David Joins the Philistines (1 Samuel 27:1-28:2; 1 Chronicles 12:1-7; 1 Samuel 29; 1 Chronicles 12:19-22) November 14
As 1 Samuel 27 opens, we see an example of one who was instrumental in God's hands apparently at a point of weakness in his faith and perhaps fallen into depression. As is clear from other biblical examples, such as Elijah (1 Kings 19:4) and Jonah (Jonah 4:3), servants of God sometimes suffered terrible depression. With evidence to the contrary, David here imagines that Saul will one day succeed in killing him (verse 1). One would think that with God having already had David anointed as king (16:13) and having delivered him on so many occasions, there would be no reason to be depressed. In this chapter, we can understand David's weaknesses as much as we can acknowledge our own. The Bible reveals both the ups…AND the downs of God's servants.
So David, ironically, seeks refuge in Gath, one of the royal cities of the Philistines, home of Achish the king. Accompanying David are his two wives, Ahinoam and Abigail (remember that David's first wife, Michal, had been given to another man by Saul in contempt for David, 1 Samuel 25:44). Also with him were his 600 men with their wives and children. So the total number of people would, no doubt, exceed 1,000. Being under the constant watchful scrutiny of the enemy of Israel probably proved to be rather strenuous for David and his company. After a time, David is given his own city, called Ziklag, about 20 miles south of Gath, as a city of refuge from Saul. When Israel first entered the Promised Land under Joshua, Ziklag belonged to Judah but was eventually ceded to Simeon (Joshua 19:1-9). Using Ziklag as his fortress, David now has the freedom to attack neighboring nations. However, he is not forthright in his explanation to Achish of his attacks on these nations. Even though David is accomplishing what the Israelites have previously failed to do in driving out the Canaanites (Numbers 33:51-53), he gives Achish the impression that he is warring against his own people. Therefore Achish says, "He has made his people Israel utterly abhor him" (1 Samuel 27:12). We are skipping over the remainder of chapter 28 at this point, and will return to it just before the death of Saul.
In 1 Samuel 29, we find the Philistines gathering for battle at Aphek, about 30 miles north of Gath and "about 13 miles northeast of Joppa" (Nelson Study Bible, note on 29:1-2)close to modern Tel Aviv. The Israelites under Saul are approximately 40 miles further to the north in Jezreel. David has evidently gathered his forces and marched behind Achish and his troops as they come together at Aphek. Whether David sincerely intends to fight against Saul and his own people is not made evident. It certainly would not be consistent with David's established pattern, however, as he has previously refused to fight against Saul
But we do know this: God gives David a way of escaping this volatile situation (compare 1 Corinthians 10:13). The Philistine generals do not have the confidence in David that Achish does and strongly persuade the king to send him back to Ziklag. Thus, David will not have to fight against Saul in the upcoming battlebut neither will he be there to help Saul in defense of his own country against the Philistines. And this battle, as we will shortly learn, will be Saul's last.