1 Samuel 29
David Sent Back to Ziglag
This chapter is obviously out of chronological order. It happened before 1 Samuel 28:4 as the Philistines were moving toward Shunem. At Aphek, they stopped to organize their several armies. Meanwhile, Israel was camping by the spring of Jezreel at the foot of Mt. Gilboa (1).
The lords of the Philistines, literally the five kings of the five main cities, were having their armies inspected, reviewed, and divided into battalions of hundreds and thousands. At the rear of Achish's army came his bodyguard, David, with his 600 men (2). The other four commanders of the Philistines questioned Achish on the wisdom of having the Hebrew mercenary troops march into battle with them. Calling David's troops Hebrews was a way of disparaging their character. Achish identified the troops as those fugitives led by David, who had formerly been Saul's servant. He further mentioned David had fallen into difficulty with Saul and had deserted to Achish and had proven himself perfectly loyal for the past two years (3).
Image taken from: Smith, J. E. (1995). The Books of History (1 Sa 28–2 Sa 4). Joplin, MO: College Press.
The other four commanders were angry with Achish for even suggesting the risk of having David and his men fight with them. They told Achish to have David return to the city Achish had given him and not give David opportunity to get back into the good graces of Saul by turning on them in the heat of battle.
They reminded Achish that it was David who had slain the giant Goliath to the celebration of all Israel. He was a man given to heroic deeds, and for Achish to even consider taking David with them was an insane decision (4-5).
Achish knew the news of sending David back to Ziglag would be humiliating and insulting. Achish broke the news to David in the cloak of spirituality by swearing by the name of Yahweh. He then praised David for his character and made a declaration of personal trust. He assured that David was, in his eyes, a man to be trusted, and then blame-shifted the decision to send him to Ziglag to the other kings. He admitted to David that he could not withstand their collective vote to have David returned to Ziglag. Then Achish begged David to leave without incident, argument, and drama (6-7).
David expressed indignation—no doubt a completely insincere and deceitful act. David was seeking to make the king believe in his complete and unquestioned loyalty. No doubt David must have felt relief in being sent home (8).
Achish continued to blame the four other kings for sending David home, citing their fear of David’s turning on them in the heat of battle to get back in the graces of Saul. Achish assured David that he thought him to be as loyal as an angel sent by God (9).
Achish then told David to leave the staging area and return to Ziglag at first light, taking his men with him. The next day, David headed south to Ziglag, as the Philistine army headed northeast for their fight with Israel (10-11).