1 Samuel 22
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
IV. David’s fugitive life in Judah and Moab. Saul’s murder of the priests at Nob

CHAPTER 22:1–23

1DAVID therefore [And David] departed thence, and escaped to the cave1 Adullam; and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down 2thither to him. And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented [embittered in soul] gathered themselves unto him, and he became a [om. a] captain over them; and there were with him 3about four hundred men. And2 David went thence to Mizpeh3 of Moab, and he [om. he] said unto the king of Moab, Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, 4come forth4 and be with you, till I know what God will do for [to] me. And he brought5 them before the king of Moab, and they dwelt with him all the while that 5David was in the hold. And the prophet Gad said unto David, Abide not in the hold, depart and get thee into the land of Judah. Then [And] David departed and came into the forest6 of Hareth [Hereth].

6When [And] Saul heard that David was discovered, and the men that were with him; [om. parenthesis] now [and] Saul abode in Gibeah under a tree in Ramah [the tamarisk-tree7 on the height], having [and] his spear [ins. was] in his 7hand, and all his servants were standing about him. Then [And] Saul said unto his servants that stood about him, Hear now, ye Benjaminites, will the son of Jesse give every one [all] of you fields and vineyards, and 8 make you all captains of 8thousands and captains of hundreds, That all of you have conspired against me, and there is none that showeth9 me that my son hath made a league10 with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you that is sorry for me, or showeth unto me that my son hath stirred up [set up] my servant against me to lie in wait [as a waylayer], 9as at this day? Then answered Doeg the Edomite, which [who] was set over the servants11 of Saul, and said, I saw the son of Jesse coming [come] to Nob to Ahimelech 10the son of Ahitub. And he inquired of the Lord [Jehovah]12 for him, and gave him victuals, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.

11Then [And] the king sent to call Ahimelech the priest the son of Ahitub, and all his father’s house, the priests that were in Nob; and they came all of them to 12the king. And Saul said, Hear now, thou son of Ahitub. And he answered 13[said], Here I am, my lord. And Saul said unto him, Why have ye conspired against me, thou and the son of Jesse, in that thou hast given him bread and a sword, and hast inquired of God for him, that he should rise against me to lie in 14wait [as a waylayer] as at this day? Then [And] Ahimelech answered the king and said, And who is so faithful among all thy servants as David [And who among all thy servants is as David trusty], which is [om. which is, ins. and] the king’s son-in-law, and goeth at thy bidding [and hath thy private ear],13 and is 15honorable in thine house? Did I then begin to inquire14 of God for him? be [Be] it far from me; let not the king impute anything unto his servant, nor15 to all the house of my father, for thy servant knew nothing of all this, less or more [little or 16much].And the king said, Thou shalt surely die, Ahimelech, thou and all thy 17father’s house. And the king said unto the footmen [runners] that stood about him, Turn and slay the priests of the Lord [Jehovah]; because their hand also is with David, and because they knew when [that] he fled, and did not show it to me. But the servants of the king would not put forth their hand to fall upon the 18priests of the Lord [Jehovah]. And the king said to Doeg, Turn thou, and fall upon the priests, and Doeg the Edomite turned, and he fell upon the priests, and 19slew on that day fourscore and five16 persons that did wear a linen ephod. And Nob, the city of the priests, smote he with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and sucklings, and oxen and asses and sheep with the edge of the sword.

20And one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped, 21and fled after David. And Abiathar showed David that Saul had slain the Lord’s 22[Jehovah’s] priests. And David said unto Abiathar, I knew it [om. it] that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there that he would surely tell Saul; I have occasioned 23the death17 of all the persons of thy father’s house. Abide thou with me, fear not; for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life;18 but [for] with me thou shalt be [art] in safeguard.


1 Samuel 22:1–5. David a fugitive in Judah and in Moab.19

1 Samuel 22:1. His flight to the cave of Adullam in Judah. In the uncertainty as to this locality our best plan is to look to the city of the same name. Adullam, an ancient place (Gen. 38:1), according to Josh. 12:15 a Canaanitish royal city, was situated (Josh. 15:35) near Jarmuth and Socho, now Shuweikeh, under the mountains of Judah (different from the Shuweikeh [Socho] in these mountains, Josh. 15:48) in the lowland of Judah, about sixteen miles [English] south-west of Jerusalem, and twelve miles south-east of Gath. As the present Jarmuth lies on the eastern border of the Wady Sumt, that is, on the declivity of the Judah-mountain towards Philistia, and as there are many caves in the neighborhood, it is a probable conjecture that one of these caves took the name Adullam from the neighboring city. Perhaps we may regard the great cave Deir Dubban near Jarmuth (Rob., Amer. ed., II., 23, 51–53; Ritter, XVI., 136), as David’s retreat (so v. d. Velde, Reise, II., p. 163 sq.). However, there are other caves near in the western declivity of the mountain. Tobler locates Adullam in the present village Bat-Dula, about fifteen miles southwest of Bethlehem. The great caves on the western declivity of the mountain are dry and roomy enough to hold a larger number of men than is here mentioned. Since it is expressly said that the place was in the lowland of Judah, the statement of Euseb. and Jerome that it was ten (twelve) miles east from Eleutheropolis, is decidedly wrong, as the cave would in that case be in the mountains (see Winer, R.-W., s. v.). The supposition (from 2 Sam. 23:13, 14) that it was near Bethlehem (Thenius) is opposed by the fact that David would then have cast himself into Saul’s hands unprotected. Similarly the traditional site near the village Khureitun, five miles southeast of Bethlehem, is incompatible with the geographical and historical situation of the narrative (Rob., I., 481, 482). As the combat between David and Goliath occurred in the Terebinth-vale (in Wady Sumt) between Socho and Azekah, David, in there seeking a fit refuge from Saul and the Philistines, might see in this experience a pledge of the further protection and deliverance of the Lord’s hand.20—“Thence,” not from Nob (Then.), but from Gath, whence the place of refuge was not far.—That David’s family must already have had proofs of enmity from Saul is clear from the statement that his brethren and all his father’s house went to him in his retreat at Adullam. For Saul looked on them as sharers in David’s presumed conspiracy against him, and they had therefore every reason to fear for themselves a repetition of the tragedy of Nob. See the statement in Clericus from Marcell. 23, 6, as to the procedure of oriental princes, according to which “the whole family perished for the fault of one person.”

1 Samuel 22:2. But along with his family a constantly increasing number of other persons gathered around David. They are described as partly those who were externally in distress, especially through debt, and therefore seeking to escape their creditors, partly those who were internally discontented, embittered in soul. He became their captain, leader, so that they were not a wild and lawless rabble, but a community controlled by and obedient to one will. The number at present was about four hundred, but afterwards rose to six hundred (23:13).—The comparison of this body with Catiline’s followers (Cler., Then.) supposes that David’s retinue was of similar character with Catiline’s, a riotous, adventure-seeking rabble. But there is nothing in the narrative to support such a supposition, and David’s position as to them and to Saul is decidedly against it. He is far from making insurrection against Saul. His past history and his after-life up to Saul’s death absolutely excludes such a view. With such a position towards Saul he could not be the “head” or “captain” of a seditious band, and with such a head these people could not be rebels and seditious. Hengstenberg (on Ps. 7:10) rightly remarks: “David’s war with Saul was one not of individuals, but of parties; the wicked espoused Saul’s side, the righteous David’s; comp. the much-misunderstood passage, 1 Sam. 22:2.” The “distressed” persons were those who were persecuted by Saul’s government on account of their love for David. The debtors were such as, under Saul’s arbitrary misrule, were oppressed by their creditors, and received from the government no protection against the violation of the law of loan and interest (Ex. 22:25; Lev. 25:36; Deut. 23:19). They were “bitter of soul,”21 not as “desirous of new things,” not as merely “dissatisfied with their present condition” (Cler.), but as those “whose anxiety of soul over the ever-worsening condition of the kingdom under Saul drove them to a leader, from whom for the future they might hope for better things” (Ew.).—Comp. Jephthah’s fugitive life and retinue of “poor, empty persons,” Judg. 11:3.

1 Samuel 22:3. Without further statement concerning David’s life here with his family and his band, it is next related that he went “thence” (answering to the “thence” of 1 Samuel 22:1) to Mizpeh of Moab. David betook himself to the king of Moab, and asked him: Let my father and my mother come [out] to thee and abide with thee till I know what God will do to me. It is remarkable, in the first place, that he here mentions only “father and mother;” the reason obviously is that in his present dangerous condition he could not afford these aged, helpless persons secure protection. For in this continuation of the narrative it is clearly supposed that the caves at Adullam had become an uncertain and dangerous residence through Saul’s hostile attempts against David’s family. His choice of Moab as refuge for his parents was probably based on the relations of his great-grandmother, the Moabitess Ruth, to this country. Whether the “come forth” refers to Bethlehem or Adullam as point of departure is uncertain; in any case the road to Mizpeh of Moab passed through Bethlehem, because this was the shortest way; for this “Mizpeh of Moab,” which is to be taken as a proper name, undoubtedly lay not in the Moabitish territory proper south of the Arnon, but far north of it, “probably a city above the ‘araboth of Moab’ (Num. 22:1; Deut. 34:1, 8; Josh. 13:32) opposite Jericho, whither by way of Bethlehem and the Dead Sea one might come in little time” (Then.), perhaps on the mount Abarim or Pisgah (Deut. 34:1). Saul had also to wage war with the Moabites (14:47); at this time, therefore, the latter had possession of the southern portion of the transjordanic territory of the Israelites. From David’s taking his parents to the king of Moab, it is probable that there was now no war between the latter and Saul. The pregnant construction of the verb “come forth,” followed by the Prep. “with,” is not to be rejected as unsuitable, but to be retained as example of the frequent connection of a verb of motion with a predicate of rest. The renderings of the Sept. “let them be with thee,” and the Vulg. “let them remain,” are explanations, not signs of a different original text.22

