Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bible Commentary - 2 Samuel 2

In this chapter, David and a descendant of Saul take parts of Israel and fight a war against each other.

A couple of chapters ago I said that not all of Saul's sons were killed in the battle on Mount Gilboa (in 1 Samuel 31), and now we can see that one of Saul's descendants, Ish-Bosheth, is declared king over the northern tribes by Abner.  To understand what is happening, there are a couple things to keep in mind.

1) David is from the tribe of Judah.  1 Samuel 30 has David sending gifts to the elders of all the major towns in Judah.  Judah as a whole is inclined to follow David because of the tribal affiliation to him, and this has been a persistent theme throughout the entire OT.

2) Abner is a powerful official under Saul, and it's pretty clear that he is supporting Ish-Bosheth because he wants to remain a powerful official.  It's plausible that he is also acting out of loyalty to Saul, but there is no doubt in my mind that his own personal interests align closely with Ish-Bosheth, and that David becoming king would mean that Abner would be removed from power just as much as Ish-Bosheth.  Furthermore, if Ish-Bosheth remains king, he would be indebted to Abner for supporting him, so Abner has everything to gain by "making him king".

3) Israel is likely supporting Abner and Ish-Bosheth because they represent the "current administration" and Abner is the commander over the nation's armies.  At this point, David is just a well-known renegade commanding a couple hundred men, and he is supported by Judah because Judah wants one of their own people to be king.  Abner is the commander over the entire nation's army, including tens of thousands of men.  Simple momentum dictates that the nation would continue to follow Abner, even after the king is dead.

Even though Ish-Bosheth is anointed king over all the northern tribes, he is still clearly associated with Benjamin, which is his tribe and the tribe of his father Saul.  This affiliation is so strong that verse 15 says that twelve men fought for "Benjamin and Ish-Bosheth the son of Saul".

What is unclear to me is why David and Abner are fighting a war.  Without listing any grievances, it's as if both factions simply assumed that there could only be one king over a united Israel, and the natural thing for two kings to do is to try to kill or unseat one another.  Another possibility is that Abner and Ish-Bosheth are possibly still trying to kill David, since they had spent at least a couple years chasing David in the wilderness.  David had been an outlaw and renegade for a long time, and Abner had led the armies chasing after him.  It might be that Abner is trying to kill David because he is afraid of David taking control of the nation, the same way that Saul was afraid of David.

I think all of these reasons are valid.  Given how much respect David has for Saul, I think it's more likely that Abner would aggress against David than vice versa.  So I guess this just goes to show, it only takes one side to start a war.  But this is all speculation on my part.  As my readers may observe, the text does not actually state a reason why they are fighting.

When they do fight, we see Abner and Joab sending forth 12 champions from each side, and all 24 men die at the hands of their foe.  This is (in some ways) similar to Goliath and David, who fought as champions on behalf of their respective side.  Just like when David and Goliath fought, these men fight each other as the prelude to a battle, not as the replacement for a larger engagement.

The rest of this battle has some interesting and important details.  Before discussing that, I will remind everyone who all these people are.

Joab, Abishai and Asahel are sons of Zeruiah, and they are allies of David.  Joab in particular is basically David's chief commander, equivalent in rank and purpose to Abner.  Abner, for his part, was the chief commander under Saul, and is now the chief commander under Ish-Bosheth.  Since Ish-Bosheth was not the heir apparent (that was probably Jonathan), he would not have been groomed for leadership.  In fact, this is the very first chapter where Ish-Bosheth is even mentioned.  So he was clearly not a senior or visible figure under Saul, and while Abner "made him king", in many ways Abner is a more powerful figure now than Ish-Bosheth is.

Abner kills Asahel, but he knows that Joab is unlikely to forgive him for this.  Indeed, I'm going to be talking about this later because there will be conflict between Abner and Joab in the next chapter.

In the end, Abner and his men flee to Mahanaim (which is where Ish-Bosheth reigns, see v. 8).  Joab and David's men return to Hebron where David reigns over Judah.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Bible Commentary - 2 Samuel 1

In this chapter, David mourns Saul's death.

