1 Samuel 29
29:1-11 The Philistines Rethink the Plan
29:1 Now the Philistines had gathered all their forces at Aphek. And the Israelites were encamped by the spring that is in Jezreel. 2 As the lords of the Philistines were passing on by hundreds and by thousands, and David and his men were passing on in the rear with Achish, 3 the commanders of the Philistines said, “What are these Hebrews doing here?” And Achish said to the commanders of the Philistines, “Is this not David, the servant of Saul, king of Israel, who has been with me now for days and years, and since he deserted to me I have found no fault in him to this day.” 4 But the commanders of the Philistines were angry with him. And the commanders of the Philistines said to him, “Send the man back, that he may return to the place to which you have assigned him. He shall not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become an adversary to us. For how could this fellow reconcile himself to his lord? Would it not be with the heads of the men here? 5 Is not this David, of whom they sing to one another in dances,
‘Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands’?”
6 Then Achish called David and said to him, “As the Lord lives, you have been honest, and to me it seems right that you should march out and in with me in the campaign. For I have found nothing wrong in you from the day of your coming to me to this day. Nevertheless, the lords do not approve of you. 7 So go back now; and go peaceably, that you may not displease the lords of the Philistines.” 8 And David said to Achish, “But what have I done? What have you found in your servant from the day I entered your service until now, that I may not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?” 9 And Achish answered David and said, “I know that you are as blameless in my sight as an angel of God. Nevertheless, the commanders of the Philistines have said, ‘He shall not go up with us to the battle.’ 10 Now then rise early in the morning with the servants of your lord who came with you, and start early in the morning, and depart as soon as you have light.” 11 So David set out with his men early in the morning to return to the land of the Philistines. But the Philistines went up to Jezreel.
The scene here switches back to David from Saul. Just when you thought Saul had reached the bottom and would shortly die, the writer switches scenes on you. The Philistines were mustering for war. All 5 of the kings of the Philistine city states brought troops and passed in review (Ashdod, Ekron, Gath, Ashkelon andGaza). The commanders of the Philistines saw David and his men and did not like it. He said “why are these Hebrews doing here?” These 2 peoples had been enemies ever since Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan.
Achish was very happy with David and felt he had been loyal. In verse 6, he said “I have found no fault in you…” He had not been, but Achish did not know that. But the commanders did not want David there, afraid he would reconcile with Saul and attack them from within. The Philistines were organized in city states. They did not have a central government, and Achish was not king over all them, just over Gath. So, he had to bow to the will of the others and send David back.
Notice that David protested. In verse 8, he claims loyalty and expresses his desire to fight the Israelites. He cannot really mean this. You almost think this has to be humor, with David deceiving Achish and pleading both his innocence and desire to fight for him, neither of which are true.
Regardless, David and his men left. God saved David from fighting his own people. God saved David through the commanders of the Philistines, the enemies of David, of Israel and of God. God uses whom he will to accomplish his will. Proverbs 21:1 says “The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”
Again we see David has great qualities. At times, he displays great trust in the Lord. He can exercise great fidelity to God’s word, refusing to kill Saul despite many opportunities. He was described as a man after God’s heart.
He is not a perfect man, however, and will fail many times. Yet, he was a man chosen by God and anointed to be the king that would unite the kingdom and serve as the forerunner and type of the last king and lord, Jesus Christ.
Mostly, he was a man through whom God worked. God chose him, raised him up, saved him from disaster repeatedly, and empowered him to accomplish great things. He was a man God used to accomplish God’s will and plan. God was doing that in the time of David, and he is doing it today.
We also see God’s mercy here. David made a bad decision to go to Philistia. I think it was even an unfaithful decision, for he left the covenant land rather than trust God to defend him. It was also a denial of what God had told him, that he would be king of Israel. Yet, God did not abandon him, but saved him from himself and from the Philistines. David would later say, in Psalm 23:6, “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”.