1 Samuel 22:4. Bunsen, after Jerome, renders: “left them in the presence of the king” (וַיַּנִּחֵם), against which Thenius remarks that “no change in the vocalization to avoid harshness is required,” and refers to Ew., § 217, 1.—In regard to the length of his parents’ stay with the king of Moab, David says (1 Samuel 22:3): “till I know what God will do to me,” appropriately using to the king the divine name Elohim.23 According to this David did not remain with his parents, but went back to his life of motion and danger. Whither? The narrator says afterwards (1 Samuel 22:4) that the parents remained in Moab “all the while that David was in the mountain-fastness or hold.” But this fastness “on which David intrenched himself” (Bunsen) is not a height near the cave of Adullam (Bunsen); still less is it the retreat in the cave (Stähelin, Then.), or elsewhere in the wilderness; but, as David had to carry his parents to Moab for safety, we shall be justified in supposing that he had to find temporary shelter also for himself and his band in Moab. The refuge which he here found was no other than that Mizpeh24 of Moab; Mizpeh signifies “watch-place, mountain-height;” here David made himself a strong position, which became a mountain-fastness (מְצוּדָה). For this meaning see Job 39:38. Here he would await what the Lord would further do to him. The danger threatening his parents was the Lord’s factual hint to him to go where it would be safer not only for them, but also for him. To these humble, trustful words corresponds the further statement that God gave him directions concerning his further way through the prophet Gad. Through this prophet he is commanded (1 Samuel 22:5) to go into the land of Judah; whence it clearly appears that he was now not in that land, in which, however, Adullam lay, and therefore he could be only in the land of Moab. “The prophet Gad” is undoubtedly the same who is called “David’s seer” in 1 Chron. 21:9, announces to him God’s punishment for his sin in numbering the people, 2 Sam. 24:11 sq., and according to 1 Chron. 29:29, wrote down David’s acts. How Gad came into connection with David, is never said. Probably David’s intimate relation and here presupposed acquaintance with him date from the former’s close connection with Samuel’s prophetic communities. It is not clear whether Gad had gone to him at the cave of Adullam, or now came for the first time to him in Moab. It is equally uncertain whether he remained with him permanently from now on. In short, Gad’s sudden entrance on the scene in Moab suggests many unanswerable questions, which Stähelin excellently states: “How came he among such people? Was he always with David? Was he consulted by David as Samuel by Saul, 1 Sam. 9.? Was Gad connected with Samuel, or not?” We cannot suppose that the expression “and Gad said” refers to a message which he sent to David (Then.). The answer to the question “why David was not to stay in the hold, but go to Judah,” is not that “he ought not to have fled anew to a foreign nation, as before to the Philistines, to the displeasure of God” (Brenz., S. Schmid, Keil); for it does not appear that his stay in Philistia was in itself displeasing to God; and if his journey to Moab had been displeasing to God, he might have been restrained therefrom beforehand by divine direction. The reason for this prophetic direction is rather to be found in the circumstances; according to 23:1 the Philistines were now making plundering incursions into the south of Judah, help and protection against them was needed, and this David with his valiant band could give. He was commanded to go into Judah and free it from its enemies, and thus fulfil part of the theocratic calling, in respect to which the distracted, arbitrary rule of Saul was now impotent. Of this new divine direction in David’s life Grotius well remarks: “God shows great care for David, instructing him now by prophets, now by Urim and Thummim.” Proceeding on the supposition that David goes from the king of Moab to the cave of Adullam, Thenius, in order to account for the prophetic direction to go into the land of Judah, where also the city Adullam was situated, is obliged to say that probably the cave of Adullam was in Benjamin on the border, and, as his retreat might thus, being near Gibeah, easily be betrayed to Saul, Gad advised him to go to Judah. This explanation stands and falls with its unfounded geographical basis, which also O. v. Gerlach adopts.—By this direction to go to Judah for the above end, the prophet Gad gave David, in divine commission, instructions as to his further course; in this interval of suffering and trial between his call to be king and his actual entrance on the duties of the office, he was to be not only passive but also active, serving his people and his God against the enemies of the theocracy.—He went into the forest of Hereth—an unknown region, probably according to 23:1 in the western part of Judah. [Sept. and Josephus have “city of Hereth (Sarik).” Lieut. Conder, of the Palestine Exploration Fund, says (Dec., 1874) that there are now no trees in this district, and argues from the geological conditions that there never could have been. He is disposed to adopt the Sept. reading “city,” and to identify Hereth with a site called Kharas (near Keilah), which name is substantially identical with Hereth.—TR.]

1 Samuel 22:6–23. Saul’s savage vengeance on Nob. While David goes the way shown him by God’s prophet the terrible consequences of his self-willed conduct at Nob, which did not accord with the Lord’s will, are accomplished.

1 Samuel 22:6–10. In a formal council, in which Saul expresses his suspicion in relation to a conspiracy made against him by David and his son, Doeg betrays the proceeding of Ahimelech towards David.

1 Samuel 22:6. It is first stated that the abode of David and his men was known at Saul’s court, and that Saul received information of his servants’ acquaintance with this circumstance. It is this fact, that Saul heard, received information of their knowledge of David’s position, that is the ground of his charging them (1 Samuel 22:7) with complicity in the supposed conspiracy of David and Jonathan. In 1 Samuel 22:6 the words: “And Saul heard …. with him” belong syntactically and logically to 1 Samuel 22:7, and the rest of 1 Samuel 22:6 forms a parenthesis [so Eng. A. V., but it is better to preserve in the translation the simple, direct form of the Hebrew.—TR.]. And Saul abode in Gibeah (not, as Sept., “on the hill”) under the tamarisk,—the Article indicates that this place was the appointed and usual one for such councils. On the height (not with Luther [and Eng. A. V.] “in Ramah”) points out the elevated situation, in keeping with the solemnity of the occasion, as it is hereafter described.—His spear in his hand,—the spear, as well as the sceptre, was the symbol of royal power. All his servants stood about him, it was, therefore, a full assembly of the whole personnel of the Court. Bunsen: “He held a formal court, surrounded by all the magnates (chiefly Benjaminites) of his kingdom.”

1 Samuel 22:7. The address: Hear, ye Benjaminites, is in keeping with the importance of the solemn scene (so vividly sketched in a few strokes) as a sort of judicial assembly [Bib. Com. Parliament.—TR.], and at the same time has a particularistic-partisan tone, as Saul was himself of the tribe of Benjamin. Saul’s question: Will the son of Jesse give you all fields and vineyards? make you all captains of hundreds and captains of thousands? is noteworthily and characteristically prefixed to the words which express his complaint and suspicion of the courtiers, on which only a question so spiteful and so tinged with venomous savagery could be based. In thus putting things hindmost first and upside down, Saul again exhibits himself as a man, who, through burning hatred to David and blind suspicion, has lost his mental control.—Also to you [Heb. literally: “also to you all will the son of Jesse give?” etc.—TR.]; the Heb. text is to be maintained against the groundless change proposed by Thenius “in truth will the son,” etc. (הַאֻמְנָם after the merely elucidatory Sept. and Vulg.). This phrase does not mean “to you all also, besides the others to whom he has already given,” since it is nowhere said of David that he provided for his adherents, nor was he in condition to do so. According to the rule that the Heb. particle [גַּם] expresses reciprocal relation, the thought here is: “will David also by gifts show himself so grateful to you all for your making common cause with him against me?” The word (as here) is toneless [with maqqeph.—TR.] in questions, to indicate reciprocity.25 Saul imagines that his courtiers all secretly hold with David, hence his question: “will he also give you all?”=“will he then give?” etc. In Saul’s words there is the latent sense: Will he, of another tribe, reward you, as I have done to you, my fellow-tribesmen? Will he not rather favor his tribesmen, the men of Judah? Will it not be to your interest to stand on my side? Seb. Schmid: “Ye have received the greatest benefits from me, such as ye could not expect from him, and yet ye are more attached to him than to me.” These words give us an insight into Saul’s partisan and particularistic mode of governing, in which he preferably filled court-offices with persons of his own tribe. From landed possessions (fields and vineyards), Saul goes on to refer to places of honor in the now organized army. The לְ before the second “all of you” is not to be exchanged for “and” (so Then, [and Eng. A. V.] after Sept. and Vulg., which indeed give the sense correctly), but is to be taken either in the sense of “as regards”—“will he (also) as regards you all make captains?” etc., that is, take account of you all in filling these offices (Ew., § 310 a), or, in the distributive sense, which it sometimes has (Ew., § 217 a, § 277 e)=“will he make all and each of you” (Ewald)? The sense is given correctly by Maurer: “Will he make as many tribunes and centurions as may be necessary in order that each of you may have such an office?”

1 Samuel 22:8. In his mental derangement and passionate excitement Saul takes it as certain that they have all conspired against him: because, as he says, they told him nothing of the covenant which his son had made with David against him. These words pre-suppose that he had learned something of the occurrence related in 20:12–17 [the covenant between David and Jonathan], for they are too definite [made (Heb. cut) a covenant] to refer merely to the friendship of Jonathan and David. He assumes that his court-officials knew of this covenant, and then concludes that they had conspired against him with these two men. The words: “there is none that is sorry for me,” express the opinion that they had abandoned him in their hearts. His charge passes to the factually false assertion that his son had set his servant (David) as a lier in wait against him. (Sept. “enemy” = לְאֹיֵב, without ground, Vulg. appropriately insidiantem mihi.) There is herein a two-fold false accusation: 1) as to David, that he was lying in wait to take his throne and life; and 2) as to Jonathan, that he was the cause of this insurrectionary and insidious conduct of David. Saul fancies himself in the meshes of a conspiracy against his person and kingdom organized by his own son, and accuses his courtiers of knowledge thereof and active participation therein. To such a pitch had the darkening and wasting of his inner life grown through hate and suspicion.—As is now evident [=as it is this day], comp. Deut. 8:18. In proof Saul points to David’s concealment and retinue. He was, therefore, not without information concerning this fact. S. Schmid: “as is proved by this day, in which David gathers an army, and from the forest lays snares for me.”

1 Samuel 22:9. Here we must especially note in the psychological point of view, how Doeg’s information about David’s visit to Ahimelech and the latter’s inquiring of the Lord for him and providing him with food and the sword of Goliath (comp. 21:8), turns Saul’s dark thoughts away from the courtiers, and directs all his energy to the person of the high-priest, so that he now thinks only of taking vengeance on him. Doeg is said to be “set over (or, standing with) Saul’s servants;” why the version of the Sept.: “set over the mules” (פִּרְדֵי), should be the “only appropriate one” [Then.], it is hard to see. The rendering of the Heb.: set over the servants of Saul (Chald., Kimchi, Vulg., Syr.)=“highest court-official, court-marshal, minister of the household,” does not agree with the description in 21:7: “overseer of the herdsmen” (as was natural in this first stage of the development of the kingdom, and in accordance with the position of his family, Saul’s possessions consisted chiefly in herds). Rather the words answer to the statement (1 Samuel 22:7): “all his servants stood by (around) him,” and are to be rendered: And (or, also) he stood with the servants of Saul (Arab., De Wette, Buns. [Philipps.]). “As chief overseer of the herds Doeg was in a sort one of the dignitaries of the kingdom” (Bunsen). There is no superfluous statement here; the narrator declares that he was now here present, having in 21:8 (7) described him as being in the sanctuary at Nob. From the connection it is clear that Doeg gave his information with evil purpose, in order to turn the king’s suspicion from the courtiers to the high-priest. In Saul’s frame of mind the mere statement of actual fact, of which he was ear and eye-witness, had all the more powerful effect on him. S. Schmid: “Far better, therefore, did Saul’s other servants, who kept silence.” Hengstenberg (Introd. to Ps. 52.) absolves Doeg from enmity to David, observing that he merely stated the fact, to which the malicious interpretation was given by Saul alone; but this does not agree with what Saul had just before said against David and his courtiers, nor with Doeg’s bloody proceeding against the priests at Nob, nor with what is said in Ps. 52:3–5 of the tongue like a sharp razor, of the wickedness, falsehood, calumny and deceit of the enemy, all of which applies to Doeg, but not to Saul. Rightly Grotius: “see the description of Doeg in Ps. 52.” That Ahimelech inquired of the Lord for David is here by Doeg’s assertion added to the account in 21:7–10 [6–9], and confirmed by Ahimelech himself, 1 Samuel 22:15.26

1 Samuel 22:11. On this treacherous and slanderous statement of Doeg, Saul straightway sends for Ahimelech and all his father’s house, that is, all the priests in Nob, “because these all belonged to the one family of Aaron” (Then.). In Nob, therefore, dwelt the whole priestly family with the high-priest.

