1 Samuel 23


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.


Verse 1. 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 Jud 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


Verse 2. 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?

Verse 4. David inquired of the Lord yet again] This was to

satisfy his men, who made the strong objections mentioned in the

preceding verse.

Verse 5. Brought away their cattle] The forage and spoil which

the Philistines had taken, driving the country before them round

about Keilah.

Verse 6. Came down with an ephod.] I think this verse should

come immediately after 1Sa 23:1.

See Clarke on 1Sa 23:1.

Verse 8. 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.

Verse 9. Bring hither the ephod.] It seems as if David himself,

clothed with the ephod, had consulted the Lord; and 1Sa 23:10-12

contain the words of the consultation, and the Lord's answer. But

see on 1Sa 23:2.

Verse 11. - 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.

Verse 12. See Clarke on 1Sa 23:11.

Verse 14. Wilderness of Ziph] Ziph was a city in the southern

part of Judea, not far from Carmel.

Verse 16. 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.

Verse 25. 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.

Verse 26. Saul went on this side of the mountain] Evidently not

knowing that David and his men were on the other side.

Verse 27. 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.

Verse 28. 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.

Verse 29. 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, So 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


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.

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