I Samuel 27





        David Again Seeks Protection at Gath (vs. 1-4)


1 “And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand

of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into

the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me any more

in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand.” David said in his heart.

Hebrew, “to his heart,” to himself (see ch. 1:13). I shall perish by the hand. The

verb is that used in ch. 12:25; 26:10, but instead of by the hand the Hebrew has into

the hand. Hence the versions generally render it, “I shall some day fall into the

hand.” Really it is a proegnans constructio: “I shall perish by failing into

the hand of Saul.” It was the second treachery of the Ziphites which made

David feel that, surrounded as he was by spies, there was no safety for him

but in taking that course to which, as he so sorrowfully complained to

Saul, his enemies were driving him (ch. 26:19). His words there show that the

thought of quitting Judaea was already in his mind, so that this chapter follows

naturally on ch. 26., and not, as some have argued, upon ch. 24.



Unbelief and Its Unworthy Device (v. 1)


This history metes out equal justice, and, having shown to us the perversity

of Saul, immediately exposes to us the fault of David, for he also, though

no fool, returned to folly. In both cases equity and charity allow some plea

of extenuation. Saul’s hostility to David was due in some measure to an

unsound brain, unable to shake off morbid suspicion. And David’s mistrust

of the Divine protection was the result of a very sensitive temperament

tried beyond measure, a chafed and weary spirit. How far such pleas may

be considered in weighing actions is a question for the Divine justice rather

than for our sentence. Enough for us to recognize them, that we may the

better understand:


  • how Saul could renew a pursuit which he had abandoned with tears, and


  • how David could return to the land of the Philistines, from which he had

formerly escaped only by simulating madness.


  • THE FAULT OF DAVID WAS UNBELIEF. It was not his habit; but it

came upon him as a fit or mood, and, while it lasted, led him into actions

unworthy and unwise.


Ø      He broke down at a strong point, as men often do. His faith rose to a

heroic pitch in the valley of Elah, when the stripling, as a believer,

encountered the blaspheming giant. But when he was put among princes

his faith failed under apprehensions of mortal peril, and he fled to Nob, and

thence to the Philistine town of Gath. He recovered his faith in God, and,

assured of Divine protection, refused to injure Saul when the king on two

occasions was within his power. But again his faith failed, and he was

afraid. There is no mention of his having prayed, or consulted God through

the priest as at other times. In his unworthy fear he took counsel with

himself, and “said in his heart” that he would surely perish. Such is man.

He falls at a strong point.


o        Noah stood in his integrity against a whole world of sinners, but

when he had no world to stand against he fell, and disgraced

himself by intemperance. (Genesis 9:20-25)


o        Moses was the meekest of men and most observant of the word of

the Lord, and yet he erred at Kadesh in respect of self-control and

fidelity to the Divine command, so forfeiting his entrance into

Canaan. (Numbers 20:7-13)


o        Hezekiah was eminent for prayerfulness and humility, and yet

he fell in not spreading a matter before the Lord, but giving way

to vain boasting.  (II Kings 20-21)


o        Simon Peter was all ardor and devotion to his Master, and yet,

just after honest protestations of attachment, he lost courage, and

denied his Lord.  (Matthew 26:69-75)


In like manner strong believers may fall into a fit of unbelief, in which:


o        past blessings are forgotten,

o        promises are doubted or let slip,

o        dangers are exaggerated, and

o        the heart, instead of asking counsel of the Lord, takes counsel

with itself, and suggests ALL SORTS OF FOLLY!


Ø      Unbelief seems to have been the sin to which David was most tempted

in his youth. We infer this both from this history and from the Psalter. The

former tells how he more than once despaired of his life, and how Jonathan

exerted himself to reassure his desponding mind. The latter reveals to us

with touching candor the apprehensions of his youth in those psalms

which plainly refer to his wanderings and hairbreadth escapes. The sorrows

of death had compassed him, and the floods of the ungodly made him

afraid, he saw his enemies ready to swallow him up. And though he was

naturally brave, unbelief enfeebled and distracted him, so that. his “heart

was sore pained” within him (Psalm 55:4). Indeed David’s cries to God in

the Psalms, and his way of repeating to himself that God was on his side,

and was able to defend and deliver him, indicate not obscurely his inward

struggle. If he had felt no fear he would not have thought of writing, “I will

not fear what man can do to me”  (Psalm 118:6).  If he had known no failure

of faith he would not have said so much as he has of crying after God and

putting his trust in Him. We read of Abraham simply that he believed. He

fell on his face and listened to the voice of God; then he acted, journeyed,

obeyed in faith; but we do not find him speak of his believing. David had

a struggle to hold fast his confidence, and therefore has he given so much

expression to the life of faith and its conflict with doubt and fear.



