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1 Samuel 23:1. Then they told David— Or, Now they had told.
1 Samuel 23:2. David enquired of the Lord, &c.— This was one of the noblest adventures of David's life, and perhaps the most extraordinary of any recorded in history. The Philistines, probably encouraged by David's disgrace and Saul's distraction, invaded Judah, and besieged Keilah, wasting the country all around it. Another man in David's place would have rejoiced at this invasion, and perhaps encouraged it; and this both from self-preservation and policy: First, Because he had nothing to fear for himself, while Saul had such an enemy upon his hands; and secondly, Because the distress of his country was the likeliest means to bring Saul to reason, and force him to recal, and be reconciled to, his best companion. But David was governed by other than these narrow views: neither safety nor honour were desirable to him, if to be purchased by the distress of his country and his friends; his bosom beat with an earnest desire to relieve Keilah: but it was not an adventure to be unadvisedly undertaken; and therefore we are assured, that he enquired of God, saying, Shall I go, and smite these Philistines? This is to me one of those passages of Scripture which give evidence of their own truth. None but a hero could put the question, and none but GOD could resolve it. And the Lord said unto David, Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah.
1 Samuel 23:12. And the Lord said, They will deliver thee up— One would imagine, that this extraordinary success, in the deliverance of so great a city, might have secured David a safe retreat among the men of Keilah; but it was not so: such is the nature of man; present dangers quickly obliterate past obligations. Gratitude is without question a most lovely virtue, but too seldom lives in the extremes either of adversity or success. It is like those fine colours which storms and sun-shine equally deface. This is an event which, methinks, will easily solve that hard question about the consistency of the divine prescience with human free-will. A good politician, who was let into the course of Saul's secret practices with the men of Keilah, and had fair opportunities of sifting their dispositions upon the point, might fairly pronounce upon the event: how much more then that all-seeing GOD, who searcheth the secrets of the heart, and seeth the thoughts afar off; seeth them in all their secret workings, tendencies, and temptations, and through all their mazes and masks. The treachery of the men of Keilah to David has given frequent occasion to observe how much more honourable was the conduct of the Athenians to their guardians, their orators, whom no threats could oblige them to give up to the resentment of Alexander.
1 Samuel 23:14. In the wilderness of Ziph— This mountainous wilderness was within the precincts of the tribe of Judah, (for there, as it was natural, David thought himself most in safety,) and upon the confines of Edom; Joshua 15:24. It is supposed to have had its name from the Hebrew word זפת zepheth, pitch, with which it is said to have abounded. This is the more probable, if it was situate, as some place it, on the borders of the Asphaltick lake. It was not far from Maon and Carmel, 1Sa 23:25 chap. 1 Samuel 25:5.
1 Samuel 23:17-18. And I shall be next unto, &c.— i.e. "The "next person to thee in thy kingdom." And they too made a covenant before the Lord; that is, solemnly renewed the covenant which they had formerly made. Jonathan's conduct in this remarkable transaction appears truly disinterested, generous, and great. He could not now be ignorant of David's destination to the throne of Israel by the will of God, and knew that nothing could prevent his succession to it, as God had appointed it. In such a situation how does he act? He scorns by fraud and violence to attempt the life of the man whom God had fixed on to be king, even in preference to himself; but seeks him out in the wilderness, where his father was hunting him to destruction, and strengthens his hand in God: not by promising to assist him in dispossessing his father of the kingdom, or disturbing and distressing his government; not by entering into any conspiracy or plot with him against his father's interest and honour; but by comforting him under his cruel persecution, and assuring him of God's protection from the hand or power of his father, his future advancement to the crown, and his own confidence in David's friendship, that he should be advanced to the highest honours in his court. He lets him know also, that Saul his father very well knew that David should be his successor; and that Jonathan said the truth in this, is evident from what Saul himself said to David but a little while after, chap. 1 Samuel 24:20. In this whole affair, therefore, between Jonathan and David, nothing passed but what was perfectly consistent with the allegiance and duty of these two eminent friends to their common sovereign and father: there was no treason talked of; no event spoken of, but what was known to Saul equally as to Jonathan: not any treasonable measures concerted to precipitate and hasten the event before the proper season appointed by Providence; nor any covenant entered into by Jonathan to engage with David in any common cause against his own father. David's succession to the crown after Saul, as we have said above, was well known both to Saul and Jonathan: and the only circumstance in which Jonathan's conduct differed from his father's was, that, with respect to an event which both of them foresaw would come to pass, Jonathan was for quietly submitting to it, as an appointment of God; while Saul was for practising every expedient to prevent it, if possible.
Note; (1.) The words of a pious friend are a reviving cordial to a fainting heart. (2.) Where true love is, even kingdoms are not too great to part with. (3.) Renewed engagements are a strengthening to the bands of friendship; and the friend of Jesus is glad of every opportunity to repeat his vows of fidelity to him.
1 Samuel 23:25-26. Saul also and his men went— Saul, informed of the place where David was, went in person to invest it; and, humanly speaking, David could not possibly escape: but God heard the prayers which this holy man made to him in this extremity, and which he has so finely expressed in the 54th Psalm; all the parts whereof are applicable to the present occasion. The prayers of great men in distress, and their thanksgivings after great deliverances, have always been matter of uncommon delight to curiosity, and to persons of serious and religious spirits; nor does the glory of any great man shine out in their eyes with half the lustre, as when they behold him on his knees, lifting up his eyes, or stretching out his hands to Heaven, or, what is yet greater, prostrating himself before it, in humiliation and acknowledgment.
1 Samuel 23:27-28. There came a messenger unto Saul— Thus, by the timely interposition of Providence, David was delivered from one of the most immediate dangers of his life: and from this time they called the place המחלקות סלע Selang hammachlekoth; i.e. the rock of divisions: the rock where Saul was obliged to divide himself from David, and go after the Philistines. Osiander thinks that David gave it this name in gratitude for his deliverance, as a memorial that there God had, by little less than a miracle, divided his enemy from him. Possibly this was a rock of one of those mountains which Solomon calls the mountains of Bether, (Song of Solomon 2:17.) in the Margin of our Bible interpreted division.
Note; (1.) God has various ways of delivering his people; even the Philistines shall sometimes be made instruments of his mercy to them. (2.) They who have fled to the mountain of refuge Jesus Christ, shall find such a strong rock of division between them and danger, that none shall be able to hurt them.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 23". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany