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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

1 Samuel 27

 

 

Verses 1-12

DAVID FINDS A REFUGE AT ZIKLAG (1 Samuel 27:1-12.).

EXPOSITION

DAVID AGAIN SEEKS PROTECTION AT GATH (1 Samuel 27:1-4).

1 Samuel 27:1

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 1 Samuel 26:1-25; and not, as some have argued, upon 1 Samuel 24:1-22.

1 Samuel 27:2-4

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 (1 Chronicles 18:6). 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 (Psalms 8:1-9; Psalms 81:1-16; Psalms 84:1-12; titles).

ACHISH ASSIGNS ZIKLAG TO DAVID AS A RESIDENCE (1 Chronicles 18:5-7).

1 Samuel 27:5, 1 Samuel 27:6

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. 1 Samuel 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.

1 Samuel 27:7

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. Le 1 Samuel 25:29; 17:10; also 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" ( 14:8) it should be "after a year"—Hebrew, after days.

EXPEDITIONS OF DAVID FROM ZIKLAG ( 19:8-12).

1 Samuel 27:8

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.

1 Samuel 27:9, 1 Samuel 27:10

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. 1 Chronicles 12:15); 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. verses 19-21). He came to Achish. To give him a portion of the spoil. And Achish said. Like the verb went up in verse 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 roadi.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. Psalms 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.

1 Samuel 27:11, 1 Samuel 27:12

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.

HOMILETICS

1 Samuel 27:1-4

Loss of faith.

The facts are—

1. David, fearing lest he should fall by the hand of Saul, deems it better to go to the land of the Philistines.

2. He and his family and attendants are received by Achish at Gath.

3. Saul, hearing of this, seeks him no more. There is a latent thought in many minds that the great and good men of whom the Bible speaks ought to figure in Scripture as only models of excellence, and hence a sense of disappointment is experienced when, in its fidelity to facts, the Bible relates their failings and Sins. Here we have David in despair of preserving his life by the means hitherto adopted; and in his evidently long and painful meditations on the path of prudence (1 Samuel 26:19; cf. 1 Samuel 27:1) he comes to the conclusion to avoid collision with Saul by fleeing to an enemy's country. This is not absolute despair, but despair of preserving life for the realising of one's vocation by the means consistent with that vocation and the character suited to it. Loss of faith in righteous means is, so far, loss of faith in God.

I. PROTRACTED AND PAINFUL CONFLICTS MAY BE INVOLVED IN ATTAINING TO THE HIGHEST PURPOSE IN LIFE. TO become king in Israel and bless the world with wise rulership was the high purpose revealed to David; and for moral reasons the long discipline of trial was inevitable. The position into which he was often brought seemed to render the accomplishment of life's purpose impossible, and the nearer the goal the more severe the risks of life. The more numerous his men and able his captains, the greater difficulty in preventing collision with Saul, and the more impossible to find food apart from trespass on property. A righteous cause was therefore a suffering cause. This is the case with us. Often Christians have been evidently called to a work for God, and yet become so beset with perils that the end for which they live seems impossible of realisation. How the heart becomes pained and oppressed with incessant struggle with evils that stand in the way of a rise to perfect holiness! The enemy is ever upon us, and humanly speaking it seems as though we some day shall fall by his hand in spite of all endeavours of the past.

II. THERE ARE RECOGNISED MEANS BY WHICH THE HIGHEST PURPOSE OF LIFE IS TO BE ATTAINED. David was to wait God's time, and not force the hand of providence. To make such movements as to avoid collision with Saul, to look up to God for promised or implied help when, in spite of care, life is threatened, and to seize occasions for softening the heart of his foe, even if for a season only—these means hitherto had been honoured with success, and, so far as we can see, were the only lawful means. In attaining to our ultimate position as Christians we have to follow the spiritual methods of the New Testament in humble dependence on God—watchfulness, abstention from evil, evasion of deadly arrows and poison of adders, and whatever will keep the soul holy and true for Christ. In doing our work in the world we have to avoid falling into the power of the great enemy by severe simplicity, love of truth, spirituality of mind, and prayerful use of the gospel. So, in reference to any specific holy end in view, the means used are to be in harmony with the goodness of the end. We are not to do evil that good may come.

