Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 29

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-11

II. David’s Dismissal from the Philistine Army

1 Samuel 29:1-11

1Now [And] the Philistines gathered together all their armies1 to Aphek; and 2the Israelites pitched by a [the] fountain2 which is in Jezreel. And the lords3 of the Philistines passed on by hundreds and by thousands, but [and] David and his 3men passed on in the rearward [rear] with Achish. Then said the princes4 of the Philistines, What do these Hebrews here? And Achish said unto the princes of the Philistines, Is not this David, the servant of Saul the [om. the] king of Israel, which [who] hath been with me these days or these years,5 and I have found no 4fault in him since he fell unto me unto this day? And the princes of the Philistines were wroth with him; and the princes of the Philistines said unto him, Make this fellow [the man] return, that he may go again to his place which thou hast appointed him, and let him not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he be an adversary6 to us; for wherewith should he reconcile himself [make himself accept 5able] unto his master? should it not be with the heads of these men? Is not this David, of whom they sang one to another in dances, saying, Saul slew his thousands, and David his ten thousands?

6Then Achish called David, and said unto him, Surely [om. surely], as the Lord [As Jehovah] liveth, thou hast been [art] upright, and thy going out and thy coming in with me in the host is good in my sight; for I have not found evil in thee since the day of thy coming unto me unto this day; nevertheless the lords favour thee 7not [but in the eyes of the lords thou art not good]. Wherefore [And] now return, 8and go in peace, that thou displease not the lords of the Philistines. And David said unto Achish, But7 what have I done? and what hast thou found in thy servant so long as I have been with thee [from the day8 when I was in thy presence] unto this day, that I may not go fight against the enemies of my lord the king? 9And Achish answered and said unto David, I know9 that thou art good in my sight as an angel10 of God; notwithstanding [but] the princes of the Philistines have said, 10He shall not go up with us to the battle. Wherefore [And] now, rise up early in the morning with thy master’s servants that are come with thee;11 and as soon as 11ye be up early in the morning, and have light, depart. So David and his men rose up early to depart in the morning, to return into the land of the Philistines. And the Philistines went up to12 Jezreel.


1 Samuel 29:1. Resumption of the narrative of the war between the Philistines and Israelites, 1 Samuel 28:1-4, with an exacter description of the positions of the two armies. Aphek—to be distinguished from the places of the same name in Asher (Joshua 19:30; Judges 1:31), in Judah on the mountain (Joshua 15:53), and near Ebenezer (1 Samuel 4:1)—belonged to Issachar, and is probably the same with the present el Afuleh near Solam=Sunem (v. d. Velde, Mem., p. 286; Ew., Gesch., III., 142, A. 2). Southeast of this Philistine rendezvous the Israelites were encamped “at the spring near Jezreel,” the present Zerin (Rob., III., i. 395) [Am. ed., ii. 319–323, where Robinson explains the identity of the names Jezreel and Zerin, the Heb. el often becoming in in Arabic, as Beitin = Bethel; so Zerel=Zerin.—Tr.] Ain [= “spring”] is not = Endor, as the Sept. wrongly gives it, whence it is adopted by Euseb. in the Onomasticon, but the present Ain Jalud,13 a very bold spring on the northwest declivity of Gilboa, whence flows a brook through the Wady Jalud into the Jordan. There the Israelitish army encamped opposite the Phlistine in a well-watered spot near Jezreel. “Elsewhere also a spring gives name to a stopping-place or border line, 2 Samuel 17:17; Numbers 34:11” (Böttch.).

1 Samuel 29:2. Vivid description of the array of the Philistine army, not at the mustering (Bunsen), but in their movement to Aphek. In divisions of hundreds and thousands, at the head of their divisions the “Princes [lords] of the Philistines” marched on, properly “marched over,” that is, over the plain of Esdraelon to Jezreel (comp. 1 Samuel 29:4). Here in the north they advanced with their whole force, in order to bring about a decisive battle in the plain with the Israelites, not being able to maintain themselves permanently in the mountains. Their advance to Jezreel forced Saul to lead his whole army thither. There is no ground or necessity for supposing that they had occupied or ravaged the middle portion of the country where Saul’s royal residence, Gibeah lay, in order then to carry the war into the extremely fruitful northern district, and thus soon conquer all Israel (Ew., Gesch., III., 142), “for towards the end of his reign Saul’s military strength was probably not so great that he could have divided it” (Then). The Philistines having begun their march, Achish found himself with David in the rearguard.

