Amplified Bible

1 Samuel 23

David Rescues Keilah

1Then they told David, saying, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are plundering (robbing) the threshing floors [of the grain].” So David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” But David’s men said to him, “Listen, we are afraid here in Judah. How much more then if we go to Keilah against the battle lines of the Philistines?” Then David inquired of the Lord again. And the Lord answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will hand over the Philistines to you.” So David and his men went to Keilah and fought the Philistines; he drove away their cattle and struck them with a great slaughter. So David rescued the inhabitants of Keilah.

When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David at Keilah, he came down with an ephod in his hand. Now when Saul was informed that David had come to Keilah, Saul said, “God has handed him over to me, for he shut himself in by entering a city that has double gates and bars.” So Saul summoned all the people (soldiers) for war, to go down to Keilah to besiege David and his men. But David knew that Saul was plotting evil against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” 10 Then David said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, Your servant has heard for certain that Saul intends to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. 11 Will the men of Keilah hand me over to him? Will Saul come down just as Your servant has heard? O Lord, God of Israel, I pray, tell Your servant.” And the Lord said, “He will come down.” 12 Then David asked, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?” The Lord said, “They will surrender you.” 13 Then David and his men, about six hundred, arose and left Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the pursuit. 14 David stayed in the wilderness in strongholds, in the hill country of the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul searched for him every day, but God did not hand David over to him.

Saul Pursues David

15 Now David became aware that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the Wilderness of Ziph [in the woods] at Horesh. 16 And Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went [into the woods] to David at Horesh, and [a]encouraged him in God. 17 He said to him, “Do not be afraid; the hand of my father Saul will not find you. You will be king over Israel and I will be second in command to you; my father Saul knows this too.” 18 So the two of them made a covenant before the Lord; and David stayed [in the woods] at Horesh and Jonathan went to his house.

19 Then the Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is David not hiding with us in strongholds of Horesh, on the hill of Hachilah, which is south of [b]Jeshimon? 20 Now then, O king, come down [to Ziph] in accordance with all your heart’s desire to do so [and capture him]; and our part shall be to hand him over to the king.” 21 Saul said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, because you have had compassion on me. 22 Go now, be very persistent and investigate, and see where his [c]haunt is and who has seen him there; for I am told he is very cunning. 23 So look, and take note of all the places where he hides and come back to me with the established facts, then I will go with you. If he is [anywhere] in the land, I will search him out among all the thousands of Judah.”

24 So they arose and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. Now David and his men were in the Wilderness of Maon, in the Arabah south of Jeshimon. 25 Then Saul and his men went to search for him. When David was told about it, he went down to the rock and stayed [there] in the Wilderness of Maon. When Saul heard it, he pursued David in the Wilderness of Maon. 26 Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain. And David was hurrying to get away from Saul, for Saul and his men were surrounding David and his men to capture them. 27 But a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come, because the Philistines have attacked the land.” 28 So Saul returned from pursuing David and went to meet the Philistines; therefore they called that place the Rock of Escape. 29 [d]David went up from there and stayed in the strongholds of Engedi.

  1. 1 Samuel 23:16 Lit strengthened his hand.
  2. 1 Samuel 23:19 Or the desert.
  3. 1 Samuel 23:22 Lit foot.
  4. 1 Samuel 23:29 In Hebrew this is v 1 of the next chapter.

The Message

1 Samuel 23

Living in Desert Hideouts

11-2 It was reported to David that the Philistines were raiding Keilah and looting the grain. David went in prayer to God: “Should I go after these Philistines and teach them a lesson?”

God said, “Go. Attack the Philistines and save Keilah.”

But David’s men said, “We live in fear of our lives right here in Judah. How can you think of going to Keilah in the thick of the Philistines?”

So David went back to God in prayer. God said, “Get going. Head for Keilah. I’m placing the Philistines in your hands.”

5-6 David and his men went to Keilah and fought the Philistines. He scattered their cattle, beat them decisively, and saved the people of Keilah. After Abiathar took refuge with David, he joined David in the raid on Keilah, bringing the Ephod with him.

7-8 Saul learned that David had gone to Keilah and thought immediately, “Good! God has handed him to me on a platter! He’s in a walled city with locked gates, trapped!” Saul mustered his troops for battle and set out for Keilah to lay siege to David and his men.

9-11 But David got wind of Saul’s strategy to destroy him and said to Abiathar the priest, “Get the Ephod.” Then David prayed to God: “God of Israel, I’ve just heard that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the city because of me. Will the city fathers of Keilah turn me over to him? Will Saul come down and do what I’ve heard? O God, God of Israel, tell me!”

God replied, “He’s coming down.”

12 “And will the head men of Keilah turn me and my men over to Saul?”

And God said, “They’ll turn you over.”

13 So David and his men got out of there. There were about six hundred of them. They left Keilah and kept moving, going here, there, wherever—always on the move.

When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he called off the raid.

14-15 David continued to live in desert hideouts and the backcountry wilderness hills of Ziph. Saul was out looking for him day after day, but God never turned David over to him. David kept out of the way in the wilderness of Ziph, secluded at Horesh, since it was plain that Saul was determined to hunt him down.

16-18 Jonathan, Saul’s son, visited David at Horesh and encouraged him in God. He said, “Don’t despair. My father, Saul, can’t lay a hand on you. You will be Israel’s king and I’ll be right at your side to help. And my father knows it.” Then the two of them made a covenant before God. David stayed at Horesh and Jonathan went home.

19-20 Some Ziphites went to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Did you know that David is hiding out near us in the caves and canyons of Horesh? Right now he’s at Hakilah Hill just south of Jeshimon. So whenever you’re ready to come down, we’d count it an honor to hand him over to the king.”

21-23 Saul said, “God bless you for thinking about me! Now go back and check everything out. Learn his routines. Observe his movements—where he goes, who he’s with. He’s very shrewd, you know. Scout out all his hiding places. Then meet me at Nacon and I’ll go with you. If he is anywhere to be found in all the thousands of Judah, I’ll track him down!”

24-27 So the Ziphites set out on their reconnaissance for Saul.

Meanwhile, David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the desert south of Jeshimon. Saul and his men arrived and began their search. When David heard of it, he went south to Rock Mountain, camping out in the wilderness of Maon. Saul heard where he was and set off for the wilderness of Maon in pursuit. Saul was on one side of the mountain, David and his men on the other. David was in full retreat, running, with Saul and his men closing in, about to get him. Just then a messenger came to Saul and said, “Hurry! Come back! The Philistines have just attacked the country!”

28-29 So Saul called off his pursuit of David and went back to deal with the Philistines. That’s how that place got the name Narrow Escape. David left there and camped out in the caves and canyons of En Gedi.