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1 Samuel Chapter Twenty-nine                            


1 Samuel 29

Chapter Contents

David objected to by the Philistines. (1-5) He is dismissed by Achish. (6-11)

Commentary on 1 Samuel 29:1-5

(Read 1 Samuel 29:1-5)

David waited with a secret hope that the Lord would help him out of his difficulty. But he seems to have been influenced too much by the fear of man, in consenting to attend Achish. It is hard to come near to the brink of sin, and not to fall in. God inclined the princes of the Philistines to oppose David's being employed in the battle. Thus their dislike befriended him, when no friend could do him such a kindness.

Commentary on 1 Samuel 29:6-11

(Read 1 Samuel 29:6-11)

David scarcely ever had a greater deliverance than when dismissed from such insnaring service. God's people should always behave themselves so, as, if possible, to get the good word of all they have dealings with: and it is due to those who have acted well, to speak well of them.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on 1 Samuel


1 Samuel 29

Verse 2

[2] And the lords of the Philistines passed on by hundreds, and by thousands: but David and his men passed on in the rereward with Achish.

With Achish — As the life-guard of Achish. Achish being, as it seems, the general of the army.

Verse 3

[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, and I have found no fault in him since he fell unto me unto this day?

The princes — The Lords of the other eminent cities, who were confederate with him in this expedition.

These days or years — That is, did I say days? I might have said years. He hath now been with me a full year and four months, chap. 27:7, and he was with me some years ago, 1 Samuel 21:10, and since their 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 a 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.

Since he fell — Revolted, or left his own king to turn to me.

Verse 4

[4] And the princes of the Philistines were wroth with him; and the princes of the Philistines said unto him, 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 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?

Make this fellow — Herein the wise and gracious providence of God appeared, both in helping him out of these difficulties, out of which no human wit could have extricated him, but he must have been, an ungrateful person either to the one or 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 those distresses into which his own sinful counsel had brought him.

These men — That is, of these our soldiers, they speak according to the rules of true policy; for by this very course, great enemies have sometimes been reconciled together.

Verse 8

[8] And David said unto Achish, But what have I done? and what hast thou found in thy servant so long as I have been with thee unto this day, that I may not go fight against the enemies of my lord the king?

David said … — This was deep dissimulation and flattery, no way to be justified. None knows, how strong a temptation they are in to compliment and dissemble, which they are in who attend great men.

Verse 9

[9] And Achish answered and said to David, I know that thou art good in my sight, as an angel of God: notwithstanding the princes of the Philistines have said, He shall not go up with us to the battle.

Angel of God — In whom nothing is blame-worthy. The Heathens acknowledged good spirits, which also they worshipped as an inferior sort of deities, who were messengers and ministers to the supreme God; Achish had learned the title of angels, from the Israelites his neighbours, and especially from David's conversation.

Verse 11

[11] So David and his men rose up early to depart in the morning, to return into the land of the Philistines. And the Philistines went up to Jezreel.

Rose up early — David did not then know, how necessary this was, for the relief of his own city. But God knew it well, and sent him thither accordingly. On how many occasions may he say, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter?

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on 1 Samuel


29 Chapter 29


Verses 1-11

Verse 3

1 Samuel 29:3

What do these Hebrews here?

One question with two meanings

David was almost at the lowest point of his fortunes when he fled into foreign territory. The Philistine commanders, very naturally, were suspicious of these allies, just as Englishmen would have been if, the night before Waterloo, a brigade of Frenchmen had deserted and offered their help to fight, Napoleon. So the question, “What, do these Hebrews here?”--amongst our ranks--was an extremely natural one, and it was answered in the only possible way, by the subsequent departure of David and his men from the unnatural and ill-omened alliance. Now, that suggests to us that Christian people are out of their places, even in the eyes of worldly people, when they are fighting shoulder to shoulder with them in certain causes; and it suggests the propriety of keeping apart. “Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.” “What do these Hebrews here?” is a question that, Philistia often asks. But now turn to the other question. Elijah had fallen into the mood of depression which so often follows great nervous tension. The usually undaunted prophet, in the reaction after the great effort, was fearful for his life, and deserted his work, and flung himself into solitude, and shook the dust off his feet against Israel. Was that not just doing what I have been saying that Christian people ought to do--separating himself from the world? In a sense yes, and the voice came, “What dost thou here, Elijah?” “Go back to your work; to Ahab, to Jezebel.” “Go back to death if need be. Do not shirk your duty on the pretence of separating yourself from the world.” So we put the two questions together. They limit one another, and they suggest the via media, the course between, and lead me to say one or two plain things about that duty of Christian separation from an evil world.

I. The first thing I would suggest to you is the inevitable intermingling, which is the law of God, and therefore can never be broken with impunity. Christ’s parable about the Kingdom of Heaven in the world being like a man that sowed good seed in his field, which sprung up intermingled with tares, contains the lesson, not so much of the purity or non-purity of the Church as of the inseparable intertwining in the world of Christian people with others. Society at present, and the earthly form of the Kingdom of God, are not organised on the basis of religious affinity, but upon a great many other things, such as family, kindred, business, a thousand ties of all sorts. There are types of Christian life today unwholesomely self-engrossed, and too much occupied with their own spiritual condition, to realize and discharge the duty of witnessing, in the world. Wherever you find a Christian man that tries more to keep himself apart, in the enjoyment and cultivation of his own religious life, than to fling himself into the midst of the world’s worst evil, in order to fight and to cure it, you get a man who is sharing in Elijah’s transgression, and needs Elijah’s rebuke. The intermingling is inevitable in the present state of things.

II. And now let me say a word about the second thing, and that is--the imperative separation. “What do these Israelites here?” is the question. What do we do when we are left to do as we like? Where do we go? When the half-cwt fastened by the bit of string is taken off the sapling it starts back to its original uprightedness. Is that what, your Christianity does? Let us look at the spirit. Where do I turn to? What do I like to do? Where are my chosen companions? What are my recreations? Is my life of such a sort as that the world will turn to ms and say, “What! you here!” “A man is known by the company he keeps,” says an old Latin proverb, and I am bound to say that I do not think it is a good sign of the depth of a Christian professor’s religion if he feels himself more at home in the company of the people that do not share his religion than in the company of those that do. There are two questions which every Christian professor ought to ask himself about such subjects. One is, Can I ask God to bless this, and my doing it? And the other is, Does this help or hinder my religion?

III. Now there is one last suggestion that I wish to make, and that is the double questioning that we shall have to stand. The lords of the Philistines said, “What do these Hebrews here?” They saw the inconsistency, if David and his men did not. They were sharp to detect it, and David and his band did not rise in their opinion. So let me tell you, you will neither recommend your religion nor yourselves to men of the world, by inconsistently trying to identify yourselves with them. The world respects an out-and-out Christian; and neither God nor the world respects an inconsistent one. But there is another question, and another questioner--“What dost, thou hers, Elijah?” That question is put to us all in the moment when we are truest to our professions and ourselves. What do you think you would say if, in some of these moments of unnecessary intermingling with questionable things and doubtful people, you were brought suddenly to this, that you had to formulate into some kind of plausibility your reason for being there? Let us cleave to Christ, and that will separate us from the world. If we cleave to the world, that will separate us from Christ. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

──The Biblical Illustrator