Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Then they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshingfloors.
1Sa 23:1-6. David Rescues Keilah.
1. Then they told David—rather, "now they had told"; for this information had reached him previous to his hearing (1Sa 23:6) of the Nob tragedy.
Keilah—a city in the west of Judah (Jos 15:44), not far from the forest of Hareth.
and they rob the threshing-floors—These were commonly situated on the fields and were open to the wind (Jud 6:11; Ru 3:2).
Therefore David inquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go and smite these Philistines? And the LORD said unto David, Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah.
2-5. David inquired of the Lord—most probably through Gad (2Sa 24:11; 1Ch 21:9), who was present in David's camp (1Sa 22:5), probably by the recommendation of Samuel. To repel unprovoked assaults on unoffending people who were engaged in their harvest operations, was a humane and benevolent service. But it was doubtful how far it was David's duty to go against a public enemy without the royal commission; and on that account he asked, and obtained, the divine counsel. A demur on the part of his men led David to renew the consultation for their satisfaction; after which, being fully assured of his duty, he encountered the aggressors and, by a signal victory, delivered the people of Keilah from further molestation.
And David's men said unto him, Behold, we be afraid here in Judah: how much more then if we come to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?
Then David inquired of the LORD yet again. And the LORD answered him and said, Arise, go down to Keilah; for I will deliver the Philistines into thine hand.
So David and his men went to Keilah, and fought with the Philistines, and brought away their cattle, and smote them with a great slaughter. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.
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.
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.
And it was told Saul that David was come to Keilah. And Saul said, God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars.
1Sa 23:7-13. Saul's Coming, and Treachery of the Keilites.
7. it was told Saul that David was come to Keilah—Saul imagined himself now certain of his victim, who would be hemmed within a fortified town. The wish was father to the thought. How wonderfully slow and unwilling to be convinced by all his experience, that the special protection of Providence shielded David from all his snares!
And Saul called all the people together to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men.
8. Saul called all the people together to war—not the united tribes of Israel, but the inhabitants of the adjoining districts. This force was raised, probably, on the ostensible pretext of opposing the Philistines, while, in reality, it was secretly to arouse mischief against David.
And David knew that Saul secretly practised mischief against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod.
9. he said to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod—The consultation was made, and the prayer uttered, by means of the priest. The alternative conditions here described have often been referred to as illustrating the doctrine of God's foreknowledge and preordination of events.
Then said David, O LORD God of Israel, thy servant hath certainly heard that Saul seeketh to come to Keilah, to destroy the city for my sake.
Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O LORD God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant. And the LORD said, He will come down.
Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the LORD said, They will deliver thee up.
Then David and his men, which were about six hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul that David was escaped from Keilah; and he forbare to go forth.
And David abode in the wilderness in strong holds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand.
1Sa 23:14-18. David Escapes to Ziph.
14, 15. David abode in the wilderness … of Ziph—A mountainous and sequestered region was generally called a wilderness, and took its name from some large town in the district. Two miles southeast of Hebron, and in the midst of a level plain, is Tell-ziph, an isolated and conical hillock, about a hundred feet high, probably the acropolis [Van De Velde], or the ruins [Robinson] of the ancient city of Ziph, from which the surrounding wilderness was called. It seems, anciently, to have been covered by an extensive woods. The country has for centuries lost its woods and forests, owing to the devastations caused by man.
And David saw that Saul was come out to seek his life: and David was in the wilderness of Ziph in a wood.
And Jonathan Saul's son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.
16, 17. Jonathan went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God—by the recollection of their mutual covenant. What a victory over natural feelings and lower considerations must the faith of Jonathan have won, before he could seek such an interview and give utterance to such sentiments! To talk with calm and assured confidence of himself and family being superseded by the man who was his friend by the bonds of a holy and solemn covenant, could only have been done by one who, superior to all views of worldly policy, looked at the course of things in the spirit and through the principles of that theocracy which acknowledged God as the only and supreme Sovereign of Israel. Neither history nor fiction depicts the movements of a friendship purer, nobler, and more self-denying than Jonathan's!
And he said unto him, Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul my father knoweth.
And they two made a covenant before the LORD: and David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house.
Then came up the Ziphites to Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself with us in strong holds in the wood, in the hill of Hachilah, which is on the south of Jeshimon?
1Sa 23:19-29. Saul Pursues Him.
19-23. Then came up the Ziphites to Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself with us?—From the tell of Ziph a panorama of the whole surrounding district is to be seen. No wonder, then, that the Ziphites saw David and his men passing to and fro in the mountains of the wilderness. Spying him at a distance when he ventured to show himself on the hill of Hachilah, "on the right hand of the wilderness," that is, the south side of Ziph, they sent in haste to Saul, to tell him of the lurking place of his enemy [Van De Velde].
Now therefore, O king, come down according to all the desire of thy soul to come down; and our part shall be to deliver him into the king's hand.
And Saul said, Blessed be ye of the LORD; for ye have compassion on me.
Go, I pray you, prepare yet, and know and see his place where his haunt is, and who hath seen him there: for it is told me that he dealeth very subtilly.
See therefore, and take knowledge of all the lurking places where he hideth himself, and come ye again to me with the certainty, and I will go with you: and it shall come to pass, if he be in the land, that I will search him out throughout all the thousands of Judah.
And they arose, and went to Ziph before Saul: but David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the plain on the south of Jeshimon.
Saul also and his men went to seek him. And they told David: wherefore he came down into a rock, and abode in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon.
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].
And Saul went on this side of the mountain, and David and his men on that side of the mountain: and David made haste to get away for fear of Saul; for Saul and his men compassed David and his men round about to take them.
But there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land.
Wherefore Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against the Philistines: therefore they called that place Selahammahlekoth.
And David went up from thence, and dwelt in strong holds at Engedi.
29. David went up from thence, and dwelt in strong holds at En-gedi—that is, "the spring of the wild goats or gazelles"—a name given to it from the vast number of ibexes or Syrian chamois which inhabit these cliffs on the western shore of the Dead Sea (Jos 15:62). It is now called Ain Jiddy. On all sides the country is full of caverns, which might then serve as lurking places for David and his men, as they do for outlaws at the present day [Robinson].