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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 23

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

DAVID AT KEILAH, 1 Samuel 23:1-13.

1. Keilah The modern Kila, situated about four miles northwest of Hebron on a projecting cliff on the right bank of Wady el-Feranj. See on Joshua 15:44. It was a fortified place defended by gates and bars. 1 Samuel 23:7.

Threshing floors See on Judges 6:11, and Ruth 3:2.

Verses 1-29

DAVID’S FLIGHT TO RAMAH, AND SAUL’S PURSUIT, 1 Samuel 19:18 to 1 Samuel 24:18.

David fled… to Samuel Whither could he better go for help and counsel at a time like this? Surely, he thinks, Samuel will defend me against Saul.

He and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth Naioth is not to be regarded as a proper name. The word means habitations, dwelling places, and refers to the dwellings of the band of prophets over whom Samuel presided. The plural is used because of the number of cells or huts in this locality. The Targum renders the word house of instruction, and Ewald defines it as studium, or school. Here these disciples of Samuel dwelt, and disciplined themselves in holy exercises. How long David enjoyed this society of Samuel and these prophets before Saul ascertained whither he had fled we cannot determine, but probably not long.

Verse 2

2. David inquired of the Lord Through the urim and thummin of the priest Abiathar.

Verse 3

3. We be afraid here in Judah Afraid of Saul’s pursuit and sudden attack. They thought that any engagement against an enemy would expose them to still greater danger.

Verse 6

6. When Abiathar… fled to David to Keilah This does not refer to the time when Abiathar first fled to David from Nob, but to a subsequent flight from the wilderness of Judah to Keilah, after David and his men had taken possession of that city. This verse is not out of its proper place, as Houbigant supposes, but is inserted here to prepare the reader for what immediately follows. When David went forth to defend the inhabitants of Keilah, Abiathar remained in the wilderness until he heard that Saul was making preparations to besiege David and his men at Keilah; then he hastened down thither with the ephod in his hand. By means of this ephod David received communications from Jehovah which enabled him to make a timely escape from Keilah.

Verse 14


14. A mountain in the wilderness of Ziph Perhaps the same eminence, about three miles southeast of Hebron, that still bears the name Tell Zif; at all events, some mountain in this vicinity is meant. Compare Joshua 15:55.

Saul sought him every day He probably supposed that David was gathering troops around him for hostile purposes against himself, and that when adequately strong he would not hesitate to make an attempt upon the throne. He may have feared also that David would issue a call to the tribes of Israel for help, for he well knew how popular the young hero was wherever he was known.

Verse 16

16. Jonathan… arose and went to David Whether Jonathan ever accompanied his father in the pursuit after David we are nowhere told, but it is very evident that he never sought to take his friend. His true heart was incapable of such duplicity.

Strengthened his hand in God Encouraged and cheered him in his faith and hope. He was now satisfied that David was destined to be king; his anointing by Samuel was probably well known, and Jonathan’s greatest desire was to be next to him in the kingdom, and in that position to share his friendship as in the past.

Verse 18

18. They two made a covenant before the Lord Alone in the wilderness of Ziph, and probably at the still hour of night, with none but Jehovah to witness, they solemnly renewed the covenant in which they had bound themselves twice before. 1 Samuel 18:30; 1 Samuel 20:16. This was the last time that Jonathan and the son of Jesse met.

Verse 19

19. Came up the Ziphites to Saul to Gibeah From which it appears that Saul had now for a season given up his search for David. The treachery of the Ziphites is mentioned in marked contrast with the constancy of Jonathan. Encouraged by his interview with Jonathan, and strong in hope and faith, David composes on this occasion Psalms 54:0.

The hill of Hachilah Perhaps the same eminence mentioned in 1 Samuel 23:14, for no hill of this name has been discovered in the neighbourhood of Ziph. The word Hachilah means dark, and may be regarded as an adjective descriptive of the hill in question, which was then covered with dark forest shades.

On the south of Jeshimon Rather, as in the margin, on the right hand of the wilderness; that is, as we see at 1 Samuel 26:1, before, or in front of the wilderness. Uncertainty as to the particular hill in question leads to like uncertainty as to the desert mentioned here and 1 Samuel 23:24, but the reference is most probably to the desert wastes lying between the wilderness of Ziph and the Dead Sea. A person at Gibeah would naturally speak of the wildernesses of Ziph and of Maon as lying to the right of the desert, on the west of the Dead Sea.

Verse 24

24. Wilderness of Maon This lay about four miles southeast of Ziph, and is still marked by the modern Main. Compare Joshua 15:55. Thus as David found himself pursued and hunted even by the Ziphites, he retreated still further to the south.

On the south of Jeshimon Rather, on the right of the desert. See note on 1 Samuel 23:19.

Verse 25

25. He came down into a rock Literally, he went down the rock. The margin gives the meaning, he went down from the rock. The rock was probably the summit of the hill Main, which is two hundred feet high, and from which there is a wide prospect over the country around.

Verse 26

26. Saul went on this side of the mountain, and David… on that side From his rocky height David watched the approach of his enemy, and by his knowledge of the wilderness and his strategic skill he baffled all the efforts made to entrap him. But the verse implies that David’s plight at this time was a most hazardous one, and his pursuers had well nigh taken him.

Verse 27

27. There came a messenger This was a signal working of Providence to deliver the son of Jesse from most imminent peril.

Verse 28

28. Sela-hammah-lekoth According to the ancient versions, the rock of divisions, so called because there Saul and David were divided or separated. According to Gesenius and other recent critics, the rock of escapes, from חלק , to be smooth; then, to slip away and escape referring to David’s escape from Saul.

Verse 29

29. En-gedi See on Joshua 15:62. and 1 Samuel 23:1 of the next chapter.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 23". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/1-samuel-23.html. 1874-1909.
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