Did David Sin When He Ate The Tabernacle Showbread?

Yes, he did.

The Gospels record the account of the Pharisees castigating Jesus' disciples for eating from the grain fields on the Sabbath day (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5). In response to the Pharisees' unjust accusation, Jesus sites the historical account of David eating the showbread - an act only lawful for the priests in 1 Samuel 21:1-6. Some people have misconstrued this passage to teach that Jesus was upholding "Situation Ethics" and that David actually did not sin on this occasion. Such, however, is not the case.

  1. Under the law of Moses, the showbread was only reserved for the priests (Matthew 12:3,4; Leviticus 24:5-9) [NOTE: We need to recognize once again the principle of authority. If you read Leviticus 24:5-9 very carefully, it states that "it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place." Notice that it does not say "for Aaron and his sons only". The principle of "scriptural authority" does not require such. Even Jesus recognized this principle of authority. Those in the denominational world and some congregations of the Lord's church need to take heed to this principle.]
  2. One must understand the historical/cultural context. The Pharisees had added many man-made traditions to the Law of Moses (Matthew 15:8-9). They especially liked to make up their own requirements pertaining to the Sabbath. The idea of threshing wheat on the Sabbath being a violation of the Sabbath was the doctrine of the Pharisees and not the Law of Moses.
  3. Jesus refers to the historical incident of David in 1 Samuel 21 to point out the Pharisees' inconsistency. The Pharisees placed David on a very high moral pedestal and were less likely to condemn David for his sinful act recorded in 1 Samuel 21 (David clearly violated Leviticus 24:5-9). Yet, the Pharisees were quick to unrighteously condemn Jesus' disciples who had done nothing wrong!
  4. Jesus posed a second question (Matthew 12:5) to further expose the inconsistencies of the Pharisees by mentioning that the priests were very busy working on the Sabbath day because they had many duties to complete (such as the changing of the showbread on the Sabbath, Leviticus 24:8; the associated duties of animal sacrifices on the Sabbath; and other priestly duties). Therefore, according to the Pharisees' flawed, hypocritical judgement, the Pharisees should have viewed their priests as "profaning" the Sabbath by "working" these works on the Sabbath (when in fact, the priests were not violating the Sabbath because God authorized some work to be completed on the Sabbath by the priests).


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