A. David joins with the Philistine leader Achish.
1. (1) David’s discouraged decision.
And David said in his heart, “Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines; and Saul will despair of me, to seek me anymore in any part of Israel. So I shall escape out of his hand.”
a. David said in his heart: The sad story of 1 Samuel 27 begins with something David said in his heart. He may have never said it out loud; he may have never said it to anyone else; he may have never said it to God. But David said it in his heart. What we say in our heart has a tremendous power to shape our thinking, our actions, even our whole destiny.
i. If someone says in their heart, “God doesn’t care about me,” it will make a difference in their life. If someone says in their heart, “I deserve better than this,” it will make a difference in their life. If someone says in their heart, “I come before others,” it will make a difference in their life. By the same principle, if someone says in their heart, “God loves me and I don’t have to earn His love,” it will make a difference. If they say in their heart, “I am grateful for every blessing I have,” it will make a difference. If someone says, “Others come first,” it will make difference in their life. What we say in our heart has great power for good or evil, for blessing or cursing.
b. What did David say in his heart? Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. That was a word of discouragement, coming from a heart that was tired of trusting God for His continued deliverance. God had protected David so many times before, why wouldn’t He continue to protect him from the hand of Saul? But in his discouragement, David forgets God’s past deliverance.
ii. David could have asked himself for a different opinion. Previously, David declared his great trust in God against all enemies (1 Samuel 17:45-47). The David of 1 Samuel 27 should listen to the David of 1 Samuel 17!
iii. “I remember on one occasion, to my shame, being sad and doubtful of heart, and a kind friend took out a paper and read to me a short extract from a discourse upon faith. I very soon detected the author of the extract; my friend was reading to me from one of my own sermons. Without saying a word he just left it to my own conscience, for he had convicted me of committing the very fault against which I had so earnestly declaimed.” (Spurgeon)
c. What did David say in his heart? There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines. David is actually telling himself to leave the land of Israel and go live among the idol worshipping Philistines.
i. In this, David tells himself to do what he feared in 1 Samuel 26:19: For they have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ This temptation, these words in David’s heart, had been working their way in for quite a while. Now, David considers something he would have never considered before - leaving the land of God’s people, the land of promise, to go and live among the Philistines!
ii. Nothing better? Was there nothing better for David in Israel among God’s people than among the ungodly? Is not the love of the Lord, and His kindness, goodness, and mercy something better? But David doubted God’s care for him.
iii. “To doubt the lovingkindness of God is thought by some to be a very small sin; in fact, some have even exalted the doubts and fears of God’s people into fruits and grace, and evidences of great advancement in experience. It is humiliating to observe that certain ministers have pampered and petted men in unbelief and distrust of God, being in this matter false to their Master, and to the souls of his people. Far be it from me to smite the feeble of the flock; but their sins I must and will smite, since it is my firm conviction, that to doubt the kindness, the faithfulness, and the love of God, is a very heinous offense.” (Spurgeon)
d. What did David say in his heart? Saul will despair of me, to seek me anymore in any part of Israel. So I shall escape out of his hand. Before, David trusted in the Lord to protect him from the hand of Saul. Now, David gives up trusting in the Lord, and will instead leave the land of promise, leave the people of God, and find “protection” among the Philistines.
i. Saul will despair: What? Will Saul despair if David leaves the land of promise? Will Saul despair if David forsakes the people of God and joins the ungodly? No, Saul will rejoice! It is David who is in despair, not Saul.
ii. In his discouraged despair, David is at a place that many find themselves at some point in their lives. He says, “I give up. I can’t take this anymore. The stress of trusting God is too much, and I have to find protection somewhere else.”
iii. Saul could never drive David to the Philistines. If Saul were to tell David, “You must leave the people of God and go live among the Philistines,” David would never bow to it. But discouragement and despair are more powerful enemies than even Saul was. Discouragement and despair will drive David to do something that Saul could never make him do.
iv. All of these are reasons to deal with what we say in our hearts, to deal with discouragement and despair instead of simply ignoring them. When we don’t deal with them, they can build and drive us to far worse places.
e. At this point, David looked at Saul, not at God. David listened to himself, not to God. This will always end in trouble.
i. “Always be afraid of being afraid. Failing faith means failing strength. Do not regard despondency as merely a loss of joy, view it as draining away your spiritual life. Struggle against it, for it often happens that when faith ebbs sin comes to the flood. He who does not comfortably trust God will soon seek after comfort somewhere else.” (Spurgeon)
2. (2-4) David goes over to Achish, leader of Gath.
