I Samuel 23





(vs. 1-13).


1 “Then they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah,

and they rob the threshingfloors.” They told David, etc. The return of David

into his own land was quickly followed by exploits which not only increased his

power, but turned the eyes of all the people towards him as their protector. His

first success was the deliverance of the city of Keilah from a body of Philistines

who were plundering it of the produce of its harvest. This place lay a few

miles south of the stronghold of Adullam, and itself occupied a defensible

position, being perched on a steep hill overlooking the valley of Elah, not

far from the thickets of Hareth (Condor, ‘Tent Work,’ 2:88). Being thus at

no great distance from the Philistine border, a band of men started thence

on a foray for the purpose of robbing the threshing floors. As no rain falls

in Palestine in the harvest season (ch. 12:17), the corn is threshed

out in the open air by a heavy wooden sledge made of two boards, and

curved up in front, with pieces of basalt inserted for teeth, drawn over it by

horses, or it is trampled out by cattle. Conder (‘Tent Work,’ 2:259)

describes the threshing floor as “a broad flat space on open ground,

generally high. Sometimes the floor is on a flat rocky hill top, and

occasionally it is in an open valley, down which there is a current of air; but

it is always situated where most wind can be found, because at the

threshing season high winds never occur, and the grain is safely stored

before the autumn storms commence.” As the grain after winnowing is

made into heaps until it can be carried home, there is always a period when

the threshing floors have to be watched to guard them from depredation,

and this was the time chosen by the Philistines for a foray in force.


2 “Therefore David enquired 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.  3 And 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?  4 Then David enquired 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.  5 So 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.”  David enquired of Jehovah. This seems to show that

Abiathar was already with David, as the prophet Gad had no ephod, and at

this time, and for a considerable period subsequently, the usual way of

consulting God was by the Urim and Thummim (see v. 6). Though the

answer was a command to go, yet David’s men hesitated; not that they had

any doubt of the immediate result, but, regarding Saul as their most

dangerous enemy, they were unwilling to embroil themselves also with the

Philistines. They argue, We be afraid here in Judah: why then should we

close the Philistine territory against us by attacking their armies! Hebrew,

“ranks,” men disciplined and drawn up in array (see ch. 17:22).

In order to remove these prudential doubts, David again consults God, and

being a second time encouraged to undertake the rescue of Keilah,

proceeds thither with his men. This attack, being unexpected, was entirely

successful. The Philistines were driven back with great slaughter, and

David brought away their cattle. The word signifies “small cattle,” such

as sheep and goats. Besides robbing the threshing floors, the Philistines

apparently had been driving off the flocks from the neighboring pastures.

Both Hareth, where David and his men had lain hid in the thickets (ch. 22:5),

and Keilah were in the tribe of Judah, in the southern portion of the Shephelah

(Joshua 15:44).



Deference to the Divine Will (vs. 1-5)


The facts are:


1. David, being informed of the inroads of the Philistines against Keilah,

seeks counsel of God.

2. Being directed to go against them, he finds his men in doubt of the

safety of the enterprise.

3. Hence, to satisfy them he makes further inquiry of the Lord, and is again

directed to go, with promise of victory.


Acting on these instructions, he saves Keilah. The moral degeneracy of Saul seems

to have been accompanied with some degree of inefficiency of government, by

reason of which portions of the country were still exposed to incursions of the

Philistines. The subsequent conduct of Keilah, bad enough as it was in

itself (v. 12), would lead us to infer that the people who sought David’s

interposition were patriotic men not resident in the city. Possibly David’s

reputation for energy and courage had been sustained of late by the manner

in which he had developed his few resources in defense against the wiles

and force of his personal foe, and hence it would be natural for oppressed

neighbors to seek his aid on an emergency. The narrative relates how he

met the demand on his intervention, and with what result. It brings out a

fine truth bearing on both public and private life.




how, without choice of his own, David had been forced into a position of

isolation and danger. There perhaps never was a life, except that of our

Saviour, in which habitual submission to a supreme will was more

conspicuous. The critical position in which he found himself when urged to

make war on Philistine plunderers brought out into more public view a

condition of mind habitual in private life. His unwillingness to take the step

without being sure of the will of God was a revelation to those who sought

his services of what was constant in his experience. The question was not,

Can I gain wider reputation, or win Israel to my standard? Is it THE WILL

OF GOD was the first and last thought. David’s conception of life was that

which becomes every Christian. Whether our lot be kingly or lowly, our

calling public or private, it should be a primary thought with us that God

has a will of His own as to what manner of persons we ought to be, and

what line of conduct we should adopt in the most common affairs of our

life; for every action, and word, and spirit possesses in God’s sight a moral

character derived from the motive in which it originates and the final result

to which it is made subservient. Our great business is to form an estimate,

by a study of God’s character and providence and of our own position and

capabilities, of what he would regard as a pure and righteous course, and

then strive, as demands are made on us, to translate that into our actual

deeds and temper. There is abundant scope for this habitual deference to

God’s will in the demands which come upon us from all quarters. By

reason of the strong interaction of various tendencies within us: and the

opposing claims of what seem to be benevolence and prudence, we may,

like David, find ourselves in an ambiguous position, and it is at such

junctures especially that the habitual deference will manifest its valuable

presence. The difference between a really good man and one of formal

godliness comes out in this, that the one always feels as though another

and higher will was present and supreme over his own, while the other only

thinks of that superior will on special occasions when painful events fill him

with fear. This habitual deference is partly owing to the fact that a correct

view is taken of life. David understood his vocation in the world. He had a

part to perform in the great Messianic purpose. Although his vision of the

future unfoldings of that purpose, varying in distinctness at different periods

(Psalm 2; compare Psalm 72), was not of details, yet he had faith enough

in its reality and grandeur to induce the conviction that every step of his

daily course was in some way associated with its realization. And in like

manner the humblest Christian is permitted to believe that he has a similar

vocation in the world, as a member of Christ’s mystical body. Hence we, as

members of Christ’s body, have no raison d’etre apart from habitual

deference to the will of Christ. And as, by the varied experience of life, this

deference deepens, so its effect on our general character is more

conspicuous. It induces a sobriety of judgment, for haste and rashness are

due to self-will; it creates a refined susceptibility of spirit by which moral

perfections are quickened and the existence of evil is discerned from afar;

and it gives zest and carefulness in use of means to ascertain, in cases of

difficulty, what is the perfect will of God.  (Romans 12:1-2)




ENCOURAGEMENT TO A SINCERE MAN. David’s position was still

one of embarrassment and danger. He was potentially king, but could not

avow it. He was loyal to Saul, though strongly tempted by his persecutions

to rise in open rebellion. He was assured by. the anointing and by Samuel’s

sanction and encouragement that a great future was awaiting him, and yet,

like many since his time, he had to bear all the pains and sorrows of the

outcast. The agony of feeling expressed in the Psalms can be understood

only as we remember his call to a holy work and the consciousness of

innocence. The recent experience at Nob caused him to feel how

incidentally others might be compromised in his procedure, even when

undertaking useful service. But all fear, all sorrow, every feeling of

uneasiness as to consequences, disappeared when God recognized him by

an answer to the official inquiry of Gad or Abiathar. The fact of the inquiry

on his behalf is very important (Numbers 27:18-21; Judges 20:26-28).

That one or both of these after the slaughter of Nob sought counsel

for David was a declaration in most emphatic form that he was the coming

king. God thus by His servants openly sanctioned him, and hence his soul

was encouraged to brave any danger, to bear any consequences, so long as

God approved (Psalm 56:11). It is the assured approval of God,

obtained in diverse ways according to the nature of the case, that

emboldens Christians in courses of extreme difficulty and peril. The

apostles feared not Jewish or Roman power when they had, after the

ascension of Christ, received the inward and outward testimony of the

Holy Spirit of the Divine character of the cause they professed. The same

spirit is created in others when called to go forth to heathen lands, or to

wage war with fearful evils at home. Let the youth, the sire, the statesman,

the parent, the merchant, and the pastor only hear the word “go,” at once

the soul may take courage and assert its strength.



PEOPLE VARY IN DIFFERENT AGES. David now is guided in his

public capacity as the coming king by prophet or by priest using the ephod.

As a private man he depended for the ordinary course of life on the more

private and unexpressed guidance which God insures to all his faithful

children. The means by which his public course was directed were unlike

the more ancient and the more modern. From the beginning of human

history we have to distinguish between the communications which God

may have given to men for their personal comfort and use and that which

was designed to reveal the fact of His purposes of mercy to the world and

gradually unfold their scope, although in some instances, as in the case of

Abraham (Genesis 15:1), the personal and general might coincide. The

guidance granted to the patriarchs for the unfolding of the redemptive

purposes was chiefly in form of visible or audible manifestations, a method

well suited to a primitive life without religious literature, precedents, fixed

regulations, and official teachers, and needing greatly, in the midst of

visible surroundings and material tendencies, to be impressed with THE

REALITY OF UNSEEN POWER!   To Israel in the desert the guidance and

spiritual impressment was given by the visible pillar of cloud and of fire,

and by the stupendous signs on Mount Sinai which accompanied the

communications to Moses for their benefit. The Urim and Thummim of the

high priest were chiefly employed during the years subsequent to Moses,

thus largely dispensing with the irregular visible display. In the prophets

Samuel, Gad, and others after them a more spiritual method came into use,

God making known His will to the people by some spiritual manifestation

to or elevation of the prophet’s spirit. In Christian times the personal

prophetic medium reached its culmination in Christ and His apostles, who,

out of the fullness of the Spirit that dwelt in them, gave forth such teaching

and guidance in action as the Church required. Thus in divers manners God

has spoken for the guidance of the Church. We have to consult the “living

oracles” (II Timothy 3:16) for our guidance as a Church of Christ in

reference to the general principles and the manifold details involved in

establishing “the kingdom” (Isaiah 8:20; John 5:20; Acts 17:11).

As individual Christians, besides acting in unison as a Church for the

common objects of the kingdom of Christ, we may seek guidance daily

by private use of the same means as those enjoyed privately by David.




COMPLETENESS TO THEM.   It is a too frequent belief in the world that

a man absorbed in the pursuit of the highest religious vocation and distinguished

by the loftiest spiritual aspirations, such as are revealed in the Psalms and in

David’s life, becomes thereby one sided in development, and fails by neglect

in the detailed and minor moralities of life. A saint is synonymous with a

moody, unpractical man, too much occupied with spiritual realities to be

careful of little things. David’s conduct in the affairs of Keilah is a refutation

of this false conception. The narrative brings out his full orbed religion, and

in this he may be considered as a fit representative of the well developed



Ø      The line of conduct pursued with reference to Keilah, taken in historic

connection with his call to service, brings out a remarkable combination of

high and ordinary qualities. With his consciousness of high mission was

joined a patient endurance of bitter trials as a consequence of the very

position to which Providence was calling him. Not a word of complaint

and distrust escapes his lips during this weary hiding from his foe, although

in his agony he was constrained to cry, “How long, O Lord!” Then there

was that beautiful self reserve, lest by any impetuous act he should seem to

forestall the ways of God and force on the final issue — as seen in his

unwillingness to annoy or embarrass Saul and press him to a conflict by an

attack, without royal commission, on the Philistines. This following and not

going before appears also in his using the official means of guidance only

when Providence had placed them clearly in his way, and not by privately

enticing Gad and Abiathar to join his company. But while intent on these

high spiritual objects, there was a generous disinterestedness in relieving

the troubles of others, even at a time when his own sorrows were

multiplied, for he spared not himself when Keilah was oppressed. Nor did

he feel for them alone, since the second inquiry of the Lord (v. 4) was

evidently dictated by a tender consideration for men whose faith was

unequal to his own, And, finally, all this also associated with a wonderful

tenderness for his personal enemy, based on a recognition of his kingly

office, and more so on pity for a character once hopeful, but now fast on

the way to ruin. Never, perhaps, were the precepts of the New Testament

with respect to personal enemies (Matthew 5:38-44) more truly

exemplified in combination with so utter a detestation of the sins that

tended to frustrate the spiritual ends for which Israel existed in the world.