1 Samuel 29:3. The other leaders object to the presence of David and his men: What do these Hebrews here? As it is said in 1 Samuel 29:11 that David returned to the land of the Philistines, and according to 1 Samuel 30:1 they reached Ziklag after a three days march, the objection of the Philistine princes must have been made on Israelitish soil, or near the Palestinian border, but not at the commencement of the march. From Achish’s reply it appears that the princes distrusted David, suspecting that he would go over to his own people and fight against the Philistines. Achish observes 1) that David is servant of Saul, king of Israel, thus alluding to his enmity with Saul, 2) that he has already been allied with him a long time against Saul, “these days or these years” = “a year and a day,” indefinite statement of the time mentioned in 1 Samuel 27:7 : “a year and four months,”—and 3) that in all this time he has seen nothing in him to awaken suspicions of treachery. From the day of his falling (נָפְלוֹ, instead of [rather, used alongside of—Tr.] נִפְלוֹ, see Ew., § 255, d). The vss. add “to me,” according to the usual construction of the verb, though we need not therefore insert “to me” (אֵלַי) in the text (Then.), “since it is understood from the context” (Keil). On these grounds Achish thought himself quite sure of David, comp. 1 Samuel 27:12.

1 Samuel 29:4. The twofold designation of the Philistine leaders, here “chiefs” [Eng. A. V. “princes”], in 1 Samuel 29:2, “princes” [Eng. A. V. “lords”] comes from the circumstantial character of the narration, not from oversight (Then.), though the Sept. and Vulg. omit the second name. The chiefs of the Philistines did not accept Achish’s explanation, but were angry with him, and demanded of him that he send David back to his place, which he (Achish) had appointed him, that is, to Ziklag. They said: He shall not go down with us into the battle. “Go down” (יֵרֵד) is a regular technical military expression, derived from the necessity in that mountainous country of descending into the plain to fight,14 comp. 1 Samuel 26:10; 1 Samuel 30:24. To Achish’s defence of David they reply: 1) he might become an adversary to them in battle, though he had hitherto been an ally; 2) he might wish to recommend himself to his lord, though he had up to this time opposed him,—with the heads of these men. The Hithpael of the verb (רצה) indicates zealous self-activity, “earnestly to commend one’s self,” or, “to seek to make one’s self acceptable” (Ew., § 124 a). “These,” they say, pointing to the Philistine troops. By defeating a part of our force, said they, he would try to regain Saul’s favor. Herein is a recognition of David’s bravery and military ability, which they would be the less disposed to doubt when they recollected the defeat he had formerly inflicted on Goliath and the Palestine army. For they say 3) Is this not David, of whom they sang in dances? &c. Comp. 1 Samuel 18:7 with 1 Samuel 16:11. It is the same argument that Achish’s servants used against him on his first visit to Achish’s court. The Philistines’ recollection of that achievement is here to be the means of rescuing David from the painful necessity of going into battle with the Philistines against his own people.

1 Samuel 29:6. Achish is obliged to yield to the decided demand of his comrades. He assures David that his confidence in him is unshaken, that he regards him as an honorable and faithful man. Achish’s oath “by the life of Jehovah” is to be explained not by the fact that a Hebrew is here the narrator (Then.), or that Achish had learned from David to know and honor the God of Israel (S. Schmid), but by his desire to attest more strongly the truth of his words by invoking the God whom David worshipped. Achish, however, does not say that he had been pleased with David in former wars (Tremell. Vatablus), but his words refer to this campaign, he assuring him of his confidence in contrast with the distrust of the princes. He means to say: To me thou art the object of undoubting trust, but the princes do not wish thee to take part in the campaign. Thus he excuses himself, as it were, to David for the fact that he must now (1 Samuel 29:7) bid him return, that he may do nothing evil in the eyes of the princes of the Philistines.

