Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, July 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
For 10¢ a day you can enjoy StudyLight.org ads
free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 23

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-29

V. 1. David’s expedition against the Philistines for the rescue of Keilah. 2. His abode in the wilderness of Ziph, and the treachery of the Ziphites against him. 3. His deliverance from Saul in the wilderness of Moon

Chap. 23. [Eng. A. V. 1 Samuel 23:1-28]

1Then [And] they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, 2and they rob the threshing-floors. Therefore [And] David enquired of the Lord [Jehovah], saying, Shall I go and smite these Philistines? And the Lord 3[Jehovah] said unto David, Go and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah. And David’s men said unto him, Behold, we be [are] afraid here in Judah; how much more, then, if we come1 [go] to Keilah against the armies [ranks]2 of the Philistines? 4Then [And] David enquired of the Lord [Jehovah] yet again. And the Lord [Jehovah] answered him and said, Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will deliver 5[give] the Philistines into thine hand. So [And] David, and [with]3 his men, went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines, and brought away their cattle, and smote them with a great slaughter; so [and] David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. 6And 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 [an ephod came down in his hand].4

7And it was told Saul that David was come to Keilah. And Saul said, God hath delivered5 him into mine hand, for he is shut in by6 entering into a town [city] that 8hath gates and bars. And Saul called all the people together [summoned all the people] to war, to go down7 to Keilah to besiege David and his men. And David 9knew that Saul secretly [om. secretly] practised8 mischief against him, and he said 10to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod. Then said David [And David said], O Lord [Jehovah] God of Israel, thy servant hath certainly heard that9 Saul seeketh to come to Keilah to destroy the city for my sake. Will the men [citizens] 11of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O Lord [Jehovah] God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant. And 12the Lord [Jehovah] said, He will come down. Then said David [And David said], Will the men [citizens] of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the Lord [Jehovah] said, They will deliver thee up.

13Then [And] David and his men, which were about six10 hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul 14that David was escaped from Keilah; and he forbare to go forth. And David abode in the wilderness in [ins. the] strongholds, and remained [abode] in a [the] mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand.

15And David saw11 that Saul was come out to seek his life. And David was in 16the wilderness of Ziph in a [the] wood. And Jonathan, Saul’s son arose, and went 17to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God, And he [om. he] said to 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 18knoweth [and that knoweth Saul my father also]. And they two made a covenant before the Lord [Jehovah]. And David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house.12

19Then came up the Ziphites13 to Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself with us in [ins. the] strongholds in the wood, in the hill of Hachilah,14 which 20is on the south of Jeshimon [the desert]? Now, therefore, O king, come down according to all the desire of thy soul to come down, and our part shall be to deliver 21him into the king’s hand. And Saul said, Blessed be ye of the Lord [Jehovah], 22for ye have compassion on me. Go, I pray you, prepare yet [be yet heedful],15 and know and see his place where his haunt [foot] is, and [om. and] who hath seen16 23him there; for it is told me that he dealeth very subtilly. See therefore, [And see], 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 [among] all the thousands 24of Judah. And they arose and went to Ziph before Saul; but [and] David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the plain on the south of Jeshimon 25[the desert]. Saul also [And Saul] and his men went to seek him.17 And they told [it was told] David, wherefore [and] he came down into a [to the] rock [cliff] 26and abode in the wilderness of Maon. And Saul18 went on the side of the mountain; and David made haste to get away for fear of Saul, for [and] Saul and his 27men compassed David and his men round about to take them, But [And] there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee and come, for the Philistines have 28invaded the land. Wherefore [And] Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against [to meet] the Philistines. Therefore they called that place Sela hammahlekoth.19


1 Samuel 23:1-14. David’s march against the Philistines to rescue Keilah.

1 Samuel 23:1. David’s recall to Judah by Gad, and the distress of a part of Judah in consequence of a Philistine inroad stood probably in pragmatical connection. In this, his people’s time of need, David the fugitive was to do them a service by a successful feat of arms against the hereditary enemy; and this was to be of service to him by gaining for him higher consideration as God’s chosen one for the throne and the helper of his people. The Philistines were warring against Keilah, a fortified city (1 Samuel 23:7) in the lowland of Judah (Joshua 15:44), according to the Onomasticon eight miles from Eleutheropolis towards Hebron, with an evil-disposed population, who acted ungratefully and treacherously toward David (verse 12), though he had saved them from imminent danger. Inhabitants of this city took part (Nehemiah 3:17-18) in the building of the wall of Jerusalem. According to Kiepert’s map (from the Onom. Κεειλά, Ceila, or ’Εχελά), it lay somewhat south-west of Tarkumieh, and is, according to Tobler (3 Wand. 151), the present Kila, near the Philistine border.20—The Philistine inroad was also a predatory incursion, in which they had an eye to the grain which was threshed and stored in the threshing-floors. 1 Samuel 23:2. The news of the Philistines’ incursion determined David to attack them. It is probable, as we have already intimated, that he was brought to Judah by Gad for this purpose. But here, in David’s inquiry of the Lord, the agent is not the prophet Gad (Ew.), of whom it is not said, that he remained with David after 1 Samuel 22:20, but the high-priest Abiathar21 by Urim and Thummim, the expression “to inquire of Jehovah” being never used when the divine will was sought through a prophet, but undoubtedly of the high-priest’s inquiry by the sacred lot (as in 1 Samuel 22:10; 1 Samuel 22:13; 1 Samuel 22:15).—By this inquiry David learns God’s will; to attack the Philistines and rescue Keilah is now a divine command with the promise of victory in the order: “Rescue Keilah.”

