The Agora
Bible Commentary
1 Samuel

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1 Samuel 23

1Sa 23:1

1Sa 23: David saved Keilah (men of his own tribe) from the Philistines, but then found himself, with his men, in a walled town. To Saul this was a splendid opportunity to capture or kill David -- it was so much easier than hunting him in the open wilderness. And the men of Keilah, mindful of what had happened at Nob (1Sa 22:18,19), were disposed to seek Saul's friendship by betraying David to him (1Sa 23:7). Divine counsel by Urim and Thummim saved the situation (vv 9-12). David had no desire to be encircled, because the last thing he wanted was to have to fight against "the Lord's anointed". And so (directed by divine counsel?) he cleared out.

What helps to explain the attitude of the men of Keilah is the fact that they were Calebites, as also were the men of Ziph (1Ch 4:16,19). Their disreputable link with Nabal (see 1Sa 25) evidently counted for more than their honorable descent from the courageous and faithful Caleb. The men of Ziph likewise attempted a betrayal (1Sa 23:19); had it not been for the providence of God (1Sa 23:27) they would have succeeded.

KEILAH: Sig "enclosed". A fortified city in the Shephelah allotted to Judah (Jos 15:44), situated eight miles NW of Hebron and overlooking the north-south route from the Valley of Elah to Hebron. In the time of Nehemiah the city had been reoccupied by Jews returning from Babylon (Neh 3:17,18).

THE THRESHING FLOORS: Usually located outside the city walls (Jdg 6:11; Rth 3:2,15).

1Sa 23:3

HERE IN JUDAH WE ARE AFRAID: Afraid of Saul and his army.

1Sa 23:5

Not only did David defeat the Philistines, but he gained food sorely needed for the 600 men and their families. God does above and beyond what we ask for (Eph 3:20).

1Sa 23:6

ABIATHAR... HAD BROUGHT THE EPHOD: This explains how David could inquire of God (vv 2,4,9). Saul's slaughter of Israel's priests served only to send the new High Priest and his comfort to Saul's great enemy, David!

1Sa 23:7

GOD HAS HANDED HIM OVER TO ME: Saul is supposing that God is aiding his evil schemes.

DAVID HAS IMPRISONED HIMSELF: "Pharaoh will think, 'The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert' " (Exo 14:3).

1Sa 23:8

FOR BATTLE, TO GO DOWN TO KEILAH: Ostensibly to fight Philistines, but secretly to kill David (vv 9,15).

1Sa 23:9

WHEN DAVID LEARNED...: The reason David knows: he is now, at every turn, inquiring of God (v 6). "In order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes" (2Co 2:11).

PLOTTING: Or, as KJV, "practised mischief", or "ra" (evil): sw Psa 52:1.

1Sa 23:10

LORD, GOD OF ISRAEL: God's covenant title. Poss ref to Jacob's perils, when his name was changed to "Israel" by angel, and he was delivered from his brother's threat of violence.

DESTROY THE TOWN ON ACCOUNT OF ME: Although he knew Saul's desire was to kill him, David was solicitous for the welfare of the town which was indirectly threatened.

1Sa 23:12

"The winter's wind is not so unkind as man's ingratitude" (TMD 60). (The men of Keilah prob knew of Saul's recent massacre of the priests of Nob, who had helped David.)

1Sa 23:13

ABOUT SIX HUNDRED: Increased from the 400 of 1Sa 22:2.

1Sa 23:14

ZIPH: Sig "refining"; poss there were minerals or metals to be mined there. A town in the hill country of Judah (Jos 15:55), five miles sse of Hebron, sometimes thought to be the same as Tell Zif, which had a strategic location commanding the desert. It was founded by Mesha, a son of Caleb (1Ch 2:42, NEB). It was near here that David twice hid from Saul (1Sa 23:14,15; 26:2). Later it was fortified by Rehoboam to guard the approach to Jerusalem from the south (2Ch 11:8).

1Sa 23:15

Nevertheless, David does not retaliate. "Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city" (Pro 16:32). The flesh-born persecutes the Spirit-born (Gal 4:29).

1Sa 23:16

The final meeting between David and Jonathan.

1Sa 23:17

AND I WILL BE SECOND TO YOU: This will only come true in the resurrection and the Kingdom of God!

1Sa 23:19

THE ZIPHITES WENT UP TO SAUL: Psa 54, title: "When the Ziphim came and said to Saul, 'Doth not David hide himself with us?' "

1Sa 23:22

Saul desires more detailed information.

1Sa 23:24

MAON: A city in the hill country of Judah (Jos 15:55) and the home of Nabal, the great flockmaster (1Sa 25:2). The site is now called Tell Ma'in, eight miles south of Hebron.

1Sa 23:26

"There is a conical hill near Maon and the indications are that when Saul's troops arrived they well nigh surrounded the hill in which their prey was hidden" (TMD 62).

1Sa 23:28

SELA HAMMAHLEKOTH: Sig "the rock of divisions, escape, or parting". This was a cliff in the wilderness of Maon, a section of the wilderness of Judah. The RSV and NASB translations use "the Rock of Escape." It perhaps may be identified with the Wadi el-Malaqi, a deep gorge approx 8 mi east-northeast of Maon toward En-gedi.

1Sa 23:29

EN GEDI: In ancient times an agricultural settlement watered by a copious spring ("spring of the goat-kid" or "spring of abundant waters") on the west shore of the Dead Sea (Eze 47:10), about midway between the north and south ends in the general direction or vicinity of Hazazon-tamar (2Ch 20:2). It was included in the territory of Judah (Jos 15:62). In Solomon's time it was a fertile oasis in the midst of the desert where spice plants and vineyards were cultivated (Song 1:14). En Gedi was also famed in Jewish and Roman literature for its fine date palms.

"It is about the middle of the western shore of the lake. Here is a rich plain, half a mile square, sloping very gently from the base of the mountains to the water, and shut in on the north by a lofty promontory. About a mile up the western [incline], and at an elevation of some 400 feet above the plain, is the fountain of Ain Jidy, from which the place gets its name. The water is sweet, but the temperature is 81 degrees Fahrenheit. It bursts from the limestone rock, and rushes down the steep descent, fretted by many a rugged crag, and raining its spray over verdant borders of acacia, mimosa, and lotus. On reaching the plain, the brook crosses it in nearly a straight line to the sea. During a greater part of the year, however, it is absorbed in the thirsty soil. Its banks are now cultivated by a few families of Arabs, who generally pitch their tents near this spot. The soil is exceedingly fertile, and in such a climate it might be made to produce the rarest fruits of tropical climes" (SBD, 1868).

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