Ø      Taking, then, the conduct of David and the special qualities indicated

therein as a basis, we may summarize the qualities which seem to enter

into a well developed religious character:


o        Recognition of a high vocation in life, associated with God’s merciful

purposes toward mankind. No man is great whose energies do not in

their results aim at something beyond himself; nor is that a high style of

character which is governed by aspirations terminating with the material

and temporal wants of mankind. As David was conscious of a vocation

in life which linked his whole existence with the advancement of the

highest spiritual interests of the world, and with the highest material as

naturally included in the spiritual, so every truly religious man believes

and rejoices to know that his business in life lies outside his fleeting

earthly occupation and possessions, and in fact coincides with that for

which Christ came into the world. What tone and power the Church

would have in the world if all her members duly realized for what end

Christians exist! A lofty ideal always gives power and elevation to

actual life; and no higher ideal can be set before us than that which

is the normal vocation of every one of Christ’s disciples.


o        Submission to God’s ways and times. The realization of the ideal

before David was by a process which seemed to run counter to the

dictates of human wisdom. The great scope of a religious ideal, while

it expands the intellect and fills the imagination with the glowing

colors of future good, also makes a present demand on the more sober

and less brilliant qualities of the soul. The course of nature and the

progress of spiritual forces are determined by primary principles of

government and a combination of incidental and final issues which

in their entirety are comprehensible alone to God, as, indeed, they

received their coordination from Him. A mind that forms a just

estimate of itself, and regards the outworking of the powers of

the kingdom of God as the visible index of an infinite secret, will

bow in loving submission to all the methods and seasons appointed

by God in bringing on the setting of His King on the holy hill of Zion.


o        Confidence in God in spite of adverse events. The key to David’s life

when fleeing from cave to cave, and through all the lowly submission

to years of waiting, was, as so often expressed in the Psalms, trust in

the Lord. The trusting power of our nature is large, but unfortunately

has been injured in its development by the suspicions created in our

encounters with untruthful, selfish men. There is a danger of importing

this impaired confidence from the secular to the spiritual sphere, and

practically treating God as though He were one of us (Psalm 50:21;

Jeremiah 15:18). There is a spiritual heroism in believing in God

against hope (Romans 4:17-21; Hebrews 11).  The religious trust is

not founded on knowledge of things, either as to their intrinsic nature

or their correlation, but on the fact that God is over all and is true to

His word. What some would call unreasoning fanaticism is

the soul’s rational, loving homage to:


§         the wisdom that never errs,

§         the goodness that ever blesses, and

§         the power that works all things to its own ends.


History justifies the faith of God’s people. “They are dead which

sought the young child’s life” (Matthew 2:20). “He shall live,” and

“upon himself shall his crown flourish,” was predicted of the most

despised and reviled (Psalm 72:15; 132:18; Isaiah 53:3); and, in a

modifiedsense, it will hold true of all who endure and are faithful

to the end (Revelation 3:21).


o        Kindliness towards the weak and the oppressed. The kindly feeling

which prompted an effort to save Keilah, although not personally

interested, and which sought support for the weak faith of doubting

men by a second inquiry of the Lord (vs. 2-4), is but an illustration

of the humane spirit of true religion when properly developed. The

virtues of submission and confidence, which find exercise toward

God as their object, are supplemented by those which bear on the

sorrows of men. The loftiest spiritual aspirations — of the severest

purity, of the widest range of vision, and of the most intense gaze

on the realization of a spiritual salvation for man — were combined

in Christ with the tenderest and the most considerate regard for the

weaknesses and woes of men, and did, directly or indirectly,

during a brief sojourn on earth, more than anything else to alleviate

temporal sufferings and finally break the bonds of social and

political oppression (Luke 4:18).


The attainment of this well developed personal religion is WITHIN

REACH OF ALL!   The character of David was not supernatural, but

the outgrowth of a mental and moral constitution, under the carefully

cherished influences of such religious privileges as fell to his lot. The

position of each one of us is in the main that of David: we have our

natural temperament, which may determine the prominence of this

over that virtue; we, as Christians, have received our solemn call by

One greater than Samuel; we, in our private or public sphere, have,

as the business of our life, the maintenance of a theocracy more blessed

and wide in its influence than that for which David lived; the Divine

truth for our instruction and admonition embraces more than he was

wont to meditate on by day and night; and it is our privilege to

wait on the Lord daily for both strength and wisdom. A nature less

capacious than that of David’s, and called to a department of service

for God less conspicuous to the public eye, may, by corresponding

diligence in self-culture, attain to a symmetry of Christian excellence

akin to that of David, and embracing all the qualities we have just

sketched. Every man is a well developed Christian when such a nature

as he happens to possess is brought, in all its tendencies and

developments, entirely under the sway of the Christian spirit. A

knowledge of our constitutional tendencies should be accompanied

by special guarding of those forms of temperament which imperil

symmetry of character. Occasional reviews of our vows and of the

goodness and mercy of our God will prompt to a renewed and fuller

consecration, which will not fail to develop patience in worse trials

possibly than those of David, and confidence in God despite the

most adverse of circumstances.


6 “And 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.” Literally,

“an ephod came down in his hand,” and so, word for word, the Syriac. The object

of this verse is to explain how it was that David (in vs. 2 and 4) was able to inquire

of Jehovah. The words to Keilah — Hebrew, Kelah-wards — do not mean that it

was at Keilah that Abiathar joined David, but that he came in time to go thither

with him. In ch. 22:20 it seems as if Abiathar must have joined

David even at an earlier date, for he is represented as fleeing to him

immediately after the massacre of the priests at Nob. Now, granting that

David’s stay at Gath with Achish was very brief, he must have remained at

Adullam a considerable time, inasmuch as men joined him there in large

numbers (ibid. v. 2), which seems to show that his hiding place

had become generally known. It was probably this concourse of men to

him that was “discovered,” i.e. made known, to Saul, and, as being an act

of formal revolt, so raised his ire. As being supposed to be in league with

David, Saul put the priests to death, and Abiathar fled; but probably the

news of this terrible act had already reached David, and, in anxiety about

his father and mother, he had gone to find refuge for them in Moab.

Thither Gad follows him, bringing prophetic approval of his conduct, but

ordering him to return into the territory of his own tribe. If then David was

on his way to Moab when Abiathar reached Adullam, he may have

remained in hiding there till David’s return to the thickets of Hareth. But,

possibly, even before Abiathar joined him the news may have arrived of the

Philistine foray, and David’s mind was set Keilah-wards. But there were

those who doubted of the prudence of this proceeding, and Abiathar’s

arrival with the ephod enabled him to consult Jehovah’s will. By his

presence also David had now the approval of the priesthood.



Public Spirit (vs. 1-6)


“So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah (v. 5). Another step in

advance was now made by David. Whilst Saul (in addition to alienating the

prophets, and well nigh exterminating the priests) failed to afford adequate

protection to his subjects, David was called to defend them against the

incursions of the Philistines. This was doubtless the chief purpose for

which he was recalled from Moab to Judah. And he fulfilled it, in

obedience to the direction of God, which he sought and received through

Abiathar, who had come down to him “with an ephod in his hand.” “For

his conscience and his assurance of faith, as well as for the certainty and

success of the whole undertaking, he needed the Divine authorization; if he

had not the sanction of the theocratic king, he must have that of God

Himself, since the question was of a matter important for the people of God

and for the affairs of God’s kingdom in Israel — war against Israel’s

hereditary foe” (Erdmann). His public spirit was:



concerned about their own convenience, safety, interest, and refuse to look

beyond themselves. Others render public services from selfish motives. But

the truly public spirited man, like David, possesses:


Ø      An intense desire for the welfare of the people, to whom by Divine

providence he is united by special ties, not contrary to, but closer and more

immediately affecting him than those which unite him to all mankind.


Ø      Genuine sympathy with the distresses of the weak, the injured, and the

imperilled (v. 1). Their condition fills his heart with generous impulses,

and makes him forget his own troubles.


Ø      Supreme concern for “God’s kingdom and righteousness,” which

inspires him with zeal against evil doers, and (along with his unselfish

regard for his people) makes him willing to undergo labor, conflict,

sacrifice, suffering, and death. “Be of good courage, and let us play the         

men for our people, and for the cities of our God” (II Samuel 10:12).


  • DIRECTED BY THE DIVINE WORD (vs. 2, 4) in:


Ø      General principles, such as are contained in the commandment, “Thou

shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18), and others of a

similar nature (Galatians 6:10; Philippians 2:4). In order that our

love to the whole human race (included in the commandment in its widest

sense) may be real and effectual, it must begin by the exercise of love

toward those who are nearest to us and have the first claim upon us

(Psalm 122:6-9; 137:5-6; Luke 13:34; 24:47; Romans 9:3).


Ø      Particular precepts pertaining to the varied relationships, capabilities,

and needs of men, as rulers, subjects, etc.


Ø      Joined with numerous promises and encouragements to the performance

of duty. If public spirit in the form of patriotism is not expressly enjoined in

the New Testament, it is not without reason. “It was worthy of the wisdom

of our great Legislator to decline the express inculcation of a principle so

liable to degenerate into excess, and to content himself with prescribing the

virtues which are sure to develop it, as far as is consistent with the dictates

of universal benevolence” (R. Hall).


  • OPPOSED BY PRUDENTIAL FEARS. “David’s men said unto him,

Behold, we are afraid here in Judah,” etc. (v. 3). They were not of the

same mind as himself, had not a proper sense of their obligation, were

unduly concerned about their own safety, and full of doubt and fear. But he

was not disheartened nor deterred. And on a further revelation of the

Divine will they were (as others often are):


Ø      Persuaded that their opposition was wrong.

Ø      Convinced that their fears were groundless.

Ø      Induced to accompany their leader in a brave and generous enterprise

(v. 5). One man imbued with strong faith and public spirit thus

overcomes the opposition of many, and converts them into zealous helpers.



God was with them, and —


Ø      Injustice was punished, the public enemy defeated, and the prey taken

from the mighty.

Ø      Those who were in the utmost peril were saved.

Ø      All the people were taught where to look for their deliverer. In seeking

the good of others David found his own honor, and received a Divine

testimony to his royal destination.


7 “And 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.  8 And Saul called all the  people together

to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men.”

It was well nigh a hopeless matter to hunt David as long as

he remained on the borders of the desert of Judah, but once shut up in a

town his capture was inevitable. When Saul, therefore, heard that David

was at Keilah, he said, God hath delivered him into my hand. The

Syriac, Chaldee, and Vulgate translate in the same way, probably as the

nearest equivalent to the Hebrew, while the Septuagint has a different

reading — sold. The Hebrew phrase is a very strong one; literally, “God

hath ignored him,” hath treated him as a stranger, and so let, him fall “into

my hand.” Possibly Saul‘s metaphor was taken from the popular language,

and no attempt should be made to get rid of unusual expressions, as if they

were false readings. By entering into a town that hath gates and bars.

Either the people of a walled town would give up David rather than expose

themselves to the horrors of a siege (II Samuel 20:21-22), or, if they

stood by him, its capture would be a mere matter of time. David, it seems,

would have run the risk, but happily was prevented.


9 And David knew that Saul secretly practiced mischief against him;

and he said to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod.

10 Then 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.  11 Will 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.  12 Then 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.



Misinterpretation and Miscalculation (vs. 6-12)


The facts are:


1. The moral position of David at Keilah is strengthened by the presence of

Abiathar with the ephod.


2. Saul, believing David to be shut up in the city, prepares a force to lay

siege to Keilah.


3. David, aware of this, has recourse to the ephod, and asks through

Abiathar whether Saul was really coming, and whether, in case he came,

the men of Keilah would give him up to Saul.


4. He receives an affirmative reply to each inquiry.


We have here two men moving in opposite lines and under totally diverse

principles, yet each making reference to God in relation to his own conduct —

a fair illustration of the intelligent and the ignorant use made of religious

language and sentiments in human affairs. (Unfortunately, this reminds me

of the political situation in the United States of America and also illustrates

what Israel eventually came to, “Then were the people of Israel divided into

two parts:  half o f the people followed Tibni the son of Ginath, to make him

king; and half followed Omri.”  - (I Kings 16:21)  And while David in the deep

earnestness of his soul seeks through the appointed means to know the will

of God, and Saul in his infatuation concludes God to be on his side, the

Eternal reveals His knowledge of the secret tendencies of men and His

tender regard for the upright in heart. The actual conduct of Saul and the

hypothetical conduct of the men of Keilah suggest the misinterpretation of

conduct and the miscalculation consequent thereon. No doubt the action of

an energetic man at the head of a band of followers might cause uneasiness

to a monarch whose hold on the people was not very strong, and

consequently the movement of David, viewed at a distance and considered

irrespective of his known character, might suggest the thought of an

attempt to ingratiate himself with the nation, and gain a position from

which a blow might, with greater chance of success, be struck at the

throne. Saul’s interpretation of the attack on the Philistines, and

consequent entry into Keilah, was either that David was carrying on a

freebooting expedition from mere love of plunder and exploit, or that,

under cover of aiding the oppressed, he was entering upon active hostilities

against himself. He could not conceive of such an act as compatible with

friendliness to himself, and called forth by pure regard for the honor and

freedom of Israel, patriotic hostility to the national foe, generous sympathy

for the weak, and readiness to benefit sufferers, even though in so doing a

man should pursue a course open to the possibility of being misunderstood.

The Saul of this date was not the Saul who once (ch. 11:1-8),

with large-hearted patriotism and generous impulse, rescued the men of

Jabesh from the power of Nahash the Ammonite. Hence his

misinterpretation of David’s conduct. But thought and action are closely

allied, and a false view of things is the basis of a miscalculation of the

results of action when we proceed to carry out a purpose. So reversely did

Saul now read all the lessons of the past few years in the life of David and

himself as to comfort himself with the belief that God, in the order of His

providence, was now shutting up David in a city in order that Saul might

take and slay him. This phenomenon of a morally diseased nature is worthy

the study of Christian men, and may well make the resolutely impenitent to

stand aghast at their possible madness. Quem Deus Vult Perdere, Prius Dementat

(Boswell’s Johnson, 1783)  Translated:


Whom the Lord wishes to ruin,

He first deprives of reason; or,


                                                “When God will punish,

He will first take away the understanding.”

