I Samuel 21:10 – 22:5
(Gath) 10 That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. 11 But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’?” 12 David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. 13 So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. 14 Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? 15 Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?” (Adullam) 22:1 David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him. (Mizpah in Moab) 3 From there David went to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab, “Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what God will do for me?” 4 So he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him as long as David was in the stronghold. (Hereth) 5 But the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah.” So David left and went to the forest of Hereth.
David, though king elect, is here an exile—destined to be master of vast treasures, yet now begging his bread—anointed to the crown, and yet here forced to flee from his country. What difficulties God allows often appear differently than his wonderful promises, for the trial of his people’s faith, the glorifying of his name, in the accomplishment of His counsels, and even in the difficulties that lay in the way.
1. Fled from Saul - David was out of the main part of his nation/country, but not out of the will of God. There is no border so important as the border between being in and outside of the will of God. We must recognize this physically invisible, but spiritually ever so important border. Physical borders are not important when compared to this border. “I won’t go there” is a great statement when one is even tempted to cross this border.
Where we are physically and what are we doing are very different matters. It does not matter where we are, but it matters enormously what we are doing. Location is not important; activity choice is.
David fled from Saul. Better to flee than to fight against God’s anointed. Some people bring out the best in us. Stay near them; they are good company. Some people bring out the worst in us. Stay away from them. We should not flee from situations or problems God allows, but should rather be bold and brave and fight with the enemy and win, but when the “enemy” is someone who should be a friend, a brother, sister, a believer who has made himself/herself an enemy, it is better to flee than to fight. Three times Isaac moved away from wells he dug rather than fight the enemy. When Absolom and his army marched toward Jerusalem to destroy David, even if it meant they would destroy the city and the many people who were with David, David again did the noble thing. He was a fighter, but he refused to fight with those with whom he should not fight.
God gave David success in warfare against Amnon, Moab, Seir, Philistines, Aram and all his enemies, but would God have fought for or on David’s side if he were fighting against the wrong “enemy?”
It was probably right for David to flee, but to whom did he flee? I suspect this part of David’s action was a mistake. The arm of flesh will fail you. What could Achish do for him?
2. Gath Israel’s darling had to quit the land of Israel, and he that was the Philistine’s great enemy now seeks shelter among them.
Though the Israelites loved him, yet the king of Israel hated him, so he had to leave his own country. Though the Philistines hated him, yet the king of Gath had an apparent personal kindness for him, appreciating his merit, and possibly the more because David killed Goliath of Gath, who, perhaps had been no friend to Achish. The giant soldier of Gath and the King of Gath were not necessarily good friends. To Achish David now went directly, as to one in whom he could confide, as he did afterwards in chapter 27, and Achish might have protected him in chapter 21 but was evidently afraid of displeasing his own people. God could have used Achish. The king of Judah imprisoned Jeremiah, but the king of Babylon set him at liberty.
Notice the disgust which the servants of Achish felt toward David being there, and their complaint to Achish (ll): “Is not this David? Is not this he that has triumphed over the Philistines? Remember that burden of the song which was so much talked of, Saul has slain his thousands, but David, this very man, his ten thousands. No, Is not this he that (if our intelligence from the land of Israel be true) is, or is to be, king of the land?’’ As such, “he must be an enemy to our country; and is it safe or honourable for us to protect or entertain such a man?’’ Achish perhaps had intimated to them that it would be good to receive David, because he was now an enemy to Saul, and he might therefore be a friend to them. It is common for the outlaws of a nation to be sheltered by the enemies of that nation. Nevertheless, understandably, the servants of Achish objected to Achish’ idea of helping David. We will not have this fellow live among us.
Notice the fear David felt. Though he had reason to put confidence in Achish, yet, when he perceived the servants of Achish were jealous of him, he began to be afraid that Achish would give him over to them. He was sorely afraid (v 12), and perhaps he was the more aware of his own danger, when he was discovered, because he possibly even now, having come from the tabernacle at Nob, wore Goliath’s sword, which, we may suppose, was well known in Gath, and with which he had reason to expect they would cut off his head, as he had cut off Goliath’s head with it.