1 Samuel 23:3. Against this David’s men protest from the point of view of their present situation, which on merely human grounds was certainly not of a nature to inspire them with courage.—We are afraid here in Judah, namely, as persecuted fugitives, who have abandoned a comparatively safe abode for the present more dangerous one, and are now further to rush into this danger by open war against the Philistines; we are always in danger from Saul, and now shall we march against the Philistine ranks at Keilah? Being not safe in Judah,22 ought we forsooth to go to Keilah against the Philistines? (אַף כִּי, comp. Habakkuk 2:5; 1Sa 14:30; 1 Samuel 21:6; Ew., § 354 c [= “yea, is it that?” or: “how much more when?”—Tr.]).

1 Samuel 23:4. David holds to his resolution against these objections; to confirm it and to encourage his men he again inquires of the Lord and receives the same affirmative answer with the assurance that the Lord has given his enemies into his hand.—Though treated by the king as an outlaw, he yet maintains true love to his people, which impels him to help them in their need, and to show that, in spite of his undeserved sufferings, he will not sin against them by refusing to perform a deed of deliverance which is well-pleasing to God.—The “go down” indicates that David was still in the mountains of Judah whence he must descend in order to reach Keilah.

1 Samuel 23:5. In accordance with the divine declaration the attack on the Philistines was successful; David inflicted a severe defeat on them, and gained large booty, driving off their flocks. Thus he rescued the people of Keilah.

1 Samuel 23:6 is a supplementary historical explanation relative to the possibility of the inquiry of the Lord in 1 Samuel 23:2-3, which was not possible without the high-priestly cape or ephod to which was attached the Urim and Thummim. The main point is that, when Abiathar fled from Saul to David, he brought with him the high-priestly dress from Nob. But it was before this time that Abiathar came to David; he came as fugitive (1 Samuel 22:20) before David went to Keilah, for before this David inquired of the Lord through the high-priestly oracle. Accordingly, the remark: “when Abiathar fled to David to Keilah” is an indefinite statement, in which Keilah is by anticipation put as the first goal of his flight. The Sept. correctly explains: “When Abiathar, the son of Ahitub, fled to David, the ephod was in his hand, and he had gone down with David to Keilah, the ephod in his hand.” [Dr. Erdmann here gives not the reading of the Sept., but the Hebrew text as amended by Thenius after the Sept.; the Greek text, however does imply that Abiathar had come to Keilah with David, having fled to him before. Thenius’ amended Heb. text would indicate the back reference of this statement in 1 Samuel 23:6; but the present Heb. text naturally means that it was at Keilah that Abiathar first came to David, and so it is understood by Ewald, Stanley and the Bible Commentary. In 1 Samuel 22:20-23 it is not said where or when the priest reached David, and the statement may be an anticipatory conclusion of the narrative of the massacre, the intermediate fact 1 Samuel 23:1-5 being then taken up with its consequent procedures. Ewald also remarks that the account of the inquiry in 1 Samuel 23:2-3 is differently worded from that in 1 Samuel 23:9-12; the former may have been by the prophet Gad, against which, however, as Erdmann remarks, is the use of the phrase “inquire of the Lord,” which regularly refers to the sacred oracle.—On the whole, if we retain the Heb. text of 1 Samuel 23:6, we must hold that Abiathar joined David after the rescue of Keilah; but a slight change in the text23 (which seems to be corrupt) will permit us to adopt the view of Thenius, Keil, Philippson, and Erdmann, which is in other respects more satisfactory. This latter is also the view of Wordsworth, while Bp. Patrick adopts the other (referring to the employment of Urim and Thummim by Saul 1 Samuel 28:6, on which see Erdmann), but neither of these writers mentions the difficulties of the question.—Tr.].

1 Samuel 23:7. On hearing of David’s march to Keilah, Saul imagines that God has given him into his hands. He thinks that he will act as an instrument of the Lord against David. His reason therefor is indeed external and superficial enough: “for he is there shut in in a city with gates and bars.” (נִכַּר in pregnant sense = “look at, ignore, Deuteronomy 32:27, despise, reject,” Jeremiah 19:4); into my hands [Heb. hand], that is, he hath given him, by abandoning and rejecting him. By blinding and self-deception Saul has fallen into the dreadful illusion that it is David, instead of himself, that is rejected by God.—The difficulty of the pregnant expression [God has rejected him into my hands] no doubt occasioned the change in the Sept. to “sold.”—For he is shut in in entering.24 The fact that David has entered or been drawn into this city with gates and bars, Saul thinks equivalent to his being shut in.

