Achish is a name used in the Hebrew Bible for two Philistine rulers of Gath. It 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, described as "Achish the king of Gath", with whom David sought refuge when he fled from Saul. (1 Samuel 21:11-15) He is called Abimelech (meaning "father of the king") in the superscription of Psalms 34. It was probably this same king, or his son with the same name, described as "Achish, the son of Maoch", to whom David repaired a second time 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 Samuel 27:2-12) Achish had great confidence in the valour and fidelity of David (1 Samuel 28:1-2), but at the instigation of his courtiers did not permit him to go to battle along with the Philistine hosts. (1 Samuel 29:2-11) David remained with Achish a year and four months.
- Another king of Gath, described as "Achish, son of Maacah", probably a grandson of the foregoing king, is referred to during Solomon's reign. 1 Kings 2:39-46 mentions two servants of Shimei fleeing to this king in Gath, and Shimei going to Gath to bring them back, in breach of Solomon's orders, and the consequence was that Solomon put Shimei to death.
In the 7th century BCE 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 BCE 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 Suwardata
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 1985 film King David, 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.