1 Samuel 23 Study Notes


23:1 Keilah was a town of Judah located about two miles south of Adullam. Raiding the threshing floors meant the Philistines were waiting until Keilah’s citizens had harvested and threshed their grain; then they stole it from them.

23:2-4 God’s instructions to launch an attack against the Philistines seemed too dangerous to David’s men, who apparently felt that having one enemy, Saul, was risky enough. David’s second inquiry confirmed God’s command to rescue Keilah. Go at once is literally “Arise, go down,” indicating David was probably still at the forest of Hereth (22:5) or even higher into the Judean hill country.

23:5 David and his men drove their livestock away either to keep the cattle from eating all the grain on the threshing floors or to keep the Philistines from using them to carry off Israelite plunder.

23:6 On Abiathar’s relationship to David, see note at 22:20.

23:7 Saul saw an opportunity to kill David because the town’s barred gates would prevent his escape.

23:8 Saul’s strategy was probably to besiege Keilah in the hope that its citizens would hand David over to avoid destruction (v. 12).

23:9 David wanted to inquire of the Lord again by consulting the ephod.

23:10 Saul had already destroyed one town because of David (22:19), so David thought he might destroy another.

23:11-12 Through David’s inquiry, the Lord warned him that the citizens of Keilah would deliver him over to Saul, just as Saul had calculated (v. 8).

23:13 The number of David’s sympathizers had grown by fifty percent (22:2). Perhaps Saul called off the expedition because he was reluctant to conduct a lengthy military campaign in Judah, David’s own tribal territory.

23:14 The Wilderness of Ziph (Jos 15:55) was located about four and one-half miles southeast of Hebron, deep in Judah’s hill country. Wilderness strongholds offered David high vantage points from which his watchmen could detect Saul’s approach.

23:15 Horesh means “wooded height,” but its exact location is unknown.

23:16 Somehow, perhaps through Saul’s intelligence reports, Jonathan knew David’s whereabouts. Jonathan came to David and encouraged him in his faith (lit “strengthened his hand”) in God.

23:17 Jonathan’s words were partly correct because David would indeed be king over Israel. Jonathan, despite his humble willingness, would never become David’s second-in-command because he would die in battle (31:2). Jonathan also suggested that his father Saul knew David would succeed him, a fact that would have made Saul’s mental state all the more painful (24:20-21).

23:18 David and Jonathan made a covenant as they had done before (18:3; 20:14-16).

23:19-20 The Ziphites informed Saul of David’s position in their territory and offered to hand him over to the king. Perhaps these Judahites feared Saul might do to them what he had done at Nob (22:18-19) and what he had considered doing at Keilah (23:7-8).

23:21-22 Saul’s response was audaciously inappropriate since it was the Lord’s anointed they were betraying (see Robert Bergen).

23:23 Saul apparently was willing to hunt David among all the clans of Judah if the Ziphites gave him information specific enough that Saul did not have to wage a long, protracted battle with his own people.

23:24 David and his men had moved near Maon about five miles south. Arabah means a desert or wilderness area with sparse vegetation, yet enough to sustain those accustomed to the life of a shepherd.

23:25 Rock denotes a large rock formation, perhaps a large cliff.

23:26 David may have hurried because he was outnumbered. On the other hand, he was Israel’s most skilled warrior and he occupied the advantageous high ground. Perhaps David and his men were trying to avoid a bloody civil war.

23:27-28 Saul’s desire to pursue David deep into the Judean wilderness gave the Philistines the opportunity to push into Israel’s heartland again. Israel’s enemies were capitalizing on Saul’s internal troubles.

23:29 Located about fifteen miles northeast of the Wilderness of Maon near the Dead Sea’s north-south midpoint, En-gedi provided David’s men with shelter and spring water.