1 Samuel Chapter 23  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: 1 Samuel 23
1Sa 23:1

“Keilah.” The town of Keilah was a fortified town about 8.5 miles (13.5 km) northwest of Hebron. It was in the Shephelah, and therefore much more exposed to an attack from Saul than where David was staying deep in the rough desert/wilderness of southeast Judah. It was an act of trust and bravery for David to take his men there knowing that Saul was hunting for his life. The people of Keilah should have repaid David for that with their faithfulness to him but they did not, they would have handed him over to Saul.

“robbing the threshing floors.” This tells us that this event took place in the late spring to early summer, because that is when the grain harvests were finished in Israel and the threshing floors were full. First came the barley harvest, which usually took place in our late April, the Israelite month of Nisan. Later came the millet and wheat harvests, the wheat harvest being concluded in late June or early July. The Bible does not tell us which grain harvest this was, but the Philistines waited until all the work of planting, caring for, and harvesting the crops was done then simply swept in to take the grain. That kind of attack was incredibly serious because if the Philistines were successful, it could well mean starvation for the people and animals in that area of Israel. Technically it was the job of King Saul to protect his people, and he had the army, but David loved the people and was in a position to help even though coming out into the open like that would expose him before Saul and could mean war and the loss of his men or even his own death. So he asked of God, and God told him to go and fight the Philistines, which he did.

Many times life presents believers with difficult choices like the choice David was faced with in this record. Should David stay in hiding and be safe, or should he expose himself to danger by coming into the open in order to help people? David did the right thing; he asked God and acted on God’s guidance, making the decision to help people. His men questioned his decision (1 Sam. 23:3), so in humility to the possibility that they were right, he asked God again (1 Sam. 23:4), but once he knew the will of God he led his men with boldness and confidence, and they trusted him and followed his leadership. David fought the Philistines and won, and saved the harvest in Keilah. Many leaders in Israel were not like David; even though they were told the will of God, they were too afraid to obey it (cp. King Zedekiah, Jer. 38:14-28).

Sadly, the people of Keilah would not have repaid David for his bravery and kindness, but had King Saul come to their city they would have betrayed David and revealed his presence (1 Sam. 23:12). The fact is that people are weak and they do in the moment what they think is to their best advantage no matter how it hurts or harms the people who have helped them. It is a real challenge for people, such as David, to not be bitter and unforgiving in those situations. After all, if someone risked a lot or gave a lot to help others it would be logical and godly that those people who were helped would then repay the one who helped them, but due to weak human nature and selfishness many times that does not happen. People who help others have to cast their cares on God and trust Him to deliver and prosper them, and not give in to feelings of bitterness. Believers who are thankful and forgiving always are victors in the long run, so it is important to just move on with life and keep a positive attitude like David did.

1Sa 23:2(top)
1Sa 23:3(top)
1Sa 23:4(top)
1Sa 23:5

“So David and his men went to Keilah.” [For the details of David’s journeys once he started running from Saul, see commentary on 1 Sam. 19:18].

“led away their livestock.” Armies often traveled with some livestock so they could eat well and keep their strength up as they moved forward in battle, and that seems to be the case here. Actually, in the ancient world it was typical for the larger army, the one most likely to win, to have a whole host of “camp followers” who would follow the army and try to take advantage of the situation. For example, “camp prostitutes,” people selling necessities, and slave traders who would try to capture weak, fleeing, or wounded people, are some of those who would typically follow an army that was expected to be victorious.

1Sa 23:6(top)
1Sa 23:7

“made him known.” The Hebrew uses a rare word and possibly a rare idiom.

1Sa 23:8(top)
1Sa 23:9

“planning.” The Hebrew word means to plow, as to plow ground, or to engrave, like one would engrave on metal. The point is that Saul is working hard at planning to kill David.

1Sa 23:10

“to bring ruin to the city.” Saul would kill the people just like he killed the priests at Nob. Saul would not likely “destroy the city,” as if he would knock the buildings down.

1Sa 23:11

“He will come down.” Here in 1 Samuel 23:11, Yahweh does not answer the full question of David, so David asks it again in verse 12.

