Skeptics love to try to find fault with the gospels because there are sometimes accounts that seem to be similar in some ways, but have differences. They are fond of suggesting that these differences are contradictions. In this post, I examine two accounts that have some similarities, but enough differences that if they were in two different gospels, the skeptics would tell us that they are contradictory accounts.
The two accounts I have in mind are of David's visits to Achish. The two accounts are very different. In the first account, David comes to Achish and pretends to be insane. In the second account, David comes to Achish and pretends to be a traitor to Saul. In both cases, Achish is taken in by the act, and in both cases the song that the women sang, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands," comes up in the discussion.
1. Madman Encounter
1 Samuel 21:10-15
And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. And the servants of Achish said unto him, "Is not this David the king of the land? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, 'Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands'?"
And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath. And he changed his behaviour before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard.
Then said Achish unto his servants, "Lo, ye see the man is mad: wherefore then have ye brought him to me? Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house?"
2. Traitor Encounter
1 Samuel 27:1-12 (Whole Chapter); 28:1-2; and 29:1-11 (Whole Chapter)
And David said in his heart, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me any more in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand." And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath. And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, even David with his two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the Carmelitess, Nabal's wife. And it was told Saul that David was fled to Gath: and he sought no more again for him.
And David said unto Achish, "If I have now found grace in thine eyes, let them give me a place in some town in the country, that I may dwell there: for why should thy servant dwell in the royal city with thee?"
Then Achish gave him Ziklag that day: wherefore Ziklag pertaineth unto the kings of Judah unto this day. And the time that David dwelt in the country of the Philistines was a full year and four months.
And David and his men went up, and invaded the Geshurites, and the Gezrites, and the Amalekites: for those nations were of old the inhabitants of the land, as thou goest to Shur, even unto the land of Egypt. And David smote the land, and left neither man nor woman alive, and took away the sheep, and the oxen, and the asses, and the camels, and the apparel, and returned, and came to Achish.
And Achish said, "Whither have ye made a road to day?"
And David said, "Against the south of Judah, and against the south of the Jerahmeelites, and against the south of the Kenites."
And David saved neither man nor woman alive, to bring tidings to Gath, saying, "Lest they should tell on us, saying, 'So did David, and so will be his manner all the while he dwelleth in the country of the Philistines.'"
And Achish believed David, saying, "He hath made his people Israel utterly to abhor him; therefore he shall be my servant for ever."
And it came to pass in those days, that the Philistines gathered their armies together for warfare, to fight with Israel. And Achish said unto David, "Know thou assuredly, that thou shalt go out with me to battle, thou and thy men."
And David said to Achish, "Surely thou shalt know what thy servant can do."
And Achish said to David, "Therefore will I make thee keeper of mine head for ever."
Now the Philistines gathered together all their armies to Aphek: and the Israelites pitched by a fountain which is in Jezreel. And the lords of the Philistines passed on by hundreds, and by thousands: but David and his men passed on in the rereward with Achish. Then said the princes of the Philistines, "What do these Hebrews here?"
And Achish said unto the princes of the Philistines, "Is not this David, the servant of Saul the king of Israel, which hath been with me these days, or these years, and I have found no fault in him since he fell unto me unto this day?"
And the princes of the Philistines were wroth with him; and the princes of the Philistines said unto him, "Make this fellow return, that he may go again to his place which thou hast appointed him, and let him not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he be an adversary to us: for wherewith should he reconcile himself unto his master? should it not be with the heads of these men? Is not this David, of whom they sang one to another in dances, saying, 'Saul slew his thousands, and David his ten thousands'?"
Then Achish called David, and said unto him, "Surely, as the LORD liveth, thou hast been upright, and thy going out and thy coming in with me in the host is good in my sight: for I have not found evil in thee since the day of thy coming unto me unto this day: nevertheless the lords favour thee not. Wherefore now return, and go in peace, that thou displease not the lords of the Philistines."
And David said unto Achish, "But what have I done? and what hast thou found in thy servant so long as I have been with thee unto this day, that I may not go fight against the enemies of my lord the king?"
And Achish answered and said to David, "I know that thou art good in my sight, as an angel of God: notwithstanding the princes of the Philistines have said, 'He shall not go up with us to the battle.' Wherefore now rise up early in the morning with thy master's servants that are come with thee: and as soon as ye be up early in the morning, and have light, depart."
So David and his men rose up early to depart in the morning, to return into the land of the Philistines. And the Philistines went up to Jezreel.