Am I in need of madmen, that you have brought this man to rave in my presence? Must this man come into my house?"
1 Samuel 21:10-15. (GATH)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 -
I. ITS PRINCIPAL CAUSES.
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).
III. ITS EFFECTUAL REMOVAL by -
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...
"I will bless Jehovah at all times ....
And he changed his behaviour before them.
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.
II. I REMARK THAT ALL THOSE PERSONS PLAY THE FOOL, AS CERTAINLY AS DID THIS MAN OF THE TEXT, WHO ALLOW THE TECHNICALITIES OF RELIGION TO STOP THEIR SALVATION.
III. I GO STILL FURTHER, AND SAY TO YOU THAT THOSE MEN PLAY THE FOOL WHO UNDERTAKE TO PAY OUT ETERNITY FOR TIME.
IV. I SAY TO YOU THAT THOSE MEN PLAY THE FOOL WHO, WHILE THEY ADMIT THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF RELIGION, SET IT DOWN FOR FUTURE ATTENDANCE.
(T. De Witt Talmage.).
PeopleAchish, Ahimelech, David, Doeg, Elah, Goliath, Saul
PlacesGath, Nob, Valley of Elah
TopicsAct, Bring, Carry, Fellow, Front, Lack, Mad, Madman, Mad-man, Madmen, Mad-men, Play, Presence, Rave, Tricks, Unbalanced
Outline1. 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 Themes1 Samuel 21:10-15
LibraryHistorical 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.
Touching Jacob, However, that which He did at his Mother's Bidding...
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