1 Samuel 23:8. And Saul caused the whole people to hear, summoned them to war (comp. 1 Samuel 15:4). Such summons to war was a royal right. The reason assigned to the people for the summons was to drive out the Philistines. Saul’s real purpose, which he could the more easily conceal under this pretext of war on the Philistines, was: to besiege David and his men, who were already in Keilah, the city with gates and bars.

1 Samuel 23:9. David, however, had information of these evil plans, which Saul was forging against him; the Heb. (חָרַשׁ) is literally “to work in metals,” and so “vigorously to work evil,” as in Proverbs 3:29; Proverbs 14:22; comp. Hosea 10:13. [The “secretly” of Eng. A. V. is to be omitted.—Tr.]. This gives David occasion again to consult the divine oracle. Bring hither the ephod, said he to Abiathar (comp. 1 Samuel 14:13; 1 Samuel 30:7). The high-priestly dress had to be brought, because it was the sacred dress for official duties.

1 Samuel 23:10. This inquiry of the Lord by the ephod was connected with outspoken prayer, whereby is indicated the innermost kernel and most essential significance of this questioning of the divine oracle. In the invocation of God there is here to be noted 1) the designation of the covenant-God as the God of Israel, and 2) David’s avowal that he is the servant of this God, in whose service he knew himself to be. The reason for his questions is given in the words: I, thy servant, have heard that Saul seeks to come, etc.

1 Samuel 23:11. The two questions. The first is: Will the citizens of Keilah deliver me into his hand?—“Citizens” (‍בַעֵלֵי ק׳) comp. Joshua 24:11, “citizens” of Jericho, 2 Samuel 21:12; Judges 9:6. That this question stands first is certainly surprising, since logically this position belongs to the second question: Will Saul come down? We cannot regard this as a mere inconcinnity in the narrative. We may see in it the expression of David’s excited state of mind. Thenius’ proposed reading in order to secure logical arrangement in the two questions, namely: “Saul comes … to destroy the city, in order that the citizens of Keilah may deliver me into his hand” (he omits the suffix in בַעֲבוּרִי in 1 Samuel 23:10 and for הֲיַסְנִּרֻנִי reads הַסְגִּרֻנִי) is all the more hazardous and untenable, as no version gives any hint for such a reading.—The divine answer, which is affirmative, refers only to the second question. Therefore the first question is repeated in 1 Samuel 23:12, and is then answered in the affirmative. There is thus a sort of chiasm or crossing in the order of the questions and answers. 1 Samuel 23:13. The certainty that Saul will come with an army, and that the men of Keilah will treacherously deliver him up,25 determines David to depart with his band (about six hundred men) before Saul can carry out his plan. They went about whither they went, “whither their way led them” (Maurer), as chance circumstances required, without fixed plan or aim. A mode of warfare by means of scouts and spies now arose between the two men. They have precise information of each other’s plans and enterprises. Saul soon learns that David has escaped from Keilah, and accordingly abandons his intended march thither.

1 Samuel 23:14. David in the wilderness of Ziph and the treachery of the Ziphites towards him. 1 Samuel 23:14. David’s next place of abode is in general the wilderness, that is, of Judah, and its sheltering heights; but “the mountain in the wilderness of Ziph” is specially mentioned as a more permanent dwelling-place. Ziph (different from the place named in Joshua 15:24, which lay southwest of Arad), perhaps the present Kuseifeh (Rob. III., 184, 188 [Am. ed., II., 200]) Joshua 15:55, lay farther north on the highland, about eight miles southeast of Hebron; see Robins., II., 47 [Am. ed., I., 492] who found there a hill, Tell Zif, and near by considerable ruins of old fortifications. [Mr. Grove, who formerly objected to Robinson’s conjecture, now accepts it, but puts Zif (= Ziph) three miles south of Hebron. See his Art. in Smith’s Bib.-Dict., and Dr. Hackett’s note in Am. ed.—Tr.] Individual parts of the great wilderness of Judah, which extended from the north of Judah to the Amorite mountain in the south between the mountains of Judah and the Dead Sea, were named from the various cities on the border of the mountains and the wilderness; so, besides the wilderness of Ziph, the wilderness of Maon, whither David afterwards went from Ziph (1 Samuel 23:25). The mountain in the wilderness of Ziph is probably the mount Hachilah of 1 Samuel 23:19. The general remark is here proleptically made that all Saul’s attempts against David were vain. Saul sought him every day, not: throughout his life (Keil), but = continually; but God gave him not into his (Saul’s) hands.—David was under the special protection of God. These words form the contrast to Saul’s word, 1 Samuel 23:7 : “God has rejected [delivered] him into my hand.” After the general remark on the failure of Saul’s continued attempts follows (1 Samuel 23:15) the mention of special cases, and the description of David’s persecution. Thus connected with the preceding this verse (15) is not a “useless repetition” (Then.); for, after the statement that Saul pursued David, it is here first declared that David received information of this pursuit, and then David’s retreat in the wilderness is more exactly described by the word “wood,” or thick wood (בַהֹרְשָׁה, from חֹרֶשׂ, with ה parag.). Here, too, the forest is David’s chief means of concealment. Perhaps the word is also a proper name [Horesh], so called from the forests, of which there is now no trace in that region.

