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Deeper Commentary

1Sa 23:1 David was told, The Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors-
A lesser man would have considered that he had so many issues that he just couldn't possibly get involved in the issues of others. But like the Lord looking beyond His own immediate pain to the fate of the women lining the via Dolorosa, so David looked beyond his immediate circumstance to the needs of others- even those who would later betray him. This grace is the more wonderful because the people of Keilah were for Saul and against David (see on :7); it was grace indeed on David's part, and he was confirmed in it by God. 

1Sa 23:2 Therefore David inquired of Yahweh, Shall I go and attack these Philistines? Yahweh said to David, Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah-
The Hebrew phrase "attack... and save" is used in Jud. 3:31 of the judge Shamgar, also in the context of attacking Philistines. David is being pointed back by this allusion to the zeal of Shamgar the son of Anath, 'the answer'. The answer to David's question was in Shamgar. David was spiritually and mentally exhausted at this time, and God's way forward for him at this time was to get up and be proactive for others. That is not always the right answer for us in our low moments, but when it is, we will be directed to it by God, perhaps through allusion to Biblical characters.

1Sa 23:3 David’s men said to him, Look, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then, if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?-
David’s whole experience with Saul was of course led and arranged by a loving Father. The sensible thing would have been for David to get out of Saul’s way and lay quiet- and this is what he tried to do, by going to Moab. But then God tells him to go back into Judah (1 Sam. 22:5). This was political suicide. It made no human sense to expose himself to Saul again. And then God tells David to go and fight with the Philistines in order to rescue the people of Keilah. Yet the men of Keilah weren’t allies worth having- even they were prepared to betray David to Saul, and by this action he made the Philistines hate him yet more, so refuge amongst them was no longer possible. Again and again, God led David into situations that were politically suicidal, that only made things worse for him… because He wanted David to trust in Him alone. And so it happens in our lives. Time and again. There was to be an exact equivalent in the Lord's experience in returning to Judah (Jn. 11:7,8 cp. Jn. 7:1).

1Sa 23:4 Then David inquired of Yahweh yet again. Yahweh answered him, Get up and go down to Keilah, for I will deliver the Philistines into your hand-
Like Gideon, David's faith wavered and he wanted a second confirmation. He "inquired of Yahweh" as he had done through Ahimelech (1 Sam. 22:10), so presumably he did so through Ahimelech's son who had fled to be with David with the ephod (:6). "Get up and go" could be read as a slight rebuke of David's inaction; for God loves a "yes straight away" attitude from His children. Perhaps David was being directed back to Gideon (Jud. 7:9) and Moses, who were addressed by God with the same words (Dt. 9:12). He would have earlier seen Moses as Judaism does today, the unreachable acme of spirituality and closeness to God. But now he was being taught, as we are, that no Biblical character is a mere Sunday School figure; but rather our real practical inspiration. Elijah was addressed in the same way in 1 Kings 21:18, directing him back to Gideon (Jud. 7:9), David (1 Sam. 23:4) and Moses (Dt. 9:12).

1Sa 23:5 David and his men went to Keilah and fought against the Philistines and carried off their livestock and killed them with a great slaughter. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah-
By doing so, David was burning any possible bridges he had with the Philistines; for he had taken refuge with Achish in Gath before and nearly perished because of it. When he again goes there in 1 Sam. 27:1, he is really going against God's education of him and intention for him. For God had sent him against the Philistines in 1 Sam. 23 to help him realize that he was not to consider refuge with them again.

1Sa 23:6 When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David to Keilah, he brought an ephod with him-
Here we have an example of how a statement is given either before or after a historical description, explaining how that historical situation came about. Here, the fact Abiathar was with David with the ephod explains how David had inquired of Yahweh in :4, and how he would inquire now in the next verses.

1Sa 23:7 Saul was told that David had gone to Keilah and he said, God has delivered him into my hand, for he is trapped by going into a town that has gates and bars-
Saul assumes that the people of Keilah are going to be on his side and will agree to betray David. David presumably knew this when he was first told about their calamity, and wondered if he should go and save them. His decision was therefore an example of him showing extreme grace. The pain of it was all the more tragic in that Keilah was in Judah and these people were from David's own tribe.