1 Samuel 29:8. As Achish remains true in word and deed to his honorable confidence in David, so David remains true to his rôle (27) of dishonorable prevarication to Achish; for, when he says: that I should not go and fight against the enemies of my lord, the king—this “my lord, the king,” may refer as well to Achish as to Saul; and, for the rest, he could not have been in earnest in saying that he would fight, for he certainly would not have fought against his own countrymen (Then.).

1 Samuel 29:9. Achish trustingly accepts David’s words as referring to himself, and renews the assurance of confidence in his honor. The I know is the reply to David’s assertion of his faithfulness in the question: “What have I done?” etc. [Translate: “I know it, for thou art good,” etc.—Tr.] Achish’s testimony to David’s fidelity and honor (on the words: “yea, thou art in my eyes,” etc. comp. Genesis 48:19) rises to the point of comparing him with an “angel (= messenger)15 of God,” see 2 Samuel 14:17; 2 Samuel 19:27. I esteem thee as highly, he would say, as if thou wert sent to me from God—but the princes say: “he shall not go up with us to the war.” The word “go up” refers to the progress of the march from the south upwards towards the north.

1 Samuel 29:10. With the servants of thy lord, that is, of Saul; whose subjects they were. [On the text see “Textual and Grammatical.”—Tr.]

1 Samuel 29:11. David returns to Philistia, to Ziklag (1 Samuel 30:1).—That David, in order to avoid a sad alternative, himself artfully roused the opposition of the Philistine princes to his participation in the campaign (as Thenius thinks not impossible), is, even if possible, too bold a conjecture; the narrative gives no ground for it.


1. God’s patience is such that the sins of the members of His kingdom are not visited with expulsion from communion with Him, so long as they, like David, direct their inner life to Him in faith, and are willing to be guided by Him. But such sins as we here see in David—fear of man, unfaith, having recourse to heathen protection, deceitful behaviour towards the kind and honorable king Achish—God does not pass by, on the one hand, without the exhibition of His punitive righteousness, partly punishing sin with sin, as we here see in David from a fundamental sin (doubt and little faith) all other sins issuing, these again coming one from another, partly inflicting internal anguish and external perplexities and painful experiences; but, on the other hand, he restrains evil consequences, and brings into play former exhibitions of His helping might (as here in the Philistines’ recollection of David’s victory over Goliath and the army), so to order all things according to His mercy and wisdom that the blameworthy evil does not lead to destruction, and subserves the ends of His providential government of the world.

2. Certainly David’s untruthfulness is not to be measured by Christian morality (Then.), for the mingling of the standpoints of the Old and New Testaments by introducing the latter into the former, both as respects moral knowledge and biblical ethics, and as respects religious truth and biblical dogmatics, is set aside by the difference of the two Testaments in the development of the history of revelation and the kingdom of God. Especially in judging of individual, concrete, ethical phenomena in the relation between man and man, where the principle of love is limited by national relations, we must take into consideration the limitation of the theocratic principle of life to the sphere of the national life in respect to those peoples that were outside of the theocracy. Nevertheless all ethical phenomena in the life of the Old-Testamental bearers of the divine revelation and the theocratic principle must be looked at from the highest point of view, which is given in God’s holy will itself, and judged as to their ethical character and value by the absolute standard. The God of absolute truth (Numbers 23:19; 2 Samuel 15:29) demands truth from his “saints” (comp. Exodus 20:6 with 1 Samuel 19:6 and Proverbs 6:16-19; Deuteronomy 19:11). To the God of truth and faithfulness (Psalms 40:10-12 [9–11]) the lips must not speak falsehood (Psalms 34:15 [13]), as David himself declares. Apart, however, from the stand-point of revelation, David’s conduct to Achish is condemned from the stand-point of natural-human morality by the unsuspecting faithfulness and honor of the heathen king.


1 Samuel 29:1-2. S. Schmid: The sins of the princes of the people put weapons into the hands of the enemies of God and the Church.

