Theme: How David Felt
In this week’s lessons we learn from the life of David that when we are afflicted by the attacks of others, we can have confidence in the Lord, whose word never fails.
Scripture: Psalm 56:1-13
There are three things worth noting about David’s time in Gath, when this psalm was written.
David was alone. He had fled from Saul without any soldiers, in fact, even without food or weapons. We think of him having at least his four hundred valiant men with him when he was in the wilderness. We think of him having hearty companionship and at least some protection. But according to 1 Samuel 22, the gathering of his army occurred after the time in Gath. So David was entirely alone at this time. There was no one with him.
David was desperate. I have a good reason for saying this, and you will see it as soon as I point out that Gath had been the home of the giant Goliath, whom David had killed just a few years before. Goliath was a Philistine hero, and he had certainly been the pride of Gath. What except desperation would cause anyone to walk alone into the home town of the hero he had killed?
And there is this, too, which I have not seen it mentioned in any of the commentaries. When David was at Nob, he had asked Ahimelech if he had any weapons, and Ahimelech gave him the only weapon he had, the sword of Goliath, which had been placed in Nob after David’s victory. The sword is not described in the account of David’s fight with Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. But the account does say that Goliath was over nine feet tall and that his body armor and bronze javelin were unusually large and heavy. His sword must have been large too, and it was certainly remembered by the people of Gath and was easily recognized by them. There are only two ways any sane man would walk into Gath under those conditions: either in arrogant pride or desperation. Since we know from the psalm that David was afraid rather than arrogant, he must have gone to Gath in near despair.
Derek Kidner begins his study by noting this: “To have fled from Saul to Gath of all places, the home town of Goliath, took the courage of despair; it measured David’s estimate of his standing with his people.” David’s attempt to find safety in Gath was not successful, of course. So Kidner adds, “This has failed, and David is now doubly encircled.”1
David was afraid. We are told this explicitly in 1 Samuel. When David arrived in Gath his presence was reported to the king of Gath, a man called Achish. The people told Achish, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’?” (1 Sam. 21:11).
Those “tens of thousands” were Philistines, and some of the former people of Gath as well as their hero Goliath were among them. Therefore, we are not surprised to read in the next sentence, “David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath” (v. 12). Since David had no one to defend him he resorted to cunning, pretending to be out of his mind so Achish would despise him rather than kill him. So he eventually escaped.
What do we know about the city of Gath?
What evidence is there of David’s being alone, desperate, and afraid?
Reflection: Have you ever felt as David did at this time of his life? What helped you during this difficult period? What did you discover about God in fresh ways?
1Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary on Books l and II of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973), p. 202.