1 Samuel 23 – “David Saves Keilah; David Evades Saul”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The Philistines attack Keilah but are driven away by David. Saul chases David into the mountains but fails to capture him.

II. Photo
The Philistines attack Keilah: “David was told: ‘The Philistines are raiding Keilah and plundering the threshing floors.’” (v. 1)

III. Important Verses
2: David consulted the LORD, “Shall I go and attack those Philistines?” And the LORD said to David, “Go; attack the Philistines and you will save Keilah.”
6, 9-12: When Abiathar son of Ahimelech fled to David at Keilah, he brought down an ephod with him… When David learned that Saul was planning to harm him, he told the priest Abiathar to bring the ephod forward. And David said, “O LORD, God of Israel, Your servant has heard that Saul intends to come to Keilah and destroy the town because of me. Will the citizens of Keilah deliver me into his hands? Will Saul come down, as Your servant has heard? O LORD, God of Israel, tell Your servant!” And the LORD said, “He will.” David continued, “Will the citizens of Keilah deliver me and my men into Saul’s hands?” And the LORD answered, “They will.”
18: And the two of them entered into a pact before the LORD. David remained in Horesh, and Jonathan went home.
26-28: Saul was making his way along one side of a hill, and David and his men were on the other side of the hill. David was trying hard to elude Saul, and Saul and his men were trying to encircle David and his men and capture them, when a messenger came and told Saul, “Come quickly, for the Philistines have invaded the land.” Saul gave up his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines. That is why that place came to be called the Rock of Separation.

IV. Outline
1-4. God tells David to attack the Philistines
5. David saves the residents of Keilah
6. Abiathar brings an ephod
7-8. Saul prepares to attack
9-12. God tells David about the troubles that lie ahead
13-14. David and his men escape to the hill country
15-18. David and Jonathan make a pact
19-24. Saul’s reconnaissance
25-26. David eludes Saul
27-28a. Saul leaves to fight the Philistines
28b. Etymological note

V. Comment

Chapter 23 tells two stories: (a) David protects the people of Keilah from the Philistines, and (b) Saul fails to capture David. The ephod, which allows David to communicate with God, plays an important role in the narrative. It paints the picture that David is directed by God, not ambition, revenge, or greed. Naphtali H. Tur Sinai equates the ephod with the urim wetumin. He writes (translation my own): “[The urim wetumin] are called the ‘holy lottery’ by which God can express his will to the people. The vessels that were used for a lottery were placed inside the choshen – a pocket or squared sheath – that the High Priest would carry on his ephod on his heart… Yet, because the urim wetumin was placed inside the choshen on top of the ephod it is called by the name ‘ephod’ in scripture.” (Tur Sinai, Naphtali H. “’urim wetumin” in Encyclopedia Mikra’it)

The ephod primarily appears in two sections of the Bible – the book of Exodus (where it is a priestly garment) and the books of Judges and Samuel. Campbell notes that the oracular experiences described in Samuel seem different from those described elsewhere. He writes: “The divine response… ‘and save Keilah’ (v. 2) goes beyond David’s original questions. As we understand texts about the ephod, the procedure with it offers three responses: affirmative (yes), negative (no), and no answer (silence). The ‘and save Keilah’ is, therefore, an interpretation from the narrator – its emphasis is all the more important coming from the storyteller.” (240) Yet, while Campbell’s point is interesting, he does not cite any verses or secondary sources for support. Indeed, like many of the oracles found in the book of Psalms (e.g. Ps. 132:11-12), it is possible that an actual person did the talking. Needless to say, more research is required.

Who wore the ephod? While the ephod was primarily a priestly garment, it was worn by certain non-priests besides David. Meyers writes: “Since the word ephod refers to a sacred vestment, most of the usages are in the priestly passages of the Pentateuch, mainly in the tabernacle texts of Exodus. However, other individuals involved in cultic activity—notably Gideon (Judg 8:27), the priest of Micah (Judg 17:5; 18:14, 17, 18, 20), Eli (1 Sam 14:3), Samuel (1 Sam 2:18, 28), and David or his priests (1 Sam 21:9; 22:18; 23:16; 30:7; 2 Sam 6:14; 1 Chr 15:27)—are associated with the ephod. In Hos 3:4 it is mentioned, along with the teraphim, independently of a priestly figure.” (“Ephod,” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. II p. 550)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Campbell, Antony F. “1 Samuel” The Forms of Old Testament Literature vol. 7 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2003).
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Klein, Ralph W. “1 Samuel” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 10 (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1983).
Meyers, Carol. “Ephod” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. II p. 550
Tur Sinai, Naphtali H. “’urim wetumin” in Encyclopedia Mikra’it
Photo taken from http://www.womeninthebible.net/images/1.6-5_RUTH_Village_threshing_floor.jpg