1 Samuel 29:3 sq. [Scott: While presumptuous sinners are given up to the effects of their own counsels and driven headlong to destruction, the sins of the upright are repented of and pardoned; and the Lord takes care both of their peace and reputation.—Tr.]—Hedinger (from Hall): O the wisdom and goodness of our God, that can raise up an adversary to deliver us out of those evils which our friends cannot!—Schlier: When the Lord thinks on us, He comes at the right time with His blessing also. He has ways, even where we know no further expedient, and can give counsel and help where we might already despair.

1 Samuel 29:4. Schlier: God’s children are not people that have no failings and weaknesses any more. But on account of such failings God does not yet cast off His children. Even if we sin, He does not yet at once give us up; He chastens us, but He does not cast us off.—[1 Samuel 29:6. Scott: When worldly people have no evil thing to say of us, but will bear testimony to our uprightness, we need desire no more from them: and this we should aim to acquire by prudence, meekness and a blameless life. But their flattering commendations are almost always purchased by improper compliances, or some measure of deception, and commonly may cover us with confusion.—Tr.]

1 Samuel 29:7. Cramer: God guides His saints wonderfully (Psalms 4:4 [3]), and holds them back from sins which if they were given up to themselves, they would commit, acting against their own conscience, and rescues them from great peril also, into which they would otherwise have fallen through their thoughtless projects.—Hedinger [from Hall]: One degree of dissimulation draws on another; those which have once given way to a faulty course cannot easily either stop or turn back.—[Henry: No one knows how strong the temptation is to compliment and dissemble, which they are in that attend great men, and how hard it is to avoid it.—Tr.]—What wholesome effects are produced under God’s guidance by that intercourse which in the world is indispensably necessary between those who have part in God’s kingdom and those who stand aloof from it? 1) For those who stand aloof from the kingdom of God: a) that they involuntarily give honor to the living God; b) that they recognize in those who belong to His kingdom the power of a higher divine character, and are compelled to bow before that power (1 Samuel 29:9); c) that in themselves the remains of the divine image again come forward, and they find pleasure in that which is ethically good and beautiful. 2) for those who have part in God’s kingdom themselves: a) the consoling perception that even they who stand aloof from God’s kingdom have to serve as instruments for the fulfilment of the divine purposes and designs of salvation (Proverbs 16:7); b) the wonderful confirmation of the truth that all things must work together for good to them that love God (Romans 8:27), and c) humbling self-knowledge in respect to their own sins and faults, in view of the morally noble behaviour of those who stand aloof from the kingdom of God, while they themselves are wanting therein.


[1][1 Samuel 29:1. Lit. “camps.”—Tr.]

[2][1 Samuel 29:1. Sept. Endor, Arab. “near the city (עיר) Jezreel,” Syr. apparently “in In” as proper name. Eng. A. V. is correct.—Tr.]

[3][1 Samuel 29:2. םֶרֶן seren (rendered “lord” in Eng. A. V. throughout this chapter), a word of doubtful origin, supposed by some to be connected with the similar Aramaic subst. which means “axle,” magistrates being considered supports on which the state revolves. On the relations between the Aramaic and the Phœnician-Canaanitish dialects see Schröder, Phönizische Sprache, Einl. § 11.—Tr.]

[4][1 Samuel 29:3. The ordinary word שָׂר, which Eng. A. V. renders “princes” throughout this chapter.—Tr.]

[5][1 Samuel 29:3. An indefinite phrase, but not therefore suspicious. The versions have dealt variously with it. Chald. and Vulg. follow the Heb. literally (as Eng. A. V.), except that Vulg. has “multis diebus.” Syr. has “this time and time and months,” which is understood by some to mean “these two years and some months,” but it is more probably a reproduction of the phrase in 1 Samuel 27:7, and = “a year and some months” (so Arab.). The Sept. ἡμέρας τοῦτο δεύτερον ἔτος perhaps contains a duplet, as Wellh. suggests, and the text of Stier and Theile (eclectic) gives δεύτερον ἔτος σήμερον “two years to-day.” Sept. probably read שְׁנָתַיִם “two years,” not, however, זֶה יָמִים שְׁנַיִם (suggested by Wellh. as basis of the Heb. and Greek texts) which would not be rendered “two years” but “two days.” It seems better, on the whole, to retain the present Heb. text, and regard Sept. and Syr. as free renderings.—Tr.]