This chapter begins the story again without so much as a preamble.  We pick up with David's reaction to the death of Saul, and like so many other things in the OT, David commemorates Saul's life with a song.  (For other songs, consider the song of Deborah, the song of Moses, another song of Moses, and so on.)

Let us analyze the Amalekite's story.  The Amalekite says that he came upon Saul when Saul was near death.  This is interesting because 1 Samuel 31 (the chapter that we just read before this one) tells us that Saul "fell on his own sword" and died, and then his armorbearer did the same thing and died.  It would appear that the Amalekite is not telling the truth, or at least he is not telling us the same thing as the author of Samuel.  So that raises the question, how did the author of Samuel discover the ultimate fate of Saul?

1 Samuel 31:7 gives us a hint; it says that "the men of Israel ... saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead."  So it's plausible that some of the Israelite survivors of the battle saw how Saul had died, impaled on his own sword, still wounded by Philistine arrows, and must have inferred that he was injured and killed himself to avoid capture.

The second question raised is this: is the Amalekite lying, or is his story somehow complementary to what the author of Samuel wrote in the previous chapter?  It is conceivable that Saul "fell on his sword" and then survived somehow only to request an attending Amalekite to slay him.  However, 1 Samuel 31:5 makes it pretty clear that the armorbearer slew himself when he saw that Saul was dead.  So all these things taken together, I think it's unlikely that the Amalekite is telling the truth.

This raises the third question, which is this: why would the Amalekite lie, when David kills him for it?  And the answer to this question is more clear than the previous.  The Amalekite, like so many others, assumed that David was a mortal enemy of Saul and would reward him for killing the Hebrew king.  This was a common perception at the time, and we see Achish showing similar reasoning.  Achish assumed that David would fight on his behalf against Israel.  This was a perception that David encouraged when he told Achish that he was taking his men to attack Israelite and Kenite towns.

Basically, the Amalekite thought he was bringing "good news" to David, and that David would be pleased with him.  Obviously, this was not the case, and the Amalekite loses his life for it.  Verse 16 puts it clearly: David was really, really loyal to "the LORD's anointed".  Even when the "LORD's anointed" was a psychopath who was trying to kill David and led Israel into several disastrous defeats.

The second half of this chapter is David's song.  This is called "the song of the bow" (v. 18), and even more interestingly it is "written in the book of Jashar".  The book of Jashar (or Jasher) is an ancient Hebrew book that has no extant copies.  Which is to say, nobody alive in the last 1000 years has ever read it, and probably longer than that.  It is possible that the book of Jashar is also referenced in Joshua 10:13.  I always find these kinds of books fascinating, where we can read about them but cannot read the book itself because it does not exist anymore.  We can guess based on its description here that it might be a book of poetry or war songs or something.  But really, this one reference is basically everything we know about the book of Jashar.

David's song itself is basically a poetic retelling of what we just read at the end of 1st Samuel.  David obviously loved both Saul and Jonathan, and the "mountains of Gilboa" that David is cursing is where Saul and Jonathan died.  I don't really have anything else meaningful to say about this part, it's just another poetic song.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Bible Commentary - 2 Samuel Introduction

Alright team, it's time to begin the second half of Samuel!  At this point, we are well into King David's drama and past the Judges era.  1st Samuel ended with Saul's death, and now it's David's turn.

As with 1st Samuel, 2nd Samuel is almost entirely stories, which in this case cover the life and reign of David.  Like many figures in the bible, we get to see both the good side and the darker side of David, and this book contains the most grievous sin that he is recorded committing, as well as the long-term fallout from it.  David fights a lot of wars, some of which are against fellow Israelites, and even has to fight a war against his own son, who tries to usurp the throne.  So this book has a lot of conflict and I think it makes very interesting reading, and it's also relatively straightforward.