1 Samuel 22:12 sq. The council now becomes a solemn tribunal with pleading and verdict.—Saul assumes that Ahimelech is guilty, adducing the three facts mentioned as in themselves proofs of guilt.

1 Samuel 22:14 sq. The high-priest’s answer has the stamp of quiet, clearness and a good conscience. First, he affirms that he was justified in unsuspiciously trusting to David. “And who among all thy servants is as David trusted” (De Wette)? that is object of confidence; in proof of which he refers to three things: David’s position at court as the king’s son-in-law, as his trusted privy-councillor and as an honored man in his house. The word מִשְׁמַעַת [Eng. A. V. “bidding”]=“audience;” so in Isa. 11:14, as Böttcher has shown, “they are their (Israel’s) audience,” that is, “they are of those who seek audience of Israel, pay court to Israel, come with homage,” not “who obey them” [as in Eng. A. V., and so J. A. Alexander.—TR.]—The word has the same signification also in 2 Sam. 23:23 and 1 Chron. 11:25, where it is said: “And David set Benaiah for his audience” [Eng. A. V.: “over his guard”], appointed him privy councillor.—[In 1 Chronicles 11:25 the Preposition is עַל, “over,” in 2 Samuel it is אֵל, “to.”—TR.]—סוּר = “to withdraw, turn aside,” for a definite purpose, for example, to see (Ex. 3:3; Ruth 4:1), here “withdrawing to thy audience” [Eng. A. V. “goeth”], as “having interior admission” (Böttch.); so Maurer: “who turns aside (from the other courtiers) that he may hear thee, that is, who has access to the interior of thy palace, and there takes part in thy more weighty counsels.” Schultz: “Leaving all else, listening to thee and doing thy will.” This explanation is here confirmed by the phrase “among all thy servants” (Böttch.). Thenius takes the word as = “obedience” in the special sense, as meaning the devotedly obedient body-guard (so also Ewald and Bertheau on 1 Chron. 11:25) and renders “captain over the body-guard” (reading עַל for אֶל and, after Sept. and Chald., שַּׂר for סָר). Against this Böttcher rightly remarks that the traces [of a different reading] in the versions are altogether uncertain, that Thenius’ reading is not Heb. (עַל is found with שַׂר, instead of the Gen., only where it is dependent on a verb), that according to 1 Sam. 18:5, 13, David had command not of the body-guard, but of other more distant troops, that, as the other designation of David in the verse (even “son-in-law”) are moral marks of confidence, the mention of a military position would be strange, and the very question “Who is among thy servants captain over thy body-guard as David?” would sound somewhat queerly.27—Ahimelech says, therefore, that he could have done nothing less than in good conscience trust a man so trusted and honored by the king, “as a faithful subject of the king” (Keil) giving David bread and arms on his assertion that he had a secret commission from the king.—Further, in the question: Did I that day begin to inquire of God for him? he insists on the fact that David had often before received from him in the sanctuary divine direction in important undertakings. [This interpretation is denied by some (so Bib.-Com.) on the ground that nothing is said in 1 Samuel 21 of such an inquiry by Ahimelech for David. The Midrash also says that counsel was given by Urim and Thummim only to the king or his public ambassador (Philipps.); but Rashi agrees with the common interpretation, and Abarbanel gives both that and the direct form “that was the first day that I inquired of God for him, and I did not know that it was displeasing to thee.” Some, taking the phrase הֵחֵל לִשְׁאוֹל to mean simply “to inquire,” find a negative sense in the question: “did I inquire? Nay, I did not.” But this weakening of הֵחֵל is not justified by usage; the idea of “beginning” must be expressed here. This being so, the choice is between the two interpretations above given, the interrogatory and the direct, and of these the former (that of Erdmann) seems more in keeping with Ahimelech’s dignity of character. The omission of the fact in chap. 21 must then be attributed to the curtness of the narrative. Yet this omission is surprising, and, while Ahimelech’s somewhat obscure words here scarcely admit of any other satisfactory translation than that given by Erdmann, there is room for doubt as to his meaning.—TR.].—On this statement of facts Ahimelech founds his affirmation: Far be it from me, that is, such a crime as he is accused of, that he was party to a conspiracy against the king.—In respect to this accusation, his defence culminates in the request: Let not the king impute anything to his servant, to the whole house of my father, wherein the absence of the copula [“nor,” supplied in Eng. A. V.] is to be referred with Keil to the excitement of the speaker. Finally he adds as reason: For thy servant knows nothing of all this, little or great, that is, nothing at all. The “all this” refers not to what David had told him, as if he intended to say that he knew nothing of David’s false assertion, but to what Saul had charged him with.—This answer of the high-priest supposes certainly that he knew nothing of the unhappy condition of things in respect to David, or of his flight with its causes and circumstances.

1 Samuel 22:16. Saul’s arbitrary, precipitate judgment as contrasted with the innocence of the high-priest and of the whole body of priests.

1 Samuel 22:17. The order for its immediate execution is given to the “runners,” who were either servants for running on messages, or guards who ran before or beside the king in his public appearance, [Eng. A. V., “footmen”]. Comp. 9:11; 2 Ki. 10:25. As court-officials they stood also in this solemn assembly by the king. For the expression “stood by or about,” see 1 Samuel 22:6, 9 [on 1 Samuel 22:9 see the Exposition.—TR.]. According to Saul’s decision not only the high-priest, but also the whole priesthood should die for alleged participation in David’s conspiracy. For their hand also is with David, they make common cause with him against me. This assertion he bases on the unproved fact: they knew that he fled, and did not show it me. (Instead of Kethib “his ear” read with Qeri “my ear,” for such a sudden transition to indirect discourse “and (as he said) did not show him,” is impossible).—The guards refuse to obey Saul’s order, a proof of the disorder which his blind rage produced. This refusal reminds us of the scene in 14:45, where Saul’s sentence of death against Jonathan is opposed. Saul’s servants will not lay their hands on the sacred persons of the priests; this is indicated in the expression “the priests of the Lord.” [Wordsworth: Thus they were more faithful to Saul than if they had obeyed his order, which was against the commandment of the Lord. Theodoret (in Wordsw.): The heinousness of Saul’s sin is made more conspicuous by his servants’ refusal.—TR.].

1 Samuel 22:18. Saul’s choice of Doeg as the executor of his order is a proof of the savageness which was combined with wickedness and guile in this Edomite. On the form of his name “Doyeg” (as in 1 Samuel 22:22) see Ew. § 45 d. The pron. “he” [“he fell”] emphasizes Doeg’s willingness in contrast with the refusal of the guards. As above by the expression “priests of the Lord,” so here the wickedness of this act is brought prominently out by the significant reference to the official dress of the priests, “who wore a linen ephod,” the sign of the holiness of their persons. On the wearing of the ephod see 1 Samuel 2:18. Linen; the common priests, therefore, wore a linen over-garment similar in form to the high-priestly cape or ephod (Buns.).

1 Samuel 22:19. Nob is here expressly called the “city of the priests.” The whole city, as such, with all living things therein, is devoted to destruction by Saul in his fury. It is treated by him as a city under the ban (Cherem), which is polluted by idolatry and therefore devoted to destruction. The wrong alleged to be done to him by the priests is laid on the whole city as an idolatrous wrong against the Lord Himself, which is therefore thus to be avenged. Comp. Deut. 13:13 sq. [Saul does not seem to have had the theocratic cherem or ban in mind, but in an access of rage did what was not uncommon among ancient oriental princes.—TR.].

1 Samuel 22:20. Only one son of Ahimelech, Abiathar, escaped the slaughter. How that happened is not said. Perhaps he was not present at this trial, and hastened away from Nob while it was being destroyed. “After David,” that is, to the retreat of the fugitive David, This is another proof of the intimate relations between David and the high-priestly family.

1 Samuel 22:21–23. Through Abiathar David received information of Saul’s bloody vengeance on Nob. David said to Abiathar: “I knew that day (comp. chap, 21:7, 8) that, because Doeg the Edomite was there, he would certainly tell Saul.” So Vulg. and Then.; not (Keil): “I knew that day that Doeg … that he,” etc., nor (De Wette): “I knew … that Doeg … and that.” David confesses himself guilty of the blood shed in Nob, because his flight thither and conduct there, while he knew of Doeg’s presence, gave occasion to it. Vulg.: “I am guilty of all the souls.” This confession of David shows the strictness of his self-judgment. (סָבַב here = “to be guilty of a thing,” see Ges. Lex. s. v. In the Talmud סַבַּה “cause”).

1 Samuel 22:23. The consequence of David’s invitation to Abiathar to abide with him is that the high-priesthood goes over to David and to the new future kingdom, though David entered into no rebellion against Saul for this end. Fear not,—namely, Saul’s snares and power. For he that seeketh my life, etc.—Certainly the converse assertion would be natural here: “He that seeks thy life seeks mine;” but we are not therefore with Then, (after the Sept., whose translation seeks to get rid of this difficulty) to change the text, so that it would read: “for whatever place I seek for myself, that will I (also) seek for thee,” but we must explain it from the reference that David therein has to Saul. As against Saul David binds the fate of the fugitive high-priest to his own in an indissoluble covenant under the protection of God. The sense is: “The persecution which I suffer, touches thee also. But I stand under God’s protection as one that suffers injustice; so art thou, because thy life like mine is threatened, safely kept in company with me.” The second “for” [Eng. A. V. “butכִּי] is also dependent on the “fear not.” This consolatory assurance is based first, on the reference to their common enemy, and on the reference to the protection which Abiathar will enjoy with him, who knew that, as regarded Saul, he was under God’s special protection, מִשְׁמֶרֶת “preservation” (Ex. 12:6; 16:33 sq), abstract for concrete, “a precious deposit or trust” (Ewald).

