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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

1 Samuel 23

 

 

Verses 1-13

ADVENTURES OF DAVID AT KEILAH AND IN THE WILDERNESS OF ZIPH (1 Samuel 23:1-29).

EXPOSITION

DAVID RESCUES KEILAH, BUT HAS TO ESCAPE FROM THE TREACHERY OF ITS INHABITANTS (1 Samuel 23:1-13).

1 Samuel 23:1

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 (1 Samuel 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.

1 Samuel 23:2-5

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 1 Samuel 23:6). 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 1 Samuel 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 neighbouring pastures. Both Hareth, where David and his men had lain hid in the thickets (1 Samuel 22:5), and Keilah were in the tribe of Judah, in the southern portion of the Shephelah (Joshua 15:44).

1 Samuel 23:6

When Abiathar … fled to David to Koilah, 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 1 Samuel 23:2 and 1 Samuel 23:4) 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 1 Samuel 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 (1 Samuel 22:2), 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 Abiathars arrival with the ephod enabled him to consult Jehovah's will. By his presence also David had now the approval of the priesthood.

1 Samuel 23:7, 1 Samuel 23:8

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 (2 Samuel 20:21, 2 Samuel 20:22), 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.

1 Samuel 23:9-13

Saul secretly practised mischief. This phrase is correctly translated "devised evil" in Proverbs 3:29; Proverbs 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.

HOMILETICS.

1 Samuel 23:1-5

Deference to the Divine will.

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 (1 Samuel 23:12), 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 defence against the wiles and force of his personal foe, and hence it would be natural for oppressed neighbours 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.

I. THE HABIT OF DEFERENCE TO THE DIVINE WILL IS A NECESSARY AND VALUABLE ELEMENT IN LIFE. It is remarkable 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; forevery 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 (Psalms 2:1-12; cf. Psalms 72:1-20), 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 realisation. 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.

II. THE MANIFEST APPROVAL OF GOD IN ANY CASE OF DIFFICULTY OR PERIL IS AN ALL-SUFFICIENT 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 recognised 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; 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 (Psalms 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.

III. THE MEANS BY WHICH GOD AFFORDS GUIDANCE TO HIS 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 the 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 fulness 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" (2 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.

IV. THE HIGHEST QUALITIES OF THE RELIGIOUS CHARACTER may be associated with THE MORE ORDINARY AND PRACTICAL, and when so associated THEY GIVE VALUE AND 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 Christian.

1. 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 (verse 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.

2. Taking, then, the conduct of David and the special qualities indicated therein as a basis, we may summarise the qualities which seem to enter into a well developed religious character,

(2) Submission to God's ways and times. The realisation 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 colours 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.

(3) 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 intercourse 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 (Jeremiah 15:18). There is a spiritual heroism in believing in God against hope (Romans 4:17-21; Hebrews 11:1-40.). 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 (Psalms 72:15; Psalms 132:18; Isaiah 53:3); and, in a modified sense, it will hold true of all who endure and are faithful to the end (Revelation 3:21).

(4) 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 (verses 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 intensest gaze on the realisation 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).

3. 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 capactous 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.

1 Samuel 23:6-12

Misinterpretation and miscalculation.

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. 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 honour 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 (1 Samuel 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. Miserably did Saul miscalculate the course of events. God does not act for men because their wishes are made a substitute for knowledge. Generalising the truth involved in the case of Saul and David, we may notice—

I. That MISINTERPRETATION AND MISCALCULATION ARE 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 (1 Samuel 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 criticise, 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 harmonise 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 forever. On the basis of their interpretation of Christ's character and conduct men esteemed him "smitten of God and afflicted," 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 mightiest forces that operate in the universe.

II. That MOST OF THE MISINTERPRETATIONS AND MISCALCULATIONS OF LIFE ARE TO BE REFERRED TO A 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, shrivelled 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. 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. The moral cause is often more subtle in operation, and therefore more difficult of detection; but frequently it appears in the morally wrong act of applying our limited power to questions not fairly within their reach, in the obstinate tendency to make the possibly imperfect governing principles of our own life the infallible tests by which all conduct is estimated, 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, recognise goodness where less spiritual natures would not discriminate.

