1 Samuel 23
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
1 Samuel 23:1-6. (HARETH, KEILAH.)
So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah (ver. 5). Another step in advance was now made by David. Whilst Saul (in addition to alienating the prophets, and well nigh exterminating the priests) failed to afford adequate protection to his subjects, David was called to defend them against the incursions of the Philistines. This was doubtless the chief purpose for which he was recalled from Moab to Judah. And he fulfilled it, in obedience to the direction of God, which he sought and received through Abiathar, who had come down to him "with an ephod in his hand." "For his conscience and his assurance of faith, as well as for the certainty and success of the whole undertaking, he needed the Divine authorisation; 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" (Erdmann). His public spirit was -

I. INDICATIVE OF A NOBLE DISPOSITION. Some men are unduly concerned about their own convenience, safety, interest, and refuse to look beyond them. Others render public services from selfish motives. But the truly public spirited man, like David, possesses -

1. An intense desire for the welfare of the people, to whom by Divine providence he is united by special ties, not contrary to, but closer and more immediately affecting him than those which unite him to all mankind.

2. Genuine sympathy with the distresses of the weak, the injured, and the imperilled (ver. 1). Their condition fills his heart with generous impulses, and makes him forget his own troubles.

3. Supreme concern for "God's kingdom and righteousness," which inspires him with zeal against evil doers, and (along with his unselfish regard for his people) makes him willing to undergo labour, conflict, sacrifice, suffering, and death. "Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people," etc. (2 Samuel 10:12).


1. General principles, such as are contained in the commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Leviticus 19:18), and others of a similar nature (Galatians 6:10; Philippians 2:4). In order that our love to the whole human race (included in the commandment in its widest sense) may be real and effectual, it must begin by the exercise of love toward those who are nearest to us and have the first claim upon us (Psalm 122:6-9; Psalm 137:5, 6; Luke 13:34; Luke 24:47; Romans 9:3).

2. Particular precepts pertaining to the varied relationships, capabilities, and needs of men, as rulers, subjects, etc.

3. Joined with numerous promises and encouragements to the performance of duty. If public spirit in the form of patriotism is not expressly enjoined in the New Testament, it is not without reason. "It was worthy of the wisdom of our great Legislator to decline the express inculcation of a principle so liable to degenerate into excess, and to content himself with prescribing the virtues which are sure to develop it, as far as is consistent with the dictates of universal benevolence" (R. Hall).

III. OPPOSED BY PRUDENTIAL FEARS. "David's men said unto him, Behold, we are afraid here in Judah," etc. (ver. 3). They were not of the same mind as himself, had not a proper sense of their obligation, were unduly concerned about their own safety, and full of doubt and fear. But he was not disheartened nor deterred. And on a further revelation of the Divine will they were (as others often are) -

1. Persuaded that their opposition was wrong.

2. Convinced that their fears were groundless.

3. Induced to accompany their leader in a brave and generous enterprise (ver. 5). One man imbued with strong faith and public spirit thus overcomes the opposition of many, and converts them into zealous helpers.

IV. PRODUCTIVE OF IMPORTANT CONSEQUENCES. The hand of God was with them, and -

1. Injustice was punished, the public enemy defeated, and the prey taken from the mighty.

2. Those who were in the utmost peril were saved.

3. All the people were taught where to look for their deliverer. In seeking the good of others David found his own honour, and received a Divine testimony to his royal destination. - D.