III. UNDER THE PRESSURE AND PAIN OF LONG CONFLICT WE BECOME EXPOSED TO THE TEMPTATION TO SEEK RELIEF BY NEW METHODS. Probably some degree of mental and physical exhaustion, accompanied with increasing worries of providing for a large following, laid David open to the thought of fighting the battle with his difficulties on new ground. There is a risk to the cultivation of our spiritual life arising from the weariness consequent on long trial. The tension may seem to justify and necessitate diminished watchfulness and prayer—virtually a departure to new ground. In work for Christ, good men, when oppressed and worn down, and not attaining to their goal, are induced to think of expedients hitherto not approved, and apparently more easy in application. This temptation gains force when, amidst the mental confusion incident to weakness and disappointment, the value of the securities given us by God is not duly assessed. More consideration on the part of David of what security was implied in his being the anointed, and in the repeated assurance of God's intention to raise him to the throne, would have induced the conviction that, using ordinary means in Judah, he must be safe from Saul. Temptations gain power when we fail to consider that the promises of salvation and of blessing on our toil are yea and amen in Christ Jesus.

IV. A SLIGHT DALLYING WITH TEMPTATION DURING A LONG CONFLICT MAY ISSUE IN A NEGLECT OF PRAYER FOR GUIDANCE AND SUPPORT. The fail of good men is seen, but the real causes are not. The probability is that during his absorption in details he may have lost the spirit of devotion which hitherto had distinguished him, and hence his decision in this case without seeking counsel by the Urim. The secret departure of the heart from God is fraught with mischief and trouble. We then devise means of our own and distrust those which God has blessed. Then it is that we become faint and despondent and impatient, and, while not renouncing our life's calling of God, yet we pursue it in a manner inconsistent with our profession. Near to God in private life, humble dependence on his daily strength and guidance, this alone fosters faith in his wisdom and protection, and saves from recourse to expedients that reflect on his care.

General lessons:

1. Temporary ease in a righteous cause may mean loss of spiritual power and a beginning of disaster.

2. A course of duty hitherto successful for the specific purpose in view, though very painful, ought never to be exchanged for another line of conduct.

3. If we would endure hardness as good soldiers we must be one in fellowship with the Captain of our salvation.

4. In the service of God the weight of evidence is in favour of confidence and against fear, and we misread God's word and discipline when fear prevails.

1 Samuel 27:5-12

The perils of expediency.

The facts are—

1. David, being unwilling to live in the royal city, seeks and obtains Ziklag as his place of abode.

2. During his stay there he makes war on neighbouring tribes.

3. He gives Achish the impression that he was acting in hostility to Judah, and so creates the belief that henceforth he must be an ally of the Philistine. The painful backsliding of David is a reminder of the frailty of the best of men, and should induce great watchfulness over the subtle springs of thought and feeling. The prominent teaching of this section may be arranged thus:—

I. THE PERILS OF SELF-CHOSEN MEANS OF SAFETY. David's passing over the border was a step unwillingly taken, originating in the proper belief that when possible dangers ought to be avoided, but chiefly in the fear that the oft experienced help in Judah would not be continued there. The imperfect spiritual condition which rendered groundless fear possible also induced a self-choice of means of safety irrespective of guidance of prophet or Urim. But no sooner is the step taken than dangers thicken. A sojourn with Achish meant dependence for support, exposure to treachery, increasing obligations to serve a heathen king, the evils to religious life of association with idolaters, and consciousness of self-debasement. We have to learn that the path of duty may be encompassed with difficulties, but is always better than any course we may from love of ease strike out for ourselves. The Church has never gained anything but ultimate loss and dishonour in evading the pains and sorrows of high spiritual service by a spirit of conformity to the world. The merchant beset with risks incurs worse dangers by passing' over the line of truthfulness and fraud. The soul sensible of its spiritual dangers and annoyed by restless temptations finds no real relief in leaving the "way everlasting" for the expedients suggested by a deceitful heart.

II. THE SHAME OF SUPPRESSING OUR TRUE CHARACTER AND THE OBJECT FOR WHICH WE LIVE. Obviously David was careful not to let Achish know that he was the anointed, and was living in hope of rising to the throne of Israel. For as Israel was the declared and natural enemy of Philistia, this would be to foster the means of his future overthrow. It was impossible for a man of fine sensibilities to thus suppress his real character and objects without constant sense of shame, and even dread lest by some means he should be detected and suddenly assailed. Occasionally for political reasons men have adopted a policy of concealment, though even in this department of life it is attended with loss of self-respect and considerable peril. There are temptations for religious men to hide their religion, to pass unknown as professors, to assume for a while the habits and enter into too intimate associations with the irreligious. In festive scenes, in plans of business, in converse with strangers, there may arise a feeling of shame, or a thought of inexpediency, which not merely restrains from a natural expression of Christian feeling consonant to the occasion, but even prompts to an effort to give the impression that we are not religious. The sin of this suppression of our Christianity, this hiding of the great end for which we profess to live, cannot but bring most grievous trouble to the soul, as it so manifestly dishonours the name by which we are called.