DEVICES. “Nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of

the Philistines.” Now we know that God did order and overrule this flight

for the good of David and of Israel; but none the less was it, on the part of

his servant, an unworthy action springing from unbelief. Better surely to

have lived by faith in the forests and caves of Judaea than live by sight and

behave like a freebooter in the land of the heathen Philistines. (II Corinthians

5:7)  His stay at Ziklag, the town assigned to him by the king Achish, marks

a bad period in the life of David. His incursion into the territory of certain

southern tribes was most unjust and cruel. The injustice, indeed, may not

have been apparent to his mind; for David and his men had, of course, been

educated in the ideas of their own age and country, and had no scruple about

invading and laying waste any territory of the heathen. They had also little,

if any, respect for the lives of the heathen. Yet David must have sinned

against his conscience in the cruel massacre of the southern tribes. One sin

leads to another. And the son of Jesse added deceit to cruelty, and exulted

in covering the first sin by the second, leaving no man or woman alive to

contradict the tale he told to the Philistine king. Lord, what is man? When

thou didst not hold up the goings of thy servant, into what miry places did

he stray, into what a ditch did he fall! When his faith failed, what a

breakdown of his character and conduct!


Ø      Restraint of prayer,

Ø      self-direction,

Ø      rapine,

Ø      bloodshedding, and

Ø      falsehood!


What are we that we should have immunity from similar deterioration of

character, if we give way to UNBELIEF?  A Christian in good repute takes

some course that we should have thought incredible and impossible. We ask

in amazement, What infatuation seized him? or, Can it be that he was always

insincere; and wicked at heart under a cloak of seeming goodness? The real

clue to his misconduct lies here — that he lost hold of God and FELL

THROUGH UNBELIEF!  He allowed himself to doubt whether God would

or could keep him in some strait, and took to trusting and keeping himself.

So he fell into unworthy company, or betook himself to unworthy devices;

and the end is what you see:


Ø      dishonesty,

Ø      duplicity,

Ø      prevarication.


Remember that nothing is so hard to be extirpated from the heart as

UNBELIEF!  In his book of the Holy War Bunyan shows that when the

town of Mansoul was in the devil’s power, Incredulity was first made

alderman, then lord mayor. When Immanuel took the town, Incredulity

(unbelief) was doomed to execution, but managed to break out of prison,

and lurked in hiding places where he could not be found. When the devil

assaulted the town in hopes to retake it, “Old Incredulity” reappeared, and

was made general of the army. After the assailing army was defeated, and

many of the officers and soldiers in it were put to death, Unbelief still

evaded capture. He did yet dwell in Mansoul, though he “hid in dens

and holes.”  (Incredulity:  unwilling or unable to believe something!




Ø      Let believers BEWARE!   It is easy to slip off the way of faith, and it may

seem to answer well for a time. You may get your Ziklag to dwell in, and

find it more comfortable than the hold at Engedi or the hill of Hachilah, but

you are in a state of declension from God, and on the way, as David was,

to commit presumptuous sin. Matthew Henry remarks in his sententious

way, “Unbelief is a sin that easily besets even good men. When without are

fightings and within are fears, it is a hard matter to get over them. Lord,

increase our faith!” (II Corinthians 7:5; Luke 17:5)


Ø      Let unbelievers BE WARNED!  If unbelief be so damaging when it prevails

even temporarily over a servant of God, what ruin must it work in those

who lie always under its power! “He that believeth not in the Son of God

shall not see Life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”  (John 3:36)


2 “And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men

that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath.”




Despondency (vs. 1-2)


“I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul” (v. 1). It is seldom (at

least in a climate like ours) that a day passes in sunshine without clouds.

And human life is as varied as the aspects of the sky. The best of men are

liable not only to adversity as well as prosperity, but also to seasons of

spiritual depression as well as of spiritual elation; and the one often follows

the other very closely. These seasons of depression ought not, indeed, to

be attributed to a Divine, sovereign, and uncontrollable influence. They are

due to certain causes in men themselves which ought to be watched

against. Yet who resists them constantly, effectually, and completely? Here

is David, who recently said, “Let the Lord deliver me out of all

tribulation,” and heard Saul say, “Blessed be thou, my son David,” etc.

(ch. 26:24-25), talking to himself in a desponding mood, and

coming to the conclusion that there is nothing better for him than to flee

into the land of the Philistines. It may be preferable for a man to “commune

with his own heart” of his fears and doubts, rather than pour them

indiscriminately into the ears of other people; but his proper course is not

to continue brooding over them, or surrender himself to their power, but

to “inquire of the Lord,” and “hope in God” (Psalm 42:11). “More of

these no man hath known than myself, which I confess I conquered not in a

martial posture, but on my knees” (Sir T. Browne). Concerning the state of

mind which this language expresses, consider:




Ø      Fear of approaching danger. Saul had renewed his persecution, and

David thought that he should be “consumed.” There was apparently

no more reason why he should think so now than there had been before;

but the desponding mind projects its shadow over all things, and magnifies

ordinary into extraordinary peril. Imaginary evils are often occasions of

greater trouble and temptation than real evils, and more difficult to overcome.