1 Samuel 23:16-18. Here is related how Jonathan comforted and strengthened David, when the latter, having heard of Saul’s attempts against him, greatly needed consolation. There is no ground for regarding this (Then.) as merely the essential content of the traditional narration of Jonathan’s secret interview with David in 1 Samuel 20:0. It is another interview of Jonathan with his friend, whose distress and danger led him to hasten to him in order by consoling and encouraging words to give him the most precious proof of his faithful friendship.26 The fact is especially emphasized that Jonathan went to David into the wood; there they could be safest from Saul. He strengthened his hand in God; that is, he revived his sunken courage (comp. Nehemiah 12:18), by pointing to the divine promises, the divine protection, and the great things that God had in store for him. Not wholly correct and exhaustive is Clericus’ remark: “he drew consolation from his innocence and God’s promises.”

1 Samuel 23:17. The words of Jonathan, explaining what was just before said. Fear not, is the key-note of Jonathan’s address. As ground of which he points 1) to God’s almighty help: Saul’s hand will not find thee,—he is firmly convinced that he (David) is under God’s protection, and that therefore Saul can gain no advantage over him,—and 2) to the fixed divine decree: Thou wilt be king over Israel; Jonathan was certain through divine illumination that David was called by the Lord to be king of Israel, and could therefore console and encourage him; for Saul could not make void God’s counsel and will (comp. 1 Samuel 20:13 sq.). I shall be next to thee,—herein Jonathan shows 1) his absolute willingness to resign all claim to the throne, and 2) his hope that David will confer on him as a subject the place nearest in association to himself. And so also Saul knows, my father is sure that thou wilt be king. Saul must therefore have already learned this through the voice of God and of the people.

1 Samuel 23:18. A new covenant is made by the two men, comp. 1 Samuel 20:16 sq., 42. Here, as there, the parting is briefly and vividly described: David remained in the thicket—Jonathan went his way home. [The two friends meet no more in life. How it would have been if Jonathan had lived we cannot tell; but all possible complications were avoided by his death. His life thus presents an untarnished picture of pure, self-denying friendship. This parting is one of the many dramatic situations that occur in this Book.—Tr.]

1 Samuel 23:19-24 a. The Ziphites betray to Saul David’s abode among them; Saul forms with the betrayers his crafty scheme against David. 1 Samuel 23:19 is connected with 1 Samuel 23:15, not with 1 Samuel 23:14 (Thenius). “Ziphites,” people of Ziph [without the Art.—Tr.] Some Ziphites went up to Saul to Gibeah to betray to him David’s abode. The mountain Hachilah, with its wood and its rocks, lay “on the right of the desert;” that is, south of the waste region which stretched out on the west of the Dead Sea within the steppe of Judah. The Article indicates the desert to be that well-known desert in this region, the designation being almost a proper name [written as nom. pr. “Jeshimon” in Eng. A. V.—Tr.] So in Numbers 21:20; Numbers 23:28, a desert is called “the desert” [Eng. A. V. Jeshimon]. This is the desert northeastern border of the Dead Sea.

1 Samuel 23:20. The lively tone of the address of the Ziphites shows that they were somewhat passionate adherents of Saul, and acquainted with his most secret desires. Two things they say to him: 1) Come down to us, for all thy desire to get David in thy power may now be fulfilled; 2) it is our affair to deliver him up to thee. [Bib.-Com. less well renders: “it is in our power,” etc.—Tr.].

1 Samuel 23:21. The feeling expressed in Saul’s answer agrees with the Ziphites’ word as to his keen desire to come down to them. He invokes God’s blessing on them for their offer and promise. He remains true to his illusion that David is attempting his throne and life, and so committing a crime against God. He imagines that he is in a dangerous situation, and that the Ziphites had compassion on him or sympathy with him in making him this offer.

