David succours Keilah, besieged by the Philistines; defeats them, and delivers the city, 1-6. Saul, hearing that David was at Keilah, determines to come and seize him, 7,8. David inquires of the Lord concerning the fidelity of the men of Keilah towards him; is informed that if he stays in the city, the men of Keilah will betray him to Saul, 9-12. David and his men escape from the city, and come to the wilderness of Ziph, 13-15. Jonathan meets David in the wood of Ziph, strengthens his hand in God, and they renew their covenant, 16-18. The Ziphites endeavour to betray David to Saul, but he and his men escape to Maon, 19-22. Saul comes to Maon; and having surrounded the mountain on which David and his men were, they must inevitably have fallen into his hands, had not a messenger come to call Saul to the succour of Judah, then invaded by the Philistines, 25-27. Saul leaves the pursuit of David, and goes to succour the land; and David escapes to En-gedi, 28,29.
Notes on Chapter 23
The Philistines fight against Keilah
Keilah was a fortified town in the tribe of Judah near to Eleutheropolis, on the road to Hebron.
Rob the threshing-floors.
This was an ancient custom of the Philistines, Midianites, and others. See Judges 6:4. When the corn was ripe and fit to be threshed, and they had collected it at the threshing-floors, which were always in the open field, then their enemies came upon them and spoiled them of the fruits of their harvest.
Therefore David inquired of the Lord
In what way David made this inquiry we are not told, but it was probably by means of Abiathar; and therefore I think, with Houbigant that the sixth verse should be read immediately after the first. The adventure mentioned here was truly noble. Had not David loved his country, and been above all motives of private and personal revenge, he would have rejoiced in this invasion of Judah as producing a strong diversion in his favour, and embroiling his inveterate enemy. In most cases a man with David's wrongs would have joined with the enemies of his country, and avenged himself on the author of his adversities; but he thinks of nothing but succouring Keilah, and using his power and influence in behalf of his brethren! This is a rare instance of disinterested heroism.
The Lord said-Go and smite
He might now go with confidence, being assured of success. When God promises success, who need be afraid of the face of any enemy?
David inquired of the Lord yet again
This was to satisfy his men, who made the strong objections mentioned in the preceding verse.
Brought away their cattle
The forage and spoil which the Philistines had taken, driving the country before them round about Keilah.
Came down with an ephod.
I think this verse should come immediately after 1 Samuel 23:1. See Clarke on 1 Samuel 23:1.
Saul called all the people together
That is, all the people of that region or district, that they might scour the country, and hunt out David from all his haunts.
Bring hither the ephod.
It seems as if David himself, clothed with the ephod, had consulted the Lord; and 1 Samuel 23:10-12 contain the words of the consultation, and the Lord's answer. But see on 1 Samuel 23:2.
- 12. In these verses we find the following questions and answers:-David said, Will Saul come down to Keilah? And the Lord said, He will come down. Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the Lord said, They will deliver thee up. In this short history we find an ample proof that there is such a thing as contingency in human affairs; that is, God has poised many things between a possibility of being and not being, leaving it to the will of the creature to turn the scale. In the above answers of the Lord the following conditions were evidently implied:-IF thou continue in Keilah, Saul will certainly come down; and IF Saul come down, the men of Keilah will deliver thee into his hands. Now though the text positively asserts that Saul would come to Keilah, yet he did not come; and that the men of Keilah would deliver David into his hand, yet David was not thus delivered to him. And why? Because David left Keilah; but had he stayed, Saul would have come down, and the men of Keilah would have betrayed David. We may observe from this that, however positive a declaration of God may appear that refers to any thing in which man is to be employed, the prediction is not intended to suspend or destroy free agency, but always comprehends in it some particular condition.
See Clarke on 1 Samuel 23:11.
Wilderness of Ziph
Ziph was a city in the southern part of Judea, not far from Carmel.
And Jonathan-strengthened his hand in God.