 (George Herbert)


[After a long search (for this passage) for the purpose of deciding a bet, some gentlemen of

Cambridge found it among the fragments of Euripides, where it is given as a translation of a

Greek iambic.—Malone’s Note to Boswell’s Johnson.]  


In quiet let him perish, for provident Jove hath deprived him of reason.

                                                (Buckley’s Homer.—The Iliad, Book IX. Page 161)  


  [The passage has reference to the condition of one who is advancing imperceptibly, though surely,

    to FINAL RUIN —Kennedy, cited by Mr. Buckley, supra.]


Grocott’s Familiar Quotations, 6th ed.  189-?.


Miserably did Saul miscalculate the course of events. God does not act for men

because their wishes are made a substitute for knowledge. Generalizing the

truth involved in the case of Saul and David, we may notice: 



COMMON IN THE AFFAIRS OF MEN. It is a truism that men make

mistakes; but making mistakes is not always identical with

misinterpretation of human conduct, and the false reckoning proceeding

therefrom. There is a too prevalent opinion among certain classes of men

that they do understand their fellows, and, by the exercise of keen

observation, can avoid the error of referring actions to wrong motives. On

the other hand, there are ingenuous minds that imagine that no one will

ever think of referring their conduct to an origin other than that which is so

clear and pure to their own conscience. Such persons need to be instructed.

The question may be raised whether, even in the most holy and blessed

society of intelligent beings, there is ever a sufficient capacity in one mind

to unravel and ascertain perfectly the secret springs of action in others. We

each, some time or other, have to bear the frown and condemnation of our

fellow creatures, because what we do is not associated, in their judgment,

with the motives which are clear in our consciousness; and in so far as they

have to calculate on the issue of the conduct misjudged, error is inevitable.

The Bible affords notable instances of misinterpretation and miscalculation.

We have seen how Hannah’s heart was misread by Eli (ch. 1:14).

The Apostle Paul was supposed by false brethren to display zeal for Christ

for reasons utterly alien to his nature. The rejection of Christ by the

Pharisees was the practical form of their interpretation of His words and

deeds. Some of the bitterest trials of private life consist in generous, true

hearts having to bear the consciousness that suspicion and distrust are

meted out to them when, were all known, love and confidence would

abound. In like manner the false reckonings of men are manifold. Every

one calculates amiss when he has laid a false foundation in a partial or

wrong reading of character. True prophecy, in relation to what will come

of the conduct of those we criticize, can only proceed from a just estimate

of their moral position. Saul was a false prophet when he predicted that

God would now deliver David into his hand. No laws exist for bringing

events to pass so that they shall harmonize with our estimate of men. “God

hath forsaken him,” may be said of a David; but the false judgment of his

desert will not destroy the loving kindness which ENDURETH FOR EVER!

On the basis of their interpretation of Christ’s character and conduct men

esteemed Him “smitten of God and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4), and calculated

that the silent tomb would put an end to His influence in the world. Those

who contend with a holy, Christ loving people, whose spiritual principles are

not appreciated, forget that they are embarked in a war AGAINST THE





DOUBLE ORIGIN. The source of these evils is partly intellectual and

partly moral. Saul understood not David and miscalculated the issue of his

entering Keilah because of his defective knowledge of human nature and of

the order of Providence. In his case, however, apart from radical

narrowness of mental range, his mind was injured, with respect to the

normal exercise of his intellect, by the moral disturbance consequent on HIS

DREADFUL ALIENATION FROM GOD!   He furnishes a typical instance

of what may be regarded as the power of the moral state over the intellectual

faculties — fearfully suggestive of what demented, shriveled beings men may

become should they in another life still be under the domination of a

masterful aversion to God. The liability of every man to fall into the evils of

misinterpretation should induce attention to the twofold cause in ourselves.


Ø      The intellectual cause is often seen in a radically defective know]edge of

human nature and its possibilities; in a structure in the mind of rigid lines of

conduct, based on a narrow experience; and in a partial acquaintance with

the actual facts connected with the case on which judgment is exercised

and reckonings are made.


Ø      The moral cause is often more subtle in operation, and therefore more

difficult of detection; but frequently it appears:


o        in the morally wrong act of applying our limited power to questions

not fairly within their reach,

o        in the obstinate tendency to make the possibly imperfect governing

principles of our own life the infallible tests by which all conduct is


o        in the embittered spirit with which we contemplate the course of

events, and in the active presence of:

§         envy,

§         jealousy,

§         suspicion, and

§         selfishness.


As a rule, moral causes have more influence in determining our judgments of

conduct and character, and in calculating the issues of action, than intellectual.

It is easy to believe what we wish, and to see evil where we cherish ill will. A

very pure, loving soul will avoid errors where others of superior intellect will

fail; for purity and love will hold the will back from judgment on uncertain

data, and will also, by a sort of moral intuition, recognize goodness where

less spiritual natures would not discriminate.




DURATION. The evils are twofold — those affecting the injured and

those attaching to the wrong doer. David and Saul suffered by Saul’s

errors. It is true some of the evils affect both for the same time, such as:


Ø      the mutual distrusts,

Ø      the alienations,

Ø      the loss of cooperation


which inevitably attend the misreading of character and conduct; and it is

impossible to estimate the grievous loss to the world arising from this source.

But in instances such as that of David and our Saviour, and of all truly good,

the injury on their side is soon removed; for Providence so orders events that

what was hidden becomes revealed, and their righteousness shines forth as

the light, and their judgment as the noon day (Psalm 37:28-40).  (I would

say that the reading of this last passage should be of great comfort to those

who see that America is in great decline and can realize the hope that The

Day of Judgment will, to many, be a day for lifting up their head with joy.

On the other hand, in so far as we are governed by the tendencies which

induce wrong judgments, so far and so long our whole nature is impaired

and debased. Indeed, the sum total of our mental and moral wealth is

lessened forever by the indulgence in wrong habits of this class; for we can

never become the intellectually and morally perfect beings we should be

had no energy, no faculty been perverted and abused. No amount of

growth and development, after years of defective mental action, can

overtake the position due to a healthful advance from the first. But

especially will the evils be of long duration in the case of those who, by

persistent, persecuting, false judgments, seek to harass and wound THE

CHILDREN OF GOD!   The shame and the remorse of having bruised a

tender heart or misjudged a holy character cannot easily die out. Saul’s

anguish of spirit consequent on his sin against David survived David’s injury.




1. If we would escape undesirable judgments we should avoid, as much as

possible, ambiguous actions and the appearance of evil.

2. Nevertheless, in the cause of humanity we ought to be ready to act, even

though men, not knowing our feelings, may misinterpret us.  (A man ought

to live in such a way, that if someone said something bad about him, that

no one would believe it!Origin Unknown - CY – 2016)

3. We should hold our judgment in strong reserve when but partial knowledge

is within reach, even though plausible reasons appear to urge a criticism.

4. Proper weight should always be allowed for the modifying influences of

education, habit, and range of experience.

5. We may take consolation in the knowledge that God weighs conduct in

reference to its intention, and that He rules events so as to vindicate the just.

6. If ever we have wronged another by harsh and wicked judgment, we are

bound to make some amend by word or deed.



Undeveloped Tendencies (vs. 6-12)


The second topic suggested by this section is evidently that involved in the

predicted conduct of the men of Keilah under the circumstances specified

in the inquiry of David. The service rendered by David to Keilah was such

as gave him a just claim to their gratitude. No doubt zeal was abundant in

expressing their obligation to him, and judging from appearances one might

suppose that the men would be quite prepared to befriend him in case of

need. In the early overflowing of gratitude for favors received men are

wont to be strong and lavish in the expression of personal attachment and

readiness to return kindness for kindness; and most certainly the men of

Keilah, had they then been questioned as to the possibility of their ever

casting aside one who had so generously befriended them in a time of sore

distress, would each have felt inclined to say, “Is thy servant a dog, that he

should do this thing?” (II Kings 8:13)  But there was more in their complex human

nature than they themselves imagined, and the sentiments ruling their will just then

and creating agreeable words and kind intentions might, under new

conditions, subside and give scope for the play of a different set of

tendencies, kept by the present auspicious events in abeyance. David

appears to have surmised the existence within their hearts of weaknesses

which would not bear the strain of the tests that must be created by his

sojourn in their city, and hence, not to be misled in so important a matter,

he calls for the priest and makes special inquiry as to whether, in case Saul

should come against the city, these men, now so grateful and devoted,

would deliver him up. The answer which David received from the Searcher

of hearts was to the effect that, should they be brought to the test, they

would develop tendencies which gave no sign of present existence, and

which if charged on them would probably be emphatically repudiated. Thus

do we see how there may dwell in men, unconsciously to themselves, latent

tendencies which, though repressed and rendered by present surroundings

inoperative, are so real and patent as, under conditions yet to be created, to

become the determinant powers in regulating conduct.



GENERAL FACT IN HUMAN LIFE. It is a truth that as we find

ourselves in daily life we each possess a complex nature in which an

inextricable interweaving of thought and feeling is the prominent feature.

Every idea and feeling that has become an item stored in memory becomes

a power in the subsequent course of our inner experience, even though not

distinctly traceable. There are certain fundamental dispositions by which

the great lines of action are decided, and minor feelings or sentiments

which are tributary to them as servants and prompters. But experience

proves that all contained within our nature cannot operate at once, and

which of the inner forms of activity may be brought into exercise at any

given moment depends on the influences brought to bear and the laws of

association thereby set in operation. The tendency to shrink from pain and

conflict found no occasion to indicate its presence when the entry of a

victorious David into Keilah aroused sentiments of joy and gratitude. It is

possible for a tendency to be apparently annihilated by the constant demand

on a feeling or sentiment antagonistic with its nature. Hence men may often

carry within them possibilities of action while ignorant of their reality, and

they may: therefore, be induced to make professions and undertake

obligations without reckoning on what may be aroused within when

circumstances require the fulfillment of the obligations. Theories of conduct

are held which may be belied by the hidden man of the heart when his

unhappy hour for development comes. Are we not all now and then

startled by the uprising from the unfathomed deeps of our nature of a

hideous form which lets us see just enough of its unholy self to create

distrust and fear that other powers of evil are there waiting to appear in

actual life? The precautions employed in educating youth and the care

bestowed on enforcing public sentiment proceed on the belief that the

genus of ruin in young and old only await nourishment in order to gain a

destructive ascendancy. Nor is the fact confined to what is evil. There are

latent tendencies to good — to truthfulness, gentleness, generosity,

chivalrous consideration, kindliness, and kindred virtues — which by

reason of circumstances do not always find expression. There is a tender

place in the hardest heart, though not often touched. Have we not seen a

word,  an allusion, draw out feelings not supposed to have existence? And

in many a Christian there is much more germinal goodness than is

developed in outer life. Christ shocked the complacent Pharisees by

assuring them of the latent wickedness of their hearts (Matthew 23:25-28;

Mark 7:21-23), and the Apostle Paul urged Timothy to “stir up the

gift” bestowed on him (II Timothy 1:6).




DEPARTMENTS OF LIFE. Our course through life is not regulated

simply by what is known. A recognition of the unknown or at least

undeveloped forces of our own nature ought to exercise considerable

influence in the conduct we daily pursue.


Ø      In our association with men. David clearly recognized the fact of certain

undeveloped tendencies in the men of Keilah, and he discreetly dealt with

that unknown factor by endeavoring to find out whether it would come

into ascendancy. It should be a maxim with us that there is far more in the

men we have to do with than appears in overt act and uttered sentiment,

and this, without degenerating into a painful suspicion and cruel distrust,

will enable us often to escape being placed within their power; and also, if

our intention is to draw out their better qualities, will stimulate to that end.


Ø      In our professed allegiance to Christ. It should be our rule to watch and

govern ourselves in His name on the supposition that there lie within us on

the one hand secret tendencies which, under favorable conditions of

temptation, may, at least, embitter our life by a fearful struggle for the

mastery, and possibly, in consequence of lack of resolution and

forethought, for the time mar our character; and on the other hand

tendencies germinal repressed, and scarcely conscious, which, if we bring

to bear on our heart the warm light of His truth, will expand and assume in

our outward life permanent forms of usefulness and beauty.


Ø      In our work for Christ. Both the kind and character of Christian work

are influenced by our recognition of the less manifest tendencies of human

nature. It is noticeable how constantly Christ spake to the hidden thoughts

and feelings of men rather than to the questions they raised and the attitude

they professed to assume. A preacher may often effect most by directing

his effort toward some unuttered and even deliberately suppressed

sentiment of his hearers. In so far as our persistence in Christian work is

concerned we have to consider not merely the value of the impulses and

principles that make us earnest during the day of prosperity, but what

weaknesses are inherent in us that may develop themselves in unwelcome

proportions when trials and adversities threaten. The men of Keilab could

sympathize with and swear by the “anointed” when no thought of Nob was

present. We may count on this undeveloped factor as one of our best allies

in Christian work. Beneath all the vices and superstitions of heathenism and

all the shams and skepticism of modern civilization there lies the hidden,

slumbering sense of God and immortality.





