When fleeing from Saul, David goes to Nob and asks for bread:

And David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has charged me with a matter and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.’ I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.”
(1 Samuel 21:2-3) [ESV]

The request is for five loaves of bread, or "whatever is here." The only bread Ahimelech has is the Showbread which he gives David:

And the priest answered David, “I have no common bread on hand, but there is holy bread...So the priest gave him the holy bread, for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the LORD, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away. (1 Samuel 21:4,6)

The bread described is Showbread which is replaced every Sabbath:

“You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf. And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the LORD. And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the LORD. Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the LORD regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever. (Leviticus 24:5-8)

Based on David's request "...or whatever is here" and "..the priest gave him the holy bread," I assumed David received all 12 loaves. But some [Yoma 17a-b] understand David received 5 loaves, which was the High Priest's share.

How many loaves did David receive?

1 Answer 1


Many commentaries to 21:4 suggest that "Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here" means five or less, not necessarily more. If this was the case, perhaps we can assume that he took only 5 loaves. This can work well with the Lechem Hapanim/Showbread, as Rabbi Yehuda (Mishna Sukkah 5:8) states that they were split into groups of 5 and 7 loaves (for those leaving and those coming respectively). This would support the idea that he took only 5 loaves, as you mentioned from Yoma 17a-b.

A commentary apparently attributed to R"I Kara disagrees, and says specifically that David wanted even more than five, in which case it is possible that he received all 12. (Note that in the commentary we know is from Kara himself, he says 2 or 3.)

  • If Ahimelech gave him all 12, would it be reasonable to conclude the "extra" 7 were for David's men? Feb 20, 2018 at 17:56
  • @RevelationLad I didn't add this, but the reason for the disagreement between Kara and the other commentaries seems to be how many men he had with him: Malbim says תנה חמשה לחם לחמשה נערים - give 5 loaves for the five (total) men, whereas the Kara commentary says כי יש לי נערים הרבה - I have many more men, which is why I'll take as many loaves as I can get.
    – user22655
    Feb 20, 2018 at 18:14
  • How can there be a disagreement? The narrative states David was alone and this caused Ahimelech to be afraid. Feb 20, 2018 at 18:44
  • @RevelationLad they were part of his band/party, not that they were actually present with him when he was talking with Ahimelech.
    – user22655
    Feb 21, 2018 at 15:27
  • Jesus himself was quoted as saying there were multiple individuals with David on that day, and not David only(Matthew 12:3, Mark 2:25). 1 Samuel 21:2;4-5 as well indicates that a group of others accompanied him; David names them as servants(vs 2). Ahimelech's statement that he was alone therefore was likely made according to his perceived social status as a nobleman, those with him being probably dressed as servants, even his own; that any of these men were a prophet(e.g. Gad) I have not basis to say.
    – user21676
    Feb 24, 2018 at 4:47

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