[6][1 Samuel 29:4. Heb. שָׂטָן satan, used in the general sense of “adversary” in the earlier books of the Bible, and with the Art. as ft proper name in Job and Zechariah, and without the Art. in 1 Chronicles 21:1. The verb. שׂטן “to hate, be hostile to,” is used only in the general sense. Fürst refers to the curious view of Justin Martyr (Dial. cum Tryph. 103) that Σατανᾶς = נחשׁ םטא “the apostate serpent.”—Tr.]

[7][1 Samuel 29:8. כִּי is here a cohortative and illative particle, and might be rendered “then” (so Erdmann), but, as it is also adversative, the translation of Eng. A. V. is better.—Tr.]

[8][1 Samuel 29:8. מִיּוֹם. Wellhausen: Either omit אֲשֶׁר or write the Art. before יוֹם—Tr.]

[9][1 Samuel 29:9. Perhaps better with Thenius and Philippson: “I know it, for (or, yea) thou art, etc.” This avoids the redundancy of the translation of Eng. A. V. and Erdmann: “I know … in my eyes.” The quia of the Vulgate = “quod.”—Tr.]

[10][1 Samuel 29:9. Erdmann: “Messenger,” not so well. Sept. omits, perhaps because the phrase was considered unsuitable in the mouth of a heathen. For the significance of its use see the Exposition and Translator’s note.—Tr.]

[11][1 Samuel 29:10. Here the Sept. inserts: “and go ye to the place where I have appointed you, and set thou nothing evil in thy heart, for thou art good in my sight.” Thenius and Wellhausen favor this insertion on the ground that after the “rise early” follows usually the mention of the thing done, while the Heb. text has the unnecessary repetition “rise early … and rise early” (the “as soon as” of Eng. A. V. is not expressed in the Heb.). On the other hand, we cannot well account for the omission of this clause, if it formed apart of the original text, while the insertion might have been made by a copyist (or the phrase added on the margin) to soften the repetition. We may suppose the verb here repeated because of the intervening clause, which called for a change in the Number of the Verb.—Tr.]

[12][1 Samuel 29:11. Some MSS. contain the preposition, which is here obviously involved in the construction. Sept., Vat.: “went up to fight against Jezreel,” but Alex. has “against Israel,” which is adopted by Thenius, on which Wellh. says: “Thenius is misled by Eusebius into putting Aphek in the vicinity of Endor (Lagarde, Onomast. 216, 28); in that case, of course, the expression ‘the Philistines went up to Jezreel’ would be meaningless, since they were already there. But Aphek is the same in 1 Samuel 29:1 as in 1 Samuel 4:1, near Mizpeh and Ebenezer.” Yet, from Aphek near Mizpeh to Jezreel would be going down, not up. From some lower place (as near Shunem) they would naturally advance to seize the hill Jezreel, which lay between their camp and Saul’s. The fountain in Jezreel (1 Samuel 29:1) is perhaps the grand spring at the foot of Gilboa, regarded as being in the district of Jezreel.—Tr.]

[13][That is, “spring of Goliath,” according to a tradition that here David killed Goliath; or “spring of Gilead” as the ancient name of Gilboa (A. P. Stanley in Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, Art. Jezreel).—Tr.]

[14][This is a sufficient reply to Wellhausen’s remark that “the narrator here forgets that he is dealing with a Philistine, who [as dwelling in a plain] would probably use the opposite expression [go up].”—Tr.]

[15][This word is probably to be taken here in a supernatural sense. We need not suppose this a Hebrew idea put into the mouth of the Philistine; the conception of superhuman messengers of God (= our “angels”) is so general and natural that there is no difficulty in supposing it to be known and used among the Philistines.—Tr.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 29". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.