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the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 23

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-29

1 Samuel 23:1 . Keilah, a walled town in the south of Judah, near the sources of the brook Besor.

1 Samuel 23:4 . David enquired of the Lord yet again. Gideon also asked a double sign in time of fear and doubt, by the falling of dew on the fleece.

1 Samuel 23:7 . Saul said, God hath delivered him into my hand. Saul here consulted with his own heart, while David enquired of the Lord.

1 Samuel 23:18 . They two made a covenant. This was the third, or the renewal of the covenants. The first was after the victory over Goliath and the Philistines. The second when they met at the rock Ezel. The third here, in the wilderness of Ziph, when it was renewed with some enlargements.


Having kept our eye on David from Nob to Gath, and from Gath to the cave, where he was joined by the best and worst of his country; and having seen him safely repose his parents in Moab, providence next employed him for the salvation of Keilah. But on an enterprize so arduous, most of his guards, who were not yet soldiers, durst not go. Behold, said they, we be afraid here in Judah; how much more when we come to the armies of the Philistines? But on enquiring of God by the ephod, he received a positive promise of victory, though, according to the Seventy, his men did not exceed four hundred. This was an action grateful to his country; it saved the harvest of Judah, and reproached the negligence of Saul.

Honour is dangerous. David’s new laurels stirred up more inveterately the enmity of his enemy. Saul already viewed him as shut up in Keilah, hated of the Philistines, and now sure to fall. But while Saul counselled for David’s ruin, God counselled for David’s safety. He was directed to flee to the romantic woods and deserts of Ziph, which separates Idumea from Judah. Here he sung salvation to the Lord. Here the inspiration of his soul was aided by the scenery of nature, and his devotion elevated by the severity of affliction. Oh how much is the christian church, as well as the kingdom of Israel, indebted to providence for David’s exile: during that period he composed many of his best and most instructive psalms. In these retreats, while David thought himself an object of misery, and the scorn of the drunkard’s song, behold Jonathan came to renew his covenant with him. David all doubt, Jonathan all faith, met together once more. The anointing of David by Samuel, it would now seem, had transpired; and Jonathan, full of goodness, seeing the deliverances providence had wrought for his brother and his friend, came at the risk of his father’s anger and his life, to do the exile homage as the king of Israel. We may say of this act, as Jesus said of the centurion, I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel. Jonathan surrenders his birthright back to God, and prefers being second under David, to the being first in the kingdom out of the order of God. This covenant is ratified by many witnesses, and confirmed by an oath of the Lord. Just so, poor dejected believer, when thou thinkest thy hope lost, and all things making against thee, the Lord Jesus comes from heaven to renew his covenant with thy fainting soul. He comes when thou art most surrounded with poverty, afflictions and tears, to say that the crown and the kingdom are thine. Never were friendship and love like that of Jonathan to David; and truly never was love like that of Jesus to thee.

The loving son had not long retired, and David had not long reached the wilderness of Maon, before the cruel father came to take the life of the Lord’s anointed. Informed by the treacherous Ziphites of all the retreats and habits of David, Saul in a manner surprised and surrounded him ere he was aware. Already did the bloody Benjamites, “ravening as wolves,” exult in their success: already did they say, “There is no help for him in God.” And now what should David do? The select band were coming round the little hill or rock; and he could not fight against a father; a crown obtained by crime is to the victor an awful boon. To David there was no hope of victory by arms; and a flight in the desert would have been attended by pursuit, by carnage, and by disasters the most afflictive. Now Satan would say, where is the hope of thy anointing? This day thou shalt fall by the hand of Saul, and thy life shall be as water spilt on the ground. Thou hast caused thy lustre to be involved in eternal night, and brought the utmost calamity on all thy faithful friends. So, for a moment, God seemed to sport with David’s fears. So for a moment, he suffered him to cry, what profit is there in my blood. Then when he had no friend to save him, behold, his enemies diverted the stroke. A swift-footed messenger cried with vehemence to Saul; the Philistines have invaded the land. Thus David was saved in the crisis of danger, and altogether by the watchful care of heaven. Surely David would now doubt no more, no more expressions of weakness would escape his lips. And surely the christian, contemplating all these works of the Lord, will learn to trust him in all straits, difficulties and afflictions; for his mercy endureth for ever.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 23". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/1-samuel-23.html. 1835.
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