Adam Clarke Commentary
1 Samuel 23
David succours Keilah, besieged by the Philistines; defeats them, and delivers the city, 1 Samuel 23:1-6. Saul, hearing that David was at Keilah, determines to come and seize him, 1 Samuel 23:7, 1 Samuel 23:8. David inquires of the Lord concerning the fidelity of the men of Keilah towards him; is informed that if he stays in the city, the men of Keilah will betray him to Saul, 1 Samuel 23:9-12. David and his men escape from the city, and come to the wilderness of Ziph, 1 Samuel 23:13-15. Jonathan meets David in the wood of Ziph, strengthens his hand in God, and they renew their covenant, 1 Samuel 23:16-18. The Ziphites endeavor to betray David to Saul, but he and his men escape to Maon, 1 Samuel 23:19-22. Saul comes to Maon; and having surrounded the mountain on which David and his men were, they must inevitably have fallen into his hands, had not a messenger come to call Saul to the succor of Judah, then invaded by the Philistines, 1 Samuel 23:25-27. Saul leaves the pursuit of David, and goes to succor the land; and David escapes to En-gedi, 1 Samuel 23:28, 1 Samuel 23:29.
The Philistines fight against Keilah - Keilah was a fortified town in the tribe of Judah near to Eleutheropolis, on the road to Hebron.
Rob the threshing-floors - This was an ancient custom of the Philistines, Midianites, and others. See Judges 6:4. When the corn was ripe and fit to be threshed, and they had collected it at the threshing-floors, which were always in the open field, then their enemies came upon them and spoiled them of the fruits of their harvest.
Therefore David inquired of the Lord - In what way David made this inquiry we are not told, but it was probably by means of Abiathar; and therefore I think, with Houbigant that the sixth verse should be read immediately after the first. The adventure mentioned here was truly noble. Had not David loved his country, and been above all motives of private and personal revenge, he would have rejoiced in this invasion of Judah as producing a strong diversion in his favor, and embroiling his inveterate enemy. In most cases a man with David‘s wrongs would have joined with the enemies of his country, and avenged himself on the author of his adversities; but he thinks of nothing but succouring Keilah, and using his power and influence in behalf of his brethren! This is a rare instance of disinterested heroism.
The Lord said - Go and smite - He might now go with confidence, being assured of success. When God promises success, who need be afraid of the face of any enemy?
David inquired of the Lord yet again - This was to satisfy his men, who made the strong objections mentioned in the preceding verse.
Brought away their cattle - The forage and spoil which the Philistines had taken, driving the country before them round about Keilah.
Came down with an ephod - I think this verse should come immediately after 1 Samuel 23:1 (note).
Saul called all the people together - That is, all the people of that region or district, that they might scour the country, and hunt out David from all his haunts.
Bring hither the ephod - It seems as if David himself, clothed with the ephod, had consulted the Lord; and 1 Samuel 23:10-12 contain the words of the consultation, and the Lord‘s answer. But see on 1 Samuel 23:2 (note).
In these verses we find the following questions and answers: - David said, Will Saul come down to Keilah? And the Lord said, He will come down. Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the Lord said, They will deliver thee up. In this short history we find an ample proof that there is such a thing as contingency in human affairs; that is, God has poised many things between a possibility of being and not being, leaving it to the will of the creature to turn the scale. In the above answers of the Lord the following conditions were evidently implied: - If thou continue in Keilah, Saul will certainly come down; and If Saul come down, the men of Keilah will deliver thee into his hands. Now though the text positively asserts that Saul would come to Keilah, yet he did not come; and that the men of Keilah would deliver David into his hand, yet David was not thus delivered to him. And why? Because David left Keilah; but had he stayed, Saul would have come down, and the men of Keilah would have betrayed David. We may observe from this that, however positive a declaration of God may appear that refers to any thing in which man is to be employed, the prediction is not intended to suspend or destroy free agency, but always comprehends in it some particular condition.
Wilderness of Ziph - Ziph was a city in the southern part of Judea, not far from Carmel.
And Jonathan - strengthened his hand in God - It is probable that there was always a secret intercourse between David and Jonathan, and that by this most trusty friend he was apprised of the various designs of Saul to take away his life. As Jonathan well knew that God had appointed David to the kingdom, he came now to encourage him to trust in the Most High, and to assure him that the hand of Saul should not prevail against him; and at this interview they renewed their covenant of friendship. Now all this Jonathan could do, consistently with his duty to his father and his king. He knew that David had delivered the kingdom; he saw that his father was ruling unconstitutionally; and he knew that God had appointed David to succeed Saul. This he knew would come about in the order of Providence; and neither he nor David took one step to hasten the time. Jonathan, by his several interferences, prevented his father from imbruing his hands in innocent blood: a more filial and a more loyal part he could not have acted; and therefore, in his attachment to David, he is wholly free of blame.
The wilderness of Maon - Maon was a mountainous district in the most southern parts of Judah. Calmet supposes it to be the city of Menois, which Eusebius places in the vicinity of Gaza; and the Maenaemi Castrum, which the Theodosian code places near to Beersheba.
Saul went on this side of the mountain - Evidently not knowing that David and his men were on the other side.
There came a messenger - See the providence of God exerted for the salvation of David‘s life! David and his men are almost surrounded by Saul and his army, and on the point of being taken, when a messenger arrives and informs Saul that the Philistines had invaded the land! But behold the workings of Providence! God had already prepared the invasion of the land by the Philistines, and kept Saul ignorant how much David was in his power; but as his advanced guards and scouts must have discovered him in a very short time, the messenger arrives just at the point of time to prevent it. Here David was delivered by God, and in such a manner too as rendered the Divine interposition visible.
They called that place Sela-hammah-lekoth - That is, the rock of divisions; because, says the Targum, the heart of the king was divided to go hither and thither. Here Saul was obliged to separate himself from David, in order to go and oppose the invading Philistines.
Strong holds at En-gedi - En-gedi was situated near to the western coast of the Dead Sea, not far from Jeshimon: it literally signifies the kid‘s well, and was celebrated for its vineyards, Song of Solomon 1:14. It was also celebrated for its balm. It is reported to be a mountainous territory, filled with caverns; and consequently proper for David in his present circumstances.
De Re Rustica, lib. ii., c. 20.
This may be profitably used within doors, as well as in the field; and a durable and solid floor is a matter of very great consequence to the husbandman, as it prevents the flour from being injured by sand or dust.
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