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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 Samuel 23

Verse 1

1Sa 23:1 Then they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshingfloors.

Ver. 1. Then they told David. ] The men of Keilah in the land of Judah seek help of David their countryman; but having served themselves of him, they soon proved false hearted to him, and would have made him an ill requital. 1Sa 23:12 In trust I have found treason, said Queen Elizabeth. a

And they rob the threshingfloors. ] Vatablus hath it, Horrea, the barns. Horreum ab hauriendo, barns and threshingfloors were without the city, as Judges 6:11 , but necessary appendages to it.

a Camden.

Verse 2

1Sa 23:2 Therefore David enquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go and smite these Philistines? And the LORD said unto David, Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah.

Ver. 2. Therefore David inquired of the Lord. ] By his prophet Gad, say most interpreters; for Abiathar was not yet come unto him, 1Sa 23:6 and that which is read of him in 1Sa 22:20 is spoken by way of anticipation. War is to be made by wise counsel, saith Solomon, Pro 24:6 and, long after him, Salust, a heathen historian: surely it is fit that God be consulted - viz., by prayer and searching the Scriptures - ere war be waged; since it is matter of so great weight, and the issue thereof so uncertain. Herein Josiah was too short, and died for it.

Verse 3

1Sa 23:3 And David’s men said unto him, Behold, we be afraid here in Judah: how much more then if we come to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?

Ver. 3. And David’s men said unto him.] See a like discouraging speech of the disciples to our Saviour, Joh 11:8 and his resolute answer. 1Sa 23:9-10 God may be safely and must be faithfully followed, whithersoever he leads us: neither must we stand casting of perils.

Verse 4

1Sa 23:4 Then David enquired of the LORD yet again. And the LORD answered him and said, Arise, go down to Keilah; for I will deliver the Philistines into thine hand.

Ver. 4. Then David enquired of the Lord yet again, ] viz., For the confirmation and encouragement of his soldiers, whose rule should have been Nec temere, nec timide, Neither rashly nor timorously.

For I will deliver. ] Heb., I am delivering; illico traditurus, sc., before that Saul can set upon thee.

Verse 5

1Sa 23:5 So David and his men went to Keilah, and fought with the Philistines, and brought away their cattle, and smote them with a great slaughter. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.

Ver. 5. And brought away their cattle. ] Which either they found about their camp, or fetched out of their country.

So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. ] And therefore deserved a corona civica of them, but met with ill measure. 1Sa 23:12

Verse 6

1Sa 23:6 And it came to pass, when Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David to Keilah, [that] he came down [with] an ephod in his hand.

Ver. 6. With an ephod in his hand. ] Or, The ephod came into his hand; whence some think, that in catching up his clothes, in making up his pack to be packing, he lighted upon the high priest’s ephod, that had the Urim and Thummim in it, by chance rather than choice. a But it was surely a sweet providence of God, for the comfort of his poor servant David. Hence God answered not Saul by Urim and Thummim, 1Sa 28:6 for it was now with David, not with Saul. This ephod thus brought was more, saith one, than if many thousand soldiers had come to David.

a Forte fortuna et non dedita opera secum detulerat ephod, et posuerat inter sarcinas suas - Vatab.

Verse 7

1Sa 23:7 And it was told Saul that David was come to Keilah. And Saul said, God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars.

Ver. 7. God hath delivered him into mine hands. ] Thus this "hypocrite flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful," Psa 36:2 and although he standeth in a posture of distance and defiance against God, yet he talketh very confidently of him, as if on his side. So did Rabshakeh, and the Pharisees: and so do the Popish persecutors, beginning their processes against the martyrs with, "In the name of God, Amen," and taking for their posy these words of the psalmist, "Our help is in the name of the Lord." "Thou art near in their mouth," saith the prophet concerning such, "but far from their reins." Jer 12:2 They are right blackamoors, white nowhere but in the teeth.

Verse 8

1Sa 23:8 And Saul called all the people together to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men.

Ver. 8. To besiege David and his men. ] Rather than to pursue the Philistines. So the Pope publisheth his Croysados against the Protestants; holding them greater enemies than are the Turks: witness his wars against the Waldenses in France, and the Hussites in Germany.

Verse 9

1Sa 23:9 And David knew that Saul secretly practised mischief against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod.

Ver. 9. Secretly practised mischief. ] Plotted and ploughed mischief: pretending to raise an army against the Philistines, but intending the same against David.

Verse 10

1Sa 23:10 Then said David, O LORD God of Israel, thy servant hath certainly heard that Saul seeketh to come to Keilah, to destroy the city for my sake.

Ver. 10. O Lord God of Israel. ] He runneth to the Rock of Ages for help in this distress, as was his constant course when hardly bestead.

To destroy the city for my sake. ] So in the holy war, as they called it, against the Waldenses in France, the Pope’s great army took one great populous city, and put to the sword sixty thousand: among whom were many of their own Catholics. a

a Caesar Heistorbachensis, Hist., lib. v. cap. 21.

