|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
21:10-15 God's persecuted people have often found better usage from Philistines than from Israelites. David had reason to put confidence in Achish, yet he began to be afraid. His conduct was degrading, and discovered wavering in his faith and courage. The more simply we depend on God, and obey him, the more comfortably and surely we shall walk through this troublesome world.
Verse 13. - He changed his behaviour. The same word is used in the title of Psalm 34. Literally it means "his taste," and, like the Latin word sapientia, is derived from the action of the palate, and so from the faculty of discriminating flavours it came to signify the power of discrimination generally. Thus "to change his taste" means to act as if he had lost the power of distinguishing between objects. Feigned himself mad. Literally, "he roamed hither and thither" restlessly and in terror. In their hands. I.e. before them, in their presence. Scrabbled on the doors of the gate. The Vulgate and Septuagint read drummed upon them. Literally the verb means "to make the mark of a Tau," the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and which anciently was in the form of a cross. The gate, on the leaves of which David scrawled, was probably that of the court or waiting room, in which the servants of Achish passed their time when in attendance upon him. Possibly David had witnessed these symptoms of madness in Saul's case during his fits of insanity. The idea of some of the older commentators, that David really for a time went out of his mind, is opposed to the general sense of the narrative.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And he changed his behaviour before them,.... Behaved like a fool, or a madman: or changed his "taste" (s); which some understand of his reason, acted as if he was deprived of it; and others of his speech, his words and the accent of them, drawled them out, as such persons do:
and feigned himself mad in their hands; for in their hands he was, being taken by them, as the title of the fifty sixth psalm shows, Psalm 56:1; and this stratagem he used to get himself out of their hands, acting the part of a madman, delirious, and out of his senses:
and scrabbled on the doors of the gate; as if he was writing something there, and making marks upon them:
and let his spittle fall down upon his beard; slavered, as idiots and madmen do; and however mean this may seem in David to act such a part, it cannot be condemned as wicked, since it was only a stratagem to deliver himself, out of an enemy's hand, and stratagems are always allowed to be used against an enemy; and such a method as this has been taken by men of the greatest sense and wit, as by Brutus (t) and Solon (u); and yet, according to the Vulgate Latin and Septuagint versions, this case of his was real and not feigned; that through the surprise of being known in the court of Achish, he was seized with an epilepsy; that his countenance was changed, and his mouth distorted, as persons in such fits are; that he fell among them as one convulsed, and fell at, and dashed against the doors of the gates, and foamed at the mouth, as such persons do; see Luke 9:39; and so in the following words the Greek version is, ye see the man is an epileptic; I do not want epileptics; but the thirty fourth and fifty sixth psalms, composed by him at this time, show that as he was of a sound mind, so in good health of body, and not subject to such fits as here represented, see Psalm 34:1; which would have rendered him unfit for such composures.
(s) "sensum suum", Montanus, Vatablus; "sermonem suum", Pagninus. (t) Liv. Hist. l. 1. c. 56. Aurel. Victor. de Vir. Illustr. c. 13. (u) Justin e Trogo, l. 2. c. 7.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
13. feigned himself mad—It is supposed to have been an attack of epilepsy, real or perhaps only pretended. This disease is relieved by foaming at the mouth.
let his spittle fall down upon his beard—No wonder that Achish supposed him insane, as such an indignity, whether done by another, or one's self, to the beard, is considered in the East an intolerable insult.
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