Then David arose and went over with the six hundred men who were with him to Achish the son of Maoch, king of Gath. So David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, each man with his household, and David with his two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the Carmelitess, Nabal’s widow. And it was told Saul that David had fled to Gath; so he sought him no more.
a. David arose and went over with the six hundred men: David’s discouraged and despairing heart didn’t only affect himself; he led six hundred men out of the land of promise, over to live with the ungodly. Before David sunk into his pit of discouragement and despair, he would have never dreamed of doing this!
i. 1 Samuel 27:3 makes it even worse: Each man with his household. David’s defection to the Philistines touched even more than the six hundred men, it touched all of their families. It directly touched David’s household also, because Ahinoam and Abigail were with him.
b. So David dwelt with Achish at Gath: Previously (recorded in 1 Samuel 21:10-15), David had briefly gone over to Achish of the Philistines, believing there might be a place of refuge for him there. God allowed that experience to quickly turn sour, and David pretended to be a madman so he could escape. In his discouragement and despair, built upon what David said in his heart, David will go down a road of sin he has been down before.
i. Why does Achish receive him this time, when he would not in 1 Samuel 21:10-15? First, it is clear now when it wasn’t clear before that David and Achish both share the same enemy, Saul. Second, now David brings with him 600 fighting men, whom Achish can use as mercenaries.
c. It was told Saul that David had fled to Gath; so he sought him no more: David accomplished his immediate goal, because now Saul has stopped pursuing him. But now David is in a place of compromise that will leave him worse off than before. He is actually submitting to a Philistine master!
i. We have no record of any Psalms that David wrote during this time. This was not a high point in his spiritual life; he wasn’t writing sweet Psalms unto the Lord.
ii. “The sweet singer was mute. He probably acquired a few new strains of music, or even mastered some fresh instruments, while sojourning at Gath, a memory of which is perpetuated in the term Gittith, a term which frequently occurs in the inscriptions of the psalms composed afterward. But who would barter a song for a melody, a psalm for a guitar? It was a poor exchange.” (Meyer)
iii. David left Israel and went among the ungodly because he badly needed a sense of security from Saul’s unrelenting attacks. But where was David more secure: in Israel and in God’s will, or among the Philistines and out of God’s will?
iv. “It is impossible to see David taking refuge in Gath, without recognizing that he had lost for the time being the clear vision of God which made him strong against Goliath.” (Morgan)
B. David becomes a bandit.
1. (5-7) David receives the city of Ziklag.
Then David said to Achish, “If I have now found favor in your eyes, let them give me a place in some town in the country, that I may dwell there. For why should your servant dwell in the royal city with you?” So Achish gave him Ziklag that day. Therefore Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah to this day. Now the time that David dwelt in the country of the Philistines was one full year and four months.
a. David said to Achish, “If I have now found favor in your eyes.” When did David care about finding favor in the eyes of a Philistine ruler? What a change in David!
b. Why should your servant dwell in the royal city with you? It smarts to hear David say to a Philistine ruler, “your servant.” But why did David want his own city? “From every point of view it was good that David should move away from Achish’s capital, but especially because he needed freedom to operate his own independent policy without being observed too closely.” (Baldwin)
c. Let them give me a place . . . that I may dwell there: In David’s mind, this isn’t just a visit to the Philistines. He may say to himself that he will someday return to Israel, but he isn’t planning on a short stay among the ungodly. He wants to dwell there, and he did for one full year and four months.
i. Now David, his 600 men and their families lived in a completely new situation. They lived in a fortified city, a formal place of defense. No more finding refuge in the wilderness! But apart from God, they aren’t safer in the city.
2. (8-9) David’s new occupation: a roving bandit.
