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Poole's on 1 Samuel 27:1-7: David's Despairing Flight into Philistia

[circa 1058 BC] Verse 1:[1] And David said in his heart, I shall now perish (Heb. be consumed[2]) 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.

[He said in his heart, אֶל־לִבּוֹ] To (in the midst of [Junius]) his heart (Montanus, Piscator, similarly most interpreters); with his heart (Junius and Tremellius). He was saying silently, and with himself (Vatablus).

[It shall happen at some point, etc.] These works express his wavering and declining faith (Junius). [Others otherwise:] He was not doubting of the fulfillment of the promise of God (Estius), but he took precautions for himself according to the laws of human prudence (Menochius, similarly Estius). Or, reflecting upon his own sins, he was able to doubt, whether God had changed His sentence concerning the kingdom, just as He had done in the case of Saul (Malvenda).

I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul; I see by this late experience his restless and implacable hatred against me, and how little heed is to be given to all his pretences of repentance or friendship. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines: but this was certainly a very great mistake and fault in David; for, 1. This proceeded from gross distrust of God’s promise and providence; and that after such repeated demonstrations of God’s peculiar care over him, which gave him cause to conclude quite contrary to what is here said. 2. He forsakes the place where God had settled him, 1 Samuel 22:5, and given him both assurance and experience of his protection there. 3. He voluntarily runs upon that rock which he cursed his enemies for throwing him upon, 1 Samuel 26:19, and upon many other snares and dangers, as the following history will show; and withal, deprives the people of the Lord of those succours which he might have given them, in case of a battle. But it pleased God to leave David to himself in this, as well as in other particulars, that these might be sensible demonstrations of the infirmities of the best men; and of the necessity of God’s grace, and daily direction and assistance; and of the freeness and richness of God’s mercy, in passing by such great offences. And besides, God hereby designed to accomplish his own counsel, to withdraw David from the Israelites, that Saul and they might fall by the hand of the Philistines, without any reproach or inconvenience to David, whom God had put into a safe place.

[So that Saul might give up, וְנוֹאַ֙שׁ מִמֶּ֤נִּי שָׁאוּל֙] Saul shall despair of me (Piscator); he shall despair, understanding, that he is going to apprehend me (Vatablus); he shall give up on, or shall cease from, me (Jonathan in Munster); so that he might cast away the hope of capturing me (Junius and Tremellius). The verb נוֹאַשׁ, to despair, signifies to be overwhelmed with an evil to such an extent that one distrusts and ceases from his undertaking, and changes course (Malvenda).

Verse 2:[3] And David arose, (1 Sam. 25:13) and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him (1 Sam. 21:10) unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath.

[He departed to Achish] Question 1: How did he dare to flee to him, whose hands he had escaped? Responses: 1. He had previously sent legates to him, and had offered his service, and that of his men, and thus proceeded to him, with a public trust established (Malvenda almost out of Junius, similarly Munster, Menochius). 2. Because now Saul’s inveterate hatred for David was everywhere well-known, he was fearing nothing from David, indeed, he was hoping that he might make use of him as a general against Saul (Lapide). For, it appears that at that time some hostility against the Israelites was contemplated (Sanchez). He was thinking that exiled David would inflict losses on his people. Thus Xerxes received Themistocles;[4] the Lacedemonians, Alcibiades[5] (Martyr). Question 2: Why did he flee to the Philistines, rather than the Ammonites, or the Edomites, or Tyrians, then confederated with Israel? Response: Confederates would have been unwilling to deny a fugitive to King Saul requesting his return, lest they bring the calamity of war upon themselves. But the Philistines were going to receive him all the more willingly, because he was an enemy of Saul (Tirinus out of Tostatus). Question 3: Whether David acted rightly? Response 1: [Some answer in the negative, and find fault with David (Martyr)]. 1. It appears unbecoming to supplicate those whom he had conquered. 2. David, designated Emperor, now acts the part of a deserter, and overturns the counsels of God, insofar as in him lies; and it is likely that he entered into an agreement, that he would bear arms against Saul. 3. He is compelled to win the favor of the tyrant through arts not good. He pretends that he invaded the Judahites. He appears to have changed his character with his location. For previously he conducted himself only openly and candidly; now only insidiously and fraudulently. Openly he professes himself an enemy of his country. 4. It belongs not to a prudent man to entrust himself to a reconciled enemy. 5. This defection of David caused significant harm to the Judahites. For, when the incredibly numerous troops had flocked to David, 1 Chronicles 12, with whom David was able to make sallies against the Philistines, and so to help his country; in this manner it happened, that Achish was contending with only a portion of the troops. Saul, with which modesty he was characterized, left off pursuing David, whom he almost had in his hands, so that he might repel the Philistines; and thus he put the common good before his private hostilities. But David avenges his private hostilities at public expense. 6. He allows himself to be obliged by the favors of those whom afterwards he would have to fight, not without a note of ingratitude (Martyr). Response 2: [Others free David from fault (thus Lyra, Estius, Menochius), supported by these arguments:] 1. David was not reproved, when previously he fled to the Moabites.[6] Response: Different was relation of the time, and of the disposition, and of the people: 1. He was not drawing so many soldiers with him. 2. He did not go so that he might be a soldier for the Moabites, but so that he might find a place for his parents to rest. 3. Nor were the Moabites as averse to the Judahites as the Philistines. 4. Thence he was recalled by God through Gad. 2. He must either die, or flee, etc. Response: The dilemma is not sound. Consider what God promised, and what hitherto He had done for his sake. Neither by this flight did he escape danger, but he exchanged it for a greater. Nor were things that were unworthy of his person to be done because of fear (Martyr). 3. It is likely that David consulted God (Menochius), and God directed him by hidden suggestion. Response: That is not so likely. For God had previously instructed him to return to Judah (Martyr).

