Divine Intervention by Coercive Redirection

David Rejected from Philistine Battle Lineup

In coercive redirection, God intervenes by placing an insurmountable obstacle to compel a person to abandon planned wrongdoing or a course of actions inimical to self-interest. That is, people planning to do something that would cause them to depart from God’s path encounter circumstances beyond their control that force them to withdraw from the plan. We discuss an example from David, when Philistine commanders rejected him from joining their battle lineup against Israel.


We discuss an example of divine intervention whereby circumstances beyond a person’s control compel him/her to abandon a planned course of actions that would harm his/her interest or the interest of others. As a result of the intervention, people planning to do something that would cause them to depart from God’s path encounter an insurmountable obstacle that compels them to abandon the plan.

Philistine route to battle of Mt. Gilboa
FreeBibleImages.org Sweet Publishing

The bible provides an excellent example based on the rejection of David from a Philistine battle lineup. The Philistines setup camp to attack Israel from the North in the area around Mt. Gilboa. David lived in Philistine on exile at the time, hosted by Achish, the king Gath. The king co-opted him to join the Philistine lineup for the battle.

However, Philistine commanders did not accept David joining them in battle against Israel. They prevailed on Achish to order David to return to his base: “Now get up early, along with your master’s servants who have come with you, and leave in the morning as soon as it is light” [1 Samuel 29:10]. Therefore, David and his men departed the Philistine battle lineup and returned to their base of Ziklag inside Philistine territory. Thus, the rejection became an “insurmountable obstacle” that God used to compel David to abandon his plan of joining Philistines in battle against Israel. The Philistines later defeated Israel in the battle and killed Saul and his three sons, including Jonathan, at Mount Gilboa.

PLAN INIMICAL TO SELF-INTEREST David’s interest would have been harmed by joining Philistines in the battle, irrespective of the battle outcome. If he fought faithfully alongside the Philistines, then his reputation with the people of Israel would be harmed, irrespective of whether the Philistines won or lost. If the Philistines won (as they did), then the people of Israel would have blamed David for their defeat and the death of Saul and subsequently would likely not accept him as their king. On the contrary, if the Philistines lost with David fighting on their side, Israel would also have rejected him as their king because of fighting alongside their enemy. Alternatively, if he flipped to join Israel during the battle but they still lost to the Philistines, the people of Israel would have considered him too weak to lead them as king. Still the worst outcome would have been if he flipped and helped Israel and Saul to victory against the Philistines. Such an outcome would have violated God’s plan to terminate Saul with the battle and would have harmed David’s projected kingship. God would not permit his plan to be thwarted. He stepped in to redirect David away from joining the Philistines in the battle. Thus, God placed the Philistine commanders as an insurmountable obstacle to compel David to abandon a plan that would have harmed his interest.

Hannah petitions to God in adversity
Hannah petitions to God without reservation
Sweet Publishing FreeBibleImages.org

PRAYER FOR COERCIVE REDIRECTION David’s experience illustrates coercive redirection as a form of divine intervention that God may cause to occur for any person using another as channel. May we join in prayer to ask God for coercive redirection whenever we find ourselves on a path inconsistent with his purpose. May we pray the same prayer for our children, especially for our children. If ever any of our children should allow themselves to approach a path to wrongdoing or a course of actions inimical to their interest, may God place an insurmountable obstacle to compel them to abandon the path and return to his ways. God did this for David and will do the same for any person that will worship and serve him.

In this study, we discuss the rejection of David from Philistine battle lineup as an example of coercive redirection. Voluntary redirection, whereby God provides a person opportunity to re-evaluate and abandon planned wrongdoing voluntarily, is discussed in a previous study under Opportunity for Voluntary Redirection—In Waiting for God.

David Accepts to Join Philistines
in Battle Against Israel

David had sought refuge in Philistine territory, because he had experienced several close encounters with Saul and feared he could fall into the hands of Saul if he remained in Israel [1 Samuel 27:1]: “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.” Therefore, he and his followers sought refuge with Achish, the king of Gath. On David’s request, Achish assigned him the country town of Ziklag as his own. He took refuge there, presented loyalty to Achish, and Achish expected David to be his servant for life: “He has become so obnoxious to his people, the Israelites, that he will be my servant for life” [1 Samuel 27:12].

Therefore, as Philistines mustered their troops for battle against Israel, Achish informed David: “You must understand that you and your men will accompany me in the army” [1 Samuel 28:1]. David accepted: “Then you will see for yourself what your servant can do” [1 Samuel 28:2]. David and his men joined Achish troops in the Philistine lineup: “As the Philistine rulers marched with their units of hundreds and thousands, David and his men were marching at the rear with Achish” [1 Samuel 29:2].

Philistine Commanders Reject David—
He and His Men Ordered Back to Base

Although Achish was happy to have David and his men among his troops, the Philistine commanders refused and declared David and his men could not be trusted to fight alongside the Philistines against Israel. They ordered Achish to send David and his men back to Ziklag [1 Samuel 29:4]: “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.”

Back-to-base order for David and his men
FreeBibleImages.org Sweet Publishing

Achish recognized the order as inevitable despite his wish to incorporate David and his men in the battle lineup. Therefore, he ordered David to return to Ziklag [1 Samuel 29:6–7]: “As surely as the Lord lives, you have been reliable, and I would be pleased to have you serve with me in the army. From the day you came to me until today, I have found no fault in you, but the rulers don’t approve of you. Now turn back and go in peace; do nothing to displease the Philistine rulers.”

David protested [1 Samuel 29:8]: “What have you found against your servant from the day I came to you until now? Why can’t I go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?” However, his protest had no effect as Achish insisted David and his men must leave the battle lineup and return to Ziklag: “Now get up early, along with your master’s servants who have come with you, and leave in the morning as soon as it is light” [1 Samuel 29:10].

David and his men left in the morning, having been rejected from the Philistine lineup. Therefore, the rejection by the Philistine commanders became an “insurmountable obstacle” that God used to compel David to abandon his plan of joining Philistines in battle against Israel.

Summary of What We Learned

David and his men arrived at the Philistine lineup ready to join Philistines in a battle against Israel. His interest would have been harmed if he had participated in the battle, irrespective of the nature of his participation and the outcome of the battle. However, David and his men were rejected by Philistine commanders. They were ordered to leave the battle lineup and return to their base, despite David’s apparent desire and that of his host Achish that he and his men join the Philistines. Therefore, the rejection by Philistine commanders became an insurmountable obstacle that God used to compel David to abandon his plan of joining Philistines in battle against Israel.

More Information

A PDF copy of the PowerPoint presentation can be downloaded from PDF_LINK.

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