1 Samuel 21:13
So he changed his behavior before them and feigned madness in their hands; he scratched on the doors of the gate and let his saliva run down his beard.
David Scrabbling At the GateT. De Witt Talmage.1 Samuel 21:13
Almost GoneF. B. Meyer, B. A.1 Samuel 21:1-15
The Hero UnheroicD. Fraser 1 Samuel 21:8-15
The Fear of ManB. Dale 1 Samuel 21:10-15

And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid (ver. 12). The fear of man is not always sinful. As in certain cases, and within certain limits, the approbation of others is a natural and proper object of desire, so the disapprobation of others is a like object of dread; and it often restrains from temptation and impels to virtuous conduct. But it is sinful when it exists where it ought not, or in an undue measure; when it hinders us from doing right lest we should incur their displeasure, or incites us to do wrong in order to avoid it. Such fear has often possessed the servants of God (Genesis 12:12; Exodus 30:11, 22; 1 Samuel 16:2; Matthew 26:72). It was felt by David when he fled from Saul; and still more when recognised by the servants of Achish, king of Gath, and brought before him. To avoid what appeared to him inevitable death he feigned madness, and his dissimulation (though no more reprehensible than the stratagems which many others have devised in great straits) was unworthy of his high character. Notice -


1. Distrust of Divine protection, which he had already exhibited. If he had not, to some extent, "cast away his confidence," he would hardly have come to Gath at all; for God could assuredly protect him in his own]and. And now, deprived of "the shield of faith," he became victim to a fear as great as the courage he had formerly displayed.

2. The failure of worldly policy, which, through lack of faith, he had adopted. Like Peter, he went whither he was not called to go; and when his folly and presumption were suddenly revealed he was overwhelmed with dismay. His failure was, in its ultimate result, good; for, although he had no intention of turning his sword against his people, it prevented further entanglements arising out of his relation with his enemies, humbled him, and constrained him to cry to God for deliverance. It is better for a good man to be driven forth from the wicked in contempt than to be retained amongst them in honour.

3. The presence of personal danger; doubtless great, but exaggerated, as it always is, by fear. He that seeketh his life shall lose it. How common is the fear of man, arising from similar causes, in social, political, and religious life!

II. ITS INJURIOUS iNFLUENCE (ver. 13). The intercourse of David with Saul may possibly have suggested the device; which, moreover, was not an inappropriate expression of his inward agitation and misery. Fear -

1. Fills the mind with distracting anxiety and distress. He whose faith fails is no longer himself. He is driven hither and thither, like a ship upon the open sea (Luke 12:29).

2. Incites to the adoption of deceitful expedients. "The fear of man bringeth a snare" (Proverbs 29:25).

3. Exposes to ignominious contempt (ver. 15). "Signally did David show on this occasion that he possessed two of the powers most essential to genius - powers without which he could never have become the great poet he was - the power of observation and the power of imitation. He must previously have noticed with artistic accuracy all the disgusting details of madness; and now he is able to reproduce them with a startling fidelity. And in the possession of these powers we may, I think, find not an excuse for, but certainly an explanation of, that tendency to deceit, which otherwise it would be hard to account for in so holy a person. When a man finds it an easy and pleasurable exercise of ability to throw himself into existences alien to his own, he is tempted to a course of unreality and consequent untruthfulness which can hardly be conceived by a more self-bound nature. But if genius has its greater temptations, it also has greater strength to resist them. And the more godlike a genius is, the more unworthy and humiliating are its lapses. What more debasing sight can be imagined than that which David presented in the king's palace at Gath! Fingers which have struck the celestial lyre now scribble on the doors of the gate. From lips which have poured forth divinest song now drops the slaver of madness. The soul which has delighted in communion with God now emulates the riot of a fiend. And all this not brought on by the stroke of Heaven, which awes us while it saddens, but devised by a faithless craft" (J. Wright).


1. The overruling goodness of God, which often delivers his servants from the snares they have made for themselves, and sometimes mercifully controls their devices to that end; and (as we learn from the psalms which refer to the event) in connection with -

2. Earnest prayer for his kelp, and -

3. Restored confidence in his presence and favour. Faith is the antidote of fear. The following is an approximation to the chronological order of the eight psalms which are assigned by their inscriptions to the time of David's persecution by Saul: 7. (Cush) 59., 56., 34., 52., 57., 142., 54. (Delitzsch). See also the inscriptions of Psalm 63, and 18. Psalm 56, 'The prayer of a fugitive' (see inscription): -

"Be gracious unto me, O God...
In the day that I fear, in thee do I put my trust,
In God do I praise his word.
In God have I put my trust; I do not fear.
What can flesh do unto me.