1 Samuel 23:1-12. (HARETH, KEILAH.)
Inquiry of the Lord by Urim and Thummim really meant prayer in which Divine direction was sought in a particular manner (see 1 Samuel 14:19, 36). It was made by David soon after the arrival of Abiathar, on three several occasions (vers. 2, 4, 10), - on the last of them by two separate questions, - and in each case a definite answer was received. "God shows great care for David, instructing him now by prophets (1 Samuel 22:5), and now by Urim and Thummim" (Grotius). "That which in the olden Jewish times was the prerogative of a few becomes in Christian days the privilege of the many. Christ makes all his faithful followers 'kings and priests unto God.' And much of the sacred symbolism that gathered around the ancient priesthood now gathers in another form around the believer in Christ. Mere symbols have given place to true spiritual power. The Spirit of God which once underlay the symbols, and spake through them to the devout mind, now communicates directly with the heart, and needs no material intervention" ('Bible Educ.,' 4:38). Those who seek guidance of God in a right spirit never fail to obtain it, especially in -

I. PERPLEXITY concerning the knowledge of duty. Asking, "Shall I go?" (ver. 9.) they receive, perchance, the definite answer, "Go;" not, indeed, by an audible voice, but by means of -

1. The elevating, calming, and enlightening of their minds through communion with God, and more particularly by the purifying of their moral nature from carnal and selfish affections by his indwelling Spirit, which enables them to see "what the will of the Lord is." "Our notions resemble the index and hand of the dial; our feelings are the hidden springs which impel the machine; with this difference, that notions and feelings react on each other reciprocally" (Coleridge). "The understanding resembles not a dry light, but admits a tincture of the will and the passions, which generate their own system of truth accordingly" (Bacon). And when the heart (which is the soul's eye) is pure we see God (Proverbs 28:5; Matthew 5:8; John 7:17).

2. A clear understanding of the meaning of the written word, and of its application to the circumstances in which they are placed. As by that word thoughts, impressions, and purposes are tried, in order that it may be proved whether they are of God, so by the same word they are formed and directed (Isaiah 8:20; John 16:13).

3. A correct judgment of what is right and most expedient, accompanied by an inward assurance of the Divine approbation. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God," etc. (James 1:5; Psalm 25:9).

II. DIFFICULTY arising from hindrances to the performance of duty. "David inquired of the Lord yet again" (ver. 4). The obstacles placed in the way of duty, especially by friends, ought to lead to renewed consideration and prayer, and these are often followed by -

1. Strong confirmation of the conviction previously entertained. "Arise, go down to Keilah."

2. Increased confidence of success. "I will give the Philistines into thine hand."

3. Entire removal of the difficulty. "David and his men went." It appears to have been chiefly for their satisfaction that the second inquiry was made. Whilst we should endeavour to persuade men to adopt a right course, we ought above all things to look to God to dispose them to walk therein.

III. DANGER, which sometimes occurs on the fulfilment of duty (vers. 7-12). "In the deed of deliverance itself lies the seed of new suffering." Saul misinterprets events (ver. 7), like other men blinded by sin and "using the name of God when God is farthest off from them," confidently calculates on seizing David, levies war, and openly devotes himself to the execution of his wicked purpose. But David is warned; he has also, probably, reason to suspect the fidelity of the citizens of Keilah, and again inquires of the Lord. He does so with much fervour, calling him the "Lord God of Israel," and humbly acknowledging himself to be his servant; and the answers he obtains afford him -

1. Foresight of the perilous events of the future. "He will come down."

2. Insight into the hidden purposes of men. "They will deliver thee up." We may often ascertain more of the secret thoughts of men by communion with God than by consultation with men themselves.

3. Guidance for the frustration of ungrateful and evil intentions, and escape from every danger. "David and his men, etc." (ver. 13). How perfect is the knowledge which God possesses of all things! How sure is the guidance which he affords to those who seek him! How safe are they who make him their Rock and their Fortress! In the midst of all his troubles David can sing of "his marvellous loving kindness in a fenced city;" as he does in Psalm 31.: "In thee, O Jehovah, have I found refuge."

"See Judah's promised king bereft of all;
Driven out an exile from the face of Saul.
To distant caves the lonely wanderer flies,
To seek that peace a tyrant's frown denies.