1 Samuel 23:22. He directs them how to act in order to gain information of every retreat of David in his constant shifting of place. “Fix your mind, observe” (supply לֵב as in Judges 12:6; 2 Chronicles 29:36). The heaping up of synonyms is no argument against this rendering; the conception “see” is not thrice expressed (Then.), but there is a gradation, Saul describing in an animated manner how they are to get information of David’s abode: “Keep a good look-out still, that ye may learn, and that ye may see in what place his foot will be,” that is, where he fixes himself in his wandering. “Who has seen him” refers to the last: “And see his place,” etc. The words, in keeping with Saul’s animated manner, are loosely put together, he having in mind the moment when the man who discovers David’s abode comes to inform him. Saul affirms the necessity for this espionage in the remark: “for it is told me that he is very subtle.” This trait of character in David agrees with what we otherwise know of him in this respect.

1 Samuel 23:23. Saul continues his directions, and cannot say enough (to satisfy himself) to exhort them to search in every nook and cranny. “Return to me unto what is certain;” that is, when you have gotten certain information. Not till then will he go down with them. He confidently declares that he will then seize him among all the thousands of Judah. The Alaphim, thousands are, according to Numbers 1:16; Numbers 10:4, the larger divisions of the twelve Tribes.

1 Samuel 23:24 a. The Ziphites went back to their region before Saul, who, according to the agreement, was to follow later.

1 Samuel 23:24-28. David retires to the wilderness of Maon, and is delivered from Saul.

1 Samuel 23:24 b. The wilderness of Maon lay farther south. The name still exists, = Maïn, eight miles southeast of Hebron; the distance from Ziph is therefore only six miles. Maïn lies on a conical hill, which commands a wide view, so that Rob. (II., 433 [Am. Ed., I., 493–495]) thence saw nine cities of the hill-country of Judah, Maon, Carmel, Ziph, Juttah, Jattir, Socho, Anab, Eshtemoa, and Hebron (Joshua 15:48-55). On the character of the ground see Van de Velde II. 107 sq. [Mr. Grove in Smith’s Bible Dict. thinks that the wilderness of Maon formed part of the larger region called the Arabah, rendered in Eng. A. V. 1 Samuel 23:24, “the plain.”—Tr.].—David, doubtless in consequence of information received as to the designs of Saul and the Ziphites, betook himself to the wilderness of Maon.

1 Samuel 23:25. And Saul … went, namely, after he had gotten information from the Ziphites. The “rock,” on which it is here presupposed that David was staying, and which was in the wilderness of Maon, is perhaps the conical hill of the present Maïn, whose summit is surrounded with ruins. He went down not (as Sept.) “into the rock,” nor “to the rock” (Buns.), but “descended the rock,” in order to conceal himself in the lowland or in the caves at its base. It is the same mountain that is mentioned in 1 Samuel 23:26, on opposite sides of which Saul and David found themselves. Here (1 Samuel 23:26) David was sore troubled (נֶחְפָּז) to escape Saul, while, on his part, Saul attempted to surround and seize him.

1 Samuel 23:27. But suddenly, when David is in the greatest danger of being surrounded, Saul receives information of a new Philistine incursion. He must desist from farther pursuit. This was God’s plan to save David. The Philistines had seized on the moment when Saul had withdrawn his men to the south in pursuit of David, to invade the upper part of the land.

1 Samuel 23:28. The place was called Sela hammahlekoth (סֶלַע הַמַּחְלְקוֹת). There are two explanations of the name: 1) rock of smoothness, that is, of escape, and 2) rock of dividings or divisions. The first (Ges., De Wette, Keil), takes the notion of “escape” from the signification of the verb (חָלַק) “to be smooth,” for which application, however, only Jeremiah 37:12, and that very doubtfully, can be adduced. Further the substantive here used never means “escape,” but always “distribution” (Joshua 11:23; Joshua 12:7; Joshua 18:10; Ezekiel 48:29) and “division” (1 Chronicles 26:1; 1 Chronicles 27:1; 2 Chronicles 31:17) and it must so be taken here. This explanation is favored also by the word “therefore,” which clearly refers to the circumstantially related fact that the armies of Saul and David were separated, divided by the rock. Ewald’s explanation: “lot of fate” (= חֶלֶק) is unfounded. It accordingly means: “Rock of division.” Cler.: “rock of divisions, where Saul and David were separated.” The rock divided the two armies, held them asunder. Böttcher conjectures that the rock might originally from its nature have been called “rock of smoothness,” and this name might afterwards from historical recollection have been made to refer to the movements of Saul and David, who according to 1 Samuel 23:26 had divided the rock-ground between them. Certainly this explanation of the name “Rock of dividings, partings,” would be possible as respects the ground. But, by reason of the “therefore,” the reference to Saul and David’s relation to one another suits the connection better.


