Shemuel Alef Chapter 27

The Reading

The Summary

Shemuel Alef Chapter 27

David continues to feel insecure and to fear the persecutions of Shaul and decides to leave Jewish territory and begin living with Akhish, Philistine King of Gath. When Shaul hears that David and his entourage have relocated with their families to Gath, he permanently discontinues the manhunt for his alleged adversary. David recognizes that settling with such a substantial number of people in Gath is a burden for Akhish, and he would also prefer to retain some measure of autonomy and independence, so he requests and his granted his own city, Tziqlag, which will remain a possession of the dynasty of David forever.

Although Akhish is absolutely convinced that David has renounced his citizenship in Israel and has defected to the side of the Pelishtim, this is not entirely true. David and his men support themselves by raiding the cities and camps of the enemies of Israel – the Geshurites, the Gizrites and the Amaleqites – and leaving no surviving witnesses who might reveal the true nature of their activities. When speaking with Akhish, David claims that he has been plundering Jewish communities and the camps of the allies of Israel, which finds favor in the eyes of his host and reinforces his impression that David has joined the Pelishtim wholeheartedly and permanently.

Clearly, David’s conduct in this chapter raises numerous moral questions. In addition to raiding and plundering random communities, David misrepresents himself to Akhish and “earns” his trust through dishonesty. We can sympathize with David’s difficult situation, his need to support himself and his troops, and his conflict of loyalties. We can even view his assailing and weakening the enemies of Israel as a positive contribution to the security and welfare of his brethren and therefore as ethically justified or even noble. Nevertheless, his choices appear to us less than ideal even under these challenging circumstances; they just don’t seem “Davidic!” Some elements of this moral ambiguity and of the problematic character of David’s behavior here will come to the fore and be addressed later on in the development of this story.