“The Philistines gathered all their forces at Aphek, and Israel camped by the spring in Jezreel. As the Philistine rulers marched with their units of hundreds and thousands, David and his men were marching at the rear with Achish. The commanders of the Philistines asked,
‘What about these Hebrews?’
‘Is this not David, who was an officer of Saul king of Israel? He has already been with me for over a year, and from the day he left Saul until now, I have found no fault in him.’
But the Philistine commanders were angry with him and said,
‘Send the man back, that he may return to the place you assigned him. He must not go with us into battle, or he will turn against us during the fighting. How better could he regain his master’s favor than by taking the heads of our own men?’ ” (1Sa 29:1-4).
This is surely a possibility to consider: did David really hope to go into battle alongside the Philistines, and then turn against them — making another show of loyalty to Saul? The Philistine commanders certainly thought so (v 4)!
If this were the case, then — providentially — God did not allow this, because He knew that Saul and his army were to be defeated, and it would not be good if David were to be associated with them in that day!
If Achish had allowed David to remain, can we suppose he would have been faithful to Achish (and the Philistines) and fight against Israel? Or would he have done — as the lords of the Philistines said — and joined with Saul against the Philistines in battle? I would guess that he would have used the occasion to turn against the Philistines and fight for Saul and Israel. But, either way, God prevented him from being in such a situation… in fact, He sees that David is sent far away from the battle, because either alternative was not the best for David:
- Fighting against Saul was unacceptable; the sort of thing David had never done before, and which he had gone to great lengths to avoid, even when Saul sought his life — Saul was after all the LORD’s Anointed.
- Switching sides to fight for Saul and against the Philistines would have placed him on the “wrong side” too, in that God seems to have determined that Saul and his house would fall in battle; this was His plan, to open the way for David to assume the throne for which he was intended. And David, being there personally, would only cause problems.
When you think about it, it seems to me this is a lot like the political quandary that Christadelphians face all the time: ie,
“So why DON’T you vote in such-and-such elections? Surely you can see that Party X and its candidates are better/more righteous/more suitable in God’s sight than Party Y and its candidates.” And the answer — at least, AN answer — would be: “Even if Party X — like Saul — is ‘better’ than Party Y — the Philistines — that doesn’t necessarily mean that God wants Party X — or Saul — to win out this time!
So I take no position on this matter, and leave it to God to work out in His own way.”