Having described Saul’s final rejection by the Lord at En-dor (1 Sam. 28), the author of 1 Samuel returns to David in today’s passage. Remember that when last we saw him, David had settled in Philistine territory at Ziklag, a town the Philistine king Achish had given to him. Achish was fond of David because he would go on military raids and bring spoil back to the king. David had managed to deceive Achish, convincing the king that he was attacking Israelites when he was really defeating enemies of Israel such as the Amalekites. Achish was so impressed with David that he told the son of Jesse to come fight alongside him (27:1–28:2).
Of course, this put David into a predicament. Though he was on the run from Saul, he was no friend of the Philistines long term. His response to Achish was deliberately ambiguous, for all he said was that Achish knew what David was capable of doing (28:2). That was enough to convince Achish that David was on his side, but it meant that David was in danger of being found out, for surely this future king of Israel would not fight against his own people when pressed. David needed a way out of this predicament.
God providentially gave David a way out, as we see in today’s passage. Achish was impressed with David, but the other Philistine leaders complained about his presence. They could not be convinced that he was on their side even though Achish vouched for him. The Philistines believed that he would fight against them, for after all, he was known for his daring exploits against Philistia (29:1–5).
Achish told David to go home and not to worry about fighting alongside him, and David turned away from traveling with the Philistines. He would not be fighting alongside them or against them on this occasion (vv. 6–11). The important thing to grasp here is how the Lord brought this all to pass. God is not mentioned in the narrative, but He does not have to be in order for us to see His hand in this episode. The Lord has been present explicitly throughout David’s life thus far, so there is no reason to think He would suddenly be absent. Also, Scripture sometimes does not mention God explicitly in order to highlight the invisible hand of His providence. The book of Esther is perhaps the best example of this. Finally, this is the way God often works in our lives. We see Him operating behind the scenes, quietly directing our lives, rarely announcing His work in a spectacular fashion.