Ahimelech Giving the Sword of Goliath to David,
Painting by Aert de Gelder (1645-1727),
Painted in the 1680's,
Oil on canvas
© John Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
David went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest
One sabbath day, Jesus happened to be taking a walk through the cornfields, and his disciples began to pick ears of corn as they went along. And the Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing something on the sabbath day that is forbidden?’ And he replied, ‘Did you never read what David did in his time of need when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the loaves of offering which only the priests are allowed to eat, and how he also gave some to the men with him?’
And he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; the Son of Man is master even of the sabbath.’
Reflection on the painting
Jesus mentions David and Abiathar the High Priest in our reading today. Our painting depicts Ahimelech, a priest in the city of Nob, where the unarmed David had just arrived. Ahimelech gave the sword of Goliath to David, who had won the battle defeating the giant. The sword was widely seen as a symbol of power. When King Saul heard of all this, he had Ahimelech and other priests killed at the Massacre of Nob, for helping David. Abiathar, mentioned in our reading, was the sole surviving priest of the Massacre in Nob. Fleeing to David, he remained with him throughout his wanderings and his reign.
Jesus is saying in today's reading that he and his followers are like David and his men. Actually, seventeen verses in the New Testament describe Jesus as the 'Son of David'. The title 'Son of David' is more than a statement of physical genealogy. When the New Testament refers to Jesus as the Son of David, they mean that he was the long-awaited Messiah, the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies. 'Son of David' is a Messianic title.
This subject matter of our painting is very rarely depicted in art. Aert de Gelder, our painter, was pupil of Rembrandt and we can can clearly see the master's influence. If you look closely at the sleeve and headdress of Ahimelech, you can see small scratches and incisions, done by the artist with a knife, to raise some of the paint from the canvas so it would catch the light in a more vivid way.
Share this Gospel Reading
Did you like this Gospel reading and art reflection?
Join in the discussion about this artwork & Gospel reading
Readings related to Mark 2:23-28
Join our community
In addition to receiving our Daily Gospel Reading and Art Reflection, signing up for a free membership allows you to: