1 Samuel 23


‘When David was told, ‘Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors,’ he inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’ The LORD answered him, ‘Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’ But David’s men said to him, ‘Here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!’ Once again David inquired of the LORD, and the LORD answered him, ‘Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.’ So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah. (Now Abiathar son of Ahimelek had brought the ephod down with him when he fled to David at Keilah.)’ 1 Samuel 23:1-6

David Saves Keilah

Keilah was a fortified city allotted to Judah, Joshua 15:44, and it was located near the Philistine border. In the times of Nehemiah, the city was re-occupied by the Israelites returning from the captivity in Babylon, Nehemiah 3:17-18.

After hearing reports about the Philistine’s fight against Keilah, David inquires of the Lord if he should attack them, but in response, his men objected. This was possibly because they didn’t want to fight against the Philistines and fight against Saul’s army at the same time. David inquires of the Lord again and after doing so, his men are now convinced that this is God’s will.

Since Abiathar, a priest, one of Ahimelek’s sons, was now with David’s army, 1 Samuel 22:20-23, they gave them the chance to inquire of the Lord, concerning decisions that were made. The ephod was worn by the Levitical priests and inside the pockets of the ephod, there would be the Urim and Thummim. This was how they received the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers to their questions from the Lord, 1 Samuel 14:19.

Saul Pursues David

‘Saul was told that David had gone to Keilah, and he said, ‘God has delivered him into my hands, for David has imprisoned himself by entering a town with gates and bars.’ And Saul called up all his forces for battle, to go down to Keilah to besiege David and his men. When David learned that Saul was plotting against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, ‘Bring the ephod.’ David said, ‘LORD, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? LORD, God of Israel, tell your servant.’ And the LORD said, ‘He will.’ Again David asked, ‘Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?’ And the LORD said, ‘They will.’ So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there.’ 1 Samuel 23:7-13

Here again, we see just how delusional Saul has become, he thinks that God had delivered David into his hand, but the truth is that Samuel categorically told him that God had rejected him because of his sins, 1 Samuel 13:13-14 / 1 Samuel 15:23 / 1 Samuel 15:26.

After hearing that David was in Keilah, Saul calls his army together, his reason for doing so was to get his army to go against David and his men.

Unfortunately, when David inquired of the Lord concerning the possibility that the men of Keilah would deliver him to Saul, he immediately left Keilah. It’s clear that the men of Keilah feared Saul more than David, despite David delivering them out of the hands of the Philistines.

‘David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands. While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.’ The two of them made a covenant before the LORD. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.’ 1 Samuel 23:14-18

Located five miles south southeast of Hebron, was a town called Ziph which was in the hill country of Judah, Joshua 15:55. It was founded by Mesha, a son of Caleb, 1 Chronicles 2:42, and it was near this place that David twice hid from Saul, and the citizens of this place twice betrayed the secret of David’s hiding place to Saul, 1 Samuel 23:19 / 1 Samuel 26:1.

Ziph, at this time in history, was covered with a great forest, along with many caves, which was the perfect hiding place for David and his 600 men from Saul and his army.

Notice that Johnathon went to David and encouraged him in three ways, he reminds David that Saul wouldn’t be able to find him because God would protect him. He tells David that he would become king and he tells him that Saul knows this full well.

Even though he was the son of Saul, he knew that David would become king of Israel. This again shows us Johnathon’s humility in accepting God’s will for David to be Israel’s future king.

They renewed their covenant agreement with each other as before, 1 Samuel 18:3 / 1 Samuel 20:8, but sadly this would be the last time the two of them would see each other.

‘The Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah and said, ‘Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hakilah, south of Jeshimon? Now, Your Majesty, come down whenever it pleases you to do so, and we will be responsible for giving him into your hands.’ Saul replied, ‘The LORD bless you for your concern for me. Go and get more information. Find out where David usually goes and who has seen him there. They tell me he is very crafty. Find out about all the hiding places he uses and come back to me with definite information. Then I will go with you; if he is in the area, I will track him down among all the clans of Judah.’ 1 Samuel 23:19-23

The Ziphites tell Saul, who is very crafty, where David is located but Saul asks them to reconfirm his location because he knows that David is very wise and cunning.

The reason for the Ziphites betrayal was because of their zeal for Saul or the fact that David levied protection money against them as he did against Nabal, 1 Samuel 25:1-44. This whole shameful episode is recorded by David in Psalm 54:1-7.

‘So they set out and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. Now David and his men were in the Desert of Maon, in the Arabah south of Jeshimon. Saul and his men began the search, and when David was told about it, he went down to the rock and stayed in the Desert of Maon. When Saul heard this, he went into the Desert of Maon in pursuit of David. Saul was going along one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side, hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his forces were closing in on David and his men to capture them, a messenger came to Saul, saying, ‘Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land.’ Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines. That is why they call this place Sela Hammahlekoth. And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi.’ 1 Samuel 23:24-29

David knows the best way to not be found by your enemy is to keep moving, keep changing your location. And so, by the time the Ziphites had returned to Saul to confirm David and his men’s location, David had moved his camp to Maon. Maon is a city in the hill country of Judah, and the home of Nabal the wealthy flock master, 1 Samuel 25:4.

Notice that Saul had to call off the search for David and his men because the Philistines were attacking the land. They called the place, ‘Sela Hammahlekoth’ which possibly means ‘Rock of Smoothness’ because it was slippery, or it could mean, ‘Rock of Division’ because it was the place which came between Saul and David.

David and his men went on to live in the strongholds of En Gedi which was a safe hiding place for now. It was here that David would wait, as he said until he saw what God was going to do for him, 1 Samuel 22:3.

Go To 1 Samuel 24


"Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted."