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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

1 Samuel 27

Verses 1-2

David’s return to Philistia 27:1-28:2

This section records David’s relocation to Ziklag in Philistia, his raids of southwestern Canaan from Ziklag, and the Philistines’ preparations for war against Saul. Philistia is where David spent the final stage of his "outlaw" career.

Verses 1-7

David’s relocation to Ziklag 27:1-7

Was it God’s will for David to leave Israel and move to Philistia? The text does not say, but there are indications that lead me to believe that he should not have done this, even though he must have felt almost forced to do it. First, there is the statement that David consulted with himself, but he had previously asked God for guidance in prayer (cf. 1 Samuel 23:2; 1 Samuel 23:4). Second, David said he believed he would die if he remained in Israel. Yet Samuel had anointed him as Israel’s next king (1 Samuel 16:13), Jonathan had said twice that David would be king (1 Samuel 18:4; 1 Samuel 23:17), as had Saul (1 Samuel 24:20; 1 Samuel 26:25), and so had Abigail (1 Samuel 25:30). Saul’s most recent statement about this occurs in the verse immediately preceding 1 Samuel 27:1. Third, the name of God does not appear in this chapter, suggesting that David did not get his guidance from the Lord. David’s faith in God’s ability to keep him safe seems to have weakened temporarily. The stress and strain of his hide-and-seek existence with no end in view seem to have worn on David. In addition, he had another wife to take care of now (1 Samuel 25:42). All of these things led him to seek refuge from Saul in Philistia again (cf. 1 Samuel 21:10-15). This was only a weakness in trust, however, not disobedience to the revealed will of God.

Why would David have been welcome in Philistia? Probably Achish and the other Philistine lords rejoiced to see the rift that existed between David and Saul.

"Without David, Saul lacked military leadership sufficient to eliminate the Philistine threat; without Saul, David lacked a power base from which to operate." [Note: Merrill, Kingdom of . . ., p. 219.]

"Secondly, Achish realized that as soon as David did attack his own people, he would lose for ever the possibility of changing sides." [Note: David Payne, p. 140.]

Consequently Achish was willing for David and his men to live in Philistia, apparently as mercenaries (cf. 2 Samuel 10:6; 2 Samuel 15:18-22). Gath stood about 27 miles west-northwest of Ziph. Achish appears to have treated David as a vassal ruler and given him the town of Ziklag as a fiefdom. [Note: Merrill, "1 Samuel," p. 222.] David’s move was a fairly major relocation of his forces and his family (1 Samuel 27:3). He evidently planned to stay in Philistia until God disposed of Saul. Since David now enjoyed Philistine protection, Saul no longer searched for him. Saul would have had to take on the Philistines to get to David, and Saul would not have wanted to do that. David must have looked like the frustrated leader of an ineffective coup d’état to Achish. Anyone who was the enemy of Saul was the friend of Achish. But David pretended to be more of a servant to Achish than he really was (1 Samuel 27:5).

Ziklag evidently stood on the southwestern edge of Philistia about 27 miles south-southwest of Gerar, but its exact site is not certain. [Note: J. D. Ray, "Two Etymologies: Ziklag and Phicol," Vetus Testamentum (July 1986):355-58.] It continued under Israelite control from the time David moved there until David incorporated it into his kingdom. This town became David’s headquarters until he moved to Hebron 16 months later (1 Samuel 27:7; cf. 2 Samuel 1:1). In Ziklag David could come and go without constant observation by the Philistines who lived mainly to the north of Ziklag.

Verses 1-12

4. The end of Saul’s reign chs. 27-31

David’s commitment to God resulted in his continuing to be God’s instrument of blessing to the Israelites and His instrument of judgment to Israel’s enemies. This was true in spite of David’s failure to seek guidance from the Lord before moving back into Philistine territory. David’s strength continued to grow as Saul’s continued to wane. In these last chapters of 1 Samuel the writer continued to move back and forth: first describing David’s activities, and then Saul’s, then David’s, and then Saul’s. This technique puts the fates of the two men in stark contrast side by side. Thus the book closes with the narrative contrast technique the way it opened, in which the writer contrasted Samuel and Eli’s sons.

Verses 8-12

David’s raids to the south 27:8-12

David used the opportunity that his location afforded to defeat and to annihilate the common enemies of Israel and the Philistines that lived to Israel’s southwest. David did not leave any survivors, as the Lord had commanded (Deuteronomy 3:18-20; Joshua 1:13). He was clearing the Promised Land of foreign foes so the Israelites could occupy it. David walked a thin line of deception but was able to convince Achish that his victories were for the welfare of the Philistines. Really he was conquering Israel’s surrounding enemies, but he gave Achish the impression that his raids were against the southern portions in Judah. David continued to subdue Israel’s enemy neighbors later when he became king (2 Samuel 8). Achish believed that David had alienated himself from the Israelites and would therefore be loyal to him from then on (1 Samuel 27:12; cf. 1 Samuel 17:9).

"Like Nabal [in 1 Samuel 25:10], Achish seriously underestimates David by regarding him as a servant or slave." [Note: Miscall, p. 165. Cf. Gunn, The Fate . . ., p. 107.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 27". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.