1. David did not seek, but received from the Lord’s hand the opportunity by the march to Keilah to perform a heroic deed, and thus to win further consideration in the eyes of the people as a warrior blessed by God and crowned with glorious success. The king left the city open to the attacks of the Philistines. He neglected his duty as protector of his people against the hereditary foe, thinking only of revenging himself on David. Here also David was under God’s protection, to which he humbly resigned himself. After he had at the Lord’s command returned from Moab to Judah, he must, in the fact that the Philistines undisturbed besieged Keilah and carried off the grain, while Saul took no steps to oppose them, have recognized God’s command to draw the sword for his people, especially as he was the king’s general, though he had received no order from the king. But for his conscience and his assurance of faith, as well as for the certainty and success of the whole undertaking, he needed the divine authorization; if he had not the sanction of the theocratic king, he must have that of God Himself, since the question was of a matter important for the people of God and for the affairs of God’s kingdom in Israel,—war against Israel’s hereditary foe. He received the divine authorization and the promise of success through a twice affirmed divine oracle. By the divine promise he is inwardly certain of success. Even in straits and danger, he now with the Lord’s support becomes the saviour of his people out of straits and danger. But in the deed of deliverance itself lies the seed of new suffering. The rescue of Keilah by David occasioned Saul’s march to Keilah against David. The inhabitants of Keilah exhibit base ingratitude towards him. By God’s word he learns what dangers here threaten him. By God’s direction he again takes to flight to save himself from Saul—but the incursion of the Philistines, occasioned by Saul’s march to the south, compels him to desist from following David, who thus escapes his persecutor. Thus this section exhibits David anew in the clearest light of divine guidance as the Chosen and Anointed of God: 1) submitting himself unconditionally to God’s determining word and guiding will, and 2) guided directly by God’s hand and determined in all his affairs by God’s will and word.
2. Whatever may have been the form of the inquiry of God through the Urim and Thummim (which was attached to the ephod of the high-priest), yet in this section it is clearly and distinctly indicated that it was an embodied prayer to God for the revelation of His will, and only to such prayer was God’s counsel and will thus revealed. One’s own natural objection and other men’s opposition to God’s will must by this repeated questioning of the Lord and decision and confirmation of His will be most completely refuted and set aside. Flesh-and-blood’s deliberations concerning what pertains to God’s kingdom lead to indecision, doubt, timidity; taking counsel with God in direct access to His grace and truth makes the heart firm and the look clear, and gives true courage and victorious prowess, as is shown by the example of David, who repeatedly inquired of the Lord.

3. The teaching of the Ziphites forms the historical background of Psalms 54:0, the title of which refers its origin to David’s thence resulting sorrowful experiences, 1 Samuel 23:19 sq. In full accordance with his then dangerous situation and with a backward glance at God’s wonderful help, he first utters a prayer for deliverance from wicked and ungodly enemies, 1 Samuel 23:3-5 (1–3), and then expresses his assurance of divine help, together with the promise of thanksgiving for deliverance, 1 Samuel 23:6-9 (4–7).

4. Out of these great experiences, in David’s sorrowful life, of the grace and power, wisdom and justice, mercy and goodness of God, was developed in him and through him in his people that intelligence of faith and theological knowledge which we see in the Psalms and the prophetical writings.


1 Samuel 23:2. Starke: God forsakes not those who seek Him (Psalms 9:11 [10]). When we wish to begin any thing, we should first ask counsel of God.

1 Samuel 23:3. Cramer: Flesh and blood trembles when at God’s command we have to encounter danger. Schmid: Corrupt human reason always has something which it opposes to the word of God.

1 Samuel 23:4. Starke: When we have God’s will on our side, we should not let ourselves be led astray by men (Acts 21:13-14). The shield of the pious is with God, who helps pious hearts (Psalms 7:11 [10]).

1 Samuel 23:5. Cramer: In trouble God yet sometimes gives a joyous day, and after the troublous storm He shows a glimpse of His grace (Ecclesiastes 7:14).

1 Samuel 23:7. Osiander: Hypocrites have God’s name in the mouth, but the devil always in the heart. And although they speak of God, yet they have always a bloody mind against God’s people (Psalms 50:16-17).

1 Samuel 23:11-12. God foresees not only what will really happen, but also what would follow if this and that should happen. His omniscience and foreknowledge is a boundless and bottomless sea (Acts 27:24-31).—The greatest benefits are often requited with the greatest ingratitude, and this is a shameful evil among men, which then most betrays itself when they should be thankful.—Schlier: True thankfulness which fears God knows well how to find out the right. Let us be thankful in all things! We need not for that reason do wrong when the point is to be thankful, but when true thankfulness fills the heart there open up ways enough to show it.

1 Samuel 23:16 sq. Osiander: It is a work acceptable to God to comfort the afflicted (Isaiah 40:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:14).—God is wont always to refresh again His people who are in danger, that they may not utterly sink under the cross (2 Corinthians 7:6).—Starke: True friendship must be grounded in communion with God. Real love does not diminish, but increases.—Schlier: God lets a David be persecuted—lets him be driven about like a hunted animal; but at His own time He also sends him a Jonathan with friendly words. And so God the Lord still always does to all His servants.—F. W. Krummacher: The picture of this pair of friends—a picture nobler and more exalting than that of the heathen Dioscuri, beams inextinguishably in the heaven of the church, as a kindling and inspiring ideal of unfeigned manly friendship, sanctified in God.

