1 Samuel 23


David Saves the City of Keilah

      • They told David, “The Philistines are fighting against Keilah and robbing the threshing floors.” So David inquired of Yahweh, “Should I go attack these Philistines?” Yahweh answered, “Go attack the Philistines and save Keilah.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Keilah was near Adullam (22:1) at the western edge of Judah, not far from the Philistine border (see Josh 15:44; Neh 3:17-18).”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “In the agricultural societies of the ancient Near East, grain was a highly valued commodity. Grain that reached the threshing floor was at the end of a lengthy process of labor-intensive cultivation and harvesting, and the looting of the threshing floor was thus a particularly effective means of weakening an adversary…”

        • But David’s men said to him, “Look, we’re afraid while we’re here in Judah, how much more if we go to Keilah against the Philistine armies?” So David inquired of Yahweh once again, and Yahweh answered him, “Get up and go down to Keilah because I will hand the Philistines over to you.”

        • Guzik says, “By all outward appearance, this was a crazy thing to do. First, David had 400 men with thin resumes and bad credit reports (1 Samuel 22:2) – not exactly a regular army. Second, David had enough trouble with Saul and he didn’t need to add trouble from the Philistines – one enemy is usually enough. Third, this would bring David wide open out before King Saul. This was a dangerous course of action…David did this for two reasons. He had the command of God, and the need of the people. David was willing to endanger himself to obey the command of God and to meet the need of the people.”

      • So David and his men went to Keilah and fought against the Philistines. They carried away their livestock, inflicted heavy losses on them, and David saved the people of Keilah.

David Eludes Saul

      • Now Abiathar, Ahimelech’s son, had brought an ephod with him when he fled to David at Keilah. When it was reported to Saul that David had gone to Keilah, he said, “God has handed him over to me because he has trapped himself by going into a city with barred gates.” Then Saul summoned all the troops to go to war at Keilah to besiege David and his men.

        • Guzik notes, “Saul wouldn’t go to Keliah to save the people against the Philistines, but he would go there to try and save himself against David. Saul was totally motivated by self-interest.”

      • When David learned that Saul was plotting evil against him, he told Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” Then David said, “Yahweh, God of Israel, Your servant has heard definitely that Saul is planning to come to Keilah and destroy it because of me. Will the citizens of Keilah hand me over to him? Will Saul come down as Your servant has heard? Yahweh, God of Israel, please tell Your servant!” And Yahweh answered, “He will come down.” Then David asked again, “Will the citizens of Keliah hand me and my men over to Saul?” And Yahweh answered, “They will.”

        • Guzik writes, “This is another example of David seeking God through the priest using the Urim and Thummim. Notice how the questions are presented in a ‘Yes or No’ format, because that is how the Urim and Thummim were used…This was a true word of the LORD. Obviously, the word of the Lord to David was true depending on David’s actions. If David stayed in Keliah the word would have surely come to pass.”

      • So David and his men, about 600 of them now, left Keilah and moved around from one place to another. When Saul received the report that David had escaped from Keilah, he called off his expedition. David stayed in the desert strongholds and in the hill country of the wilderness of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God didn’t hand David over to him.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “The strongholds of the wilderness were not man-made structures but natural rock formations that provided refuge. Ziph was approximately ten miles southeast of Keilah.”

        • Guzik adds, “Ziph was a town below the southern tip of the Dead Sea, with a dramatically varied landscape. It was not a comfortable or easy place to be. God guided and protected David, but it wasn’t comfortable or easy. This was an essential time for God’s work in David’s life. He became a man after God’s heart in the shepherd’s field, but he became a king in the wilderness.”

      • While David was at Horesh in the wilderness of Ziph, he saw that Saul had come out to kill him. Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength through God. He told him, “Don’t be afraid. My father Saul will never lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel and I will be your second-in-command. My father Saul knows this.” The two of them made a covenant before Yahweh. Then Jonathan went home and David stayed at Horesh.

        • Guzik writes, “In encouraging David, Jonathan gave him reasons to not fear. David could reject fear because God would ultimately protect him (Saul my father shall not find you). David could reject fear because God’s promise would come to pass (You shall be king over Israel). David could reject fear because he had loyal friends like Jonathan (I shall be next to you)…Saul knew that David would be the next king, that the LORD had ordained it. Yet he fought against the will of God with everything he had. David and Jonathan already made a covenant (1 Samuel 18:3, 20:16) but now they confirm it again. Renewing or reconfirming a covenant does not make the previous covenant less precious; it makes it more precious and valid…Because of their great friendship, David and Jonathan looked forward to the day when David would be king, and Jonathan would support and help him. But it would never come to pass because Jonathan would die before David became king. Jonathan’s encouragement was a mix of divine promises and an expression of hope and desire…This was the last time David and Jonathan saw each other on earth…”

      • The Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Isn’t David hiding among us in the strongholds in Horesh, on the hill of Hachilah which is south of Jeshimon? When it pleases you to do so, O king, come down and it will be our responsibility to hand him over to you.” And Saul replied, “May you be blessed by Yahweh because you have shown me compassion. Go and check again. Find out exactly where he is and who has seen him there, because I have been told that he is very cunning. Locate all the hiding places he uses and come back to me with definite information, then I will go with you. If he is really in the area, I will track him down among all the thousands of Judah.” So they got up and went to Ziph ahead of Saul.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Hakilah [Hachilah above] was a hill in the wilderness region of Ziph. The term Jeshimon is sometimes translated as ‘wasteland’ rather than as a place name. It refers here to a specific wasteland located north of the Dead Sea, on both banks of the Jordan River (see Num 21:20). Both Keilah (23:12) and Ziph (23:14; Ps 54:TITLE) were located in Judah. David’s ascension to power was not the result of his own tribe’s loyalty but because of the will of God.”

      • Guzik also points out, “Saul was so spiritually warped that he said to the betrayers of an innocent man, ‘Blessed are you of the LORD.’”

      • Now David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the Arabah to the south of Jeshimon. Saul and his men went to search for him. When David was informed, he went down to the rock and stayed in the wilderness of Maon. Saul was going along one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side. David was hurrying to get away from Saul, but Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them. But a messenger came to Saul saying, “Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land!” So Saul stopped chasing David and went to confront the Philistines. This is why this place is called Sela Hammahlekoth. From there, David went and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi.

        • NET Bible’s text critical notes say, “The name…(selaʿ hammakhleqot) probably means ‘Rock of Divisions’ in Hebrew, in the sense that Saul and David parted company there (cf. NAB ‘Gorge of Divisions’; TEV ‘Separation Hill’). This etymology assumes that the word derives from the Hebrew root…(khalaq, ‘to divide’; HALOT 322…). However, there is another root…which means ‘to be smooth or slippery’ (HALOT 322…). If the word is taken from this root, the expression would mean ‘Slippery Rock.’”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible explains, “Engedi is an oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea, about 15 miles east of Ziph and Maon. Evidence for human activity at Engedi dates to the fourth millennium BC, but apparently the site was not settled until the late seventh to early sixth centuries BC, as indicated by the presence of Iron Age lamps, bowls, cooking pots, jugs, and jars. Because of its rocky crags, numerous caves, and reliable water supply, Engedi was an ideal place to seek refuge. The strongholds in which David hid may refer to walled camps found on several of Engedi’s summits.”


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