1 Samuel 27:11
And David saved neither man nor woman alive, to bring tidings to Gath, saying, Lest they should tell on us, saying, So did David, and so will be his manner all the while he dwells in the country of the Philistines.
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(11) And David saved neither man nor woman.—This and the following (12th) verse gives the reason for these atrocious acts of murder. The wild and irresponsible Arab chief alone seemed represented in David in this dark portion of his career. This saddest of all the chapters in David’s life follows close upon the death of Samuel. It appears that the holy man of God had exercised, all the time that he had lived, a great and beneficent influence over the son of Jesse; and when he passed away, other and less wise counsellors prevailed with David. Want of trust in God and a craven fear for his own life (see his words, 1Samuel 26:20; 1Samuel 26:24) drove him to leave the land of Israel, and to seek a refuge among his Philistine foes. One sin led on to another, when, in Philistia—to preserve that life of his—he commenced a course of duplicity, to carry out which he was driven to commit these terrible cruelties. “The prisoners taken would naturally have been part of the spoil; but David dared not bring them to Gath, lest his deceit should be discovered. Obviously these tribes (Geshurites, Gezerites, and Amalekites) were allies of the Philistines.”

Saying, So did David, and so will be his manner.—The English Version of this passage is in accordance with the present punctuation in the Hebrew Bible, and represents these words as the saying of the slaughtered enemies. This is of itself most improbable. The Hebrew, too, will scarcely bear this interpretation; for the verb “to dwell” is a past, and cannot correctly be rendered “while he dwelleth.” The Masoretic punctuation of the present Hebrew text is of comparatively recent date. It is better, then, in their place, with Maurer and Keil, the LXX., and Vulg. Versions, simply to put a stop after the words “so did David,” and then begin a new sentence, which will read, “And so was his manner all the while he dwelt in the land of the Philistines;” understanding these words as a remark of the narrator of the history.

1 Samuel 27:11. To bring tidings to Gath — Our translation has here put in the word tidings, which entirely perverts the sense of this place. For in the Hebrew it is, he saved neither man nor woman alive to bring to Gath; that is, he brought no prisoners thither; and the reason was, because it would then have appeared that they were not Israelites that David had spoiled, as Achish supposed. But the words, to bring tidings to Gath, occasions the reader to make a very wrong conclusion, namely, that these people were in alliance with Achish, and that they would have sent messengers to have complained of David’s behaviour, but that he cruelly butchered them on purpose to prevent this. Whereas it is certain there is no sort of reason to believe that these people were in any kind of alliance with Achish, but quite the contrary. 27:8-12 While David was in the land of the Philistines, he attacked some remains of the devoted nations. The people whom he cut off were long before doomed to destruction. It is often wisdom to shun public notice, but we must in no situation be idle. We must always try to do somewhat in the cause of God. This expedition David hid from Achish. But an equivocation which serves the purpose of a lie, is as like to it as a hypocrite is to a profane person, it is only better in appearance, therefore more dangerous. Yet, though believers often manifest imperfections, they can never be prevailed upon to renounce the service of God, and to unite interests with his enemies, or finally to become the servants of sin and Satan. But what a train of evils follow from unbelief! When we forget the Lord's past mercies, and his gracious assurances, we shall be overwhelmed with desponding fears, and probably be led to adopt some dishonourable method to get rid of our troubles. Nothing can so effectually establish us in holy tempers and practices, and preserve us from perplexities, as firm, unshaken dependence upon the promises of God in Christ Jesus.Tidings - The word is not in the original. The sense rather is "to bring them to Gath," as captives and slaves. The prisoners taken would naturally have been part of the spoil, but David dared not to bring them to Gath lest his deceit should be discovered. Obviously these tribes were allies of the Philistines. 10. Achish said, Whither have ye made a road to-day?—that is, raid, a hostile excursion for seizing cattle and other booty.

David said, Against the south of Judah, and against the south of the Jerahmeelites—Jerahmeel was the great-grandson of Judah, and his posterity occupied the southern portion of that tribal domain.

the south of the Kenites—the posterity of Jethro, who occupied the south of Judah (Jud 1:16; Nu 24:21). The deceit practised upon his royal host and the indiscriminate slaughter committed, lest any one should escape to tell the tale, exhibit an unfavorable view of this part of David's history.