Ø      Distrust of Divine care. This is its chief element. If his faith had been in

vigorous exercise he would have said, “Whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1).

But it seems to have completely failed, leaving him a prey to

overwhelming anxiety and fear. “My way is hid from the Lord, and my

judgment is passed over from my God” (Isaiah 40:27). “Our bones are

dried, and our hope is lost” (Ezekiel 37:11).


Ø      Depression of personal energy. He has lost heart, and thinks it

impossible to continue safely in the land of Judah, to which the prophet had

formerly recalled him, and where Divine providence has appointed his lot.

The fearful and faithless shrink from difficulties which in a better state of

mind they encountered boldly.


  • WHEREBY IT IS OCCASIONED. The influences productive of it are



Ø      External add physical. Numerous perils, long hardship, constant

watchfulness, great exertions, bodily exhaustion and suffering. “There are

hours in which physical derangement darkens the windows of the soul;

days in which shattered nerves make life simply endurance.” Much of this

may be removed by the adoption of proper methods, and where its removal

is impossible, special grace should be sought that it may be borne

cheerfully and patiently.


Ø      Mental and emotional. Perplexing thoughts, conflicting arguments,

unjust and ungenerous treatment, want of sympathy, deferred hope,

reaction from excited feeling. “Something of it might be due to those

alternations of emotion which seem to be incidental to our human

constitution. We have ebbings and flowings within us like the tides; and

just as in nature the lowest ebb is after the highest spring tide, so you

frequently see, even in the best of men, after some lofty experience of

spiritual elevation and noble self-command, an ebbing down to the lowest

depth of fear and flight” (W.M. Taylor).


3. Moral and spiritual. Omission of duty, parleying with temptation,

contemplating doubtful expedients (ch. 26:19), intimate

association with persons of little or no piety, self-confidence, bedimmed

spiritual vision, loss of spiritual fervor, “restraining prayer before God.” It

is significant that nothing is said about David’s asking counsel of the Lord

concerning the step which he was contemplating, as he did on other

occasions. “Josephus tells us that he conferred with his friends, but no writer

informs us that he did so with God” (Delany). His state of mind appears

to have been unfavorable to his doing so; and it is probable that if he had

done so the course on which he had half resolved would have been

forbidden. Communion with God prevents or cures despondency and

averts many a disastrous step.


  • WHEREFORE IT IS BLAMEWORTHY. For that it is so there can

be no doubt. In it:


Ø      Past deliverances effected by God are ungratefully forgotten. Of these

David had experienced many; they were assurances of continued help, and

in better hours he regarded them as such (ch. 17:37). But now

his remembrance of them is clouded with fear, and produces neither

thankfulness nor confidence. He speaks to his heart, but says not, “Bless

the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”  (Psalm 103:2)


Ø      The faithful promises of God are faithlessly ignored. He who doubts

them despises the Giver, deprives himself of the treasures of wisdom,

strength, and blessedness which they contain, and “forsakes his own



Ø      THE GREAT NAME OF GOD is greatly dishonored. It is a “strong tower,”

and not to “run into it” (Proverbs 18:10), but to continue in despondency,

as if it were inaccessible or incapable of affording adequate protection, is to

oppose the purpose for which it is made known, to act unworthily of the

knowledge of it, and to incur just reproach. “Who art thou, that thou

shouldst be afraid of a man that shall die, and forgettest the Lord

thy Maker?” (Isaiah 51:13).  Surely nothing dishonors Him more.


  • WHERETO IT LEADS. “And David arose,” etc. (v. 2). He thought

nothing could be better for him; but, in reality, nothing could be worse.

“For by this step he would:


Ø      alienate the affections of the Israelites from him,

Ø      justify the reproaches of the enemy,

Ø      deprive himself of the means of grace and the ordinances of religion,

Ø      grieve his soul with the vice and idolatry of the heathen,

Ø      put himself out of the warrant of Divine protection, and

Ø      lay himself under peculiar obligation to those whom he could

not serve without betraying the cause of God.”


He escaped from one danger only to rush into another and much greater.

Unbelieving and desponding fears commonly:


Ø      Incite to unwise and foolish courses of action.

Ø      Conduce to temptation and transgression (v. 10).

Ø      Involve in embarrassment and great distress (ch. 28:1; 30:1-5).


“Beware of desperate steps. The darkest day,

Live till tomorrow, will have passed away.”

(Cowper, ‘The Needless Alarm.’)




Ø      Guard against the causes of despondency.

Ø      At its first approach TURN INSTANTLY UNTO GOD in faith and prayer.

Ø      Take no new step under its influence until the will of God is clearly seen.

