1 Samuel 23

1 David was told, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and are robbing the threshing floors.” 2 Therefore David inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall I go and strike these Philistines?” The LORD said to David, “Go strike the Philistines, and save Keilah.” 3 David’s men said to him, “Behold, we are afraid here in Judah. How much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” 4 Then David inquired of the LORD yet again. The LORD answered him, and said, “Arise, go down to Keilah; for I will deliver the Philistines into your hand.” 5 David and his men went to Keilah, and fought with the Philistines, and brought away their livestock, and killed them with a great slaughter. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. 6 When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David to Keilah, he came down with an ephod in his hand. 7 Saul was told that David had come to Keilah. Saul said, “God has delivered him into my hand; for he is shut in by entering into a town that has gates and bars.” 8 Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. 9 David knew that Saul was devising mischief against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” 10 Then David said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city for my sake. 11 Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? LORD, the God of Israel, I beg you, tell your servant.” The LORD said, “He will come down.” 12 Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul?” The LORD said, “They will deliver you up.” 13 Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went wherever they could go. Saul was told that David was escaped from Keilah; and he gave up going there. 14 David stayed in the wilderness in the strongholds, and remained in the hill country in the wilderness of Ziph. Saul sought him every day, but God didn’t deliver him into his hand. 15 David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph in the wood. 16 Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose, and went to David into the woods, and strengthened his hand in God. 17 He said to him, “Don’t be afraid; for the hand of Saul my father won’t find you; and you will be king over Israel, and I will be next to you; and Saul my father knows that also.” 18 They both made a covenant before the LORD. Then David stayed in the woods, and Jonathan went to his house. 19 Then the Ziphites came up to Saul to Gibeah, saying, “Doesn’t David hide himself with us in the strongholds in the woods, in the hill of Hachilah, which is on the south of the desert? 20 Now therefore, O king, come down. According to all the desire of your soul to come down; and our part will be to deliver him up into the king’s hand.” 21 Saul said, “You are blessed by the LORD; for you have had compassion on me. 22 Please go make yet more sure, and know and see his place where his haunt is, and who has seen him there; for I have been told that he deals very crafty. 23 See therefore, and take knowledge of all the lurking places where he hides himself, and come again to me with certainty, and I will go with you. It shall happen, if he is in the land, that I will search him out amongst all the thousands of Judah.” 24 They arose, and went to Ziph before Saul: but David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the Arabah on the south of the desert. 25 Saul and his men went to seek him. When David was told, he went down to the rock, and stayed in the wilderness of Maon. When Saul heard that, he pursued David in the wilderness of Maon. 26 Saul went on this side of the mountain, and David and his men on that side of the mountain; and David hurried to get away for fear of Saul; for Saul and his men surrounded David and his men to take them. 27 But a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come; for the Philistines have made a raid on the land!” 28 So Saul returned from pursuing David, and went against the Philistines. Therefore they called that place Sela Hammahlekoth. 29 David went up from there, and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi.

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1–6

When princes persecute God’s people, let them expect vexation on all sides. The way for any country to be quiet, is to let God’s church be quiet in it: if Saul fight against David, the Philistines fight against his country. David considered himself the protector of the land. Thus did the Saviour Jesus, and left us an example. Those are unlike David, who sullenly decline to do good, if they are not rewarded for services.

Verses 7–13

Well might David complain of his enemies, that they rewarded him evil for good, and that for his love they were his adversaries. Christ was used thus basely. David applied to his great Protector for direction. No sooner was the ephod brought him than he made use of it. We have the Scriptures in our hands, let us take advice from them in doubtful cases. Say, Bring hither the Bible. David’s address to God is very solemn, also very particular. God allows us to be so in our addresses to him; Lord, direct me in this matter, about which I am now at a loss. God knows not only what will be, but what would be, if it were not hindered; therefore he knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and how to render to every man according to his works.

Verses 14–18

David made no attempt against Saul; he kept God’s way, waited God’s time, and was content to secure himself in woods and wildernesses. Let it make us think the worse of this world, which often gives such bad treatment to its best men: let it make us long for that kingdom where goodness shall for ever be in glory, and holiness in honour. We find Jonathan comforting David. As a pious friend, he directed him to God, the Foundation of his comfort. As a self-denying friend, he takes pleasure in the prospect of David’s advancement to the throne. As a constant friend, he renewed his friendship with him. Our covenant with God should be often renewed, and therein our communion with him kept up. If the converse of one friend, at one meeting, gives comfort and strengthens our hearts, what may not be expected from the continual supports and powerful love of the Saviour of sinners, the covenanted Friend of believers!

Verses 19–29

In the midst of his wickedness, Saul affected to speak the language of piety. Such expressions, without suitable effects, can only amuse or deceive those who hear, and those who use them. This mountain was an emblem of the Divine Providence coming between David and the destroyer. Let us not be dismayed at the prospect of future difficulties, but stay ourselves upon Him who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working. Sooner than his promise shall fail, he will commission Philistines to effect our escape, at the very moment when our case appears most desperate. God requires entire dependence on him, If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established, Isa 7:9.

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