[During this first period of David’s life as outlaw several incidents occurred which are not mentioned in this narrative. We learn from 2 Sam. 23:13 that three of his chief heroes came to him in the cave of Adullam, one of whom was his nephew Abishai, afterwards a famous general. A little after (1 Chr. 11:15–19) occurred that noble act of loving daring, when the “three mightiest” broke through the Philistine army and brought their leader water from the well of Bethlehem, for which he longed. This was while he was in the “hold;” and at this time apparently came to him the stout band of lion-faced, gazelle-footed Gadites, who swam the Jordan when its banks were overflowed, and scattered all enemies before them (1 Chr. 12:8–15), and an enthusiastic body of men of Judah and Benjamin, for whose friendship Amasai answered in his passionate speech (1 Chr. 12:16–18). As to whether David was at Keilah when Abiathar came to him, see Erdmann on 1 Sam. 23:6. For fuller accounts of this period see Chandler (1 Samuel 7) and Stanley’s Lectures, 22—TR.]


1. Whether Psalm 57, whose title is: “By David, when he fled from Saul in the cave,” refers to the case of Adullam or to Engedi (1 Sam. 24) is uncertain. Certainly, however, the situation here, the condition of his inner life as fugitive, and his experience of divine help, form the basis of the thought of the Psalm, in which first “believing hope (founded on experience) of speedy and sure divine help out of great peril of life from violent men, shows itself in the prayer for a new manifestation of divine grace, whereby God’s truth and trustworthiness will be shown by deeds,” and then, “after a short description of the snares, which resulted in the destruction of the enemies themselves, the certain assurance of victory is expressed in the invocation of the author’s own soul to praise God in all the world on the ground of His self-revelation in His glory” (Moll).—Psalm 52 certainly in its essential content agrees with David’s position as indicated by the reference in the title to Doeg’s treachery. But, from the general nature of the didactic content of the Psalm, we must also suppose a reference to the hate and persecution of Saul, whose tool Doeg was.

2. David is the representative of the theocratic principle, for which he suffers and endures. The uninterrupted tribulation which he experiences from now till he enters into the theocratic kingly office, he bears, for the sake of the Lord, who has chosen him for this office and the calling therewith conjoined for all Israel; it serves to humble and purify him, and its precious fruit is that he yields himself more absolutely into God’s hands, and treads solely the path which the divine providence points out; he will know only what God will do for him; he listens only to what God says, and obeys unconditionally God’s command announced by the mouth of the prophet. So, in the development of his inner and outer life under the many testing and purifying sufferings sent by God, David becomes more and more a shining type of the humble faith, which bows unmurmuringly under the Lord’s afflicting hand, accepts unconditionally God’s hidden providences, is attentive to the Lord’s word, and yields joyful obedience to His commands.—Saul has become the representative of the antitheocratic principle; conscious that the kingdom is justly taken from him for his self-willed apostasy from God, he suffers pain and anguish in the fear of losing the throne through David, and, his look distorted by this inner unrest, sees everywhere only conspiracy and treachery against his throne and life; the more he shuts his eyes to the divine leadings in David’s life, and obstinately withstands God’s known will concerning David, the more does he harden his heart against God’s word and instructions, the deeper does he sink into the abyss of wretched fear of man, and the farther from his heart recedes true fear of God, the more irretardably rushes on his inner life, pursued by the terrors of the angry God, and of a conscience pressed down by the burden of unforgiven sin, which yet leads him not to pure self-knowledge and humble subjection to God’s almighty hand, towards the abyss of doubt and the judgment of inner hardening of heart.

3. While apparently under Saul’s sharply-sketched despotic and cruel rule (a horrible caricature of the theocratic government) the three pillars of God’s kingdom in Israel break down—the theocratic kingdom in David hunted to the death, prophets oppressed and silenced, the priesthood exterminated—yet just here this threefold office appears in most significant facts under the protection of the almighty, faithful God, who will not let His covenant fail, as factual divine promise or prediction: about David, as the Lord’s chosen king, is grouped His family as representatives of Israel’s hope of salvation, and is gathered the root of the theocratic congregation, in Gad appears prophecy in God’s name, and with the light of His word pointing the way out of the gloom, and in Abiathar the high-priesthood is rescued from Saul’s purposed destruction into the safe-keeping of the future king.

[4. It is hardly necessary now to discuss the question, whether David was a rebel against Saul. As he never lifted his hand against his king, as he always cherished love for him, as his military enterprises were all against the enemies of Israel, as his efforts were confined to the saving of his life from Saul’s attempts, it is clear that he was not a traitor and a rebel. He was an outlaw, but a patriotic, God-fearing, loyal outlaw. See Chandler’s elaborate defence of David against Bayle in chs. 7 and 8 of his “Life of David.”—TR.]


1 Samuel 22:1. S. SCHMID: When God has rescued us from danger, we should make such a use of it as to grow wiser thereby.—OSIANDER: It makes our cross much heavier to see that evil comes upon our dearest friends and kindred for our sake.

1 Samuel 22:2. BERL. BIBLE: Though thou findest thyself without refuge, yet thou becomest a refuge for all the distressed.—All who find themselves in distress are even in the midst of their pains filled with joy, when they meet with other men who have to bear the same oppressions. This at once forms a very close union among them.—[1 Samuel 22:4. Descendants of Ruth compelled by civil strife to leave Jehovah’s country, and seek shelter in Moab.—TR.]

1 Samuel 22:6–10. SCHLIER (Saul): Saul is filled with fear of men, because he lacks true fear of God.—O how much fear and anxiety there is, and so often it has no other ground than in an evil conscience; how much fear of man there is, and the fountain is in sins unforgiven; how much despondency there is, and yet all might be so far otherwise if people would only humble themselves and confess their sins.

1 Samuel 22:8. STARKE: That is the way with the ungodly, that with their evil behaviour they yet want to have their rights.—BERL. BIBLE: Perturbation and distrust are constantly the companions of malevolence and sin, while tranquillity stands by the side of persecuted innocence.—[1 Samuel 22:9. A ruler who wants informers can always find them.—TR.]

1 Samuel 22:11–15. SCHLIER (Saul): O how unkingly stands King Saul before us, how dignified, how truly kingly stands Ahimelech! So true is it that he that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city!—It is manliness to place the truth above everything, and go security for the truth, and defend the truth, even unto death. Let us learn from this royal manliness of an Ahimelech; who also confessed the truth even unto death.—[1 Samuel 22:13. It is so easy for the passionate to cheat themselves with hasty inferences.—TR.]

1 Samuel 22:16 sq. Doeg and Saul were also men like ourselves, both had also a conscience, both were also yielding and receptive, and Saul was once even in good ways, he had learned to fear and love God, and yet both were now so deep-sunken, both were now hardened, and to human eyes irrecoverably lost. The reason is, they trifled with God’s word, they were not willing to obey the truth, they wilfully lived on in their sins.—No man is sure that he will not fall into sin, nor is any man sure that he will remain in a good way; it holds good for all that they must always work out their salvation with fear and trembling.—[1 Samuel 22:17. The best friends of an angry man are those who refuse to aid him in doing wrong.

1 Samuel 22:16–19. HENRY: See the desperate wickedness of Saul, when the Spirit of the Lord was departed from him. Nothing so vile but they may be hurried to it, who have provoked God to give them up to their heart’s lusts. He that was so compassionate as to spare Agag and the cattle of the Amalekites, in disobedience to the command of God, could now, with unrelenting bowels, see the priests of the Lord murdered, and nothing spared of all that belonged to them. For that sin, God left him to this.—There are many historical cases in which sentimental humanity has become transformed into savage cruelty.

1 Samuel 22:18. So often in what calls itself the administration of justice, many innocent men are punished because the one man who did the wrong has escaped.—God makes the wrath of man to praise Him (Ps. 76:10). The punishment foretold against the house of Eli (1 Samuel 2:31) is executed through the madness of Saul and the baseness of Doeg.—HALL: It was just in God, which in Doeg was most unjust. Saul’s cruelty, and the treachery of Doeg, do not lose one dram of their guilt by the counsel of God, neither doth the holy counsel of God gather any blemish by their wickedness. … If Saul and Doeg be instead of a pestilence or fever, who can cavil?

1 Samuel 22:19. A madly passionate man in authority (despot, parent, teacher) often seeks to justify his cruel conduct by still greater cruelty.—TR.]

[1 Samuel 22:22. TAYLOR: Behold how impossible it is to arrest the consequences of our evil actions. … I have no doubt that when David heard of all this, he would willingly have given all that he had, ay, even his hopes of one day sitting on the throne of Israel, if he could have recalled the evil which he had spoken, and undone its dismal consequences. But it was impossible. The lie had gone forth from him; and having done so, it was no longer under his control, but would go on producing its diabolical fruits. And so it is yet. … We may, indeed, repent of our sin; we may even, through the grace of God for Christ’s sake, have the assurance that we are forgiven for it; but the sin itself will go on working its deadly results.—TR.]

[Ch. 22. David struggling upward, Saul sinking downward. (Comp. Hist. and Theol., No. 2.)

[1 Samuel 22:3. Our Future. 1) Our future will be determined by God. Comp. Ps. 31:15. 2) Our future cannot be clearly foreseen by us, and this is well. Comp. Prov. 27:1. 3) We must provide as wisely as we can for our future, and then wait. 4) Whatever God may do to us in the future, we must try to receive it as from Him.

[1 Samuel 22:5. Danger and Duty. 1) Where no duty calls, let us keep away from danger. Comp. Gen. 13:12, 13; Ex. 2:15; 1 Sam. 23:13; John 4:1; 11:53, 54. 2) But often, to keep away from danger is to be out of the reach of success. If David had remained in Moab, he would never have become king of Israel. “Nothing venture, nothing have.” Comp. Matt. 16:25; Acts 21:13; John 12:23. 3) How can we tell when duty calls us into danger? Not now by special revelation, but by keeping our minds familiar with the written word, watching the leadings of Providence, seeking counsel from the wise and good, striving to judge calmly even amid perturbations, and praying all the while for the guidance of God’s Spirit. Comp. 1 Chron. 28:9; Prov. 3:6.

[1 Samuel 22:17. Three scenes in the life of Saul, 11:13; 15:22, 23; 22:16–19.

[1 Samuel 22:6–23. Pictures of Human Nature. 1) A man in authority, whose misfortunes, though due to his own fault, make him suspicious (1 Samuel 22:8) and cruelly unjust (1 Samuel 22:16). 2) A basely ambitious man who seeks to build himself up by ruining others (1 Samuel 22:9, 10, 18, comp. Ps. 52). 3) An innocent man accused, who defends himself both with forcible argument (1 Samuel 22:14) and with dignified denial (1 Samuel 22:15). 4) A good, but erring man who mournfully sees that his sin has brought destruction on his friends (1 Samuel 22:22).—TR.]


1[1 Samuel 22:1. Wellhausen proposes to read מְצָדַת, “hold,” on the ground of the identity of the locality with the מְצוּדָה of 1 Samuel 22:4. But, in addition to the uniform support which the VSS. give to the Heb. text, the same locality might be called from one feature of it a “cave,” and from another a “mountain-hold.”—TR.]

