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Thursday, June 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 29

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-11


“Aphek.” This place must either have been situated in the plain of Jezreel or Esdraelon, or on the road thither, and therefore must not be confounded with the cities mentioned in Joshua 12:18; Joshua 19:30, and 1 Kings 20:26. It is generally considered that it was neither identical with the Aphek mentioned in chap. 4 of this book, but Mr. Grove (Smith’s Bib. Dict.) thinks it may have been the same place, and that the Philistines were then on their march to Jezreel by the road which still exists. “A fountain in Jezreel” rather “the fountain.” Now “Ain Jalût,” the fountain of Goliah (probably so called because it was the reputed scene of the defeat of Goliah), a large and copious spring, which, from under a cavern in the conglomerate rock which there forms the base of Gilboa, forms a beautiful and limpid pool of more than forty feet in diameter. “There is every reason,” says Robinson, “to regard this as the ancient fountain of Jezreel, where, too, in the days of the crusades, Saladin and the Christians successively encamped.”

1 Samuel 29:3. “Then said the princes,” i.e., the princes of the other cities of Philistia, not the courtiers of Achish. “As it is said in 1 Samuel 29:11 that David returned to the land of the Philistines, and according to 1 Samuel 30:1 they reached Ziklag after a three days’ march, the objection must have been made on Israelitish soil, or near the Palestinian border.” (Erdmann.)

1 Samuel 29:3. “These days, or these years.” An indefinite statement of time.

1 Samuel 29:4. “Let him not go down.”Go down is a regular technical military expression, derived from the necessity in that military country of going into the plain to fight.” (Erdmann.)

1 Samuel 29:6. “As the Lord liveth.” This oath is to be explained not by the fact that a Hebrew is here the narrator, or that Achish had learned to know and honour the God of Israel, but by his desire to attest more strongly the truth of his words.” (Erdmann.)

1 Samuel 29:8. “My lord,” etc. “These words might be understood as meaning either Achish or Saul.” (Keil.)

1 Samuel 29:10. “Thy master’s servants,” i.e., the subjects of Saul.

Note.—We learn from 1 Chronicles 12:19-22 that when David was leaving Aphek he received into his band a large number of fresh adherents from the tribe of Manasseh, seven of whom were afterwards captains in the army of Israel. It is uncertain whether these men joined David before or after the battle of Gilboa; some have conjectured that they were fugitives from that fatal field.



I. The short-sightedness of the providence of man. Even godly men are sometimes so unlike their better selves as to take the responsibility of their lives out of God’s hand into their own, and by ordering their actions without any reference to His will, to become, as it were, their own providence. Saul, in common with all who have never exercised a real faith in God, had done this throughout the greater part of his public life, and his endeavour to be independent of his God had resulted, as it always must, in being enslaved by the devil. David at this time gives up trust in God and seeking His guidance, and trusts in his own sagacity to guide him and secure him from evil. But in providing for the safety of his body he did great damage to his character, and found that the act of deception with which he began this method of preservation, must even be followed by another and another sin so long as he was unwilling to return to God’s way. We can well believe that when he first began to shape his own course, he did not expect to find himself one day marching against his countrymen with the enemies of Israel and God. But when a man thus takes his life into his own keeping, he knows not what a net of spiritual danger he begins to weave for himself.

II. The forbearance and the omnipotence of the providence of God. It is but just to David to suppose that he was at least ill at ease, perhaps very unhappy when he found himself in the position described in this chapter—a position so entirely unworthy of him, and so dishonouring to God, and one from which he could not have set himself free without incurring disgrace and danger. But the God who had taken him from the sheepfold to feed His people, here displays His forbearance no less than His power. The men who have the most moral strength have the most pity for human weakness, and are the most ready to help a wandering soul to return to the right path, and if we reason upwards we know that the best of all beings must be more pitiful and more ready. And as His omnipotence is as great as His power, it is always possible for Him to make a way of escape for His children, and this He will do even when their sin has brought them into perplexity and disgrace, if He sees that they are in a condition of soul to profit by such a deliverance. That He delivered David on this occasion is not less a proof of His pity than of His wisdom.


Let us here learn that the too great favour of great rulers, in so far as they are not richer in the fear of God than Achish, toward a man who desires to walk in the footsteps of the faith of Abraham, is especially dangerous. They exact altogether too great a tax for the favour which they bestow. If they are kind, one must be in all things accommodating to them—the tender conscience may say to that what it will. In the bonds of their favour one walks as a prisoner. The mistrust of the Philistine princes helped David out of the difficulty into which he had hurried himself through the favour of Achish. So the favour of godless nobles, when it is blended with somewhat of fear, is more advantageous than their favour alone. The godless nobleman, who is an enemy of God, must know that he has as a servant a friend of God, a servant of Jesus Christ, an upright and believing son of Abraham, to whom he dare impute no folly and wickedness. Consequently this servant must not dissemble as David did with Achish, but profess his faith, trusting in God at all times. Achish, who was formerly a worshipper of idols, solemnly assured David by Jehovah that he pleased him, and said to him that he regarded him as upright; yea, that he was pleasing in his sight as an angel of God. But he held him as an enemy of Israel, and this David indeed was not. But that David was held as one was the result of his own culpable hypocrisy. Let the whole truth be confessed where occasion is given for it; and if one indeed finds it advisable to hold back a part of it, let him at least say nothing contrary to it; otherwise sooner or later he brings himself into great danger.

What wholesome effects are produced under God’s guidance by that intercourse which in the world is indispensably necessary between those who have part in God’s kingdom and those who stand aloof from it. I. For those who stand aloof from the kingdom of God:

(1) That they involuntarily give honour to the living God;

(2) That they recognise in those who belong to His kingdom the power of a higher divine character, and are compelled to bow before that power (1 Samuel 29:9);

(3) That in themselves the remains of a divine image again come forward, and they find pleasure in that which is ethically good and beautiful. II. For those who have part in God’s kingdom themselves:

(1) The consoling conception that even they who stand aloof from God’s kingdom have to serve as instruments for the fulfilment of the Divine purposes (Proverbs 16:7).

(2) The wonderful confirmation of the truth that all things must work together for good to them that love God.
(3) Humbling self-knowledge in respect to their own sins and faults, in view of the morally noble behaviour of those who stand aloof from the kingdom of God, while they themselves are wanting therein.—Trans. of Lange’s Commentary.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 29". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/1-samuel-29.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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