Questions From Readers
● At 1 Samuel 16:21 it shows that David came to Saul’s attention and Saul made him his harpist and armorbearer. Then 1 Samuel 17:15 indicates David went back to sheepherding for his father, and later returned to Saul at the time he fought Goliath, and at which later time Saul seemed to know nothing about David, as shown at 1 Samuel 17:55-58. After being accepted into Saul’s court and after Saul requested that his father Jesse allow David to remain with him, why did David later return to sheepherding? And when David did come before Saul again, why did not Saul recognize him?—D. B., Ontario, Canada.
We must remember that the King James Version is based on the Masoretic Hebrew text and that there were other texts previous to this one and which read differently from it. It is understood that the Septuagint Version, because it differs from the Masoretic text, is a translation of more accurate Hebrew texts, which were earlier than the Masoretic text.
Now when we go to the Greek Septuagint we find that in chapter 17 of 1 Samuel 17 verses 12 through 31 are omitted. Also 1 Sa 17 verses 41, 50, 55-58. In 1 Samuel 18 verses 1-5, 9-11, 17-19, 30 are omitted in the Septuagint. So these verses do not appear in the famous fourth-century Greek manuscripts, the Vatican 1209 and the Sinaitic, for they contain the Septuagint version for the Hebrew Scripture portion.
It is remarkable that by these omissions we eliminate the difficulties existing in the King James Version. As the Septuagint reads, we find that David never did go back to shepherding after he became attached to King Saul’s court as harpist and armor-bearer, that he was present when Goliath first voiced his boastful challenge, and so he could encourage the terrified and panic-stricken King Saul and volunteer to fight the giant. Saul knew the youthful David, but not as a fighter; so David acquainted the king with his exploits when as a shepherd lad he had slain the lion and the bear, in the strength of Jehovah. Then Saul told the lad to go fight Goliath, and Jehovah be with him. And as David went forth to battle the giant, Saul did not need to inquire after the youth’s identity; and such inquiries do not appear in the Septuagint version. For that matter, the modern translation by James Moffatt puts these verses containing the inquiries about David’s identity in double brackets to indicate that they were an interpolation by a later editor of the text. In fact Moffatt’s translation puts in double brackets practically all of these portions in 1 Samuel chapters 17 and 18 that the Septuagint omits.
So the foregoing may explain the difficulty as it appears in the King James Version and other translations based upon the Masoretic text, and we may bear in mind the possibility that something has been done to the Masoretic text that creates these apparent difficulties for us.
● When David took the shewbread or sacred bread out of the holy place to satisfy hunger, was it not a serious offense?—G. W., Israel.
For enlightenment on this question it is necessary to consider several accounts. First, the command concerning the bread itself: “Thou shalt take fine wheaten flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof; each cake shall be of two tenths. And thou shalt set them in two rows, six in a row, upon the pure table before Jehovah. And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row; and it shall be a bread of remembrance, an offering by fire to Jehovah. Every sabbath day he shall arrange it before Jehovah continually, on the part of the children of Israel: it is an everlasting covenant. And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons’; and they shall eat it in a holy place.”—Lev. 24:5-9, Da.
Now, the historical account that is the basis of the question: “David came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest; and Ahimelech trembled at meeting David, and said to him, Why art thou alone, and no man with thee? And David said to Ahimelech the priest, The king has commanded me a business, and has said to me, Let no man know anything of the business whereon I send thee, and what I have commanded thee; and I have directed the young men to such and such a place. And now what is under thy hand? give me five loaves in my hand, or what may be found. And the priest answered David and said, There is no common bread under my hand, but there is holy bread; if the young men have kept themselves at least from women. And David answered the priest and said to him, Yes indeed, 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, and the more so, because to-day new is hallowed in the vessels. And the priest gave him holy bread; for there was no bread there but the shew-loaves that were taken from before Jehovah, to put on hot bread in the day when they were taken away.”—1 Sam. 21:1-6, Da.
