1 Samuel 23:6
And 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) With an ephod in his hand.—The difficulty-here with the version and commentators is that they failed to understand that enquiry of the Lord could be made in any other mode than through the Urim. (See Note above on 1Samuel 23:2.) Saul in happier days, we know, enquired and received replies “through prophets,” for before he had recourse to forbidden arts we read how, in contrast evidently to other and earlier times, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets (1Samuel 28:6). The LXX. here must have deliberately altered the Hebrew text, with the view of escaping what seemed to these translators a grave difficulty. They render. “And it came to pass, when Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David, that he came down with David to Keilah, having an ephod in his hand,” thus implying that Abiathar had come down with David to Keilah, having joined him previously. The Hebrew text is, however, definite and clear, and tells us that Abiathar first joined David when he was at Keilah. But the difficulty which puzzled the LXX. and so many others vanishes when we remember that the enquiry of the Lord was not unfrequently made through the prophet; and this was evidently done by David through Gad, a famous representative of that order, in the case of the enquiry referred to in 1Samuel 23:2; 1Samuel 23:4 of this chapter.

1 Samuel 23:6. He came down with an ephod — Rather, with the ephod, namely, the high-priest’s ephod, wherein were the Urim and Thummim. For Abiathar, being left, it is probable, to keep the sanctuary, while his father Ahimelech and the rest of the priests went to wait upon Saul, as soon as he heard of their slaughter he took this principal vestment of the high-priest, and carried it to David. Thus God, in the course of his providence, gave him an opportunity, while Doeg, the butcher, was killing his brethren, both of escaping himself and of bringing to David the ephod, of which now Saul was justly deprived.

23:1-6 When princes persecute God's people, let them expect vexation on all sides. The way for any country to be quiet, is to let God's church be quiet in it: if Saul fight against David, the Philistines fight against his country. David considered himself the protector of the land. Thus did the Saviour Jesus, and left us an example. Those are unlike David, who sullenly decline to do good, if they are not rewarded for services.If Gad was with David at the forest of Hareth 1 Samuel 22:5, and there inquired for him of the Lord 1 Samuel 23:2,1 Samuel 23:4, but did not accompany him to Keilah, and if Abiathar's flight occurred at the time of David's being at Keilah, we have an additional striking instance of God's watchful providential care of David in thus sending Abiathar to supply the place of Gad at so critical a moment. 6. an ephod—in which was the Urim and Thummim (Ex 28:30). It had, probably, been committed to his care, while Ahimelech and the other priests repaired to Gibeah, in obedience to the summons of Saul. Or, with the ephod, to wit, the high priest’s ephod, in which were the Urim and Thummim, Exodus 28:30, which when Ahimelech and the rest of the priests went to Saul, were probably left in his hand, and to his care; which gave him the opportunity both of escaping, whilst Doeg the butcher was killing his brethren, and of bringing away the ephod, which Saul had oft grossly neglected, and now was justly deprived of it.

And it came to pass, when Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David to Keilah,.... Either when he was there, or near the place:

that he came down with an ephod in his hand; not with a linen ephod on his back, which the priests in common wore, but the ephod with the Urim and Thummim in his hand, which was peculiar to the high priest; and his father the high priest being dead, it belonged to him, and therefore he took care to bring it with him; though the words may be literally rendered, "the ephod came down in his hand" (k), as it were by chance, and not with design; and so some Jewish interpreters (l) understand it, that in his fright and flight, among his garments and other things he took hold of to carry with him, and not minding well what he took, this happened to be, being so ordered by the providence of God; though the Targum renders it,"the ephod he made to descend in his hand,''or brought it in his hand; and so Kimchi and Abarbinel observe it may be interpreted, though they seem to incline to the other sense.

(k) "ephod descendit in manu sua", Pagninus, Montanus; "ephod descendebat in manu sua", Munsterus; so Tigurine version and Piscator. (l) Kimchi & Ben Melech.

And it came to pass, when Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David to Keilah, that he came down with an {c} ephod in his hand.

(c) By God's providence the ephod was preserved and kept with David the true king.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6. fled to David to Keilah] Since (a) it is implied by 1 Samuel 22:20 that Abiathar joined David before the expedition to Keilah: and (b) the inquiry in 1 Samuel 23:2; 1 Samuel 23:4 implies the presence of the high-priest with the Ephod: it seems best either to strike out “to Keilah,” or to follow the Sept. in reading, “And it came to pass when Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David, that he went down with David to Keilah with the Ephod in his hand.” This note is inserted here to explain how David could inquire of God both in Judah and at Keilah.

Verse 6. - When Abiathar... fled to David to Koilah, he came down with an ephod in his hand. Literally, "an ephod came down in his hand, and so, word for word, the Syriac. The object of this verse is to explain how it was that David (in vers. 2 and 4) was able to inquire of Jehovah. The words to Keilah - Hebrew, Kelah-wards - do not mean that it was at Keilah that Abiathar joined David, but that he came in time to go thither with him. In 1 Samuel 22:20 it seems as if Abiathar must have joined David even at an earlier date, for he is represented as fleeing to him immediately after the massacre of the priests at Nob. Now, granting that David's stay at Gath with Achish was very brief, he must have remained at Adullam a considerable time, inasmuch as men joined him there in large numbers (1 Samuel 22:2), which seems to show that his hiding place had become generally known. It was probably this concourse of men to him that was "discovered," i.e. made known, to Saul, and, as being an act of formal revolt, so raised his ire. As being supposed to be in league with David, Saul put the priests to death, and Abiathar fled; but probably the news of this terrible act had already reached David, and, in anxiety about his father and mother, he had gone to find refuge for them in Moab. Thither Gad follows him, bringing prophetic approval of his conduct, but ordering him to return into the territory of his own tribe. If then David was on his way to Moab when Abiathar reached Adullam, he may have remained in hiding there till David's return to the thickets of Hareth. But, possibly, even before Abiathar joined him the news may have arrived of the Philistine foray, and David's mind was set Keilah-wards. But there were those who doubted of the prudence of this proceeding, and Abiathars arrival with the ephod enabled him to consult Jehovah's will. By his presence also David had now the approval of the priesthood. 1 Samuel 23:6But his men said to him, "Behold, here in Judah we are in fear (i.e., are not safe from Saul's pursuit); how shall we go to Keilah against the ranks of the Philistines?" In order, therefore, to infuse courage into them, he inquired of the Lord again, and received the assurance from God, "I will give the Philistines into thy hand." He then proceeded with his men, fought against the Philistines, drove off their cattle, inflicted a severe defeat upon them, and thus delivered the inhabitants of Keilah. In 1 Samuel 23:6 a supplementary remark is added in explanation of the expression "inquired of the Lord," to the effect that, when Abiathar fled to David to Keilah, the ephod had come to him. The words "to David to Keilah" are not to be understood as signifying that Abiathar did not come to David till he was in Keilah, but that when he fled after David (1 Samuel 22:20), he met with him as he was already preparing for the march of Keilah, and immediately proceeded with him thither. For whilst it is not stated in 1 Samuel 22:20 that Abiathar came to David in the wood of Hareth, but the place of meeting is left indefinite, the fact that David had already inquired of Jehovah (i.e., through the oracle of the high priest) with reference to the march to Keilah, compels us to assume that Abiathar had come to him before he left the mountains for Keilah. So that the brief expression "to David to Keilah," which is left indefinite because of its brevity, must be interpreted in accordance with this fact.
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