KJV Matthew 12:3-4
3. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; 4. How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?
KJV Mark 2:25-26
25. And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? 26. How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?
We see this story in both the book of Matthew and Mark. These two interpretations contain the same details, almost word for word. This is unusual in scripture, possibly telling us these text may contain an important lesson. The first step to study any text is to pray. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit the second step can be completed, which is to write the text in your own words , concentrating on the actions presented within the text.
Jesus said unto them, “have you not heard what David did, when he and his men were hungry. They went into the house of the Lord and eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat, except for the priests.
Looking at this text we see an important question to ask. If it was unlawful for David and his men to eat this shewbread, why did Jesus tell this story? To properly investigate this issue we need to find what text Jesus is referring to. Since the New Testament was not written the text must be located in the Old Testament. To find this text we can use a concordance or computer to search for the key words, David and shewbread, which will locate the following text.
KJV 1 Samuel 21:5-6
5. And David answered the priest, and said unto him, Of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days, since I came out, and the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in a manner common, yea, though it were sanctified this day in the vessel. 6. So the priest gave him hallowed bread: for there was no bread there but the shewbread, that was taken from before the Lord, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away.
Samuel tells us David and his men had been kept from women for three days. Did this simple act allow them to eat the shewbread? To investigate this further we need to learn more about shewbread and the tabernacle.
KJV Leviticus 24:5-9
5. And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth deals shall be in one cake. 6. And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the Lord. 7. And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord. 8. Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. 9. And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons'; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the Lord made by fire by a perpetual statute.
Leviticus 24 details how the bread or cakes are prepared and arranged. This text also makes it clear these cakes are for Aaron, the high priest and his sons. These cakes are to be eaten in the holy place. This explains why Jesus said it was unlawful for David and his men to eat them.
KJV Leviticus 2:1-7
1. And when any will offer a meat offering unto the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour; and he shall pour oil upon it, and put frankincense thereon: 2. And he shall bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests: and he shall take thereout his handful of the flour thereof, and of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof; and the priest shall burn the memorial of it upon the altar, to be an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord: 3. And the remnant of the meat offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons': it is a thing most holy of the offerings of the Lord made by fire. 4. And if thou bring an oblation of a meat offering baken in the oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil. 5. And if thy oblation be a meat offering baken in a pan, it shall be of fine flour unleavened, mingled with oil. 6. Thou shalt part it in pieces, and pour oil thereon: it is a meat offering. 7. And if thy oblation be a meat offering baken in the fryingpan, it shall be made of fine flour with oil.
Leviticus 2 show us bread or cakes are also referred to as meat. The next verse will explain why this point is important.
KJV Leviticus 22:10-11
10. There shall no stranger eat of the holy thing: a sojourner of the priest, or an hired servant, shall not eat of the holy thing. 11. But if the priest buy any soul with his money, he shall eat of it, and he that is born in his house: they shall eat of his meat.
Leviticus 22 confirms that no stranger, tenant, anyone lodging with the priest or any hired hand of the priest is allowed to eat the holy shewbread. If a priest buys any soul, a man, woman or child, that person has the right to eat it. This verse explains a part of the plan of salvation and why David was allowed to eat the shewbread.
Jesus told this story to the Pharisees for a reason. Jesus gave them the opportunity to search the scriptures. “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” KJV John 5:39 Every detail of the life of Jesus had a purpose. We may not know how many Pharisees were present when Jesus made this statement but we can be sure the Spirit was working on the hearts of all of them. It would not be surprising to meet someone in Heaven and hear the story of how these words impressed and convicted at least one person.
Today we have the New Testament which explains in detail the spiritual meaning of bread and the purchase Jesus made.
KJV Acts 20:28
28. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
KJV 1 Corinthians 6:20
20. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
KJV 1 Corinthians 7:22-24
22. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant. 23. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. 24. Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.
KJV 2 Peter 2:1
1. But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
The New Testament makes it clear Jesus purchased us with His blood. Since we are purchased with the blood of Jesus, our High Priest, we are allowed to eat the holy bread. Bread has at least two spiritual meanings.
KJV Luke 4:4
4. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
Bread is the word of God.
KJV John 6:32-35
32. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. 34. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 35. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
Jesus is the bread of life. David eating the shewbread is an acted parable with a spiritual meaning revealed by studying the Bible. David represents those following God. As the parable teaches, the followers of God are purchased with the blood of Jesus. This purchase allows us access to the bread, which represents Christ and the word of God.