Sunday, July 02, 2006

1 Samuel 27

Despite having been repeatedly saved by the Lord, and (as pointed out by Jamieson) contrary to the directive of Gad to remain in Judah, David fears for his life. And so begins one of the more improbable chapters of the Old Testament. David goes not just to Philistine territory, but to the very town where Goliath came from-- and where, one may imagine, relatives with long memories might reside. Furthermore, he fled here in an earlier episode (Chapter 21), and escaped being killed by pretending to be insane. The local Philistine ruler, Prince Achish, is apparently not too bright, because he remembers none of this.

There David apparently pledges allegiance to Achish, son of Maoch, and receives a village in return for his betrayal of Israel. He goes out on vicious rampages against the Geshurites, Girzites, and Amalekites, killing everyone and taking their livestock and clothes. When questioned by Achish, he says he has been raiding against the Israelites and their allies to the south (negev), an outrageous lie. Achish doesn't notice the vanishing Geshurites, Girzites, and Amalekites, nor the fact that the clothing captured by David isn't Israelite.

The etymology of placenames has some clues. Gath means "wine press." Achish means "I will blacken" or "I will terrify" or "only a man". Maoch means "oppression." So, David enters the wine press and serves the son of oppression, the terrifier. All of these convey the sense of pressure.

By contrast, Ziklag might mean "unwinding" or "outflowing," suggesting relief from pressure. Jehrameel means "may God have pity," and Jerahmeel (note different spelling) was a greatgrandson of Judah. So, the people David is pretending to attack include those requesting pity. The word "negev" may have an overtone of "parched," perhaps emphasizing the distressed nature of Israel.

David did not attack Judah or its allies, the Kenites, who were probably those Midianites affiliated with Jethro who followed Moses. The Amalekites were descendants of Esau, related to the Edomites. The Girzites and Geshurites are more obscure groups. but were presumably allied with the Amalekites.

In short, this chapter describes what happens when, through fear, one drifts away from God: one leaves the holy land and mingles with enemies, enduring oppression and forced to make one's livelihood through lies and rapine. Yet even far from God, there is refuge. Even the deadliest of enemies gives one shelter.


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