1 Samuel 29:2
And the lords of the Philistines passed on by hundreds, and by thousands: but David and his men passed on in the rear guard with Achish.
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(2) And the lords of the Philistines passed on by hundreds, and by thousands.—The orderly advance of this great military nation is thus described. The “lords” a different term to the expression “princes.” There were apparently in the Philistine federation five sovereign princes, of whom Achish of Gath was one. Beneath these were other chieftains, who seemingly had great control over the sovereign princes.

David and his men.—David, in return for the lands round Ziklag given him by the King of Gath, seems to have owed a kind of military service to his suzerain Achish. The difference in the arms and equipment of the Israelitish warriors in the division of David, which was marching under the standard of Gath, no doubt excited questions. The general appearance of the Hebrews was, of course, well known to their hereditary Philistine foes.

29:1-5 David waited with a secret hope that the Lord would help him out of his difficulty. But he seems to have been influenced too much by the fear of man, in consenting to attend Achish. It is hard to come near to the brink of sin, and not to fall in. God inclined the princes of the Philistines to oppose David's being employed in the battle. Thus their dislike befriended him, when no friend could do him such a kindness.The lords - See Judges 3:3 note, as distinguished from ordinary "princes" 1 Samuel 29:3. The military divisions of the Philistine army were by hundreds and by thousands, like those of the Israelites 1 Samuel 8:12. David and his men formed a body-guard to Achish 1 Samuel 28:2. 2. David and his men passed on in the rereward with Achish—as the commander of the lifeguards of Achish, who was general of this invading army of the Philistines. i.e. As the life-guard of Achish, as he had promised, 1 Samuel 28:2, Achish being, as it seems, the general of the army. And the lords of the Philistines passed on by hundreds, and by thousands,.... Not that there were so many lords, for there were but five of them; but these marched, some at the head of hundreds with them, and others at the head of thousands:

but David and his men passed on in the rereward with Achish; who being the generalissimo brought up the rear, and David, whom he had appointed captain of his bodyguards, attended him with his men, which in point of gratitude he could not refuse; and yet was in the greatest strait and difficulty how to act, it being both against his conscience and his interest to fight against Israel, and was waiting and hoping for some appearance of Providence to deliver him out of this dilemma, and which was quickly seen; but Abarbinel thinks David had no other notion in going to the battle, but of being the bodyguard of Achish, and accompanying him, and that he should not fight against Israel, nor for the Philistines: neither harm the one, nor help the other.

And the lords of the Philistines passed on by {a} hundreds, and by thousands: but David and his men passed on in the rereward with Achish.

(a) According to their bands, or ensigns.

2. And the lords, &c.] Render, Now the lords … were passing on. The narrative now goes back to a point of time during the march of the Philistine army northwards, probably soon after the junction of the confederate forces from the different cities of the league. It must have been after they had passed the Philistine frontier, as David “returned into the land of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 29:11), but soon after, as he reached Ziklag on the third day (1 Samuel 30:1).

the lords] For the special title Seren translated “lord” see on ch. 1 Samuel 5:8. They were marching at the head of “the hundreds and the thousands” which were the military divisions of the army.

the rereward] The rear-guard, ward and guard being related as wise and guise, Cp. Isaiah 52:12.Verses 2, 3. - The lords of the Philistines passed on. Evidently they were on their march northward, with their troops arranged in divisions, when David's presence in the rearward with the contingent of Achish was noticed. The princes - not the strict word for the Philistine lords (see on 1 Samuel 5:8), but a loose, general term used again in ver. 4 - on having it reported to them in the course of a day or two that there was a body of strange troops in the army of Gath, asked, What do these Hebrews here? Hebrew, "What these Hebrews?" i.e. What mean these Hebrews? using of them the ordinary Philistine term of contempt. Achish answers that these men were the followers of David, who, having deserted from Saul, had been with him these days or these years, i.e. an indefinitely long time, during which he had conducted himself with the utmost fidelity to his new master. The woman then came to him and persuaded him to strengthen himself with food for the journey which he had to take. It by no means follows from the expression "came unto Saul," that the woman was in an adjoining room during the presence of the apparition, and whilst Samuel was speaking, but only that she was standing at some distance off, and came up to him to speak to him when he had fallen fainting to the ground. As she had fulfilled his wish at the risk of her own life, she entreated him now to gratify her wish, and let her set a morsel of bread before him and eat. "That strength may be in thee when thou goest thy way" (i.e., when thou returnest).