1Sa 23:8 Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah to besiege David and his men-
Keilah had just been attacked by the Philistines, and now it had Saul's army marching towards it; thus Saul is shown to be no better than the Philistines. He as the king of Israel ought to have saved Keilah from the Philistines; for Israel wanted a king to save them from their enemies. The fact David had saved them would have provoked Saul's jealousy.

1Sa 23:9 David knew that Saul was plotting evil against him, so he said to Abiathar the priest, Bring the ephod here-
"Plotting evil" is the phrase only elsewhere used by Solomon, when repeatedly he condemns those who "plot evil" in his Proverbs (Prov. 3:29; 6:14; 12:20; 14:22). All Solomon writes is true, but he always harnesses God's truth to the agenda of his own self justification through knocking down the enemies of his father. And the house of Saul were still around and feared by Solomon as potential threats to his kingship. We can misuse Divine truths in the same way.

1Sa 23:10 Then David said, O Yahweh the God of Israel, Your servant has definitely heard that Saul intends to come to Keilah to destroy the city for my sake-
See on 1 Sam. 18:1-3. Saul had come to besiege Keilah and force them to deliver David to him. It could be that his guilt by association complex was so strong that Saul was wanting to destroy all Keilah because David had saved them and was living with them. But another possibility is that David is being as it were manipulative with God, alluding to the situation with Lot and Sodom, exaggerating Saul's desire to destroy him into Saul wanting to destroy all Keilah.

1Sa 23:11 Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? Will Saul come down, as Your servant has heard? Yahweh, the God of Israel, I beg you, tell Your servant. Yahweh said, He will come down-
David had "definitely heard" that Saul would come down. But he doesn't trust his own intelligence or the hearing of his own ears. He wants this confirmed by God. Perhaps he was entertaining the dream of living safely with the grateful people of Keilah and thereby being safe from Saul. For surely his experience should have told him that Saul would come down. He probably got the impression that some of the people of Keilah would hand him over to Saul, but he struggled to believe that people he had saved from death at the risk of his own life... could be so ungrateful. And so he asks God to show him.

1Sa 23:12 Then David said, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? Yahweh said, They will deliver you-
God appears to only answer one request at a time. And then the other request has to be repeated. This would be understandable if the ephod contained the stones of urim and thummim, which flashed out only a binary, yes / no response to a question. Therefore only one question could be answered at a time.

1Sa 23:13 Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and left Keilah, and went wherever they could go. Saul heard that David had escaped from Keilah so he gave up going there-
Saul had a network of spies watching David (1 Sam. 18:20,24; 19:11,19; 23:7,13,25; 24:1; 27:4). In the type of Christ, this looks ahead to Mk. 3:2; Lk. 6:7; 14:1; 20:20; Jn. 11:57. If the people of Keilah had appeared grateful for David saving them, and were vowing total loyalty to him even if Saul besieged their town, then David's actions here would have seemed foolish. People didn't know Saul was thinking of coming against Keilah. They would have wisely crowed after the event that David ought to have remained with the grateful people of Keilah. But the ways of God are always geared ultimately toward our salvation, and involve our doing things which seem counter intuitive and not the humanly smart thing to do.

1Sa 23:14 David stayed in the wilderness in the strongholds and in the hill country in the wilderness of Ziph. Saul sought him every day-
Saul "sought" David, implying a great level of mental effort (1 Sam. 19:10; 23:14,15,25; 24:2; 25:26,29; 26:2,20; 27:1,4; 2 Sam. 4:8). In the type of Christ, the Jews sought to kill the Lord (Mt. 21:46; Mk. 11:18; 12:12; 14:1,11,55; Lk. 19:47; 20:19; 22:2,6; Jn.5:16,18; 7:1,11,25,30; 8:37,40; 10:39; 11:8,56; 18:4,7,8). 

But God didn’t deliver him into his hand-
The contrast is with the men of Keilah, who would have delivered David into Saul's hand. Yahweh is presented as kinder than men; and any undue fear of Him as a hard God must always remember this.

