Our doctrine of the perspicuity, or clarity, of Scripture tells us that the Bible is so clear on the basics of salvation that anyone of normal intelligence who carefully reads God’s Word can discern the essential gospel. Advanced education can be helpful, but it is not required to know what God expects of us. This doctrine of perspicuity also recognizes that not everything in Scripture is easy to understand. Some passages are more difficult to interpret than others even if no one can miss the gospel in the pages of the Bible.
Today’s passage certainly qualifies as one of the more difficult passages of Scripture. It is easy enough to understand what is going on; however, it is difficult to know how to evaluate it. We see in 1 Samuel 27:1–4 that David decided the best way to escape Saul was to flee to Philistine territory and take up residence in the city of Gath. David had been there before, and he deceived the city’s king, Achish, by pretending to be insane, thereby keeping the Philistines from killing him (21:10–15). This time, David did not have to feign insanity. Achish would have heard of Saul’s war with David, so he probably felt secure in allowing him into the city. This enemy of his enemy—Israel’s King Saul—could be counted on as a friend. Achish gave the country town of Ziklag to David, and it became a royal possession after David ascended the throne (27:5–7).
Little in the narrative tells us what we are to think of David’s actions. Perhaps the very fact that he sought security among the Philistines is enough to make his choice questionable. After all, God had shown Himself able to keep David safe within the boundaries of Israel (chs. 18–26), so David’s seeking refuge in Philistia may indicate a lapse of faith. It could be that David’s raids from Ziklag confirm this. We see how David would go out against enemies of Israel such as the Amalekites (see Ex. 17:8–16) who were in the south of Judah. After defeating them, he would bring spoil back to Achish and lie to the king, telling him that he was conducting raids on the Israelites (1 Sam. 27:8–12). We do not want to make too much of this, for some actions are acceptable in times of war that are not necessarily acceptable in times of peace (for example, espionage). This was a time of war, with both Achish and the peoples David raided being actual enemies of Israel. Still, David’s successful deception put him in a quandary. Achish was so pleased with David’s work that he commissioned David to join him against Israel (28:1–2). What would he do?