top of page

Poole on 1 Samuel 23:7-13: Keilah's Treachery

[circa 1061 BC] Verse 7:[1] And it was told Saul that David was come to Keilah. And Saul said, God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars.

[God has delivered him (thus Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Munster, Tigurinus), נִכַּר[2]] He alienated (Montanus); He shut up (Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius); He sold (Septuagint). They appear to have read מָכַר, to sell, by which term Scripture often signifies this, as in Judges 3:8;[3] 4:9;[4] and elsewhere (Piscator).

[And he is shut up, etc.,כִּ֚י נִסְגַּ֣ר לָב֔וֹא בְּעִ֖יר ] For he is closed, or shut up, by entering the city (Montanus, Piscator, thus the Septuagint, Munster). For he has been delivered to enter, etc. (Jonathan). Since he is shut up (caught [Syriac]), that is, when he came into the city (Tigurinus, similarly the Syriac). Seeing that he came to shut himself up: Hebrew, he shut himself up by coming in the city. It is an Hypallage (Junius, Glassius), or an inversion of words, which sort are in Judges 1:8; 2 Kings 9:24, 30; Psalm 74:7 (Glassius’ “Grammar” 738). This translation indicates the counsel of David, that there he enclosed himself in a fortified city. But it is simpler, that the order of words be retained, and an unforeseen event be indicated; that is to say, While he wishes to be safe in the fortified city, for this reason he shut himself in, with the result that he is not able to escape (Piscator). Hypocrites are often wont to proclaim, that God stands by them, and is well-disposed to them (Martyr).

[A city in which are gates and bars, בְּעִ֖יר דְּלָתַ֥יִם וּבְרִֽיחַ׃] Into a city of gates and bar (Montanus, Pagnine). Having gates and bars (Munster, similarly the Syriac); fortified with gates, or double doors and bar (Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius, Arabic, similarly Vatablus).

God hath delivered him into mine hand: He easily believed what he greedily desired, though his own experience had oft showed him how strangely God had delivered him out of his hands, and what a singular care God had over him. For he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars; so that which he chose for his safety will be his certain ruin.

Verse 8:[5] And Saul called all the people together to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men.

[And Saul ordered all the people, etc.] This is among the royal prerogatives (Grotius). Saul, who previously was unwilling to run to the aid of Keilah, is nevertheless roused against David, so that it is able to appear to have been done, not to save the people, but to destroy. Perhaps, so that he might the more easily entice the soldiers, he concealed that he was going against David. He draws the army together against David, as if against an enemy of the public, while he was actually the salvation of the public (Martyr).

[And besiege David, etc. (thus Munster, Pagnine, Syriac, Arabic, Junius and Tremellius, Tigurinus), אֶל־דָּוִד] Upon David (Jonathan) [as if in the place of עַל/upon].

Verse 9:[6] And David knew that Saul secretly practised mischief against him; and (Num. 27:21; 1 Sam. 30:7) he said to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod.

[When David had learned] Either through Jonathan, as some maintain, or through others. For God has Pegasi,[7] if it be needful (Martyr).

[Saul was secretly preparing evil for him, עָלָ֔יו שָׁא֖וּל מַחֲרִ֣ישׁ הָרָעָ֑ה][8]] Saul was devising or designing evil against him (Vatablus, Tigurinus, Munster, thus the Syriac, Arabic, Castalio, Strigelius, Castalio in Munster). Passing over the evil in silence (Montanus); he was silently considering the evil (Pagnine); he was secretly plotting evil (Jonathan); he was secretly intending (Dutch); he was secretly practicing (English). Question: How is it secret, when he was arming all Israel against David? Response: The intention of Saul was hidden. He was presenting himself as if he were taking up arms against the Philistines: but he was actually going against David (Tirinus).

Saul secretly practiced mischief against him; whereby it may seem he pretended that he raised his army to defend Keilah and his country from the Philistines, and kept his intention against David in his own breast. Or, designed or devised; for so the word signifies; and so it is here translated by many; and it seems both from verse 8, and from his publicly avowed jealousy of and rage against David, that he declared his design to be against him, as a traitor to his crown and dignity.

[Apply the Ephod[9]] I translate it, Bring the mantle, that is, to me, or near me: as it is fully stated in 1 Samuel 30:7.[10] Understanding, and put it on before me: so that thou mayest consult God for me. A Brachylogy[11] (Piscator).

Bring hither the ephod, and put it upon thee, that thou mayst ask counsel of God for me.

Verse 10:[12] Then said David, O LORD God of Israel, thy servant hath certainly heard that Saul seeketh to come to Keilah, (1 Sam. 22:19) to destroy the city for my sake.

[David said] Either David himself; since he was a Prophet, this has no absurdity in it (Tostatus in Menochius); or, the Priest set these things forth in the name of David (Menochius). He has immediate recourse to God, whom the pious always gladly have available by counsels (Martyr).

Thy servant hath certainly heard that, etc.: David said this by the priest, for he was to make the inquiry of God, Numbers 27:21, and David puts the words into his mouth.