Since it was originally written as a single unit with 1st Samuel, the date of composition and authorship is very similar, although like most other things about the bible, the date and authorship of Samuel is fiercely debated.  Like many parts of the bible, there is a traditional view, a modern view, and then a bunch of other views.  The traditional view is that the book of Samuel was written by Samuel himself, as well as Nathan and Gad, sometime in the 11th or 10th centuries BCE around the time that David and these other personages lived.  The modern view, generally called the Deuteronomistic History, is that Samuel was composed sometime in the 6th century BCE and that many of the people in this book, including David himself, may not be historical.

This theory has many parallels to the JEDP theory, which is the modern theory for the composition of the Pentateuch.  For instance, both theories were devised by Germans (the first in the 19th century, the second in the 20th century) and both theories are that sections of the OT were composed through successive generations of editors modifying and expanding on historical fragments and stories.  By contrast, the traditional view for all of these books typically emphasizes the idea that a single or primary author wrote large sections of their respective works.  In the case of the Pentateuch, traditional scholarship suggests it was written by Moses.  In the case of Samuel, traditional scholarship says that it was written by Samuel, Nathan and Gad as I stated above.

Anyway, what I'd like to talk about now is how 2nd Samuel fits into the broader narrative arc of the OT.  1st Samuel took us out of the Judges era and into the kingdom, which began with the horrendous kingship of Saul.  This book takes us from Saul's death to more or less the end of David's reign.  We are entering the kingdom period, which is basically defined by a succession of figures, one after the other, ruling over Israel.  The spiritual state of the kingdom will closely follow the behavior of the king throughout this era, with righteous kings ushering in periods of devotion to the LORD and unrighteous kings ushering in periods of idolatry and various other problems.  David is obviously a righteous king (taken as a whole), and he wins a lot of victories over the hostile nations surrounding him, but his reign is nevertheless quite tumultuous.

The other thing that's really important is to track the differences between the northern tribes and Judah.  During the reign of Saul, a Benjamite, all of Israel was united until his rule.  For a long time David only reigns over Judah (which is his father's tribe, as David was born in Bethlehem of Judah).  After several years of war, he succeeds in uniting his kingdom over both Judah and the northern tribes, and it will remain united under Solomon, but immediately after Solomon dies the kingdom ruptures again into a northern kingdom (confusingly referred to as Israel) and a southern kingdom (referred to as Judah, even though it likely includes most of Simeon, many Levites, and possibly chunks of other tribes like Benjamin).

So for a lot of 2nd Samuel, and much more so in the book of Kings, there is a lot of discord between the northern tribes (dominated by Ephraim) and Judah, and this will have a significant effect on Israel's future.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Bible Commentary - 1 Samuel 31

In this chapter, Saul dies in battle with the Philistines.

What Samuel prophesied beginning in 1 Samuel 13 has finally come to pass, that Saul would not remain as king over Israel, nor will his kingdom (i.e. ruling descendants) endure.  Both Saul and Jonathan die.  However, not all of Saul's sons are killed, so while his descendants never regain the throne, his family line is not entirely wiped out.  This is actually going to result in further strife as we move into 2 Samuel.

For now, though, the Philistines carry off Saul's body and armor and weapons as trophies of their victory.  In verse 11, we are told that men from Jabesh Gilead snuck into Philistine territory and buried Saul's body.  Remember how Saul's first act as the anointed king was to rescue this same Jabesh Gilead from the Ammonites?  The men of Jabesh Gilead remembered and they appear to have remained loyal to Saul this whole time.  Even though they couldn't save Saul's life, they were able to keep him from further disgrace at the hands of the Philistines.  In ancient times it was considered a great shame to have one's body kept unburied.  Therefore the Philistines are keeping Saul's body upon their city wall both as a monument to their victory, but also to humiliate Saul.

This is the end of 1st Samuel, but it should be evident that it's not the end of the story, because David is still living in exile and does not yet rule over Israel.  Textual evidence suggests that Samuel used to be a single book, and at some point (in antiquity, but after the book was written) it was broken into two parts, the 1st and 2nd halves of Samuel.  Therefore the story of 2nd Samuel will pick up right where we leave off here.

