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CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES—
1 Samuel 27:1. “Saul shall despair,” or “desist from me.” “The idea of the word is, to give a thing up as impossible or useless.” (Erdmann.)
1 Samuel 27:2. “Achish, son of Maoch.” The particular description of the family of Achish have led some to suppose that he is not the person mentioned in 1 Samuel 21:10, but that Achish was a common name for the Philistine kings. If he is identical with the monarch mentioned in 1 Kings 2:39 as the son of Maachah, he must have reigned more than fifty years, which, of course, is not impossible. “Gath had been before conquered by the Israelites (1 Samuel 7:14), but appears here, and at 1 Samuel 21:10 sq., as the residence of an independent king hostile to Saul. See 1 Chronicles 18:1, which states that David afterwards conquered it.” (Erdmann.)
1 Samuel 27:3. “Every man with his household.” This expression forcibly marks the difference in David’s circumstances now and on his former visit to Gath. Then he was alone and feared for his safety, now he is the leader of a large retinue who bring their families and settle down in the country. “Perhaps at this time he formed the friendship with Ittai the Gittite which appears in 2 Samuel 15:19.” (Biblical Commentary.)
1 Samuel 27:5. “Give me a place,” etc. “David asked such a city as property; in 1 Samuel 27:6 it is expressly stated that Achish gave it to him for a possession. David’s alleged reason for the request is that it was not suitable for him, Achish’s servant and subject, to remain in the capital city with his large retinue.” (Erdmann.) “David subtly suggests the expensiveness of his residence in Gath; his real motive was to be out of the way of observation, so as to play the part of Saul’s enemy without acting against him.” (Biblical Commentary.)
1 Samuel 27:6. “Ziklag.” This city was in the territory originally assigned to Judah, but aftewards taken from them and allotted to Simeon (see Joshua 19:5-9), but it is uncertain whether it had ever been really possessed by the people of Israel. It must have been in the south, and 1 Samuel 30:1 seems to favour the opinion that it was close to the Amalekite border. But it is difficult to reconcile this with the fact which Mr. Grove remarks follows from 1 Samuel 27:9-10; 1 Samuel 27:12 in chap. 30 that it was north of the brook Besor, and travellers and biblical scholars are divided in their conclusions respecting its site. Some have suggested that there were two places of the same name.
1 Samuel 27:7. “The country of the Philistines.” “The word rendered country is peculiar. It is not has-Shefelah, as it must have been had Ziklag stood on the ordinary lowland of Philistia, but has-Sâdeh, which Dean Stanley renders the field. The only conclusion seems to be that Ziklag was in the south or Negeb country, with a portion of which the Philistines had a connection which may have lasted from the times of their residence there in the days of Abraham and Isaac.” (Smith’s Bib. Dictionary.)
1 Samuel 27:7. “A full year,” etc. Or a year of days. Although this word is sometimes rendered “a considerable time, it signifies,” says Keil, “strictly speaking, a term of days which amounted to a full year (as in Leviticus 25:29; see also 1 Samuel 1:3; 1 Samuel 1:20; 1 Samuel 2:19).
1 Samuel 27:8. “The Geshurites,” etc. “The district of the Geshurites (to be distinguished from the little Aramæan kingdom of Geshur, 2 Samuel 15:8, etc.; and from the northern Geshurites, near Hermon on the border of Bashan, Deuteronomy 3:14, etc.) lay south of Philistia near the district of the Amalekites.” (Erdmann.) The Gerzites cannot be identified, and are not the same as the inhabitants of Gerzer (Joshua 10:33) who dwelt in the west of Ephraim. “As thou goest to Shur,” literally, where from old thy coming is to Shur. “Shur is the desert of Jifar, which is situated in front of Egypt.” (Keil.) The clause is very difficult to render, and Erdmann reads, “David invaded the Amalekites (for these were the inhabitants of the land who inhabited of old) as far as Shur and Egypt.” “The object of this attack is not mentioned, as being a matter of indifference to the chief object of the history; but it is no doubt to be sought for in plundering incursions made by these tribes into the land of Israel. For David would hardly have entered upon a war in the situation in which he was placed at that time without some such occasion, seeing that it would be almost sure to bring him into suspicion with Achish and endanger his safety.” (Keil.)
1 Samuel 27:9. “And came to Achish.” Probably, “to deliver him a portion of the spoil” (Erdmann), and “to deceive him as to the true character of the enterprise.” (Keil.)
1 Samuel 27:10. “The verb said, like the ‘went up’ in 1 Samuel 27:8, here expresses customary, repeated acting. The meaning is, Achish used to say: Against whom, have ye made an incursion this time?” (Erdmann.) “David said, against the south of Judah,” etc. “All the tribes mentioned here, and in 1 Samuel 27:8, dwelt near one another in the district bordering on the Negeb (south country) of Judah, and stretching between the hill country of Judah and the Arabian desert. (See Joshua 15:21.) David’s expeditions were really against the tribes named in 1 Samuel 27:8, who extended close into the south of Judah. It was his interest, however, to make Achish believe that he had made an expedition against Saul, and consequently against the men of Judah.… This deception was made possible only by the fact that those tribes dwelt so near together.” (Erdmann.)
