David Saves Keilah

First Samuel 23: 1-6

DIG: Why did the people come to David rather than to Sha’ul? Why was the city of Keilah so dangerous? By what means did David inquire of the LORD the first time? The second time? Why do David’s men hesitate to go with him to Keilah? Why is David determined to continue on? How old was he when he led the attack?

REFLECT: When faced with a similar call to arms, or to serve, do you normally respond like David’s men, or like David? Why? When have you paused to pray about God’s will before an action or a decision? What difference did it make? When ADONAI says, “Go,” how long do you usually wait before actually going? By what means do you seek God to make your decisions? God’s Word? Prayer? Mature believers? Or have you sometimes used other means like secular books or the horoscope (see the commentary on Genesis Lw – The Witness of the Stars)? What happened?

1014 BC

While in flight from Sha’ul, David did more than remain in hiding. The Philistine threat, relegated to the background for several chapters returns, and acting like a true king, David fought them on behalf of his beleaguered people, including the Ziphites.

David was told, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors.” Notice it was to David that this report was brought and not to Sha’ul. This shows that David was viewed as the champion of the people and he would do what the king should have done. Not only that, Keilah was in the tribal territory of Y’hudah; therefore, the people of Y’hudah believed that David would come to their aide, rather than the Benjaminite Sha’ul. This was not a full-scale war, but merely a raid.106

Keilah was a border town in Judah, about twelve miles from the Philistine city of Gath and some ten miles west of the forest of Hereth where David and his six hundred men were hiding. Situated close to the enemy, Keilah was extremely vulnerable, especially during the harvest season when the Philistine army was searching for food. Had King Sha’ul been concerned about defending his people, he would have sent a detachment of soldiers to protect Keilah, but instead he was obsessed with finding David and killing him.107

The first thing David did was to inquire of the LORD by using the Urim and Thummim (see the commentary on Exodus Gb – The Urim and Thummim: The Means of Making Decisions) within the Ephod (see the commentary on Exodus Fz – Make the Ephod of Gold, Blue, Purple and Scarlet Yarn). Abiathar son of Ahimelek had brought it with him when he fled for his life from Nov to David at Keilah (First Samuel 23:7). The inquiry was: Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Then ADONAI gave him a one-word answer through the Urim and Thummim, saying: Go . . . in effect directing him to attack the Philistines and save Keilah (First Samuel 23:1-2).

But when David’s men learned that the LORD had responded affirmatively to his first inquiry, they said to him, “Here in Y’hudah we are afraid.” After all, they said, even in the relative security of certain parts of Judah (the forest of Hereth for example) we are afraid. But by going to Keilah, even closer to the Philistines who were dressed for battle and armed to the teeth, it would be even worse. They could easily be surrounded and their retreat blocked. How much more afraid, then, would we be if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces (1 Sam 23:3)! In fact, it would be too frightening to think about it.108

Consequently, David inquired of YHVH once again to the prophet Gad to ease the apprehension of his men. This time God answered him saying that He Himself (the I is emphatic) would guarantee David’s victory over the Philistines. This gave them the assurance to go forward with the attack. So when David was about 26 years old, he and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah (First Samuel 23:4-6). As in Chapter 17 (see Al – David Kills Goliath), so also here, the LORD didn’t chose the rejected King Sha’ul, but the fugitive King-elect David to deliver His people.

The true king of Isra’el was to rule by God’s word, in close company with God’s prophet Gad, and God’s priest Ahimelek. We can therefore see why the Davidic kingship came to its ultimate fulfillment in Yeshua Messiah, who not only is King over God’s people, but is Himself our true Prophet and perfect High Priest as well.109


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