REDEMPTION SO WISE. This is included in the broad truth that there is

nothing hidden from His sight. According to Psalm 139, every incipient

force — chemical and mechanical, moral and spiritualin every point of

space, through all the ages, HAS BEEN AND STILL IS,  as clear to the eye

of the Eternal, and as traceable in all its endless and intricate developments,

as is the mighty sun that sheds its light on our earth. It is this knowledge of

the undeveloped which lies at the foundation of prophecy, and renders it

possible that, notwithstanding the developments resulting from adverse

human wills, the great end for which Christ lived and died shall at last be

attained. The warnings and admonitions, “here a little and there a little”

(Isaiah 28:10), for the guidance of our conduct; the form and variety of the

promises; the ordinances of religion; the special features of the redemptive

work effected by Christ — all these are adapted to the possibilities, and not

merely to the present actualities, of human life. “He knoweth our frame.”

(Psalm 103:14)  Hence the reasonableness of submitting our reason to

His revelations.




KNOWLEDGE OF THINGS. No doubt David speculated on the probable

course of the men of Keilah should they ever be brought to decide between

grateful attachment to him and the frown of Saul, and his general

acquaintance with human nature may have inclined him to believe in their

treachery when under the influence of fear. But as it was a question of his

personal safety, and involved in that a question also of ultimately realizing

the great purposes of a Messianic kingdom, he wisely sought a solution of

all doubts by a recourse to the available means of putting himself in

possession of God’s knowledge with reference to this particular matter.

The knowledge which God has of the secret powers of the universe does in

effect become ours when in any instance He condescends to make us

acquainted with the result in which they will issue. A really wise man in

seasons of uncertainty, when important interests are at stake, whether

temporal or spiritual, will not rest with speculations on what may be; but

will, like David, inquire of the Lord, so as to regulate his present action

according to God’s knowledge of what is inevitable. The means of

ascertaining God’s knowledge may vary with the case in hand; it may be by

laying the candid mind open to direct Divine illumination, or by devoting

special attention to the monitions of Providence, or by consulting the

“lively oracles” (Acts 7:38) which are to us the voice of God on great moral

and religious matters. In one respect we are all in a position analogous to that

of David; for there are intricate and hidden powers at work within and

without which, when fully developed by the new circumstances that may

arise, may have the effect of delivering us bound to a condemnation far

more terrible than any Saul could pass on a captive David. Now it is a

serious question to each whether this one enemy will ever gain power over

us, and by what means its dominion can be escaped. In a case of such

importance we cannot afford to trust to speculation and humanly grounded

hope. We are permitted to inquire of God, who in His word and in the

redemption provided in Christ has put us in possession of His knowledge of

the undeveloped tendencies of sin in human nature, by assuring us that

under certain conditions — our following our own independent course —

we shall come into condemnation on the day of judgment, and that under

other conditions — our self-surrender to Christ for pardon and renewal —

we shall be not only free from that woe, but shall rise to sit on thrones of

honour and power (II Timothy 2:10-12).




1. Inasmuch as the great issues of life are determined by the mastery of one

set of principles over another, it is very important to seek the expulsion or

entire suppression of latent evil tendencies by the careful nurture of

tendencies of opposite character, for the strength of principles is in

proportion to their exercise.


2. In so far as tendencies to evil lie within us, we should avoid unnecessary

exposure to influences that may draw them into activity; and, reversely, we

should seek those conditions of life that will aid the development of the good.


3. Caution should be exercised lest we be misled in our estimate of what

we can do in resisting evil inclinations by basing our calculation on

circumstances hitherto helpful; for the men of Keilah, in the flush of

David’s achievement, and not yet threatened by Saul, were like Peter, who

could fearlessly avow fidelity to Christ while he was present to inspire and



4. The fact that in the emergencies of their life God gave specific replies to

the inquiry of his chosen servants, because they were instruments of

working out the great Messianic purpose, is encouragement to believe that

He will give heed to every one whose life is devoted to the same issue, and

who is equally sincere in prayer.



Answers to Prayer (vs. 1-12)


Inquiry of the Lord by Urim and Thummim really meant prayer in which

Divine direction was sought in a particular manner (see ch. 14:19, 36). It was

made by David soon after the arrival of Abiathar, on three several occasions

(vs. 2, 4, 10), — on the last of them by two separate questions, — and in each

case a definite answer was received.  “God shows great care for David, instructing

him now by prophets (ch. 22:5), and now by Urim and Thummim” (Grotius). “That

which in the olden Jewish times was the prerogative of a few becomes in Christian

days the privilege of the many. Christ makes all His faithful followers ‘kings

and priests unto God.’ (Revelation 1:6)  And much of the sacred symbolism that

gathered around the ancient priesthood now gathers in another form around the

believer in Christ. Mere symbols have given place to true spiritual power.

The Spirit of God which once underlay the symbols, and spake through

them to the devout mind, now communicates directly with the heart, and

needs no material intervention” (‘Bible Educ.,’ 4:38). Those who seek

guidance of God in a right spirit never fail to obtain it, especially in:



“Shall I go?” (v. 9.) they receive the definite answer, “Go;” not, indeed, by

an audible voice, but by means of:


Ø      The elevating, calming, and enlightening of their minds through

communion with God, and more particularly by the purifying of their

moral nature from carnal and selfish affections by His indwelling Spirit,

which enables them to see “what the will of the Lord is.” “Our notions

resemble the index and hand of the dial; our feelings are the hidden springs

which impel the machine; with this difference, that notions and feelings

react on each other reciprocally” (Coleridge). “The understanding

resembles not a dry light, but admits a tincture of the will and the passions,

which generate their own system of truth accordingly” (Bacon). And when

the heart (which is the soul’s eye) is pure we see God (Proverbs 28:5;

Matthew 5:8; 6:22; John 7:17).


Ø      A clear understanding of the meaning of the written word, and of its

application to the circumstances in which they are placed. As by that word

thoughts, impressions, and purposes are tried, in order that it may be

proved whether they are of God, so by the same word they are formed and

directed (Isaiah 8:20; John 16:13).


Ø      A correct judgment of what is right and most expedient, accompanied

by an inward assurance of the Divine approbation. “If any of you lack

wisdom, let him ask of God,” etc. (James 1:5-6; Psalm 25:9).



DUTY.  “David inquired of the Lord yet again” (v. 4). The obstacles placed in

the way of duty, especially by friends, ought to lead to renewed consideration

and prayer, and these are often followed by:


Ø      Strong confirmation of the conviction previously entertained. “Arise, go

down to Keilah.”


Ø      Increased confidence of success. “I will give the Philistines into thine



Ø      Entire removal of the difficulty. “David and his men went.” It appears to

have been chiefly for their satisfaction that the second inquiry was made.

Whilst we should endeavor to persuade men to adopt a right course, we

ought above all things to look to God to dispose them to walk therein.



OF DUTY (vs. 7-12). “In the deed of deliverance itself lies the seed of new

suffering.” Saul misinterprets events (v. 7), like other men blinded by sin and

“using the name of God when God is farthest off from them,” confidently

calculates on seizing David, levies war, and openly devotes himself to the

execution of his wicked purpose. But David is warned; he has also, probably,

reason to suspect the fidelity of the citizens of Keilah, and again inquires of

the Lord. He does so with much fervor, calling him the “Lord God of Israel,”

and humbly acknowledging himself to be His servant; and the answers he

obtains afford him:


Ø      Foresight of the perilous events of the future. “He will come down.”

Ø      Insight into the hidden purposes of men. “They will deliver thee up.”

We may often ascertain more of the secret thoughts of men by

communion with God than by consultation with men themselves.


Ø      Guidance for the frustration of ungrateful and evil intentions, and

escape from every danger. “David and his men, etc.” (v. 13). How

perfect is the knowledge which God possesses of all things! ("O the

depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! 

How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding

out." - Romans 11:33)  How sure is the guidance which He affords

to those who seek Him! How safe are they who make him their Rock

and their Fortress! In the midst of all his troubles David can sing

of “His marvellous loving kindness in a fenced city;” as he does in

Psalm 31: “In thee, O Jehovah, have I found refuge.”


“See Judah’s promised king bereft of all;

Driven out an exile from the face of Saul.

To distant caves the lonely wanderer flies,

To seek that peace a tyrant’s frown denies.

His soul exults; hope animates his lays;

The sense of mercy kindles into praise;

And wilds familiar with the lion’s roar

Ring with ecstatic sounds unheard before”



13 Then 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.”  Saul secretly practised mischief. This phrase is correctly

translated “devised evil” in Proverbs 3:29; 14:22. There is no idea of

secrecy in the Hebrew verb, which literally means “to work in metals,” “to

forge.” Saul’s purpose was open enough, and when David heard of it he

tells Abiathar to bring the ephod, and then offers earnest prayer to God for

counsel and advice. In his prayer his two questions are put inversely to the

logical order, but in accordance with their relative importance in David’s

mind, and no ground exists for altering the text. But when the ephod was

brought forward the questions were of course put in their logical sequence.

To the first question, “Will Saul come down to besiege Keilah?” the

answer was, “He will.” To the second, “Will the citizens of Keilah deliver

me and my men into the hand of Saul?” the answer also was, “They will.

Whereupon he and his followers, now increased to 600 men, withdrew,

and went whithersoever they could go. Literally. “they went about

whither they went about,” i.e. without any fixed plan, as chance or their

necessities dictated. As David was once again at large, Saul had no longer

any reason for besieging Keilah, especially as its citizens had preferred his

side, as that of the more powerful, to gratitude for the safety of their lives

and property.




(vs. 14-28).


14 “And 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.  15 And David saw that Saul was come

out to seek his life: and David was in the wilderness of Ziph in a wood.”

Strong holds. Natural fortresses in the woods and mountains are meant, and places

difficult of access. The wilderness of Ziph. (See below;)


Image result for the wilderness of ziph

                                                  (from Bing.com)


This lay to the south of Hebron, upon the edge of the great desert of

Judah (Joshua 15:55). Saul sought him every day. The pursuit was

maintained constantly, with men always spying David’s movements, and

ready to report to Saul any opportunity of seizing him; but apparently there

was no body of men at present perpetually in quest of him. In a wood.

Many rightly regard this as a proper name, Horesh, and as the same place

as the mountain mentioned in v. 14; for, as Conder remarks (‘Tent

Work,’ 2:89), “a moment’s reflection will convince any traveler that, as

the dry, porous formation of the plateau must be unchanged since David’s

time, no wood of trees can then have flourished over this unwatered and

sun-scorched region .”



David’s Wanderings in the Wilderness (vs. 13-14)


“And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand”

(v. 14). From the time of his leaving Gath till his return (ch. 27:2) David dwelt in

the following places successively:


1. The cave of Adullam.

2. Mizpeh of Moab.

3. The forest of Hareth.

4. Keilah.

5. The wilderness of Ziph (Hachilah, Horesh).

6. The wilderness of Maon.

7. En-gedi.

8. “The hold” (ch. 24:22).

9. The wilderness of Paran (ch. 25:2).

10. The wilderness of Ziph again.


The period over which his wanderings in these places extended is not

stated, but it was probably upwards of five years; “and the time that David

dwelt in the country of the Philistines was a year and four months” (ch. 27:7).

Like the journeyings of the people of Israel (the events of which “were written

for our admonition” - I Corinthians 10:11), they resemble, in some respects,

the course of all God’s servants through the present world to “the

everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 1:11)

“Thou tallest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not

in thy book?” (Psalm 56:8). Regarded generally they were a scene of:


Ø      Bitter hostility. “Saul sought him every day.” And so long as the

servants of the great King are “in the world” they are objects of the hatred

and opposition of “the prince of this world” and “the children of

disobedience’’ (Ephesians 2:2; Galatians 1:4), because “they are not

of the world.” The hostility which is directed against them is unreasonable

and unrighteous, but real and deep; sometimes fierce and violent, and never



Ø      Outward distress. David was hunted like “a partridge on the mountains”

(ch. 26:20), “wandered in deserts and mountains and caves of the

earth,” sometimes (like the Son of man) “had not where to lay His head,”

suffered hunger and thirst and continual hardship, was separated from

“lover and friend,” and lived in the midst of extreme peril. Others are more

highly favored, but none can escape the ordinary sorrows of life; some are

“greatly afflicted,” and not a few suffer reproach and persecution for

Christ’s sake. “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom

of God” (Acts 14:22).


Ø      Inward conflict, temptation, care, depression, grief, and fear, such as are

described in the psalms which refer to David’s wanderings, and are full of

imagery derived therefrom. “His sanctified genius did not give forth its

perfect fragrance till it was bruised in God’s chastening hand. It was the

storm of affliction that awoke the full harmonies of David’s harp” (Binnie).

And these are echoed in the experience of the servants of God in every age.


Ø      Divine protection and instruction, by means of providential occurrences,

the prophetic word, and the inward teaching of the Holy Spirit. “God

delivered him not into his hand.” “Out of these great experiences in

David’s sorrowful life of the grace and power, wisdom and justice, mercy

and goodness of God, was developed in him, and through him in his

people, that intelligence of faith and theological knowledge which we see

in the Psalms and the prophetical writings” (Erdmann). And still higher

privileges than of old are near conferred on the people of God.


Ø      Sacred devotion. His harp was his constant companion in his

wanderings, and mingling with its tones in every place, his voice rose

up to God in prayer and praise, making every place a temple.