It is probable that there was always a secret intercourse between David and Jonathan, and that by this most trusty friend he was apprised of the various designs of Saul to take away his life. As Jonathan well knew that God had appointed David to the kingdom, he came now to encourage him to trust in the Most High, and to assure him that the hand of Saul should not prevail against him; and at this interview they renewed their covenant of friendship. Now all this Jonathan could do, consistently with his duty to his father and his king. He knew that David had delivered the kingdom; he saw that his father was ruling unconstitutionally; and he knew that God had appointed David to succeed Saul. This he knew would come about in the order of Providence; and neither he nor David took one step to hasten the time. Jonathan, by his several interferences, prevented his father from imbruing his hands in innocent blood: a more filial and a more loyal part he could not have acted; and therefore, in his attachment to David, he is wholly free of blame.
The wilderness of Maon.
Maon was a mountainous district in the most southern parts of Judah. Calmet supposes it to be the city of Menois, which Eusebius places in the vicinity of Gaza; and the Maenaemi Castrum, which the Theodosian code places near to Beersheba.
Saul went on this side of the mountain
Evidently not knowing that David and his men were on the other side.
There came a messenger
See the providence of God exerted for the salvation of David's life! David and his men are almost surrounded by Saul and his army, and on the point of being taken, when a messenger arrives and informs Saul that the Philistines had invaded the land! But behold the workings of Providence! God had already prepared the invasion of the land by the Philistines, and kept Saul ignorant how much David was in his power; but as his advanced guards and scouts must have discovered him in a very short time, the messenger arrives just at the point of time to prevent it. Here David was delivered by God, and in such a manner too as rendered the Divine interposition visible.
They called that place Sela-hammah-lekoth.
That is, the rock of divisions; because, says the Targum, the heart of the king was divided to go hither and thither. Here Saul was obliged to separate himself from David, in order to go and oppose the invading Philistines.
Strong holds at En-gedi.
En-gedi was situated near to the western coast of the Dead Sea, not far from Jeshimon: it literally signifies the kid's well, and was celebrated for its vineyards, Song of Solomon 1:14. It was also celebrated for its balm. It is reported to be a mountainous territory, filled with caverns; and consequently proper for David in his present circumstances.
How threshing-floors were made among the ancients, we learn from CATO, De Re Rustica, chap. 91, and 129. And as I believe it would be an excellent method to make the most durable and efficient barn-floors, I will set it down:-
Aream sic facito. Locum ubi facies confodito; postea amurca conspergito bene, sinitoque combibat. Postea comminuito glebas bene. Deinde coaequato, et paviculis verberato. Postea denuo amurca conspergito, sinitoque arescat. Si ita feceris neque formicae nocebunt, neque herbae nascentur: et cum pluerit, lutum non erit. "Make a threshing-floor thus: dig the place thoroughly; afterwards sprinkle it well with the lees of oil, and give it time to soak in. Then beat the clods very fine, make it level, and beat it well down with a paver's rammer. When this is done, sprinkle it afresh with the oil lees, and let it dry. This being done, the mice cannot burrow in it, no grass can grow through it, nor will the rain dissolve the surface to raise mud."
The directions of COLUMELLA are nearly the same; but as there as some differences of importance, I will subjoin his account:-
Area quoque si terrena erit, ut sit ad trituram satis habilis, primum radatur, deinde confodiatur, permixtis paleis cum amurca, quae salem non accepit, extergatur; nam ea res a populatione murium formicarumque frumenta defendit. Tum aequate paviculis, vel molari lapide condensetur, et rursus subjectis paleis inculcetur, atque ita solibus siccanda relinquatur. De Re Rustica, lib. ii., c. 20. "If you would have a threshing-floor made on the open ground, that it may be proper for the purpose, first pare off the surface, then let it be well digged, and mixed with lees of oil, unsalted, with which chaff has been mingled, for this prevents the mice and ants from burrowing and injuring the corn. Then level it with a paver's rammer, or press it down with a millstone. Afterwards scatter chaff over it, tread it down, and leave it to be dried by the sun."
This may be profitably used within doors, as well as in the field; and a durable and solid floor is a matter of very great consequence to the husbandman, as it prevents the flour from being injured by sand or dust.