David is on the run. He is alone and looking to find protection. He thinks Achish, the king of Gath, might help him. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Not so in this situation.
David is desperate to find safety. If he weren’t there is NO WAY he would even consider seeking refuge with the Philistines. They were Israel’s mortal enemy and he had killed enough of them to prove that fact, including their champion Goliath. They were “uncircumcised dogs” who worshiped false gods. Now God’s secretly appointed leader for Israel runs to them for safety.
We parted company with David as he left Nob. He acquired bread and the sword of Goliath from the priest. He was also observed by Saul’s chief herdsmen, Doeg. We will pick up from there and see where our story goes today.
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David has been on the move for a several days. He is traveling mainly at night to avoid being seen. He is still concerned about his meeting with Doeg. He fears the herdsmen will report his movements to the king. Looking back over his shoulder to ensure he is not followed has become a regular and necessary part of his journey.
David didn’t have a firm plan in mind when he left Gibeah. He has been making it up as he goes along. The stop in Nob was out of desperation. Now he NEEDS to choose a direction. Wandering aimlessly will surely get him caught but he has indulged in some ‘aimless wandering’ as a counter measure. This way no one will know for certain where he is headed.
David is hiding in a grove of trees as he waits for nightfall. He is near his hometown of Bethlehem. He longs to rush headlong into his father’s arms but knows without a doubt that Saul will be on the look-out for him in Bethlehem. David wouldn’t be surprised to find that his own family is right now under observation.
David turns his eyes towards the valley pass where not too many years ago he faced the giant Goliath. He remembers the faith Saul put in him that day as he walked towards the giant. He wishes their relationship could go back to how it used to be back then. Strange as it seems, David feels that his killing Goliath is inexplicably linked with Saul’s attitude towards him.
Thinking about Goliath has given David an idea. He knows it’s a risk but the land of the Philistines is one place Saul would NEVER look for him. He could go there and ask for protection. He ponders this and as the day draws to a close the idea has fully taken root in David’s heart. He will go to Gath and ask the king’s protection. He will offer his services as a warrior in exchange for the king’s protection. He has met the Philistines in battle enough that his reputation, and the giant’s sword strapped to his back, should carry a great deal of weight.
Night falls and David emerges from his hiding place. He takes one last look at the town of his birth before setting out for the land of the Philistines. If David’s plan is successful it may a long time before he sees it again. He prays his family will be safe from Saul’s zealous anger in his absence.
Once reaching the border of Israel David is no longer afraid to travel in the daylight hours. It feels good to have the sun on his back again. Even though he no longer fears being captured by Saul’s troops he has to be watchful for Philistine soldiers. He will need to interact with a few to make it into the city but the fewer the better until he is under the king’s protection.
David has been extremely fortunate in his journey in the land of the Philistines. He has made it to the gates of Gath without being challenged. It is the middle of the day so the city gate is not heavily guarded. Travelers on foot move in and out without being detained. The guards still scrutinize carts and wagons moving in an out and are readily available should a need for their services arise.
David decides to try his luck and simply walk past the gates. No one notices his entrance and he breathes a sigh of relief until he hears a loud voice call out, “You there. Hold!”
David tries to pretend he didn’t hear the order and hopes that he wasn’t the one being called to but a moment later a heavy hand lands on his shoulder emphasizing the words just spoken. David doesn’t try to resist. The hand on David’s shoulder belongs to a fine looking soldier. Beside him are two more who are eying him suspiciously. They seem to be looking over the top of his shoulder. This seems strange to David until he realizes they are looking at the sword of Goliath that he is carrying. He knew the sword was distinct but was hoping that not every soldier would recognize it.
“Where did you get that sword” barks one of the soldiers.
Before David can give his answer another soldier steps forward and issues orders.
“Bring him. Let Achish deal with him.”
David is shoved roughly in the direction of the king’s palace. He is shoved and pushed so quickly through the streets that he has to fight to maintain his balance. He has already thought over the offer he will make to the king when he finally stands before him. He hoped he would be coming into his presence with a little more dignity.
Achish is in his throne room when the group of soldiers and David arrive. They wait at the door to be recognized and granted an audience. Finally Achish motions them into the room. David is standing between two of the soldiers.
“What is it captain?” asks Achish.
“We found this man entering the city. He bears Goliath’s sword.”
One of Achish’s servants steps closer to him.
“Permission to speak my lord.”
“What is it?”
Achish’s servant directs his hand towards David to indicate the object of his inquiry.
“Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?” (verse 11).
David’s heart nearly stopped beating within his chest at these words. “They could decide to kill me where I stand and be done with Israel’s champion” he thinks to himself. As he was contemplating this danger Achish narrows his eyes for a better look. David only has seconds to decide what to do.
David’s face assumes a lopsided goofy grin and he begins drooling. He plops himself down and starts drawing on the floor with his finger. Next he hops up and moves to the wall of the throne room. He begins drawing with his fingers on the walls, mumbling to himself, letting his spittle run down his beard and working his way around the room ‘making marks’ with his hands. He even turned and rubbed the hilt of Goliath’s sword against the wall trying to ‘write’ with it.
King Achish is disgusted at the display. He believes David’s act to be genuine. He believes David is insane. Achish looks at his servant who is still watching David then gestures towards David with his hand. “Behold, you see the man is mad!” He turns to address the soldiers next. “Why then have you brought him to me? Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to behave as a madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?” (verse 14).
Both Achish’s servant and the soldiers feel sufficiently rebuffed by the king. But there remains one more issue the soldiers want to address.
“What of the giant’s sword he carries? Surely it should not be left in the hands of a mad man. He could hurt himself or someone else with it.”
“This is a concern. Relieve him of it then throw him outside the city. We have enough mad men of our own to care for. This Hebrew one can find his own way home.”
Hands grab David again. They quickly remove the sword he carried and place it in the waiting arms of Achish’s servant. Then David is pushed and shoved again through the city streets, all the way to the outside of the gate. With one great shove he is propelled to the ground.
“Be gone Hebrew dog before we lock you up instead. We have no room for crazy men such as you.”
David slowly picks himself up off the ground. He continues his act of insanity until he is out of sight of the gates of Gath. This was NOT a good plan after all. David has no idea where to go next and now he doesn’t even have a weapon to defend himself with. Goliath’s sword would never have been one he could use in battle because it was so unwieldy but it did offer a measure of protection if he were attacked by bandits. He will have to be careful as he makes his way back into the territory of Judah. And he has time to think of where to go now as he walks.
(to be continued)
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Did David think his plan through thoroughly when he set off to Gath or was he acting out of desperation? I have a feeling that his encounter with Achish and the words of the servant helped him see things a little better from Saul’s point of view. Both Achish and Saul would have David dead because he was the ‘leader of Israel’; Saul because that was HIS role and Achish because it would prevent further rebellion. That song came back to bite him again.
Father God, I wonder how many times You have rescued me from my own ill-advised plans. David was running in survival mode and looking for short term answers. This solution didn’t take into account Your long term plans for him. David would have missed A LOT of growing time if he had stayed in Gath. His ‘easy way out’ turned out to be a lot tougher than he though.
THANK YOU that You rescued me from my ‘easy way out’ choices too. And thank You for the growth those choices and rescues resulted in. They brought me to where I am today. I wonder what David told his children about this choice of his. Did he list it as one of his failures with You or did he give himself credit for thinking on his feet? Did this experience make him take a hard look at how he had been living since running from Saul? His focus is going to change very soon. No longer will he be only concerned with his own safety but with the safety of all who come to him for protection. This will be a BIG part of his leadership training.