1 Samuel 29
How Saul, who was forsaken of God, when he was in a strait was more and
more perplexed and embarrassed with his own counsels, we read in the
foregoing chapter. In this chapter we find how David, who kept close to
God, when he was in a strait was extricated and brought off by the
providence of God, without any contrivance of his own. We have him,
I. Marching with the Philistines,
1 Samuel 29:1,2.
II. Excepted against by the lords of the Philistines,
1 Samuel 29:3-5.
III. Happily dismissed by Achish from that service which did so ill
become him, and which yet he knew not how to decline,
1 Samuel 29:6-11.
|David with the Philistines.
||B. C. 1055.|
1 Now the Philistines gathered together all their armies to
Aphek: and the Israelites pitched by a fountain which is in
2 And the lords of the Philistines passed on by hundreds, and
by thousands: but David and his men passed on in the rereward
3 Then said the princes of the Philistines, What do these
Hebrews here? And Achish said unto the princes of the
Philistines, Is not this David, the servant of Saul the king of
Israel, which hath been with me these days, or these years, and I
have found no fault in him since he fell unto me unto this day?
4 And the princes of the Philistines were wroth with him; and
the princes of the Philistines said unto him, Make this fellow
return, that he may go again to his place which thou hast
appointed him, and let him not go down with us to battle, lest in
the battle he be an adversary to us: for wherewith should he
reconcile himself unto his master? should it not be with the
heads of these men?
5 Is not this David, of whom they sang one to another in
dances, saying, Saul slew his thousands, and David his ten
I. The great strait that David was in, which we may suppose he himself
was aware of, though we read not of his asking advice from God, nor of
any project of his own to get clear of it. The two armies of the
Philistines and the Israelites were encamped and ready to engage,
1 Samuel 29:1.
Achish, who had been kind to David, had obliged him to come himself and
bring the forces he had into his service. David came accordingly, and,
upon a review of the army, was found with Achish, in the post assigned
him in the rear,
1 Samuel 29:2.
1. If, when the armies engaged, he should retire, and quit his post, he
would fall under the indelible reproach, not only of cowardice and
treachery, but of base ingratitude to Achish, who had been his
protector and benefactor and had reposed a confidence in him, and from
whom he had received a very honourable commission. Such an
unprincipled thing as this he could by no means persuade himself to do.
2. If he should, as was expected from him, fight for the Philistines
against Israel, he would incur the imputation of being an enemy to the
Israel of God and a traitor to his country, would make his own people
hate him, and unanimously oppose his coming to the crown, as unworthy
the name of an Israelite, much more the honour and trust of a king of
Israel, when he had fought against them under the banner of the
uncircumcised. If Saul should be killed (as it proved he was) in this
engagement, the fault would be laid at David's door, as if he had
killed him. So that on each side there seemed to be both sin and
scandal. This was the strait he was in; and a great strait it was to a
good man, greater to see sin before him than to see trouble. Into this
strait he brought himself by his own unadvisedness, in quitting the
land of Judah, and going among the uncircumcised. It is strange if
those that associate themselves with wicked people, and grow intimate
with them, come off without guilt, or grief, or both. What he himself
proposed to do does not appear. Perhaps he designed to act only as
keeper to the king's head, the post assigned him
(1 Samuel 28:2)
and not to do any thing offensively against Israel. But it would have
been very hard to come so near the brink of sin and not to fall in.
Therefore, though God might justly have left him in this difficulty, to
chastise him for his folly, yet, because his heart was upright with
him, he would not suffer him to be tempted above what he was able,
but with the temptation made a way for him to escape,
1 Corinthians 10:13.
II. A door opened for his deliverance out of this strait. God inclined
the hearts of the princes of the Philistines to oppose his being
employed in the battle, and to insist upon his being dismissed. Thus
their enmity befriended him, when no friend he had was capable of doing
him such a kindness.
1. It was a proper question which they asked, upon the mustering of the
forces, "What do these Hebrews here?
1 Samuel 29:3.
What confidence can we put in them, or what service can we expect from
them?" A Hebrew is out of his place, and, if he has the spirit
of a Hebrew, is out of his element, when he is in the camp of
the Philistines, and deserves to be made uneasy there. David used to
hate the congregation of evil doers, however he came now to be
It was an honourable testimony which Achish, on this occasion, gave to
David. He looked upon him as a refugee, that fled from a wrongful
prosecution in his own country, and had put himself under his
protection, whom therefore he was obliged, in justice, to take care of,
and thought he might in prudence employ; "for (says he) he has been
with me these days, or these years," that is, a
considerable time, many days at his court and a year or two in his
country, and he never found any fault in him, nor saw any cause to
distrust his fidelity, or to think any other than that he had heartily
come over to him. By this it appears that David had conducted himself
with a great deal of caution, and had prudently concealed the affection
he still retained for his own people. We have need to walk in wisdom
towards those that are without, to keep our mouth when the wicked is
before us, and to be upon the reserve.
3. Yet the princes are peremptory in it, that he must be sent home;
and they give good reasons for their insisting on it.
