1 Samuel 27
Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
David at Ziklag in the Land of the Philistines - 1 Samuel 27:1-12

In his despair of being able permanently to escape the plots of Saul in the land of Israel, David betook himself, with his attendants, to the neighbouring land of the Philistines, to king Achish of Gath, and received from him the town of Ziklag, which was assigned him at his own request as a dwelling-place (1 Samuel 27:1-7). From this point he made attacks upon certain tribes on the southern frontier of Canaan which were hostile to Israel, but described them to Achish as attacks upon Judah and its dependencies, that he might still retain the protection of the Philistian chief (1 Samuel 27:8-12). David had fled to Achish at Gath once before; but on that occasion he had been obliged to feign insanity in order to preserve his life, because he was recognised as the conqueror of Goliath. This act of David was not forgotten by the Philistines even now. But as David had been pursued by Saul for many years, Achish did not hesitate to give a place of refuge in his land to the fugitive who had been outlawed by the king of Israel, the arch-enemy of the Philistines, possibly with the hope that if a fresh war with Saul should break out, he should be able to reap some advantage from David's friendship.

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 speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me any more in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand.
The result of the last affair with Saul, after his life had again been spared, could not fail to confirm David in his conviction that Saul would not desist from pursuing him, and that if he stayed any longer in the land, he would fall eventually into the hands of his enemy. With this conviction, he formed the following resolution: "Now shall I be consumed one day by the hand of Saul: there is no good to me (i.e., it will not be well with me if I remain in the land), but (כּי after a negative) I will flee into the land of the Philistines; so will Saul desist from me to seek me further (i.e., give up seeking me) in the whole of the territory of Israel, and I shall escape his hand."

And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath.
Accordingly he went over with the 600 men who were with him to Achish, the king of Gath. Achish, the son of Maoch, is in all probability the same person not only as the king Achish mentioned in 1 Samuel 21:11, but also as Achish the son of Maachah (1 Kings 2:39), since Maoch and Maachah are certainly only different forms of the same name; and a fifty years' reign, which we should have in that case to ascribe to Achish, it not impossible.

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.
Achish allotted dwelling-places in his capital, Gath, for David and his wives, and for all his retinue; and Saul desisted from any further pursuit of David when he was informed of his flight to Gath. The Chethibh יוסף is apparently only a copyist's error for יסף.

And it was told Saul that David was fled to Gath: and he sought no more again for him.
And David said unto Achish, If I have now found grace in thine eyes, let them give me a place in some town in the country, that I may dwell there: for why should thy servant dwell in the royal city with thee?
In the capital of the kingdom, however, David felt cramped, and therefore entreated Achish to assign him one of the land (or provincial) towns to dwell in; whereupon he gave him Ziklag for that purpose. This town was given to the Simeonites in the time of Joshua (Joshua 19:5), but was afterwards taken by the Philistines, probably not long before the time of David, and appears to have been left without inhabitants in consequence of this conquest. The exact situation, in the western part of the Negeb, has not been clearly ascertained (see at Joshua 15:31). Achish appears to have given it to David. This is implied in the remark, "Therefore Ziklag came to the kings of Judah (i.e., became their property) unto this day."

Then Achish gave him Ziklag that day: wherefore Ziklag pertaineth unto the kings of Judah unto this day.
And the time that David dwelt in the country of the Philistines was a full year and four months.
The statement that David remained a year and four months in the land of the Philistines, is a proof of the historical character of the whole narrative. The ימים before the "four months" signifies a year; strictly speaking, a term of days which amounted to a full year (as in Leviticus 25:29 : see also 1 Samuel 1:3, 1 Samuel 1:20; 1 Samuel 2:19).

