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In 1 Samuel 21:4-6 (NASB)

4 The priest answered David and said, “There is no ordinary bread on hand, but there is consecrated bread, if only the young men have kept themselves from women.” 5 David answered the priest and said to him, “Be assured, women have been denied to us as previously when I left and the bodies of the young men were consecrated, though it was an ordinary journey; how much more then will their bodies be consecrated today?” 6 So the priest gave him consecrated bread; for there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence which was removed from its place before the Lord, in order to put hot bread in its place on the day it was taken away.

Why couldn't the military Hebrews have matrimonial relationships while the war lasted?

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It appears that the only regulation that 1 Sam 21:4 alludes to is found in Lev 15:18 -

If a man lies with a woman and there is an emission of semen, both must bathe with water, and they will remain unclean until evening.

This regulation had nothing specific relating to war. Thus, following sexual intercourse, a man and woman were "unclean" for less than 24 hours. The denial of women was not necessarily to last for the duration of the war.

Indeed, David himself tried to cover up his own dalliances by encouraging Uriah to sleep with his wife when home from the battle while the war was still in full progress, 2 Sam 11:8-13.

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  • Yes and further, if the guys are off at the war, where are the girls coming from? Are they sharing camp followers, or what? – Robbie Goodwin Mar 31 at 20:48
  • Ahhh got it! So they needed to be clean to eat the holy bread? (Not about the war) – Tiago Martins Peres 李大仁 Apr 1 at 7:01
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There are a couple of laws that directly relate marriage and war.

Deuteronomy 20:7

Has anyone become pledged to a woman and not married her? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else marry her."

Deuteronomy 24:5

If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.

Other than that, I don't think that Ahimelek or David was concerned about matrimonial relationships during a war in 1 Samuel 21. Ahimelek wanted to make sure that David's men were ceremonially clean. David just wanted to feed his hungry men even with the staled showbread.

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