This narrative, when read without prejudice, makes at once and throughout the impression conveyed by the Septuagint at 1 Chronicles 10:13 : ἐπηρώτησε Σαοὺλ ἐν τῷ ἐγγαστριμύθῳ τοῦ ζητῆσαι, καὶ ἀπεκρίνατο αὐτῷ Σαμουὴλ ὁ προφήτης; and still more clearly at Ecclus. 46:20, where it is said of Samuel: "And after his death he prophesied, and showed the king his end, and lifted up his voice from the earth in prophecy, to blot out the wickedness of the people." Nevertheless the fathers, reformers, and earlier Christian theologians, with very few exceptions, assumed that there was not a real appearance of Samuel, but only an imaginary one. According to the explanation given by Ephraem Syrus, an apparent image of Samuel was presented to the eye of Saul through demoniacal arts. Luther and Calvin adopted the same view, and the earlier Protestant theologians followed them in regarding the apparition as nothing but a diabolical spectre, a phantasm, or diabolical spectre in the form of Samuel, and Samuel's announcement as nothing but a diabolical revelation made by divine permission, in which truth is mixed with falsehood.

(Note: Thus Luther says (in his work upon the abuses of the Mass, 1522): "The raising of Samuel by a soothsayer or witch, in 1 Samuel 28:11-12, was certainly merely a spectre of the devil; not only because the Scriptures state that it was effected by a woman who was full of devils (for who could believe that the souls of believers, who are in the hand of God, Ecclus. 3:1, and in the bosom of Abraham, Luke 16:31, were under the power of the devil, and of simple men?), but also because it was evidently in opposition to the command of God that Saul and the woman inquired of the dead. The Holy Ghost cannot do anything against this himself, nor can He help those who act in opposition to it." Calvin also regards the apparition as only a spectre (Hom. 100 in 1:Samuel.): "It is certain," he says, "that it was not really Samuel, for God would never have allowed His prophets to be subjected to such diabolical conjuring. For here is a sorceress calling up the dead from the grave. Does any one imagine that God wished His prophet to be exposed to such ignominy; as if the devil had power over the bodies and souls of the saints which are in His keeping? The souls of the saints are said to rest and live in God, waiting for their happy resurrection. Besides, are we to believe that Samuel took his cloak with him into the grave? For all these reasons, it appears evident that the apparition was nothing more than a spectre, and that the senses of the woman herself were so deceived, that she thought she saw Samuel, whereas it really was not he." The earlier orthodox theologians also disputed the reality of the appearance of the departed Samuel on just the same grounds; e.g., Seb. Schmidt (Comm.); Aug. Pfeiffer; Sal. Deyling; and Buddeus, Hist. Eccl. V. t. ii. p. 243, and many more.)

It was not till the seventeenth century that the opinion was expressed, that the apparition of Samuel was merely a delusion produced by the witch, without any real background at all. After Reginald Scotus and Balth. Becker had given expression to this opinion, it was more fully elaborated by Ant. van Dale, in his dissert. de divinationibus idololatricis sub V. T.; and in the so-called age of enlightenment this was the prevailing opinion, so that Thenius still regards it as an established fact, not only that the woman was an impostor, but that the historian himself regarded the whole thing as an imposture. There is no necessity to refute this opinion at the present day. Even Fr. Boettcher (de inferis, pp. 111ff.), who looks upon the thing as an imposture, admits that the first recorder of the occurrence "believed that Samuel appeared and prophesied, contrary to the expectation of the witch;" and that the author of the books of Samuel was convinced that the prophet was raised up and prophesied, so that after his death he was proved to be the true prophet of Jehovah, although through the intervention of ungodly arts (cf. Ezekiel 14:7, Ezekiel 14:9). But the view held by the early church does not do justice to the scriptural narrative; and hence the more modern orthodox commentators are unanimous in the opinion that the departed prophet did really appear and announce the destruction of Saul, not, however, in consequence of the magical arts of the witch, but through a miracle wrought by the omnipotence of God.