(1.) Because he had been an old enemy to the Philistines; witness what
was sung in honour of his triumphs over them: Saul slew his
thousands, and David his ten thousands,
1 Samuel 29:5.
"It will be a reproach to us to harbour and trust so noted a destroyer
of our people; nor can it be thought that he will now act heartily
against Saul who then acted so vigorously with him and for him." Who
would be fond of popular praise or applause when, even that may,
another time, be turned against a man to his reproach?
(2.) Because he might be a most dangerous enemy to them, and do them
more mischief then all Saul's army could
(1 Samuel 29:4):
"He may in the battle be an adversary to us, and surprise us
with an attack in the rear, while their army charges us in the front;
and we have reason to think he will do so, that, by betraying us, he
may reconcile himself to his master. Who can trust a man who, besides
his affection to his country, will think it his interest to be false to
us?" It is dangerous to put confidence in a reconciled enemy.
|David Leaves the Philistines.
||B. C. 1055.|
6 Then Achish called David, and said unto him, Surely, as the
LORD liveth, thou hast been upright, and thy going out and thy
coming in with me in the host is good in my sight: for I have
not found evil in thee since the day of thy coming unto me unto
this day: nevertheless the lords favour thee not.
7 Wherefore now return, and go in peace, that thou displease
not the lords of the Philistines.
8 And David said unto Achish, But what have I done? and what
hast thou found in thy servant so long as I have been with thee
unto this day, that I may not go fight against the enemies of my
lord the king?
9 And Achish answered and said to David, I know that thou art
good in my sight, as an angel of God: notwithstanding the princes
of the Philistines have said, He shall not go up with us to the
10 Wherefore now rise up early in the morning with thy master's
servants that are come with thee: and as soon as ye be up early
in the morning, and have light, depart.
11 So David and his men rose up early to depart in the morning,
to return into the land of the Philistines. And the Philistines
went up to Jezreel.
If the reasons Achish had to trust David were stronger than the reasons
which the princes offered why they should distrust him (as I do not see
that, in policy, they were, for the princes were certainly in the
right), yet Achish was but one of five, though the chief, and the only
one that had the title of king; accordingly, in a council of war held
on this occasion, he was over-voted, and obliged to dismiss David,
though he was extremely fond of him. Kings cannot always do as they
would, nor have such as they would about them.
I. The discharge Achish gives him is very honourable, and not a final
discharge, but only from the present service.
1. He signifies the great pleasure and satisfaction he had taken in him
and in his conversation: Thou art good in my sight as an angel of
1 Samuel 29:9.
Wise and good men will gain respect, wherever they go, from all that
know how to make a right estimate of persons and things, though of
different professions in religion. What Achish says of David, God, by
the prophet, says of the house of David
that it shall be as the angel of the Lord. But the former is a
court-compliment; the latter is a divine promise.
2. He gives him a testimonial of his good behaviour,
1 Samuel 29:6.
It is very full and in obliging terms: "Thou hast been upright,
and thy whole conduct has been good in my sight, and I have
not found evil in thee." Saul would not have given him such a
testimonial, though he had done far more service to him than Achish.
God's people should behave themselves always so inoffensively as if
possible to get the good word of all they have dealings with; and it is
a debt we owe to those who have acquitted themselves well to give them
the praise of it.
3. He lays all the blame of his dismission upon the princes, who would
by no means suffer him to continue in the camp. "The king loves thee
entirely, and would venture his life in thy hand; but the lords
favour thee not, and we must not disoblige them, nor can we oppose
them; therefore return and go in peace." He had better part with
his favourite than occasion a disgust among his generals and a mutiny
in his army. Achish intimates a reason why they were uneasy. It was not
so much for David's own sake as for the sake of his soldiers that
attended him, whom he calls his master's servants (namely,
1 Samuel 29:10.
They could trust him, but not them.
(4.) He orders him to be gone early, as soon as it was light
(1 Samuel 29:10),
to prevent their further resentments, and the jealousies they would
have been apt to conceive if he had lingered.
II. His reception of this discourse is very complimental; but, I fear,
not without some degree of dissimulation. "What?" says David, "must I
leave my lord the king, whom I am bound by office to protect,
just now when he is going to expose himself in the field? Why may not I
go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?"
1 Samuel 29:8.
He seemed anxious to serve him when he was at this juncture really
anxious to leave him, but he was not willing that Achish should know
that he was. No one knows how strong the temptation is to compliment
and dissemble which those are in that attend great men, and how hard it
is to avoid it.
III. God's providence ordered it wisely and graciously for him. For,
besides that the snare was broken and he was delivered out of the
dilemma to which he was first reduced, it proved a happy hastening of
him to the relief of his own city, which sorely wanted him, though he
did not know it. Thus the disgrace which the lords of the Philistines
put upon him prove, in more ways than one, an advantage to him. The
steps of a good man ore ordered by the Lord, and he delighteth in his
way. What he does with us we know not now, but we shall know
hereafter, and shall see it was all for good.