(vers. 1, 4, 9, 12) Psalm 34., 'Thanksgiving for deliverance' (see inscription): -

"I will bless Jehovah at all times ....
I sought Jehovah, and he answered me,
And out of all my fears did he deliver me.
This afflicted one cried, and Jehovah heard,
And saved him out of all his troubles"

(vers. l, 3, 7, 12-16) When David sang these two songs God's grace had already dried his tears. Their fundamental tone is thanksgiving for favour and deliverance. But he who has an eye, therefore, will observe that they are still wet with tears, and cannot fail to see in the singer's outpourings of heart the sorrowfulest recollections of former sins and errors (Krummacher). - D.

And he changed his behaviour before them.
Taking the behaviour of David as a suggestion, I wish to tell you how many of the wise, and the brave, and the regal sometimes play the fool.

I. I REMARK THAT THOSE MEN AS BADLY PLAY THE FOOL AS THIS MAN OF THE TEXT, WHO IN ANY CRISIS OF LIFE TAKE THEIR CASE OUT OF THE HAND OF GOD. David, in this case, acted as though there were no God to lift him out of the predicament. The life of the most insignificant man is too vast for any human management.




(T. De Witt Talmage.).

Achish, Ahimelech, David, Doeg, Elah, Goliath, Saul
Gath, Nob, Valley of Elah
Acted, Beard, Behavior, Behaviour, Changed, Changeth, Changing, Chin, Demeanour, Disguised, Doors, Fall, Feigned, Feigneth, Gate, Hammering, Hands, Insane, Insanely, Letteth, Letting, Mad, Madman, Making, Marks, Mouth, Presence, Run, Saliva, Sanity, Scrabbled, Scratched, Scribbled, Scribbleth, Seem, Spittle, Town
1. David at Nob obtains Ahimelech's hallowed bread
7. Doeg is present
8. David takes Goliath's sword
10. David at Gath feigns himself insane

Dictionary of Bible Themes
1 Samuel 21:13

     5130   beard
     5297   disease
     6146   deceit, and God

1 Samuel 21:10-13

     5920   pretence

1 Samuel 21:10-15

     5401   madness

Historical Criticism of Mediæval Amplifications.
But along with the genuine and trustworthy matter, the compiler has embodied much that is unattested and in many cases inherently improbable, and even some things that are demonstrably untrue. i. The Miraculous Details.--To the category of the improbable--the fiction of hagiology or the growth of myth--belong the miracles so freely ascribed to Ephraim and the miraculous events represented as attending on his career. It is noteworthy that Ephraim himself, though no doubt he believed that he was
Ephraim the Syrian—Hymns and Homilies of Ephraim the Syrian

The Exile Continued.
"So David fled, and escaped and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done unto him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth" (1 Sam. xix. 18)--or, as the word probably means, in the collection of students' dwellings, inhabited by the sons of the prophets, where possibly there may have been some kind of right of sanctuary. Driven thence by Saul's following him, and having had one last sorrowful hour of Jonathan's companionship--the last but one on earth--he fled to Nob, whither
Alexander Maclaren—The Life of David

Of Preparation.
That a Christian ought necessarily to prepare himself before he presume to be a partaker of the holy communion, may evidently appear by five reasons:-- First, Because it is God's commandment; for if he commanded, under the pain of death, that none uncircumcised should eat the paschal lamb (Exod. xii. 48), nor any circumcised under four days preparation, how much greater preparation does he require of him that comes to receive the sacrament of his body and blood? which, as it succeeds, so doth it
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety

Touching Jacob, However, that which He did at his Mother's Bidding...
24. Touching Jacob, however, that which he did at his mother's bidding, so as to seem to deceive his father, if with diligence and in faith it be attended to, is no lie, but a mystery. The which if we shall call lies, all parables also, and figures designed for the signifying of any things soever, which are not to be taken according to their proper meaning, but in them is one thing to be understood from another, shall be said to be lies: which be far from us altogether. For he who thinks this, may
St. Augustine—Against Lying

Alike from the literary and the historical point of view, the book[1] of Samuel stands midway between the book of Judges and the book of Kings. As we have already seen, the Deuteronomic book of Judges in all probability ran into Samuel and ended in ch. xii.; while the story of David, begun in Samuel, embraces the first two chapters of the first book of Kings. The book of Samuel is not very happily named, as much of it is devoted to Saul and the greater part to David; yet it is not altogether inappropriate,
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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