David now learned by experience what he taught us in Ps. 118:9, that “it is better to trust in the Lord than to trust in princes.” Men of high degree are a lie, and, if we make them our hope, they may prove our fear. It was probably at this time that David wrote Psalm 56:3 (When the Philistines had seized him at Gath) “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you . . . and Psalm 56:11 “. . . in God I trust and am not afraid.”
Observe with me how he escaped; he pretended to be mad. (13) He used the gestures and fashions of a natural fool, or one that had gone out of his mind, supposing they would be ready enough to believe that the contempt he had fallen into, and the troubles he was now in, had driven him to distraction. This disgraceful action of his cannot be justified. It was a low thing to misbehave like this, and inconsistent with the truth of his good and godly character to misrepresent himself. It was not becoming the honor and sincerity of such a man as David; yet it may in some degree be excused, for it was not a downright lie and it was like a stratagem in war, by which he deceived his enemies for the preservation of his own life.
David “pretended” and “acted.” Pretending and acting is deceitful, like lying, but could it ever be right to do so? Was David insane? Was he a mad man? No, but to save his life he pretended and acted. His actions were deceitful. Is it right to deceive? Is it ever right to lie? We honor truth, but we honor life more. When two moral and biblical obligations are in conflict, we must choose the more important one and violate the lesser one. What about the lies that were told to the Nazis by the Europeans who were saving Jewish lives? What about the Jewess, doomed to die, who intentionally became pregnant by a Nazi German guard at a concentration camp in Europe in order to live and gain her freedom?
On quite another theme, what David did here in pretense and for his own safety, which made it partly excusable, drunkards do really, and only to gratify a base lust: they make fools of themselves and change their behavior; their words and actions commonly are either as silly and ridiculous as an idiot’s or as furious and outrageous as a madman’s. Why would men of sense and honor allow themselves to get drunk and be so foolish? Little wonder the Bible teaches us not to get drunk.
His escape by this means, v. 14, v. 15. Achish (as we find afterwards was very kind to him, even when the lords of the Philistines did not want David among them, ch. 28:1, ch. 28:2 ; ch. 29:6) was probably aware that David was only acting, but, wanted to protect him. So Achish pretended to his servants that he thought David was mad, and therefore had reason to question whether it was David or not; or, if it were really David, they need not fear him, what harm could he do them now that his reason had departed from him? They apparently suspected that Achish was inclined to receive David: “Not I,’’ says he. “He is a madman. I’ll have nothing to do with him. You need not fear that I should employ him, or show him any favor.’’ He humors the thing well enough when he asks, “Have I need of madmen? Shall this fool come into my house? I will show him no kindness, but neither shall you hurt him, for, if he is a madmen, he is to be pitied.’’ He therefore drove him away, as it is in the title of Ps. 34, the excellent Psalm David wrote at this time, it shows David did not change his spirit when he changed his behavior, but even in his great difficulties and anxieties, his heart was fixed, trusting in the Lord; and he concluded that psalm with this assurance, that none of those who trust in God shall be desolate, though they may be, as he now was, solitary, distressed and persecuted, he was not forsaken.
David’s reputation had preceded him to Gath. Now we ask a curious question. Later as recorded in chapter 27, David returned to Gath. In chapter 21 it names the king “Achish king of Gath” and in chapter 27 it calls him “Achish son of Maok king of Gath.” The Bible does not say whether this is the same Achish or not, but we do know that in both cases Gath was the place and Gath was in Philistine territory. Remember that this is the David Samuel anointed to be king over Israel; this is the David that Israel loved and celebrated. What if David were in the awkward position of being found fighting against the nation he desired to serve? How will David get out of Philistia? Did David even know that he needed to get out? God knew and God acted.