III. THE FUTILITY OF ALL EXPEDIENTS FOR COURTING THE FAVOUR OF THE IRRELIGIOUS. David's scheme was to live in favour with the Philistines, and to this end he represented himself as their friend and the foe of their foe. Not only did he produce the false impression of having attacked Judah,—an act of untruthfulness,—but he did himself and brethren the cruel wrong of representing himself as alien to them. For awhile Achish was misled, but his people were suspicious (1 Samuel 29:3), and the result was a loss of reputation to David. Good men cannot compromise their position with irreligious men and secure or confer any permanent advantage thereby. The consideration and interest they manifest for a season, resting on false representations, will soon yield to suspicions, distrust, and contempt. If it be thought that accommodations of life to the standard of the unspiritual will tend to benefit them, events will prove the thought to be delusive. "Be not conformed to the world" is the wise policy, as it is the solemn duty, of the Christian.

IV. A COMPROMISE WITH THE IRRELIGIOUS MAY INVOLVE THE CONTRACTION OF VERY UNWELCOME OBLIGATIONS. From the day that David sought the friendly protection of Achish to the outbreak of war with Israel, David was becoming involved in obligations which could only be set aside at the cost of a reputation for deceit and ingratitude. He had to play a double part to save his own life and to avoid the fearful sin of raising his hand against his own countrymen (cf. 1 Samuel 27:11, 1 Samuel 27:12; 1 Samuel 28:1, 1 Samuel 28:2). There is here warning for the Church and the individual. Christian action should always be so free and truly based on righteous principles as to raise no claim for service or friendship inconsistent with the holy vows of consecration to Christ. He who by suppression of his religious principles puts himself in the power of irreligious companions or associates will find his position to be one of increasing embarrassment; and after a painful and tortuous line of conduct it will be necessary to lose all respect by breaking away from the wicked alliance or retain friendship by a shipwreck of faith. "The friendship of the world is enmity with God" (James 4:4). Young persons who are thrown much among the irreligious should take to heart the lessons of David's experience.

HOMILIES BY D. FRASER

1 Samuel 27:1

Unbelief and its unworthy device.

This history metes out equal justice, and, having shown to us the perversity of Saul, immediately exposes to us the fault of David, for he also, though no fool, returned to folly. In both cases equity and charity allow some plea of extenuation. Saul's hostility to David was due in some measure to an unsound brain, unable to shake off morbid suspicion. And David's mistrust of the Divine protection was the result of a very sensitive temperament tried beyond measure, a chafed and weary spirit. How far such pleas may be considered in weighing actions is a question for the Divine justice rather than for our sentence. Enough for us to recognise them, that we may the better understand how Saul could renew a pursuit which he had abandoned with tears, and how David could return to the land of the Philistines, from which he had formerly escaped only by simulating madness.

I. THE FAULT OF DAVID WAS UNBELIEF. It was not his habit; but it came upon him as a fit or mood, and, while it lasted, led him into actions unworthy and umwise.

1. He broke down at a strong point, as men often do. His faith rose to a heroic pitch in the valley of Elah, when the stripling, as a believer, encountered the blaspheming giant. But when he was put among princes his faith failed under apprehensions of mortal peril, and he fled to Nob, and thence to the Philistine town of Gath. He recovered his faith in God, and, assured of Divine protection, refused to injure Saul when the king on two occasions was within his power. But again his faith failed, and he was afraid. There is no mention of his having prayed, or consulted God through the priest as at other times. In his unworthy fear he took counsel with himself, and "said in his heart" that he would surely perish. Such is man. He falls at a strong point. Noah stood in his integrity against a whole world of sinners, but when he had no world to stand against he fell, and disgraced himself by intemperance. Moses was the meekest of men and most observant of the word of the Lord, and yet he erred at Kadesh in respect of self-control and fidelity to the Divine command, so forfeiting his entrance into Canaan. Hezekiah was eminent for prayerfulness and humility, and yet he fell in not spreading a matter before the Lord, but giving way to vain boasting. Simon Peter was all ardour and devotion to his Master, and yet, just after honest protestations of attachment, he lost courage, and denied his Lord. In like manner strong believers may fall into a fit of unbelief, in which past blessings are forgotten, promises are doubted or let slip, dangers are exaggerated, and the heart, instead of asking counsel of the Lord, takes counsel with itself, and suggests all sorts of folly.