1 Samuel 23:25 sq. Starke: God never leaves one that loves Him without a cross, and when one cross has ceased, another is at once ready (Psalms 73:14).—Osiander: God often lets His people fall into extreme need, so that they can neither counsel nor help themselves, in order that the divine help may be so much the more recognized and honored (Matthew 8:25).—Cramer: God lets nothing so bad happen, but that He knows how to make out of it something good (Genesis 50:20).—Wuert. Bib.: Even enemies must serve our God in reserving His believing children from peril or need (2 Peter 2:9).

1 Samuel 23:28. Osiander: The benefits of God we should with thankful mind keep in lively remembrance (Psalms 103:2).—Schlier: Why is it that the Lord very often helps only when the need has reached its height! It is in order that we may give the honor to the Lord alone.—F. W. Krummacher: David was delivered “at the last hour,” it is true; but this never strikes too late for the Lord still to furnish in it the proof to those that trust in Him, that His word is Yea and Amen when it says, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”

J. Disselhoff: How trying days should be borne after God’s heart: 1) By despairing of all self-help and believingly fleeing to God’s heart, there to learn supplication and thanksgiving. 2) By opening heart and hand amid our own need for others’ need. 3) By contending with the weapons of gentleness and humility against the supposed or real authors of the trials.

[1 Samuel 23:7-13. David at Keilah. 1) Saul eagerly arranges to seize him: a) Rejoicing beforehand in a success taken for granted. “Counting the chickens,” etc.; b) Inferring that God was on his side from the mere prospect of a single success; misinterpreting Providence, comp. 1 Samuel 24:4. 1 Samuel 24:2) The citizens of Keilah ready to betray him—doubtless remembering Nob; Ingratitude—which always finds itself some excuse. 3) David sees reason to fear them, and seeks divine direction: a) He speaks humbly as God’s servant; b) He earnestly implores direction. Prayer. In answer to humble and earnest prayer, God often delivers from ungrateful friends and scheming foes.

[1 Samuel 23:16-18. The last meeting of Jonathan and David: 1) David feeble and fearful (“strengthened,” “fear not”). Naturally discouraged by cowardly ingratitude, malignant hostility, weary wandering, uncertainty of life. 2) Jonathan encourages him: a) By the mere fact of coming to meet him through difficulties and dangers; b) By piously pointing him to God; c) By confident assurances of preservation and triumph; d) By declaring that his great enemy himself knows this, comp. 1 Samuel 24:20; e) By avowing his own willingness to be second to David. 3) They renew their league of friendship before the Lord (comp. 1 Samuel 18:3; 1 Samuel 20:16; 1 Samuel 20:42). They part to meet no more on earth. Jonathan is next mentioned in David’s pathetic lament (2 Samuel 1:17-27).

[1 Samuel 23:25-27. David’s narrow escape: 1) He is betrayed by men of his own tribe (1 Samuel 23:19), and skilful plans are laid to apprehend him (1 Samuel 23:22-23). 2) Hard pressed, fleeing in haste, surrounded (1 Samuel 23:26). 3) Prays to God for help and deliverance (Psalms 54:0). 4) Strangely delivered at the last moment by overruling Providence (1 Samuel 23:27).—Tr.]


1 Samuel 23:3; 1 Samuel 23:3. Erdmann: “and we are really to go, etc.?” Syr.: “how shall we go?” Sept.: “how will it be if we go?” all of which give the general sense; Eng. A. V. has the more exact rendering, and so Chald. and Vulg.—Then.: “how much less shall we go?”—Tr.]

[2][1 Samuel 23:3. Sept. σκῦλα “spoil,” which Then. prefers, supposing it to represent מְשִׁסּוֹת “booty,” whence the Heb. text מַעַרְכוֹת might easily come. Against this Wellhausen justly points out the unsuitableness of the resulting thought, and suggests that σκῦλα (variants σκωλα, κοιλιας) is another form of Κεἴλά, and that the Greek omits the מַעַרְכוֹת—as to the improbability of battle-lines in Philistine raiding-parties, they might well exist, or David’s men may naturally exaggerate the danger.

[3][1 Samuel 23:4. Heb.: “David and his men,” but the following verbs are in the Singular, making David the subject.—Tr.]

[4][1 Samuel 23:6. Erdmann: “The ephod came down to him,” which, however, the Heb. does not mean from the connection. Erdmann suggests the right sense in the Exposition.—Tr.]

[5][1 Samuel 23:7. נִכַּר is rendered by the VSS. “delivered,” but Sept. “sold” מָכַר, adopted by Then.; Wellh. says the text seems made up of מכר and נתן. The word is literally “ignored,” and so perhaps=“abandoned.”—Tr.]

