1 Samuel 23
Matthew Poole's Commentary
Then they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshingfloors.
David, inquiring of the Lord by Abiathar, rescueth Keilah, and goeth into it, 1 Samuel 23:1-6. God showing him the coming of Saul, and treachery of the Kennites, 1 Samuel 23:7-12, he flieth thence to the wilderness of Ziph, with his six hundred men, 1 Samuel 23:13-15. Here Jonathan cometh to him, and reneweth the covenant of friendship with him, 1 Samuel 23:16-18. The Ziphites discover him to Saul, 1 Samuel 23:19-23; who pursueth him into the wilderness of Maon, 1 Samuel 23:24-26. He is called away by a message that the Philistines had invaded the land, 1 Samuel 23:27,28. David dwelleth at En-gedi, 1 Samuel 23:29.

Then they told David; or, Now they had told David, to wit, before he heard of the slaughter of the priests. Keilah; a city in the tribe of Judah, Joshua 15:44, not far from the forest of Hareth, where David now was, 1 Samuel 22:5.

The threshing-floors usually were without the cities, in places open to the wind. See Judges 6:11 Ruth 3:2, &c.

Therefore David inquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go and smite these Philistines? And the LORD said unto David, Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah.
David inquired of the Lord; either by Abiathar; or rather, by Gad, who was a prophet, 2 Samuel 24:11, and David’s seer, 1 Chronicles 21:9, and was now with David, 1 Samuel 22:5; for Abiathar was not yet come to him, 1 Samuel 23:6.

Shall I go and smite these Philistines? for the case was both doubtful and new, he having not yet made any attempt upon the Philistines, but by Saul’s commission; and dangerous, because of the small number of his forces.

And David's men said unto him, Behold, we be afraid here in Judah: how much more then if we come to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?
Here in Judah, i. e. in this part of Judah, whereas yet we have no army to oppose us; for else Keilah also was in Judah.

If we come to Keilah; when we shall have a potent enemy before us, the Philistines, and, it may be, another behind us, even Saul, who probably will come forth, either to resist the Philistines, or to intercept us.

Then David inquired of the LORD yet again. And the LORD answered him and said, Arise, go down to Keilah; for I will deliver the Philistines into thine hand.
David inquired of the Lord yet again; not for his own, but for his soldiers’ satisfaction and encouragement, as Gideon did, Jud 7.

So David and his men went to Keilah, and fought with the Philistines, and brought away their cattle, and smote them with a great slaughter. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.
The Philistines had either brought

their cattle out of their land, or had taken from the Israelites in their march, for the sustenance of their army.

And it came to pass, when Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David to Keilah, that he came down with an ephod in his hand.
Or, with the ephod, to wit, the high priest’s ephod, in which were the Urim and Thummim, Exodus 28:30, which when Ahimelech and the rest of the priests went to Saul, were probably left in his hand, and to his care; which gave him the opportunity both of escaping, whilst Doeg the butcher was killing his brethren, and of bringing away the ephod, which Saul had oft grossly neglected, and now was justly deprived of it.

And it was told Saul that David was come to Keilah. And Saul said, God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars.
He easily believed what he greedily desired, though his own experience had oft showed him how strangely God had delivered him out of his hands, and what a singular care God had over him.

For he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars; so that which he chose for his safety will be his certain ruin.

And Saul called all the people together to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And David knew that Saul secretly practised mischief against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod.
Saul secretly practised mischief against him; whereby it may seem he pretended that he raised his army to defend Keilah and his country from the Philistines, and kept his intention against David in his own breast. Or, designed or devised; for so the word signifies; and so it is here translated by many; and it seems both from 1 Samuel 23:8, and from his publicly avowed jealousy of and rage against David, that he declared his design to be against him, as a traitor to his crown and dignity.

Bring hither the ephod, and put it upon thee, that thou mayst ask counsel of God for me.

Then said David, O LORD God of Israel, thy servant hath certainly heard that Saul seeketh to come to Keilah, to destroy the city for my sake.
David said this by the priest, for he was to make the inquiry of God, Numbers 27:21, and David puts the words into his mouth.

Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O LORD God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant. And the LORD said, He will come down.
Will the men of Keilah deliver me up, to wit, if I continue in their city, and if Saul come down?

The Lord said. From this place it may appear that God’s answer by Urim and Thummim was not by any change in the colour or situation of the precious stones in the breastplate of the ephod, but by a voice or suggestion from God to the high priest.

He will come down, i.e. he purposeth to come, if thou continuest here; for still, as David’s question, so God’s answer, is upon supposition, as is here sufficiently implied.

Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the LORD said, They will deliver thee up.
To wit, if thou abidest there; for God saw their hearts, their purposes and passions, their aversion from David, and their affections to Saul, and knew better than themselves what they would do in that case.