His soul exults; hope animates his lays;
The sense of mercy kindles into praise;
And wilds familiar with the lion's roar
Ring with ecstatic sounds unheard before"

(Cowper) = -D.

And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand (ver. 14). From the time of his leaving Gath till his return (1 Samuel 27:2) David dwelt in the following places successively -

1. The cave of Adullam.

2. Mizpeh of Moab.

3. The forest of Hareth.

4. Keilah.

5. The wilderness of Ziph (Hachilah, Horesh).

6. The wilderness of Maon.

7. En-gedi.

8. "The hold" (1 Samuel 24:22).

9. The wilderness of Paran (1 Samuel 25:2).

10. The wilderness of Ziph again.

The period over which his wanderings in these places extended is not stated, but it was probably upwards of five years; "and the time that David dwelt in the country of the Philistines was a year and four months" (1 Samuel 27:7). Like the journeyings of the people of Israel (the events of which "were written for our admonition"), they resemble, in some respects, the course of all God's servants through the present world to "the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." "Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?" (Psalm 56:8). Regarded generally they were a scene of -

1. Bitter hostility. "Saul sought him every day." And so long as the servants of the great King are "in the world" they are objects of the hatred and opposition of "the prince of this world" and "the children of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2; Galatians 1:4), because "they are not of the world." The hostility which is directed against them is unreasonable and unrighteous, but real and deep; sometimes fierce and violent, and never ceases.

2. Outward distress. David was hunted like "a partridge on the mountains" (1 Samuel 26:20), "wandered in deserts and mountains and caves of the earth," sometimes (like the Son of man) "had not where to lay his head," suffered hunger and thirst and continual hardship, was separated from "lover and friend," and lived in the midst of extreme peril. Others are more highly favoured, but none can escape the ordinary sorrows of life; some are "greatly afflicted," and not a few suffer reproach and persecution for Christ's sake. "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

3. Inward conflict, temptation, care, depression, grief, and fear, such as are described in the psalms which refer to David's wanderings, and are full of imagery derived therefrom. "His sanctified genius did not give forth its perfect fragrance till it was bruised in God's chastening hand. It was the storm of affliction that awoke the full harmonies of David's harp" (Binnie). And these are echoed in the experience of the servants of God in every age.

4. Divine protection and instruction, by means of providential occurrences, the prophetic word, and the inward teaching of the Holy Spirit. "God delivered him not into his hand." "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" (Erdmann). And still higher privileges than of old are near conferred on the people of God.

5. Sacred devotion. His harp was his constant companion in his wanderings, and mingling with its tones in every place, his voice rose up to God in prayer and praise, making every place a temple.

"Serene he sits and sweeps the golden lyre,
And blends the prophet's with the poet's fire.
See with what art he strikes the vocal strings,
The God, his theme, inspiring what he sings"

(Lowth) Whether it be the Divine excellences, or the deep-toned voice of penitence, or the longing of the soul after God, the rejoicing in the light of his countenance, or thanksgiving for his mercies, in short, every emotion of the renewed heart finds adequate expression in the Book of Psalms (J. Duncan). It is "the poetry of friendship between God and man" (Herder).

6. Active service. For during his wanderings he was called to render special service (ver. 2), and in the latter part of them continually afforded protection to his people (1 Samuel 25:16). "None of us liveth to himself." We are the Lord's servants, and must serve him in faithful and diligent labour on behalf of others.

7. Necessary preparation for future service, honour, and joy.

"Oh spread thy covering wings around,
Till all our wanderings cease,
And at our Father's loved abode
Our souls arrive in peace." = -D.