Verse 11:[13] Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O LORD God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant. And the LORD said, He will come down.

[Will they deliver…and will he come down, etc.] These two questions were written together, but not thus made. But, with a response concerning the first had, the second was made (Lyra). The Rabbis say that only one question is to be proposed to God at a time (Martyr). Question: How are these oracles of God true, since it is evident that neither happened? Response: David was not asking what would happen absolutely; otherwise he would have fled in vain (Estius). Moreover, the sense of the response is: Either, 1. They will deliver, supplying, under condition, if thou shouldest remain, etc. (Estius), unless thou withdraw from there (Tirinus). Or, 2. Saul and the men of Keilah have it in their mind to do those things (Estius, Martyr). They will deliver, certainly and infallibly. For, such is God’s knowledge and foreknowledge (Lapide). God certain foreknows, not only what things are actually and absolutely going to happen, but also what things are going to happen with any condition posited (Tirinus, Lapide). He does not speak of providence, or of His predestination; for, thus Saul was not going to come down, and the men of Keilah were not going to deliver him up. But He responds hypothetically, as Lyra rightly observes. And, because the assumption was able to be changed, what was going to follow was also able to be changed (Martyr). They will deliver: They were ungrateful men, who, by the surrender of a man so eminently deserving, were willing to subject themselves to danger. How much better were the Athenians, who were unwilling to surrender Demosthenes and the other Orators, and that to no less than Alexander making the demand![14] (Grotius). Question: Ought not the men of Keilah to have looked out for their city? Response: Indeed, but in another manner, namely, by beseeching David, that he might depart in time, etc.; or they were obliged openly to defend him and to trust in God (Martyr).

[The men of Keilah, בַעֲלֵי] The great men (Pagnine, Vatablus). Lords or magnates (Vatablus), nobles (Martyr). They were holding them to be of a more suspicious character than the people: For often the common people are not so strange to faithful dealing (Martyr).

Will the men of Keilah deliver me up, to wit, if I continue in their city, and if Saul come down? The Lord said. From this place it may appear that God’s answer by Urim and Thummim was not by any change in the colour or situation of the precious stones in the breastplate of the ephod, but by a voice or suggestion from God to the high priest. He will come down, that is, he purposeth to come, if thou continues here; for still, as David’s question, so God’s answer, is upon supposition, as is here sufficiently implied.

Verse 12:[15] Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver (Heb. shut up[16]) me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the LORD said, They will deliver thee up.

They will deliver thee up: To wit, if thou abides there; for God saw their hearts, their purposes and passions, their aversion from David, and their affections to Saul, and knew better than themselves what they would do in that case.

Verse 13:[17] Then David and his men, (1 Sam. 22:2; 25:13) which were about six hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul that David was escaped from Keilah; and he forbare to go forth.

[Therefore, David arose, etc.] Undoubtedly he went forth sad. He had been able to seem to be set in a safe place. He held a fortified city, a military garrison, and was in his own tribe; yet all those things were of no use. God willed to carry his trust away from all human help. David silently departs, not accusing the people of ingratitude, nor exacting punishment of any of them (Martyr).

[Six hundred] Now, he had begun with four hundred. Although thus in afflictions and desperate affairs, the number of soldiers and men increases. The number of the pious always increases under the cross; which we are able easily to understand from all sacred histories (Martyr).

Which were about six hundred; two hundred being added to his former number, 1 Samuel 22:2, upon his last and great success against the Philistines.

[They were wandering uncertainly, וַיִּֽתְהַלְּכ֖וּ בַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר יִתְהַלָּ֑כוּ] And they were proceeding (were going [Septuagint]) where (or wherever [Munster, Tigurinus]) they were proceeding (Pagnine, Vatablus); that is to say, by an accidental way; that is, where chance was bearing them (Hebrews in Vatablus). Wherever they were able (Strigelius, Dutch, English, similarly Junius and Tremellius, Osiander). They went forth, not knowing to what place they might turn, in which they would be safe; but they were wandering through forests, until they found hiding-places, etc. (Munster).

