Wiki-Lessons: 1 Samuel 27 (David among the Philistines)


Possible site of Ziklag today

(1Sa 27:1-12 ESV) Then David said in his heart, “Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand.” 2 So David arose and went over, he and the six hundred men who were with him, to Achish the son of Maoch, king of Gath. 3 And David lived with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, and David with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail of Carmel, Nabal’s widow. 4 And when it was told Saul that David had fled to Gath, he no longer sought him.

David has earlier hid among the Philistines, but he pretended to be mad to stay alive there. After all, the Israelites and Philistines were at war.

This time, though, the Philistines offered David protection on the theory: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. After all, David was now notoriously the enemy of Saul.Ray Vander Laan believes that David learned the secret of iron making at this time. The Philistines were of Aegean origin, probably Crete and likely having Mycenean roots. All this was before the rise of the Grecian civilization. They had the secret of iron working, giving them a significant military advantage.

(1Sa 13:19-21 ESV) 19 Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears.” 20 But every one of the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, or his sickle, 21 and the charge was two-thirds of a shekel for the plowshares and for the mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening the axes and for setting the goads.

As we’ll see, the Philistines held a military advantage at this time, likely due both to iron technology and occupying the fertile plains near the sea, while the Judeans largely lived in the hills and wilderness.

(1 Sam 27:5-12 ESV) Then David said to Achish, “If I have found favor in your eyes, let a place be given me in one of the country towns, that I may dwell there. For why should your servant dwell in the royal city with you?” 6 So that day Achish gave him Ziklag. Therefore Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah to this day. 7 And the number of the days that David lived in the country of the Philistines was a year and four months.

Ziklag had evidently been abandoned until David occupied it. Joshua allocated Ziklag to the Simeonite tribe in Joshua 19, but the Simeonite tribe was a small tribe that essentiallly disappears from history. It would make sense to figure that the Philistines had conquered Ziklag but had not yet repopulated the city — their gift of the city to the Israelite David somewhat ironic.

8 Now David and his men went up and made raids against the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites, for these were the inhabitants of the land from of old, as far as Shur, to the land of Egypt.

Although we are familiar with the Amalekites, the other tribes are lost to history. Shur appears to have been somewhere in or near the Sinai peninsula. These were certainly Canaanites tribes, peoples God had commanded the Israelites to exterminate —

(Exo 23:29-33 ESV) 29 “I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land. 31 And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates, for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. 32 You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”

(Deu 7:1-2 ESV) “When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than yourselves, 2 and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them.”

This was promised to Abraham in Genesis 15, where God said the Canaanites would not be exterminated yet because their iniquity is “not yet complete.” But by this time, these tribes were Baal worshippers and, among other sins, offered their firstborn infants as a sacrifice, letting them be burned alive and screaming.

9 And David would strike the land and would leave neither man nor woman alive, but would take away the sheep, the oxen, the donkeys, the camels, and the garments, and come back to Achish. 10 When Achish asked, “Where have you made a raid today?” David would say, “Against the Negeb of Judah,” or, “Against the Negeb of the Jerahmeelites,” or, “Against the Negeb of the Kenites.”

David lied about his military campaigns. If the Philistine king knew he was pursuing the Israelite campaign to rid the Promised Land of the Canaanites, the king would not have let him live. The “Negeb” is the desert area in the southern area of Judah.

11 And David would leave neither man nor woman alive to bring news to Gath, thinking, “lest they should tell about us and say, ‘So David has done.'” Such was his custom all the while he lived in the country of the Philistines. 12 And Achish trusted David, thinking, “He has made himself an utter stench to his people Israel; therefore he shall always be my servant.”

As we’ve covered earlier, to modern readers, the thought of killing all men and women (presumably including children) in a military action sounds horrific. I think there are good answers, and many will disagree. But we can’t run from the question, as it appears repeatedly in these accounts.

Adam’s Thoughts:

It is very interesting to me the difference with how David treats Nabal and King Achish of Gath. With Nabal he is willing to let the ends be handled by God.. With Achish he blatently lies in order to, I would suggest, preserve his life in the face of certain death if King Achish had known that David was actually continuing on God’s mission for Israel.

I can forward all my notes if someone wants it, but this is leading me to look at how the Jews have interepreted passages like Deut 10:17-19 and Pla 146:9 only in terms of themselves – not looking out towards the Gentile. I’m no expert, and have only done a little Google looking, but the prevalant view seems to be to give Gentiles just enough so that the Jews don’t “provoke the animosity” of the Gentile. That definately seems to be how David treats King Achish.

Maybe this gives some insight into the “why” of some of the apparent disconnects in OT and NT. It’s not that the OT is wrong, it’s just that the beaty and truth of the revelation hasn’t been made full yet. Jesus radically reimagined what it meant to be a “neighbor”, what it meant to be “family.” Old rules of exclusion no longer applied. The old mode of thought was shown to be incomplete – made full through and by Jesus.

Passages like Matt 12:46-50 and Gal 3:28 (as well as many, many others) are hammering the point home to Jewish ears that couldn’t hear – there is no other. You are all to be one.

Moral lessons:

David pursued God’s will at great personal risk despite his difficult circumstances. There was little advantage to his military campaigns. He only had 600 men and they had families — as did David. But God’s anointed was charged with conquering the Promised Land. He acted as king even though he wasn’t enthroned as a king and even though his personal resources looked entirely inadequate for the task. His behavior was not rational, as we think of rational.

We are also God’s anointed kings. Really.

(1Jo 2:27 ESV)  27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie — just as it has taught you, abide in him.

The “anointing” is the Spirit (Acts 10:38). An anointing shows someone to be a king — and Christians are kings with Jesus.

(Eph 2:4-7 ESV) 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

We, like David, are kings but not yet fully enthroned. Our enthronement won’t be fully realized until the end of time. And so we, like David, seek to bring the Kingdom to its fullness — seeking to defeat God’s enemies.

Obviously, our methods must differ, but the principle is the same. We live a sojourners, foreigners, in someone else’s land. We should be kings of this land, but today, someone else reigns. And our task, even at the risk of our lives and families, is to defeat the enemies of God.

(2Co 10:3-6 ESV) 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Surely there’s a discussion or two in that thought for the class.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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