1 Samuel 28:1
(1) The Philistines gathered their armies together for warfare.--This was evidently, as Jose-phus remarks, a great effort on the part of the Philistines. It was no ordinary raid or border incursion, such as seems to have been so frequent all through the reign of Saul. Since their defeat in the Valley of Elah, which followed the single combat between Goliath and David, no such Philistine army had been gathered together. We are struck at once with the presence of the enemy in the heart of the land, no longer choosing the well-known and often-contested "Marches," or border districts. The Philistines are now strong enough to strike a blow at the centre of the kingdom, and to challenge a battle on the plain of Jezreel. or Esdraelon, north of Ephraim and Issachar. They probably marched along the sea-border of Canaan, collecting their forces as they advanced from each of their well-known military centres, and then, turning eastward, invaded the land by the Valley of Jezreel, or Esdraelon. They marched still eastward, and took up a strong position on the slopes of one of the groups of mountains that enclosed the broad plain of Jezreel toward the east, near the town of Shunem. King Saul, quickly assembling the fighting men of Israel, marched in pursuit, and coming up with them in the Esdraelon plain, took up his position opposite the Philistines--only a few miles parting the two hosts--on the slopes of another group of mountains, known as Mount Gilboa, lying to the south of the Philistine frontier. (There is a map of the Plain of Esdraelon in Stanley's Jewish Church, vol. ii., Lecture 21, illustrative of this closing scene in Saul's career, well worth consulting.)

And Achish said.--David soon found into what a grievous error he had fallen by taking refuge with the hereditary foes of his people. Want of faith and patience had urged him to take this unhappy step. The sixteen months he had spent in Phihstia had been certainly successful, inasmuch as they had strengthened his position as a "free lance" captain, but nothing more. They had been stained by bloodshed and cruelty. His life, too, was a life of duplicity and falsehood. The results of his unhappy course of action were soon manifest. His nation sustained a crushing and most humiliating defeat, which he narrowly escaped being obliged to witness, if not to contribute to. His own general recognition as king was put off for nearly seven years, during which period a civil war hindered the development of national prosperity; besides which, during this time of internal divisions the seeds were too surely laid of the future disastrous separation of Judah and the south from the northern tribes--a division which eventually took place in his grandson's time, when his strong arm and Solomon's wisdom and power were things of the past.

The summons of Achish to his great military vassal was perfectly natural: indeed, Achish had no reason to suspect that such a campaign as the one the Philistines were about to undertake against King Saul would be in any way distasteful to the wronged and insulted David. Not improbably the presence of David and his trained force--including, as the wily Philistine well knew, some of the bravest souls in Israel--encouraged Achish and the other Philistine lords to this great and, as it turned out, supreme effort against Israel. The King of Gath and his colleagues in Philistia saw that, in the divided state of Israel, their chances of success were very great, and it is highly probable that they looked forward to establishing their friend and follower David on the throne of Saul as a Philistine vassal king.

Verse 1. - In those days. I.e. while David was dwelling at Ziklag. The Philistines gathered their armies together. This was, as Josephus has observed, a war upon a much larger scale than any that had been carried on since the defeat of the Philistines in the valley of Elah; for we find that the invasion was made from the north, and the decisive battle fought not in the usual field of operations, but in the territory of the tribe of Issachar, in the neighbourhood of Jezreel. We are not indeed to suppose from this that the Philistines had conquered all the central districts of the land, and, driving Saul before them, at last brought him to bay, and slew him in the north; for though Ishbosheth was compelled to withdraw to Mahanaim, a city on the eastern side of the Jordan, yet Abner is said to have made him king there not only over the trans-Jordanic tribes, but also "over Jezreel, and over Ephraim, and over Benjamin" (2 Samuel 2:9). It may be said, however, that these were but titular claims; but the philistine conquests, as described in 1 Samuel 31:7, if not confined to the valley of Esdraelon, as in 1 Chronicles 10:7, were nevertheless all of them to the north of Mount Gilboa, thus leaving Ephraim, Benjamin, and Judah untouched. Nor do we find the Philistines encamped between David at Hebron and Ishbosheth at Mahanaim, or interfering in their contests; and it is only when David was made king over the whole of Israel that they again assembled their forces to dispute the empire with him, and twice suffered defeat (2 Samuel 5:20, 25). More probably, therefore, they marched northward through their own territory, raising the whole of the military population as they went, and then, turning eastward, broke into the Israelite territory by the valley of Jezreel. It was probably the rapid decline of Saul's power which encouraged the Philistines to attempt once again to place their yoke upon the neck of Israel; and Saul, conscious that God's blessing had departed from him, in pitiable agony sought for unholy aid, but finally, with his sons, made a last brave defence, and died a soldier's death. Achish said unto David. As a vassal David was bound to accompany his lord to the acid; and Achish, supposing that David had of his own accord made war upon Judah, probably assumed that the invitation was one which he himself desired. To battle. Hebrew, "in the army."

28:1-6 David could not refuse Achish without danger. If he promised assistance, and then stood neuter, or went over to the Israelites, he would behave with ingratitude and treachery. If he fought against Israel, he would sin greatly. It seemed impossible that he should get out of this difficulty with a clear conscience; but his evasive answer, intended to gain time, was not consistent with the character of an Israelite indeed. Troubles are terrors to the children of disobedience. In his distress, Saul inquired of the Lord. He did not seek in faith, but with a double, unstable mind. Saul had put the law in force against those that had familiar spirits, Ex 22:18. Many seem zealous against, sin, when they are any way hurt by it, who have no concern for the glory of God, nor any dislike of sin as sin. Many seem enemies to sin in others, while they indulge it in themselves. Saul will drive the devil out of his kingdom, yet harbours him in his heart by envy and malice. How foolish to consult those whom, according to God's law, he had endeavoured to root out!And it came to pass in those days,.... That David was in the country of the Philistines:

that the Philistines gathered their armies together: out of their five principalities or lordships:

for warfare to fight with Israel; with whom they were continually at war, and though sometimes there was a cessation of arms, yet never any settled peace; and the Philistines took every opportunity and advantage against them, as they now did; when David was among them, and so had nothing to fear from him, but rather expected his assistance; and Samuel was dead, and Saul in a frenzy:

and Achish said unto David: who seems to have been at the head of the combined armies of the Philistines:

know thou assuredly that thou shall go with me to battle, thou and thy men; against Israel; which was a trying thing to David, and whereby he was like to be drawn into a dilemma; either to fight against his country, which he could not do conscientiously; or be guilty of ingratitude to Achish, and incur his displeasure, and be liable to be turned out of his country, or treated in a worse manner, even he and his men, to be seized on and cut to pieces by the forces of the Philistines, should he refuse.

1 Samuel 27:12
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