1 Samuel 27:11. “So did David.” These words conclude the sentence, and ought to be entirely separated from what follows—the next clause not being a part of the preceding speech, but the words of the historian. “So will be,” rather “So (was) his manner.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE CHAPTER
THE CONSEQUENCES OF DISTRUST
I. Present circumstances of trial may lead men entirely to ignore past tokens of Divine favour. The conduct of David at this time is a remarkable illustration that this is true not only of men of ordinary faith and courage, but of those also who generally rise far above the level. We can but regard David, with all his faults, as a man of eminent faith in the character and word of God, and yet we find him here for the second time (see chap. 21) as full of distrust, not to say despair, as the weakest servant of God could ever be. Looking at all the deliverances of the past, and remembering all the signal tokens of the Divine favour which had been granted to him, we should have expected to hear him exclaim, “Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast” (Psalms 63:7; Psalms 57:1). But when we consider how strong is the influence of the present and the seen upon the human spirit—how much more real seems the danger of to-day than the word spoken perhaps long ago—we do not wonder so much to hear him say, “I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul.” The remedy for such an error is to be found in reflection. By the use of memory we can recall the past, and assure ourselves that it is as much a part of our lives as the present, and by reason we can become convinced that any promise of God is as worthy of confidence now as when it was uttered. If David had considered who it was that had elected him from the midst of his brethren and caused him to be anointed by Samuel, and how signal had been the deliverances which he had since experienced, he would have brought his memory and his reason to the aid of his faith, and so have saved himself from the moral failure recorded in this chapter.
II. Faith in the heart is closely connected with integrity in the life. It is doubtless true that there are men in the world who have no hold upon the invisible God and are yet honest and honourable in their dealings with their fellow men. But however much a man may love goodness for its own sake, and however keen may be his perception between right and wrong, he will have special seasons in his life in which he will find it very hard to discern the right and to hold fast to it if he have no power stronger than his own to rely upon. There are times in the history of every life when nothing but a confidence that One stronger than ourselves is on our side will keep us from giving up the struggle to do right as hopeless and worthless, and make us proof against the suggestion of the tempter that we can gain something by taking our cause into our own hands. As soon as David lost his conviction that God had him in His care and keeping, he naturally ceased to seek direction from Him, and becoming a law to himself, entered upon a course of cruelty and deception. (On this subject see also on chap. 21 page 214).
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
As a punishment for his transgression, he, who had hitherto been an object of fear and hatred to King Saul, must now be the object only of his contempt. Briefly but significantly the history records, “And it was told Saul that David was fled to Gath; and he sought no more again for him.” It is plainly indicated by these words that Saul believed he had henceforth to regard the coward as in no way an object of fear to him. Moreover, David appeared now as a friend of the Philistines, and, consequently, as a traitor to his country; and without doubt Saul flattered himself with the hope that he would be acknowledged as such by the whole of Israel, and would be forced to renounce for ever the prospect of the throne of Israel. “Saul sought no more again for him,” but yet he thought about him with scornful contempt. Hitherto his satellites had seen him vomiting forth fire and flame against David; now they heard from his lips perhaps only such mocking words as these: “The deserter assigned to himself once the right name when he designated himself as only a flea before me, and as a timid partridge on the mountains.” O, the disgrace which fastened itself to the heels of our friend in this course now pursued by him! Perhaps he was many a time ashamed of himself, when it came into his consciousness how he, when he was only the terrified prey in the wilderness, against which horse and horseman were sent out, was yet an altogether different man from what he was now in his supposed hiding-place among the Philistines. Some such stratagem, however, is almost always practised when believers become suitors for the favour and help of the children of this world. That they should, when distress comes, make “flesh their arm” at all, will give their enemies cause to triumph. And too frequently, indeed, do the malevolent find occasion for rejoicing over such conduct. Quickly do they discern that, in order to gain their favour, the “pious” change their language in their presence, that they carefully abstain from the mode of speech in common use among the “brotherhood,” and that they even accommodate themselves to many of the views of their opponents, which directly contradict the Word of God; and take refuge in ambiguous phraseology and so-called mental reservation, that they might not be guilty of an open and complete rejection of the faith. O, the contemptible treachery which Christians, by such conduct, are guilty of towards the Gospel!—Krummacher.
If Achish were a Philistine, yet he was David’s friend, yea, his patron; and if he had been neither, it had not become David to be false. The infirmities of God’s children never appear but in their extremities. It is hard for the best man to say how far he will be tempted. If a man will put himself among Philistines, he cannot promise to come forth innocent.—Bishop Hall.
From this section of the history we are also taught how the very highest attainments of believers are no security against a speedy fall. Seldom has grace been more triumphant than when David refrained from lifting his hand against Saul—yet his declension at Gath is the very next incident that the Spirit has recorded.—Blaikie.
We cannot blame David because he made expeditions against Canaanitish races and Amalekites, neither are we justified in at once accusing him of cruelty towards the conquered. The accusation would have had some foundation if he had been actuated merely by the prudential motives given in 1 Samuel 27:11. But this was certainly not the case. The principal reason is rather to be sought in the Mosaic law, which declares these races to be under the curse. But it is impossible to justify his equivocation.—Hengstenberg.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 27". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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