Unto Achish: It might seem a bold adventure; but, 1. He thought himself forced to it by Saul’s inveterate rage, and continued resolutions to persecute him. 2. It is probable he had sent some persons to treat with him, and had agreed upon conditions, and received assurance of his safe and peaceable abode with him. 3. David reasonably thought that Achish would gladly receive him, as indeed he did; partly, because he saw Saul’s implacable enmity against him; partly, because by this means he should be freed from the most formidable enemy which he had in all Israel, who might do him most mischief in the battle; which it seems at this time he designed; and partly, because he came not now alone, as he did before, but brought with him sufficient pledges of his fidelity to Achish; namely, all his soldiers, and his and their wives, verse 3.

Verse 3:[7] And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, even David (1 Sam. 25:43) with his two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the Carmelitess, Nabal’s wife.

[And man and his household] That is, with their families (Lyra, Tirinus). They were thinking that they were not safe in Judah from the fury and plots of Saul (Tirinus out of Sanchez).

Verse 4:[8] And it was told Saul that David was fled to Gath: and he sought no more again for him.

[And he did not continue to seek him] Either because it would have been difficult to overtake him: or because he already had what he was seeking, namely, the ruin of David (Martyr). [יָוסַף is preterite, he added, according to the Masorah; thus the ו is superfluous, or with other points it is able to be read as יוֹסֵף, Benoni,[9]Qal, adding; or he was adding, etc.]

He sought no more again for him: By which it is implied that he would have gone on in persecuting David, if he had continued in his dominions.

Verse 5:[10] 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?

[Why remaineth thy servant in the city of the king with thee?] The true reasons why David was unwilling to remain in Gath were, 1. So that he might more freely make excursions against the Philistines and Amalekites, and take spoil from them (Lapide, similarly Sanchez, Menochius). 2. So that he might look to the honor of his wives and soldiers (Lapide out of Sanchez). 3. So the he might withdraw his own from idolatry (Malvenda, Lapide) (and the other vices of the court [Lapide]). 4. So that he might not be compelled openly to fight against the Judahites. For he had not hidden in Gath, laying waste to his neighbors (Martyr). But David pretended another reason (Lapide); as if it were not seemly for exiles to dwell with the king (Sanchez), especially Judahite exiles, lest fights arise among the soldiers (Lapide); lest he be a burden to the King, or cause difficulties; or lest he with such a retinue be thought to wish to appear like a second King; or lest there be a suspicion, as if he were plotting against the King or kingdom (Menochius).

A place in some town in the country: A prudent desire. Hereby David designed, 1. To preserve his people, both from the idolatry and other vices which conversation with the Philistines would have exposed them to; and from that envy, and malice, and mischief, which diversity of religion, or other prejudices, might have caused. 2. That he might have opportunity of enterprising something against God’s enemies, without the knowledge or observation of the Philistines. Why should thy servant dwell in the royal city with thee? which is too great an honour for me, and too burdensome to thee, and may be an occasion of suspicion and offence to thy people, and of many other inconveniences.