This is most decidedly favoured by the fact, that the prophetic historian speaks throughout of the appearance, not of a ghost, but of Samuel himself. He does this not only in 1 Samuel 28:12, "When the woman saw Samuel she cried aloud," but also in 1 Samuel 28:14, 1 Samuel 28:15, 1 Samuel 28:16, and 1 Samuel 28:20. It is also sustained by the circumstance, that not only do the words of Samuel to Saul, in 1 Samuel 28:16-19, create the impression that it is Samuel himself who is speaking; but his announcement contains so distinct a prophecy of the death of Saul and his sons, that it is impossible to imagine that it can have proceeded from the mouth of an impostor, or have been an inspiration of Satan. On the other hand, the remark of Calvin, to the effect that "God sometimes give to devils the power of revealing secrets to us, which they have learned from the Lord," could only be regarded as a valid objection, provided that the narrative gave us some intimation that the apparition and the speaking were nothing but a diabolical delusion. But it does nothing of the kind. It is true, the opinion that the witch conjured up the prophet Samuel was very properly disputed by the early theologians, and rejected by Theodoret as "unholy, and even impious;" and the text of Scripture indicates clearly enough that the very opposite was the case, by the remark that the witch herself was terrified at the appearance of Samuel (1 Samuel 28:12). Shbel is therefore quite correct in saying: "It was not at the call of the idolatrous king, nor at the command of the witch, - neither of whom had the power to bring him up, or even to make him hear their voice in his rest in the grave, - that Samuel came; nor was it merely by divine 'permission,' which is much too little to say. No, rather it was by the special command of God that he left his grave (?), like a faithful servant whom his master arouses at midnight, to let in an inmate of the house who has wilfully stopped out late, and has been knocking at the door. 'Why do you disturb me out of my sleep?' would always be the question put to the unwelcome comer, although it was not by his noise, but really by his master's command, that he had been aroused. Samuel asked the same question." The prohibition of witchcraft and necromancy (Deuteronomy 18:11; Isaiah 8:19), which the earlier writers quote against this, does not preclude the possibility of God having, for His own special reasons, caused Samuel to appear. On the contrary, the appearance itself was of such a character, that it could not fail to show to the witch and the king, that God does not allow His prohibitions to be infringed with impunity. The very same thing occurred here, which God threatened to idolaters through the medium of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 14:4, Ezekiel 14:7,Ezekiel 14:8): "If they come to the prophet, I will answer them in my own way." Still less is there any force in the appeal to Luke 16:27., where Abraham refuses the request of the rich man in Hades, that he would send Lazarus to his father's house to preach repentance to his brethren who were still living, saying, "They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them. If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead." For this does not affirm that the appearance of a dead man is a thing impossible in itself, but only describes it as useless and ineffectual, so far as the conversion of the ungodly is concerned.

The reality of the appearance of Samuel from the kingdom of the dead cannot therefore be called in question, especially as it has an analogon in the appearance of Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:3; Luke 9:30-31); except that this difference must not be overlooked, namely, that Moses and Elijah appeared "in glory," i.e., in a glorified form, whereas Samuel appeared in earthly corporeality with the prophet's mantle which he had worn on earth. Just as the transfiguration of Christ was a phenomenal anticipation of His future heavenly glory, into which He was to enter after His resurrection and ascension, so may we think of the appearance of Moses and Elijah "in glory" upon the mount of transfiguration as an anticipation of their heavenly transfiguration in eternal life with God. It was different with Samuel, whom God brought up from Hades through an act of His omnipotence. This appearance is not to be regarded as the appearance of one who had risen in a glorified body; but though somewhat spirit-like in its external manifestation, so that it was only to the witch that it was visible, and not to Saul, it was merely an appearance of the soul of Samuel, that had been at rest in Hades, in the clothing of the earthly corporeality and dress of the prophet, which were assumed for the purpose of rendering it visible. In this respect the appearance of Samuel rather resembled the appearances of incorporeal angels in human form and dress, such as the three angels who came to Abraham in the grove at Mamre (Genesis 18), and the angel who appeared to Manoah (Judges 13); with this exception, however, that these angels manifested themselves in a human form, which was visible to the ordinary bodily eye, whereas Samuel appeared in the spirit-like form of the inhabitants of Hades. In all these cases the bodily form and clothing were only a dress assumed for the soul or spirit, and intended to facilitate perception, so that such appearances furnish no proof that the souls of departed men possess an immaterial corporeality.

(Note: Delitzsch (bibl Psychol. pp. 427ff.) has very properly rejected, not only the opinion that Samuel and Moses were raised up from the dead for the purpose of a transient appearance, and then died again, but also the idea that they appeared in their material bodies, a notion upon which Calvin rests his argument against the reality of the appearance of Samuel. But when he gives it as his opinion, that the angels who appeared in human form assumed this form by virtue of their own power, inasmuch as they can make themselves visible to whomsoever they please, and infers till further from this, "that the outward form in which Samuel and Moses appeared (which corresponded to their form when on this side the grave) was the immaterial production of their spiritual and psychical nature," he overlooks the fact, that not only Samuel, but the angels also, in the cases referred to, appeared in men's clothing, which cannot possibly be regarded as a production of their spiritual and psychical nature. The earthly dress is not indispensable to a man's existence. Adam and Eve had no clothing before the Fall, and there will be no material clothing in the kingdom of glory; for the "fine linen, pure and white," with which the bride adorns herself for the marriage supper of the Lamb, is "the righteousness of saints" (Revelation 19:8).

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