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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
David succours Keilah, besieged by the Philistines; defeats them, and delivers the city, 1 Samuel 23:1-6. Saul, hearing that David was at Keilah, determines to come and seize him, 1 Samuel 23:7, 1 Samuel 23:8. 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, 1 Samuel 23:9-12. David and his men escape from the city, and come to the wilderness of Ziph, 1 Samuel 23:13-15. Jonathan meets David in the wood of Ziph, strengthens his hand in God, and they renew their covenant, 1 Samuel 23:16-18. The Ziphites endeavor to betray David to Saul, but he and his men escape to Maon, 1 Samuel 23:19-22. 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 succor of Judah, then invaded by the Philistines, 1 Samuel 23:25-27. Saul leaves the pursuit of David, and goes to succor the land; and David escapes to En-gedi, 1 Samuel 23:28, 1 Samuel 23:29.
1Then they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshingfloors.
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 Judges 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 harvest.
2Therefore David inquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go and smite these Philistines? And the LORD said unto David, Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah.
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 favor, 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?
3And David's men said unto him, Behold, we be afraid here in Judah: how much more then if we come to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?
4Then David inquired of the LORD yet again. And the LORD answered him and said, Arise, go down to Keilah; for I will deliver the Philistines into thine hand.
David inquired of the Lord yet again - This was to satisfy his men, who made the strong objections mentioned in the preceding verse.
5So David and his men went to Keilah, and fought with the Philistines, and brought away their cattle, and smote them with a great slaughter. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.
Brought away their cattle - The forage and spoil which the Philistines had taken, driving the country before them round about Keilah.
6And it came to pass, when Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David to Keilah, that he came down with an ephod in his hand.
Came down with an ephod - I think this verse should come immediately after 1 Samuel 23:1 (note).
7And it was told Saul that David was come to Keilah. And Saul said, God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars.
8And Saul called all the people together to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men.
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.
9And David knew that Saul secretly practised mischief against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod.
Bring hither the ephod - It seems as if David himself, clothed with the ephod, had consulted the Lord; and 1 Samuel 23:10-12 contain the words of the consultation, and the Lord's answer. But see on 1 Samuel 23:2 (note).
10Then said David, O LORD God of Israel, thy servant hath certainly heard that Saul seeketh to come to Keilah, to destroy the city for my sake.
11Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O LORD God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant. And the LORD said, He will come down.
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.
12Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the LORD said, They will deliver thee up.
13Then David and his men, which were about six hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul that David was escaped from Keilah; and he forbare to go forth.
14And David abode in the wilderness in strong holds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand.
Wilderness of Ziph - Ziph was a city in the southern part of Judea, not far from Carmel.
15And David saw that Saul was come out to seek his life: and David was in the wilderness of Ziph in a wood.
16And Jonathan Saul's son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.
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.
17And he said unto him, Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul my father knoweth.
18And they two made a covenant before the LORD: and David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house.
19Then came up the Ziphites to Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself with us in strong holds in the wood, in the hill of Hachilah, which is on the south of Jeshimon?
20Now therefore, O king, come down according to all the desire of thy soul to come down; and our part shall be to deliver him into the king's hand.
21And Saul said, Blessed be ye of the LORD; for ye have compassion on me.
22Go, I pray you, prepare yet, and know and see his place where his haunt is, and who hath seen him there: for it is told me that he dealeth very subtilly.
23See therefore, and take knowledge of all the lurking places where he hideth himself, and come ye again to me with the certainty, and I will go with you: and it shall come to pass, if he be in the land, that I will search him out throughout all the thousands of Judah.
24And they arose, and went to Ziph before Saul: but David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the plain on the south of Jeshimon.
25Saul also and his men went to seek him. And they told David: wherefore he came down into a rock, and abode in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon.
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.
26And Saul went on this side of the mountain, and David and his men on that side of the mountain: and David made haste to get away for fear of Saul; for Saul and his men compassed David and his men round about to take them.
Saul went on this side of the mountain - Evidently not knowing that David and his men were on the other side.
27But there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land.
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.
28Wherefore Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against the Philistines: therefore they called that place Selahammahlekoth.
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.
29And David went up from thence, and dwelt in strong holds at Engedi.
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, Sol 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 circumstances.
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.