1 Samuel 23:15-18. (HORESH, in the wilderness, of. Ziph.) -
And Jonathan... strengthened his hand in God (ver. 16). The friendship of Jonathan for David hero stands in contrast not only to the hatred of Saul, but also to the ingratitude of the citizens of Keilah, and the treachery of the Ziphites (ver. 19). The benefit of it, which had been long enjoyed by David, was even more fully than ever experienced by him now, when he left Keilah with his 600 men, wandered hither and thither, and abode in a mountain (Hachilah) in the wilderness of Ziph." He was exposed to the persecution of Saul, who sought to destroy him by every means in his power (ver. 14), driven from one stronghold to another, able to procure only a precarious subsistence, anxious, fearful, and sometimes ready to sink in doubt and despondency. "Just at this moment Jonathan, as though led by God made his way to him in the thickets of the forest (literally, Horesh), and consoled him as if with words and promises from God himself" (Ewald). He did not accompany the force in pursuit of David (ver. 15), but came from Gibeah. His peculiar and trying position made it impossible for him to do more for his friend than hold this secret interview with him, without altogether breaking with his royal father, and openly incurring the charge of disobedience and rebellion. Never was friendship more faithfully shown; never did it render more valuable service. Well might the blind man, when asked what he thought the sun was like, reply, "Like friendship." Its benefit, as received by David, was -

I. OPPORTUNE. "A friend loveth at all times;" but his kindly offices are peculiarly grateful and beneficial in a time of need; as, e.g., in -

1. Physical distress, affliction, homelessness, privation, peril of liberty or life.

2. Mental anxiety, loneliness, discouragement, depression, when the

"Light is low,
When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
And tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of Being slow."

3. Spiritual trial, temptation, failing faith hope and patience; in view of the prosperity of the wicked, the patience of Heaven, the delay of promised good. At such a time how unspeakably precious is a true friend! His countenance is like sunshine breaking through thick clouds. "Friendship is the only point in human affairs concerning the benefit of which all with one voice agree. There is nothing so suited to our nature, so well adapted to prosperity or adversity. I am not aware whether, with the exception of wisdom, anything better has been bestowed on man by the immortal gods. And they seem to take away the sun from the world who withdraw friendship from life" (Cicero). "Refuge failed," etc. (Psalm 142:4; Matthew 26:40, 56).

II. ADAPTED to the most pressing need. "And strengthened his hand in God, i.e. strengthened his heart not by supplies, or by money, or any subsidy of that kind, but by consolation drawn from his innocence and the promises of God" (Keil). "Exhorted him to put confidence in God" (Dathe). He strengthened him by -

1. His genial presence, especially since his visit was expressive of his fidelity, confidence, and sympathy, and made with much effort, self-denial, and risk. "They that fear thee will be glad when they see me" (Psalm 119:74; Proverbs 27:17). "Whom when Paul saw," etc. (Acts 28:15; 2 Corinthians 7:7). "When I ask myself whence it is that I feel this joy, this ease, this serenity when I see him - it is because it is he, it is because it is I, I answer; and that is all that I can say" (Montaigne).

2. His encouraging words. "Fear not" (" the keynote of Jonathan's address"), etc., in which he assured him of -

(1) Preservation from threatening danger, doubtless pointing him to the Divine protection.

(2) Exaltation to the highest dignity: "Thou wilt be king over Israel;" pointing him to the Divine purpose, which had been plainly declared, and could not fail to be fulfilled. He had already intimated (1 Samuel 20:15), and now explicitly asserted, his faith in that purpose. What ground was there for David's fear?

(3) His anticipation of continued and intimate association with him when he should sit on the throne, all claim to which he willingly renounced for his sake, and in obedience to the will of God.

(4) The conviction of Saul himself that he would prevail. If Saul believed it, why should David doubt? What more he said is not recorded. But this was admirably adapted to strengthen his heart and hand. "It is difficult to form an adequate conception of the courage, the spiritual faith, and the moral grandeur of this act. Never did man more completely clear himself from all complicity in guilt than Jonathan from that of his father. And yet not an undutiful word escaped the lips of this brave man" (Edersheim).

