(1 Samuel 27:1-12) David and his Band take Refuge with Achish, King of Gath, who Receives him Kindly, and gives him Ziklag as a Residence—Their Expeditions against the Nomad Tribes lying south of Canaan.
Into the land of the Philistines.—David chose to seek a refuge among these warlike people, for he believed he would be in greater security there than among his friendly kinsfolk, the Moabites, where, in former days, he had found such a kindly welcome for his family in the first period of Saul’s enmity. He probably doubted the power of Moab to protect him.
Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath.—The same, we believe, as that Achish to whom David fled before (see 1 Samuel 21:11), and identical with Achish, son of Maachah (1 Kings 2:39). This would involve the necessity of ascribing a fifty years’ reign to this prince. (Such a lengthy reign is quite possible.) The whole of Philistia subsequently fell under King David’s rule. It seems, however, that he permitted, even after the conquest, Achish to remain in his old city of Gath, most likely as his tributary: thus, we may suppose, paying back the old debt of kindness to Achish.
Wherefore Ziklag pertaineth unto the kings of Judah unto this day.—These words supply us with a double note of time in the question of the date of this First Book of Samuel. They tell us that it was cast in its present shape after the revolt of Jeroboam, and certainly before the days of the carrying away of Israel to Babylon.
The Geshurites, and the Gezerites, and the Amalekites.—These were all “Bedaween” tribes, the scourge of the Israelitish families dwelling on the south of Canaan. It is not easy to identify the first two named of these nomades against whom David directed his operations. We hear of these Geshurites in the neighbourhood of Bashan (Deuteronomy 3:14), and of another tribe of them in Syria (2 Samuel 15:8). They were a widely scattered race of nomad Arabs. The Gezerites, or Gizrites, it has been supposed, were the remains of a once powerful race dispossessed by the Amorites. The third named, the Amalekites, were the remnant of that once powerful tribe destroyed by Saul in his famous war, when his disobedience incurred the wrath of Samuel.
For those nations were of old the inhabitants of the land, as thou goest to Shur, even unto the land of Egypt.—The grammar and construction of this sentence is confused and difficult. On the whole, the rendering and explanation of Erdmann in Lange seems the most satisfactory: “David . . . invaded the . . . and the Amalekites (for these were inhabitants of the land, who inhabited it of old) as far as Shur and Egypt.” Thus David’s raids extended as far as the desert frontier of Egypt.
And took away the sheep, and the oxen, and the asses, and the camels, and the apparel.—To fight under David’s banner now promised to be a lucrative service as well as an adventurous and wild career. Here at Ziklag, and for some time previously, we hear of brave discontented spirits from all parts of Israel joining him. In 1 Chronicles 12 we have a long and accurate list of heroes who formed that Ziklag band. Amongst these gallant soldiers who now, to use the chronicler’s term, “day by day came to David to help him,” were a troop of Benjamites who had joined him some time before: their leader Amasai, on being questioned as to their reason for joining him, answered, “We are on thy side, thou son of Jesse . . . for thy God helpeth thee” (1 Chronicles 12:18). The words of Amasai express the feeling which seems to have pervaded Israel at that time in reference to David. The people throughout the land were coming to feel that Jehovah had indeed chosen David. The chronicler even speaks of David’s band at Ziklag, after the recruits from all parts of Israel had poured in, “as a great host, like the host of God” (1 Chronicles 12:22).
Saying, So did David, and so will be his manner.—The English Version of this passage is in accordance with the present punctuation in the Hebrew Bible, and represents these words as the saying of the slaughtered enemies. This is of itself most improbable. The Hebrew, too, will scarcely bear this interpretation; for the verb “to dwell” is a past, and cannot correctly be rendered “while he dwelleth.” The Masoretic punctuation of the present Hebrew text is of comparatively recent date. It is better, then, in their place, with Maurer and Keil, the LXX., and Vulg. Versions, simply to put a stop after the words “so did David,” and then begin a new sentence, which will read, “And so was his manner all the while he dwelt in the land of the Philistines;” understanding these words as a remark of the narrator of the history.