In chapter 21 David escaped from Gath through his own action, by dribbling in his beard; he was only there for a part of a day. In chapter 27-29, however, after being in Philistia near Gath for over a year and is well entrenched in the city of Ziklag, the Philistines go to war against Saul and Israel. The Philistine commanders from other cities in Philistine were angry with Achish and demanded that David be sent away; they would not allow David to fight with them against Saul. The two ways that God got David out of Philistia are radically different—(1) David acting like a crazy man and (2) other Philistine commanders requiring him to leave. But in both “escapes” God got David out of impossible situations, especially the second time—possibly fighting against Israel which God had promised David would rule. Sometimes the complex, complicated, multi-factored tangles we get ourselves in are so difficult to understand, much less sort out or solve, that we think there is no solution, but in these two situations God got David out of Philistia.
“was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath.” It is curious that David who slew the Philistine giant was afraid of Achish. David was not afraid when (as recorded in chapter 17) he confidently walked out onto the battlefield and faced Goliath. What happened to the man who boldly declared; “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”? (I Samuel 17:45 – 47) and “With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.”? (II Samuel 22:30)
David was human. His faith was not as strong in the court of Achish as it had been on the battlefield. You and I are also human and we have times of soaring faith and periods of discouragement. Instead of faulting David it might be more appropriate to credit God. Even when David’s faith was weak, God was with him and helped him. Even when we are faithless; God is faithful. Achish threw David out and David was spared a difficult situation.
3. Adullam This was one of the royal cities of the Canaanites, now 'Aid-el-ma ( Joshua 12:15; 15:35). It stood on the old Roman road in the valley of Elah, which was the scene of David's memorable victory over Goliath (1 Samuel 17:2), and not far from Gath. It was one of the towns which Rehoboam fortified against Egypt ( 2 Chronicles 11:7). It was called "the glory of Israel" ( Micah 1:15).
The Cave of Adullam was originally a stronghold referred to in the Old Testament, near the town of Adullam, where the future King David sought refuge from King Saul. The word "cave" is usually used but "fortress", which has a similar appearance in writing, is used as well and could’ve been used. Cave and stronghold are used almost interchangeably.
Others say Adullam was either a town 12 miles west and south of Bethlehem and near Gath or a Cave 4 miles south south-east of Bethlehem with close access to Moab where David took his parents. So Adullam was either a town near Gath or a cave nearer Moab where David took his parents. Either place could have served David’s purpose—a place to land between after Gath and before Moab.
“Cave” could also be “caves” or network of caves. It is not difficult to envision 400 men hiding in a network of caves. It reminds us that we believers are hidden in the “Cleft of the Rock.”
David sheltered himself in the cave of Adullam (1). Whether it was a natural or artificial fortress does not appear; it is probable that the access to it was so difficult that David thought himself able, with Goliath’s sword, to keep it against all the forces of Saul, and therefore buried himself alive in it.
The promise of the kingdom implied David would be preserved, and yet David used means (proper means, but nonetheless means) for his own safety, otherwise he would have tempted God. He did not do anything that aimed to destroy Saul, but only to secure himself. He that might have done great service to his country as a judge or general is here shut up in a cave, and thrown out, rejected, as a vessel in which there was no pleasure. We must not think it strange if sometimes shining lights are eclipsed and hidden under a bushel. Perhaps the apostle refers to this instance of David, among others, when he speaks of some of the Old-Testament faith-heroes that wandered in deserts, in dens and caves of the earth, (Heb. 11:38). It was at this time that David wrote Psalm 142, which is entitled, “A prayer when David was in the cave;” and there he complained that no man would know him and that refuge failed him, but hopes that shortly the righteous would compass him about.
It was to that place that his relations gathered around him, his brethren and all his father’s house, perhaps to be protected by him or to give assistance to him; in any case to take their lot with him.
A brother is born for adversity, but we do not know if that was true in this case; possibly not.
Now, Joab, and Abishai, and the rest of his relations, came to him, to suffer and venture with him, possibly in hopes shortly to be advanced with him as they eventually they were. The first three of his mighty men were those that first identified with him when he was in the cave. 1 Chr. 11:15 says, “Three of the chiefs came down to David to the rock at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the valley of Rephaim.”