[6][1 Samuel 23:7. Literally. “at entering” (לָבוֹא), not “shut in (forced) to enter.”—Tr.]

[7][1 Samuel 23:8. Sept. in inverse order; “to go down to war,” perhaps a mere softening. The Heb. order is better; Saul summons the people generally to war, and then the special purpose is added of going down to Keilah.—Instead of צוּר some MSS. have צוּד.

[8][1 Samuel 23:9. חַרַשׁ= “cut, work on the forge” = “practice.” Eng. A. V. gets its “secretly” from Vulg. clam, and this is perhaps from the meaning “to be deaf, dumb,” also found in this verb, but not applicable here; so Sept. rendered παρασιωπᾷ before which, however, it naturally found itself obliged to insert the negative.—Tr.]

[9][1 Samuel 23:10. Thenius reads: “Saul seeks … to destroy the city in order that the citizens of Keilah may deliver me into his hand,” on which see Erdmann. To this the objections are 1) that it supposes a construction (Inf. with suffix followed by Accus.-subject) doubtful in Heb. (Wellh.), and 2) Saul’s purpose in destroying the city, namely, that the citizens may deliver David up, seems a strange one. On the other hand the omission of the first clause of 1 Samuel 23:11 (Wellh.) is a violent procedure, like that of Syr., which omits the whole of this verse. The procedure of the vers. shows the difficulty they had with the text, but also seems to vouch for its integrity. It is perhaps better to attribute the repetition to excitement, or to regard the first question as a general one, which is afterwards for the sake of clearness, divided into two.—Tr.]

[10][1 Samuel 23:13. Sept. four hundred by error from 1 Samuel 22:2.—Tr.]

[11][1 Samuel 23:15. Ewald and Wellhausen emend to וַיִּרָא “feared” on the ground that this is required in order to connect with the preceding context and to explain the words of Jonathan in 1 Samuel 23:17. Yet the connection is so general a one that such a change seems unnecessary.—Tr.]

[12][1 Samuel 23:18. Some MSS. have דַּרְכּו “his way,” but the text is best supported.—Tr.]

[13][1 Samuel 23:19. The Heb. has not the Art., but the connection seems to involve it.—Wellhausen thinks the minute description of place here interpolated from 1 Samuel 26:1, because otherwise Saul’s minute directions in 1 Samuel 23:22-23, would be out of place; but the statement of the Ziphites is not so minute as to supersede the necessity of search for the fugitive, who might be in any one of a hundred places “in the wood on the hill.”—Tr.]

[14][1 Samuel 23:19. Some MSS. have (probably wrongly) Habilah and Havilah.—Tr.]

[15][1 Samuel 23:21. Instead of הָכִינוּ “set your mind),” some MSS. have הָבִינוּ“understand, learn.”—Tr.]

[16][1 Samuel 23:22. Thenius reads רַגְלוֹ הַמְּהֵרָה “where his quick or fleet foot is,” Sept. ἐν τάχει, an ingenious and smooth reading; yet the rugged Heb. text suits the hurry of the command better.—Tr.]

[17][1 Samuel 23:25. The suffix, omitted in the Heb., is added in the Sept.—Erdmann renders “went down the cliff.”—Tr.]

[18][1 Samuel 23:26. Sept. “Saul and his men.” a natural (and therefore suspicious) supplement.—Tr.]

[19][1 Samuel 23:28. On the meaning of this name see Erdmann in Exposition.—Tr.]

[20][Mr. Grove (in Smith’s Bib. Dict., Art. Keilah) referring to Tobler’s identification of Keilah with Kila says “thus another is added to the list of places which, though specified as in the ‘lowland’ are yet actually found in the mountains: a puzzling fact.” In connection with the signification “fortress” given to Keilah by Gesenius and others, Mr. Grove also points to the expression “marvellous kindness in a strong city” in Psalms 31:21 and to 1 Samuel 23:8 and the general tenor of the Psalm.—Tr.]

[21][See on 1 Samuel 23:6.—Tr.]

[22][Bib. Com.: “Implying that Keilah was not in Judah.” Yet it may mean simply that the Philistines now had control of the region of Keilah.—Tr.]

[23][Read: “When Abiathar, etc. fled to David, the ephod was in his hand, and he came down to Keilah.”—Tr.]

[24] לָבוֹא eundo—comp. לֵאמֹר dicendo, “saying.” The Inf. with ל is often used to introduce a subordinate circumstance. Ew. § 280d. Comp. 1 Kings 16:7; Psalms 78:18; Psa 63:3; 1 Chronicles 12:8; Proverbs 26:2; Joel 2:26.

[25][They act, perhaps, partly from attachment to Saul, partly from policy.—Tr.]

[26][It is suggested in Bib.-Com. that Jonathan had informed David of his father’s designs (1 Samuel 23:15), but this is nowhere intimated.—Tr.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 23". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/1-samuel-23.html. 1857-84.
Ads FreeProfile