And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me any more in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand.
Ver 1. - David said in his heart. Hebrew, "to his heart," to himself (see 1 Samuel 1:13). l shall perish by the hand. The verb is that used in 1 Samuel 12:25; 1 Samuel 26:10, but instead of by the hand the Hebrew has into the hand. Hence the versions generally render it, "I shall some day fall into the hand." Really it is a proegnans constructio: "I shall perish by failing into the hand of Saul." It was the second treachery of the Ziphites which made David feel that, surrounded as he was by spies, there was no safety for him but in taking that course to which, as he so sorrowfully complained to Saul, his enemies were driving him (1 Samuel 26:19). His words there show that the thought of quitting Judaea was already in his mind, so that this chapter follows naturally on ch. 26, and not, as some have argued, upon ch. 24.
And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath.
Verses 2-4. - Achish, the son of Maoch. No doubt the Achish of 1 Samuel 21:10; but if the same as Achish, son of Maachah, in 1 Kings 2:39, as is probably the case, he must have lived to a good old age. As it is said in 1 Chronicles 18:1 that David conquered the Philistines, and took from them Gath and other towns, it would seem that he still permitted Achish to remain there as a tributary king, while Ziklag he kept as his private property (ver. 6). On the former occasion,. when David was alone, Achish had paid him but scant courtesy; but now that he came with 600 warriors, each with his household, and, therefore, with numerous followers, he shows him every respect, and for the time David and his men settle at Gath, and Saul gives over his pursuit, knowing that if he followed him into Philistine territory he would provoke a war, for which he was not now prepared. It has been pointed out that David probably introduced from Gath the style of music called Gittith (Psalm 8, 81, 84, titles). ACHISH ASSIGNS ZIKLAG TO DAVID AS A RESIDENCE (vers. 5-7).
And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, even David with his two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the Carmelitess, Nabal's wife.
And it was told Saul that David was fled to Gath: and he sought no more again for him.
And David said unto Achish, If I have now found grace in thine eyes, let them give me a place in some town in the country, that I may dwell there: for why should thy servant dwell in the royal city with thee?
Verses 5, 6. - If l have now found grace in thine eyes. Now is not an adverb of time, but means "I pray," i.e. If verily I have found favour with thee. David's position was one of difficulty. The fame of his exploits, and of Saul's vain pursuit of him, made Achish no doubt regard him as a bitter foe of the Israelite king, and expect valuable assistance from him; whereas David was unwilling to take up arms even against Saul, and much less against his own countrymen. He is anxious, therefore, to get away from a too close observation of his acts, and requests Achish to give him a place in some town in the country. Hebrew, "a place in one of the cities in the field." Why should thy servant, etc. David's presence with so large a following must in many ways have been inconvenient as well as expensive to Achish. In some small country town David and his men would maintain themselves. Achish accordingly gives him Ziklag, a small place assigned first of all to Judah (Joshua 15:31), but subsequently to Simeon (ibid. 19:5). Its exact position is not known. It seems to have been valued by David's successors, as it is noted that it still belonged unto the kings of Judah. This phrase proves that the Book of Samuel must have been compiled at a date subsequent to the revolt of Jeroboam, while the concluding words, unto this day, equally plainly indicate a date prior to the Babylonian exile.
Then Achish gave him Ziklag that day: wherefore Ziklag pertaineth unto the kings of Judah unto this day.
And the time that David dwelt in the country of the Philistines was a full year and four months.
Verse 7. - A full year. Hebrew, "days." Rashi argues in favour of its meaning some days, and Josephus says the time of David's stay in Philistia was "four months and twenty days;" but already in 1 Samuel 1:3; 1 Samuel 2:19, we have had the phrase "from days day-ward in the sense of yearly, and comp. Leviticus 25:29; Judges 17:10; also Judges 19:2, where the A.V. translates the Hebrew days four months as meaning "four months" only. Probably, as here, it is a year and four months, though the omission of the conjunction is a difficulty. So too for "after a time" (Judges 14:8) it should be "after a year" - Hebrew, after days. EXPEDITIONS OF DAVID FROM ZIKLAG (vers. 8-12).