Here he began to raise forces in his own defence, (2). He found by his recent experience at Gath that he could not save himself by flight, and therefore knew he had to do it by force. Yet he never acted inappropriately, never offered any violence to Saul nor gave any disturbance to the peace of Israel; he only used his forces as a guard to his own person. But, whatever defense his soldiers were to him, they did not at first benefit him, for the band of warriors he had was made up not of great, nor rich, nor stout, nor good men, but men in distress, in debt, and discontented, men of broken fortunes and restless spirits, those that were on their own and did not know what to do with themselves. When David had fixed his headquarters in the cave of Adullam, about 400 such men came and enlisted themselves under him. See what weak instruments God is able to use, by which to bring about his own purposes. Today the Son of David is also ready to receive and use distressed souls, that will appoint him their captain and be commanded by Him.
I Corinthians 1:26-29 says, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’”
4. Mizpah in Moab David’s great-grandmother, Ruth, was from Moab. Would David have heard stories, directly or indirectly, from his great-grandmother and great-grandfather Boaz, the grandparents of Jesse, David’s father? Bethlehem was not far from Moab geographically and Moab was a part of David’s family story because of great-grandparents Boaz and Ruth. At any rate, David left his Father and mother there.
Now we notice the gracious concern he provided for his aged parents. It was not right that they should be exposed either to the dangers or exhaustion which he must expect during his struggle with Saul (their age would by no means bear it); therefore the first thing he did was to find a quiet place for them, whatever became of himself. Let children today learn from this to show kindness at home and care for their parents (1 Tim. 5:4 ).
Notice now David’s humble faith as he expects and waits for God’s help; “Till I know what God will do for me.” (v 3) He expressed his hopes very modestly, as one that had entirely cast himself upon God and committed his way to him, expecting a good issue, not from his own skills, or arms, or merits, but from what the wisdom, power, and goodness of God would do for him. David’s father and mother could not help him, but God could. See Ps. 27:10 “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will rescue me.”
“. . . until I learn what God will do for me.” What a wonderful phrase. Our lives, times, health to a degree, careers, destinies, accomplishments, stories, experiences, circumstances and situations are all a result of a truth contained in this insightful phrase—“what God will do for me.”
What is God doing for you? What has God done for you? What will God do for you? What will happen to you? It is all in God’s hands. Or is it? Some of our destines are partially in our hands. David’s stone hit Goliath in the forehead, but how many of his stones had hit their mark on the trees near Bethlehem where he practiced throwing them while watching the sheep? It is right for David to have said “until I learn what God will do for me,” but it is not right for us to sit passively by, never doing anything to educate, improve, train or develop ourselves as though everything was all on God. Yes, God has a part—a big part, and we have a part—another big part. Let us learn to do what we can do to improve our situation while at the same time allowing God to “do for me.”
5. Hereth (v 5) HERETH hĭr’ ĕth (חָֽרֶת). A forest in Judah between Adullam and Giloh, in which David hid after he departed from Moab. It was probably located around Kharas, a village near Khirbet Qila. It was also probably a city and forest of the same name, 15 miles south of Jerusalem. Just southeast of Adullum and northeast of Keilah. On the map these places are all close together. This is the only place in the Bible where Hereth is mentioned.
What took David to Hereth? David had the advice and assistance of the prophet Gad, who probably was one of the sons of the prophets that were brought up under Samuel, and was possibly recommended to David by Samuel as his chaplain or spiritual guide. Being a prophet, he would pray for him and instruct him in the mind of God; and David, though he was himself a prophet, was glad of his assistance. He advised him to go into the land of Judah (v 5), as one that was confident of his own innocence, and was well assured of the divine protection, and wanted, even in his present hard circumstances, to do some service for his tribe and country. Let him not be ashamed to admit his own difficult situation nor decline the help that would be offered to him. Motivated by Gad’s word he determined to go back to Judah. This is the way the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.
Can you look back on the events, moves, experiences, victories and defeats and see the hand of God? God was at work then in your life as surely as He was at work in David’s life in the events we have just examined. God prepared David and today He is preparing you. Ask God to lead, protect, correct, guide and teach you so you are ready when it is time for you to step into the opportunities of service that He is preparing in advance for you. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”