Verse 6:[11] Then Achish gave him Ziklag that day: wherefore (see Josh. 15:31; 19:5) Ziklag pertaineth unto the kings of Judah unto this day.

[He gave to him Ziklag] Therefore, the renown and expectation from David must have been great (Grotius). Thus Themistocles was given a city by the King of the Persians (Martyr). Hence appears the extraordinary liberality and humanity of this King; so that not without cause did David think to flee to this governor of the Philistines, rather than to another (Tirinus out of Salian). He gave, not only to inhabit, but so that it might pass into his dominion (Menochius, Tirinus).

Gave him Ziklag; not only to inhabit, but to possess it as his own; which he did, to lay the greater obligations upon David, whom he knew so able to serve him.

[Ziklag has belonged to the Kings of Judah unto this day] That is, with the war afterwards arising, 1 Samuel 31:1, for what things at such a time are discovered among us become ours, Digest “Concerning Acquiescence”, etc. (Grotius). It had indeed been allotted to Judah, Joshua 15:31, but hitherto it was held by the Philistines (Junius, Piscator). By this donation, as it were, it was returned to its just possessor (Junius). These words show that the final part of this book was written somewhat later; perhaps by a disciple of Samuel, as Salian conjectures: or, as others have it, the words of this sort were inserted by Ezra, or by another prophet. See Abulensis (Tirinus).

Pertaineth unto the kings of Judah: it was given to the tribe of Judah before, Joshua 15:31, and afterwards to the tribe of Simeon, Joshua 19:5, whose inheritance was given them within the inheritance of the children of Judah, Joshua 19:1. But the Philistines kept the possession of it till this time, and were hitherto permitted to do so. And being now given by them to David, it now belonged not to the people of the tribe of Judah, to whom it was allotted before; but to the king of Judah, David and his heirs for ever. Unto this day: this and some such clauses seem to have been added by some sacred writers after the main substance of the several books was written.

Verse 7:[12] And the time (Heb. the number of days[13]) that David dwelt in the country of the Philistines was a full year (Heb. a year of days,[14] see 1 Sam. 29:3,[15] till 1056 BC) and four months.

[The number of days were…of four months (thus the Septuagint),יָמִ֖ים וְאַרְבָּעָ֥ה חֳדָשִֽׁים׃] [They render it variously:] A year (a full year [Hebrew], a year of days [English], one year [Castalio, Strigelius, Junius and Tremellius]) and four month (Arabic, Syriac, Dutch, English, Castalio, Strigelius, Junius and Tremellius). Thus certain Hebrews and most of our men take it; no less a time appears to be able to be assigned to his many excursions, plunder, etc. Compare 1 Samuel 29:3 (Malvenda). [Others otherwise:] Some days and four months (Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Sanchez, Vatablus), that is some days above four months; or and is in the place of that is, some days, that is, four months (Sanchez). It is not likely that David was away longer (Martyr). For the flight of David was after the death of Samuel, which preceded the death of Saul by only seven months (Mariana, thus Munster, Vatablus, Martyr). Saul reigned only two years; but all the affairs that Saul conducted with David were able to be completed in eight months (Vatablus).