And David and his men went up, and invaded the Geshurites, and the Gezrites, and the Amalekites: for those nations were of old the inhabitants of the land, as thou goest to Shur, even unto the land of Egypt.
From Ziklag David made an attack upon the Geshurites, Gerzites, and Amalekites, smote them without leaving a man alive, and returned with much booty. The occasion of this attack is not mentioned, as being a matter of indifference in relation to the chief object of the history; but it is no doubt to be sought for in plundering incursions made by these tribes into the land of Israel. For David would hardly have entered upon such a war in the situation in which he was placed at that time without some such occasion, seeing that it would be almost sure to bring him into suspicion with Achish, and endanger his safety. ויּעל, "he advanced," the verb being used, as it frequently is, to denote the advance of an army against a people or town (see at Joshua 8:1). At the same time, the tribes which he attacked may have had their seat upon the mountain plateau in the northern portion of the desert of Paran, so that David was obliged to march up to reach them. פּשׁט, to invade for the purpose of devastation and plunder. Geshuri is a tribe mentioned in Joshua 13:2 as living in the south of the territory of the Philistines, and is a different tribe from the Geshurites in the north-east of Gilead (Joshua 12:5; Joshua 13:11, Joshua 13:13; Deuteronomy 3:14). These are the only passages in which they are mentioned. The Gerzites, or Gizrites according to the Keri, are entirely unknown. Bonfrere and Clericus suppose them to be the Gerreni spoken of in 2 Macc. 13:24, who inhabited the town of Gerra, between Rhinocolura and Pelusium (Strabo, xvi. 760), or Gerron (Ptol. iv. 5). This conjecture is a possible one, but is very uncertain nevertheless, as the Gerzites certainly dwelt somewhere in the desert of Arabia. At any rate Grotius and Ewald cannot be correct in their opinion that they were the inhabitants of Gezer (Joshua 10:33). The Amalekites were the remnant of this old hereditary foe of the Israelites, who had taken to flight on Saul's war of extermination, and had now assembled again (see at 1 Samuel 15:8-9). "For they inhabit the land, where you go from of old to Shur, even to the land of Egypt." The עשׁר before מעולם may be explained from the fact that בּואך is not adverbial here, but is construed according to its form as an infinitive: literally, "where from of old thy coming is to Shur." עשׁר cannot have crept into the text through a copyist's mistake, as such a mistake would not have found its way into all the MSS. The fact that the early translators did not render the word proves nothing against its genuineness, but merely shows that the translators regarded it as superfluous. Moreover, the Alexandrian text is decidedly faulty here, and עולם is confounded with עלם, ἀπὸ Γελάμ. Shur is the desert of Jifar, which is situated in front of Egypt (as in 1 Samuel 15:7). These tribes were nomads, and had large flocks, which David took with him as booty when he had smitten the tribes themselves. After his return, David betook himself to Achish, to report to the Philistian king concerning his enterprise, and deceive him as to its true character.

And David smote the land, and left neither man nor woman alive, and took away the sheep, and the oxen, and the asses, and the camels, and the apparel, and returned, and came to Achish.
And Achish said, Whither have ye made a road to day? And David said, Against the south of Judah, and against the south of the Jerahmeelites, and against the south of the Kenites.
Achish said, "Ye have not made an invasion to-day, have ye?" אל, like μὴ, is an interrogative sense; the ה has dropped out: vid., Ewald, 324, b. David replied, "Against the south of Judah, and the south of the Jerahmeelites, and into the south of the Kenites," sc., we have made an incursion. This reply shows that the Geshurites, Gerzites, and Amalekites dwelt close to the southern boundary of Judah, so that David was able to represent the march against these tribes to Achish as a march against the south of Judah, to make him believe that he had been making an attack upon the southern territory of Judah and its dependencies. The Negeb of Judah is the land between the mountains of Judah and the desert of Arabia (see at Joshua 15:21). The Jerahmeelites are the descendants of Jerahmeel, the first-born of Hezron (1 Chronicles 2:9, 1 Chronicles 2:25-26), and therefore one of the three large families of Judah who sprang from Hezron. They probably dwelt on the southern frontier of the tribe of Judah (vid., 1 Samuel 30:29). The Kenites were protgs of Judah (see at 1 Samuel 15:6, and Judges 1:16). In 1 Samuel 27:11 the writer introduces the remark, that in his raid David left neither man nor woman of his enemies alive, to take them to Gath, because he thought "they might report against us, and say, Thus hath David done." There ought to be a major point under דּוד עשׂה, as the following clause does not contain the words of the slaughtered enemies, but is 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. משׁפּט, the mode of procedure; lit. the right which he exercised (see 1 Samuel 8:9).

And David saved neither man nor woman alive, to bring tidings to Gath, saying, Lest they should tell on us, saying, So did David, and so will be his manner all the while he dwelleth 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.
1 Samuel 27:12 is connected with 1 Samuel 27:10; Achish believed David's words, and said (to himself), "He hath made himself stinking (i.e., hated) among his own people, among Israel, and will be my servant (i.e., subject to me) for ever."

Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch [1857-78].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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