3. His renewed covenant with him (1 Samuel 18:3; 1 Samuel 20:16, 17, 42), in which, whilst he pledged his own faithful love and service, he drew forth the expression of his faith in his future destiny as well as of his fidelity to himself and his house: and both appealed to God as witness. The intercourse of friends is peculiarly beneficial when it is sanctified by their common recognition of the presence of God, and their common devotion to his will. "Next to the immediate guidance of God by his Spirit, the counsel and encouragement of virtuous and enlightened friends afford the most powerful aid in the encounter of temptation and in the career of duty." It was the last time David and Jonathan met.

"O heart of fire! misjudged by wilful man,
Thou flower of Jesse's race!
What woe was thine, when thou and Jonathan
Last greeted face to face!
He doomed to die, thou on us to impress
The portent of a bloodstained holiness"

(Lyra Apostolica')

III. ENDURING. The influence of their meeting continued long afterwards, and produced abundant fruit (1 Samuel 24:7; 1 Samuel 26:9). "The pleasures resulting from the mutual attachment of kindred spirits are by no means confined to the moments of personal intercourse; they diffuse their odours, though more faintly, through the seasons of absence, refreshing and exhilarating the mind by the remembrance of the past and the anticipation of the future. It is a treasure possessed when it is not employed; a reserve of strength, ready to be called into action when most needed; a fountain of sweets, to which we may continually repair, whose waters are inexhaustible" (R. Hall). "If the converse of one friend, at one interview, gives comfort and strengthens our hearts, what may not be expected from the continual supports, daily visits, and powerful love of the Saviour of sinners, the covenanted Friend of believers!" (Scott). - D.

I. THE DISCOURAGEMENT OF DAVID. The citizens of Keilah, after he had with his good sword delivered them from the Philistine marauders, were so ungrateful, perhaps so much afraid of sharing the fate of the city of Nob at the hand of Saul, that they were ready to betray the son of Jesse and surrender him to the king. From this danger he no sooner escaped than the people of Ziph - though he did not compromise them by entering their town, but eneamped in a wood - were not only willing, but eager, to reveal his hiding place. And the pursuit was hot. "Saul sought him every day." To add to the danger, David had with him 600 armed men - too many to be easily concealed, but too few to encounter the force which Saul led against him, and which was numbered by thousands. It was therefore a critical time for David; and his poetic, sensitive nature felt the ingratitude and injustice more keenly than he dreaded the actual peril, so that he began to be quite chagrined and disheartened. The Apostle Paul had a similar tendency to depression. He felt ingratitude and calumny most acute]y, and was more cast down by these than by any of the physical sufferings and mortal risks that befell him. But Paul was like David too in his quick susceptibility to words of kindness, and in drawing strength from fellowship with congenial minds.

II. THE FRIEND IN TIME OF NEED. St. Paul tells, "When we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears. Nevertheless God, who comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus." In like manner did God comfort David amidst fightings and fears by the coming of Jonathan. This noble-minded prince cheered the fugitive in the forest of Ziph -

1. By showing to him a generous human affection. This was love indeed, which clave to David in exile as closely as ever it had done when he was in the sunshine of public favour, and which was willing to run great risks for the delight of clasping hand in hand and talking face to face. Here was genuine friendship, which is perhaps more rare than love. Cynics point out that the celebrated friendships, as of David and Jonathan in the Bible, and Damon and Pythias the Pythagoreans in Greek story, belong to "the heroic and simple period of the world;" and they allege that these cannot be reproduced in the sophisticated society of modern times. There is something in this, though it is not absolutely true. The tone of "In Memoriam" may be too intense for most of us, but it is not incomprehensible. That is a rare and lofty friendship which prefers another in honour above ourselves. From the early days of David's promotion Jonathan augured his advancement to the throne, and took generous delight in the prospect. He still retained and openly expressed the same feeling. David would be king, and he, his friend and brother, would share his joy and stand at his right hand. It was not to be so. But we see David, when established on the throne, looking, if we may so speak, for Jonathan. "And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?" (2 Samuel 9:1).

