Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 27

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-4

First Samuel - Chapter 27

David Goes to Philistia, vs. 1-4

The extent of David’s distrust of Saul’s promises is

evidenced by his decision to go to Gath to seek refuge. However, it is also an instance of weakened faith in the Lord’s protection of him in that he made this choice. It is also surprising in view of his previous attempt to find refuge in the Philistine city (see 1 Samuel 21:10-15; Psalms 34). On that occasion David had found himself in possible danger from the suspicious Philistines and had pretended insanity to escape them. Soon afterward Gad the seer had come to him and instructed him not to leave the land of Judah (1 Samuel 22:5).

Nevertheless, David received favor from King Achish this time, being granted political asylum. David had determined that there was no hope of escaping Saul’s persistent chase, so that he, his wives, his men and their wives, all came to seek refuge in Gath. David’s object was gained, for Saul ceased pursuit when he learned that David had gone down to Philistia. The two men, Saul and David, were destined to meet no more.

Verses 5-12

David Deceives Achish, vs. 5-12

David took advantage of his favorable reception by requesting a private station for himself and his men in the Philistine country, that he might not be a burden of support to Achish in the royal city of Gath. Consequently he was assigned to the city of Ziklag. This town was south of Gath in the Judaean foothills, on the western slope of the hill country of Judah. It was among those places overcome by Joshua in the conquest of Canaan and had previously assigned to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:31). Like all the towns west of the hill country, however, it had been occupied by the infiltrating Philistines and never really possessed by Judah. After its assignment to David, though, it thereafter was considered the possession of the kings of Judah.

David and his men, now an army of six hundred with their families lived here in Philistia, in the town of Ziklag for a total of sixteen months. During all this time David led a double life. Pretending to be the friend of Achish, David in fact was active against the tributary tribes of the Philistine king. David spent his time in ruinous raids against the scattered tribes of southern Judah and Philistia. The Geshurites, Gezrites, and Amalekites were tent people who lived in the area of the trade route running to Shur and so into Egypt. The Amalekites were the most prominent, also one of the oldest tribes of the wilderness. (Note Numbers 24:20.) They were first noted in Abraham’s day ( Genesis 14:7), and were later assimilated into the descendants of Esau (Genesis 36:12 ff). Various members of the other two peoples were stretched all across the area to the east side of the Dead Sea.

All of these tribes were enemies of the people of Israel, and friends of the Philistines. David seems to have smitten isolated camps and exterminated them completely, killing all the people and taking everything they possessed. When Achish inquired of David where he had made his sorties he lied, telling him that he had raided the Judahites and their tributary and friendly tribes of the desert, the Jerahmeelites and the Kenites. The Jerahmeelites were a wilderness dwelling group of Judahite people, and the Kenites were the friendly descendants of the Moses’ brother-in-law, Hobab. So it was David’s policy to totally erase all trace of the camps he assaulted that no report could be taken to Achish and the king learn the true intent of David in the land.

The naivete of Achish is noted in verse 12, "And Achish believed David." Achish seems to have congratulated himself in acquiring a valuable servant in the person of David. Not bothering to make an investigation he concluded that David was turning the people of Judah in abhorrence against him, so that he could never return to Israel. Thus he would have David as his lifetime servant.

Surely the Lord was displeased with David’s new designs. He had protected him constantly against Saul while he remained in Judah, and would surely have continued to do so. Yet the Lord used the situation in Philistia to bring to a head affairs with Saul and open the way for David to succeed to the kingship.

(Author’s NOTE: The following passage has no parallel in the books of Samuel, but comes here chronologically, and is therefore treated here.)

To David’s Aid, 1 Chronicles 12:1-7

The men named in these seven verses were early supporters of David, who left their homes and went into exile with him at Ziklag. This was while David was living under the protection of Achish, the king of Gath. They were very useful to him in his wars and came to be numbered among his mighty men. They were excellent bowmen, and being ambidextrous, could hurl stones and shoot arrows equally well.

It is interesting that several of these were of Saul’s own kinsmen, the first two named being from his own capital, Gibeah. Five other Benjamites are also named. Ismaiah, who became one of the captains among the thirty mighty men, came from Gibeon, in western Benjamin. One came from Anathoth, a priest city, near Jerusalem.

Five others were Levite members of the family of Korah, who were later prominent officials in the temple (1 Chronicles 9:19). Three men came from Gedor in the tribe of Judah, while the remaining eight were probably also from Judah. None of the known deeds of the mighty men are ascribed specifically to these, but they must have been brave, loyal, and dependable soldiers for David.

Lessons: 1) Those who seem strongest in faith are still subject to weakness when they take their eyes off the Lord; 2) men even repeat past mistakes, expecting them to turn out better on second trial; 3) living with the world will lead one to engage in a double life, involving him in sinful practices; 4) God can, and often will, still work out matters to His own honor and glory, though it will be to the shame of His wayward child; 5) men in the right will attract others to them.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 27". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. 1985.