1 Samuel 29
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
1 Samuel 29:1-11. (ON THE MARCH TO APHEK.)
What do these Hebrews here? (ver. 3). The results of the wrong step which David had taken in going into the country of the Philistines now became manifest. In the war against Israel Achish naturally looked to him and his men to go out with him to battle. What was he to do? He might refuse to go. This would have been his straightforward course. But he would thereby forfeit the friendship of Achish, and expose himself to imminent danger. He might go and fight against Israel. This would be to incur the greatest guilt, and imperil his accession to the throne. He might go and turn traitor on the battle field. This was what the Philistines expected (ver. 4), but it would have covered his name with infamy. He determined for the present to continue his prevarication with Achish, who said he should be captain of his bodyguard for the future (1 Samuel 28:1, 2), and went, probably with a troubled conscience, and hoping that he might in some way be relieved from his inconsistent and perplexing position. He was clearly out of his proper place in the Philistine army. His condition represents that of a good man -

I. IMPROPERLY ASSOCIATED WITH THE UNGODLY. It is by no means uncommon for a good man to yield to the temptation to join the wicked in their pursuits, unnecessarily, and from an unjustifiable motive; such as the desire of personal safety, convenience, information, pleasure, or profit - like Lot in Sodom, Jonah going to Tarshish, Peter in the palace of the high priest (see 1 Samuel 15:6). The relation into which he thus enters is inconsistent with -

1. Truth; inasmuch as it usually requires him to deceive others concerning his real character and purposes, by pretending to be what he is not, and concealing what he is.

2. Piety; inasmuch as he is thereby hindered in his devotions (ch. 26:19), exposes himself to fresh temptations, sanctions sinful or doubtful conduct, strengthens the ranks of the enemy, violates his duty to God and his own company "and people. "Those that would be kept from sin must not go on the devil's ground" (M. Henry). "What doest thou here, Elijah?" David - Hebrew - Christian?

3. His own real welfare; inasmuch as he involves himself in unforeseen but certain trouble, places himself beyond the promised protection of God, and exposes himself to the threatened fate of his enemies.

II. SHREWDLY SUSPECTED BY HIS ASSOCIATES. He may endeavour to escape their suspicion, and for a time succeed, but it is sooner or later excited by -

1. Something, in himself - his name, appearance, relation to past events ("Is not this David?" etc., vers. 3, 5), peculiar behaviour, faltering and ambiguous explanations. "Thy speech bewrayeth thee." "Did I not see thee in the garden with him?"

2. The occurrence of new circumstances, which quicken perception, call for decision, test and manifest the character, and its congruity or otherwise with present associations.

3. The general instinct of the ungodly. Although some of their number may be deceived, and exhibit unbounded confidence in him (ver. 3), let no one think to escape. "There is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed."


1. Outwardly. In the eyes of others. "Make this fellow return," etc. (ver. 4). He is compelled to leave the society which he has chosen; expelled from it publicly and ignominiously, as one unworthy to be trusted.

2. Inwardly. In his own eyes. The heathen king of Gath appears to have been a faithful and honourable man; and his expression of confidence in David (vers. 3, 6), in contrast to the dishonourable prevarication of the latter (ver. 8), must have put him to shame. "The flattering commendations of worldly people are almost always purchased by improper compliances, or some measure of deception, and commonly may cover us with confusion" (Scott).

IV. PROVIDENTIALLY EXTRICATED FROM HIS EMBARRASSMENT. He may not be able to extricate himself from the net in which he has become entangled. But God does not readily abandon him to all the natural consequences of his conduct. He has many ways of working out his deliverance, and effects it -

1. From regard to the good that is in him, and in pity toward him in his perplexity and distress.

2. For the honour of his name, that his merciful care over his servants may be seen, and his glory promoted by them.

3. Not without testifying his disapproval of his sin. "David returned the next morning to Ziklag no doubt very light of heart, and praising God for having so graciously rescued him out of the disastrous situation into which he had been brought" (Keil). "The snare is broken, and we are escaped" (Psalm 124:7). But on the third day he found Ziklag in ashes, was overwhelmed with grief, and more deeply humbled than ever before. The folly and guilt of the course which he had pursued were at length brought home to him with irresistible force. Remarks: -

1. There are associations with t. he ungodly which are not sinful, but right and beneficial to a good man himself, as well as to them.

2. No one should place himself in the way of temptation, and then expect that God will preserve him from falling or extricate him from the consequences of his presumption.

3. If any one finds that he has improperly associated himself with the wicked, he ought to adopt all proper methods to effect his speedy separation from them.

4. When he has found deliverance from his perplexity and peril he should give the glory of it to God alone. - D.

David had, in the course of his life, friendly relations with several heathen princes. One of these was Achish (elsewhere called Abimelech, Psalm 34., inscription), son of Maoch, and king of Gath, one of the five royal cities, the seats of the princes of the Philistine confederacy. What is recorded of him shows that he was a remarkable man. Whilst Saul persecuted David, Achish protected him; and whilst the former, in the midst of Israel, "with the law" of Moses, committed atrocious crime, and sank into heathen superstition, the latter, in the midst of heathenism, "without the law" (Romans 2:11-16), exhibited much moral excellence, and approached the faith of Israel (ver. 6). He may have profited in religious knowledge by his intercourse with David; on the other hand, his example was in some respects worthy of imitation by him. We must not attribute to him virtues which he did not possess; but we see in him a man much better than we might have expected to find from the disadvantages under which he lived. He was distinguished by -

1. Self-interested policy. Although he may have felt some sympathy with David in his persecution by Saul, yet he appears to have received him under his protection chiefly because of the aid he hoped to obtain from him for himself and his people (1 Samuel 27:12).