Saul is dead, but the story of Israel is not over.

Bible Commentary - 1 Samuel 30

In this chapter, Amalekites raid Ziklag but David recovers everything that is stolen.

This is another remarkable chapter, where David clearly demonstrates his personal character.  Having been rejected from the battle that will later be fought at Mount Gilboa, David might think that he's out of trouble.  But when they get home, they find that Ziklag has been raided and burned to the ground by the Amalekites.  Yes, the same Amalekites that harassed Israel when they marched out of Egypt, the same Amalekites that the LORD commanded Saul to crush, but somehow survived.  And now these same Amalekites are warring against Israel again, having raided the towns of Judah and Ziklag.  The Cherethites (or Kerethites) are not well understood.  They are either allies of Israel or some sort of Philistine group.

One small but interesting point to make here is that the Amalekites attacked the Philistines as well, not just the Israelites.  The OT spends a lot of time describing the hostility between Israel and the nations of Canaan, but in this case we see evidence that the nations in Canaan also warred against each other.  Since the bible is written from a Jewish perspective, it is natural that it would focus on Israel's relations to other tribes in the area, but my readers would be deceived if they thought that the nations in Canaan did not fight one another over the years.  Indeed, I believe the broad history of the the Near East shows that this area has been a cauldron of warfare and conflict for as long as human archaeological remains exist.

The more important point is just to reflect on how the Amalekites have continued to be a menace towards Israel even after Saul's erstwhile extermination campaign directed against them.  But even this is only a setup.  This whole story is about David.  You'd think the guy would get a break, but no.  After fleeing to Gath (ironically, the home of Goliath), David has escaped from Saul, but now his new home has been ransacked by the Amalekites.  Everything they possess is stolen and all their wives and children have been kidnapped into a life of slavery.  David's own wives are also kidnapped, and the men start talking about stoning him to death because of what happened to them.  "But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God."  In this nadir, with everything gone, everyone turning against him, hostile to Israel, living in the land of his enemies, David strengthens himself in the LORD.  This is incredible.

Remember what I said earlier about Saul?  When the enemy gathers and the people scatter, then the character of a man is revealed?  David's enemies attacked and destroyed his home, and now his people are "scattering" in the sense that they are discussing killing him, and his character is revealed.  In the darkest situations, David turned to the LORD for strength, to endure the challenges and to prevail.  This verse is the turning point in this chapter.

After this, he turns to the ephod for direction, and David goes with his men, ambushes the Amalekites, and recovers everything that was stolen.  Every woman, child, lamb and possession is recovered.  Not only did they recover everything, but they recovered the possessions stolen from Judah and the other places the Amalekites raided, so they came back with more belongings than what they had lost.

The text is very specific that they recovered everything, both small and great, that nothing was missing, and that David brought it all back.  It's so specific that I am sure the author is trying to make a point, although it's debatable what point that is.  I can't help but feel that this story is an allegory for salvation, even though I'm not sure if I can explain why.  I guess it's because "the enemy" came and stole all these things from David and his men, but through the LORD they were able to recover everything.  I think there are other possible interpretations, but all of them are along similar lines; through God, everything that was thought to be lost is recovered.  In my opinion this is one of David's finest moments, and it happens right in the midst of Saul's disastrous collapse, which comes to its disastrous conclusion in the next chapter.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bible Commentary - 1 Samuel 29

In this chapter, the Philistines gather to fight against Israel, and David is spared having to fight against his own people.

I can't remember if I mentioned this before, but I highly recommend listening to (or reading) Mike Bickle's series on the life of David.  It is available for free online (just search for "Mike Bickle life of David" on your favorite search engine).  That series is where I learned a lot of the things that I have written about David in this commentary.