And David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites. For those nations were the inhabitants of the land from of old, as you go to Shur, even as far as the land of Egypt. Whenever David attacked the land, he left neither man nor woman alive, but took away the sheep, the oxen, the donkeys, the camels, and the apparel, and returned and came to Achish.
a. David and his men went up and raided: The Hebrew word raided comes from the verb to strip, with especially the idea of stripping the dead for loot. David would attack these villages or encampments, kill some of the men, strip their bodies for treasure or armor, and rob the people of the village or encampment. Is this a way of life for a man after God’s own heart?
b. The Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites: David hasn’t totally turned against God and His people. For now, he only attacks the enemies of Israel. This probably gave David some comfort, but it is a small consolation to know that you aren’t as bad as you possibly could be.
c. He left neither man nor woman alive, but took away: Even though he is attacking the enemies of Israel, David is nothing more than an armed robber and a murderer. He kills all the people of the village or encampment he attacks, takes all the spoil, and does all of this without the approval or guidance of God. He now fights wars for profit, instead of for God’s honor.
3. (10-12) David lies to Achish.
Then Achish would say, “Where have you made a raid today?” And David would say, “Against the southern area of Judah, or against the southern area of the Jerahmeelites, or against the southern area of the Kenites.” David would save neither man nor woman alive, to bring news to Gath, saying, “Lest they should inform on us, saying, ‘Thus David did.’ “ And thus was his behavior all the time he dwelt in the country of the Philistines. So Achish believed David, saying, “He has made his people Israel utterly abhor him; therefore he will be my servant forever.”
a. And David would say, “Against the southern area of Judah.” David didn’t lie to Achish because he was ashamed of what he did. He lied to gain favor with Achish. He knew that this Philistine leader would be pleased to hear that David raided his own people of Israel.
b. David would save neither man nor woman alive, to bring news to Gath: In his raids, David killed all the men and the women, so his lie to Achish would not be exposed.
i. Much later in his life, David will have a far more notorious season of sin with Bathsheba, and end up killing Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to cover his sin. Though that later event is far more famous, the root of sin that nourished it began way back in 1 Samuel 27. Here, many years before David killed Uriah to cover his sin, he kills these men and women in his raids to cover his sin. The roots of sin must be dealt with, or they come back with greater strength.
c. So Achish believed David, saying, “He has made his people Israel utterly abhor him; therefore he will be my servant forever.” Achish felt he was in a good place. David was trapped in a web, and Achish was the spider. Achish believed that David had burned all his bridges with the people of God. It all looks pretty dark; but David had not - and could not - burn his bridge with God.
4. (28:1-2) David takes sides with the Philistines against Israel.
Now it happened in those days that the Philistines gathered their armies together for war, to fight with Israel. And Achish said to David, “You assuredly know that you will go out with me to battle, you and your men.” And David said to Achish, “Surely you know what your servant can do.” And Achish said to David, “Therefore I will make you one of my chief guardians forever.”
a. Achish said to David, “You assuredly know that you will go out with me to battle, you and your men.” David had lied to Achish, telling him that he raided the people of Israel. But now, David is forced to live the lie he gave to Achish.
b. David said to Achish, “Surely you know what your servant can do.” Here, David seems completely surrendered to the ungodly Achish. He will fight for the Philistines, against Israel! We might wish that David was really operating as a “double agent,” and he planned to turn on the Philistines in the midst of battle. But the text gives us no reason for such an optimistic perspective. David has come to a very low place!
c. Remember the roots of David’s condition: this was a genuine crisis of faith, when he started trusting more in what he said in his heart (1 Samuel 27:1) than in what the Lord God said to him. David believed the lie that he was safer with the world than he was with God.
i. To some degree, most every Christian has been where David is at in this back sliding state. We can understand what David is doing; but it is still wrong, and very dangerous.
d. Is this the man after God’s own heart? Yes. Being a man or a woman after God’s own heart doesn’t mean that you never sin. It means that when you do sin, you come to see it and move on. The Bible is honest enough to show is that even its heroes did not go just from one level of glory to the next. But this account of David was given for our instruction, so that we might avoid some of the traps he fell into.
i. “I undertake no defence of this conduct of David; it is all bad, all defenceless; God vindicates him not . . . it is false to say that, because these things are recorded, therefore they are approved.” (Clarke)
ii. “But it pleased God to leave David to himself in this, as well as in other particulars, that those might be sensible demonstrations of the infirmities of the best men; and of the necessity of God’s grace, and daily direction and assistance; and of the freeness and riches of God’s mercy, in passing by such great offences. (Poole)
iii. Wonderfully, God did not bless David where he was at. But neither did God take away David’s calling or destiny to be the next king of Israel. God gave to David some of the mercy David showed to Saul.
© 2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission