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Poole on 1 Samuel 29:1-5: David's Service Refused by the Philistine Lords

Verse 1:[1]  Now (1 Sam. 28:1) the Philistines gathered together all their armies (1 Sam. 4:1) to Aphek:  and the Israelites pitched by a fountain which is in Jezreel.

[To Aphek]  It was a town in the tribe of Asher, Joshua 19:30 (Malvenda out of Junius).

Aphek; either, that in the tribe of Asher, Joshua 19:30, or rather another town of that name in Issachar, though not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture; this being the case of many places, to be but once named.

[Over the fountain, which was in Jezreel, בַּעַ֖יִן אֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּיִזְרְעֶֽאל׃]  Some maintain that it is the name of a place, in Ain (certain interpreters in Vatablus, thus Malvenda, Tigurinus, Syriac).  [Others take it appellatively.]  Toward the fountain (near, or hard by, the fountain [Piscator], at the fountain [Pagnine, Montanus]), which (understanding, is [Junius and Tremellius], or was [Pagnine]) in Jezreel (Junius and Tremellius).  Concerning which see what things are on Judges 7:1 (Piscator).  This fountain was at the foot of mount Gilboa, and it was half a league[2] distant from the city of Jezreel (Malvenda).  Since the whole troop of the Philistines, and all Israel, are said to have come together, it is gathered with confidence that above four hundred thousand on both sides came together.  For, against the Ammonites alone, a much lesser nation, Saul had brought up three hundred and thirty thousand men.[3]  Neither from that time had the Jews been afflicted with any slaughter (Tirinus).


Verse 2:[4]  And the lords of the Philistines passed on by hundreds, and by thousands:  but David and his men passed on in the rereward (1 Sam. 28:1, 2) with Achish.

[They were marching in hundreds and thousands, עֹֽבְרִ֔ים לְמֵא֖וֹת וְלַאֲלָפִ֑ים]  They were passing (that is, proceeding [Piscator]) according to (or by [Jonathan, Vatablus, Tigurinus], or in front of [Syriac]) hundreds and thousands (Montanus, Septuagint), or with hundreds and thousands (Junius and Tremellius, Strigelius, Munster).  Inspecting their troops, they were riding by (Junius); for the sake of ordering, exhorting, and seeing whether all things were in readiness (Menochius).

[David…in the last troop, בָּאַחֲרֹנָה]  In the rear (Montanus, Jonathan); in the extreme (Pagnine), understanding, of the troop (Vatablus); in the hindmost troop (Tigurinus, similarly Junius and Tremellius, Vatablus); in the last place (Munster).  As the Emperor’s very own cohorts, and like the Triarii among the Romans, where were the stoutest[5] (Tirinus, similarly Menochius).

[With Achish]  That place fell to Achish, either by lot, or because he was the most excellent of all the satraps (Menochius); he was the supreme emperor among them (Josephus in Tirinus):  And it is evident enough that the men of Gath, whose satrap he was, were the stoutest of all the Philistines, with Goliath and others as evidence (Tirinus).

In the rereward with Achish:  that is, As the lifeguard of Achish, as he had promised, 1 Samuel 28:2, Achish being, as it seems, the general of the army.


Verse 3:[6]  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 (see 1 Sam. 27:7) these days, or these years, and I have (Dan. 6:5) found no fault in him since he fell unto me unto this day?

The princes of the Philistines; the lords of the other eminent cities and territories, who were confederate with him in this expedition.

[What do those Hebrews want? מָה]  What are they doing here? or to what end are they present? that is to say, they have no part here (Piscator).  They readily identified them from their speech, dress, or type of arms (Menochius).

[And he has been before me many days or years, זֶ֤ה יָמִים֙ אוֹ־זֶ֣ה שָׁנִ֔ים]  Now days, or (indeed [Pagnine]) now years (Montanus, Pagnine); these or those days, or these years (Jonathan, Tigurinus, Munster).  A number of days, indeed, a number of years (Vatablus, thus Junius and Tremellius).  Days, this second year[7] (Septuagint); two years and months (Syriac).  A year and some months (Arabic).  The space of a year and days (Strigelius).  Through those days, or rather years (Castalio, similarly Piscator).  Question:  How does he mean this, since David had been before him only four month and some days?  Responses:  1.  Achish lied, so that he might portray to the Philistines the trustworthiness of David as more thoroughly explored (Tirinus out of Sanchez, Menochius out of Tostatus).  2.  The sense:  whom I have known now for many years (Vatablus).  Or, 3.  that is to say, I know him well, as if he had abode with me several years (Hebrews in Munster and in Vatablus).  4.  He goes back years to his first abiding, which had begun several years previously; that is to say, he has now been with me, and known to me, for about two years.  5.  Or he understands years as the parts of two years (Tirinus); the end of the prior, and the beginning of the latter, just as the Septuagint is able also to be explained, γέγονεν, etc., he remained with me days, that is, many, indeed, this is the second year (Menochius).  Some years; that is, now the second year.  It is spoken indefinitely; see 1 Samuel 27:1 (Piscator out of Junius, Malvenda).

These days, or these years:  that is to say, Did I say days?  I might have said years; either because he hath now been with me a full year and four months, 1 Samuel 27:7, or because he was with me some years ago, 1 Samuel 21:10, and since that time hath been known to me.  And it is not improbable but David, after his escape from thence, might hold some correspondence with Achish, as finding him to be a man of more generous temper than the rest of the Philistines, and supposing that he might have need of him for a refuge in case Saul continued to seek his life.

[From the day in which he passed over to me, מִיּ֥וֹם נָפְל֖וֹ]  From the day of his falling (Montanus, similarly Piscator), or of his defection (Junius).  From which day he defected (Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius).  He fell to me (Munster).  He came (happened [Septuagint], fled [Symmachus in Nobilius]) to me (Syriac, Arabic); he divided himself to me (Jonathan in Vatablus), that is, he divided himself from Saul, and came to me (Vatablus).  From the day that he began to dwell with me (Pagnine, Vatablus).  Thus נָפַל sometimes signifies, as in Genesis 25:18[8] (Vatablus, Mariana, Malvenda).  See the annotations on that passage, and on Judges 7:12[9] (Vatablus).

Since he fell into me, that is, since he revolted or left his own king to turn to me; for that sense Achish put upon this escape of David, (as it is called 1 Samuel 27:1) and so is the phrase of falling to a party elsewhere used, Jeremiah 37:13, 14.


Verse 4:[10]  And the princes of the Philistines were wroth with him; and the princes of the Philistines said unto him, (1 Chron. 12:19) 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 (as in 1 Sam. 14:21) 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?

Were wroth with him; were unsatisfied and offended with Achish for this intention and declaration.

[Let that man be turned back]  In a marvelous way, through very enemies God brings it to pass that David would not defile himself with Hebrew blood, and thus make himself less suitable for the kingdom (Grotius).  God is present to him ἀπὸ μηχανῆς, by the contrivance:  For by his own prudence he would have never been able to extricate himself.  It was grievous to David, to be considered a traitor.  But by that appearance of false betrayal, he is delivered from true betrayal.  For, if he had remained in the camp and had fought, he would have been impious towards his country:  if he had not fought, he would have been a traitor against the Philistines.  For, not only is David’s honor consulted, but also his interests; so that he might recover all his goods, etc., lost to the Amalekites (Martyr).

Make this fellow return:  herein the wise and gracious providence of God appeared, both in helping him out of those snares and difficulties, out of which no human wit could have extricated him, but he must either have been, or have been thought, to be a traitor, and an ungrateful, unworthy person either to the one or to the other side; and moreover in giving him the happy opportunity of recovering his own and his all from the Amalekites, which had been irrecoverably lost if he had gone into this battle.  And the kindness of God to David was the greater, because it had been most just for God to have left David in all those distresses into which his own sinful counsel and course had brought him.

[Let him remain in his place, in which thou hast settled him, אֲשֶׁ֣ר הִפְקַדְתּ֣וֹ שָׁ֔ם[11]In which thou hast settled (placed [Septuagint, Arabic, Junius and Tremellius], put in charge [Jonathan, Syriac, Pagnine]) him there (Montanus).

[Lest he become an adversary to us]  Tacitus, Histories 4, concerning the squadron/flank of the Batavi,[12] which, already previously corrupted, was feigning loyalty, so that, with the Romans set forth in that battle array, they might flee, having been paid more by the enemy (Grotius).

[How…he might be able to please…his Lord? וּבַמֶּ֗ה יִתְרַצֶּ֥ה זֶה֙ אֶל־אֲדֹנָ֔יו[13]And in what he shall be accepted (shall please [Pagnine], shall be reconciled [Septuagint, Jonathan, similarly Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius, Tigurinus]) to his Lord? (Montanus, similarly Munster).

[Except in our heads, הֲל֕וֹא בְּרָאשֵׁ֖י הָאֲנָשִׁ֥ים הָהֵֽם׃]  Is it not in the heads of these men? (Septuagint, Jonathan, Pagnine, Montanus, Junius and Tremellius), that is, our heads, and those of our men (Junius, Piscator).  A Synecdoche of member (Piscator).  Perhaps the third person is taken in the place of the first (Mariana).

Of these men, that is, of these our soldiers:  they speak according to the rules of reason and true policy, for by this very course great enemies have sometimes been reconciled together.


Verse 5:[14]  Is not this David, of whom they sang one to another in dances, saying, (1 Sam. 18:7; 21:11) Saul slew his thousands, and David his ten thousands?

[Saul hath smitten, etc.]  See these obscure words explained above, 1 Samuel 18:7 (Estius).

[1] Hebrew:  וַיִּקְבְּצ֧וּ פְלִשְׁתִּ֛ים אֶת־כָּל־מַחֲנֵיהֶ֖ם אֲפֵ֑קָה וְיִשְׂרָאֵ֣ל חֹנִ֔ים בַּעַ֖יִן אֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּיִזְרְעֶֽאל׃

[2] A league is almost a mile and half.

[3] 1 Samuel 11:8.

[4] Hebrew:  וְסַרְנֵ֤י פְלִשְׁתִּים֙ עֹֽבְרִ֔ים לְמֵא֖וֹת וְלַאֲלָפִ֑ים וְדָוִ֣ד וַאֲנָשָׁ֗יו עֹֽבְרִ֛ים בָּאַחֲרֹנָ֖ה עִם־אָכִֽישׁ׃

[5] The Triarii usually constituted the third and final battle line of a Roman manipular legion.  They were the most experienced and best equipped.

[6] Hebrew: וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ֙ שָׂרֵ֣י פְלִשְׁתִּ֔ים מָ֖ה הָעִבְרִ֣ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה וַיֹּ֙אמֶר אָכִ֜ישׁ אֶל־שָׂרֵ֣י פְלִשְׁתִּ֗ים הֲלֽוֹא־זֶ֙ה דָוִ֜ד עֶ֣בֶד׀ שָׁא֣וּל מֶֽלֶךְ־יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אֲשֶׁ֙ר הָיָ֤ה אִתִּי֙ זֶ֤ה יָמִים֙ אוֹ־זֶ֣ה שָׁנִ֔ים וְלֹֽא־מָצָ֤אתִי בוֹ֙ מְא֔וּמָה מִיּ֥וֹם נָפְל֖וֹ עַד־הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃

[7] 1 Samuel 29:3b:  “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 (γέγονεν μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν ἡμέρας τοῦτο δεύτερον ἔτος, who hath been with me days, this second year, in the Septuagint), and I have found no fault in him since he fell unto me unto this day?”

[8] Genesis 25:18:  “And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that is before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria:  and he died (נָפָל, he dwelt) in the presence of all his brethren.”

[9] Judges 7:12:  “And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along (נֹפְלִים) in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude.”

[10] Hebrew: וַיִּקְצְפ֙וּ עָלָ֜יו שָׂרֵ֣י פְלִשְׁתִּ֗ים וַיֹּ֣אמְרוּ לוֹ֩ שָׂרֵ֙י פְלִשְׁתִּ֜ים הָשֵׁ֣ב אֶת־הָאִ֗ישׁ וְיָשֹׁב֙ אֶל־מְקוֹמוֹ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר הִפְקַדְתּ֣וֹ שָׁ֔ם וְלֹֽא־יֵרֵ֤ד עִמָּ֙נוּ֙ בַּמִּלְחָמָ֔ה וְלֹא־יִֽהְיֶה־לָּ֥נוּ לְשָׂטָ֖ן בַּמִּלְחָמָ֑ה וּבַמֶּ֗ה יִתְרַצֶּ֥ה זֶה֙ אֶל־אֲדֹנָ֔יו הֲל֕וֹא בְּרָאשֵׁ֖י הָאֲנָשִׁ֥ים הָהֵֽם׃

[11] פָּקַד in the Hiphil can signify to set or to set over.

[12] The Batavi were a Germanic tribe, settle around the Dutch delta of the Rhine.

[13] רָצָה, to be pleased with, in the Hithpael signifies to make oneself pleasing.

[14] Hebrew: הֲלוֹא־זֶ֣ה דָוִ֔ד אֲשֶׁ֧ר יַעֲנוּ־ל֛וֹ בַּמְּחֹל֖וֹת לֵאמֹ֑ר הִכָּ֤ה שָׁאוּל֙ בַּֽאֲלָפָ֔יו וְדָוִ֖ד בְּרִבְבֹתָֽו׃

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Dec 29, 2023

Matthew Henry: 'Here is, I. The great strait that David was in, which we may suppose he himself was aware of, though we read not of his asking advice from God, nor of any project of his own to get clear of it. The two armies of the Philistines and the Israelites were encamped and ready to engage, 1 Samuel 29:1. Achish, who had been kind to David, had obliged him to come himself and bring the forces he had into his service. David came accordingly, and, upon a review of the army, was found with Achish, in the post assigned him in the rear, 1 Samuel 29:2. Now, 1. If, when the armies engaged, he should retire, and qui…


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Dec 29, 2023

Study 1 Samuel in detail with Matthew Poole!

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