Anyway, we have known for a couple chapters now that the Philistines are preparing for battle.  In the previous chapter, Achish (king of Gath, a city in Philistia) asked David to fight with him as his bodyguard, i.e. a highly trusted and elite unit whose purpose is to protect the king during battle.  David agrees to do it, but I can't help but suspect there is some reluctance on his part underneath his boastful response in 1 Samuel 28:2, because David had previously told Achish he was raiding the Israelites when in truth he was attacking hostile Canaanite tribes.  Now that David has been asked to fight along the Philistines, the ruse is up; OR IS IT????

David has another moment of miraculous luck (of which there have been several, like when the Philistines raided Israel just in time to draw Saul away from catching David?).  In this case, his miraculous luck is when the commanders of the Philistines demand that "these Hebrews" should not be present during the battle, because they are afraid that David and his men will betray them.

In prior chapters, I explained that battles in the Old Testament time period are heavily influenced by morale.  That's why Deut 20 permits the "afraid" or "fainthearted" man to leave a battle, because a panic or rout can begin with a single person and spread to cause an entire army to be defeated.

In this case, even if David only has 200 men and the Philistine army is more than 10 thousand, those 200 men could cause a panic in the Philistine army if they attacked at the right time and cause the Philistines to be defeated.  So I think the Philistine commanders are well-justified in their fears.

I also think it's hilarious that the Philistines mention the song exalting David's victories in v. 5.  It must have been a very popular song that they would still be talking about it years after David slew Goliath.

I also enjoy the conversation between David and Achish.  Achish is obviously a huge fan of David, and he's trying to "let David down gently", telling him that while he is pleased with David, the other Philistine lords do not trust David.  David, for his part, is acting wounded, asking what he could have possibly done wrong to get himself kicked out of this battle.

He is behaving as if he wished to fight against the Israelites.  But we know something Achish doesn't know: that David twice had the opportunity to murder Saul, and both times he declined to "stretch forth his hand against the LORD's anointed".  Even though Saul has tried to kill David many times, David has never tried to harm Saul even when he had the opportunity to do so.  Additionally, when the Philistines were plundering Keilah, David inquired of the LORD if he should go save Keilah, even at great personal risk.  So even in exile, David was fighting to protect the people of Israel and fighting against their enemies, even sometimes fighting against the Philistines.

Knowing all this, I think we can be certain that David would never attack Israel.  He was anointed king over this country, he fought their enemies many times over the years and won many great victories, and continued fighting for Israel even while Saul was seeking his life.  Getting kicked out of this battle by the Philistine commanders is remarkable fortune to David, because it keeps him out of a situation where he would have to betray Achish.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Bible Commentary - 1 Samuel 28

In this chapter, Saul is terrified of the Philistines and consults with a medium.

This chapter begins with yet another awkward exchange between David and Achish.  In this case, Achish is asking David to go with him to fight against Israel, and David (in keeping with his deception) agrees to go and fight against Israel.  Spoiler: David never has to actually fight against Israel.  But I have to wonder what David would have done if he found himself in a battle against Israel.  Would he have turned against Achish, or fled, or actually fought his own people?  None of these are good options, considering he is staying as a guest of Achish, but ultimately his loyalty is to the LORD and his own nation.

Regardless of what he would have done, David has no choice but to continue to deception until he finds a way out.  In the next chapter, David gets lucky and finds a way out of the battle.  But this situation could have ended very badly for him.

Starting in verse 3 we see that things are going much worse for Saul than they are for David, however.  Saul finds himself once more arrayed for battle against the Philistines, and like in earlier conflicts against the Philistines, his heart trembles with fear, but the LORD did not answer him.

In 1 Samuel 14:37, the LORD did not answer Saul, because of Jonathan who unknowingly violated Saul's oath.  Interestingly, that was after Jonathan won a great victory over these same Philistines.  Now Saul is fighting the Philistines again, but it is his own sin that prevents the LORD from speaking to him.  Saul sinned by not destroying the Amalekites and taking the plunder, sinned again by offering a sacrifice instead of waiting for Samuel, sinned by trying to kill David several times, sinned by killing Ahimelech and the families of the priests, and now that the LORD is not answering him, Saul sins again by seeking out a medium.