2. By lifting his thoughts to God. It was not possible or proper for Jonathan to levy troops and lead them to the help of his friend against the king his father. But he did what he could, and did the best thing possible in such a case, when he animated the faith, and hope of David in the promise and providence of God. He referred to the Divine purpose as no secret, but revealed, and known to Saul himself, though he struggled against it. The counsel of the Lord must stand. How could David doubt it? But David did sometimes doubt and fear, and he is not alone in the weakness. Sarah had the promise of God that her son should be Abraham's heir and successor, and yet she was uneasy lest he should be dispossessed or hurt by the son of Hagar. Jacob at Bethel got a promise that he and his posterity would possess the lung on which he lay, yet when he returned to it he was quite alarmed lest Esau should destroy his family and himself. And so also many persons who have eternal life in the gospel and in the sure provision of grace by Christ Jesus grow faint and raise foreboding questions: What if God forget me? What if I perish after all? The best thing that a friend can do for such a doubter is to show him that God cannot lie and cannot be defeated. For his name's sake he will do as he has said. So one may strengthen the weak hands of another in God.


1. The value of an early friendship in the fear of God. It is in youth that the strongest friendships are formed, and permit interchanges of criticism and correction that are not so palatable when years have increased our reserve, and perhaps our obstinacy. This is especially true of the moral and religious aspect and use of friendship. Old men, even when they are on terms of cordial personal regard, do not easily exchange spiritual confidences. But young friends can do so; and never do they put the bond between them to better use than when they warn each other of moral risks and snares, and encourage one another to trust in God.

2. The great part which secondary personages in history may play. David takes a primary or front place in sacred story; but he was much indebted to the kindly help of others who take a less conspicuous rank - e.g., Jonathan encouraging him in the wood, and Abigail turning him back from hasty bloodshedding. Again we pass on in thought to the Apostle Paul, who fills a very high place in the Christian annals, but was much helped by men and women in quite a secondary position. Himself tells us so, joyfully acknowledging his obligation to such as Aquila and Priscilla, Mary, Urbane, Timothy, Epaphroditus, John Mark, Luke, and Aristarchus. These Christians did direct work for the Lord; but perhaps did their best piece of service when they helped Paul, and encouraged his hand in God. So is it at all times with the greatest men in both Church and State. They owe much to others who are far less known than themselves, if known at all. A sympathetic wife, a faithful friend, a humble helper, quite incapable of taking the conspicuous position or doing the public work, supplies a strengthening, restoring element in hours of discouragement or weariness, and so does much to preserve a notable career from failure. In fact every great man draws up into his thought and work the cogitations of many minds, the desire of many hearts, the faith or fortitude of many spirits; and the efforts and sympathies of many combine in the results which are associated with his name.

3. The uncertainty that friends who part will meet again on earth. "They two made a covenant before the Lord," and parted, little knowing that each was taking the last look of his friend. Their thoughts were of days to come, when they should not need to meet by stealth. They would be always together by and by - take counsel together fight side by side against the enemies of Israel, do exploits for their nation, and reestablish the worship of Jehovah and the honour of his sanctuary. The elevation of one would be the elevation of both; and the spirit of jealousy which now darkened the court and the kingdom would give place to generous confidence and love. So they proposed; but God disposed otherwise. Jonathan never saw David again. Death broke their "fair companionship," and the elevation of David was bedewed with tender sorrow for his friend, "the comrade of his choice, the human-hearted man he loved." There is one Friend, only one, from whom we cannot be severed. Oh, what a Friend we have in Jesus! especially helpful to us in cloudy days and seasons of distress. He comes to us when we are in the wood, perplexed, embarrassed, cast down. Let us tell all our straits and misgivings to him. This Friend will never die. And not even our death can break the friendship or separate us from the love of Christ. - F.