1Sa 23:15 David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life when he was in the wilderness of Ziph, in the forest-
Saul sought the life of David (s.w. 1 Sam. 20:1; 22:23; 23:15; 25:29; 2 Sam. 4:8). In the Psalms, David frequently imprecates judgment upon those who sought his life (s.w. Ps. 35:4; 38:12; 40:14; 54:3; 63:9; 70:2; 71:13; 86:14). He loved Saul, the life of Saul was precious in David's sight, indeed the historical records seem to emphasize David's patient love of Saul; and yet in the Psalms he gives vent before God to his anger with Saul and desire to see Saul punished and judged by God. This is absolutely true to human experience; we may act with great patience and apparent love toward those who abuse us, and yet within we fume about it. The lesson of David is that we are to pour out those feelings to God in prayer, leaving Him to judge.

1Sa 23:16 Jonathan, Saul’s son, went to David into the forests and strengthened his hand in God-
We observe how he is called "Saul's son", emphasizing the extreme difficult of their relationship and their very different environments. And yet faithfulness to God was possible in both. Only occasionally could Jonathan and David meet, brief moments of intense fellowship away from the rest of the world, strengthening each other's hand in the Lord, re-confirming their covenant together (1 Sam. 18:3; 20:8,16; 23:18). No wonder their goodbyes were so hard: "they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded" (1 Sam. 20:41). Not surprisingly, they looked forward to the promised day of David's Kingdom: "Thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee" (1 Sam. 23:17). Our communion meetings with the Lord Jesus during our wilderness journey must surely mirror those meetings.  

Just the same phrase is used of how David later strengthened himself in Yahweh, with 600 of his own men against him and wanting to kill him (1 Sam. 30:6). It happens with us too that the encouragement others give us, we later have to give to ourselves when alone and isolated.

1Sa 23:17 He said to him, Don’t be afraid, for the hand of Saul my father will not find you; you will be king over Israel and I shall be next to you. Saul my father well knows that-
See on 1 Sam. 20:15 and 1 Sam. 20:30,31. As noted on 1 Sam. 20:3, when David feels Saul is about to succeed in killing him, we might have wished to see at times more faith by both of them in Samuel's prophetic word that David should become king. Their faith in that word went up and down, with 1 Sam. 23:17 being a high point in it, and 1 Sam. 27:1 being the low point in it. Jonathan totally believed Samuel's prophetic word, even though it meant that he would not be king himself. And Saul too knew this. His efforts to kill David were therefore futile, for he was thereby seeking to as it were disallow that prophetic word coming true. But knowing all this, Saul still tried to murder David. His jealousy blinded him to such an extent that he was simply blind to the implications of the Divine word which on another level he believed.

1Sa 23:18 They both made a covenant before Yahweh, and David stayed in the forests but Jonathan went home-
The record powerfully presents the picture of David and Jonathan as two men living in totally different worlds, and yet being bound together, despite the tangles of their lives, by the hope of the Kingdom, and the pure intensity of their spiritual bond with each other in the Lord. The love of David for Jonathan is surpassing. The juxtaposition of their lifestyles is shown by passages like this, where Jonathan goes to "his house" (Heb.) whilst David is in the forests; and 1 Sam. 20:42, where Jonathan returns to the city and David goes into the scrubland.

 "Jonathan Saul's son (note the emphasis again!) arose, and went to David into  the wood" (1 Sam. 23:16). We are invited to imagine Jonathan walking into the wood, stumbling through it, until he found David, concealed in some deep thicket; and then, after brief but intense fellowship, stumbling back through the undergrowth, brushing himself down, and returning to his stately home. The same impression is given by 1 Sam. 20:42: "We have sworn both of us... and David arose and departed (to his den): and Jonathan went into the city". There seems more than an echo here of Abraham and Lot parting company in Gen. 13:8-12. How many of us, coming out of a memorial meeting and returning to the world, have gone through the same emotions. The clandestine nature of the David: Jonathan friendship is surely replicated between us and Christ. The love of David for Jonathan is Christ's love for us. Their souls were "knit", a Hebrew word also translated "conspire", hinting at the secretiveness (1 Sam. 18:1). Yet as Jonathan became too involved in his surrounding world (so it seems), so we run a similar gauntlet. The question arises: Should Jonathan have run away from his situation, and gone to join David in the wilderness, like others did? Should we? To close down a career, move down the property ladder, change our eating, travelling, holiday habits.... or stay where we are in Saul's court, to some degree living out a lie, hoping Gilboa won't come for us? 