“Serene he sits and sweeps the golden lyre,

And blends the prophet’s with the poet’s fire.

See with what art he strikes the vocal strings,

The God, his theme, inspiring what he sings”



“Whether it be the Divine excellences, or the deep-toned voice of

penitence, or the longing of the soul after God, the rejoicing in the light of

His countenance, or thanksgiving for His mercies, in short, every emotion of

the renewed heart finds adequate expression in the Book of Psalms” (J.

Duncan). It is “the poetry of friendship between God and man” (Herder).


Ø      Active service. For during his wanderings he was called to render special

service (v. 2), and in the latter part of them continually afforded

protection to his people (ch. 25:16). “None of us liveth to himself.”

(Romans 14:7)  We are the Lord’s servants, and must serve Him in

faithful and diligent labor on behalf of others.


Ø      Necessary preparation for future service, honor, and joy.


“Oh spread thy covering wings around,

    Till all our wanderings cease,

And at our Father’s loved abode

    Our souls arrive in peace.”



The Benefit of True Friendship (vs. 15-18)


“And Jonathan… strengthened his hand in God" (v. 16). The friendship of

Jonathan for David here stands in contrast not only to the hatred of Saul,

but also to the ingratitude of the citizens of Keilah, and the treachery of the

Ziphites (v. 19). The benefit of it, which had been long enjoyed by David,

was even more fully than ever experienced by him now, when he left Keilah

with his 600 men, wandered hither and thither, and “abode in a mountain

(Hachilah) in the wilderness of Ziph.” He was exposed to the persecution

of Saul, who sought to destroy him by every means in his power (v. 14),

driven from one stronghold to another, able to procure only a precarious

subsistence, anxious, fearful, and sometimes ready to sink in doubt and

despondency. “Just at this moment Jonathan, as though led by God made

his way to him in the thickets of the forest (literally, Horesh), and consoled

him as if with words and promises from God Himself” (Ewald). He did not

accompany the force in pursuit of David (v. 15), but came from Gibeah.

His peculiar and trying position made it impossible for him to do more for

his friend than hold this secret interview with him, without altogether

breaking with his royal father, and openly incurring the charge of

disobedience and rebellion. Never was friendship more faithfully shown;

never did it render more valuable service. Well might the blind man, when

asked what he thought the sun was like, reply, “Like friendship.” Its

benefit, as received by David, was:


  • OPPORTUNE. “A friend loveth at all times” (Proverbs 17:17);

but his kindly offices are peculiarly grateful and beneficial in a time

of need; as, e.g., in:


Ø      Physical distress, affliction, homelessness, privation, peril of liberty

or life.


Ø      Mental anxiety, loneliness, discouragement, depression, when the


“Light is low,

When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick

And tingle; and the heart is sick,

                                                  And all the wheels of Being slow.”


Ø      Spiritual trial, temptation, failing faith, hope and patience; in view of:


o       the prosperity of the wicked,

o       the patience of Heaven, or

o       the delay of promised good.


At such a time how unspeakably precious is a true friend! His

countenance is like sunshine breaking through thick clouds.

“Friendship is the only point in human affairs concerning the

benefit of which all with one voice agree. There is nothing so

suited to our nature, so well adapted to prosperity or adversity.

I am not aware whether, with the exception of wisdom, anything

better has been bestowed on man by the immortal gods.

And they seem to take away the sun from the world who withdraw

friendship from life” (Cicero). “Refuge failed me, no man cared

for my soul.” (Psalm 142:4; Matthew 26:40, 56).


  • ADAPTED TO THE MOST PRESSING NEED.  “And strengthened his

hand in God", i.e. strengthened his heart not by supplies, or by money, or any

subsidy of that kind, but by consolation drawn from his innocence and the

promises of God” (Keil). “Exhorted him to put confidence in God”

(Dathe). He strengthened him:


Ø      His genial presence, especially since his visit was expressive of his

fidelity, confidence, and sympathy, and made with much effort, self-denial,

and risk. “They that fear thee will be glad when they see me” (Psalm

119:74; Proverbs 27:17). “Whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and

took courage.” (Acts 28:15; II Corinthians 7:7). “When I ask myself

whence it is that I feel this joy, this ease, this serenity when I see him —

it is because it is he, it is because it is I, I answer; and that is all that

I can say” (Montaigne).


Ø      His encouraging words. “Fear not” (“ the keynote of Jonathan’s

address”), etc., in which he assured him of:


o        Preservation from threatening danger, doubtless pointing him to the

Divine protection.

o        Exaltation to the highest dignity: “Thou wilt be king over Israel;”

pointing him to the Divine purpose, which had been plainly declared,

and could not fail to be fulfilled. He had already intimated (ch. 20:15), and now explicitly asserted, his faith in that purpose. What ground

was there for David s fear?

o        His anticipation of continued and intimate association with him when

he should sit on the throne, all claim to which he willingly renounced

for his sake, and in obedience to the will of God.

o        The conviction of Saul himself that he would prevail. If Saul believed it,

why should David doubt? What more he said is not recorded. But this was admirably adapted to strengthen his heart and hand. “It is difficult

to form an adequate conception of the courage, the spiritual faith, and

the moral grandeur of this act. Never did man more completely clear himself from all complicity in guilt than Jonathan from that of his

father. And yet not an undutiful word escaped the lips of this brave

man” (Edersheim).


Ø      His renewed covenant with him (ch. 18:3; 20:16-17, 42), in which,

whilst he pledged his own faithful love and service, he drew forth

the expression of his faith in his future destiny as well as of his fidelity to

himself and his house: and both appealed to God as witness. The

interaction of friends is peculiarly beneficial when it is sanctified by their

common recognition of THE PRESENCE OF GOD and their common

devotion to HIS WILL!   “Next to the immediate guidance of God by

His Spirit, the counsel and encouragement of virtuous and enlightened

friends afford the most powerful aid in the encounter of temptation

and in the career of duty.” It was the last time David and Jonathan met.


“O heart of fire! misjudged by willful man,

     Thou flower of Jesse’s race!

What woe was thine, when thou and Jonathan

    Last greeted face to face!

He doomed to die, thou on us to impress

The portent of a bloodstained holiness”

(‘Lyra Apostolica’).


  • ENDURING. The influence of their meeting continued long

afterwards, and produced abundant fruit (ch. 24:7; 26:9). “The

pleasures resulting from the mutual attachment of kindred spirits are by no

means confined to the moments of personal commitment; they diffuse their

odors, though more faintly, through the seasons of absence, refreshing

and exhilarating the mind by the remembrance of the past and the

anticipation of the future. It is a treasure possessed when it is not

employed; a reserve of strength, ready to be called into action when most

needed; a fountain of sweets, to which we may continually repair, whose

waters are inexhaustible’’ (R. Hall). “If the converse of one friend, at one

interview, gives comfort and strengthens our hearts, what may not be

expected from the continual supports, daily visits, and powerful love of

the Saviour of sinners, the covenanted Friend of believers!” (Scott).


16 “And Jonathan Saul’s son arose, and went to David into the wood, and

strengthened his hand in God.  17 And 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.

18 And they two made a covenant before the LORD: and David abode

in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house.”  Jonathan… went to David into

the wood. To Horesh, as in v. 15. This visit suggests two things: the first, that,

after the scene in ch. 22:8, Saul was estranged from his son, and treated him

harshly, regarding him as a fellow conspirator with David; the second, that

there was a growing conviction, not only in Jonathan’s mind, but generally,

that Jehovah had transferred the kingdom from Saul to David, and that

consequently David’s final success was inevitable. He strengthened his

(David’s) hand in God. Such a visit, and the expression of Jonathan’s

strong conviction that Jehovah was with David, must necessarily have had

a powerful moral effect upon his mind. Under such trying circumstances

David must often have been tempted to despair; but the assurance of

Jonathan’s unbroken love for him, and the knowledge that he and many

more regarded him as chosen by God to be Israel’s king, would revive his

courage and make him content to bear the hardships of his present lot. I

shall be next unto thee. Had he not been killed in Mount Gilboa, it seems

that, unlike Ishbosheth, Jonathan would have resigned all claim to the

crown. But the feeling must often have distressed David, that the kingdom

could become his only by dispossessing his true and unselfish friend.

Nor would such a regret be altogether removed by Jonathan’s ready

acquiescence in it as God’s will, though, as next to him, and beloved as he

deserved, his position as the king’s friend would have been a not

unenviable one. Still, to be second where by right of inheritance he should

have been first would have been a very trying lot, and it was better for

Jonathan that he should die a soldier’s death, even granting that he would

have felt a lively joy in David’s success and the glory of his empire. But

their love was to be exposed to no vicissitudes, and the two friends parted

never to meet again — David remaining at Horesh, while Jonathan

returned to his home at Gibeah.



Deepening Sorrows and New Encouragement (vs. 13-18)


The facts are:


1. David, deeming it unsafe to remain in Keilah, goes forth with his men in

uncertainty as to their destination.

2. Saul, forbearing to march against Keilah, seeks in vain to capture David

in the wilderness of Ziph.

3. While David, fully aware of Saul’s evil intent, remains in the wilderness,

he is comforted by a visit from Jonathan, who expresses his confidence in

David’s future supremacy and renews with him a covenant of friendship.


It is one of the most beautiful features in David’s life that he never hesitated

to follow the indications of the will of God, however humiliating to

himself, and apparently adverse to the attainment of the objects dearest to

his heart. This obedience is the natural outcome of the full trust in the Lord

so amply expressed in the Psalms. To exchange the comforts of an

anticipated sojourn in Keilah for a rough and unsettled life in the

mountainous district of Ziph was a new trial to the faith already highly

strained. But the obedience was speedily followed by the occurrence of an

event full of interest and encouragement, and the narrative of this section

thus furnishes us with one of the most suggestive instances on record of

the providential alleviation of sorrows incident to the path of duty. The

connected truths here conveyed may be set forth as follows:



OF GOD’S FAVOR AND TENDER CARE. No one could doubt but

that the response given to David’s inquiry at Keilah was clear evidence to

himself and others that he was the chosen servant of God, and the

character of the reply to his prayer was proof that the tender care of

Jehovah was keeping him from the rage and cruelty of Saul. We can thus

understand the strong expressions of confidence in God and gratitude for

His mercy to be found in the psalms of this period; and yet the anguish of

spirit and heaviness of heart which also are manifest in portions of those

psalms are to be accounted for only by the fact that the loving kindness

thus shown was accompanied by the permission of continued and almost

unendurable sorrows. No sooner had David been delivered from the hand

of Saul at Keilah than he found himself, if possible, worse off than before

entering Keilah, an outcast and fugitive, hiding daily for his life amidst the

wilds of the rugged wilderness of Ziph. It is a riddle which the unspiritual

mind can never solve, but which becomes increasingly simple and beautiful

to those who enter into the spirit of our Saviour’s mission on earth — that

the sorrows of life often deepen when God is putting honor on his

servants by preparing them for a more pure and blissful fellowship with

Himself, and for a higher grade of spiritual service. Our Saviour was the

“beloved Son,” the object of the Father’s complacent love, and His work

for the benefit of mankind was one of suffering, shame, and death. In His

case we see how the higher the service, the wider its range, and the more

pure and blissful its issue, the deeper were its sorrows. To Him there was

no contrariety between the bitterness of the cup provided and the love

unspeakable and unmeasured. Not every one is fitted to enter fully into the

higher form of service. Many sons of Zebedee long for the honor apart

from the cost. The loftier views of the Apostle Paul enabled him to regard

the manifold sorrows of his life as an honorable and to be coveted

participation of the sufferings of Christ. The power of spiritual service lies

not in knowledge, not in culture of mere intellect, but in more perfect

purity of spirit and a high development of the spiritual powers of faith,

love, and free, cheerful absorption of will in the will of God; and such is

human nature at its best, that only tribulation, it may be increasing

tribulation, can so check our unspiritual tendencies as to enable us to serve

God on the highest plane. A rough and rugged wilderness may fall to our

lot not only while God loves and cares for us, but possibly as a further

means of developing in us those high spiritual qualities which in days to

come will fit us to minister psalms of comfort and cheer to the saints of

God, and occupy positions of influence in the invisible Church

corresponding in the spiritual sphere to that held by David in Israel when

he swayed a royal scepter over the land.



INCREASING SORROWS.  What though David exchange the prospective

comfort of a stay in Keilah for a fugitive life in the wilderness, what though

his heart for the moment find it “too hard” to solve the strange problem of

his checkered course; just then that same Providence which directed his

steps from Keilah was mercifully operating in the heart of the noblest man

at the court of Saul to bring him sweetest consolation. There are many

lines of influence at work under the unifying hand of God for the defense

and guidance of His people; and though in His first feeling of

disappointment on leaving Keilah David could only see one line, the

subsequent appearance of Jonathan where he least expected him made it

clear that others were an existence and found their center in God. God

never really impoverishes those who trust and serve Him. Our course when

faithful is one of progressive enrichment, and will be till we enter on the

perfected inheritance above. It is contrary to the laws of a spiritual life for a

true servant of God to be worse off today than yesterday. The ordinary

springs of comfort open to David — meditation on God’s past faithfulness,

the conviction that He was working out a high and Divine purpose, and the

pouring out of his heart in prayer — were now supplemented by the

presence and love of his dearest earthly friend. And so God never takes

away what seems to be a good, and never lays any new burden on us but

that He gives us a corresponding blessing. Abraham sorrowed for kindred

in a distant home, but had God for His portion and "exceeding great reward."

