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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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1 SAMUEL 27

DAVID'S LIFE AMONG THE PHILISTINES; DAVID DECIDED TO LEAVE ISRAEL


 
Verses 1-4
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 escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul will despair of me, to seek me any more in all the borders of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand. And David arose, and passed over, he and the six hundred men that were with him, unto Achish the son of Maoch, king of Gath. 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 in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul
(1 Samuel 27:1). David had been warned upon another occasion when he was in Moab to return to Judah (1 Samuel 22:5); and it does not appear that it was God's will for David to dwell in Philistia at this time. There is no mention of him having consulted the sacred ephod or having sought the will of God in this matter. David's character during this sojourn in Philistia did not measure up to the high standard that would have pleased God.

Nevertheless, one can sympathize with David's thoughts during this period of his frustration and weakness of faith. As Henry said, "Long trials are in danger of tiring the faith and patience of even the best men."F1 From the human standpoint, David's situation was desperate. He and his six hundred men were hopelessly outnumbered by Saul and his thousands; and, having tried twice to persuade Saul to accept a reconciliation and without success, David decided to leave Israel.

The mention of David and his men bringing their wives and families into Gath indicates that the increasing danger to those families was one of the considerations that led David to this action.

David went over. with his six hundred men
(1 Samuel 27:2). Achish welcomed David, no doubt because of the six hundred men which he commanded.F2

When it was told Saul that David had fled to Gath, he sought for him no more
(1 Samuel 27:4). A very important observation on this verse is that of Willis who wrote that, The Bible does not tell us how long this sojourn in Gath lasted.F3 This means that even many years saw this arrangement continued. The word here that, Saul sought for him no more, certainly suggests a considerable passage of time. Matthew Henry's quaint observation on this reads thus: Saul would have continued his efforts to kill David if he could have done so, but he did not dare go down into Gath after him. Thus men seem to leave their sins, but really their sins leave them; and they would still sin if they could.F4

THE TOWN OF ZIKLAG WAS GIVEN TO DAVID BY ACHISH


 
Verses 5-7
And David said unto Achish, If now I have found favor in thine eyes, let them give me a place in one of the cities in the country, that I may dwell there: for why should thy servant dwell in the royal city with thee? Then Achish gave him Ziklag that day: wherefore Ziklag pertaineth unto the kings of Judah unto this day. And the number of the days that David dwelt in the country of the Philistines was a full year and four months.

We are not given much information about the conditions upon which Achish settled David in Ziklag, but part of David's obligation, as proved by subsequent developments, included his report back to Achish in Gath after each military expedition, including, no doubt, a sharing of the spoil from such endeavors with Achish, David's overlord.

Ziklag
was an ideal location for David. Scholars now generally agree that Ziklag is the modern Tel el-Khuweilifeh, about twelve miles north-northeast of Beersheba.F5 Following the Conquest, Ziklag was assigned to Simeon but later incorporated into the territory of Judah (Joshua 19:5). Although David had suggested this change as a convenience to Achish, that could not possibly have been his real motive. David needed to be at a distance from the observation of Achish in order to carry out his plans for deceiving the king of Gath. Furthermore, as Young wrote, In a district of his own David could observe his own religious rites without being under the surveillance of the king.F6

Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah to this day
(1 Samuel 27:6). This writer believes that such expressions as this are in all probability interpolations due to some later copyist adding the words in the margin and which eventually found their way into the text. Note that this expression is no part whatever of the narrative. The use which most scholars make of an expression such as this is that of making it a device for late-dating the Biblical book where it is found. To this writer, it seems very suspicious that critical scholars such as H. P. Smith who could always find anywhere from two or three to thirty or forty `interpolated verses' in a single chapter, always takes a comment like that at the head of this paragraph as the gospel truth and positive evidence of a late date. Such maneuvers are absolutely unbelievable.