Whithersoever they could go; hither or thither, where they could find refuge, or a hiding-place.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֻּגַּ֣ד לְשָׁא֔וּל כִּי־בָ֥א דָוִ֖ד קְעִילָ֑ה וַיֹּ֣אמֶר שָׁא֗וּל נִכַּ֙ר אֹת֤וֹ אֱלֹהִים֙ בְּיָדִ֔י כִּ֚י נִסְגַּ֣ר לָב֔וֹא בְּעִ֖יר דְּלָתַ֥יִם וּבְרִֽיחַ׃ [2]נכר, in the Piel conjugation, signifies to treat as foreign. [3] Judges 3:8: “Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim (וַֽיִּמְכְּרֵ֗ם בְּיַד֙ כּוּשַׁ֣ן רִשְׁעָתַ֔יִם) king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years.” [4] Judges 4:9: “And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman (כִּ֣י בְֽיַד־אִשָּׁ֔ה יִמְכֹּ֥ר יְהוָ֖ה אֶת־סִֽיסְרָ֑א). And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.” [5] Hebrew: וַיְשַׁמַּ֥ע שָׁא֛וּל אֶת־כָּל־הָעָ֖ם לַמִּלְחָמָ֑ה לָרֶ֣דֶת קְעִילָ֔ה לָצ֥וּר אֶל־דָּוִ֖ד וְאֶל־אֲנָשָֽׁיו׃ [6] Hebrew: וַיֵּ֣דַע דָּוִ֔ד כִּ֣י עָלָ֔יו שָׁא֖וּל מַחֲרִ֣ישׁ הָרָעָ֑ה וַ֙יֹּאמֶר֙ אֶל־אֶבְיָתָ֣ר הַכֹּהֵ֔ן הַגִּ֖ישָׁה הָאֵפֽוֹד׃ [7] The Pegasus was the winged horse of Greek mythology. [8]חָרַשׁ signifies to cut in, or to devise. [9] Hebrew: הַגִּ֖ישָׁה הָאֵפֽוֹד׃. [10] 1 Samuel 30:7: “And David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod (הַגִּֽישָׁה־נָּ֥א לִ֖י הָאֵפֹ֑ד). And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David.” [11] That is, a concise form of speech. [12] Hebrew: וַיֹּאמֶר֮ דָּוִד֒ יְהוָה֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל שָׁמֹ֤עַ שָׁמַע֙ עַבְדְּךָ֔ כִּֽי־מְבַקֵּ֥שׁ שָׁא֖וּל לָב֣וֹא אֶל־קְעִילָ֑ה לְשַׁחֵ֥ת לָעִ֖יר בַּעֲבוּרִֽי׃ [13] Hebrew: הֲיַסְגִּרֻ֣נִי בַעֲלֵי֩ קְעִילָ֙ה בְיָד֜וֹ הֲיֵרֵ֣ד שָׁא֗וּל כַּֽאֲשֶׁר֙ שָׁמַ֣ע עַבְדֶּ֔ךָ יְהוָה֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל הַגֶּד־נָ֖א לְעַבְדֶּ֑ךָ ס וַיֹּ֥אמֶר יְהוָ֖ה יֵרֵֽד׃ [14] Demosthenes (384-322 BC) was a Greek orator, statesman, and lawyer. He helped to lead an Athenian revolt against Macedonian rule. Alexander demanded that Demosthenes and other Athenian leaders be surrendered, but ultimately relented. [15] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר דָּוִ֔ד הֲיַסְגִּ֜רוּ בַּעֲלֵ֧י קְעִילָ֛ה אֹתִ֥י וְאֶת־אֲנָשַׁ֖י בְּיַד־שָׁא֑וּל וַיֹּ֥אמֶר יְהוָ֖ה יַסְגִּֽירוּ׃ [16] Hebrew: הֲיַסְגִּרוּ. [17] Hebrew: וַיָּקָם֩ דָּוִ֙ד וַאֲנָשָׁ֜יו כְּשֵׁשׁ־מֵא֣וֹת אִ֗ישׁ וַיֵּצְאוּ֙ מִקְּעִלָ֔ה וַיִּֽתְהַלְּכ֖וּ בַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר יִתְהַלָּ֑כוּ וּלְשָׁא֣וּל הֻגַּ֗ד כִּֽי־נִמְלַ֤ט דָּוִד֙ מִקְּעִילָ֔ה וַיֶּחְדַּ֖ל לָצֵֽאת׃

57 views4 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
May 23, 2023

Stephen Charnock's Nature and Attributes of God: 'No question but God knows what he could create, as well as what he hath created; what he would not create, as well as what he resolved to create; he knew what he would not do before he willed to do it; this is the next thing which declares the infiniteness of his understanding; for, as his power is infinite, and can create innumerable worlds and creatures, so is his knowledge infinite, in knowing innumerable things possible to his power. Possibles are infinite; that is, there is no end of what God can do, and therefore no end of what God doth know; otherwise his power would be more infinite than his knowledge…


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
May 23, 2023

Westminster Confession of Faith 3:2: "Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions; [Acts 15:18; 1 Samuel 23:11-12; Matthew 11:21, 23] yet hath he not decreed any thing because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions. [Romans 9:11, 13, 16, 18]"


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
May 23, 2023

Matthew Henry: 'Here is, I. Saul contriving within himself the destruction of David (1 Samuel 23:7-8): He heard that he had come to Keilah; and did he not hear what brought him thither? Was it not told him that he had bravely relieved Keilah and delivered it out of the hands of the Philistines? This, one would think, should have put Saul upon considering what honour and dignity should be done to David for this. But, instead of that, he catches at it as an opportunity of doing David a mischief. An ungrateful wretch he was, and for ever unworthy to have any service or kindness done him. Well might David complain of his enemies that they rewarded him evi…


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
May 23, 2023

Study 1 Samuel in detail with the Illustrious Matthew Poole!

bottom of page