1 Samuel 23:19-23. (THE HILL OF HACHILAH.)
One of the most painful of the afflictions of David (suspicion, hatred, calumny, ingratitude, etc.) was treachery, such as he experienced at the hands of some of the people of Ziph. They were men of his own tribe, had witnessed his deliverance of Keilah from the common enemy, were acquainted with his character and relations with Saul, and might have been expected to sympathise with him when he sought refuge in their territory. But "those who should have rallied around him were his enemies and betrayers." They had "a panoramic view of the country from Tell-Zif, and could see from thence David's men moving about in the desert;" went and informed the king that he was hiding himself "in strongholds in the wood (Horesh), in the hill of Hachilah (south of Tell-Zif, which is four miles southeast of Hebron), on the right hand of the desert;" urged him to come down and accomplish his desire, and promised to deliver David into his hand. This new affliction came upon him almost immediately after he had been encouraged by the visit of Jonathan, and in it we see -

I. AN EXHIBITION OF HUMAN DEPRAVITY. There can be no doubt, after what had taken place, about the motives by which they were actuated. Underneath their apparent "compassion" for Saul (ver. 21) lay hatred of David, aversion to his principles, and the "evil heart of unbelief, departing from the living God," which exists in all ages, and manifests itself in an endless variety of ways (Psalm 14.; Romans 3:10; Hebrews 3:12). It appears in -

1. Unfeeling faithlessness; indifference to the claims of close relationship, superior worth, and valuable service; deficiency of compassion for the needy and unjustly persecuted; voluntary misuse of advantages, and abuse of trust.

2. Subtle selfishness, making some temporal good its chief aim; for its sake doing injury to others, eagerly seeking the favour of the wealthy and powerful, and disguising itself under professions of loyalty and public service; running "greedily after the error of Balaam for reward" (Jude 1:11; Matthew 26:14, 15).

3. Ungodly zeal. Any one at that time in Israel who feared God more than man could not lend himself to be made a tool of Saul's blind fury. God had already manifestly enough acknowledged David" (Delitzsch). Saul knew that it was the purpose of God that David should be king (ver. 17), notwithstanding his pious language (ver. 21), and the men of Ziph participated with him in his endeavour to defeat that purpose. Their character is described in Psalm 54., 'The Divine Helper against ungodly adversaries' (see inscription): -

"O God, by thy name save me,
And in thy might judge my cause.
For strangers have risen up against me,
And violent men have sought after my life;
They have not set God before them." They were strangers "not by birth or nation, but as to religion, virtue, compassion, and humanity" (Chandler); and in calling them such "there is a bitter emphasis as well as a gleam of insight into the spiritual character of the true Israel" (Romans 2:28, 29; Romans 9:6).

II. AN EXPERIENCE OF SEVERE TRIAL often endured by good men, who "for righteousness' sake" are betrayed by false friends, and even those "of their own household" (Matthew 10:36), in whom they have put confidence. The trial -

1. Causes intense suffering; grieves more than the loss of earthly possessions, and inflicts a deeper wound than a sword (Psalm 55:12).

2. Becomes an occasion of strong temptation; to indulge a spirit of revenge, to doubt the sincerity of others, to refrain from endeavour for the general good as undeserved and vain (Psalm 116:11). But when regarded aright -

3. Constrains to fervent prayer and renewed confidence in the eternal and faithful Friend.

"O God, hear my prayer;
Give ear to the words of my mouth.
Behold, God is my Helper,
The Lord is the Upholder of my soul"

(Psalm 54:2, 4)

III. A FORESHADOWING OF MESSIAH'S SUFFERINGS, for the afflictions of David on the way to the throne of Israel were ordained to be a type of "the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." "He came unto his own, and his own received him not," was persecuted by the rulers of the nation, and, after escaping many treacherous designs of his enemies, was betrayed by Judas (the only Judaean among the twelve) "into the hands of sinners." And his betrayal was necessary to -

1. The completeness of his experience as the chief of sufferers.

2. The setting forth of his example of spotless holiness and quenchless love.

3. The perfection of his sympathy as the Succourer of the tempted. "It became him," etc. (Hebrews 2:10, 18). "The end of Christ's incarnation was that he might draw up into his own experience all the woes and temptations of humanity, to draw around him all the swathings of our imperfect nature, and make our wants his own, till not a cry could go up from it which had not first come into his own consciousness" (Sears). - D.