Ø      “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”  (Ephesians 6:10)


3 “And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man

with his household, even David with his two wives, Ahinoam the

Jezreelitess, and Abigail the Carmelitess, Nabal’s wife.  4 And it was told

Saul that David was fled to Gath: and he sought no more again for him.”

Achish, the son of Maoch. No doubt the Achish of ch. 21:10; but if the same as

Achish, son of Maachah, in I Kings 2:39, as is probably the case, he must have

lived to a good old age. As it is said in I Chronicles 18:1 that David conquered

the Philistines, and took from them Gath and other towns, it would seem that he

still permitted Achish to remain there as a tributary king, while Ziklag he kept

as his private property (v. 6). On the former occasion, when David was alone,

Achish had paid him but scant courtesy; but now that he came with 600

warriors, each with his household, and, therefore, with numerous

followers, he shows him every respect, and for the time David and his men

settle at Gath, and Saul gives over his pursuit, knowing that if he followed

him into Philistine territory he would provoke a war, for which he was not

now prepared. It has been pointed out that David probably introduced from

Gath the style of music called Gittith (Psalm 8., 81., 84., titles).



Loss of Faith (vs. 1-4)


The facts are:


1. David, fearing lest he should fall by the hand of Saul, deems it better to

go to the land of the Philistines.

2. He and his family and attendants are received by Achish at Gath.

3. Saul, hearing of this, seeks him no more.


There is a latent thought in many minds that the great and good men of whom the

Bible speaks ought to figure in Scripture as only models of excellence, and hence

a sense of disappointment is experienced when, in its fidelity to facts, the Bible

relates their failings and sins. Here we have David in despair of preserving his

life by the means hitherto adopted; and in his evidently long and painful

meditations on the path of prudence (ch. 26:19; compare v. 1, here) he comes to

the conclusion to avoid collision with Saul by fleeing to an enemy’s country.

This is not absolute despair, but despair of preserving life for the realizing

of one’s vocation by the means consistent with that vocation and the character

suited to it. Loss of faith in righteous means is, so far, loss of faith in God.




king in Israel and bless the world with wise rulership was the high purpose

revealed to David; and for moral reasons the long discipline of trial was

inevitable. The position into which he was often brought seemed to render

the accomplishment of life’s purpose impossible, and the nearer the goal

the more severe the risks of life. The more numerous his men and able his

captains, the greater difficulty in preventing collision with Saul, and the

more impossible to find food apart from trespass on property. A righteous

cause was therefore a suffering cause. This is the case with us. Often

Christians have been evidently called to a work for God, and yet become

so beset with perils that the end for which they live seems impossible of

realization. How the heart becomes pained and oppressed with incessant

struggle with evils that stand in the way of a rise to perfect holiness! The

enemy is ever upon us, and humanly speaking it seems as though we some

day shall fall by his hand in spite of all endeavors of the past.



PURPOSE OF LIFE IS TO BE ATTAINED. David was to wait God’s

time, and not force the hand of providence. To make such movements as to

avoid collision with Saul, to look up to God for promised or implied help

when, in spite of care, life is threatened, and to seize occasions for

softening the heart of his foe, even if for a season only — these means

hitherto had been honored with success, and, so far as we can see, were

the only lawful means. In attaining to our ultimate position as Christians we

have to follow the spiritual methods of the New Testament in humble

dependence on God watchfulness, abstention from evil, evasion of

deadly arrows and poison of adders, and whatever will keep the soul holy

and true for Christ. In doing our work in the world we have to avoid falling

into the power of the great enemy by severe simplicity, love of truth,

spirituality of mind, and prayerful use of the gospel. So, in reference to any

specific holy end in view, the means used are to be in harmony with the

goodness of the end. We are not to do evil that good may come.




NEW METHODS. Probably some degree of mental and physical

exhaustion, accompanied with increasing worries of providing for a large

following, laid David open to the thought of fighting the battle with his

difficulties on new ground. There is a risk to the cultivation of our spiritual

life arising from the weariness consequent on long trial. The tension may

seem to justify and necessitate diminished watchfulness and prayer —

virtually a departure to new ground. In work for Christ, good men, when

oppressed and worn down, and not attaining to their goal, are induced to

think of expedients hitherto not approved, and apparently more easy in

application. This temptation gains force when, amidst the mental confusion

incident to weakness and disappointment, the value of the securities given

us by God is not duly assessed. More consideration on the part of David of

what security was implied in his being the anointed, and in the repeated

assurance of God’s intention to raise him to the throne, would have

induced the conviction that, using ordinary means in Judah, he must be safe

from Saul. Temptations gain power when we fail to consider that the

promises of salvation and of blessing on our toil are yea and amen in Christ





GUIDANCE AND SUPPORT. The fall of good men is seen, but the real

causes are not. The probability is that during his absorption in details he

may have lost the spirit of devotion which hitherto had distinguished him,

and hence his decision in this case without seeking counsel by the Urim.