III. That THE EVILS INCIDENT TO MISINTERPRETATIONS AND MISCALCULATIONS ARE OF BOTH SHORT AND LONG 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 the mutual distrusts, the alienations, 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 (Psalms 37:28-40). 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.

General lessons: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.

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.

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 overflowings of gratitude for favours 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?" 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.

I. THE EXISTENCE OF UNDEVELOPED TENDENCIES IS A 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 fulfilment 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 wordy 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, and the Apostle Paul urged Timothy to "stir up the gift" bestowed on him (2 Timothy 1:6).

II. THE RECOGNITION OF THE EXISTENCE OF LATENT TENDENCIES IS OF PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE IN ALL 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.

1. In our association with men. David clearly recognised the fact of certain undeveloped tendencies in the men of Keilah, and he discreetly dealt with that unknown factor by endeavouring 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.

2. 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 favourable 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.

3. 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 sympathise 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 scepticism of modern civilisation there lies the hidden, slumbering sense of God and immortality.

III. IT IS GOD'S PERFECT KNOWLEDGE OF ALL THE UNDEVELOPED TENDENCIES OF LIFE THAT RENDERS HIS GOVERNMENT SO STRONG AND HIS PROVISION FOR MAN'S REDEMPTION SO WISE. This is included in the broad truth that there is nothing hidden from his sight. According to Psalms 139:1-24, every incipient force—chemical and mechanical, moral and spiritual—in 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," 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." Hence the reasonableness of submitting our reason to his revelations.

IV. IT IS OUR WISDOM, IN ALL TIMES OF DOUBT, TO HAVE RECOURSE TO THE MEANS OF ASCERTAINING GOD'S 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 realising 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" 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 (2 Timothy 2:10-12).

Practical lessons:

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 cheer.

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.

HOMILIES BY B. DALE

1 Samuel 23:1-6. (HARETH, KEILAH.)

Public spirit.

"So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah" (1 Samuel 23:5). 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 authorisation; 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—

I. INDICATIVE OF A NOBLE DISPOSITION. Some men are unduly concerned about their own convenience, safety, interest, and refuse to look beyond them. Others render public services from selfish motives. But the truly public spirited man, like David, possesses—

1. 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.

2. Genuine sympathy with the distresses of the weak, the injured, and the imperilled (1 Samuel 23:1). Their condition fills his heart with generous impulses, and makes him forget his own troubles.

3. 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 labour, conflict, sacrifice, suffering, and death. "Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people," etc. (2 Samuel 10:12).

II. DIRECTED BY THE DIVINE WORD (1 Samuel 23:2, 1 Samuel 23:4) in—

1. General principles, such as are contained in the commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Le 1 Samuel 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 (Psalms 122:6-9; Psalms 137:5, Psalms 137:6; Luke 13:34; Luke 24:47; Romans 9:3).

2. Particular precepts pertaining to the varied relationships, capabilities, and needs of men, as rulers, subjects, etc.

3. 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).

III. OPPOSED BY PRUDENTIAL FEARS. "David's men said unto him, Behold, we are afraid here in Judah," etc. (1 Samuel 23:3). 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)—

1. Persuaded that their opposition was wrong.

2. Convinced that their fears were groundless.

3. Induced to accompany their leader in a brave and generous enterprise (1 Samuel 23:5). One man imbued with strong faith and public spirit thus overcomes the opposition of many, and converts them into zealous helpers.

IV. PRODUCTIVE OF IMPORTANT CONSEQUENCES. The hand of God was with them, and—

1. Injustice was punished, the public enemy defeated, and the prey taken from the mighty.

2. Those who were in the utmost peril were saved.

3. All the people were taught where to look for their deliverer. In seeking the good of others David found his own honour, and received a Divine testimony to his royal destination.—D.