1 Samuel 23:24-28. (THE WILDERNESS OF MAON.)
Therefore they called that place Sela-hammahlekoth - the cliff of separations (ver. 28). It seemed as if at length Saul was about to accomplish his purpose. Led by the treacherous Ziphites, he went down to the hill of Hachilah, from which David had withdrawn to "the wilderness of Maon, in the plain on the south of the desert." In his further pursuit (ver. 25) there was but a short distance between them - Saul standing on a ridge of Hachilah, David on a rock or precipice in Maon; but a deep chasm separated them from each other. And when "Saul and his men were encircling David and his men to seize them, and David was sore troubled to escape" (ver. 26), "there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land." Thus his purpose was suddenly and effectually defeated. The escape of David suggests, concerning the dealings of God with his servants, that -

I. HE SOMETIMES SUFFERS THEM TO BE REDUCED TO SEVERE STRAITS. Danger is imminent, the enemy exults, their own wisdom and strength are unavailing, and they are full of anxiety and dread. They have no resource but to betake themselves to "the Rock of Israel;" if he should fail them they are lost; and it is to constrain them to seek refuge in him that they are beaten off from every other (see 1 Samuel 7:12).

II. HE NEVER SUFFERS THEM TO CONTINUE THEREIN WITHOUT HELP. Although the space that separates them from destruction be narrow, it is impassable; for the invisible hand of God is there, and the enemy cannot go a step further than he permits. "He shall cover thee with his feathers," etc. (Psalm 91:4). Sometimes nothing more can be done than to "stand still and see the salvation of the Lord;" if an effort to escape must be made, it is still he who saves, and to him we must ever look in faith and prayer. "What doth not prayer overcome and conquer? What doth not resistance drive back when accompanied by distrust of self and trust in God? And in what battle can he be conquered who stands in the presence of God with an earnest resolve to please him?" (Scupoli). "When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back," etc. (Psalm 56:9).

III. HE OFTEN DELIVERS THEM AT THE MOMENT OF THEIR GREATEST PERIL. He does so both in temporal calamity and in spiritual trouble, labour and conflict. At the point of despair deliverance comes (Micah 7:8). And thereby his interposition is rendered more apparent, the designs of the enemy are more signally frustrated, and the gratitude of his servants is more fully excited. "David was delivered at the last hour, it is true; but this never strikes too late for the Lord to furnish in it a 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'" (Krummacher).

IV. HE MAKES USE OF VARIOUS AND UNEXPECTED MEANS FOR THEIR DELIVERANCE (ver. 27). Who could have predicted the arrival of such a message? The incursion of the Philistines was the natural result of the course pursued by Saul in levying war (ver. 8), going out to seek the life of David (ver. 15), and leaving the country unprotected; but the message came at the opportune moment by the overruling providence of God. His resources are boundless; he employs his enemies for the preservation of his friends, diverts their attention to other objects, and impels them to spend their strength in conflict with each other. "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations" (2 Peter 2:9).

V. HIS INTERPOSITION ON THEIR BEHALF SHOULD BE GRATEFULLY RECORDED; as it was in the name which was given to the spot, and still more fully in the psalm ending

"With willing mind will I sacrifice unto thee;
I will give thanks to thy name, O Jehovah, for it is good.
For out of all distress hath he delivered me,
And upon mine enemies hath mine eye seen its desire"

(Psalm 54:8, 9) = -D.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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