Then David and his men, which were about six hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul that David was escaped from Keilah; and he forbare to go forth.
Which were about six hundred; two hundred being added to his former number, 1 Samuel 22:2, upon his last and great success against the Philistines.

Whithersoever they could go; hither or thither, where they could find refuge, or a hiding-place.

And David abode in the wilderness in strong holds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand.
As Saul fondly persuaded himself he intended, 1 Samuel 23:7.

And David saw that Saul was come out to seek his life: and David was in the wilderness of Ziph in a wood.
David saw; either by information from his spies, or by prospect from the top of the mountain where he was.

And Jonathan Saul's son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.
Jonathan went where David had appointed to meet him at that time, and strengthened his hand in God; he comforted and supported him against all his fears, by minding him of God’s infallible promises made to him, and his singular providence which hitherto had and still would be with him.

And he said unto him, Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul my father knoweth.
I shall be next unto thee; which he gathered either from David’s generosity, ingenuousness, and true friendship to him; or from some promise made to him by David concerning it. Or the meaning of the words, next unto thee, may be as much as to say, I shall be under thee, after thee, or inferior to thee, as the phrase tibi secundus oft signifies. So that the whole imports thus much: I do not look to be king myself, (as by my birth I might expect,) but that thou shalt be king, (God having so appointed,) and I but in a secondary place inferior to thee.

That also Saul my father knoweth, by strong and well-grounded conjectures, as hath been noted.

And they two made a covenant before the LORD: and David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house.
They two made a covenant, i.e. renewed their former covenant before the Lord; setting themselves as in God’s presence, and calling upon him to be witness between them.

Then came up the Ziphites to Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself with us in strong holds in the wood, in the hill of Hachilah, which is on the south of Jeshimon?
The Ziphites were of David’s own tribe, though for this their unnatural and strange carriage to him he calls them strangers, Psalm 44:3.

Now therefore, O king, come down according to all the desire of thy soul to come down; and our part shall be to deliver him into the king's hand.
It shall be our care and business to the utmost of our power. Or, we will undertake to deliver him, or betray him to thee.

And Saul said, Blessed be ye of the LORD; for ye have compassion on me.
Whilst others harden their hearts against me, and join with David in his treasonable conspiracy, you show your pity to me by your readiness to help me.

Go, I pray you, prepare yet, and know and see his place where his haunt is, and who hath seen him there: for it is told me that he dealeth very subtilly.
Prepare yet, to wit, the matter; inform yourselves certainly of things, and dispose them so that we may not be frustrated in our attempt.

Where his haunt is; in what cave, or wood, or mountain he is most frequently.

See therefore, and take knowledge of all the lurking places where he hideth himself, and come ye again to me with the certainty, and I will go with you: and it shall come to pass, if he be in the land, that I will search him out throughout all the thousands of Judah.
i.e. Through all the parts of that tribe. Every tribe was divided into thousands, as counties are now with us into hundreds. See Judges 6:15. Or, with all the thousands of Judah, i. e. I will raise against him all the forces of that tribe in which he trusteth and hideth himself. This he saith to animate them to the more vigorous prosecution of him.

And they arose, and went to Ziph before Saul: but David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the plain on the south of Jeshimon.
Before Saul, to prepare things for Saul, who marched after them.

In the wilderness of Maon, whither he went from the wilderness of Ziph, upon suspicion or information that Saul was coming thither.

Saul also and his men went to seek him. And they told David: wherefore he came down into a rock, and abode in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon.
Into a rock, i. e. into a cave which was in the rock; or which might, be called a rock, not for the height, but the strength of its situation; where at first he might think to hide himself, but upon further intelligence or consideration he removed from thence upon Saul’s approach. Or, he came down from the rock, i. e. either, first, From the mountain mentioned in the next verse, whence he came down, that so he might get out of Saul’s sight and reach. Or, secondly, From the hill of Hachilah, where David hid himself, which is said to be on the south of Jeshimon, 1 Samuel 23:19, as this place where he now was is also described, 1 Samuel 23:24, only that speaks of the plain, and this of the rock or hill adjoining to it, or in the midst of it. Or, he came down to Selah, as the Syriac and Arabic translate it; a place so called from the many rocks or stones which were in it, or near it.

And Saul went on this side of the mountain, and David and his men on that side of the mountain: and David made haste to get away for fear of Saul; for Saul and his men compassed David and his men round about to take them.
Dividing themselves into several parties, each marching a several way after him.

But there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land.
God stirring them up by his all-disposing providence to do it at this time for David’s rescue. Compare 2 Kings 19:9.

Wherefore Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against the Philistines: therefore they called that place Selahammahlekoth.

The rock of divisions, because there Saul was separated, and in a manner pulled asunder from David, who was now almost within his reach.

And David went up from thence, and dwelt in strong holds at Engedi.
No text from Poole on this verse.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

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