1 Samuel 23

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Read 1 Samuel 23

David Saves Keilah

1 When David was told, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors,” he inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?”

The Lord answered him, “Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.”

But David’s men said to him, “Here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!”

Once again David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him, “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.” So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah. (Now Abiathar son of Ahimelek had brought the ephod down with him when he fled to David at Keilah.)

Saul Pursues David

Saul was told that David had gone to Keilah, and he said, “God has delivered him into my hands, for David has imprisoned himself by entering a town with gates and bars.” And Saul called up all his forces for battle, to go down to Keilah to besiege David and his men.

When David learned that Saul was plotting against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod.” 10 David said, “Lord, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. 11 Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? Lord, God of Israel, tell your servant.”

And the Lord said, “He will.”

12 Again David asked, “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?”

And the Lord said, “They will.”

13 So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there.

14 David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.

15 While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. 16 And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. 17 “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” 18 The two of them made a covenant before the Lord. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.

19 The Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hakilah, south of Jeshimon? 20 Now, Your Majesty, come down whenever it pleases you to do so, and we will be responsible for giving him into your hands.”

21 Saul replied, “The Lord bless you for your concern for me. 22 Go and get more information. Find out where David usually goes and who has seen him there. They tell me he is very crafty. 23 Find out about all the hiding places he uses and come back to me with definite information. Then I will go with you; if he is in the area, I will track him down among all the clans of Judah.”

24 So they set out and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. Now David and his men were in the Desert of Maon, in the Arabah south of Jeshimon. 25 Saul and his men began the search, and when David was told about it, he went down to the rock and stayed in the Desert of Maon. When Saul heard this, he went into the Desert of Maon in pursuit of David.

26 Saul was going along one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side, hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his forces were closing in on David and his men to capture them, 27 a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land.” 28 Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines. That is why they call this place Sela Hammahlekoth. 29 And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi.

Go Deeper

In 1 Samuel 23, we find Saul in relentless pursuit of David who, in doing good for the city of Keilah, seems only to suffer for it. This season of David’s life touches on a very real pain point for most of us: we can be relentlessly faithful to God AND still find ourselves in deep waters. Faithfulness and struggle are not necessarily mutually exclusive seasons in the life of a believer. Obedience doesn’t necessarily equal safety or comfort.

David, here, teaches us how to survive such a chaotic and confusing season⏤by carefully choosing which voice(s) to turn our hearts and minds toward. In this chapter, David regularly inquires of and hears from the Lord. It seems that at every turn, for every decision, the voice David seeks first is God’s. When David does open his heart to the words of people in his circle, he chooses people like Jonathan, who encourage him by reminding him of the Lord’s Word and promises. 

Saul by contrast, is turned only toward yes-men: people who enable his violent, ungodly behavior by giving him what he wants and telling him what he wants to hear. This is the circle of people that Saul has curated for himself. Over the course of the past few chapters, we see a man so desperate to cling to his idols of pride, privilege, and power that he literally disposes of anyone who dares to question his choices, oppose his idolatry, or speak truth into his life. 

We need to take responsibility for the community we curate and position ourselves among people who point us toward Christ. We need to continually choose humility and stay open to difficult or painful experiences even when we obey God. And when we find ourselves in deep waters, our faithful friends will be there to speak Christ-centered life, faith, and encouragement into our weary hearts. 

While faithful friends are worth their weight in gold, we should also never neglect our first love and the practices that position us near to Him and His Word. During great stress and trouble, David’s knee-jerk reaction is to listen for the voice of God. We should nurture the discipline of turning to God first in every situation long before difficult seasons arrive, so that when they inevitably come, we’ll be ready. 


  1. Who in your life is willing to be painfully honest with you? Which faithful friends turn you toward God? Express your gratitude for them today.
  2. What kind of a friend are you? Are you like Jonathan or like Saul’s yes-men? Resolve to point your friends to the love and voice of God even if what needs to be said may be hard to hear. 
  3. What is the Lord saying to you today through His word? Set a timer for 5-10 minutes and sit silently with God. Practice sitting in His presence, meditating on His Word, and listening for His voice. 

Dig Deeper:

If you are interested in learning more about the practices that forge relationships that honor God and turn you toward Christ, check out this Harris Creek sermon on Real Community.

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2 thoughts on “1 Samuel 23”

  1. Ella Snodgrass

    How I love and cling to the Word as it brings me into the presence of God and tells of his character and nature. Today we learn that God hears and responds when we inquire of him. He places believers around us to encourage and sustain us in hard times. The model for Life Groups with covenant believers provides opportunities for accountability and deep, God-honoring relationships. I wouldn’t want to navigate this life any other way.

  2. Learning to be honest with others is a lifelong lesson. I pray the Lord will help me to be humble yet courageous to speak truth to those around me not just tell them what they want to hear. I pray the Lord will help me to stand alone when necessary for the sake of truth.

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