The secret departure of the heart from God is fraught with mischief and

trouble. We then devise means of our own and distrust those which God

has blessed. Then it is that we become faint and despondent and impatient,

and, while not renouncing our life’s calling of God, yet we pursue it in a

manner inconsistent with our profession. Near to God in private life,

humble dependence on His daily strength and guidance, this alone fosters

faith in His wisdom and protection, and saves from recourse to expedients

that reflect on His care.




Ø      Temporary ease in a righteous cause may mean loss of spiritual power

and a beginning of disaster.


Ø      If we would endure hardness as good soldiers we must be one in

fellowship with the Captain of our salvation.


Ø      In the service of God the weight of evidence is in favour of confidence

and against fear, and we misread God’s word and discipline when fear





(vs. 5-7).


5 “And David said unto Achish, If I have now found grace in thine eyes, let

them give me a place in some town in the country, that I may dwell there:

for why should thy servant dwell in the royal city with thee?  6 Then Achish

gave him Ziklag that day: wherefore Ziklag pertaineth unto the kings of

Judah unto this day.”  If l have now found grace in thine eyes. Now is not an

adverb of time, but means “I pray,” i.e. If verily I have found favor with

thee. David’s position was one of difficulty. The fame of his exploits, and

of Saul’s vain pursuit of him, made Achish no doubt regard him as a bitter

foe of the Israelite king, and expect valuable assistance from him; whereas

David was unwilling to take up arms even against Saul, and much less

against his own countrymen. He is anxious, therefore, to get away from a

too close observation of his acts, and requests Achish to give him a place

in some town in the country. Hebrew, “a place in one of the cities in the

field.” Why should thy servant, etc. David’s presence with so large a

following must in many ways have been inconvenient as well as expensive

to Achish. In some small country town David and his men would maintain

themselves. Achish accordingly gives him Ziklag, a small place assigned

first of all to Judah (Joshua 15:31), but subsequently to Simeon (ibid.

19:5). Its exact position is not known. It seems to have been valued by

David’s successors, as it is noted that it still belonged unto the kings of

Judah. This phrase proves that the Book of Samuel must have been

compiled at a date subsequent to the revolt of Jeroboam, while the

concluding words, unto this day, equally plainly indicate a date prior to

the Babylonian exile.


7 “And the time that David dwelt in the country of the Philistines was a full

year and four months.” A full year. Hebrew, “days.” Rashi argues in favor of

its meaning some days, and Josephus says the time of David’s stay in Philistia

was “four months and twenty days;” but already in ch. 1:3; 2:19,

we have had the phrase “from days day-ward in the sense of yearly, and

compare Leviticus 25:29; Judges 17:10, 19:2; where the  Authorized Version

translates the Hebrew days four months as meaning “four months” only.

Probably, as here, it is a year and four months, though the omission of the

conjunction is a difficulty. So too for “after a time” (Judges 14:8) it should

be “after a year” — Hebrew, after days.




     (vs. 8-12).


8 “And David and his men went up, and invaded the Geshurites, and the

Gezrites, and the Amalekites: for those nations were of old the inhabitants

of the land, as thou goest to Shur, even unto the land of Egypt.”

Went up. The Geshurites inhabited the high table land which

forms the northeastern portion of the wilderness of Paran. Like the

Kenites, they seem to have broken up into scattered tribes, as we find one

portion of them in the neighborhood of Bashan (Deuteronomy 3:14),

and another in Syria (II Samuel 15:8). Probably, like the Amalekites,

they were a Bedouin race, and so great wanderers. Hence the verb

translated invaded is literally “spread themselves out” like a fan, so as to

enclose these nomads, whose safety lay in flight. Gezrites. The written text

has Girzites, which the Kri has changed into Gezrites, probably from a

wish to connect a name never mentioned elsewhere with the town of

Gezer. But Gezer lay far away in the west of Ephraim, and the connection

suggested in modern times of the Girzites with Mount Gerizim in Central

Palestine is more probable. They would thus be the remains of a once more

powerful people, dispossessed by the Amorites, but who were now

probably a very feeble remnant. For those nations, etc. The grammar and

translation of this clause are both full of difficulties, but the following

rendering is perhaps the least objectionable: “For these were (the families)

inhabiting the land, which were of old, as thou goest towards Shur,” etc.

Families must be supplied because the participle inhabiting is feminine.

What, then, the narrator means to say is that these three Bedouin tribes

were the aboriginal inhabitants of the northwestern portion of the desert

between Egypt and South Palestine. On the Amalekites see ch. 15:2.

We need not wonder at finding them mentioned again so soon after

Saul’s expedition. A race of nomads would sustain no great harm from an

expedition which soon began to occupy itself with capturing cattle. On

Shur see ch. 15:7.


