The Word Made Fresh
1Then David began thinking to himself, “One of these days Saul is going to kill me. The best thing for me to do is to hide over in Philistine territory. Then Saul will get tired of looking for me in Israel and I can stay out of his hands.”
2So, he and his six hundred men went to Achish son of Maoch at Gath. 3They brought their families with them and stayed with Achish at Gath. David went with his wives; Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail of Carmel, Nabal’s widow. 4When Saul was informed of their move, he stopped searching for David.
5David said to Achish, “Since we are no longer enemies, let me settle in one of the towns in the countryside. Your servant need not live in the capital city with you.” 6Achish immediately agreed, and gave David the town of Ziklag, which has belonged to the kings of Judah ever since then. 7He lived in Philistine territory for a year and four months.
8David and his men raided the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites. These were the ancient settlements between Shur and Egypt. 9David invaded that area and left not a single person alive, and then returned and brought to Achish the sheep, oxen, donkeys, camels and clothing they had captured. 10Whenever Achish asked where they had raided David would tell him it was against Judah or Jerahmeel or Kenite territory in the Negeb. 11That’s why he took no captives to bring back to Gath so Achish would not learn the truth about where they had been. This was how he operated the whole time he was in Philistine country. 12Achish believed him. He thought, “David is making himself an enemy to his own people Israel. He’ll always be my servant.”
1-4: David decides to leave Saul’s territory altogether and seek refuge in Philistine territory. We met king Achish of Gath at the end of chapter 21, when David fled to Gath after being warned by Jonathan of Saul’s intentions. He pretended to be insane and Achish left him alone. Now he’s back in Gath with 600 men and their families! No explanation is given as to why Achish doesn’t seem to remember him, or why he would allow them to settle there — although we know from 14:21 that Hebrew mercenary soldiers sometimes fought for the Philistines. Obviously, the relationship between the Israelites and the Philistines is more complicated than the text reveals.
5-7: Achish awards David the town of Ziklag. Again no explanation is given: the Philistine king’s sheltering of David goes beyond hospitality. We are told that David stays there for a bit more than a year, and from that time on Ziklag is considered part of Judah.
8-12: David raids settlements of Philistine allies, leaving none living to tell the tale. He lies to Achish, saying that he is raiding allies of Judah. Achish begins to trust him more and more.
The timelines of the stories in I Samuel are confused, indicating that there were a lot of stories circulated about David and Saul and Samuel, etc. These stories were put together later, probably hundreds of years after their time. This explains some of the anachronisms — like Saul not seeming to remember that David had been playing the lyre for him when he came out to battle Goliath. Or Achish not seeming to remember David had been to Gath before as a lunatic. I think this lends an air of reality to the stories — it’s the kind of temporal confusion you would expect when family stories are passed on from generation to generation.