2[1 Samuel 22:3. It has been questioned whether 1 Samuel 22:3, 4, belonged to the original narrative, because they carry David to Moab, and say nothing of his return. But this omission is not against the habit of these ancient narratives. However, supposing this paragraph to be an insertion from another source by the editor, this does not affect the genuineness of the narrative as a whole. That David’s parents are mentioned here, and not in 1 Samuel 22:1, or in 20:29, accords with the circumstances; there is occasion here to mention them, there was none before.—TR.]

3[1 Samuel 22:3. Sept., Syr., Arab., Vulg., write this with a in the first syllable, which is perhaps an old pronunciation. Some Greek VSS. render σκοπίαν.—TR.]

4[1 Samuel 22:3. One MS. has יֵשֵׁב, “dwell” (with you), and so Sept., Syr., Arab., Vulg.; this is probably the correct reading, the יצא, “go out,” not suiting the following preposition “with,” and a construct. pregn. being improbable here.—TR.]

5[1 Samuel 22:4. Sept. takes this from stem נָחַם, and renders: “he persuaded [or appealed to] the king,” which is contrary to the meaning of this verb, and against the other VSS. Wellhausen prefers the pointing וַיַּנִּחֵם (from נוּחַ), “he settled or left them with the king,” as better agreeing with the following אֶת־פְנֵי, and so read Chald., Syr., Arab., Vulg. This seems the better rendering, though after וַיַּנִּחֵם the usage would lead us to expect either simple אֵת, “with,” or לִפְנֵי, “before.” Possibly we have here a blending of the two prepositions.—TR.]

6[1 Samuel 22:5. So the VSS. except Sept., which has πόλει, “city” (עִיר instead of יַעַר), and this is approved by Lieut. Conder, of the Palestine Exploration Fund on topographical grounds. As to this we must await further explorations.—TR.]

7[1 Samuel 22:6. On the various and apparently arbitrary treatment of this word in the VSS. see Ges., Thes. s. v. The אֵשֶׁל of 1 Sam. 31:3 is אֵלָה in 1 Chron. 10:12, and Gesen. suggests that the word may have come to have the general signification “tree.” See Stanley’s “Sinai and Pal.,” App., § 79. There is no ground for doubting the correctness of the Heb. text here.—TR.]

8[1 Samuel 22:7. The ל is strange, perhaps an Aramaism after יָשִׂים (the Chald. and Syr. have it), perhaps by error for ו, “and.”—TR.]

9[1 Samuel 22:8. Literally “that uncovereth my ear.”—TR.]

10[1 Samuel 22:8. Omission of בְּרִית as in 20:16.—TR.]

11[1 Samuel 22:9. Sept. “mules,” as in 21:8 (7). Or: “was standing with the servants of Saul.”—TR.]

12[1 Samuel 22:10. One Heb. MS. and Grk., Syr., Arab., have “Elohim.”—TR.]

13[1 Samuel 22:14. On this difficult phrase see Erdmann’s exposition.—TR.]

14[1 Samuel 22:15. The Kethib has the full form שְאוֹל, which before Maqqeph the Qeri reduces to the slenderer שְׁאָל.—TR.].

15[1 Samuel 22:15. Heb. simply בְּ, “in,” before which a ו has probably fallen out.—TR.]

16[1 Samuel 22:18. Heb. 85, Sept. 305. Josephus 385. Thenius suggests that Sept. 300 is for 400 represented in Heb. by ת, which was mistakenly read for ף (80), to which Wellh. objects that the final ף is not 80, but 800.—The Kethib דּוֹיֵג has י where Qeri דוֹאֵג has א, a not unfrequent interchange in Heb. The Syriac usage is according to the Kethib.—TR.]

17[1 Samuel 22:22. Literally: “I am cause as to all the souls.” On this use of סָבַב in the sense of “cause, occasion,” see Ges., Thes. s. v. But Then, after Sept. ἐγώ εἰμι αἵτιος τῶν ψυχῶν, reads חַבְתִּי, “I am guilty;” this stem חוּב occurs only once in Old Test. in Dan. 1:19 in Piel as causative; it is frequent in later Heb.—TR.]

18[1 Samuel 22:23. On this reading see Erdmann’s Expos.—TR.]

19[Comp. 2 Sam. 23:13–17; 1 Chron. 12:8–19.—TR.]

20[On Adullam see Smith’s Bib.-Dict.; Stanley’s Lectures, II., 69; Thomson, Land and Book, II., 424–427. The latter decides for Khureitun, and gives a vivid description of its labyrinthine intricacies and its strength.—TR.]

21[“The same phrase is used of Hannah, 1:10; of David and his companions, 2 Sam. 17:8; and of David’s followers, 1 Sam. 30:6. Hence the phrase here denotes those who are exasperated by Saul’s tyranny” (Bib.-Com.) It is not necessary to suppose in all these men a theocratic feeling or love for David.—TR.]

22[On this reading see “Text. and Gramm.”—TR.]

23[As distinguished from Jehovah. Yet that the name Jehovah was not unknown in Moab is made probable by its occurrence on the Inscription of Mesha, dating about one hundred and fifty years after this time.—TR.]

24[Syr. here has Mizpeh. Wordsworth (on 1 Samuel 22:4) strangely derives מְצוּדָה from צוּר, “rock.”—TR.]

25[This rule (Ew., § 352) hardly applies here; גַּם=“together” (Ps. 133:1), and can express reciprocity only when the connection affirms something to be true of two or more persons; here it would apply to the courtiers only, excluding David. It is better to take it as qualifying the whole sentence,=“yet” (Ew., § 354 a), or as qualifying “son of Jesse,” as it may do, though it stands at the beginning of the sentence.—TR.]

26[This is not certain. See on 1 Samuel 22:15.—TR.]

27[The passage 1 Chr. 11:25, nevertheless, makes a difficulty and the differences of the VSS. suggest a corruption of the text. Here the rendering of Böttcher and Erdmann (and Philippson and Bib. Com.) seems the best, though we can hardly sever this passage from 1 Chr. 11:25.—TR.]

 V. 1. David’s expedition against the Philistines for the rescue of Keilah. 2. His abode in the wilderness of Ziph, and the treachery of the Ziphites against him. 3. His deliverance from Saul in the wilderness of Moon

CHAP. 23. [ENG. A. V. 1 SAMUEL 23:1–28]

1THEN [And] they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, 2and they rob the threshing-floors. Therefore [And] David enquired of the Lord [Jehovah], saying, Shall I go and smite these Philistines? And the Lord 3[Jehovah] said unto David, Go and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah. And David’s men said unto him, Behold, we be [are] afraid here in Judah; how much more, then, if we come1 [go] to Keilah against the armies [ranks]2 of the Philistines? 4Then [And] David enquired of the Lord [Jehovah] yet again. And the Lord [Jehovah] answered him and said, Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will deliver 5[give] the Philistines into thine hand. So [And] David, and [with]3 his men, went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines, and brought away their cattle, and smote them with a great slaughter; so [and] David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. 6And 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 [an ephod came down in his hand].4

7And it was told Saul that David was come to Keilah. And Saul said, God hath delivered5 him into mine hand, for he is shut in by6 entering into a town [city] that 8hath gates and bars. And Saul called all the people together [summoned all the people] to war, to go down7 to Keilah to besiege David and his men. And David 9knew that Saul secretly [om. secretly] practised8 mischief against him, and he said 10to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod. Then said David [And David said], O Lord [Jehovah] God of Israel, thy servant hath certainly heard that9 Saul seeketh to come to Keilah to destroy the city for my sake. Will the men [citizens] 11of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O Lord [Jehovah] God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant. And 12the Lord [Jehovah] said, He will come down. Then said David [And David said], Will the men [citizens] of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the Lord [Jehovah] said, They will deliver thee up.

13Then [And] David and his men, which were about six10 hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul 14that David was escaped from Keilah; and he forbare to go forth. And David abode in the wilderness in [ins. the] strongholds, and remained [abode] in a [the] mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand.

15And David saw11 that Saul was come out to seek his life. And David was in 16the wilderness of Ziph in a [the] wood. And Jonathan, Saul’s son arose, and went 17to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God, And he [om. he] said to 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 18knoweth [and that knoweth Saul my father also]. And they two made a covenant before the Lord [Jehovah]. And David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house.12

19Then came up the Ziphites13 to Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself with us in [ins. the] strongholds in the wood, in the hill of Hachilah,14 which 20is on the south of Jeshimon [the desert]? Now, therefore, O king, come down according to all the desire of thy soul to come down, and our part shall be to deliver 21him into the king’s hand. And Saul said, Blessed be ye of the Lord [Jehovah], 22for ye have compassion on me. Go, I pray you, prepare yet [be yet heedful],15 and know and see his place where his haunt [foot] is, and [om. and] who hath seen16 23him there; for it is told me that he dealeth very subtilly. See therefore, [And see], 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 [among] all the thousands 24of Judah. And they arose and went to Ziph before Saul; but [and] David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the plain on the south of Jeshimon 25[the desert]. Saul also [And Saul] and his men went to seek him.17 And they told [it was told] David, wherefore [and] he came down into a [to the] rock [cliff] 26and abode in the wilderness of Maon. And Saul18 went on the side of the mountain; and David made haste to get away for fear of Saul, for [and] Saul and his 27men compassed David and his men round about to take them, But [And] there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee and come, for the Philistines have 28invaded the land. Wherefore [And] Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against [to meet] the Philistines. Therefore they called that place Sela hammahlekoth.19


1 Samuel 23:1–14. David’s march against the Philistines to rescue Keilah.

1 Samuel 23:1. David’s recall to Judah by Gad, and the distress of a part of Judah in consequence of a Philistine inroad stood probably in pragmatical connection. In this, his people’s time of need, David the fugitive was to do them a service by a successful feat of arms against the hereditary enemy; and this was to be of service to him by gaining for him higher consideration as God’s chosen one for the throne and the helper of his people. The Philistines were warring against Keilah, a fortified city (1 Samuel 23:7) in the lowland of Judah (Josh. 15:44), according to the Onomasticon eight miles from Eleutheropolis towards Hebron, with an evil-disposed population, who acted ungratefully and treacherously toward David (verse 12), though he had saved them from imminent danger. Inhabitants of this city took part (Neh. 3:17, 18) in the building of the wall of Jerusalem. According to Kiepert’s map (from the Onom. Κεειλά, Ceila, or ’Εχελά), it lay somewhat south-west of Tarkumieh, and is, according to Tobler (3 Wand. 151), the present Kila, near the Philistine border.20—The Philistine inroad was also a predatory incursion, in which they had an eye to the grain which was threshed and stored in the threshing-floors. 1 Samuel 23:2. The news of the Philistines’ incursion determined David to attack them. It is probable, as we have already intimated, that he was brought to Judah by Gad for this purpose. But here, in David’s inquiry of the Lord, the agent is not the prophet Gad (Ew.), of whom it is not said, that he remained with David after 1 Samuel 22:20, but the high-priest Abiathar21 by Urim and Thummim, the expression “to inquire of Jehovah” being never used when the divine will was sought through a prophet, but undoubtedly of the high-priest’s inquiry by the sacred lot (as in 22:10, 13, 15).—By this inquiry David learns God’s will; to attack the Philistines and rescue Keilah is now a divine command with the promise of victory in the order: “Rescue Keilah.”