(Genesis 15:1)  Our health fails, our material possessions vanish, or our loved

ones die, and we turn our hearts more truly and passionately toward Him who

NEVER FAILS, who is an everlasting portion, and who “gathers into one”

the living and dead. Oh, blessed discipline! How tenderly the great Father

cares for His sorrowing ones! With what precision does He follow them

“whithersoever” in the order of duty they go, to raise up streams in the

desert and cause them to feel, as the Apostle Paul in his sorrows felt, that

God is able to supply all their need (Philippians 4:19) and never does forsake

His saints!





EFFECTIVENESS ON THE LOWER. In Israel at that time God’s

merciful purposes toward mankind were being wrought out through the

agency of servants occupying in the execution of the Divine will positions

of relative subordination. Samuel, David, Jonathan were each working out

the same results. But the part which Jonathan played in the sum of events

comprised in the period covered by the history was inferior to that of

David. As a spiritual man he had his work to do, and it was as important in

its place as was that of Samuel and of David; yet we can see how wisely he

formed an estimate of his position and service for the one great end, when

he regarded David as superior in calling and in the honors and

responsibilities he would have to bear. Jonathan by visiting David and

ministering to his comfort recognized this unity and diversity of service,

And it is instructive to notice how in the spiritual service which unites us

those who are supposed to hold inferior positions, and certainly do not

carry so heavy responsibilities, are able to render most important aid to

others above them in these respects. David was relatively the greater man,

and yet David needed the spiritual encouragement and support which

Jonathan was able to afford; and Jonathan, by strengthening “his hand in

God,” was for the time so far the benefactor and the superior. The unity

and subordination of spiritual service is a truth applicable to the world as

a whole, and to the part taken by any of us at particular stages of its

history. There is to be at last “a glorious Church, not having spot, or

wrinkle, or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:27), and things are to be

gathered together in one in Christ (ibid. ch.1:10 - notice that it is heaven

[angels] and earth [us] that is to be united! - CY - 2016). This unity of result

is to be the product of all the manifold influences and agencies which God

is pleased to employ through the whole course of time, — from the first to

the last man, — as truly as the complete temple is the product not of the

more prominent toilers, but of the totality of workers, from the highest to

the lowest, first to last. As every separate ray of light and drop of dew is

necessary, and therefore of value, in the totality of vegetation we witness

— as the vegetation would be less perfect were any one of these to be

absent from the process, so there is need, in converting the Divine idea of

salvation into the grand reality indicated in the New Testament, for every

small as well as great spiritual influence, and the most perfect fruition of

the great thus becomes dependent on the action of other influence inferior

to itself. Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, and Paul were respectively great

in faithfulness, wisdom, devotion, fervor, and zeal, yet the educating

influence of their lives is in the same line, and is ultimately strengthened by

association with the holy patience of a despised Lazarus (Luke 16:20) and the

large liberality of a poor widow (Mark 12:22-24). Men do not see the interlacing

of spiritual agencies. The influence exerted by Jonathan’s counsel and friendship

on the man chosen to do so wonderful a work for all time raises the thought

whether in the main the great results achieved by some whose names are

prominent may not be closely allied to the influences exerted by others

unknown to fame. There are doubtless great revelations yet to be made in

reference to the interdependence of the forces of the spiritual world. (Perhaps

it will take AN ETERNITY to do so.  CY - 2016)  We do not as yet see the full

bearings of the prayers of the lowly on the raising up of distinguished workers

and their enrichment with spiritual power. The devoted missionary, the

successful pastor, the great teacher and leader of men, may therefore owe

much of their peculiar spiritual usefulness to the untraceable influence of

prayers offered by the obscure. This principle helps to explain the great

stress laid in the Bible on the prayers of ordinary Christians, and thus

enables us to see how after all a poor afflicted child of God may be an

unconscious strengthener of persons unknown by name.




actions and words of Jonathan sprang from his distinct recognition of the

fact that David, though greater than himself, was inspired by the same aim,

and longed for the realization of Israel’s glory. He could not bless Israel by

a virtuous reign; it was denied him to be in Zion a king typical of the

Messiah; but he could strengthen the heart of him who was destined to

that honor; and with unparalleled magnanimity and self-denial, with utter

absorption in Israel’s good, and cheerful submission to the MANIFEST

WILL OF GOD, he contributed his part toward the final issue. It is a question

whether amidst our modern religious parties we sufficiently realize the unity

and subordination of our work for Christ. The narrowness of our isms is not

healthful in itself, and it tends to rob the great body of workers of much of

the sympathy and large-hearted prayer that would unconsciously; to

themselves make them strong in God. What elevation of thought and

grandeur of life should we more uniformly attain to could we, like

Jonathan, put into practice the feeling that our prayers and sympathies, in

going forth for all who labor for Christ, and especially for those who are

called to bear the strain of high and perilous service, are our contribution

to the one great enterprise which from first to last has filled the heart of

Christ and is absorbing the best energies of His Church!




DO A WORK TO WHICH WE ARE NOT CALLED. Jonathan was not called

to be a king, but he served God by inspiring the heart of David with courage

amidst his sorrows and cares. The narrative implies that the friends

conversed freely on the situation and prospects of David. Doubtless

Jonathan, besides assuring David of his own belief in God’s purposes and

his personal allegiance, would also press upon him the fact of Israel’s need,

the past care of God, the anointing by Samuel and its significance, the

historic trials of patriarchs, the high purposes of sorrow and patience, the

honor of being chosen to serve and to wait, and the grand issue when, in

some as yet unknown manner, the best Messianic hopes of the nation

would be realized. He knew that David’s need was quiet trust in God, and

with the tenderness and love of a true friend he diverted his thoughts away

from Saul and the sorrows of a fugitive life to the everlasting Refuge.

“Strengthened his hand in God.” Noble man! noble service! There are in

the lives of many of God’s servants seasons when their wisdom, strength,

courage, and patience are taxed almost beyond endurance. “Heart and flesh

fail.” What they need is faith in God. To move on in the dark, to toil when

success seems hopeless, to hold on though dangers thicken, to hope when

events are adverse — this was the case of David, and often that of

missionaries, pastors, parents, and others called to high and arduous

service. How such men long for the inspiring word, the significant sign of

sympathy, the reminder of the truth well known! The history of the Church

is full of such instances. “Who is sufficient for these things? Could ye not

watch with me one hour?” Angels came and cheered (Luke 22:43) the heart

which men left to bear the unutterable burden. Following the example of

Jonathan and of the angels, we each may do something to inspire with new

faith and hope those who feel the pressure of care and toil for Christ; we

may do it by our words of cheer, by our assured sympathy, by our fervent

prayer, and by hearty, free cooperation in the enterprise which absorbs their





1. We should seek the evidence of our being blessed with the favor of

God in the unquestionable spiritual blessings He has conferred on us in the

past, in the fact of Our being led by Him and not by our own choice, and in

the answer of a good conscience to His claim on our obedience and love,

and not in the presence or absence of easy circumstances. God’s chosen

ones have often known the pains of wilderness life.


2. We may be sure that before troubles become so manifold as to destroy

the end for which God has called us into His service some appropriate aid

will come, not to relieve us of all care, but to fortify us for duty; for He will

not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear. (I Corinthians



3. It should inspire every Christian worker amidst his toils that he is daily

borne on the heart of many who, though unseen and unknown by name, are

friends in Christ.


4. Honor is due to every one who by prayer or kindly word contributes to

the sum of Christian effort.  (Mark 9:41)


5. True religious sympathy will lead us to rejoice in the superior service to

which others are called, and will devise new means of aiding their progress.


6. There are seasons in the religions life when calm trust in God, in the

absence of favoring circumstances, is almost our sole duty; and when we

are strengthened in this respect we shall be able to possess our souls in

patience till the desire of our heart is attained (Luke 21:14-19).



Sweet Counsel in Time of Need (vs. 16-18)


  • THE DISCOURAGEMENT OF DAVID. The citizens of Keilah, after

he had with his good sword delivered them from the Philistine marauders,

were so ungrateful, perhaps so much afraid of sharing the fate of the city of

Nob at the hand of Saul, that they were ready to betray the son of Jesse

and surrender him to the king. From this danger he no sooner escaped than

the people of Ziph — though he did not compromise them by entering their

town, but encamped in a wood — were not only willing, but eager, to

reveal his hiding place. And the pursuit was hot. “Saul sought him every

day.” To add to the danger, David had with him 600 armed men — too

many to be easily concealed, but too few to encounter the force which Saul

led against him, and which was numbered by thousands. It was therefore a

critical time for David; and his poetic, sensitive nature felt the ingratitude

and injustice more keenly than he dreaded the actual peril, so that he began

to be quite chagrined and disheartened. The Apostle Paul had a similar

tendency to depression. He felt ingratitude and calumny most acute]y, and

was more cast down by these than by any of the physical sufferings and

mortal risks that befell him. But Paul was like David too in his quick

susceptibility to words of kindness, and in drawing strength from

fellowship with congenial minds.


  • THE FRIEND IN TIME OF NEED. Paul tells, “When we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side;

without were fightings, within were fears. Nevertheless God, who

comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of

Titus.” (II Corinthians 7:6)  In like manner did God comfort David amidst fightings and fears by the coming of Jonathan. This noble-minded prince

cheered the fugitive in the forest of Ziph:


Ø      By showing to him a generous human affection. This was love indeed,

which clave to David in exile as closely as ever it had done when he was in

the sunshine of public favor, and which was willing to run great risks for

the delight of clasping hand in hand and talking face to face. Here was

genuine friendship, which is perhaps more rare than love. Cynics point out

that the celebrated friendships, as of David and Jonathan in the Bible, and

Damon and Pythias the Pythagoreans in Greek story, belong to “the heroic

and simple period of the world;” and they allege that these cannot be

reproduced in the sophisticated society of modern times. There is

something in this, though it is not absolutely true. The tone of “In

Memoriam” may be too intense for most of us, but it is not

incomprehensible. That is a rare and lofty friendship which prefers another

in honor above ourselves. From the early days of David’s promotion

Jonathan augured his advancement to the throne, and took generous

delight in the prospect. He still retained and openly expressed the same

feeling. David would be king, and he, his friend and brother, would share

his joy and stand at his right hand. It was not to be so. But we see David,

when established on the throne, looking, if we may so speak, for Jonathan.

“And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I

may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (II Samuel 9:1).


Ø      By lifting his thoughts to God. It was not possible or proper for

Jonathan to levy troops and lead them to the help of his friend against the

king his father. But he did what he could, and did the best thing possible in

such a case, when he animated the faith, and hope of David in the promise

and providence of God. He referred to the Divine purpose as no secret, but

revealed, and known to Saul himself, though he struggled against it. The

counsel of the Lord must stand. How could David doubt it? But David did

sometimes doubt and fear, and he is not alone in the weakness. Sarah had

the promise of God that her son should be Abraham’s heir and successor,

and yet she was uneasy lest he should be dispossessed or hurt by the son of

Hagar. Jacob at Bethel got a promise that he and his posterity would

possess the land on which he lay, yet when he returned to it he was quite

alarmed lest Esau should destroy his family and himself. And so also many

persons who have eternal life in the gospel and in the sure provision of

grace by Christ Jesus grow faint and raise foreboding questions: What if

God forget me? What if I perish after all? The best thing that a friend can

do for such a doubter is to show him that God cannot lie and cannot be

defeated. For His name’s sake He will do as He has said. (Abraham

“.....being fully persuaded that, what God had promised, He was able

also to perform.”  - Romans 4:21)  So one may strengthen the weak hands

of another in God.




Ø      The value of an early friendship in the fear of God. It is in youth that

the strongest friendships are formed, and permit interchanges of criticism

and correction that are not so palatable when years have increased our

reserve, and perhaps our obstinacy. This is especially true of the moral and

religious aspect and use of friendship. Old men, even when they are on

terms of cordial personal regard, do not easily exchange spiritual

confidences. But young friends can do so; and never do they put the bond

between them to better use than when they warn each other of moral risks

and snares, and encourage one another to trust in God.


Ø      The great part which secondary personages in history may play. David

takes a primary or front place in sacred story; but he was much indebted to

the kindly help of others who take a less conspicuous rank — e.g.,

Jonathan encouraging him in the wood, and Abigail turning him back from

hasty blood-shedding. Again we pass on in thought to the Apostle Paul,

who fills a very high place in the Christian annals, but was much helped by

men and women in quite a secondary position. Himself tells us so, joyfully

acknowledging his obligation to such as Aquila and Priscilla, Mary,

Urbane, Timothy, Epaphroditus, John Mark, Luke, and Aristarchus. These

Christians did direct work for the Lord; but perhaps did their best piece of

service when they helped Paul, and encouraged his hand in God. So is it at

all times with the greatest men in both Church and State. They owe much

to others who are far less known than themselves, if known at all. A

sympathetic wife, a faithful friend, a humble helper, quite incapable of

taking the conspicuous position or doing the public work, supplies a

strengthening, restoring element in hours of discouragement or weariness,

and so does much to preserve a notable career from failure. In fact every

great man draws up into his thought and work the cogitations of many

minds, the desire of many hearts, the faith or fortitude of many spirits; and

the efforts and sympathies of many combine in the results which are

associated with his name.