HOMILIES BY D. FRASER

1 Samuel 23:1-12. (HARETH, KEILAH.)

Answers to prayer.

Inquiry of the Lord by Urim and Thummim really meant prayer in which Divine direction was sought in a particular manner (see 1 Samuel 14:19, 1 Samuel 14:36). It was made by David soon after the arrival of Abiathar, on three several occasions (1 Samuel 23:2, 1 Samuel 23:4, 1 Samuel 23:10),—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 (1 Samuel 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.' 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—

I. PERPLEXITY concerning the knowledge of duty. Asking, "Shall I go?" (1 Samuel 23:9.) they receive, perchance, the definite answer, "Go;" not, indeed, by an audible voice, but by means of—

1. 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; John 7:17).

2. 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).

3. 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; Psalms 25:9).

II. DIFFICULTY arising from hindrances to the performance of duty. "David inquired of the Lord yet again" (1 Samuel 23:4). 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—

1. Strong confirmation of the conviction previously entertained. "Arise, go down to Keilah."

2. Increased confidence of success. "I will give the Philistines into thine hand."

3. 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 endeavour to persuade men to adopt a right course, we ought above all things to look to God to dispose them to walk therein.

III. DANGER, which sometimes occurs on the fulfilment of duty (1 Samuel 23:7-12). "In the deed of deliverance itself lies the seed of new suffering." Saul misinterprets events (1 Samuel 23:7), 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 fervour, calling him the "Lord God of Israel," and humbly acknowledging himself to be his servant; and the answers he obtains afford him—

1. Foresight of the perilous events of the future. "He will come down."

2. 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.

3. Guidance for the frustration of ungrateful and evil intentions, and escape from every danger. "David and his men, etc." (1 Samuel 23:13). How perfect is the knowledge which God possesses of all things! 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 Psalms 31:1-24.: "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"

(Cowper).—D.


Verses 14-29

EXPOSITION

SAUL'S PURSUIT OF DAVID IN THE WILDERNESS OF ZIPH (1 Samuel 23:14-28).

1 Samuel 23:14, 1 Samuel 23:15

Strong holds. Natural fortresses in the woods and mountains are meant, and places difficult of access. The wilderness of Ziph. 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 1 Samuel 23:14; for, as Conder remarks ('Tent Work,' 2:89), "a moment's reflection will convince any traveller 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 ."

1 Samuel 23:16-18

Jonathan … went to David into the wood. To Horesh, as in 1 Samuel 23:15. This visit suggests two things: the first, that, after the scene in 1 Samuel 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.

1 Samuel 23:19, 1 Samuel 23:20

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 neighbourhood, and especially in the hill of Hachilah, a ridge that ran along eastward of Maon. Conder recognises 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 (Psalms 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; Numbers 23:28. Conder 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.

1 Samuel 23:21-23

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 prolixity 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; Numbers 10:4), throughout which Saul will hunt for him till he has got him into his power.

1 Samuel 23:24

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.

1 Samuel 23:25, 1 Samuel 23:26

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 neighbourhood 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 neighbourhood 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 1 Samuel 23:28 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" (1 Samuel 23:26), 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" (1 Samuel 23:28). 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.

1 Samuel 23:29 belongs to the next chapter.

HOMILIES BY D. FRASER

1 Samuel 23:1-12. (HARETH, KEILAH.)

Answers to prayer.

Inquiry of the Lord by Urim and Thummim really meant prayer in which Divine direction was sought in a particular manner (see 1 Samuel 14:19, 1 Samuel 14:36). It was made by David soon after the arrival of Abiathar, on three several occasions (1 Samuel 23:2, 1 Samuel 23:4, 1 Samuel 23:10),—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 (1 Samuel 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.' 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—

I. PERPLEXITY concerning the knowledge of duty. Asking, "Shall I go?" (1 Samuel 23:9.) they receive, perchance, the definite answer, "Go;" not, indeed, by an audible voice, but by means of—

1. 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; John 7:17).