1 Samuel 23:3. Against this David’s men protest from the point of view of their present situation, which on merely human grounds was certainly not of a nature to inspire them with courage.—We are afraid here in Judah, namely, as persecuted fugitives, who have abandoned a comparatively safe abode for the present more dangerous one, and are now further to rush into this danger by open war against the Philistines; we are always in danger from Saul, and now shall we march against the Philistine ranks at Keilah? Being not safe in Judah,22 ought we forsooth to go to Keilah against the Philistines? (אַף כִּי, comp. Hab. 2:5; 1 Sam. 14:30; 21:6; Ew., § 354 c [= “yea, is it that?” or: “how much more when?”—TR.]).

1 Samuel 23:4. David holds to his resolution against these objections; to confirm it and to encourage his men he again inquires of the Lord and receives the same affirmative answer with the assurance that the Lord has given his enemies into his hand.—Though treated by the king as an outlaw, he yet maintains true love to his people, which impels him to help them in their need, and to show that, in spite of his undeserved sufferings, he will not sin against them by refusing to perform a deed of deliverance which is well-pleasing to God.—The “go down” indicates that David was still in the mountains of Judah whence he must descend in order to reach Keilah.

1 Samuel 23:5. In accordance with the divine declaration the attack on the Philistines was successful; David inflicted a severe defeat on them, and gained large booty, driving off their flocks. Thus he rescued the people of Keilah.

1 Samuel 23:6 is a supplementary historical explanation relative to the possibility of the inquiry of the Lord in 1 Samuel 23:2, 3, which was not possible without the high-priestly cape or ephod to which was attached the Urim and Thummim. The main point is that, when Abiathar fled from Saul to David, he brought with him the high-priestly dress from Nob. But it was before this time that Abiathar came to David; he came as fugitive (22:20) before David went to Keilah, for before this David inquired of the Lord through the high-priestly oracle. Accordingly, the remark: “when Abiathar fled to David to Keilah” is an indefinite statement, in which Keilah is by anticipation put as the first goal of his flight. The Sept. correctly explains: “When Abiathar, the son of Ahitub, fled to David, the ephod was in his hand, and he had gone down with David to Keilah, the ephod in his hand.” [Dr. Erdmann here gives not the reading of the Sept., but the Hebrew text as amended by Thenius after the Sept.; the Greek text, however does imply that Abiathar had come to Keilah with David, having fled to him before. Thenius’ amended Heb. text would indicate the back reference of this statement in 1 Samuel 23:6; but the present Heb. text naturally means that it was at Keilah that Abiathar first came to David, and so it is understood by Ewald, Stanley and the Bible Commentary. In 22:20–23 it is not said where or when the priest reached David, and the statement may be an anticipatory conclusion of the narrative of the massacre, the intermediate fact 23:1–5 being then taken up with its consequent procedures. Ewald also remarks that the account of the inquiry in 23:2, 3 is differently worded from that in 1 Samuel 23:9–12; the former may have been by the prophet Gad, against which, however, as Erdmann remarks, is the use of the phrase “inquire of the Lord,” which regularly refers to the sacred oracle.—On the whole, if we retain the Heb. text of 1 Samuel 23:6, we must hold that Abiathar joined David after the rescue of Keilah; but a slight change in the text23 (which seems to be corrupt) will permit us to adopt the view of Thenius, Keil, Philippson, and Erdmann, which is in other respects more satisfactory. This latter is also the view of Wordsworth, while Bp. Patrick adopts the other (referring to the employment of Urim and Thummim by Saul 28:6, on which see Erdmann), but neither of these writers mentions the difficulties of the question.—TR.].

1 Samuel 23:7. On hearing of David’s march to Keilah, Saul imagines that God has given him into his hands. He thinks that he will act as an instrument of the Lord against David. His reason therefor is indeed external and superficial enough: “for he is there shut in in a city with gates and bars.” (נִכַּר in pregnant sense = “look at, ignore, Deut. 32:27, despise, reject,” Jer. 19:4); into my hands [Heb. hand], that is, he hath given him, by abandoning and rejecting him. By blinding and self-deception Saul has fallen into the dreadful illusion that it is David, instead of himself, that is rejected by God.—The difficulty of the pregnant expression [God has rejected him into my hands] no doubt occasioned the change in the Sept. to “sold.”—For he is shut in in entering.24 The fact that David has entered or been drawn into this city with gates and bars, Saul thinks equivalent to his being shut in.

1 Samuel 23:8. And Saul caused the whole people to hear, summoned them to war (comp. 15:4). Such summons to war was a royal right. The reason assigned to the people for the summons was to drive out the Philistines. Saul’s real purpose, which he could the more easily conceal under this pretext of war on the Philistines, was: to besiege David and his men, who were already in Keilah, the city with gates and bars.

1 Samuel 23:9. David, however, had information of these evil plans, which Saul was forging against him; the Heb. (חָרַשׁ) is literally “to work in metals,” and so “vigorously to work evil,” as in Prov. 3:29; 14:22; comp. Hos. 10:13. [The “secretly” of Eng. A. V. is to be omitted.—TR.]. This gives David occasion again to consult the divine oracle. Bring hither the ephod, said he to Abiathar (comp. 14:13; 30:7). The high-priestly dress had to be brought, because it was the sacred dress for official duties.

1 Samuel 23:10. This inquiry of the Lord by the ephod was connected with outspoken prayer, whereby is indicated the innermost kernel and most essential significance of this questioning of the divine oracle. In the invocation of God there is here to be noted 1) the designation of the covenant-God as the God of Israel, and 2) David’s avowal that he is the servant of this God, in whose service he knew himself to be. The reason for his questions is given in the words: I, thy servant, have heard that Saul seeks to come, etc.

1 Samuel 23:11. The two questions. The first is: Will the citizens of Keilah deliver me into his hand?—“Citizens” (‍בַעֵלֵי ק׳) comp. Josh. 24:11, “citizens” of Jericho, 2 Sam. 21:12; Judg. 9:6. That this question stands first is certainly surprising, since logically this position belongs to the second question: Will Saul come down? We cannot regard this as a mere inconcinnity in the narrative. We may see in it the expression of David’s excited state of mind. Thenius’ proposed reading in order to secure logical arrangement in the two questions, namely: “Saul comes … to destroy the city, in order that the citizens of Keilah may deliver me into his hand” (he omits the suffix in בַעֲבוּרִי in 1 Samuel 23:10 and for הֲיַסְנִּרֻנִי reads הַסְגִּרֻנִי) is all the more hazardous and untenable, as no version gives any hint for such a reading.—The divine answer, which is affirmative, refers only to the second question. Therefore the first question is repeated in 1 Samuel 23:12, and is then answered in the affirmative. There is thus a sort of chiasm or crossing in the order of the questions and answers. 1 Samuel 23:13. The certainty that Saul will come with an army, and that the men of Keilah will treacherously deliver him up,25 determines David to depart with his band (about six hundred men) before Saul can carry out his plan. They went about whither they went, “whither their way led them” (Maurer), as chance circumstances required, without fixed plan or aim. A mode of warfare by means of scouts and spies now arose between the two men. They have precise information of each other’s plans and enterprises. Saul soon learns that David has escaped from Keilah, and accordingly abandons his intended march thither.

1 Samuel 23:14. David in the wilderness of Ziph and the treachery of the Ziphites towards him. 1 Samuel 23:14. David’s next place of abode is in general the wilderness, that is, of Judah, and its sheltering heights; but “the mountain in the wilderness of Ziph” is specially mentioned as a more permanent dwelling-place. Ziph (different from the place named in Josh. 15:24, which lay southwest of Arad), perhaps the present Kuseifeh (Rob. III., 184, 188 [Am. ed., II., 200]) Josh. 15:55, lay farther north on the highland, about eight miles southeast of Hebron; see Robins., II., 47 [Am. ed., I., 492] who found there a hill, Tell Zif, and near by considerable ruins of old fortifications. [Mr. Grove, who formerly objected to Robinson’s conjecture, now accepts it, but puts Zif (= Ziph) three miles south of Hebron. See his Art. in Smith’s Bib.-Dict., and Dr. Hackett’s note in Am. ed.—TR.] Individual parts of the great wilderness of Judah, which extended from the north of Judah to the Amorite mountain in the south between the mountains of Judah and the Dead Sea, were named from the various cities on the border of the mountains and the wilderness; so, besides the wilderness of Ziph, the wilderness of Maon, whither David afterwards went from Ziph (1 Samuel 23:25). The mountain in the wilderness of Ziph is probably the mount Hachilah of 1 Samuel 23:19. The general remark is here proleptically made that all Saul’s attempts against David were vain. Saul sought him every day, not: throughout his life (Keil), but = continually; but God gave him not into his (Saul’s) hands.—David was under the special protection of God. These words form the contrast to Saul’s word, 1 Samuel 23:7: “God has rejected [delivered] him into my hand.” After the general remark on the failure of Saul’s continued attempts follows (1 Samuel 23:15) the mention of special cases, and the description of David’s persecution. Thus connected with the preceding this verse (15) is not a “useless repetition” (Then.); for, after the statement that Saul pursued David, it is here first declared that David received information of this pursuit, and then David’s retreat in the wilderness is more exactly described by the word “wood,” or thick wood (בַהֹרְשָׁה, from חֹרֶשׂ, with ה parag.). Here, too, the forest is David’s chief means of concealment. Perhaps the word is also a proper name [Horesh], so called from the forests, of which there is now no trace in that region.

1 Samuel 23:16–18. Here is related how Jonathan comforted and strengthened David, when the latter, having heard of Saul’s attempts against him, greatly needed consolation. There is no ground for regarding this (Then.) as merely the essential content of the traditional narration of Jonathan’s secret interview with David in 1 Samuel 20. It is another interview of Jonathan with his friend, whose distress and danger led him to hasten to him in order by consoling and encouraging words to give him the most precious proof of his faithful friendship.26 The fact is especially emphasized that Jonathan went to David into the wood; there they could be safest from Saul. He strengthened his hand in God; that is, he revived his sunken courage (comp. Neh. 12:18), by pointing to the divine promises, the divine protection, and the great things that God had in store for him. Not wholly correct and exhaustive is Clericus’ remark: “he drew consolation from his innocence and God’s promises.”

