Achish is a name used in the Hebrew Bible for two Philistine rulers of Gath. It may mean "angry," and is perhaps only a general title of royalty, applicable to the Philistine kings. The two kings of Gath, which is identified by most scholars as Tell es-Safi, are:

  • The monarch with whom David sought refuge when he fled from Saul (1 Sam. 21:10-15). He is called Abimelech (meaning "father of the king") in the superscription of Ps. 34. It was probably this same king, or his son with the same name, to whom David a second time repaired at the head of a band of 600 warriors. The king assigned David to Ziklag, whence he carried on war against the surrounding tribes (1 Sam. 27:5-12). Achish had great confidence in the valour and fidelity of David (1 Sam. 28:1,2), but at the instigation of his courtiers did not permit him to go up to battle along with the Philistine hosts (1 Sam. 29:2-11). David remained with Achish a year and four months.
  • Another king of Gath, probably grandson of the foregoing, to whom the two servants of Shimei fled. This led Shimei to go to Gath in pursuit of them, and the consequence was that Solomon put him to death (1 Kings 2:39-46).

In the 7th century BC royal inscription from Tel Miqne-Ekron the name Achish appears, along with four other names of the local kings of Ekron. A similar name (IKAUSU) appears as a king of Ekron in 7th century BC Assyrian inscriptions. This apparently refers to the same king of Ekron.

This appears to indicate that either the name Achish was a common name for Philistine kings, used both at Gath and Ekron, or, as Naveh has suggested, that the editor of the biblical text used a known name of a Philistine king from the end of the Iron Age (Achish of Ekron) as the name of a king(s) of Gath in narratives relating to earlier periods.

Achish and Anchises

Achish seems to have a linguistic similarity with the name Anchises (Αγχίσης) of ancient Greek mythology. Mount Ide, (Ίδη) or Pselorites (Ψηλορείτης) is located in Crete, and according to one theory the Philistines may originate from Crete.

Achish and Suwardata

In his book Pharaohs and Kings, D. Rohl suggests Achish may be an abbreviation of Akishimige, a Hurrian name meaning "Gift of the Sun God," equivalent to the name Suwardata in the Amarna Letters.

Achish in Israeli popular culture

  • The King of Gath is the subject of a modern Israeli popular riddle: Beveiti ko lo naim, kol male meshuga'im. ("In my house it's so unpleasant, all full of crazy men.") This rhyming couplet refers comically to the king's complaint in I Samuel 21:15 that his palace is overrun with madmen. David was feigning madness to escape from Gath, where his situation was turning precarious.

Achish in film

  • Achish king of Gath appears in the movie King David (film), (1985), starring Richard Gere. The film differs from the Biblical story, and shows David pretending to be insane in order to gain admittance to the presence of King Achish, rather than to flee from him.

See also

This entry incorporates text from the public domain Easton's Bible Dictionary, originally published in 1897.

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