Now the Philistines gathered together all their armies to Aphek: and the Israelites pitched by a fountain which is in Jezreel.
Verse 1. - The Philistines gathered, etc. The narrative, broken off for the description of Saul's abasement, is again resumed from 1 Samuel 28:1. Aphek. As we saw on 1 Samuel 4:1, this word, signifying a fortress, is a very common name for places. If it was the Aphek in Judah there mentioned, David's dismissal would have taken place near Gath, and so soon after Achish joined the Philistine army. Mr. Conder thinks it was the place represented by the modern village Fuku'a, near Mount Gilboa, in the tribe of Issachar; but as this was distant from Ziklag eighty or ninety miles, it would not have been possible for David to have reached home thence on the third day (1 Samuel 30:1), nor was it probable that his presence with his little army would remain long unnoticed. A fountain which is in Jezreel. Hebrew, "the fountain." Conder says, "Crossing the valley we see before us the site of Jezreel, on a knoll 500 feet high. The position is very peculiar, for whilst on the north and northeast the slopes are steep and rugged, on the south the ascent is very gradual, and the traveller coming northward is astonished to look down suddenly on the valley with its two springs: one, 'Ain Jalud, welling out from a conglomerate cliff, and forming a pool 100 yards long with muddy borders; the other, the Crusaders' fountain of Tubania" ('Tent-Work,' 1:124). The former is the fountain mentioned here; and it is evident that even now Saul had chosen a strong position for his army. The reading of the Septuagint, En-dor instead of "the fountain" (Hebrew, En, or Ain), is indefensible, as the Israelites were many miles to the southward.
And the lords of the Philistines passed on by hundreds, and by thousands: but David and his men passed on in the rereward with Achish.
Verses 2, 3. - The lords of the Philistines passed on. Evidently they were on their march northward, with their troops arranged in divisions, when David's presence in the rearward with the contingent of Achish was noticed. The princes - not the strict word for the Philistine lords (see on 1 Samuel 5:8), but a loose, general term used again in ver. 4 - on having it reported to them in the course of a day or two that there was a body of strange troops in the army of Gath, asked, What do these Hebrews here? Hebrew, "What these Hebrews?" i.e. What mean these Hebrews? using of them the ordinary Philistine term of contempt. Achish answers that these men were the followers of David, who, having deserted from Saul, had been with him these days or these years, i.e. an indefinitely long time, during which he had conducted himself with the utmost fidelity to his new master.
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?
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?
Verses 4-6. - Angrily rejecting the testimony of Achish in David's favour, they say, Make this fellow (Hebrew, "the man") return, that he may go again to his place, i.e. to Ziklag. He shall not go down with us to battle. Though the Philistines marched up into the Israelite territory, yet they speak naturally of going down into battle, because while armies usually encamped on opposite ranges of hills, they descended into the plain between for the encounter. An adversary. Hebrew, "a satan," without the article, and so in 1 Chronicles 21:1. As a proper name it has the article, as in the books of Job and Zechariah. Should he reconcile himself. The verb means, "to make himself pleasing," "to commend himself." The heads of these men, pointing to the Philistine ranks. David of whom they sang, etc. The song of the Jewish maidens seems to have been as well known in Philistia as in the land of Israel On the former occasion it had made the Philistines drive him away from the court of Achish (1 Samuel 21:11-15); here, too, it made them drive him from their army, but he was thereby saved from the painful necessity of making war on his own country, and returned just in time to rescue his wives and property. ACHISH SENDS DAVID AWAY (vers. 6-11).
Is not this David, of whom they sang one to another in dances, saying, Saul slew his thousands, and David his ten thousands?
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.
Verses 6, 7. - As Jehovah liveth. These words are strange in the mouth of a Philistine, nor can we suppose that out of respect to David he would thus swear by David's God. Probably they are the equivalent of the oath which Achish really used. He sends, however, David away with the utmost courtesy, assuring him that his own wish had been that he should remain with him, because all his conduct had been upright since he had come to him at Gath.
Wherefore now return, and go in peace, that thou displease not the lords of the Philistines.
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?
Verse 8. - David's answer is subtle and prevaricating; he pretends that his honour has been attacked, when really he had tricked the unsuspecting Achish. But truth is a modern virtue, and though David extols it in the Psalms (Psalm 15:2; Psalm 51:6), we too often find him practising falsehood.
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 battle.
Verse 9. -
1 know that, etc. Rather, "I know it, for thou art good in my sight," i.e. 1 know all that thou wouldst say as to thy trustworthiness, and assent to it. As an angel of God. I.e. as a messenger of God, as one set to me by God.
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.
Verses 10, 11. - With thy master's servants. It has been well remarked that while this would be a strange description of David's own men, it would exactly describe that band of deserters belonging to the tribe of Manasseh who, instead of obeying Saul's summons to the war with the Philistines, joined David about this time (see 1 Chronicles 12:19-21). As soon as ye be up early in the morning, etc. If it was on the second day s march that the Philistine lords objected to David's continuance with them, he would be back at Gath in two days, and on the third day reach Ziklag, as is said in 1 Samuel 30:1. However difficult David's position may have been, still every one must condemn his conduct towards Achish as dishonourable; but God, who often deals with men more mercifully than they deserve, nevertheless rescued him from his state of perplexity, and saved him from the necessity of either fighting against his own countrymen or of still more dishonourably breaking his word to Achish by deserting in the battle. He also sent him home just in time to rescue from a miserable fate those whom he loved.
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.
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