David left the promised land and moved into the territory of the Philistines. After so many years of being on the run as a fugitive, David gave in to doubt and unbelief. He failed to continue trusting God’s promises. After his latest confrontation with Saul, David came to two conclusions of unbelief:
1) that Saul’s pursuit would succeed and he would be killed by the hand of Saul.
2) That he must flee for his life from the promised land, and live in the land of the Philistines. Keep in mind God’s promises to David, that he was the anointed king of Israel and would eventually be given the power of the throne.
His wife Abigail had declared that fact as well as Jonathan. Even Saul himself had admitted that David would someday have the throne (1 Samuel 24:20-21;26:25). But despite all the assurances David had, the pressure of being pursued for seven long years weighed heavily on him (Psalm 13:1-2).
Lacking the faith and patience to wait on God, David instructed his 600 men and their families to break camp and prepare to leave the Promised Land. They would go to King Achish and seek the right to live among the Philistines. Earlier David had attempted to live among the Philistines right after becoming a fugitive. But at that time King Achish and his officials felt that they could not trust David, but this time David was a well-known fugitive, known to be a threat to the throne of Saul.
Being aware that David was a fugitive on the run, King Achish welcomed David and his men as mercenary soldiers. They and their families were allowed to settle in Gath, the Philistine capital. Hearing of David’s flight into Philistine territory, Saul backed off and no longer pursued David. He could not risk facing the entire Philistine army. David wisely requested to leave the royal city in order to settle in a country town. His reason was to prevent any sense of a threat to King Achish.
David and his 2,000 followers would be a heavy burden on the city of Gath possibly causing dissension, and division among the people. King Achish granted David’s wish and gave the town of Ziklag to him and his followers. David lived in Philistine territory for one year and four months. The pressure of circumstances caused David to doubt God’s promises. His faith wavered and he became despondent and discouraged, failing to trust the promises of God. We are prone to the same challenges. Doubt and unbelief will keep us from entering the rest promised by God.
1 Samuel 27:8-12 David carried out some major military operations while living in Philistine territory, in the city of Ziklag. But because David was living a life of doubt and unbelief, not trusting God’s promises we find him living a life of deception and lies. But he did use this time to conquer more of the Promised Land. Ziklag had been assigned to the tribe of Simeon and Judah, but the city and its surrounding territory had never been conquered by the Israelites.
Because Ziklag was so isolated, David was able to conquer surrounding territory that was controlled by several Canaanite nations: the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites these three nations had lived in this land from the time of Abraham. The policy of David when he attacked one of these areas was to follow the harem principle.
Herem in Hebrew means “to devote to the ban.” Once something had been devoted to God, it was placed under the ban: it could not be removed. It had to be given to God. It was a vow (Numbers 21:2-3;Deuteronomy 20:16-18;Joshua 11:20). How could God and a godly people possibly endorse such an act? People can become so evil and corrupt that they are beyond repair or repentance. This is what is known as the “cup of iniquity being full” (Genesis 15:16).
God is a just God as well as a God of love. To allow injustice to go unpunished would be evil. Israel was used by God as His instrument of justice and judgment against the nations of Canaan. Israel did not receive the promised land because of their goodness or righteousness but because God chose them to be his instruments of justice as well as righteousness to the nations, when they failed to be a faithful witness God judged them as well (Deuteronomy 9:5).
However when destroying theses nations, David did plunder them, saving the animals and spoils to give some to King Achish as tribute as any common warlord would do. But when King Achish would ask what areas he had raided, note what happened: David lied and deceived the king. He suggested that he was raiding areas under Israel’s control (1 Samuel 27:10-12).
And David was successful in deceiving King Achish, because he left no informant surviving who could tell the king that David was actually attacking territory that were friendly with King Achish. He was totally deceived by David’s lies, trusting David fully (1 Samuel 27:12). Despite David’s lies, God was still working out events to fulfill His promises to David, just as He does for so many of us when we slip back and begin to doubt and distrust God’s promises.
During all this time, word was trickling back to the Israelites that David was conquering some of their enemies. Of course, this was good news to the Israelites, and David’s popularity among the Israelite leaders and people grew even more. Let me make it clear that lying is never really condoned by the Lord. If it becomes habitual it can harden our hearts to God and His Spirit (Romans 1:18,29-32;Galatians 5:19-21;Revelation 21:8;Psalm 5:6;Proverbs 12:22).