The number of days that David dwelt in the country of the Philistines was a year and four months
(1 Samuel 27:7). This is a mistranslation, representing some scholarly guess instead of what the Hebrew text says. Dummelow wrote that, The Hebrew text here is literally, `days and four months,'F7 thus being no definite statement whatever of the time David was with the Philistines. The RSV (the version we are following) guessed the time as a year and four months; but the Septuagint (LXX) guessed it as only four months; and according to H. P. Smith, both versions missed it, being far Too short in the light of Achish's own statement in 1 Sam. 29:3.F8

DAVID'S DECEPTION OF ACHISH IN HIS MILITARY RAIDS


 
Verses 8-12
And David and his men went up, and made a raid upon the Geshurites, and the Girzites, and the Amalekites; for those [nations] were the inhabitants of the land, who were of old, as thou goest to Shur, even unto the land of Egypt. And David smote the land, and saved neither man nor woman alive, and took away the sheep, and the oxen, and the asses, and the camels, and the apparel; and he returned, and came to Achish. And Achish said, Against whom have ye made a raid 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 them to Gath, saying, Lest they should tell of us, saying, So did David, and so hath been his manner all the while he hath dwelt in the country of the Philistines. And Achish believed David, saying, He hath made his people Israel utterly to abhor him; therefore he shall be my servant for ever.

The Geshurites. the Girzites ... and the Amalekites
(1 Samuel 27:8). These were the peoples that David raided; and who were they? They were all in the category of Israel's enemies, having dwelt in the land of Israel `from of old,' thus being among the nations God had devoted, placed under the ban, and ordered their total extermination during the Conquest. David no doubt used that ancient order of God to Joshua regarding the extermination of those peoples to justify his brutal butchery of whole cities among those peoples; and Matthew Henry thought that we can, Acquit David of this injustice and cruelty because those peoples had been long ago doomed by heaven for destruction.F9 Maybe so! But David's constant lying to Achish about what he was actually doing is totally without justification. The butchery and deceit here practiced by David are indicative of the desperate situation in which he found himself.F10

David. came back to Achish
(1 Samuel 27:9). This does not mean that David lived at Garb; he just went back there to share the spoils with Achish.F11

Against whom have you made a raid to day?
(1 Samuel 27:10). It was to the questions of Achish such as this that David returned false answers. He was, in fact, consistently raiding the enemies of Israel, but he informed Achish that he was actually raiding the Israelites, saying, in effect, `I have been raiding southern Judah.'

The Negeb of Judah. the Negeb of the Jerahmeelites ... the Negeb of the Kenites
(1 Samuel 27:10). The word `Negeb' literally means. `the dry country.'F12 By these assertions, David convinced Achish that he was making all of those raids against Judah and related Israelites. The first named here was the tribe of Judah itself; the second of these three peoples was one of the prominent clans of Judah (1 Chronicles 2:9,42);F13 and the Kenites had been associated with Israel since the days of Moses, whose father-in-law Jethro was of the Kenites. Also Jael who destroyed Sisera was a Kenite. If David had actually raided these people, as he said he did, Achish's belief that Israel at that time abhorred David would have been true.

So David hath done
(1 Samuel 27:11). Keil rejected the rendition of the RSV that connects these words with what David feared the victims might say if he had spared any of them, making the words instead, A clause appended by the historian himself, to the effect that David continued to act in that manner as long as he dwelt in the land of the Philistines.F14

There is no way to gloss over David's sin in this. He lied continually about what he was really doing. Achish who believed David, trusted him and aided him was shamefully betrayed and deceived by David. As Willis stated it, "Like Saul and Nabal who returned to David evil for good, so David here returned to Achish evil for good."F15 Matthew Henry supposed that David's conscience must have hurt him because of all this, because of what is written in Ps. 119:29, "Remove from me the way of lying (KJV)." (Henry ascribed this Psalm to David).F16

The chronology of these final chapters of First Samuel is not stressed in any manner. Between the death of Samuel (1 Samuel 25:1) and that of Saul (1 Sam. 31), a very long period elapsed. Josephus stated that it was twenty-two years; and although modern scholars question this, the old tradition that Saul reigned 40 years has never been disproved. These few chapters regarding those final twenty-two years are, in one way, much like the extremely abbreviated record in Numbers of Israel's forty years in the wilderness. God's purpose here is not to tell us all that happened, but to give us things for our admonition and instruction.


Footnotes for 1 Samuel 27
1: Matthew Henry's Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 427.
2: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 301.
3: John T. Willis, p. 254.
4: Matthew Henry's Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 427.
5: Ibid., p. 255.
6: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, Samuel, p. 291.
7: J. R. Dummelow's Commentary, p. 194.
8: International Critical Commentary, Samuel, p. 235.
9: Matthew Henry's Commentary, Vol. 2., p. 428,
10: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 301.
11: John T. Willis, p. 256.
12: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, Samuel, p. 291.
13: International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 236.
14: C. F. Keil, Keil and Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries, Vol. 2b, p. 258.
15: John T. Willis, p. 257.
16: Matthew Henry's Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 429.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 27". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=1sa&chapter=027>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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