2. 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).

3. 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; Psalms 25:9).

II. DIFFICULTY arising from hindrances to the performance of duty. "David inquired of the Lord yet again" (1 Samuel 23:4). 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—

1. Strong confirmation of the conviction previously entertained. "Arise, go down to Keilah."

2. Increased confidence of success. "I will give the Philistines into thine hand."

3. 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 endeavour to persuade men to adopt a right course, we ought above all things to look to God to dispose them to walk therein.

III. DANGER, which sometimes occurs on the fulfilment of duty (1 Samuel 23:7-12). "In the deed of deliverance itself lies the seed of new suffering." Saul misinterprets events (1 Samuel 23:7), 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 fervour, calling him the "Lord God of Israel," and humbly acknowledging himself to be his servant; and the answers he obtains afford him—

1. Foresight of the perilous events of the future. "He will come down."

2. 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.

3. Guidance for the frustration of ungrateful and evil intentions, and escape from every danger. "David and his men, etc." (1 Samuel 23:13). How perfect is the knowledge which God possesses of all things! 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 Psalms 31:1-24.: "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"

(Cowper).—D.

1 Samuel 23:14-29

EXPOSITION

SAUL'S PURSUIT OF DAVID IN THE WILDERNESS OF ZIPH (1 Samuel 23:14-28).

1 Samuel 23:14, 1 Samuel 23:15

Strong holds. Natural fortresses in the woods and mountains are meant, and places difficult of access. The wilderness of Ziph. 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 1 Samuel 23:14; for, as Conder remarks ('Tent Work,' 2:89), "a moment's reflection will convince any traveller 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 ."

1 Samuel 23:16-18

Jonathan … went to David into the wood. To Horesh, as in 1 Samuel 23:15. This visit suggests two things: the first, that, after the scene in 1 Samuel 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.

1 Samuel 23:19, 1 Samuel 23:20

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 neighbourhood, and especially in the hill of Hachilah, a ridge that ran along eastward of Maon. Conder recognises 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 (Psalms 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; Numbers 23:28. Conder 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.

1 Samuel 23:21-23

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 prolixity 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; Numbers 10:4), throughout which Saul will hunt for him till he has got him into his power.

1 Samuel 23:24

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.

1 Samuel 23:25, 1 Samuel 23:26

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 neighbourhood 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 neighbourhood 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 1 Samuel 23:28 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" (1 Samuel 23:26), 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" (1 Samuel 23:28). 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.

1 Samuel 23:29 belongs to the next chapter.

HOMILETICS.

1 Samuel 23:13-18

Deepening sorrows and new encouragement.

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:—

I. DEEPENING SORROWS MAY FOLLOW ON MANIFEST TOKENS OF GOD'S FAVOUR 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 honour 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 honour apart from the cost. The loftier views of the Apostle Paul enabled him to regard the manifold sorrows of his life as an honourable 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 sceptre over the land.

II. PROVIDENCE BRINGS SPECIAL SOLACE IN SEASONS OF 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 chequered 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 defence 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 centre 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. 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 and never does forsake his saints.

III. In the unfolding of the GENERAL PURPOSES OF GOD'S KINGDOM there is a SUBORDINATION OF SERVICE in which, however, the HIGHER IS DEPENDENT FOR COMPLETEST 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 honours and responsibilities he would have to bear. Jonathan by visiting David and ministering to his comfort recognised 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 (Ephesians 1:10). 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, forevery 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, fervour, 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 and the large liberality of a poor widow. Men do not see the interlacings 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. 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.

IV. A TRUE SPIRITUAL PERCEPTION RECOGNISES THIS UNITY AND SUBORDINATION, AND SEEKS TO GIVE EFFECT TO IT. The 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 realisation 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 honour; 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 realise 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 labour 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!

V. THE BEST FORM OF SERVICE WE sometimes can RENDER TO GOD IS TO INSPIRE WITH COURAGE the hearts of those who 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 honour 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 realised. 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 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 energy.