9 “And David smote the land, and left neither man nor woman alive, and

took away the sheep, and the oxen, and the asses, and the camels, and the

apparel, and returned, and came to Achish.  10 And Achish said, Whither

have ye made a road to day? And David said, Against the south of Judah,

and against the south of the Jerahmeelites, and against the south of the

Kenites.”  David smote the land. These expeditions were made

partly to occupy his men, but chiefly to obtain the means of subsistence.

They also seem to have brought David great renown, for in I Chronicles 12:1-22

we read of warriors from far distant tribes coming to him to swell his forces, and

the enthusiasm for him was even such that a band of men swam across the Jordan

to join him (ibid. v. 15); while others from Manasseh deserted to him from Saul’s

army before the battle of Mount Gilboa, so that at last he had with him “a great

host, like the host of God” (ibid. vs. 19-21). He came to Achish. To give him a

portion of the spoil. And Achish said. Like the verb went up in v. 8, the word

indicates repeated action. David made many expeditions against these wild

tribes, and on each occasion, when presenting himself at Gath, Achish

would inquire, Whither have ye made a road i.e. an inroad, or a raid

today? As it stands the Hebrew means, “Do not make an inroad today;”

but the correction of the text given in the Authorized Version has considerable

authority from the versions. The Jerahmeelites, mentioned again in ch. 30:29,

were the descendants of Hezron, the firstborn of Pharez, the son of Judah

(I Chronicles 2:9), and so were one of the great families into which the tribe

of Judah was divided. Apparently they occupied the most southerly

position of its territory. The Kenites (see on ch. 15:6) are here described

as being in close alliance with the men of Judah. Probably they lived under

their protection, and paid them tribute. The south is literally “the Negeb,”

the dry land, so called from the absence of streams (compare Psalm 126:4),

which formed not only the southernmost part of the territory of Judah,

but extended far into the Arabian desert. Achish naturally understood it

as the proper name for that part of the Negeb which belonged to Judah,

whereas David meant it as it is translated in the Authorized Version,

where there is no obscurity as to its meaning.


11 “And David saved neither man nor woman alive, to bring tidings to

Gath, saying, Lest they should tell on us, saying, So did David, and

so will be his manner all the while he dwelleth in the country of the

Philistines.  12 And Achish believed David, saying, He hath made his

people Israel utterly to abhor him; therefore he shall be my servant for

ever.”  To bring tidings. The Authorized Version is wrong in adding the word

tidings, as the Hebrew means “to bring them to Gath.” Prisoners to be sold

as slaves formed an important part of the spoil of war in ancient times. But

David, acting in accordance with the cruel customs of warfare in his days,

and which he practiced even when he had no urgent necessity as here (see

II Samuel 8:2), put all his prisoners to death, lest, if taken to Gath and

sold, they should betray him. The Authorized Version makes his conduct even

more sanguinary (involving much bloodshed, and supposes that he suffered none

to escape. And so will be his manner all the while he dwelleth. The Hebrew is

he dwelt,” and thus the rendering of the Authorized Version, though supported

by the Masoretic punctuation, is untenable. But this punctuation is of

comparatively recent date, and of moderate authority. The words really belong

to the narrator, and should be translated, “And so was his manner all the days

that he dwelt in the field of the Philistines.” It seems that Achish was completely

deceived by David, and supposing that his conduct would make him hateful forever

to his own tribesmen of Judah, and so preclude his return home, he rejoiced in him

as one who would always remain his faithful vassal and adherent.



David’s Residence Among the Philistines (vs. 3-12)


David had taken the decisive step, crossed the border, and passed with his

600 men and their families (“a little ambulant kingdom”) into the Philistine

territory. His position was very different now from what it had been five or

six years before, when he came to Gath as a lonely fugitive (ch. 21:10); and

he was gladly received by Achish, who regarded him as in open

revolt against Saul and Israel, and expected to obtain from him valuable

assistance in his future conflicts with them. And here and at Ziklag he

continued sixteen months (v. 7). His condition (like that of other good

men who enter into intimate association with the ungodly, voluntarily,

unnecessarily, and for the sake of worldly advantage; see ch. 15:6) was

marked by:


  • TEMPORARY SECURITY (v. 4). By placing himself under the

protection of Achish, David gained his end; for Saul dared not follow him

lest he should excite another Philistine war, and (physically restrained,

though still retaining an evil will) “sought no more again for him.” His

outward circumstances were completely changed. Instead of the uncertain,

anxious, hazardous, and despised life which he had led in the wilderness, he

enjoyed repose, comfort, safety, and respect in a royal city. To obtain

advantages such as these men often swerve from the appointed path of

duty, especially in times of persecution, not considering:


Ø      at what a cost they are obtained,

Ø      how brief is their duration, or

Ø      how great the trouble by which they may be followed.