2. Unbelief seems to have been the sin to which David was most tempted in his youth. We infer this both from this history and from the Psalter. The former tells how he more than once despaired of his life, and how Jonathan exerted himself to reassure his desponding mind. The latter reveals to us with touching candour the apprehensions of his youth in those psalms which plainly refer to his wanderings and hairbreadth escapes. The sorrows of death had compassed him, and the floods of the ungodly made him afraid, lie saw his enemies ready to swallow him up. And though he was naturally brave, unbelief enfeebled and distracted him, so that. his "heart was sore pained" within him. Indeed David's cries to God in the Psalms, and his way of repeating to himself that God was on his side, and was able to defend and deliver him, indicate not obscurely his inward struggle. If he had felt no fear he would not have thought of writing, "I will not fear what man can do to me." If he had known no failure of faith he would not have said so much as he has of crying after God and putting his trust in him. We read of Abraham simply that he believed. He fell on his face and listened to the voice of God; then he acted, journeyed, obeyed in faith; but we do not find him speak of his believing. David had a struggle to hold fast his confidence, and therefore has he given so much expression to the life of faith and its conflict with doubt and fear.

II. UNBELIEF LEADS A SERVANT OF GOD TO UNWORTHY DEVICES. "Nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines." Now we know that God did order and overrule this flight for the good of David and of Israel; but none the less was it, on the part of his servant, an unworthy action springing from unbelief. Better surely to have lived by faith in the forests and caves of Judaea than live by sight and behave like a freebooter in the land of the heathen Philistines. His stay at Ziklag, the town assigned to him by the king Achish, marks a bad period in the life of David. His incursion into the territory of certain southern tribes was most unjust and cruel. The injustice, indeed, may not have been apparent to his mind; for David and his men had, of course, been educated in the ideas of their own age and country, and had no scruple about invading and laying waste any territory of the heathen. They had also little, if any, respect for the lives of the heathen. Yet David must have sinned against his conscience in the cruel massacre of the southern tribes. One sin leads to another. And the son of Jesse added deceit to cruelty, and exulted in covering the first sin by the second, leaving no man or woman alive to contradict the tale he told to the Philistine king. Lord, what is man? When thou didst not hold up the goings of thy servant, into what miry places did he stray, into what a ditch did he fall! When his faith failed, what a breakdown of his character and conduct! Restraint of prayer, self-direction, then rapine, bloodshedding, and falsehood! What are we that we should have immunity from similar deterioration of character, if we give way to unbelief? A Christian in good repute takes some course that we should have thought incredible and impossible. We ask in amazement, What infatuation seized him? or, Can it be that he was always insincere; and wicked at heart under a cloak of seeming goodness? The real clue to his misconduct lies here—that he lost hold of God and fell through unbelief, allowed himself to doubt whether God would or could keep him in some strait, and took to trusting and keeping himself. So he fell into unworthy company, or betook himself to unworthy devices; and the end is what you see—dishonesty, duplicity, prevarication. Remember that nothing is so hard to be extirpated from the heart as unbelief. In his book of the Holy War Bunyan shows that when the town of Mansoul was in the devil's power, Incredulity was first made alderman, then lord mayor. When Immanuel took the town, Incredulity (unbelief) was doomed to execution, but managed to break out of prison, and lurked in hiding places where he could not be found. When the devil assaulted the town in hopes to retake it, "Old Incredulity" reappeared, and was made general of the army. After the assailing army was defeated, and many of the officers and soldiers in it were put to death, Unbelief still evaded capture. He did yet dwell in Mansoul, though he "hid in dens and holes."

Application:

1. Let believers beware. It is easy to slip off the way of faith, and it may seem to answer well for a time. You may get your Ziklag to dwell in, and find it more comfortable than the hold at Engedi or the hill of Hachilah, but you are in a state of declension from God, and on the way, as David was, to commit presumptuous sin. Matthew Henry remarks in his sententious way, "Unbelief is a sin that easily besets even good men. When without are fightings and within are fears, it is a hard matter to get over them. Lord, increase our faith!"