Practical lessons.—

1. We should seek the evidence of our being blessed with the favour 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 he 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.

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. Honour is due to every one who by prayer or kindly word contributes to the sum of Christian effort.

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 favouring 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).

1 Samuel 23:19-29

The unobserved side of life.

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 the intense zeal of men in sinful courses, its reasons and its issue; the pernicious influence of local jealousy in determining the bearing of men towards others; the blindness and folly of combinations of men against the quietly developing purposes of God; the power of the love of gain, leading, as it does, men to adopt a course of evil from which others shrink; 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 David; the moral causes of disregard for the signs of the times; the tendency to cover up deeds of wrong under the plea of patriotism and loyalty; the degree to which religious forms of speech and professions of sanctity may survive the utter decay of vital godliness; and the moral uses of protracted trouble to the children of God. But leaving these, we may generalise the most prominent teaching in the following way:—

I. THERE IS AN IMPORTANT UNOBSERVED SIDE OF LIFE WHICH MUST BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT IN FORMING A 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 recognised 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 endeavouring 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 synchronise 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—

1. 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.

2. 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 (Psalms 54:1-7.), 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.

II. ANTAGONISM TO RELIGION IS USUALLY TRACEABLE TO 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 favoured 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 honoured 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.

1. That David was now, and for some time had been, an outlaw, isolated and sorrowful, a fact seemingly inconsistent with the previous honours conferred upon him by God, and with the continued sanction of Samuel and Abiathar.

2. 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 givens 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.

III. STRONG FAITH IN GOD IS THE PROPER COMPLEMENT OF THE MOST EARNEST EXERTION, AND IS A POWER IN BRINGING ABOUT THE DESIRED RESULT. Confining our attention 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 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).

General considerations:

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 the government of the world and salvation of men.

HOMILIES BY B. DALE

1 Samuel 23:13, 1 Samuel 23:14

David's wanderings in the wilderness.

"And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand" (1 Samuel 23:14). From the time of his leaving Gath till his return (1 Samuel 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" (1 Samuel 24:22).

9. The wilderness of Paran (1 Samuel 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" (1 Samuel 27:7). Like the journeyings of the people of Israel (the events of which "were written for our admonition"), 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." "Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?" (Psalms 56:8). Regarded generally they were a scene of—

1. 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 ceases.

2. Outward distress. David was hunted like "a partridge on the mountains" (1 Samuel 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 favoured, 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).

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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" (Lowth).

"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).

6. Active service. For during his wanderings he was called to render special service (verse 2), and in the latter part of them continually afforded protection to his people (1 Samuel 25:16). "None of us liveth to himself." We are the Lord's servants, and must serve him in faithful and diligent labour on behalf of others.

7. Necessary preparation for future service, honour, 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."—D.

1 Samuel 23:15-18. (HORESH, in the wilderness, of. Ziph.)

The benefit of true friendship.

"And Jonathan … strengthened his hand in God (1 Samuel 23:16). The friendship of Jonathan for David hero 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 (1 Samuel 23:19). 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 (1 Samuel 23:14), 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 (1 Samuel 23:15), 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—

I. OPPORTUNE. "A friend loveth at all times;" but his kindly offices are peculiarly grateful and beneficial in a time of need; as, e.g; in—

1. Physical distress, affliction, homelessness, privation, peril of liberty or life.

2. 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."

3. Spiritual trial, temptation, failing faith hope and patience; in view of the prosperity of the wicked, the patience of Heaven, 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," etc. (Psalms 142:4; Matthew 26:40, Matthew 26:56).

II. 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 by—

1. 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" (Psalms 119:74; Proverbs 27:17). "Whom when Paul saw," etc. (Acts 28:15; 2 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).

2. His encouraging words. "Fear not" (" the keynote of Jonathan's address"), etc; in which he assured him of—

(1) Preservation from threatening danger, doubtless pointing him to the Divine protection.

(2) 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 (1 Samuel 20:15), and now explicitly asserted, his faith in that purpose. What ground was there for David s fear?