  • CONSCIOUS INCONSISTENCY (vs. 5-7). In open alliance with

the enemies of Israel, silently witnessing their idolatrous practices, looked

upon as a traitor to his country, and ready to aid them against it, David

must have felt what a contradiction there was between his apparent and

real character. Yet he might not declare himself by a single word or act, for

thousands of watchful eyes were always on him. He did not feel at home,

and requested (under the plea of the unsuitableness and expensiveness of

his residence with his large retinue at Gath) that the king would give him “a

place in some town in the country,” his real motive being that he might be

out of the way of observation, so as to play the part of Saul’s enemy

without acting against him.” At Ziklag he would be less under restraint,

and his real sentiments less likely to be discovered, though even there he

might still be suspected. No outward advantages that good men may gain

by their alliance with the ungodly can afford adequate compensation for the:


Ø      insincerity,

Ø      distraction,

Ø      restlessness, and

Ø      vexation of soul


which it involves (II Peter 2:8).


  • SUCCESSFUL ENTERPRISE (vs. 8-9). As soon as he was settled

at Ziklag he made warlike expeditions against the Amalekites, Geshurites,

and Gezrites, “of old the inhabitants of the land” (unlike the Philistines);

and from the rich booty which lie procured he supplied the wants of his

men, and gave valuable presents to Achish (v. 9). His setting forth on

these expeditions, and the cruel severity with which he executed them,

must be judged of in the light of “the circumstances of those times, and the

constant practices of nations one to another, especially of the neighboring

nations towards the Hebrews” (Chandler), and of the ban under which

some of them had been placed (see ch. 15:1, 32-33). He was doubtless

animated therein by public spirit and religious zeal (ch. 30:26), but his

motives were not altogether unmixed, and his successes brought him a

doubtful honor (v. 12).


  • CRAFTY POLICY (vs. 10-11). To retain the confidence of Achish,

he gave him the impression that his expeditions were directed against his

own countrymen and their allies, instead of against Amalek and other

neighboring tribes; and he was thus, through distrust of God, again guilty

of deceit (ch. 21:1, 10). “If a man will put himself among Philistines, he

cannot promise to come forth innocent” (Hall). “David might

perhaps seek in some way to justify himself by the thought that in his

ambiguous manner of speech he made use only of an allowable stratagem,

and that he was a heathen to whom he veiled the truth. But he will yet be

made to experience that God will weigh those who would be His in the

balances of the sanctuary, in which, among others, that inviolable word is

found as one of the weights, ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness’ -  Exodus

20:16 - Krummacher).


  • INCREASING POWER AND IMPORTANCE.   While at Ziklag he received

large reinforcements (ch. 22:1, 2; I Chronicles 12:1-22), some of whom were

of Saul’s brethren of Benjamin” — evidently from dissatisfaction with the

turn which things had taken (see also II Samuel 15:16-23). “As a matter of

fact, David in this city laid the foundation of all his kingdom. Here he could

already rule with greater freedom and independence, collect fugitives and

deserters around him in larger and larger numbers, send or receive embassies

like a prince (ch. 30:26-31), and, as a ruler over soldiers and over peaceable

citizens, rehearse, on a small scale, those arts by which he afterwards

acquired and maintained his great kingdom” (Ewald). Notwithstanding

all this, his condition was one of:



DETEOIRATION.  That which he had dreaded as the worst of evils

(ch. 26:19) had come about by his own voluntary act. Although he was not

forbidden the exercise of his religion under Achish (ch. 29:6), yet his

circumstances were unfavorable to it; he was absent from the land and the

sanctuary where God manifested His gracious presence to His people (ibid.

v. 20; Psalm 42:2-3), and his whole course of life is indicative

of a lower tone of piety than before. “Being a genuine poet and lover of

art, he took advantage of all his opportunities in this direction, and

exercised himself as a musician in the Gittite and the Philistine style

(Psalm 8., inscription), which he afterwards transferred from there to

Jerusalem” (Ewald); but not a single psalm of his can be referred to this



  • DANGEROUS ENTANGLEMENTS, intense suffering, and probably

also serious delay in the attainment of his high destiny (ch. 28:1-2; 30:3).

The evils that sprang from his want of faith and patience were truly great.

“His presence in Judah would have given an opportunity which Saul could

hardly have refused, for calling him forth as the champion of Israel. At all

events he would have been at hand to relieve the disaster, and would

doubtless have been hailed as king by the united voice of Israel. As it was,

his nation suffered a terrible defeat, which, instead of doing his best to avert,

he narrowly escaped taking a share in inflicting; his recognition as king of

Israel was postponed for seven years and a half at the cost of a civil war

and a permanent alienation of Judah from the rest of Israel; and meanwhile

he was involved in a course of pitiable deceit” (Smith, ‘Old Testament Hist.’).

Nevertheless the overruling hand of God must be recognized in all, and by

Divine mercy he was delivered “out of all tribulation.”