1Sa 23:12(top)
1Sa 23:13

“and went wherever they could go.” David was not expecting the people of Keilah to betray him, so he had not thought through what to do if they did. In this case, he simply moved quickly out of the area to be safe, and formulated his plans on the run. It often happens in life that something unexpected occurs and people have to make decisions on a moment by moment basis, and in those situations it is important to stay calm in order to stay clear-headed and make the best choice possible. [For the details of David’s journeys once he started running from Saul, see commentary on 1 Sam. 19:18].

1Sa 23:14

“in the strongholds.” These could be actual built structures or naturally occurring easily defensible positions.

1Sa 23:15

“the wilderness of Ziph.” The location of Ziph is most likely the site of modern Tell Ziph, 4 miles southeast of Hebron, and so the “wilderness of Ziph” would be close to Ziph.

“at Horesh.” This is likely a proper noun, but the word refers to a grove of trees, and some scholars think that is what it refers to here. In any case, there were almost certainly trees there for David to take refuge in.

1Sa 23:16

“Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David.” The fact that Jonathan could find David and Saul could not shows us that there were people who knew Jonathan was trying to help David, and they fed him information that Saul and the rest of his men did not have.

1Sa 23:17

“and I will be second-in-command to you.” Sadly, this never happened. Jonathan died in battle with the Philistines (1 Sam. 28).

1Sa 23:18

“went to his house.” That is, back at Gibeah of Saul (see 1 Sam. 23:19).

1Sa 23:19

“Then some Ziphites.” The Ziphites were Judeans, and in their betrayal of David we see a potential type between David and Jesus in that they were both betrayed by their own people; the evidence is that Judas was from Judah.

“Jeshimon.” This is apparently the desert area in the east part of Judah going down to the Dead Sea. “Jeshimon” means something like “barren wilderness,” and it is possible that it is not a proper noun. [For the details of David’s journeys once he started running from Saul, see commentary on 1 Sam. 19:18].

1Sa 23:20

“hand him over.” The Hebrew is the same word that is translated “betray” in 1 Samuel 23:11-12.

1Sa 23:21

“taken pity on me.” Saul is in his depressed and self-pitying state (see commentary on 1 Sam. 22:8).

1Sa 23:22

“the place where his foot is.” This is an idiom, meaning where he is, but it is clear enough in English to have it in the translation. David had been moving deeper and deeper into the rough and rocky desert wilderness just west of the Dead Sea, and Saul had no desire to chase after David there without knowing more precisely where he was.

“crafty, yes, crafty.” The Hebrew repeats the verb “crafty,” using the figure of speech polyptoton for emphasis (see commentary on Gen. 2:16). This is the same word that God used to describe the Devil in Genesis 3:1. From Saul’s perverted, paranoid perspective, David was “crafty.” whereas from God’s perspective David was intelligent and wise in withdrawing from Saul. David did not want a civil war.

1Sa 23:23(top)
1Sa 23:24

“wilderness of Maon.” Maon is likely a city about 9 miles southeast of Hebron and the “wilderness of Maon” is the Judean Wilderness (or desert) close to Maon but in the Arabah “south of the desert,” that is, south of the large tract of desert from east of Jerusalem down past east of Hebron. [For the details of David’s journeys once he started running from Saul, see commentary on 1 Sam. 19:18].

1Sa 23:25(top)
1Sa 23:26

“on this side of the hill.” The area where David was hiding had very steep valleys that ran east-west and led from that area down to the Dead Sea. So there was a hill that had deep valleys on each side, and David and his 600 men were on one side, and Saul and his army were on the other side. This is only possible because of the unusual terrain in that part of Israel.

1Sa 23:27

“made a raid on the land.” It does not seem like the Philistines invaded the land as if they were going to stay there, but only made a raid to steal, destroy, and perhaps kidnap women and girls.

1Sa 23:28(top)
1Sa 23:29

“and stayed in the strongholds of En-gedi.” [For the details of David’s journeys once he started running from Saul, see commentary on 1 Sam. 19:18].


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