2. Let unbelievers be warned. If unbelief be so damaging when it prevails even temporarily over a servant of God, what ruin must it work in those who lie always under its power! "He that believeth not in the Son of God shall not see Life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."—F.

HOMILIES BY B. DALE

1 Samuel 27:1, 1 Samuel 27:2. (THE WILDERNESS OF ZIPH.)

Despondency.

"I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul" (1 Samuel 27:1). It is seldom (at least in a climate like ours) that a day passes in sunshine without clouds. And human life is as varied as the aspects of the sky. The best of men are liable not only to adversity as well as prosperity, but also to seasons of spiritual depression as well as of spiritual elation; and the one often follows the other very closely. These seasons of depression ought not, indeed, to be attributed to a Divine, sovereign, and uncontrollable influence. They are due to certain causes in men themselves which ought to be watched against. Yet who resists them constantly, effectually, and completely? Here is David, who recently said, "Let the Lord deliver me out of all tribulation," and heard Saul say, "Blessed be thou, my son David," etc. (1 Samuel 26:24, 1 Samuel 26:25), talking to himself in a desponding mood, and coming to the conclusion that there is nothing better for him than to flee into the land of the Philistines. It may be preferable for a man to "commune with his own heart" of his fears and doubts, rather than pour them indiscriminately into the ears of other people; but his proper course is not to continue brooding over them, or surrender himself to their power, but to" inquire of the Lord," and "hope in God" (Psalms 42:11). "More of these no man hath known than myself, which I confess I conquered not in a martial posture, but on my knees" (Sir T. Browne). Concerning the state of mind which this language expresses, consider—

I. WHEREIN IT CONSISTS.

1. Fear of approaching danger. Saul bad renewed his persecution, and David thought that he should be "consumed." There was apparently no more reason why he should think so now than there had been before; but the desponding mind projects its shadow over all things, and magnifies ordinary into extraordinary peril. Imaginary evils are often occasions of greater trouble and temptation than real evils, and more difficult to overcome.

2. Distrust of Divine care. This is its chief element. If his faith had been in vigorous exercise he would have said, "Whom shall I fear?" (Psalms 27:1). But it seems to have completely failed, leaving him a prey to overwhelming anxiety and fear. "My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God" (Isaiah 40:27). "Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost" (Ezekiel 37:11).

3. Depression of personal energy. He has lost heart, and thinks it impossible to continue safely in the land of Judah, to which the prophet had formerly recalled him, and where Divine providence has appointed his lot. The fearful and faithless shrink from difficulties which in a better state of mind they encountered boldly.

II. WHEREBY IT IS OCCASIONED. The influences productive of it are partly—

1. External add physical. Numerous perils, long hardship, constant watchfulness, great exertions, bodily exhaustion and suffering. "There are hours in which physical derangement darkens the windows of the soul; days in which shattered nerves make life simply endurance." Much of this may be removed by the adoption of proper methods, and where its removal is impossible, special grace should be sought that it may be borne cheerfully and patiently.

2. Mental and emotional. Perplexing thoughts, conflicting arguments, unjust and ungenerous treatment, want of sympathy, deferred hope, reaction from excited feeling. "Something of it might be due to those alternations of emotion which seem to be incidental to our human constitution. We have ebbings and fiowings within us like the tides; and just as in nature the lowest ebb is after the highest spring tide, so you frequently see, even in the best of men, after some lofty experience of spiritual elevation and noble self-command, an ebbing down to the lowest depth of fear and flight" (W.M. Taylor).

3. Moral and spiritual. Omission of duty, parleying with temptation, contemplating doubtful expedients (1 Samuel 26:19), intimate association with persons of little or no piety, self-confidence, bedimmed spiritual vision, loss of spiritual fervour, "restraining prayer before God." It is significant that nothing is said about David's asking counsel of the Lord concerning the step which he was contemplating, as he did on other occasions. "Josephus tells us that he advised with his friends, but no writer informs us that he advised with God" (Delany). His state of mind appears to have been unfavourable to his doing so; and it is probable that if he had done so the course on which he had half resolved would have been forbidden. Communion with God prevents or cures despondency and averts many a disastrous step.

