Psalm 34—Why does the subtitle of this Psalm have the name Abimelech when the name should be Achish?

Problem: The subtitle of Psalm 34 states, “A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.” However, David’s act of madness, recorded in 1 Samuel 21:13, took place before Achish, not Abimelech. Is this an error?

Solution: It must be remembered that the titles and subtitles of the various psalms were not part of the original, inspired psalms. Therefore, it is possible that those who added these titles made an error in this instance.

Others have proposed that perhaps Abimelech was another name for Achish. It was not an uncommon practice in ancient times to have two names. Gideon was also named Jerubbaal (Jud. 6:32; 7:1), and Solomon also went by the name Jedidiah (2 Sam. 12:25). It is possible that the name Abimelech was a recurring name in a certain dynasty of the Philistines.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.