1 Samuel 23:17. The words of Jonathan, explaining what was just before said. Fear not, is the key-note of Jonathan’s address. As ground of which he points 1) to God’s almighty help: Saul’s hand will not find thee,—he is firmly convinced that he (David) is under God’s protection, and that therefore Saul can gain no advantage over him,—and 2) to the fixed divine decree: Thou wilt be king over Israel; Jonathan was certain through divine illumination that David was called by the Lord to be king of Israel, and could therefore console and encourage him; for Saul could not make void God’s counsel and will (comp. 20:13 sq.). I shall be next to thee,—herein Jonathan shows 1) his absolute willingness to resign all claim to the throne, and 2) his hope that David will confer on him as a subject the place nearest in association to himself. And so also Saul knows, my father is sure that thou wilt be king. Saul must therefore have already learned this through the voice of God and of the people.

1 Samuel 23:18. A new covenant is made by the two men, comp. 1 Samuel 20:16 sq., 42. Here, as there, the parting is briefly and vividly described: David remained in the thicket—Jonathan went his way home. [The two friends meet no more in life. How it would have been if Jonathan had lived we cannot tell; but all possible complications were avoided by his death. His life thus presents an untarnished picture of pure, self-denying friendship. This parting is one of the many dramatic situations that occur in this Book.—TR.]

1 Samuel 23:19–24 a. The Ziphites betray to Saul David’s abode among them; Saul forms with the betrayers his crafty scheme against David. 1 Samuel 23:19 is connected with 1 Samuel 23:15, not with 1 Samuel 23:14 (Thenius). “Ziphites,” people of Ziph [without the Art.—TR.] Some Ziphites went up to Saul to Gibeah to betray to him David’s abode. The mountain Hachilah, with its wood and its rocks, lay “on the right of the desert;” that is, south of the waste region which stretched out on the west of the Dead Sea within the steppe of Judah. The Article indicates the desert to be that well-known desert in this region, the designation being almost a proper name [written as nom. pr. “Jeshimon” in Eng. A. V.—TR.] So in Num. 21:20; 23:28, a desert is called “the desert” [Eng. A. V. Jeshimon]. This is the desert northeastern border of the Dead Sea.

1 Samuel 23:20. The lively tone of the address of the Ziphites shows that they were somewhat passionate adherents of Saul, and acquainted with his most secret desires. Two things they say to him: 1) Come down to us, for all thy desire to get David in thy power may now be fulfilled; 2) it is our affair to deliver him up to thee. [Bib.-Com. less well renders: “it is in our power,” etc.TR.].

1 Samuel 23:21. The feeling expressed in Saul’s answer agrees with the Ziphites’ word as to his keen desire to come down to them. He invokes God’s blessing on them for their offer and promise. He remains true to his illusion that David is attempting his throne and life, and so committing a crime against God. He imagines that he is in a dangerous situation, and that the Ziphites had compassion on him or sympathy with him in making him this offer.

1 Samuel 23:22. He directs them how to act in order to gain information of every retreat of David in his constant shifting of place. “Fix your mind, observe” (supply לֵב as in Judg. 12:6; 2 Chr. 29:36). The heaping up of synonyms is no argument against this rendering; the conception “see” is not thrice expressed (Then.), but there is a gradation, Saul describing in an animated manner how they are to get information of David’s abode: “Keep a good look-out still, that ye may learn, and that ye may see in what place his foot will be,” that is, where he fixes himself in his wandering. “Who has seen him” refers to the last: “And see his place,” etc. The words, in keeping with Saul’s animated manner, are loosely put together, he having in mind the moment when the man who discovers David’s abode comes to inform him. Saul affirms the necessity for this espionage in the remark: “for it is told me that he is very subtle.” This trait of character in David agrees with what we otherwise know of him in this respect.

1 Samuel 23:23. Saul continues his directions, and cannot say enough (to satisfy himself) to exhort them to search in every nook and cranny. “Return to me unto what is certain;” that is, when you have gotten certain information. Not till then will he go down with them. He confidently declares that he will then seize him among all the thousands of Judah. The Alaphim, thousands are, according to Num. 1:16; 10:4, the larger divisions of the twelve Tribes.

1 Samuel 23:24 a. The Ziphites went back to their region before Saul, who, according to the agreement, was to follow later.

1 Samuel 23:24 b–28. David retires to the wilderness of Maon, and is delivered from Saul.

1 Samuel 23:24 b. The wilderness of Maon lay farther south. The name still exists, = Maïn, eight miles southeast of Hebron; the distance from Ziph is therefore only six miles. Maïn lies on a conical hill, which commands a wide view, so that Rob. (II., 433 [Am. Ed., I., 493–495]) thence saw nine cities of the hill-country of Judah, Maon, Carmel, Ziph, Juttah, Jattir, Socho, Anab, Eshtemoa, and Hebron (Josh. 15:48–55). On the character of the ground see Van de Velde II. 107 sq. [Mr. Grove in Smith’s Bible Dict. thinks that the wilderness of Maon formed part of the larger region called the Arabah, rendered in Eng. A. V. 1 Sam. 23:24, “the plain.”—TR.].—David, doubtless in consequence of information received as to the designs of Saul and the Ziphites, betook himself to the wilderness of Maon.

1 Samuel 23:25. And Saul … went, namely, after he had gotten information from the Ziphites. The “rock,” on which it is here presupposed that David was staying, and which was in the wilderness of Maon, is perhaps the conical hill of the present Maïn, whose summit is surrounded with ruins. He went down not (as Sept.) “into the rock,” nor “to the rock” (Buns.), but “descended the rock,” in order to conceal himself in the lowland or in the caves at its base. It is the same mountain that is mentioned in 1 Samuel 23:26, on opposite sides of which Saul and David found themselves. Here (1 Samuel 23:26) David was sore troubled (נֶחְפָּז) to escape Saul, while, on his part, Saul attempted to surround and seize him.

1 Samuel 23:27. But suddenly, when David is in the greatest danger of being surrounded, Saul receives information of a new Philistine incursion. He must desist from farther pursuit. This was God’s plan to save David. The Philistines had seized on the moment when Saul had withdrawn his men to the south in pursuit of David, to invade the upper part of the land.

1 Samuel 23:28. The place was called Sela hammahlekoth (סֶלַע הַמַּחְלְקוֹת). There are two explanations of the name: 1) rock of smoothness, that is, of escape, and 2) rock of dividings or divisions. The first (Ges., De Wette, Keil), takes the notion of “escape” from the signification of the verb (חָלַק) “to be smooth,” for which application, however, only Jer. 37:12, and that very doubtfully, can be adduced. Further the substantive here used never means “escape,” but always “distribution” (Josh. 11:23; 12:7; 18:10; Ezek. 48:29) and “division” (1 Chr. 26:1; 27:1; 2 Chr. 31:17) and it must so be taken here. This explanation is favored also by the word “therefore,” which clearly refers to the circumstantially related fact that the armies of Saul and David were separated, divided by the rock. Ewald’s explanation: “lot of fate” (= חֶלֶק) is unfounded. It accordingly means: “Rock of division.” Cler.: “rock of divisions, where Saul and David were separated.” The rock divided the two armies, held them asunder. Böttcher conjectures that the rock might originally from its nature have been called “rock of smoothness,” and this name might afterwards from historical recollection have been made to refer to the movements of Saul and David, who according to 1 Samuel 23:26 had divided the rock-ground between them. Certainly this explanation of the name “Rock of dividings, partings,” would be possible as respects the ground. But, by reason of the “therefore,” the reference to Saul and David’s relation to one another suits the connection better.


1. David did not seek, but received from the Lord’s hand the opportunity by the march to Keilah to perform a heroic deed, and thus to win further consideration in the eyes of the people as a warrior blessed by God and crowned with glorious success. The king left the city open to the attacks of the Philistines. He neglected his duty as protector of his people against the hereditary foe, thinking only of revenging himself on David. Here also David was under God’s protection, to which he humbly resigned himself. After he had at the Lord’s command returned from Moab to Judah, he must, in the fact that the Philistines undisturbed besieged Keilah and carried off the grain, while Saul took no steps to oppose them, have recognized God’s command to draw the sword for his people, especially as he was the king’s general, though he had received no order from the king. But for his conscience and his assurance of faith, as well as for the certainty and success of the whole undertaking, he needed the divine authorization; 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. He received the divine authorization and the promise of success through a twice affirmed divine oracle. By the divine promise he is inwardly certain of success. Even in straits and danger, he now with the Lord’s support becomes the saviour of his people out of straits and danger. But in the deed of deliverance itself lies the seed of new suffering. The rescue of Keilah by David occasioned Saul’s march to Keilah against David. The inhabitants of Keilah exhibit base ingratitude towards him. By God’s word he learns what dangers here threaten him. By God’s direction he again takes to flight to save himself from Saul—but the incursion of the Philistines, occasioned by Saul’s march to the south, compels him to desist from following David, who thus escapes his persecutor. Thus this section exhibits David anew in the clearest light of divine guidance as the Chosen and Anointed of God: 1) submitting himself unconditionally to God’s determining word and guiding will, and 2) guided directly by God’s hand and determined in all his affairs by God’s will and word.

2. Whatever may have been the form of the inquiry of God through the Urim and Thummim (which was attached to the ephod of the high-priest), yet in this section it is clearly and distinctly indicated that it was an embodied prayer to God for the revelation of His will, and only to such prayer was God’s counsel and will thus revealed. One’s own natural objection and other men’s opposition to God’s will must by this repeated questioning of the Lord and decision and confirmation of His will be most completely refuted and set aside. Flesh-and-blood’s deliberations concerning what pertains to God’s kingdom lead to indecision, doubt, timidity; taking counsel with God in direct access to His grace and truth makes the heart firm and the look clear, and gives true courage and victorious prowess, as is shown by the example of David, who repeatedly inquired of the Lord.

3. The teaching of the Ziphites forms the historical background of Ps. 54, the title of which refers its origin to David’s thence resulting sorrowful experiences, 1 Sam. 23:19 sq. In full accordance with his then dangerous situation and with a backward glance at God’s wonderful help, he first utters a prayer for deliverance from wicked and ungodly enemies, 1 Samuel 23:3–5 (1–3), and then expresses his assurance of divine help, together with the promise of thanksgiving for deliverance, 1 Samuel 23:6–9 (4–7).

4. 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.


1 Samuel 23:2. STARKE: God forsakes not those who seek Him (Ps. 9:11 [10]). When we wish to begin any thing, we should first ask counsel of God.

1 Samuel 23:3. CRAMER: Flesh and blood trembles when at God’s command we have to encounter danger. SCHMID: Corrupt human reason always has something which it opposes to the word of God.

1 Samuel 23:4. STARKE: When we have God’s will on our side, we should not let ourselves be led astray by men (Acts 21:13,14). The shield of the pious is with God, who helps pious hearts (Ps. 7:11 [10]).