Out of his many problems, we can see that Saul turns first to Samuel, even going through a medium, rather than turning to the LORD.  I think this captures a lot of Saul's dysfunction in a nutshell.

Another way to capture the absurdity of this situation is that Saul murdered a bunch of priests and now he's trying to hear from the LORD?  And because he can't, he tries to call back the one priest that he had a somewhat decent relationship with?  But in doing so, he violates the covenant which says that any mediums and spiritualists should die, precisely because contacting the spirits of the dead is a way for people to seek direction or guidance without going to the LORD.

Saul has been acting under the direction of evil spirits, doing evil deeds, and separated from the LORD for years now.  That Saul thinks the LORD will continue to support his reign is absurd, and Samuel pretty much tells Saul how it is.

This chapter is quite unique however, as it is the only time in the entire bible that anyone visits a medium or spiritualist, and I think it's worth spending a few minutes analyzing the details thereof.

First of all, note that this chapter gives us very little (almost nothing) about the actual rituals or incantations involved in bringing a spirit of the dead back to this world.  So we aren't really told how the woman did this, only that she was capable of it and had a reputation such that Saul knew how to find her.

Secondly, it's very interesting that she recognizes Saul only when "the woman saw Samuel".  What is it about seeing Samuel that revealed Saul's deception to her?  Did Samuel tell her?

Third, how is it that this woman had the power to call back Samuel's spirit?  The bible does not directly answer this point, so most of what you will hear people say about it is learning by inference.  What I've heard most commonly from Christian sources is that spiritualism does not commune with the spirits of the dead, but rather with demons masquerading as the dead.  As such, the woman realized that something was wrong when Samuel appeared rather than the "normal spirits" that would talk to her.  By inference, this is possibly how she would know that Saul was there.

Of course, this doesn't actually answer the question of how she called back the real Samuel to converse with Saul.  The aforementioned sources usually assert that God made a special dispensation to bring Samuel to speak to Saul.  That is, it was not the woman's rituals or power that brought Samuel, but rather the LORD who brought Samuel to speak to Saul, and did so through the woman.  It's a similar argument to what happens when God speaks through Balaam in Numbers 22-24.  By all regards, Balaam is a pagan prophet who operated primarily through divination (animal sacrifice and reading or manipulating the entrails).  However, God utilized Balaam to pronounce three blessings over Israel, contrary to Balak's intention.

In this case, the conventional argument is that God is similarly using this unnamed woman to bring Samuel to speak to Saul, and that it was not the woman's spiritualism that accomplished the task.  Even so, I find this chapter quite interesting because it's one of a handful of incidents where the LORD uses idolatrous practices to further his own purposes.

Fourth, note that Saul cannot see Samuel; as is commonly true for seances like this.  Saul relies on the medium to communicate Samuel's words and appearance to him.

Lastly, this is the first time in the book that anyone told Saul directly that David would take his kingdom.  He's suspected it for years, but only now does he learn it for sure.

Sorry as it is to say, these are the last recorded words of Saul.  A couple chapters later Saul is going to die in battle against the Philistines, and go "be with" Samuel, wherever it is that Samuel happens to be.  I wish I could say that Saul ended well, but we can all see that Saul's end is pretty dishonorable.  Like many others in the bible, Saul's life is an example and warning to us, and in the last ~20 chapters I have written about Saul extensively, so I'm not going to repeat that now.  Saul's story is a grim warning, but if there's one thing that makes me hopeful, it's when Samuel says that Saul will "be with him" that next day.  In the first place, this means that Saul is going to die.  But in the second place, if we imagine Samuel being in heaven, then we can reason Saul might also go to heaven because that is where Samuel is.

Of course, to this point I have said almost nothing about heaven or hell because the bible has said almost nothing about heaven or hell.  Addressing this subject would take considerable effort, and I can't do a good job at it without referring to many New Testament (NT) passages.  But who can imagine a subject more deeply embedded in popular culture and (frankly) misunderstanding than heaven or hell.