And David and his men went up, and invaded the Geshurites, and the Gezrites, and the Amalekites: for those nations were of old the inhabitants of the land, as thou goest to Shur, even unto the land of Egypt.
Verse 8. - Went up. The Geshurites inhabited the high table land which forms the northeastern portion of the wilderness of Paran. Like the Kenites, they seem to have broken up into scattered tribes, as we find one portion of them in the neighbourhood of Bashan (Deuteronomy 3:14), and another in Syria (2 Samuel 15:8). Probably, like the Amalekites, they were a Bedouin race, and so great wanderers. Hence the verb translated invaded is literally "spread themselves out" like a fan, so as to enclose these nomads, whose safety lay in flight. Gezrites. The written text has Girzites, which the Kri has changed into Gezrites, probably from a wish to connect a name never mentioned elsewhere with the town of Gezer. But Gezer lay far away in the west of Ephraim, and the connection suggested in modern times of the Girzites with Mount Gerizim in Central Palestine is more probable. They would thus be the remains of a once more powerful people, dispossessed by the Amorites, but who were now probably a very feeble remnant. For those nations, etc. The grammar and translation of this clause are both full of difficulties, but the following rendering is perhaps the least objectionable: "For these were (the families) inhabiting the land, which were of old, as thou goest towards Shur," etc. Families must be supplied because the participle inhabiting is feminine. What, then, the narrator means to say is that these three Bedouin tribes were the aboriginal inhabitants of the northwestern portion of the desert between Egypt and South Palestine. On the Amalekites see 1 Samuel 15:2. We need not wonder at finding them mentioned again so soon after Saul's expedition. A race of nomads would sustain no great harm from an expedition which soon began to occupy itself with capturing cattle. On Shur see 1 Samuel 15:7.
And David smote the land, and left neither man nor woman alive, and took away the sheep, and the oxen, and the asses, and the camels, and the apparel, and returned, and came to Achish.
Verses 9, 10. - David smote the land. These expeditions were made partly to occupy his men, but chiefly to obtain the means of subsistence. They also seem to have brought David great renown, for in 1 Chronicles 12:1-22 we read of warriors from far distant tribes coming to him to swell his forces, and the enthusiasm for him was even such that a band of men swam across the Jordan to join him (ibid. ver. 15); while others from Manasseh deserted to him from Saul's army before the battle of Mount Gilboa, so that at last he had with him "a great host, like the host of God" (ibid. vers. 19-21). He came to Achish. To give him a portion of the spoil. And Achish said. Like the verb went up in ver. 8, the word indicates repeated action. David made many expeditions against these wild tribes, and on each occasion, when presenting himself at Gath, Achish would inquire, Whither have ye made a road - i.e. an inroad, or a raid - today? As it stands the Hebrew means, "Do not make an inroad today;" but the cor. rection of the text given in the A.V. has considerable authority from the versions. The Jerahmeelites, mentioned again in ch. 30:29, were the descendants of Hezron, the firstborn of Pharez, the son of Judah (1 Chronicles 2:9), and so were one of the great families into which the tribe of Judah was divided. Apparently they occupied the most southerly position of its territory. The Kenites (see on ch. 15:6) are here described as being in close alliance with the men of Judah. Probably they lived under their protection, and paid them tribute. The south is literally "the Negeb," the dry land, so called from the absence of streams (comp. Psalm 126:4), which formed not only the southernmost part of the territory of Judah, but extended far into the Arabian desert. Achish naturally understood it as the proper name for that part of the Negeb which belonged to Judah, whereas David meant it as it is translated in the A.V., where there is no obscurity as to its meaning.
And Achish said, Whither have ye made a road to day? And David said, Against the south of Judah, and against the south of the Jerahmeelites, and against the south of the Kenites.
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.
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.
And Achish believed David, saying, He hath made his people Israel utterly to abhor him; therefore he shall be my servant for ever.