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The MT reads:

וַיַּ֩עַן֩ דָּוִ֨ד אֶת־הַכֹּהֵ֜ן וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ל֗וֹ כִּ֣י אִם־אִשָּׁ֤ה עֲצֻֽרָה־לָ֙נוּ֙ כִּתְמ֣וֹל שִׁלְשֹׁ֔ם בְּצֵאתִ֕י וַיִּהְי֥וּ כְלֵֽי־הַנְּעָרִ֖ים קֹ֑דֶשׁ וְהוּא֙ דֶּ֣רֶךְ חֹ֔ל וְאַ֕ף כִּ֥י הַיּ֖וֹם יִקְדַּ֥שׁ בַּכֶּֽלִי׃

According to the NKJV this is how the verse ought to be translated:

Then David answered the priest, and said to him, “Truly, women have been kept from us about three days since I came out. And the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in effect common, even though it was consecrated in the vessel this day.”

The word וְהוּא֙ is a pronoun (either he or it), the NKJV takes it to refer to the bread mentioned in the previous verse. The word דֶּ֣רֶךְ usually means way or journey, indeed the ESV has "The vessels of the young men are holy even when it is an ordinary journey". However, the NKJV chooses to translate "in effect", which is quite a dubious interpretation in my opinion. The word חֹ֔ל is the opposite of sacred or קדש, it conveys that something is common, i.e. it is not sacred to be treated in a special way (i.e., even a defiled person may eat and touch it).

There is no doubt that naturally the translation of the ESV and NIV ("The vessels of the young men are holy even when it is an ordinary journey") fits the words ( וְהוּא֙ דֶּ֣רֶךְ חֹ֔ל) better than the NJKV. On the other hand, the end of the verse is more appropriately rendered "even though it was consecrated in the vessel this day" as the NKJV does. My question is, can וְהוּא֙ דֶּ֣רֶךְ חֹ֔ל justifiably be translated as the NJKV does (the bread is in effect common), when nothing in the text, besides for context, seems to support it's interpretation?

Furthermore, why would the bread not be sacred if it was consecrated in the vessel (i.e. the showbread table) today? What would be David's justification for eating the sacred bread (which are usually reserved for the priests)?

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In order to answer your questions I will explain the whole verse first. David had come and asked the Cohen for bread, before he ran from Shaul. The only bread he had was the showbread (לחם הפנים). David had a reason to eat it- he was dangerously hungry (in Hebrew- בולמוס) Moreover, The bread was already removed from the table, what makes it close to not-sacred/holy as it was before. Now specifically: "וְהוּא֙ דֶּ֣רֶךְ חֹ֔ל"- The bread is considered as not-holy. The word 'דרך' here doesn't maen a tangible road, but something abstract. "וְאַ֕ף כִּ֥י הַיּ֖וֹם יִקְדַּ֥שׁ בַּכֶּֽלִי"- David says it is considered as not-holy, 'although it was consecrated in the vessel this day'. (I explained why.)

  • Where does the text indicate that David was dangerously hungry? Secondly, you are forcing an interpretation upon "the bread in in effect common", which clearly implies that the bread was never sacred, not that it wasn't considered as such. I find your interpretation (or Rashi's) wanting. – Bach Dec 19 '19 at 14:48
  • Regarding your first question: I actually didn't take it from the text but from the Talmud (Gemara Kodashim). Maybe I didn't have to bring this interpretation. And about the second: all the interpretation I saw refer to the bread as the show bread. And it's known that the show bread is sacred. – Efra Dec 19 '19 at 19:58
  • of course in normal circumstances it would be sacred, but in this specific scenario it didn't become, and that was really my question! If I would know the meaning of this ambiguous text then I wouldn't be asking about it here. – Bach Dec 20 '19 at 0:48
  • "וְאַ֕ף כִּ֥י הַיּ֖וֹם יִקְדַּ֥שׁ בַּכֶּֽלִי"- even though it was consecrated in the vessel this day. This is supposed to answer or I didn't anderstand your question. The expression "in effect common" as a translation to "דרך חול" in my opinion is not precise. As a hebrew speaker I would have translated it "the bread is like/ considered as common" – Efra Dec 20 '19 at 10:55

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