I'll start with the basics here, if I can, and try to discuss this subject more thoroughly later.  There is a difference between the way that heaven is represented in the OT and the NT.  The NT representations of heaven are both diverse and complex, so I will leave that subject untouched.  The OT tends to be a lot simpler and more allusive.  The OT most commonly refers to "Sheol", which is variously translated as "the grave" or "hell", but it is not hell as modern readers would understand it.  In verse 15, Samuel criticizes Saul for "disturbing" him.  By implication, Sheol for Samuel is a place of rest, and for the righteous, that is how it is most commonly understood.

Typical OT descriptions of Sheol are a place of silence, rest or peace.  It is neither the heaven nor hell of modern conceptions, but a lot closer to purgatory, a sort of resting place.  Christians would likely view it as an intermediate resting place, preceding judgment by God.  But even this is scarcely made clear by OT sources.

So anyway, what makes me hopeful is that perhaps somehow Saul will find himself in a place of rest with Samuel, and while his life ends poorly, perhaps he will find rest in death that he did not find in life.

Bible Commentary - 1 Samuel 27

In this chapter, David flees out of Israel and into the land of Gath.

This is the second time that David has fled out of Israel.  The first time was back in chapter 21 when David also went to Achish, the king of Gath.  In that instance, Achish recognized David as a hero of Israel, so David was afraid and fled back to Israel, to the southern Judean desert.  Then he was hunted down and nearly killed multiple times by Saul, and now David seems to have had enough; he is fleeing again.

Achish's response to David is different this time.  Perhaps Achish has heard about Saul's many attempts to kill David, so instead of questioning him, Achish allows him to live there.  Keep in mind, Achish is still an enemy of Israel.  Achish allows David to remain because he believes that David is also an enemy of Saul.

Verses 8-12 are interesting.  In this passage, we learn that David spends his time attacking Geshurites, Girzites and Amalekites.  These are native Canaanite tribes that are hostile to Israel.  The Amalekites in particular are the nation that Israel was sworn to destroy.  However, when talking to Achish, David says that he was attacking the Negev (i.e. the southern desert) of Judah, Jerahmeel or the Kenites.  The first two are clans of Israel, and the Kenites are a tribe allied with Israel (remember that Moses's father in law was a Kenite).  So David is secretly massacring Israel's national enemies, which assuring Achish that he is attacking Israelite (and allied) towns.  That's why it says that David left no survivors, because he didn't want any witnesses who could go to Achish and tell him the truth about what David was doing.

This all puts David into an uncomfortable position.  Not to say he was comfortable being chased around the Negev by Saul's armies, but now David is hiding amongst the Philistines, pretending to be an enemy of Saul while at the same time attacking Israel's enemies (which are possibly allies of Gath).

Another interesting angle I've heard is that some teachers will assert David was commanded by God to remain in Israel.  In 1 Samuel 22:5, the prophet Gad tells David to stay in Judah, and I've heard at least one source assert that this was a "standing order".  I.e. because Gad told David to remain in Judah and nobody ever told him to leave, that he was supposed to continue remaining in Judah.

Personally, I don't agree with this position for two reasons.  The first reason is that the bible is only telling us a handful of details from the story.  So I consider it very possible that Gad (or some other source) had told David that he could leave Judah at some time, or that he should go to Gath, or just anything else.  The second reason is that even if nobody had told David to leave Judah, I don't think it's reasonable to expect him to remain there for the rest of his life waiting for somebody to tell him to do something.

In my mind, David should stay in Judah until he accomplishes the purpose for which he was remaining in Judah.  But what was that?  1 Samuel 22:5 doesn't tell us, so we are left with speculation.  I definitely think it's possible that David waited in Judah long enough.

In summary, I just don't think the text is specific or detailed enough for us to know that this constitutes a violation of what Gad told David to do, but I do think it was worth mentioning.