David Eating Sacred Loaves

In Mark 2:26-28, (as well as Matt 12:1-8 & Luke 6:1-5) Jesus and his disciples are accused of harvesting on the Sabbath. However, all they did was break off a few grains to eat. This was actually allowed under the law and didn’t count as a harvest because it didn’t involve a “basket or sickle”, so it wouldn’t have been a problem on the sabbath because they weren’t actually harvesting, they were just eating. Harvesting from your neighbor without permission would be stealing, but eating handfuls is allowed. Deuteronomy 23:24-25 says “When you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, but you must not carry any away in a basket. 25 And when you enter your neighbor’s field of grain, you may pluck the heads of grain with your hand, but you must not harvest it with a sickle.”

This was not a sabbath violation because there was no actually harvesting going on according to Deut 23:24-25 since there was no sickle or basket. Instead of answering back with that, Jesus simply 1 Samuel 21:1-9. This is when David needed food for himself and his men who were on the run from Saul. The high priest Ahimelech, Abiathar’s father, gave him some of the Prescience Bread from the gold table in the Tabernacle. This bread was reserved for the Levites normally (Leviticus 24:8–9), but under these circumstances, the high priest said it was okay as long David and his men were ceremonially clean, meaning they hadn’t had any recent sex or touched anything deadly, etc. Jesus is basically saying, if it is okay for David to eat sacred loaves even though he is not a Levite then surely, it is okay for him to feed his disciples on the Sabbath. He was making a larger point that connects with all the other sabbath conflicts he has with the Sanhedrin council regarding the issue of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was not supposed to be used to control people, it is here to refresh people and give them a day to focus on God and not have to think about the toils and labors associated with the curse on the earth from Gen 3:17-19. This is basically what he says in Mark 2:27-28. Mark 2:27 Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”

Jesus had much to say about how Sabbath laws were being abused by the Pharisees. Like in Luke 13:10-17 when he healed the woman who has some kind of spinal infirmity caused by a demon. The leader of the synagogue objected to her being healed on the Sabbath, but Jesus pointed out that the religious leaders let the animals out of the stall for water on the Sabbath and that it would be wrong to have this covenant woman, wait for deliverance any longer simply because it is on the Sabbath. She had been afflicted for 18 years. Basically, he is saying that God didn’t forbid showing mercy and helping others on the Sabbath. In other words “loving your neighbor” (Lev 19:18) is a higher law than the sabbath. Another sabbath healing scenario happens in Mark 3:1-6 (& Luke 6:6-11), in which Jesus rhetorically asks if it is lawful to do good deeds on the sabbath before healing a man, and the Sanhedrin didn’t respond because they knew he was right, but they still hated him for it. A similar discussion happens in Luke 14:1-6 when Jesus heals a man and asks the Sanhedrin rhetorically if it is okay to heal on the Sabbath. They didn’t answer and he points out they themselves would “work” on the sabbath if it meant rescuing their own children or animals if they fell into a pit. In another sabbath conflict with the religious leaders (John 7:21-24), he pointed out that circumcision has to happen on the sabbath if it is 8 days after a male child’s birth because circumcision is a higher law. Jesus consistently teaches that some laws can be negated by higher more important commandments. This idea also is explained in Matt 15:3-6 when Jesus said that it is wrong to violate one commandment in order to fulfill another, like disrespecting your own parents to keep a vow.

The two greatest commands are to love God with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). This means that Jewish emergency phone operators, firefighters, police officers, and EMTs, are not guilty of sin if working on the Sabbath, because they are out there saving lives in emergency situations. Only ordinary work was to be stopped on the sabbath, not walking in love and helping people. The Sabbath was rest from working the cursed ground, not rest from being a blessing. In the Good Samaritan parable, the Jews who ignored the man could have possibly argued “it’s the Sabbath I can’t help you” if the setting was on the Sabbath. Jesus’ point of that parable implies that hypothetically if the setting were the Sabbath, they would still be wrong for failing to love their neighbor. Just like the circumcision example, the Sabbath law is not higher than the command to love your neighbor as yourself (Lev 19:18). This is what James calls the “royal law” in James 2:8.

Another article on the subject