“Ay me, how many perils do unfold

The righteous man, to make him daily fall,

Were not that heavenly grace doth him uphold,

And steadfast truth acquit him out of all!

Her love is firm, her care continual,

So oft as he, through his own foolish pride

Or weakness, is to sinful bands made thrall”




The Perils of Expediency (vs. 5-12)


The facts are:


1. David, being unwilling to live in the royal city, seeks and obtains Ziklag

as his place of abode.

2. During his stay there he makes war on neighboring tribes.

3. He gives Achish the impression that he was acting in hostility to Judah,

and so creates the belief that henceforth he must be an ally of the Philistine.


The painful backsliding of David is a reminder of the frailty of the best of

men, and should induce great watchfulness over the subtle springs of

thought and feeling. The prominent teaching of this section may be

arranged thus:



passing over the border was a step unwillingly taken, originating in the

proper belief that when possible dangers ought to be avoided, but chiefly in

the fear that the oft experienced help in Judah would not be continued

there. The imperfect spiritual condition which rendered groundless fear

possible also induced a self-choice of means of safety irrespective of

guidance of prophet or Urim. But no sooner is the step taken than dangers

thicken. A sojourn with Achish meant dependence for support, exposure to

treachery, increasing obligations to serve a heathen king, the evils to

religious life of association with idolaters, and consciousness of self-

debasement.  We have to learn that the path of duty may be encompassed

with difficulties, but is always better than any course we may from love of

ease strike out for ourselves. The Church has never gained anything but

ultimate loss and dishonor in evading the pains and sorrows of high

spiritual service by a spirit of CONFORMITY TO THE WORLD!  The

merchant beset with risks incurs worse dangers by passing’ over the line

of truthfulness and fraud. The soul sensible of its spiritual dangers and

annoyed by restless temptations finds no real relief in leaving the

way everlasting” for the expedients suggested by a deceitful heart.



THE OBJECT FOR WHICH WE LIVE. Obviously David was careful not

to let Achish know that he was the anointed, and was living in hope of

rising to the throne of Israel. For as Israel was the declared and natural

enemy of Philistia, this would be to foster the means of his future

overthrow. It was impossible for a man of fine sensibilities to thus suppress

his real character and objects without constant sense of shame, and even

dread lest by some means he should be detected and suddenly assailed.

Occasionally for political reasons men have adopted a policy of

concealment, though even in this department of life it is attended with loss

of self-respect and considerable peril. There are temptations for religious

men to hide their religion, to pass unknown as professors, to assume for a

while the habits and enter into too intimate associations with the

irreligious. In festive scenes, in plans of business, in converse with

strangers, there may arise a feeling of shame, or a thought of inexpediency,

which not merely restrains from a natural expression of Christian feeling

consonant to the occasion, but even prompts to an effort to give the

impression that we are not religious. The sin of this suppression of our

Christianity, this hiding of the great end for which we profess to live,

cannot but bring most grievous trouble to the soul, as it so manifestly

dishonurs the name by which we are called.



FAVOR OF THE IRRELIGIOUS. David’s scheme was to live in favor

with the Philistines, and to this end he represented himself as their friend

and the foe of their foe. Not only did he produce the false impression of

having attacked Judah, — an act of untruthfulness, — but he did himself

and brethren the cruel wrong of representing himself as alien to them. For

awhile Achish was misled, but his people were suspicious (ch. 29:3), and

the result was a loss of reputation to David. Good men cannot compromise

their position with irreligious men and secure or confer any permanent

advantage thereby. The consideration and interest they manifest for a

season, resting on false representations, will soon yield to suspicions,

distrust, and contempt. If it be thought that accommodations of life to the

standard of the unspiritual will tend to benefit them, events will prove the

thought to be delusive. “Be not conformed to this world:  but be ye

transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is

that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God ” (Romans 12:2) is the

wise policy, as it is the solemn duty, of the Christian.




From the day that David sought the friendly protection of Achish to the

outbreak of war with Israel, David was becoming involved in obligations

which could only be set aside at the cost of a reputation for deceit and

ingratitude. He had to play a double part to save his own life and to avoid

the fearful sin of raising his hand against his own countrymen (compare

vs. 11-12; ch. 28:1-2). There is here warning for the Church and the individual.

Christian action should always be so free and truly based on righteous

principles as to raise no claim for service or friendship inconsistent with the

holy vows of consecration to Christ. He who by suppression of his

religious principles puts himself in the power of irreligious companions or

associates will find his position to be one of increasing embarrassment; and

after a painful and tortuous line of conduct it will be necessary to lose all

respect by breaking away from the wicked alliance or retain friendship by a

shipwreck of faith. “The friendship of the world is enmity with God”

(James 4:4). Young persons who are thrown much among the

irreligious should take to heart the lessons of David’s experience.




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