And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war. (1 Sam. 18:5)
And the women sang to one another as they celebrated,
“Saul has stuck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.” (1 Sam. 18:7)
And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. (1 Sam. 18:8)
And Saul eyed David from that day on. (1 Sam. 18:9)
Saul sought David’s death. He sent David into battle hopeful for his fall at the hands of their enemies. He attempted to make orders to have David killed by his servants. He tried to kill David himself. David eluded every of Saul’s attempts. Just when it seemed Saul’s plans were closing in on David, David chose to flee. Saul continued pursuing David’s death until Saul’s death in the final chapter of the book of 1 Samuel.
Psalm 34 begins with the words, “Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.” This leads us to David’s remembrance of an event which took place in 1 Samuel 21:10-15.
“And David rose and fled that day from Saul…” (1 Sam. 21:10)
David went to Achish the king of Gath. Abimelech referenced in the beginning of Psalm 34 is Achish. Either he was referenced by two names, or one was a title common to all Philistine kings; the way sometimes you will hear the leader of our country referred to as Mr. President well knowing, it is not his name. David was recognized there by servants of Achish as the king of whom the words were sung, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” (1 Sam. 21:11) Hearing this, David knew he was discovered and unsafe where he was; he was afraid. Then, as the beginning of Psalm 34 reminisces, “He changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane.” (1 Sam. 21:13) Achish questioned why his servants brought him a madman.
“David departed from there and escaped…” (1 Sam. 22:1)
David wrote Psalm 34 to commemorate this event in his life. Here David’s focus was not on his own actions in deceiving Abimelech but instead on the greatness of the undeserved salvation he received from the Lord.