A full year and four months: Hebrew, days and four months;[16] days being put for a year; as Leviticus 25:29.[17] Or, some days and four months, that is, some days above four months. Or, some days and (for even, or that is, the conjunction and being oft so used, as hath been proved above) four months.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר דָּוִד֙ אֶל־לִבּ֔וֹ עַתָּ֛ה אֶסָּפֶ֥ה יוֹם־אֶחָ֖ד בְּיַד־שָׁא֑וּל אֵֽין־לִ֙י ט֜וֹב כִּ֣י הִמָּלֵ֥ט אִמָּלֵ֣ט׀ אֶל־אֶ֣רֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּ֗ים וְנוֹאַ֙שׁ מִמֶּ֤נִּי שָׁאוּל֙ לְבַקְשֵׁ֤נִי עוֹד֙ בְּכָל־גְּב֣וּל יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְנִמְלַטְתִּ֖י מִיָּדֽוֹ׃ [2] Hebrew: אֶסָּפֶה. [3] Hebrew: וַיָּ֣קָם דָּוִ֔ד וַיַּעֲבֹ֣ר ה֔וּא וְשֵׁשׁ־מֵא֥וֹת אִ֖ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עִמּ֑וֹ אֶל־אָכִ֥ישׁ בֶּן־מָע֖וֹךְ מֶ֥לֶךְ גַּֽת׃ [4] Themistocles (c. 524-c. 459 BC) was an Athenian general and populist politician. As a general, he was highly successful, playing a major role in the repulse of Persian invasion. However, after the conflict, he fell out of favor politically, rousing the hostility of the Spartans for rebuilding the fortification of Athens, and alienating the Athenians through perceived arrogance. In 470s, the Spartans initiated an attempt implicated Themistocles in an alleged treasonous plot, eventually forcing him to flee. He ended up in Asia Minor, entering the service of Artaxerxes I (reigned from 465 to 424 BC). Apparently Artaxerxes was delight to have such a dangerous foe in his own service. He was made governor of the district of Magnesia, and was granted the revenues of three cities: Magnesia, Myus, and Lampsacus. [5] Alcibiades (c. 450-c. 404 BC) was an Athenian general and stateman; he played a major role in the second half of the Peloponnesian War. During the course of the war, Alcibiades changed political alliances several times: After he was charged with sacrilege by the Athenians, he fled to Sparta, serving as a strategic advisor. Apparently the Spartans were delighted to have this efficacious former enemy in their employ. However, in time he powerful enemies in Sparta, and was forced to defect to Persia, where he again served as an advisor until his recall to Athens. [6] 1 Samuel 22:3-5. [7] Hebrew: וַיֵּשֶׁב֩ דָּוִ֙ד עִם־אָכִ֥ישׁ בְּגַ֛ת ה֥וּא וַאֲנָשָׁ֖יו אִ֣ישׁ וּבֵית֑וֹ דָּוִד֙ וּשְׁתֵּ֣י נָשָׁ֔יו אֲחִי֙נֹעַם֙ הַיִּזְרְעֵאלִ֔ית וַאֲבִיגַ֥יִל אֵֽשֶׁת־נָבָ֖ל הַֽכַּרְמְלִֽית׃ [8] Hebrew: וַיֻּגַּ֣ד לְשָׁא֔וּל כִּֽי־בָרַ֥ח דָּוִ֖ד גַּ֑ת וְלֹֽא־יָוסַ֥ף ע֖וֹד לְבַקְשֽׁוֹ׃ [9] The active participle is sometimes called a Benoni. It can be treated as a verb or a noun, depending upon context. בֵּינוֹנִי/Benoni signifies central or middle, standing between the past and future tenses. [10] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֙אמֶר דָּוִ֜ד אֶל־אָכִ֗ישׁ אִם־נָא֩ מָצָ֙אתִי חֵ֤ן בְּעֵינֶ֙יךָ֙ יִתְּנוּ־לִ֣י מָק֗וֹם בְּאַחַ֛ת עָרֵ֥י הַשָּׂדֶ֖ה וְאֵ֣שְׁבָה שָּׁ֑ם וְלָ֙מָּה יֵשֵׁ֧ב עַבְדְּךָ֛ בְּעִ֥יר הַמַּמְלָכָ֖ה עִמָּֽךְ׃ [11] Hebrew: וַיִּתֶּן־ל֥וֹ אָכִ֛ישׁ בַּיּ֥וֹם הַה֖וּא אֶת־צִֽקְלָ֑ג לָכֵ֞ן הָיְתָ֤ה צִֽקְלַג֙ לְמַלְכֵ֣י יְהוּדָ֔ה עַ֖ד הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃ [12] Hebrew: וַֽיְהִי֙ מִסְפַּ֣ר הַיָּמִ֔ים אֲשֶׁר־יָשַׁ֥ב דָּוִ֖ד בִּשְׂדֵ֣ה פְלִשְׁתִּ֑ים יָמִ֖ים וְאַרְבָּעָ֥ה חֳדָשִֽׁים׃ [13] Hebrew: מִסְפַּ֣ר הַיָּמִ֔ים. [14] Hebrew: יָמִים. [15] 1 Samuel 29:3: “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 (זֶ֤ה יָמִים֙ אוֹ־זֶ֣ה שָׁנִ֔ים), and I have found no fault in him since he fell unto me unto this day?” [16] Hebrew: יָמִ֖ים וְאַרְבָּעָ֥ה חֳדָשִֽׁים׃. [17] Leviticus 25:29: “And if a man sell a dwelling house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year (עַד־תֹּ֖ם שְׁנַ֣ת) after it is sold; within a full year (יָמִים) may he redeem it.”

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