Ø      The uncertainty that friends who part will meet again on earth. “They

two made a covenant before the Lord,” and parted, little knowing that each

was taking the last look of his friend. Their thoughts were of days to come,

when they should not need to meet by stealth. They would be always

together by and by — take counsel together fight side by side against the

enemies of Israel, do exploits for their nation, and reestablish the worship

of Jehovah and the honor of His sanctuary. The elevation of one would be

the elevation of both; and the spirit of jealousy which now darkened the

court and the kingdom would give place to generous confidence and love.

So they proposed; but God disposed otherwise. Jonathan never saw David

again. Death broke their “fair companionship,” and the elevation of David

was bedewed with tender sorrow for his friend, “the comrade of his choice,

the human-hearted man he loved.” There is one Friend, only one, from

whom we cannot be severed. OH, WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN

JESUS!  He is especially helpful to us in cloudy days and seasons of distress.

He comes to us when we are in the wood, perplexed, embarrassed, cast down.

Let us tell all our straits and misgivings to Him. This Friend will never die.

And not even our death can break the friendship or separate us from the love

 of Christ.  (Romans 8:35-39)


19 “Then 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?  20 Now 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.  The Ziphites. Rather,

“some Ziphites,” or “people of Ziph,” as there is no article. They tell Saul that

David was hiding in the fastnesses of the wild region in their neighborhood, and

especially in the hill of Hachilah, a ridge that ran along eastward of Maon.

Conder recognizes it in the long ridge called El Kolah, running out of the Ziph

plateau towards the Dead Sea desert. It lay on the south of Jeshimon, or

rather “on the right hand of the desert.” Jeshimon is not a proper name, but

means any desert (Psalm 107:4; Isaiah 43:19), though it is used

specially of the desert of Sinai in Deuteronomy 32:10, and of that of

Judah here and in Numbers 21:20; 23:28. Conder (‘Handbook,’ p. 213)

calls it “the dreary desert which extends between the Dead Sea and the

Hebron mountains. It is called Jeshimon, or ‘Solitude,’ in the Old

Testament, and ‘wilderness of Judea in the New (Matthew 3:1). It is a

plateau of white chalk, 2000 feet lower than the watershed, and terminated

on the east by cliffs which rise vertically from the Dead Sea shore to a

height of about 2000 feet. The scenery is barren and wild beyond all

description. The chalky ridges are scored by innumerable torrents, and their

narrow crests are separated by broad flat valleys. Peaks and knolls of

fantastic forms rise suddenly from the swelling downs, and magnificent

precipices of ruddy limestone stand up like fortress-walls above the sea.

Not a tree nor a spring is visible in the waste, and only the desert partridge

and the ibex are found ranging the solitude. It was in this pathless desert

that David found refuge from Saul’s persecution, and the same has been a

place of retreat from the days of Christ to the present time.” The Ziphites

assure Saul that from their knowledge of this region they shall be able, if he

come in force, so to guide him as that David must fall into his hands.


21 “And Saul said, Blessed be ye of the LORD; for ye have compassion on me.

22 Go, 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.

23 See 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.”

Ye have compassion on me. There is something pitiable in Saul’s answer.

He had brooded over his rejection from being king, and the many

indications that David was to be his successor, till he had become the prey

of abject melancholy. He evidently regarded himself as a wronged

and injured man, while David to his diseased imagination was ever

conspiring against him and plotting his murder. With much tediousness he

encourages them still to keep a close watch upon all David’s movements,

so as to know his place where his haunt is. Literally, “his place where his

foot will be,” the place whither he goes for rest and refuge. The reason he

gives for this long and close observation of David’s doings is that it is told

him that he dealeth very subtilly. That is, according to Saul’s

information, he behaved with the utmost prudence, ever keeping a careful

look out against surprise, and using much skill to conceal his movements

and to provide for his escape from danger. Finally, they are to return with

the certainty — with trustworthy and accurate information, and then Saul

will gather his forces and search David out throughout all the thousands

of Judah. These are the larger divisions of the territory of the tribe

(Numbers 1:16; 10:4), throughout which Saul will hunt for him till he

has got him into his power.



Treachery (vs. 19-23)


One of the most painful of the afflictions of David (suspicion, hatred,

calumny, ingratitude, etc.) was treachery, such as he experienced at the

hands of some of the people of Ziph. They were men of his own tribe, had

witnessed his deliverance of Keilah from the common enemy, were

acquainted with his character and relations with Saul, and might have been

expected to sympathize with him when he sought refuge in their territory.

But “those who should have rallied around him were his enemies and

betrayers.” They had “a panoramic view of the country from Tell-Zif, and

could see from thence David’s men moving about in the desert;” went and

informed the king that he was hiding himself “in strongholds in the wood

(Horesh), in the hill of Hachilah (south of Tell-Zif, which is four miles

southeast of Hebron), on the right hand of the desert;” urged him to come

down and accomplish his desire, and promised to deliver David into his

hand. This new affliction came upon him almost immediately after he had

been encouraged by the visit of Jonathan, and in it we see:


  • AN EXHIBITION OF HUMAN DEPRAVITY. There can be no doubt,

after what had taken place, about the motives by which they were actuated.

Underneath their apparent “compassion” for Saul (v. 21) lay hatred of

David, aversion to his principles, and the “evil heart of unbelief, departing

from the living God” which exists in all ages, and manifests  itself in an

endless variety of ways (Psalm 14; Romans 3:10; Hebrews 3:12).

It appears in:


Ø      Unfeeling faithlessness; indifference to the claims of close relationship,

superior worth, and valuable service; deficiency of compassion for the

needy and unjustly persecuted; voluntary misuse of advantages, and abuse

of trust.


Ø      Subtle selfishness, making some temporal good its chief aim; for its sake

doing injury to others, eagerly seeking the favor of the wealthy and

powerful, and disguising itself under professions of loyalty and public

service; running “greedily after the error of Balaam for reward” (Jude 11;

Matthew 26:14-15).


Ø      Ungodly zeal. Any one at that time in Israel who feared God more than

man could not lend himself to be made a tool of Saul’s blind fury. God had

already manifestly enough acknowledged David” (Delitzsch). Saul knew

that it was the purpose of God that David should be king (v. 17),

notwithstanding his pious language (v. 21), and the men of Ziph

participated with him in his endeavor to defeat that purpose. Their

character is described in Psalm 54, ‘The Divine Helper against ungodly

adversaries’ (see inscription):


“O God, by thy name save me,

And in thy might judge my cause.

For strangers have risen up against me,

And violent men have sought after my life;

They have not set God before them.”


They were strangers “not by birth or nation, but as to religion, virtue,

compassion, and humanity” (Chandler); and in calling them such “there is a

bitter emphasis as well as a gleam of insight into the spiritual character of

the true Israel” (Romans 2:28-29; 9:6).


  • AN EXPERIENCE OF SEVERE TRIAL often endured by good men,

who “for righteousness’ sake” are betrayed by false friends, and even those

“of their own household” (Matthew 10:36), in whom they have put

confidence. The trial:


Ø      Causes intense suffering; grieves more than the loss of earthly

possessions, and inflicts a deeper wound than a sword (Psalm 55:12).


Ø      Becomes an occasion of strong temptation; to indulge a spirit of

revenge, to doubt the sincerity of others, to refrain from endeavor for the

general good as undeserved and vain (Psalm 116:11). But when

regarded aright:


Ø      Constrains to fervent prayer and renewed confidence in the eternal and

faithful Friend.


“O God, hear my prayer;

Give ear to the words of my mouth.

Behold, God is my Helper,

The Lord is the Upholder of my soul”

(                                                                               (Psalm 54:2, 4).



afflictions of David on the way to the throne of Israel were ordained to be

a type of “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” “He

came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:11), was

persecuted by the rulers of the nation, and, after escaping many treacherous designs of His enemies, was betrayed by Judas (the only Judaean among the twelve) “into the hands of sinners.” And His betrayal was necessary to:


Ø      The completeness of His experience as the chief of sufferers.

Ø      The setting forth of His example of spotless holiness and quenchless love.

Ø      The perfection of His sympathy as the Succourer of the tempted. “It

became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in

bringing many sons into glory, to make the captain of their salvation

perfect through sufferings.”  "For in that He Himself hath suffered

being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted." (Hebrews

2:10, 18). “The end of Christ’s incarnation was that He might draw up

into His own experience all the woes and temptations of humanity, to

draw around Him all the swathings of our imperfect nature, and make our

wants His own, till not a cry could go up from it which had not first come

into His own consciousness” (Sears).


24 “And 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.”  While the Ziphites were conferring with Saul and gathering

information David had moved about six miles to the south of Ziph, and was

in the wilderness of Maon. This town is still called Main, and occupies a

conical hill, whence Robinson (‘Bibl. Res.,’ 2:433) counted no less than

nine cities belonging to the hill country of Judah. Conder (‘Tent Work,’

2:90) calls it a great hump of rock. In the plain on the south of Jeshimon.

Literally, “in the ‘Arabah to the right of the desert.” The ‘Arabah was the

name of the low-lying desert tract extending along the valley of the Jordan

from the lake of Gennesareth to the Dead Sea. Maon lay upon the edge of

this depression, in the southern portion of the Jeshimon or Solitude.


25 “Saul 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. 26 And 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.”  27 “But there came a messenger unto

Saul, saying, Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land.

28 Wherefore Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against

the Philistines: therefore they called that place Selahammahlekoth.

29 And David went up from thence, and dwelt in strong holds at Engedi.”

He came down into a rock. Hebrew, sela’, a cliff or precipice. In the next verse

it is described as a mountain, on one side of which was David and his men,

in full view of Saul and his army on the other. But as Saul’s forces were much

more numerous, they were preparing to separate, and so enclose David, while

he made haste. The word expresses anxiety and fear, and may be translated,

“And David sought anxiously to go from before the face of Saul.” Conder’s

description of the spot (‘Tent Work,’ 2:91) sets the whole scene most vividly

before us. It is as follows: — “Between the ridge of El Kolah (the ancient hill of

Hachilah) and the neighborhood of Maon there is a great gorge called ‘the

Valley of Rocks,’ a narrow but deep chasm, impassable except by a detour

of many miles, so that Saul might have stood within sight of David, yet

quite unable to overtake his enemy; and to this “cliff of division” the name

Malaky now applies, a word closely approaching the Hebrew Mahlekoth.

The neighborhood is seamed with many torrent beds, but there is no other

place near Maon where cliffs such as are to be inferred from the word sela

can be found. It seems to me pretty safe, therefore, to look on this gorge as

the scene of the wonderful escape of David, due to a sudden Philistine

invasion, which terminated the history of his hair-breadth escapes in the

south country.” This cliff in v. 28 is called Sela-Hammahlekoth, “the cliff

of divisions,” or “of separations,” ham representing the Hebrew article.

Many other derivations have been suggested, but the above, which alone

agrees with the ordinary meaning of the Hebrew verb, is proved to be right

by Mr. Conder’s researches. They enable us also to correct some small

errors. Thus David did not come down into a rock, but “to the cliff,” the

sela or precipitous gorge described above. Nor did he “descend the rock”

(Erdmann) “in order to conceal himself in the low land, or in the caves at

its base,” but he went to it as being an impassable barrier between him and

his pursuers. But “he hasted anxiously to get away” (v. 26), because Saul

would divide his army into two parts, and so David would only have the

advantage of the few miles of detour which Saul must make. But for the

news of the Philistine invasion his final escape would have been almost

hopeless. The ordinary notion that David and his men were concealed from

the sight of Saul by an intervening mountain is disproved, not only by no

such mountain existing, but also by the clause, “Saul and his men were

surrounding David and his men” (v. 28). They had them in sight, and

were forming in two divisions, so as to pass the gorge at the two ends and

close upon the flanks of David’s small band of followers.  V. 29 belongs

to the next chapter.



The Unobserved Side of Life (vs. 19-29)


The facts are:


1. The Ziphites send to Saul, offering their services to secure David if only

he will come to their country in pursuit of him.

2. Saul, indulging in pious language, thanks the Ziphites for their sympathy,

and promises to comply with their request when properly informed of

David’s movements.

3. Going in pursuit of David in the wilderness of Maon, Saul encompasses

him with his men.

4. At this critical juncture Saul is called away to repel an invasion of the

Philistines, whereupon David seeks refuge in Engedi.


