1 Samuel 21:11
And the servants of Achish said unto him, Is not this David the king of the land? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) Is not this David?—Some expositors have supposed, but quite needlessly, that it was the sword of Goliath which betrayed the identity of the hero; but although David in his humility did not suspect how widely spread was his fame, he was evidently as well known in Philistia as in his own land. That popular lilt, the folk-song of the Israelitish maidens, which sang of the prowess of David, the son of Jesse, was no doubt current in frontier towns like Gath, and at once the fugitive was recognised. We hear of no attempt made upon his life, or even against his liberty. The feeling among his generous foes was rather pitiful admiration mingled with wonder at seeing the doer of such splendid achievements in poverty and in exile.

David the king.—Here, again, the title king is vaguely used. Neither the people of Gath nor his own countrymen—save, perhaps, a few chosen spirits—knew of the sacred anointing by Samuel at Bethlehem. The appellation simply means: Is not this the renowned warrior, the greatest man in Israel of whom the people sing? Saul, our sovereign, has been a valiant captain over us, and has slain his thousands; but this one is greater still, he has slain his ten thousands.

1 Samuel 21:11. King of the land — Of Canaan. They call him king, either more generally for the governor, the most eminent captain and commander, or, as the king elect, the person designed to be king: for, by this time, the fame of Saul’s rejection, and David’s destination to the kingdom, was got abroad among the Israelites, and from them, probably, to the Philistines. Did they not sing, &c. — And therefore consider what to do; and now our great enemy is in thy hand, be sure thou never let him go alive.

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.The king of the land - The Philistines gave him the title which their own lords bore. 1Sa 21:10-15. At Gath He Feigns Himself Mad.

10. David … fled … to Achish the king of Gath—which was one of the five principalities of the Philistines. In this place his person must have been known, and to venture into that country, he their greatest enemy, and with the sword of Goliath in his hand, would seem to have been a perilous experiment; but, doubtless, the protection he received implies that he had been directed by the divine oracle. Achish was generous (1Sa 27:6). He might wish to weaken the resources of Saul, and it was common in ancient times for great men to be harbored by neighboring princes.

The king of the land, or, of this land, i.e. of the land of Canaan. They call him king, either more generally for the governor, as that word is used Deu 33:5, for the most eminent captain and commander, and, as it were, the king of the Israelitish armies; or rather, more specially, the king, to wit, the king elect, the person designed to be king; for by this time the fame of Saul’s rejection, and David’s destination to the kingdom, was got abroad among the Israelites, and from them probably to the Philistines’ ears.

Did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands? and therefore consider what to do; and now thine and our great enemy is in thy hand, be sure thou never let him go alive.

And the servants of Achish said unto him,.... Who knew who David was, and perceiving that he was respected by Achish:

is not this David the king of the land? of the land of the Philistines; so some render the words, "the king of this land" (q); which belongs unto him for his conquest of Goliath; for this was what was proposed by him, that whoever was the conqueror should possess the kingdom; and seeing it belongs to him, O Achish, why dost thou admit him to court? thou wilt be driven from the throne, and we shall be his servants, and not thine (r): but rather they mean the king of the land of Israel, having heard that he was anointed king by Samuel, and was to succeed Saul; or rather, they called him so because he led out the armies of Israel as their general, and being victorious was more respected than even Saul was; for they had heard what the women sung in their songs as follows:

did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands? which are the burden of their song, 1 Samuel 18:7; and from whence the servants of Achish concluded, that he was in greater authority or honour, and in greater esteem than Saul their king was.

(q) "rex hujus regionis", Vatablus. (r) Vid. Jarchium & Jesaiam in loc.

And the servants of Achish said unto him, Is not this David the king of the land? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
11. the king of the land] The natural exaggeration of popular rumour. David had appeared as chief leader in the Philistine wars.

did they not sing, &c.] Do they not sing. It had become a popular song. See on 1 Samuel 18:7.

Verse 11. - David the king of the land. The servants of Achish use the title of king in a very general way. Thus Achish, though really a seren (see on 1 Samuel 5:11), is called king of Gath; and they meant nothing more as regards David than that he was Israel's great man, though in accepting Goliath's challenge he had undertaken what in old time was regarded as the king's especial duty. Did they not sing one to another of him in dances? The Hebrew method of singing was by choruses, who sang and danced in turns to the music of their tambours (see on 1 Samuel 18:7). David evidently had hoped not to be recognised, but to be admitted to serve as a soldier, or in some other capacity, without many questions being asked. As we find an Edomite in Saul's service, Cushites, Maachathites, and other foreigners in the employment of David, there was probably much of this desertion of one service for another, especially as kings in those days had absolute authority and their displeasure was death. 1 Samuel 21:11David with Achish at Gath. - David fled from Nob to Achish of Gath. This Philistian king is called Abimelech in the heading of Psalm 34, according to the standing title of the Philistian princes at Gath. The fact that David fled at once out of the land, and that to the Philistines at Gath, may be accounted for from the great agitation into which he had been thrown by the information he had received from Jonathan concerning Saul's implacable hatred. As some years had passed since the defeat of Goliath, and the conqueror of Goliath was probably not personally known to many of the Philistines, he might hope that he should not be recognised in Gath, and that he might receive a welcome there with his few attendants, as a fugitive who had been driven away by Saul, the leading foe of the Philistines.

(Note: This removes the objection raised by modern critics to the historical credibility of the narrative before us, namely, that David would certainly not have taken refuge at once with the Philistines, but would only have gone to them in the utmost extremity (Thenius). It is impossible to see how the words "he fled that day for fear of Saul" (1 Samuel 21:11) are to prove that this section originally stood in a different connection, and are only arbitrarily inserted here (Thenius). Unless we tear away the words in the most arbitrary manner from the foregoing word ויּברח, they not only appear quite suitable, but even necessary, since David's journey to Abimelech was not a flight, or at all events it is not described as a flight in the text; and David's flight from Saul really began with his departure from Nob. Still less can the legendary origin of this account be inferred from the fact that some years afterwards David really did take refuge with Achish in the Philistian country (1 Samuel 27:1-12 and 1 Samuel 29:1-11), or the conjecture sustained that this is only a distorted legend of that occurrence. For if the later sojourn of David with Achish be a historical fact, that popular legend could not possibly have assumed a form so utterly different as the account before us, to say nothing of the fact that this occurrence has a firm historical support in Psalm 34:1.)

But in this he was mistaken. He was recognised at once by the courtiers of Achish. They said to their prince, "Is not this David the king of the land? Have they not sung in circles, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?" (cf. 1 Samuel 18:6-7). "King of the land" they call David, not because his anointing and divine election were known to them, but on account of his victorious deeds, which had thrown Saul entirely into the shade. Whether they intended by these words to celebrate David as a hero, or to point him out to their prince as a dangerous man, cannot be gathered from the words themselves, nor can the question be decided with certainty at all (cf. 1 Samuel 29:5).

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