Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
1 Kings (1 Samuel)
David at Ziklag in the Land of the Philistines - Sa1 27:1-12
In his despair of being able permanently to escape the plots of Saul in the land of Israel, David betook himself, with his attendants, to the neighbouring land of the Philistines, to king Achish of Gath, and received from him the town of Ziklag, which was assigned him at his own request as a dwelling-place (Sa1 27:1-7). From this point he made attacks upon certain tribes on the southern frontier of Canaan which were hostile to Israel, but described them to Achish as attacks upon Judah and its dependencies, that he might still retain the protection of the Philistian chief (Sa1 27:8-12). David had fled to Achish at Gath once before; but on that occasion he had been obliged to feign insanity in order to preserve his life, because he was recognised as the conqueror of Goliath. This act of David was not forgotten by the Philistines even now. But as David had been pursued by Saul for many years, Achish did not hesitate to give a place of refuge in his land to the fugitive who had been outlawed by the king of Israel, the arch-enemy of the Philistines, possibly with the hope that if a fresh war with Saul should break out, he should be able to reap some advantage from David's friendship.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 27:1
The result of the last affair with Saul, after his life had again been spared, could not fail to confirm David in his conviction that Saul would not desist from pursuing him, and that if he stayed any longer in the land, he would fall eventually into the hands of his enemy. With this conviction, he formed the following resolution: "Now shall I be consumed one day by the hand of Saul: there is no good to me (i.e., it will not be well with me if I remain in the land), but (כּי after a negative) I will flee into the land of the Philistines; so will Saul desist from me to seek me further (i.e., give up seeking me) in the whole of the territory of Israel, and I shall escape his hand."
Accordingly he went over with the 600 men who were with him to Achish, the king of Gath. Achish, the son of Maoch, is in all probability the same person not only as the king Achish mentioned in Sa1 21:11, but also as Achish the son of Maachah (Kg1 2:39), since Maoch and Maachah are certainly only different forms of the same name; and a fifty years' reign, which we should have in that case to ascribe to Achish, it not impossible.
Achish allotted dwelling-places in his capital, Gath, for David and his wives, and for all his retinue; and Saul desisted from any further pursuit of David when he was informed of his flight to Gath. The Chethibh יוסף is apparently only a copyist's error for יסף.
In the capital of the kingdom, however, David felt cramped, and therefore entreated Achish to assign him one of the land (or provincial) towns to dwell in; whereupon he gave him Ziklag for that purpose. This town was given to the Simeonites in the time of Joshua (Jos 19:5), but was afterwards taken by the Philistines, probably not long before the time of David, and appears to have been left without inhabitants in consequence of this conquest. The exact situation, in the western part of the Negeb, has not been clearly ascertained (see at Jos 15:31). Achish appears to have given it to David. This is implied in the remark, "Therefore Ziklag came to the kings of Judah (i.e., became their property) unto this day."
The statement that David remained a year and four months in the land of the Philistines, is a proof of the historical character of the whole narrative. The ימים before the "four months" signifies a year; strictly speaking, a term of days which amounted to a full year (as in Lev 25:29 : see also Sa1 1:3, Sa1 1:20; Sa1 2:19).
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 27:8
From Ziklag David made an attack upon the Geshurites, Gerzites, and Amalekites, smote them without leaving a man alive, and returned with much booty. The occasion of this attack is not mentioned, as being a matter of indifference in relation to the chief object of the history; but it is no doubt to be sought for in plundering incursions made by these tribes into the land of Israel. For David would hardly have entered upon such a war in the situation in which he was placed at that time without some such occasion, seeing that it would be almost sure to bring him into suspicion with Achish, and endanger his safety. ויּעל, "he advanced," the verb being used, as it frequently is, to denote the advance of an army against a people or town (see at Jos 8:1). At the same time, the tribes which he attacked may have had their seat upon the mountain plateau in the northern portion of the desert of Paran, so that David was obliged to march up to reach them. פּשׁט, to invade for the purpose of devastation and plunder. Geshuri is a tribe mentioned in Jos 13:2 as living in the south of the territory of the Philistines, and is a different tribe from the Geshurites in the north-east of Gilead (Jos 12:5; Jos 13:11, Jos 13:13; Deu 3:14). These are the only passages in which they are mentioned. The Gerzites, or Gizrites according to the Keri, are entirely unknown. Bonfrere and Clericus suppose them to be the Gerreni spoken of in 2 Macc. 13:24, who inhabited the town of Gerra, between Rhinocolura and Pelusium (Strabo, xvi. 760), or Gerron (Ptol. iv. 5). This conjecture is a possible one, but is very uncertain nevertheless, as the Gerzites certainly dwelt somewhere in the desert of Arabia. At any rate Grotius and Ewald cannot be correct in their opinion that they were the inhabitants of Gezer (Jos 10:33). The Amalekites were the remnant of this old hereditary foe of the Israelites, who had taken to flight on Saul's war of extermination, and had now assembled again (see at Sa1 15:8-9). "For they inhabit the land, where you go from of old to Shur, even to the land of Egypt." The עשׁר before מעולם may be explained from the fact that בּואך is not adverbial here, but is construed according to its form as an infinitive: literally, "where from of old thy coming is to Shur." עשׁר cannot have crept into the text through a copyist's mistake, as such a mistake would not have found its way into all the MSS. The fact that the early translators did not render the word proves nothing against its genuineness, but merely shows that the translators regarded it as superfluous. Moreover, the Alexandrian text is decidedly faulty here, and עולם is confounded with עלם, ἀπὸ Γελάμ. Shur is the desert of Jifar, which is situated in front of Egypt (as in Sa1 15:7). These tribes were nomads, and had large flocks, which David took with him as booty when he had smitten the tribes themselves. After his return, David betook himself to Achish, to report to the Philistian king concerning his enterprise, and deceive him as to its true character.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 27:10
Achish said, "Ye have not made an invasion to-day, have ye?" אל, like μὴ, is an interrogative sense; the ה has dropped out: vid., Ewald, 324, b. David replied, "Against the south of Judah, and the south of the Jerahmeelites, and into the south of the Kenites," sc., we have made an incursion. This reply shows that the Geshurites, Gerzites, and Amalekites dwelt close to the southern boundary of Judah, so that David was able to represent the march against these tribes to Achish as a march against the south of Judah, to make him believe that he had been making an attack upon the southern territory of Judah and its dependencies. The Negeb of Judah is the land between the mountains of Judah and the desert of Arabia (see at Jos 15:21). The Jerahmeelites are the descendants of Jerahmeel, the first-born of Hezron (Ch1 2:9, Ch1 2:25-26), and therefore one of the three large families of Judah who sprang from Hezron. They probably dwelt on the southern frontier of the tribe of Judah (vid., Sa1 30:29). The Kenites were protgs of Judah (see at Sa1 15:6, and Jdg 1:16). In Sa1 27:11 the writer introduces the remark, that in his raid David left neither man nor woman of his enemies alive, to take them to Gath, because he thought "they might report against us, and say, Thus hath David done." There ought to be a major point under דּוד עשׂה, as the following clause does not contain the words of the slaughtered enemies, but is a clause appended by the historian himself, to the effect that David continued to act in that manner as long as he dwelt in the land of the Philistines. משׁפּט, the mode of procedure; lit. the right which he exercised (see Sa1 8:9).
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 27:12
Sa1 27:12 is connected with Sa1 27:10; Achish believed David's words, and said (to himself), "He hath made himself stinking (i.e., hated) among his own people, among Israel, and will be my servant (i.e., subject to me) for ever."