Verse 11

1Sa 23:11 Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O LORD God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant. And the LORD said, He will come down.

Ver. 11. And the Lord said, He will come down, ] viz., Unless thou goest hence. God knoweth future contingents: and not only those that are absolute, but those also that are conditionate: he knows a man’s "thoughts afar off," and ofttimes judgeth them accordingly. We used to destroy hemlock in the midst of winter, because we know what it will do if allowed to grow: so the Lord doth sometimes cut off people while young, out of the foresight of the evil they would do to his Church if let alone.

Verse 12

1Sa 23:12 Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the LORD said, They will deliver [thee] up.

Ver. 12. Will the men of Keilah. ] Here is a second inquiry. God loveth to be often sought unto by his praying people, Luk 18:1 and therefore answereth them by degrees, that he may frequently hear from them. Thus the cloud emptieth not itself at a sudden burst, but dissolveth upon the earth drop after drop.

They will deliver thee up. ] Trust not to them; lest upon trial they prove treacherous, how well soever thou hast deserved of them. They look upon Nob so recently razed and harassed, and fear to fare accordingly.

Verse 13

1Sa 23:13 Then David and his men, [which were] about six hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul that David was escaped from Keilah; and he forbare to go forth.

Ver. 13. Which were about six hundred. ] Not four hundred only, as Josephus here misreckoneth. Indeed, they were but four hundred, 1Sa 22:2 but now they are become more. Persecution doth not diminish, but increase the number of good people. The lily grows and spreads by the juice that floweth from itself: a so the Church. Plures efficimur quoties metimur, saith Tertullian.

And went whithersoever they could go. ] But knew not well whither to go to be in safety. Luther, when excommunicated by the Pope, and proscribed by the Emperor, being asked by one where he would shelter himself, answered, Sub caelo; somewhere under the vault of heaven, where God shall please to cast me. b

a Plin.

b Scultet., Annal., p. 28.

Verse 14

1Sa 23:14 And David abode in the wilderness in strong holds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand.

Ver. 14. In the wilderness of Ziph. ] Which was the name of a city: so called, belike, from the plenty of pitch there. Zepheth signifieth pitch. Exo 2:3 Isa 34:9

And Saul sought him every day. ] So desperately bent was he to destroy him: being herein like the scorpion, whereof Pliny saith that there is not one minute of time wherein it doth not put forth the sting desirous to do harm. Or rather like the devil, whose malice to mankind is incessant and unsatisfiable.

Verse 15

1Sa 23:15 And David saw that Saul was come out to seek his life: and David [was] in the wilderness of Ziph in a wood.

Ver. 15. And David saw. ] By his scouts and intelligence, he well perceived his present danger.

Verse 16

1Sa 23:16 And Jonathan Saul’s son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.

Ver. 16. Jonathan Saul’s son arose.] Jonathan could tell where to find David, though Saul could not: there being messengers still passing between them as fast friends, solicitous of each other’s welfare. a

And strengthened his hand in God. ] By imminding him of the promises, and assuring him of God’s powerful protection. This was true friendship.

a Lyra.

Verse 17

1Sa 23:17 And he said unto him, Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul my father knoweth.

Ver. 17. And I shall be next unto thee. ] In heaven he might be, but not on earth, because prevented by death; but otherwise they might have lived together in as great unity and unanimity as did lately Frederick and John, dukes of Saxony; who as they dwelt both in one and the same house, so their mutual love grew to the last, in utriusque periculis et gravissimis deliberationibus, saith mine author, a dum omnia in rep. communicatis sententiis constituebant; so that they did nothing in the commonwealth without one another’s counsel and consent. Those that say, as some do, that Jonathan is next unto David in heaven, have as little assurance of it as those that tell us - but who told them? - that John Baptist, for his humility, Mat 3:11 hath the same place in heaven that Lucifer lost by his pride.

a Exner.

Verse 18

1Sa 23:18 And they two made a covenant before the LORD: and David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house.

Ver. 18. And they two made a covenant. ] This is the second time, for more assurance; or, as Lyra reckoneth, the third: (1.) In the house; (2.) 1Sa 18:3 In the field; 1Sa 20:5 (3.) Here in the wood. Let us oft renew and reinforce our covenants with God, that we may the better observe them: all will be found little enough.

Verse 19

1Sa 23:19 Then came up the Ziphites to Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself with us in strong holds in the wood, in the hill of Hachilah, which [is] on the south of Jeshimon?

Ver. 19. Then came up the Ziphites. ] Who were of David’s own tribe, and of good Caleb’s stock, 1Ch 2:42 but naught and degenerate, as was likewise the churl Nabal, who came of Caleb. 1Sa 25:3

Doth not David hide himself with us? ] This treacherous dealing of theirs drew from David - as he never was without his cordial - that sweet fifty-fourth Psalm. See Trapp on " Psa 54:1 "

Verse 20

1Sa 23:20 Now therefore, O king, come down according to all the desire of thy soul to come down; and our part [shall be] to deliver him into the king’s hand.