III. WHEREFORE IT IS BLAMEWORTHY. For that it is so there can be no doubt. In it—

1. Past deliverances effected by God are ungratefully forgotten. Of these David had experienced many; they were assurances of continued help, and in better hours he regarded them as such (1 Samuel 17:37). But now his remembrance of them is clouded with 'fear, and produces neither thankfulness nor confidence. He speaks to his heart, but says not, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits."

2. The faithful promises of God are faithlessly ignored. He who doubts them despises the Giver, deprives himself of the treasures of wisdom, strength, and blessedness which they contain, and "forsakes his own mercy."

3. The great name of God is greatly dishonoured. It is a "strong tower," and not to "run into it," but to continue in despondency, as if it were inaccessible or incapable of affording adequate protection, is to oppose the purpose for which it is made known, to act unworthily of the knowledge of it, and to incur just reproach. "Who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a man that shall die, and forgettest the Lord thy Maker?" (Isaiah 51:13). Surely nothing dishonours him more.

IV. WHERETO IT LEADS. "And David arose," etc. (1 Samuel 27:2). He thought nothing could be better for him; but, in reality, nothing could be worse. "For by this step he would alienate the affections of the Israelites from him, justify the reproaches of the enemy, deprive himself of the means of grace and the ordinances of religion, grieve his soul with the vice and idolatry of the heathen, put himself out of the warrant of Divine protection, and lay himself under peculiar obligation to those whom he could not serve without betraying the cause of God." He escaped from one danger only to rush into another and much greater. Unbelieving and desponding fears commonly—

1. Incite to unwise and foolish courses of action.

2. Conduce to temptation and transgression (1 Samuel 27:10).

3. Involve in embarrassment and great distress (1 Samuel 28:1; 1 Samuel 30:1-5).

"Beware of desperate steps. The darkest day,

Live till tomorrow, will have passed away."

(Cowper, 'The Needless Alarm.')

Exhortation:

1. Guard against the causes of despondency.

2. At its first approach turn instantly to God in faith and prayer.

3. Take no new step under its influence, nor until the will of God is clearly seen.

4. "Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might."—D.

1 Samuel 27:3-12. (GATH, ZIKLAG.)

David's residence among the Philistines.

David had taken the decisive step, crossed the border, and passed with his 600 men and their families ("a little ambulant kingdom") into the Philistine territory. His position was very different now from what it had been five or six years before, when he came to Gath .as a lonely fugitive (1 Samuel 21:10); and he was gladly received by Achish, who regarded him as in open revolt against Saul and Israel, and expected to obtain from him valuable assistance in his future conflicts with them. And here and at Ziklag he continued sixteen months (1 Samuel 27:7). His condition (like that of other good men who enter into intimate association with the ungodly, voluntarily, unnecessarily, and for the sake of worldly advantage; see 1 Samuel 15:6) was marked by—

I. TEMPORARY SECURITY (1 Samuel 27:4). By placing himself under the protection of Achish, David gained his end; for Saul dared not follow him lest he should excite another Philistine war, and (physically restrained, though.still retaining an evil will) "sought no more again for him." His outward circumstances were completely. changed. Instead of the uncertain, anxious, hazardous, and despised life which he had led in the wilderness, he enjoyed repose, comfort, safety, and respect in a royal city. To obtain advantages such as these men often swerve from the appointed path of duty, especially in times of persecution, not considering at what a cost they are obtained, how brief is their duration, or how great the trouble by which they may be followed.

II. CONSCIOUS INCONSISTENCY (1 Samuel 27:5-7). In open alliance with the enemies of Israel, silently witnessing their idolatrous practices, looked upon as a traitor to his country, and ready to aid them against it, David must have felt what a contradiction there was between his apparent and real character. Yet he might not declare himself by a single word or act, for thousands of watchful eyes were always on him. He did not feel at home, and requested (under the plea of the unsuitableness and expensiveness of his residence with his large retinue at Gath) that the king would give him "a place in some town in the country," his real motive being that he might be "out of the way of observation, so as to play the part of Saul's enemy without acting against him." At Ziklag he would be less under restraint, and his real sentiments less likely to be discovered, though even there he might still be suspected. No outward advantages that good men may gain by their alliance with the ungodly can afford adequate compensation for the insincerity, distraction, restlessness, and vexation of soul which it involves (2 Peter 2:8).

