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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 23

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-13

David's Rescue of Keilah

v. 1. Then they told David, he received information, saying, Behold, the Philistines, a strong band of their raiders, fight against Keilah, a city evidently in the lowland of Judah, near the Philistine frontier, and they rob the threshing-floors, where the grain was stacked ready for threshing.

v. 2. Therefore David enquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go and smite these Philistines? He seems to have had reasons for considering himself the champion of the oppressed. And the Lord said unto David, through the Urim and Thummim of the high priest,

v. 6. Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah. The command, "Rescue Keilah," included the promise that success would crown his efforts.

v. 3. And David's men, who at that time did not share his simple trust in Jehovah, said unto him, Behold, we be afraid here in Judah, they were apprehensive of the persecution of Saul; how much more, then, if we come to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines, where they would have enemies before and behind?

v. 4. Then David inquired of the Lord yet again, in the same manner. And the Lord answered him and said, Arise, go down to Keilah; for I will deliver the Philistines into thine hand. This definite promise was intended to allay the fears of David's men.

v. 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. The Philistines, instead of gaining booty, were themselves spoiled, losing their flocks and herds and suffering a very severe defeat. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.

v. 6. And it came to pass, as is here noted in explanation, when Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech, fled to David to Keilah, joining him just when the campaign to rescue the city was planned, that he came down with an ephod, the shoulder-dress of the high priest with the Urim and Thummim, in his hand. This was in David's favor, for he could now at any time ask the will of the Lord.

v. 7. And it was told Saul, who had his spies watching all the movements of David, that David was come to Keilah. And Saul said, God hath delivered him into mine hand, for he tried to deceive himself into believing that David, and not himself, had been rejected by God; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars. Saul thought that David had prepared a trap for himself by making a fortified city his headquarters, since escape would there be more difficult, once the city was surrounded.

v. 8. And Saul called all the people together to war, formally summoned all the soldiers of his army, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men, and thus to get him into his power.

v. 9. And David, who also had his spies in the field, knew that Saul secretly practised mischief against him, he found out about this plan to destroy him; and he said to Abiathar, the priest, Bring hither the ephod, for the purpose of getting information from the Lord.

v. 10. Then said David, in a prayer showing his trust in Jehovah, O Lord God of Israel, Thy servant hath certainly heard that Saul seeketh to come to Keilah, to destroy the city for my sake.

v. 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. The questions are not given in the wrong order, due to David's excitement, as has been said, but David feared that the men of Keilah would deliver him into Saul's hands as soon as they found out that the king had planned to come. And the Lord said, answering the last question first, He will come down.

v. 12. Then said David, repeating his first question, Will the men, the citizens, of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the Lord said, They will deliver thee up. Instead of taking the part of the man who had rescued them from their enemies, the men of Keilah would have been guided by policy.

v. 13. Then David and his men, which were about six hundred, since new men were being added to his band constantly, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go, without a definite plan, as chance and circumstance led them. And it was told Saul that David was escaped from Keilah; and he forbare to go forth, he abandoned his campaign. In this story also David is a type of the Son of God. For He also, while engaged in rescuing His people from the hand of their most terrible enemies, was betrayed into the hands of the unjust. Moreover, such is the lot of all those who openly take the part of the Lord.

Verses 14-29

In the Wilderness of Ziph

v. 14. And David abode in the wilderness in strongholds, on sheltering heights in the great semiarid region of Southern Judah, whose several parts were named after the cities in the neighborhood, and remained in a mountain in the Wilderness of Ziph, establishing his camp there for some time. And Saul sought him every day, all the days of his life, continually, but God delivered him not into his hand. This remark serves as an introduction to the entire next section.

v. 15. And David saw that Saul was come out to seek his life, he received information to that effect, it was impressed upon his consciousness more and more; and David was in the Wilderness of Ziph in a wood, a thick forest, which offered him the best form of concealment.

v. 16. And Jonathan, Saul's son, arose, and went to David into the wood, in proof of the continued faithfulness of his friendship, and strengthened his hand in God, encouraged him by reminding him of God's promises of His divine presence and protection.

v. 17. And he said unto him, Fear not; for the hand of Saul, my father, shall not find thee, he was convinced that David was sheltered by God's special protection; and thou shalt be king over Israel, a conviction which had been forced upon him by the trend of events, and I shall be next unto thee, he was perfectly willing to resign all claim to the throne; and that also Saul, my father, knoweth, he was aware that David was to be his successor.

v. 18. And they two made a covenant before the Lord, renewing the covenant which united their hearts, 1 Samuel 20:16-42; and David abode in the wood, remaining in concealment with his men, and Jonathan went to his house.

v. 19. Then came up the Ziphites, whose behavior furnishes a most glaring contrast to that of Jonathan, to Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself with us, in our neighborhood, in strongholds in the wood, where they could note his every movement, in the hill of Hachilah, which is on the south side of Jeshimon? This wooded, rocky mountain lay on the south side of a waste region which stretched out on the west side of the Dead Sea, within the steppes of Judah.

v. 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. So passionate were they in their adherence to Saul that they would do all in their power to deliver David into his hand.

v. 21. And Saul said, with the blindness of an evil conscience, Blessed be ye of the Lord; for ye have compassion on me, praising them in this respect, just as he had rebuked his servants for their lack of sympathy for him, 1 Samuel 22:8.

v. 22. Go, I pray you, prepare yet, and know and see his place where his haunt is, where his foot will be, every retreat of David in his constant shifting about; for it is told me that he dealeth very subtilly, that was a prominent trait in David's character.

v. 23. See, therefore, and take knowledge of all the lurking-places where he hideth himself, and come ye again to me with the certainty, literally, "what is certain," that is with sure information, 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, the larger division of the tribe, Numbers 1:16, that is, in their territory. Thus Saul still showed his fixed idea that David was attempting to take his throne and life, and thus committing a great crime against God.

v. 24. And they arose and went to Ziph before Saul, who was soon to follow with his men; but David and his men were in the Wilderness of Maon, south of the mountain of Hachilah, in the plain on the south of Jeshimon, on or near a conical hill which still bears a very similar name.

v. 25. Saul also and his men went to seek him. And they told David; wherefore he came down into a rock, descended the rock, the mountain where he had been, in order to reach the lowland and a new hiding-place, and abode in the Wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the Wilderness of Maon.

v. 26. And Saul went on this side of the mountain, and David and his men on that side of the mountain, the mountain thus separating the two armies; and David made haste to get away for fear of Saul, he was very anxious to escape ; for Saul and his men compassed David and his men round about to take them, they were at the point of surrounding them.

v. 27. But there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land, they had undertaken a raid on a large scale, their object being to obtain booty.

v. 28. Wherefore Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against the Philistines; therefore they called that place Sela-hammahlekoth (rock of divisions, rock of escapes), because it was undoubtedly due to its upthrust that David escaped with his men.

v. 29. And David went up from thence, and dwelt in strongholds at En-gedi, about the middle of the western shore of, the Dead Sea. The Lord, who governs all things, protected His servant in this extremity. And the same God has ways and means to help us in all our troubles and difficulties. if we but commit our way to Him.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 23". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/1-samuel-23.html. 1921-23.
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