(3) 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.

(4) 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).

3. His renewed covenant with him (1 Samuel 18:3; 1 Samuel 20:16, 1 Samuel 20:17, 1 Samuel 20:42), 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 intercourse 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 wilful 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').

III. ENDURING. The influence of their meeting continued long afterwards, and produced abundant fruit (1 Samuel 24:7; 1 Samuel 26:9). "The pleasures resulting from the mutual attachment of kindred spirits are by no means confined to the moments of personal intercourse; they diffuse their odours, 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).—D.

1 Samuel 23:19-23. (THE HILL OF HACHILAH.)

Treachery.

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 sympathise 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—

I. 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 (1 Samuel 23:21) 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 (Psalms 14:1-7.; Romans 3:10; Hebrews 3:12). It appears in—

1. 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.

2. Subtle selfishness, making some temporal good its chief aim; for its sake doing injury to others, eagerly seeking the favour of the wealthy and powerful, and disguising itself under professions of loyalty and public service; running "greedily after the error of Balaam for reward" (Jud 11; Matthew 26:14, Matthew 26:15).

3. 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 (1 Samuel 23:17), notwithstanding his pious language (1 Samuel 23:21), and the men of Ziph participated with him in his endeavour to defeat that purpose. Their character is described in Psalms 54:1-7; '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, Romans 2:29; Romans 9:6).

II. 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—

1. Causes intense suffering; grieves more than the loss of earthly possessions, and inflicts a deeper wound than a sword (Psalms 55:12).

2. Becomes an occasion of strong temptation; to indulge a spirit of revenge, to doubt the sincerity of others, to refrain from endeavour for the general good as undeserved and vain (Psalms 116:11). But when regarded aright—

3. 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"

(Psalms 54:2, Psalms 54:4).

III. A FORESHADOWING OF MESSIAH'S SUFFERINGS, for the 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," 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—

1. The completeness of his experience as the chief of sufferers.

2. The setting forth of his example of spotless holiness and quenchless love.

3. The perfection of his sympathy as the Succourer of the tempted. "It became him," etc. (Hebrews 2:10, Hebrews 2:18). "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).—D.

1 Samuel 23:24-28. (THE WILDERNESS OF MAON.)

A marvellous escape.

"Therefore they called that place Sela-hammahlekoth"—the cliff of separations (1 Samuel 23:28). 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 (1 Samuel 23:25) 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" (1 Samuel 23:26), "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—

I. HE SOMETIMES SUFFERS THEM TO BE REDUCED TO SEVERE 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 1 Samuel 7:12).

II. HE NEVER SUFFERS THEM TO CONTINUE THEREIN 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," etc. (Psalms 91:4). Sometimes nothing more can be done than to "stand still and see the salvation of the Lord;" 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," etc. (Psalms 56:9).

III. HE OFTEN DELIVERS THEM AT THE MOMENT OF THEIR GREATEST PERIL. He does so both in temporal calamity and in spiritual trouble, labour 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'" (Krummacher).

IV. HE MAKES USE OF VARIOUS AND UNEXPECTED MEANS FOR THEIR DELIVERANCE (1 Samuel 23:27). 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 (1 Samuel 23:8), going out to seek the life of David (1 Samuel 23:15), 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" (2 Peter 2:9).

V. HIS INTERPOSITION ON THEIR BEHALF SHOULD BE 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).—D.

HOMILIES BY D. FRASER

1 Samuel 23:16-18

Sweet counsel in time of need.

I. 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 eneamped 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.

II. THE FRIEND IN TIME OF NEED. St. 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." 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—

1. 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 favour, 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 honour 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?" (2 Samuel 9:1).

2. 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 lung 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. So one may strengthen the weak hands of another in God.

III. THOUGHTS SUGGESTED BY THE MEETING IN THE WOOD.

1. 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.

2. 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 bloodshedding. 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.

3. 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 honour 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! 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.—F.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 23:4". The Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/1-samuel-23.html. 1897.

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