III. SUCCESSFUL ENTERPRISE (1 Samuel 27:8, 1 Samuel 27:9). As soon as he was settled at Ziklag he made warlike expeditions against the Amalekites, Geshurites, and Gezrites, "of old the inhabitants of the land" (unlike the Philistines); and from the rich booty which lie procured he supplied the wants of his men, and gave valuable presents to Achish (1 Samuel 27:9). His setting forth on these expeditions, and the cruel severity with which he executed them, must be judged of in the light of "the circumstances of those times, and the constant practices of nations one to another, especially of the neighbouring nations towards the Hebrews" (Chandler), and of the ban under which some of them had been placed (see 1 Samuel 15:1, 1 Samuel 15:32, 1 Samuel 15:33). He was doubtless animated therein by public spirit and religious zeal (1 Samuel 30:26), but his motives were not altogether unmixed, and his successes brought him a doubtful honour (1 Samuel 27:12).

IV. CRAFTY POLICY (1 Samuel 27:10, 1 Samuel 27:11). To retain the confidence of Achish, he gave him the impression that his expeditions were directed against his own countrymen and their allies, instead of against Amalek and other neighbouring tribes; and he was thus, through distrust of God, again guilty of deceit (1 Samuel 21:1, 1 Samuel 21:10). "If a man will put himself among Philistines, he cannot promise to come forth innocent" (Hall). "David might perhaps seek in some way to justify himself by the thought that in his ambiguous manner of speech he made use only of an allowable stratagem, and that he was a heathen to whom he veiled the truth. But he will yet be made to experience that God will weigh those who would be his in the balances of the sanctuary, in which, among others, that inviolable word is found as one of the weights, 'Thou shalt not bear false witness'" (Krummacher).

V. INCREASING POWER and importance. While at Ziklag he received large reinforcements (1 Samuel 22:1, 1 Samuel 22:2; 1 Chronicles 12:1-22), some of whom were "of Saul's brethren of Benjamin"—evidently from dissatisfaction with the turn which things had taken (see also 2 Samuel 15:16-23). "As a matter of fact, David in this city laid the foundation of all his kingdom. Here he could already rule with greater freedom and independence, collect fugitives and deserters around him in larger and larger numbers, send or receive embassies like a prince (1 Samuel 30:26-31), and, as a ruler over soldiers and over peaceable citizens, rehearse, on a small scale, those arts by which he afterwards acquired and maintained his great kingdom" (Ewald). Notwithstanding all this, his condition was one of -

VI. SPIRITUAL DISADVANTAGE, and even spiritual deterioration. That which he had dreaded as the worst of evils (1 Samuel 26:19) had come about by his own voluntary act. Although he was not forbidden the exercise of his religion under Achish (1 Samuel 29:6), yet his circumstances were unfavourable to it; he was absent from the land and the sanctuary where God manifested his gracious presence to his people (1 Samuel 26:20; Psalms 42:2, Psalms 42:3), and his whole course of life is indicative of a lower tone of piety than before. "Being a genuine poet and lover of art, he took advantage of all his opportunities in this direction, and exercised himself as a musician in the Gittite and the Philistine style (Psalms 8:1-9; inscription), which he afterwards transferred from there to Jerusalem" (Ewald); but not a single psalm of his can be referred to this period.

VII. DANGEROUS ENTANGLEMENTS, intense suffering, and probably also serious delay in the attainment of his high destiny (1 Samuel 28:1, 1 Samuel 28:2; 1 Samuel 30:3). The evils that sprang from his want of faith and patience were truly great. "His presence in Judah would have given an opportunity which Saul could hardly have refused, for calling him forth as the champion of Israel. At all events he would have been at hand to relieve the disaster, and would doubtless have been hailed as king by the united voice of Israel. As it was, his nation suffered a terrible defeat, which, instead of doing his best to avert, he narrowly escaped taking a share in inflicting; his recognition as king of Israel was postponed for seven years and a half at the cost of a civil war and a permanent alienation of Judah from the rest of Israel; and meanwhile he was involved in a course of pitiable deceit" (Smith, 'Old Testament Hist.'). Nevertheless the overruling hand of God must be recognised in all, and by Divine mercy he was delivered "out of all tribulation."

"Ay me, how many perils do unfold

The righteous man, to make him daily fall,

Were not that heavenly grace doth him uphold,

And steadfast truth acquit him out of all!

Her love is firm, her care continual,

So oft as he, through his own foolish pride

Or weakness, is to sinful bands made thrall" (Spenser).—D.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 27:4". The Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/1-samuel-27.html. 1897.

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