֱכֽוֹל׃ [2] Hebrew: וַיֵּ֣שֶׁב הַ֠מֶּלֶךְ עַל־מ֙וֹשָׁב֜וֹ כְּפַ֣עַם׀ בְּפַ֗עַם אֶל־מוֹשַׁב֙ הַקִּ֔יר וַיָּ֙קָם֙ יְה֣וֹנָתָ֔ן וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב אַבְנֵ֖ר מִצַּ֣ד שָׁא֑וּל וַיִּפָּקֵ֖ד מְק֥וֹם דָּוִֽד׃ [3] Flaminius Nobilius (died 1590) was a Roman Catholic text critic, who labored in the reconstruction of the Itala, the Old Latin version. [4] Hebrew: וְלֹֽא־דִבֶּ֥ר שָׁא֛וּל מְא֖וּמָה בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֑וּא כִּ֤י אָמַר֙ מִקְרֶ֣ה ה֔וּא בִּלְתִּ֥י טָה֛וֹר ה֖וּא כִּֽי־לֹ֥א טָהֽוֹר׃ [5]קְרִי signifies an accident, or nocturnal pollution.

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