This brief narrative is full of suggestion of profitable topics, such as:

a.      the intense zeal of men in sinful courses, its reasons and its issue;

b.      the pernicious influence of local jealousy in determining the bearing

of men towards others;

c.       the blindness and folly of combinations of men against the quietly

developing purposes of God;

d.      the power of the love of gain, leading, as it does, men to adopt a

course of evil from which others shrink;

e.       the causes of the indifference or aversion of sections of the community

to the governing and advancing sentiment of a nation, as seen in the attitude

of the Ziphites contrasted with the general feeling in relation to Saul and


f.       the moral causes of disregard for the signs of the times;

g.      the tendency to cover up deeds of wrong under the plea of patriotism

and loyalty (sound familiar in American culture? - CY - 2016);

 h.  the degree to which religious forms of speech and professions of sanctity

may survive the utter decay of vital godliness; and

        i.  the moral uses of protracted trouble to the children of God.


But leaving these, we may generalize the most prominent teaching in the

following way:




PROPER ESTIMATE OF CONDUCT. In this section we have a record of

facts as they appeared to an observer. The acts of the Ziphites are

recorded, and not the reasons from which they proceeded. Our knowledge

of men compels us to believe that there were intellectual and moral causes

of the active zeal against David which they alone of all Israel manifested;

but, so far as the narrative itself informs us, their conduct may have been

inspired by loyalty to a recognized king. Thus, also, Saul’s conduct as here

described is only that which appears to the casual observer. There is

nothing wrong in a monarch endeavoring to capture a subject who holds a

strong potation by the aid of armed men; nor is there anything but an

appearance of piety in imploring the Divine blessing on men who express in

tangible form their sympathy with his troubles. Again, the conduct of

David as here recorded embraces only that side of life on which men can

gaze, for he here appears as one acting as though his entire safety

depended alone on his exertions, and not on any other power. The inner,

religious side of his life is not noticed. And, finally, the acts of the

Philistines are narrated as they would appear to a historian — simply as the

movements of men bent on some of the ends common to the warlike and

restless, no reference being made to the over ruling power which silently

worked on the inner side of life, causing their action to synchronize with

the perilous position of David. What is thus true of the Ziphites, Saul,

David, and the Philistines, as their acts are set forth in the history, is also

true of all men whose deeds are recorded in history, and of every individual

in the prosecution of his daily course. The main purpose of history is to

state fact in such a connection as to show the dependence of one on the

other. There is always presupposed a vast area of life, which furnishes the

immediate moral causes of what appears in the field of human observation.

In so far as historians profess to trace actions back to their governing

principles, and thus reveal the other and inner side of life, they become

philosophers, and must not expect the same deference for their conclusions

as for their statements of fact. The Ziphites would have Saul think that

their zeal was the offspring of a cherished patriotism and loyalty, whereas

there is reason for believing that other causes were chiefly in operation. It

is the characteristic of sacred history that sometimes it gives an

authoritative record of the inner life, assigning the true causes of the

actions described. The practical use of the fact that there is an unobserved

side of life is:


Ø      To induce more care with respect to our unobserved life. When we

believe that there is more real life lived within than without, that the causes

and germs of things are all nurtured beyond human observation, that the

moral value of what is observed is determined by the quality of what is

unobserved, and that though, like the Ziphites, we may seem to do only

what may possibly proceed from worthy motives, God looks at the actual

spring of conduct then shall we be more earnest in seeking a pure heart,

an unobserved life which shall be acceptable to God.


Ø      To regulate our judgment of human actions. The knowledge that there

is an unobserved side of conduct cannot but induce caution in our estimate

of character. The apparent loyalty of a Ziphite and the pious language of a

Saul may be the expression of a good or of an evil condition of the

unobserved life. Our own deceitful hearts tell us how possible it is to

appropriate virtues to ourselves before others when in our deepest

consciousness we know that no just claim can be made to them. On the

other hand, as it would be unjust to infer that because in this historical

section there is simply a record of David’s exertions to escape Saul,

therefore he was destitute of the pious trust which seeks refuge in God

(Psalm 54.), so, in viewing the outward life of men, we must not conclude

that that is all; for in the unobserved life, spent concurrently with the

observed, there may be a devout, holy trust in God which, beyond all

human view, sustains and strengthens the entire man. There is a vast

demand on our pity and sympathy in the life which underlies many a calm

and brave endurance of toil and care; and beneath many a fair exterior

there is a secret second life deserving scorn and indignation.



MORAL CAUSES. Although the record does not state the reasons for the

conduct of the Ziphites, we, taking it in connection with the entire history

of the period, may approximately arrive at their real nature. Remembering

that these men belonged to a nation whose very existence was due to the

predominance in public affairs of religious considerations, that government

with them was a question of allegiance to God as well as to man, that the

national life of their own period had been one in which religious principles

had become increasingly prominent in public affairs, that they were well

aware of Saul’s recognition as king on the understanding that be acted in

subordination to the higher principles of which Samuel was the assertor,

that it was within their knowledge that Samuel and the high priest Abiathar

had disowned Saul and favored David, and that David’s prowess had been

distinctly approved of God and beneficial to the nation, while his holy,

beautiful life was in striking contrast with the life which had secured the

slaughter of the .priests at Nob, alienated the head men of his own tribes

and become an occasion of sorrow to the land it follows from all this that

these men could not have set themselves against the most renowned and

honored man of their own tribe unless they were under the influence of

motives sufficiently strong to overbear the evidence, on the one side, of

David’s integrity and recognition by God, and, on the other, of Saul’s

debasement and rejection. That they did not reason and act in harmony

with facts admitted arose from two circumstances:


Ø      That David was now, and for some time had been, an outlaw, isolated

and sorrowful, a fact seemingly inconsistent with the previous honors

conferred upon him by God, and with the continued sanction of Samuel

and Abiathar.


Ø      That lack of sympathy with the holy aspirations of David and jealousy

against one of their own tribe induced them to take his present unfortunate

position as disproof of any value to be attached to the earlier evidences of

his being a chosen servant of God. We have in this case an illustration of

the antagonism of men towards Christ while he was on earth, and towards

Christianity in the present age. In the case of our Saviour there was the

most clear and convincing evidence that He was the Anointed, resembling

that of David’s call. Only resort to the absurd supposition that He was

influenced by Beelzebub could afford an appearance of logical consistency

in disputing His Messiahship. But a further point of resemblance arises; for

the Pharisees construed the lowly life, the unostentatious bearing, the

manifest sorrows, in fact, the strange delay in rising to complete dominion,

as inconsistent with their idea of what became an Anointed of the Lord.

Moreover, as with the Ziphites, so with the Pharisees; there was a moral

offence because of Christ’s insistence on internal holiness, and they were

averse to the kind of government over men which He alone cared to

establish. But as aversion to holiness and jealousy of distinction are strong

principles of action, the Pharisees, like the Ziphites, could not await the

development of events; they must needs take active measures to capture

and destroy One who had proved by his deeds of power the greatest

benefactor of the age. In the case of modern antagonism to Christianity we

find the same causes at work under analogous conditions. Given the

existence of a Supreme Being, interested in the spiritual condition of His

creatures and free to act for their welfare, and given also, as can be well

established to every mind free from preconceived ideas on the impossibility

of the supernatural, the veracity of the evangelical records, we have then a

body of evidence concerning the supernatural origin and character of

Christianity as clear as, and much fuller than, the evidence to the Hebrews

of David’s selection through Samuel and distinct approval by God; and this

becomes overwhelming when taken in conjunction with that wondrous life

which no other hypothesis can possibly explain. Yet men seek to set aside

this evidence because, forsooth, it does not fall in with their conception of

what a revelation from God to man should be; much after the model of the

Ziphites, who could not believe a wanderings sorrowful outlaw to be the

coming king, notwithstanding that some earlier events seemed to point in

that direction. No doubt in many theoretical objectors to Christianity there

is a positive aversion more or less pronounced to the inward holiness and

entire submission of heart and intellect and will which Christ makes the

invariable condition of being His subjects, and this perverts the judgment.





to this narrative, we should conclude that David not only strove with all his

energy to avoid a conflict with Saul, but that he was conscious that success

rested entirely on his exertions. But there was an unobserved side of

David’s conduct of which the narrative says not a word. The fifty-fourth

Psalm reveals that other side, and we there learn that though he strove to

escape as though everything depended on his skill and discretion, yet he

trusted in God as though hope were alone to be found in him. This double

life is well known to every child of God. Whatever metaphysical questions

may be started concerning it, as a fact it is unquestionable. Faith is a power

acting in the unseen, spiritual sphere concurrently with our exertions in the

visible, material sphere. Both are real powers in God’s government of man.

We are apt to underestimate faith because we do not see its incidence; or

we are disposed to doubt its utility because we cannot trace the intricate

operations by which events are brought to pass. It is some aid to our faith

to remember that the Divine energy is immanent in every mind and in every

ultimate force, and can carry out millions of lines of action concurrently for

definite ends as readily as we by concentration can carry out one to a single

end. (God is much greater than a computer! - CY - 2016)  God does rule among

the armies of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth. His control of men’s

movements is evidently not a mere general survey of hard, rigid lines of force

originally set in motion, but the free exercise of His personal energy on

the deepest springs of human action, so as to insure a concurrence of events

at such times and places as may subserve some advantage to those whose

lives are moving in harmony with His holy purposes. God becomes a reality

to us in so far as we believe this and act on the belief. Our Christian enterprises,

private conflicts with sin and sorrow, and daily occupations should be pursued

with all zeal, and yet with all faith in the need and CERTAINTY OF GOD'S

HELP! If we wish men to be moved, money to be raised for Christ’s service,

hindrances to religion to be overcome, and events to be brought about for

which we have not the adequate means, there is no presumption, but rather

there is profound wisdom and piety, in asking God to exercise His boundless

power for the glory of his name. “When the Son of man cometh” to visit His

Churches, as when once He walked among the seven golden candlesticks

(Revelation 1:13-17), shall He find faith on the earth”? (Luke 18:8).




1. It is worthy of consideration how far the outward life observed by men

is a genuine expression of the inner, and to what extent our secrets are holy

and lawful.

2. A study of the intellectual and moral causes of unbelief, as manifested by

various grades of intellect and during many centuries, would furnish

instruction and warning to the tempted.

3. It is to be feared that the extreme development of man’s activity in all

departments of life and the insistence on personal effort have withdrawn

the attention of Christians too much from the great part which faith in God

is ordained to play in:

a.      the government of the world and

b.      salvation of men.



A Marvellous Escape (vs. 24-28)


“Therefore they called that place Sela-hammahlekoth — the cliff of

separations (v. 28). It seemed as if at length Saul was about to

accomplish his purpose. Led by the treacherous Ziphites, he went down to

the hill of Hachilah, from which David had withdrawn to “the wilderness of

Maon, in the plain on the south of the desert.” In his further pursuit (v. 25)

there was but a short distance between them — Saul standing on a

ridge of Hachilah, David on a rock or precipice in Maon; but a deep chasm

separated them from each other. And when “Saul and his men were

encircling David and his men to seize them, and David was sore troubled to

escape” (v. 26), “there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee,

and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land.” Thus his purpose was

suddenly and effectually defeated. The escape of David suggests,

concerning the dealings of God with His servants, that:



STRAITS. Danger is imminent, the enemy exults, their own wisdom and

strength are unavailing, and they are full of anxiety and dread. They have

no resource but to betake themselves to “the Rock of Israel;” if He should

fail them they are lost; and it is to constrain them to seek refuge in Him that

they are beaten off from every other (see ch. 7:12).



WITHOUT HELP. Although the space that separates them from

destruction be narrow, it is impassable; for the invisible hand of God is

there, and the enemy cannot go a step further than He permits. “He shall

cover thee with his feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust.”  (Psalm 91:4). Sometimes nothing more can be done than to “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord”  (Exodus 14:13); if an effort to escape must be made,

it is still He who saves,  and to Him we must ever look in faith and prayer. “What doth not prayer overcome and conquer? What doth not resistance drive back when accompanied by distrust of self and trust in God? And in what

battle can he be conquered who stands in the presence of God with an earnest resolve to please Him?” (Scupoli). “When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back:  this I know; for God is for me.” (Psalm 56:9).



GREATEST PERIL. He does so both in temporal calamity and in spiritual

trouble, labor and conflict. At the point of despair deliverance comes

(Micah 7:8). And thereby His interposition is rendered more apparent,

the designs of the enemy are more signally frustrated, and the gratitude of

His servants is more fully excited. “David was delivered at the last hour, it

is true; but this never strikes too late for the Lord to furnish in it a proof to

those that trust in Him that His word is yea and amen when it says, “I will

never leave thee nor forsake thee” – Hebrews 13:5 - (Krummacher).



FOR THEIR DELIVERANCE (v. 27). Who could have predicted the

arrival of such a message? The incursion of the Philistines was the natural

result of the course pursued by Saul in levying war (v. 8), going out to

seek the life of David (v. 15), and leaving the country unprotected; but

the message came at the opportune moment by the overruling providence

of God. His resources are boundless; He employs His enemies for the

preservation of His friends, diverts their attention to other objects, and

impels them to spend their strength in conflict with each other. “The Lord

knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the

unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.”  (II Peter 2:9).



GRATEFULLY RECORDED;  as it was in the name which was given to

the spot, and still more fully in the psalm ending


“With willing mind will I sacrifice unto thee;

I will give thanks to thy name, O Jehovah, for it is good.

For out of all distress hath He delivered me,

And upon mine enemies hath mine eye seen its desire.”

(Psalm 54:8-9)







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