1Sa 23:19 Then the Ziphites came to Saul in Gibeah saying, Isn’t David hiding among us in the strongholds in the forest, on the hill of Hachilah, which is on the south of the desert?-
These people come over as proactively seeking to betray David. Doubtless Saul had been offering major incentives to people for information leading to the capture or destruction of David. That David could later weld these people together into one kingdom was only achieved thanks to his great grace and forgiveness.

1Sa 23:20 Now therefore, O king, come down when you are ready; our part will be to deliver him into the king’s hand-
Saul's spies aimed to deliver David into Saul's hands, looking ahead in the type of Christ to Lk. 20:20. We are intended to compare this with :14: "But God didn’t deliver him into his hand". The men of Keilah likewise would have delivered David into Saul's hand. Yahweh is presented as kinder than men; and any undue fear of Him as a hard God must always remember this.

1Sa 23:21 Saul said, Yahweh bless you, for you have had compassion on me-
David's later criticism of Saul's blessing of the greedy (Ps. 10:3) may refer to his blessing of the Ziphites for betraying David to him. They were "greedy" in that they did so in hope of reward from Saul. Saul doesn't become an atheist. Rather he likes to think that Yahweh's blessing will be with those who take his side in his obsession against David. This is how extreme jealousy can totally unbalance and pervert the perspective of the believer who gives in to it.

1Sa 23:22 Please go and make sure and find out where his haunt is and who has seen him there, for they tell me that he is very crafty-
The "they" refer to Saul's network of spies seeking to inform on David. Perhaps this desire for the names of those who had reported sightings of David was because Saul had promised a reward for every sighting.

1Sa 23:23 So find out all the hiding places he uses and come back to me with definite information, and I will go with you. If he is in the area I will search him out among all the thousands of Judah-
This sounds like some kind of 'final solution' to eliminate David by listing all his possible hiding places in the area. We note Saul's personal obsession: "I will go with you... I will search him out". Jealousy can progress to a point where a man becomes shameless in his addiction to personal hatred.

1Sa 23:24 They set out and went to Ziph ahead of Saul, but David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the Arabah on the south of the desert-
"Arabah" is GNB "a desolate valley"; "to the south of Jeshimon" (ESV).

1Sa 23:25 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 into the wilderness of Maon-
As will be explained on :26, it seems David thought this rock was an area where he could hide undetected from Saul. Perhaps he saw in it a kind of representation of God whom he often calls his rock. He would have really felt God was no longer his rock when that rock appeared to be his destruction (see on :26). But then when he was saved, he would have understood that God is a "rock" not in the sense of some obvious and visible fortress of defence; but in more subtle yet more powerful ways.

1Sa 23:26 Saul went on one side of the mountain and David and his men on the other, and David hurried to get away for fear of Saul, for Saul and his men surrounded David and his men to take them-
David bore a charmed life from Saul's persecution; humanly, he should surely have perished at this point (1 Sam. 23:26,27; 27:1). This looks ahead to Jn. 7:30 in the type of Christ. The "rock" or "mountain" was a cone shaped hill. David went one way around it and Saul another, chasing him; this is the idea behind "surrounded". David with his large company of men must have felt unable to stop and fight Saul because they were so outnumbered. David originally intended to hide out there. But now Saul was on him, and as David moved ever higher up the tracks towards the top of the cone shaped hill, it was only a matter of time before Saul caught up with him at the top. David was very close to death at this point; but his desperate prayers as he went higher up the cone shaped hill received a truly miraculous answer (:27).

1Sa 23:27 But a messenger came to Saul saying, Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid on the land!-
The way Saul returns from pursuing David because of a rumour of invasion is so similar to Rabshakeh’s retreat from Jerusalem after rumours of incursions. Circumstances repeat within our lives and between our lives and those of others in Biblical history; that we might learn the lessons and take comfort from the scriptures, that man is not alone.

1Sa 23:28 So Saul returned from pursuing David and went against the Philistines. Therefore they called that place Sela Hammahlekoth-
ESV "The rock of escape", GNB "The rock of division", LXX "The divided rock", perhaps connecting with how Moses divided the rock in the desert to bring forth water whereby Israel survived when otherwise they would have died. 

1Sa 23:29 David went from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi
This verse appears to belong to the next chapter. The Bible's chapter divisions were not inspired and were added some time after the originals were written.