I Samuel 23

The Word Made Fresh

1Then David got word that the Philistines had attacked Keilah and were stealing the grain from the threshing floors. 2He asked the LORD if he should attack the Philistines and the LORD replied, “Go. Attack the Philistines and rescue Keilah.”

3But David’s men protested. “Listen,” they said, “We are threatened enough here. It would be risky for us to go to Keilah and engage the Philistines.”

4David asked the LORD again, and again the LORD said, “Yes, go to Keilah, and I will help you defeat the Philistines.” 5So, they went to Keilah and defeated them and came away with all their livestock, and rescued the people who lived in Keilah.

6When Abiathar son of Ahimelech escaped to David at Keilah, he brought with him the sacred vestments worn by the priests.

7Saul was informed that David was in Keilah, and he thought, “God has put him into my hands, and has entrapped him in a town that has gates and bars.” 8He summoned his troops to go to Keilah and capture David and his men.

9David got word that Saul was planning to attack. He told Abiathar the priest to bring the sacred vestments, 10and he prayed, “O LORD, God of Israel, I have word that Saul is coming to Keilah to destroy it because of me. 11Is that true? I beg you to tell me!”

“He is coming,” said the LORD.

12“Will the men of Keilah surrender us to Saul?” David asked.

“Yes,” the LORD answered. “They will give you up.”

13So, David and his men, about six hundred of them, left Keilah and moved about from place to place. When Saul got wind of it, he gave up his pursuit. 14David stayed in the hills of the Ziph wilderness area and the LORD protected him so that Saul was never able to find him.

15While David was at Horesh in the Ziph wilderness he was told that Saul was searching for him. 16Saul’s son, Jonathan, came to him and God used him to encourage David. 17He said, “Don’t worry. My father Saul will never find you. You will be Israel’s king, and I will be your second in command. My father Saul knows this.” 18The two of them made a pact before the LORD and then Jonathan returned home while David remained at Horesh.

19Then some men who lived in the Ziph wilderness went to Saul at Gibeah and informed him that David was hiding at Horesh. “He is on Hachilah Hill south of Jeshimon,” they said. 20“Come whenever you wish, and we will turn him over to you.”

21“The LORD will reward you for this,” Saul said. 22“Now go and find out exactly where he is hiding and who knows his whereabouts. I have been told he is very shrewd. 23So, find out for me where his hideouts are and where he is currently staying, and come back and tell me. Then I’ll go with you and if he’s anywhere around I’ll find him, even if a thousand in Judah are hiding him.”

24They left then and returned to Ziph ahead of Saul.

Meanwhile David and his men had moved to the Maon wilderness in the Arabah area south of Jeshimon. 25Saul came with his men to find him, and when David was informed of it, he went down to the rocky terrain, but stayed in the Maon wilderness. 25Saul got wind of that and followed him. 26He came around on one side of a hill while David and his men were on the other side. David hurried to escape but Saul and his men were closing in.

27Then a runner came to Saul to inform him that the Philistines had made a raid into his territory, 28so Saul had to give up his pursuit of David and respond to the Philistine intrusion, which is why that place is known as Rescue Rock.

29David left there and went to a hideout in En-Gedi.


1-5: We have to wonder why Saul, the king, isn’t the one to respond to this threat, but it is obvious that David is being more and more accepted as the country’s leader, even though he’s in hiding. Perhaps it is because Keilah is in Judah, and David is from that tribe while Saul is a Benjaminite. In any event, the Philistines are attacking Keilah. David, who has a sizable militia, is summoned to help. He “inquires of the Lord.” Remember that he has in his camp Abiathar, who is actually the high priest now that his father Ahimelech has been killed, and he also has the prophet Gad. God says “go,” his rag-tag army says, “Ask again,” and God says “go” again. They go and are victorious.

6-14: We now learn that Abiathar brought with him the trappings of his office. We don’t know exactly how the vestments were used in divining God’s answers, but David gets it that Saul is going to march on Keilah to capture him, and God confirms the information. He then asks if the people of Keilah will turn him over to Saul, and again God answers in the affirmative. He now has 600 men with him, so his support has increased by half (see 22:2), and they leave Keilah and move about through the wilderness of Ziph to the south.

15-18: David has an important ally in the royal house: Saul’s son Jonathan. Jonathan informs David of Saul’s plans, and acknowledges that he knows David will be king over Israel, and that he himself accepts second place. Jonathan is a better man than his father.

19-29: David has his enemies, though, and some of them are spying on him and offer to help Saul capture him. With their help Saul is nearly successful. Only news of a Philistine raid draws Saul north and saves David from capture. David then leaves the wilderness of Maon and moves on to the Dead Sea, camping at the oasis known as En-Gedi on the west bank of the southern end of the sea, also known as the Salt Sea.


This cat-and-mouse game is intriguing and makes me think of how the devil sometimes pursues God’s servants through this world. I’m not suggesting that God would use a Philistine attack to momentarily distract Saul in order to rescue David, but it is an interesting exercise as we go through the Bible to note that when bad people do bad things it might actually open the door for God’s will to triumph. The lesson here is don’t despair. God is always in the picture.