Lest they should tell on us; that the tidings of this action against this people (who were, it seems, either tributaries to or confederates with Achish) might neither come quickly nor certainly to Achish’s court; which he might the rather promise himself, because Achish and all his men were now busily employed in their warlike preparations against the Israelites; and if any flying rumour came thither, he thought by his interest and artifices he could easily discredit and dash it. Besides, the consideration of God’s curse denounced against the people whom he had now destroyed, and of God’s particular promises made to him, and of his special providence which he constantly experienced watching over him, made him more secure and confident in this and in many other hazardous attempts. And David saved neither man nor woman alive to bring tidings to Gath,.... How David had fallen upon these people, and destroyed great numbers of them, and carried off their substance; which would have given great offence to Achish, and caused him to have driven him out of his country once more; though Abarbinel is of opinion that these Geshurites, &c. were haters and enemies of Achish, and therefore were smitten and spoiled by David; or otherwise it would have been such a piece of perfidy, rebellion, and ingratitude, as mast have made the name of David to stink, since it could not but be known sooner or later; but being the enemies of Achish, no notice was taken of it afterwards, nor inquiry made about it, nor complaint made of it, by any of their neighbours: nor does he suppose they were all cut off, and much less that this was done that it might not be told in Gath what destruction he had made; but that the sense is, that he did not carry the captives to Gath, to be disposed of there; for they would have told from whence they came, and so have contradicted what David said, and what he would have Achish understand, as if he had been out against and smote some of the cities of Judah, that he might place the greater confidence in him; which end would not have been answered, if he had brought any of them to Gath; and so the words may be read without the supplement we make, "spared neither man nor woman alive to bring to Gath": and so could tell no tales. Though Josephus expressly says (k) that David spared the men, and abstained from the slaughter of them, fearing lest they should declare to the king what he had done in plundering them:

saying, lest they should tell on us, saying, so did David: in such and such places, such numbers of people he destroyed, and such quantities of cattle and goods he carried off:

and so will be his manner all the while he dwelleth in the country of the Philistines: this is what may be expected will be done by him in one place or another, as long as he stays here; nothing will be heard of but desolation and destruction, in some part of the country of the Philistines or another; or among those that were tributaries to them; so that it was not safe that he should be allowed to abide in it.

(k) Antiqu. l. 6. c. 13. sect. 10.

And David saved neither man nor woman alive, to bring tidings to Gath, saying, Lest they should tell on us, saying, So did David, and so will be his manner all the while he dwelleth in the country of the Philistines.
11. And David said, &c.] The tribes which David really plundered must evidently have lived in the neighbourhood of the southern boundary of Judah, so that he could represent his expeditions as made against his own countrymen and their allies, not, as was the fact, against allies of the Philistines. David’s falsehoods are not of course to be judged by the Christian standard of morality.

to bring tidings to Gath] Rather, to bring them to Gath, as prisoners. Such barbarity was nothing strange at the time, and David did not rise above the practice of his contemporaries.

tell on us] “On” used as we now use “of” is common in Shakespeare: e.g. Macbeth, A. i. Sc. 3:

“Or have we eaten on the insane root

That takes the reason prisoner?”

and so will be his manner, &c.] Render, “and so was his manner all the while he dwelt in the country of the Philistines.” A full stop must be placed after David, and the following words taken as a remark of the historian. Cp. 1 Samuel 27:7.Verses 11, 12. - To bring tidings. The A.V. is wrong in adding the word tidings, as the Hebrew means "to bring them to Gath." Prisoners to be sold as slaves formed an important part of the spoil of war in ancient times. But David, acting in accordance with the cruel customs of warfare in his days, and which he practised even when he had no urgent necessity as here (see 2 Samuel 8:2), put all his prisoners to death, lest, if taken to Gath and sold, they should betray him. The A.V. makes his conduct even more sanguinary, and supposes that he suffered none to escape. And so will be his manner all the while he dwelleth. The Hebrew is "he dwelt," and thus the rendering of the A.V., though supported by the Masoretic punctuation, is untenable. But this punctuation is of comparatively recent date, and of moderate authority. The words really belong to the narrator, and should be translated, "And so was his manner all the days that he dwelt in the field of the Philistines." It seems that Achish was completely deceived by David, and supposing that his conduct would make him hateful forever to his own tribesmen of Judah, and so preclude his return home, he rejoiced in him as one who would always remain his faithful vassal and adherent.

In the capital of the kingdom, however, David felt cramped, and therefore entreated Achish to assign him one of the land (or provincial) towns to dwell in; whereupon he gave him Ziklag for that purpose. This town was given to the Simeonites in the time of Joshua (Joshua 19:5), but was afterwards taken by the Philistines, probably not long before the time of David, and appears to have been left without inhabitants in consequence of this conquest. The exact situation, in the western part of the Negeb, has not been clearly ascertained (see at Joshua 15:31). Achish appears to have given it to David. This is implied in the remark, "Therefore Ziklag came to the kings of Judah (i.e., became their property) unto this day."
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