From these two quotations we see that the bread was to be changed on the sabbath day, that the old bread was to be replaced by the newly baked hot bread, and since David when he came to Nob and talked with high priest Ahimelech called attention to the fact that the bread was being changed that day, it must have been a sabbath day that David had this encounter and made this request of Ahimelech. Jesus placed an interesting conclusion upon this conduct on the part of David, as we find recorded at Matthew 12:1-4, NW: “At that season Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath. His disciples got hungry and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. At seeing this the Pharisees said to him: ‘Look! your disciples are doing what it is not lawful to do on the sabbath.’ He said to them: ‘Have you not read what David did when he and the men with him got hungry? How he entered into the house of God and they ate the loaves of presentation, food it was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those with him, but for the priests only?’” In these Mt 12 verses 1-4 and in the ones following Jesus was calling attention to acts of mercy on the sabbath day, that it was perfectly legitimate to render a show of mercy to one who is in need even though it was the sabbath, and that there is, in effect, no violation of the sabbath by such course of action. He had no rebuke for David’s course.
While other versions of the Bible give a different rendering, the one we have used in quoting 1 Samuel 21:5 indicates that David reminded Ahimelech that the bread in question was “in a manner common”. In this the King James and Rotherham versions agree, the latter rendering the 1 Sa 21 verse 5: “The bread itself is in a manner common, and the more so since to-day there are other loaves to be hallowed in the vessel.” In what way common? Had it not been dedicated to Jehovah God and placed upon the table in the holy of the tabernacle? Yes. But you see this particular bread with which David and his men were fed was bread that was replaced by freshly baked bread and it was taken out of the holy, not just to satisfy David, but because it was the proper time, the sabbath day, to remove it, to take it outside and install a new set of bread on the holy table. So this removed bread was now available for use outside the holy of the tabernacle, and was from that standpoint, in a sense, common.
We have a somewhat similar case at Memorial season relative to the bread and wine upon the table. There it is on display and it is reserved for a certain purpose. For anyone to come up to the table before or during the services and eat of the bread or drink of the wine would be wrong, disrespectful of the Lord. It would be as Paul says, ‘sinning against the body of the Lord,’ because there that bread and wine on this occasion up until this point has a symbolic significance and to violate that significance is to do violence to the institution of God. But after the Memorial celebration, if some of the bread and wine is left over it may be eaten without doing anything sacrilegious. After the Memorial is over the bread and wine have lost their significance and have become again just common bread and common wine, suitable for anyone’s use.
The same with the matter that Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 and; 1 Co 10:25-30 about some Christians’ going into the shambles or the butcher shops or the restaurants connected with the heathen temples of those days and eating meat that had been dedicated to demons, to idols. Part of that sacrifice was given over to the idol, offered up on the altar, and then there was some meat that was left over that was shunted over to the butcher shops or to the restaurants and they served it as ordinary meat to the people, and Christians had the right to go in there and eat of that meat. It had lost its sacred significance now that it was in the butcher shop or in the restaurant. It was common, although some Christians, Paul said, had weak consciences and they still thought it had a sacred significance.
The same with this bread that had been replaced, taken out of the holy. It was as David said, in a sense it was common, and so it could be used. Ordinarily it was to be used only by the priests, it is true; but in exceptional circumstances it apparently could be used in an act of mercy, as it was in the case of David, for that is what Jesus indicated by his construction upon David’s conduct, as discussed at Matthew 12:1-4. Furthermore, there was no robbing of Jehovah by this act. If Ahimelech had gone into the holy and taken the fresh bread that was to stay there for a whole week and used that to feed David and his men, then that would have been a sin against the institution of the bread; but now it had been taken out in the ordinary course of things, so it was no robbing of Jehovah.
● Why does not The Watchtower publish the widely circulated oath taken by the Knights of Columbus, which enumerates terrible things that they agree to do to advance Catholicism?—F. A., Ontario, Canada.
We do not publish this alleged oath because we have seen no evidence that it is genuine. Frequently a page number is cited from the Congressional Record (U. S.) as support and from which it is quoted. However, that page in the Congressional Record is giving this “oath” as an example of the gross misrepresentation to which some anti-Catholics stoop in their propaganda. It is not presented there as a true statement at all, and for anyone to take this “oath” out of its setting and then cite the Congressional Record as the quotation’s source is not a fair and honest practice. There is sufficient truthful information about the Roman Catholic Church to show her shortcomings. The Bible is filled with inspired texts that expose as false her doctrines and practices, and we wish to use such truths to fight falsehood, not becoming falsifiers ourselves. Incidentally, as a matter of information the Encyclopedia Americana, 1942 edition, page 484, states that the Knights of Columbus “has no oath, only obligation to secrecy”.