1 Samuel 23:5. CRAMER: In trouble God yet sometimes gives a joyous day, and after the troublous storm He shows a glimpse of His grace (Eccl. 7:14).

1 Samuel 23:7. OSIANDER: Hypocrites have God’s name in the mouth, but the devil always in the heart. And although they speak of God, yet they have always a bloody mind against God’s people (Ps. 50:16, 17).

1 Samuel 23:11, 12. God foresees not only what will really happen, but also what would follow if this and that should happen. His omniscience and foreknowledge is a boundless and bottomless sea (Acts 27:24–31).—The greatest benefits are often requited with the greatest ingratitude, and this is a shameful evil among men, which then most betrays itself when they should be thankful.—SCHLIER: True thankfulness which fears God knows well how to find out the right. Let us be thankful in all things! We need not for that reason do wrong when the point is to be thankful, but when true thankfulness fills the heart there open up ways enough to show it.

1 Samuel 23:16 sq. OSIANDER: It is a work acceptable to God to comfort the afflicted (Isa. 40:1; 1 Thess. 5:14).—God is wont always to refresh again His people who are in danger, that they may not utterly sink under the cross (2 Cor. 7:6).—STARKE: True friendship must be grounded in communion with God. Real love does not diminish, but increases.—SCHLIER: God lets a David be persecuted—lets him be driven about like a hunted animal; but at His own time He also sends him a Jonathan with friendly words. And so God the Lord still always does to all His servants.—F. W. KRUMMACHER: The picture of this pair of friends—a picture nobler and more exalting than that of the heathen Dioscuri, beams inextinguishably in the heaven of the church, as a kindling and inspiring ideal of unfeigned manly friendship, sanctified in God.

1 Samuel 23:25 sq. STARKE: God never leaves one that loves Him without a cross, and when one cross has ceased, another is at once ready (Ps. 73:14).—OSIANDER: God often lets His people fall into extreme need, so that they can neither counsel nor help themselves, in order that the divine help may be so much the more recognized and honored (Matt. 8:25).—CRAMER: God lets nothing so bad happen, but that He knows how to make out of it something good (Gen. 50:20).—WUERT. BIB.: Even enemies must serve our God in reserving His believing children from peril or need (2 Pet. 2:9).

1 Samuel 23:28. OSIANDER: The benefits of God we should with thankful mind keep in lively remembrance (Ps. 103:2).—SCHLIER: Why is it that the Lord very often helps only when the need has reached its height! It is in order that we may give the honor to the Lord alone.—F. W. KRUMMACHER: David was delivered “at the last hour,” it is true; but this never strikes too late for the Lord still to furnish in it the 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.”

J. DISSELHOFF: How trying days should be borne after God’s heart: 1) By despairing of all self-help and believingly fleeing to God’s heart, there to learn supplication and thanksgiving. 2) By opening heart and hand amid our own need for others’ need. 3) By contending with the weapons of gentleness and humility against the supposed or real authors of the trials.

[1 Samuel 23:7–13. David at Keilah. 1) Saul eagerly arranges to seize him: a) Rejoicing beforehand in a success taken for granted. “Counting the chickens,” etc.; b) Inferring that God was on his side from the mere prospect of a single success; misinterpreting Providence, comp. 24:4. 2) The citizens of Keilah ready to betray him—doubtless remembering Nob; Ingratitude—which always finds itself some excuse. 3) David sees reason to fear them, and seeks divine direction: a) He speaks humbly as God’s servant; b) He earnestly implores direction. Prayer. In answer to humble and earnest prayer, God often delivers from ungrateful friends and scheming foes.

[1 Samuel 23:16–18. The last meeting of Jonathan and David: 1) David feeble and fearful (“strengthened,” “fear not”). Naturally discouraged by cowardly ingratitude, malignant hostility, weary wandering, uncertainty of life. 2) Jonathan encourages him: a) By the mere fact of coming to meet him through difficulties and dangers; b) By piously pointing him to God; c) By confident assurances of preservation and triumph; d) By declaring that his great enemy himself knows this, comp. 24:20; e) By avowing his own willingness to be second to David. 3) They renew their league of friendship before the Lord (comp. 18:3; 20:16, 42). They part to meet no more on earth. Jonathan is next mentioned in David’s pathetic lament (2 Sam. 1:17–27).

[1 Samuel 23:25–27. David’s narrow escape: 1) He is betrayed by men of his own tribe (1 Samuel 23:19), and skilful plans are laid to apprehend him (1 Samuel 23:22–3). 2) Hard pressed, fleeing in haste, surrounded (1 Samuel 23:26). 3) Prays to God for help and deliverance (Psalm 54). 4) Strangely delivered at the last moment by overruling Providence (1 Samuel 23:27).—TR.]


11 Samuel 23:3. Erdmann: “and we are really to go, etc.?” Syr.: “how shall we go?” Sept.: “how will it be if we go?” all of which give the general sense; Eng. A. V. has the more exact rendering, and so Chald. and Vulg.—Then.: “how much less shall we go?”—TR.]

2[1 Samuel 23:3. Sept. σκῦλα “spoil,” which Then. prefers, supposing it to represent מְשִׁסּוֹת “booty,” whence the Heb. text מַעַרְכוֹת might easily come. Against this Wellhausen justly points out the unsuitableness of the resulting thought, and suggests that σκῦλα (variants σκωλα, κοιλιας) is another form of Κεἴλά, and that the Greek omits the מַעַרְכוֹת—as to the improbability of battle-lines in Philistine raiding-parties, they might well exist, or David’s men may naturally exaggerate the danger.

3[1 Samuel 23:4. Heb.: “David and his men,” but the following verbs are in the Singular, making David the subject.—TR.]

4[1 Samuel 23:6. Erdmann: “The ephod came down to him,” which, however, the Heb. does not mean from the connection. Erdmann suggests the right sense in the Exposition.—TR.]

5[1 Samuel 23:7. נִכַּר is rendered by the VSS. “delivered,” but Sept. “sold” מָכַר, adopted by Then.; Wellh. says the text seems made up of מכר and נתן. The word is literally “ignored,” and so perhaps=“abandoned.”—TR.]

6[1 Samuel 23:7. Literally. “at entering” (לָבוֹא), not “shut in (forced) to enter.”—TR.]

7[1 Samuel 23:8. Sept. in inverse order; “to go down to war,” perhaps a mere softening. The Heb. order is better; Saul summons the people generally to war, and then the special purpose is added of going down to Keilah.—Instead of צוּר some MSS. have צוּד.

8[1 Samuel 23:9. חַרַשׁ= “cut, work on the forge” = “practice.” Eng. A. V. gets its “secretly” from Vulg. clam, and this is perhaps from the meaning “to be deaf, dumb,” also found in this verb, but not applicable here; so Sept. rendered παρασιωπᾷ before which, however, it naturally found itself obliged to insert the negative.—TR.]

9[1 Samuel 23:10. Thenius reads: “Saul seeks … to destroy the city in order that the citizens of Keilah may deliver me into his hand,” on which see Erdmann. To this the objections are 1) that it supposes a construction (Inf. with suffix followed by Accus.-subject) doubtful in Heb. (Wellh.), and 2) Saul’s purpose in destroying the city, namely, that the citizens may deliver David up, seems a strange one. On the other hand the omission of the first clause of 1 Samuel 23:11 (Wellh.) is a violent procedure, like that of Syr., which omits the whole of this verse. The procedure of the vers. shows the difficulty they had with the text, but also seems to vouch for its integrity. It is perhaps better to attribute the repetition to excitement, or to regard the first question as a general one, which is afterwards for the sake of clearness, divided into two.—TR.]

10[1 Samuel 23:13. Sept. four hundred by error from 22:2.—TR.]

11[1 Samuel 23:15. Ewald and Wellhausen emend to וַיִּרָא “feared” on the ground that this is required in order to connect with the preceding context and to explain the words of Jonathan in 1 Samuel 23:17. Yet the connection is so general a one that such a change seems unnecessary.—TR.]

12[1 Samuel 23:18. Some MSS. have דַּרְכּו “his way,” but the text is best supported.—TR.]

13[1 Samuel 23:19. The Heb. has not the Art., but the connection seems to involve it.—Wellhausen thinks the minute description of place here interpolated from 26:1, because otherwise Saul’s minute directions in 1 Samuel 23:22, 23, would be out of place; but the statement of the Ziphites is not so minute as to supersede the necessity of search for the fugitive, who might be in any one of a hundred places “in the wood on the hill.”—TR.]

14[1 Samuel 23:19. Some MSS. have (probably wrongly) Habilah and Havilah.—TR.]

15[1 Samuel 23:21. Instead of הָכִינוּ “set your mind),” some MSS. have הָבִינוּ“understand, learn.”—TR.]

16[1 Samuel 23:22. Thenius reads רַגְלוֹ הַמְּהֵרָה “where his quick or fleet foot is,” Sept. ἐν τάχει, an ingenious and smooth reading; yet the rugged Heb. text suits the hurry of the command better.—TR.]

17[1 Samuel 23:25. The suffix, omitted in the Heb., is added in the Sept.—Erdmann renders “went down the cliff.”—TR.]

18[1 Samuel 23:26. Sept. “Saul and his men.” a natural (and therefore suspicious) supplement.—TR.]

19[1 Samuel 23:28. On the meaning of this name see Erdmann in Exposition.—TR.]

20[Mr. Grove (in Smith’s Bib. Dict., Art. Keilah) referring to Tobler’s identification of Keilah with Kila says “thus another is added to the list of places which, though specified as in the ‘lowland’ are yet actually found in the mountains: a puzzling fact.” In connection with the signification “fortress” given to Keilah by Gesenius and others, Mr. Grove also points to the expression “marvellous kindness in a strong city” in Ps. 31:21 and to 1 Samuel 23:8 and the general tenor of the Psalm.—TR.]

21[See on 1 Samuel 23:6.—TR.]

22[Bib. Com.: “Implying that Keilah was not in Judah.” Yet it may mean simply that the Philistines now had control of the region of Keilah.—TR.]

23[Read: “When Abiathar, etc. fled to David, the ephod was in his hand, and he came down to Keilah.”—TR.]

24 לָבוֹא eundo—comp. לֵאמֹר dicendo, “saying.” The Inf. with ל is often used to introduce a subordinate circumstance. Ew. § 280d. Comp. 1 Ki. 16:7; Ps. 78:18; 63:3; 1 Chr. 12:8; Prov. 26:2; Joel 2:26.

25[They act, perhaps, partly from attachment to Saul, partly from policy.—TR.]

26[It is suggested in Bib.-Com. that Jonathan had informed David of his father’s designs (1 Samuel 23:15), but this is nowhere intimated.—TR.]

David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father's house heard it, they went down thither to him.
Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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