Ver. 20. And our part shall be to deliver him. ] Here is their proditio atque premissio dedendi Davidem. A company of Judases they showed themselves; and David turneth them over to God, that he may take an order with them. Psalms 54:3 ; Psa 54:5

Verse 21

1Sa 23:21 And Saul said, Blessed [be] ye of the LORD; for ye have compassion on me.

Ver. 21. Blessed be ye of the Lord. ] God was much in this hypocrite’s mouth, but far from his reins: Jer 12:3 he abuseth that majestic and tremendous name of his, to palliate his cruel purpose of killing David. See the like done by those impudent hypocrites in Isaiah 66:5 . But this blessing pronounced by Saul upon the Ziphites was not worth a button to them: nay, it came doubtless as a curse into their bowels, Psa 109:18 whilst thereby they were heartened and hardened in their sin.

For ye have compassion on me. ] A flatterer is ευιους σφακτης , saith one; that is, a kind murderer: a cur-dog, saith another, that sucketh a man’s blood only with licking.

Verse 22

1Sa 23:22 Go, I pray you, prepare yet, and know and see his place where his haunt is, [and] who hath seen him there: for it is told me [that] he dealeth very subtilly.

Ver. 22. Go, I pray you, prepare yet. ] Saul maketh use of these traitors, which a Roman Fabricius would have scorned to have done.

For it is told me. ] Or, My heart telleth me so; Psa 36:1 or, He hath told me, viz., David, when I have asked him sometimes how he so easily overcame his enemies, hath told me that he used subtlety and policy.

Verse 23

1Sa 23:23 See therefore, and take knowledge of all the lurking places where he hideth himself, and come ye again to me with the certainty, and I will go with you: and it shall come to pass, if he be in the land, that I will search him out throughout all the thousands of Judah.

Ver. 23. See therefore, and take knowledge of all the lurking places. ] Oh that we could, with like care, find out and ferret out the sin that doth so easily beset us - our dilectum delictum delightfully sweet.

Verse 24

1Sa 23:24 And they arose, and went to Ziph before Saul: but David and his men [were] in the wilderness of Maon, in the plain on the south of Jeshimon.

Ver. 24. And went to Ziph before Saul. ] As his guides and forerunners, fearing him as the heathens did their Vejoves, lest he should serve them as he had lately done the city of Nob.

Verse 25

1Sa 23:25 Saul also and his men went to seek [him]. And they told David: wherefore he came down into a rock, and abode in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard [that], he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon.

Ver. 25. He pursued after David. ] Hunting him up and down as a partridge in the mountains this made him so tender, as we see he was. 1Sa 24:5

Verse 26

1Sa 23:26 And Saul went on this side of the mountain, and David and his men on that side of the mountain: and David made haste to get away for fear of Saul; for Saul and his men compassed David and his men round about to take them.

Ver. 26. And David made haste. ] After that he had first said in his haste, "All men" - prophets and all - "are liars." Psa 116:11 Peter Martyr thinks David made that psalm, as also Psa 31:1-24 Psa 99:1-9 Psalms 54:1-7 . about this time. Now it was that he was almost forsaken of his hopes; but God was seen in the mount.

Verse 27

1Sa 23:27 But there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land.

Ver. 27. But there came a messenger, &c. ] Here was Deus ex machina, God appearing as out of an engine: where human help failed, divine came in. God sent from heaven and saved his poor servant "from the reproach of him that would have swallowed him up, Selah." Psa 57:3 So he took off Sennacherib; 2Ki 19:8-9 and Julian, by the Parthian war; and Charles V from persecuting the Protestants, by the Turks breaking into Hungary; those dogs licked Lazarus’s sores. So one Justice Gilford, in Queen Mary’s days, going up the stairs to Mrs Roberts’s chamber, to compel her, willed she, nilled she, to go to Mass, was suddenly taken with his old disease the gout, and so tormented that he swore he would never trouble her anymore. a

a Act, and Mon., 1880.

Verse 28

1Sa 23:28 Wherefore Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against the Philistines: therefore they called that place Selahammahlekoth.

Ver. 28. They called that place Selahammahlekoth. ] Petram partitionum, the rock of Diremptions or partitions; because Saul’s forces were forced to forego David’s when they had hemmed them in.

Verse 29

1Sa 23:29 And David went up from thence, and dwelt in strong holds at Engedi.

Ver. 29. Dwelt in strong holds at Engedi. ] Which was the utmost border of the country, a very rocky and craggy place, And here it is thought he penned the fifty-seventh Psalm.

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 23". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/1-samuel-23.html. 1865-1868.