2. Unsuspecting confidence. He had much reason to be suspicious of David from his knowledge of his victory over the champion of Gath, and his recollection of his former visit; but he put an unreserved trust in his representations (1 Samuel 28:2), and even when others suspected him did not withdraw it. A trustful disposition is liable to be imposed upon, but it is always worthy of admiration.

3. Royal generosity, in permitting David to dwell in Gath, making him a present of Ziklag, and appointing him to an honourable post in his army. He was without envy or jealousy, and acted toward him in a manner worthy of a king.

4. Discriminating appreciation; admiring the military bravery of David and the still higher qualities which he possessed. "I have found no fault in him," etc. (vers. 3, 6, 9). There must have been much in common between these two men to have enabled them to live on such friendly terms with each other for so long a period. Excellence perceives and appreciates excellence.

5. Honourable fidelity, both in testifying to the worth of David and in submitting to "the lords of the Philistines," with whom lie was associated (ver. 7).

6. Courteous consideration. "And now return, and go in peace," etc. (ver. 7). "Rise up early in the morning with thy master's servants," etc. (ver. 10; 1 Chronicles 12:19-22). He was frank and commendatory even to flattery, and desirous not to hurt his feelings by the manner of his dismissal.

7. Devout sentiment. "As Jehovah liveth," etc. (ver. 6). How much he meant by this expression we know not. But we may believe that, notwithstanding he was united with others in conflict with Israel, there was in him (as the effect of that Divine mercy and grace which wrought in all nations) "some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel." And "in every nation he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him" (Acts 10:35). - D.

What a dilemma for David! He could not refuse the confidence he had sought from Achish. He could not renounce the allegiance he had so recently pledged. If he should disobey the king of Gath, he could look for nothing but indignant reproach and a traitor's doom. If he should obey him, he would, in course of a few days, be fighting against his own nation, and bringing them again under the yoke of the Philistines; and this would be worse than death. Perplexed and reluctant, he marched in the rear of the invading army, suffering inwardly all the more that he was obliged to hide his unwillingness, and to affect a zeal against Israel which his heart disowned. See in this story -

I. THE ILLUSTRATION OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE. While David wrought himself into a most critical position, and an apparently fatal embroilment with the Philistines, the Lord wrought wonderfully through the very errors of his servant, so as to preserve him in safety, and open his way to a higher destiny. It was well appointed that he should be out of the land of Israel at this time, so that he should neither hasten nor hinder the discomfiture of Saul, and that the Philistines should give him shelter, and yet not involve him in the crime of desolating and enslaving his native land. How to escape from the dilemma in which he was caught baffled even David's ready mind; but the Lord always knows how to deliver. He does so through means and agencies that are natural; in this case through the very natural jealousy of the Philistine lords, and their proper military prudence, objecting to have the person of the king intrusted to the keeping of a band of Israelites, and that band commanded by a skilful and daring captain in the rear of their army, where their defection would be most dangerous. "The lords favour thee not," said Achish. And, like our kings in old times, who durst not disregard the voice of the barons, Achish intimated to David that it was best for him to retire from the army. David was quite acute enough to see the advantage which the Philistine chiefs were unwittingly conferring upon him. They, as his enemies, helped him out of the dilemma in which he had been placed by Achish, his friend. Such things are not infrequent in the providence of God. Often a man's enemies open to him the way out of great difficulty. Disfavour is shown, or a sharp word spoken, and it turns out a great advantage. The wrath of opponents or rivals may act as so much dynamite to explode a rock of obstruction which friendly hands cannot remove, and so to clear the path of deliverance.

II. THE ILLUSTRATION OF HUMAN LIFE. See how a man may fall through want of moral firmness into a false position utterly unworthy of his character. It was, as respects David's integrity, unfortunate that he found such favour with the Philistine king. It is always a misfortune to be successful in the beginning of wrong doing, for it soothes the conscience and leads one on to compromise himself more deeply. And one false step leads to another. David's unbelief led him into a course of deceit and dissimulation from which he saw no way of escape, and every day drew him further into a position which was false and unworthy. It is a story full of admonition and warning. One may easily let himself into a trap from which he cannot let himself out. One may take a false step, which involves another and another, till there is a course of deflection. An object is gained, but in the success the conscience is soiled; and then the penalty is that one is compelled to act out the part he has assumed, to go on in the way on which he only meant to venture for a time and for a purpose. He thought to do a questionable thing and then return to his integrity; but lo! he is in a maze, and cannot find the way out. The gain which he sought turns out to be a loss; the favour which he craftily won proves to be a burden and a danger; and there is no remedy. It is very unsafe to possess great powers of deception. David had them, and they nearly ruined him. But the experience through which he passed taught him to abhor deceit, and to desire, what God desires, truth in the inward parts. For proof of this see Psalm 15:1, 2; Psalm 34:12, 13; Psalm 51:6. Mark, too, how he appeals to the God of truth, and, ashamed of his own unveracity in certain passages of his early life, puts all his dependence in his later years on the veracity and faithfulness of God, who has made with him an "everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure" (see 2 Samuel 23:5; Psalm 25:10; Psalm 31:5). The security of our salvation rests not on our tenacity of faith, but on the truth of God our Saviour. He cannot lie. The Son of David, our Prince of life, is faithful and true; and he who is our God in Christ Jesus will never fail those who rely on his word. "Yet he abideth faithful;. he cannot deny himself." - F.

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