|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
23:19-29 In the midst of his wickedness, Saul affected to speak the language of piety. Such expressions, without suitable effects, can only amuse or deceive those who hear, and those who use them. This mountain was an emblem of the Divine Providence coming between David and the destroyer. Let us not be dismayed at the prospect of future difficulties, but stay ourselves upon Him who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working. Sooner than his promise shall fail, he will commission Philistines to effect our escape, at the very moment when our case appears most desperate. God requires entire dependence on him, If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established, Isa 7:9.
Verses 25, 26. - He came down into a rock. Hebrew, sela', a cliff or precipice. In the next verse it is described as a mountain, on one side of which was David and his men, in full view of Saul and his army on the other. But as Saul's forces were much more numerous, they were preparing to separate, and so enclose David, while he made haste. The word expresses anxiety and fear, and may be translated, "And David sought anxiously to go from before the face of Saul." Conder's description of the spot ('Tent Work,' 2:91) sets the whole scene most vividly before us. It is as follows: - "Between the ridge of El Kolah (the ancient hill of Hachilah) and the neighbourhood of Maon there is a great gorge called 'the Valley of Rocks,' a narrow but deep chasm, impassable except by a detour of many miles, so that Saul might have stood within sight of David, yet quite unable to overtake his enemy; and to this "cliff of division" the name Malaky now applies, a word closely approaching the Hebrew Mahlekoth. The neighbourhood is seamed with many torrent beds, but there is no other place near Maon where cliffs such as are to be inferred from the word sela' can be found. It seems to me pretty safe, therefore, to look on this gorge as the scene of the wonderful escape of David, due to a sudden Philistine invasion, which terminated the history of his hair-breadth escapes in the south country." This cliff in ver. 28 is called Sela-Hammahlekoth, "the cliff of divisions," or "of separations," ham representing the Hebrew article. Many other derivations have been suggested, but the above, which alone agrees with the ordinary meaning of the Hebrew verb, is proved to be right by Mr. Conder's researches. They enable us also to correct some small errors. Thus David did not come down into a rock, but "to the cliff," the sela or precipitous gorge described above. Nor did he "descend the rock" (Erdmann) "in order to conceal himself in the low land, or in the caves at its base," but he went to it as being an impassable barrier between him and his pursuers. But "he hasted anxiously to get away" (ver. 26), because Saul would divide his army into two parts, and so David would only have the advantage of the few miles of detour which Saul must make. But for the news of the Philistine invasion his final escape would have been almost hopeless. The ordinary notion that David and his men were concealed from the sight of Saul by an intervening mountain is disproved, not only by no such mountain existing, but also by the clause, "Saul and his men were surrounding David and his men" (ver. 28). They had them in sight, and were forming in two divisions, so as to pass the gorge at the two ends and close upon the flanks of David's small band of followers. Verse 29 belongs to the next chapter.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Saul also and his men went to seek him,.... Whether the Ziphites returned to him with better intelligence, or sent him word where David was, is not said, however Saul with his army came out in search of him:
and they told David; or it was told him, that Saul was come in quest of him:
wherefore he came down into a rock; either into a cave in it, or he came down from the hill Hachilah to a plain or valley, in order to go up to a rock, the same with the mountain in 1 Samuel 23:26,
and abode in the wilderness of Maon; in which was the rock or mountain he came to:
and when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon; for upon the intelligence of the Ziphites, he came out to seek for him in the wilderness of Ziph, but hearing that he was removed to the wilderness of Maon, he pursued him there.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
25. David … came down into a rock, and abode in the wilderness of Maon—Tell Main, the hillock on which was situated the ancient Maon (Jos 15:55), and from which the adjoining wilderness took its name, is one mile north, ten east from Carmel. The mountain plateau seems here to end. It is true the summit ridge of the southern hills runs out a long way further towards the southwest; but towards the southeast the ground sinks more and more down to a tableland of a lower level, which is called "the plain to the right hand [that is, to the south] of the wilderness" [Van De Velde].
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