Study Notes

1Samuel 23:1-24:22


We are in the section of the book of Samuel that has David running for his life from King Saul, a section that lasts from chapter 18 through chapter 31. We finished our study last week seeing Saul having all the priests of Nob and their families killed because one of them gave David five loaves of bread and a sword.

23:1-2 Inquiring Of The Lord

David finds out that the Philistines were attacking Keh-ee-LAW, a city in the land of Judah, and stealing their grain from the harvest.

David inquired of the Lord as to whether he should attack the Philistines. This became a regular routine for him when he became king, almost always being faithful to inquire of the Lord.

David's example is that we should always inquire of the Lord before making a decision.

But the question arises, "how did David inquire of the Lord? How can I?" A Bible study reveals many ways that someone could inquire of the Lord.

The priest could...

Num. 27:21 ...inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the LORD...

Or, when people came to Moses to inquire of God, he made...

Exod. 18:16 ...known the statutes of God and His laws.

In the book of Judges, the priest inquired of the Lord by standing before it and praying (Judges 20:28).

In the days of Samuel,

1Sam. 9:9 ...when a man went to inquire of God, he used to say, "Come, and let us go to the seer"; for {he who is called} a prophet now was formerly called a seer.

Later, we will see

1Sam. 28:6 When Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by prophets.

Also, we read

2Sam. 12:16 David therefore inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground.

How does all this apply to us? When we inquire of the Lord, it can take several forms: prayer, fasting, and searching the Scriptures. God might also speak to us through someone with the gift of prophecy, or even in a dream. I believe that if you're faithful to inquire of God, that He will be faithful to give you exactly the direction that you need.

23:3 We Are Afraid

David's men were not yet mighty men. Remember, that only recently had they gathered to David.

1Sam. 22:2 And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented, gathered to him; and he became captain over them. Now there were about four hundred men with him.

They have run from their terrible situations in the world to a righteous man who isn't in the best position either. They say, "David, we're afraid as it is, and now you want us to go and attack the Philistines?"

They didn't realize what this would do for them. They didn't understand what God wanted to accomplish through them and in them.

Saints, God is not in the business of keeping us in our comfort zones. We've run to our greater than David, Jesus Christ, only to find out that He's wanting to send us on missions that seem more scary than the world ever did! "You want me to stand in front of 20 kids and teach Sunday School? You want me to witness to that group of guys at work? You want me to put my credit rating on the line to sign this $12,000 church building lease?" Scary stuff! But God isn't doing it to scare us, He's doing it to accomplish something through us and in us.

James tells us,

James 1:2-4 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have {its} perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

The tests and trials are what produces perfection in you. If you were never put in a scary situation, you'd never get any stronger, you'd never grow in your maturity.

23:4 Inquiring Again

When you're leading a group of people as a David, a Moses, or a pastor, you hear from God and tell the folks, "This is what I believe that God's telling us to do, the direction He's leading us, or the stand He wants us to take." At that point, one of two things happens: the people either agree with you or they don't. And when they don't, there's no point in arguing. One of two things has happened: either you've heard wrong or the people are hearing wrong. Either way, the situation won't be resolved in debate. It'll be clarified in prayer. So David didn't argue with them, he just inquired of the Lord again.

A good, godly leader will always pray again. When David prayed again, the Lord told him that He was on the right track.

23:5 David Delivers Keilah

Sure enough, the Lord gave David and his men the victory, and they delivered the inhabitants of Keh-ee-LAW from the Philistines.

23:6-9 Bring The Ephod

Remember that Ab-yaw-THAWR the son of Akh-ee-MEH-lek was the only priest of Nob to escape with his life when Saul ordered everyone to be killed. When he had fled, he had brought an ephod with him.

An ephod, is an apron-like garment that the high priest wore in the tabernacle. It became a part of the priests' "uniform," a linen garment that all of the priests would wear.

I believe that David wanted to wear the ephod at this time. To put on this holy garment because he really needed to hear from God. Later, as you may know, David wore the ephod as the ark of the covenant was being brought back (2Sam. 6:14; 1Chr. 15:27).

We, like David, have an audience with God at all times. All we need to do is pray. But I can understand where he's at. I can recall times that I've had such a heaviness that I had to go to the sanctuary to pray. It wasn't enough to pray in my living room - I had to go sit in a pew, had to go to the place that God spoke to me on a regular basis. There were other times that, although I could have prayed alone, I just had to call my pastor to pray with me - to contact the guy that God often used to speak through him to me. So I don't come down on David for feeling this need to call for the ephod.

23:10-13 It Will Happen

David prays and asks if he's in danger - "Will Saul come up? Will the men of Ke-ee-LAW turn me in?" "Yes," the Lord responded to both questions. So David and his men - now up to 600 - left town. When he heard that David was no longer trapped in a walled city, Saul gave up the pursuit.

23:14-18 Encouraged In God

David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness of Zeef at KHO-resh, while Saul continually tried to chase after him.

Jonathan, Saul's son, was able to find David and, the writer tells us, "encouraged him in God."

How can we encourage one another in God? Isaiah wrote,

Isa. 35:3-6 Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, but He will save you." Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy...

When Barnabas was sent to Antioch,

Acts 11:23-24 ...he rejoiced and {began} to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain {true} to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.

Paul told the Romans,

Rom. 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

When someone you know is being pursued, beaten down by unfair accusations, weary and exhausted in their fight, we can encourage one another by saying, "Fear not. God is coming, and He's still in control. Stay true to the Lord." Read them Scripture about their circumstance. "God is working it together for good. He will never leave you nor forsake you. The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us."

As for me, I encourage you like Judas and Silas did in Acts 15:

Acts 15:32 And Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message.

A lengthy message - I like that!

23:19-23 The Ziphites Report To Saul

Now, just like the world does to us, as soon as we're encouraged in God, another wave of attacks hit. This time, the Zeef-ites came to Saul at Ghib-AW and said, "David is hiding in the strongholds at KHO-resh, on the hill of Khak-ee-LAW, on the south of Yesh-ee-MONE."

Don't be taken by surprise when, after a tremendous encouragement, comes a tremendous discouragement. If you had to pick the high point of the disciples' 3 years with Jesus, certainly one of the top ones would be Peter, James, and John witnessing Jesus' transfiguration on the mountaintop. But remember, when they came down from the mountain, they were immediately faced with a terrible difficulty - a possessed man that they could not cast the demon out of (Matt. 17).

23:24-29 Another Deliverance

David and his men were in the wilderness of Maw-OHN, in the Ar-aw-BAW (the plain) just south of Yesh-ee-MONE (the desert). Saul chased after them, coming so close that they were on either side of the same mountain.

But just as Saul was about to catch up and surround them, just when David was certain to be a dead man, word came to Saul that the Philistines were attacking, and he hurried off to do battle with them.

Again, God had proven Himself to be the Deliverer of the righteous. It's not up to us to take matters into our own hands. David wrote Psalm 37 from experience:

Ps. 37:1-9 Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass, and fade like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it. And He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret, {it leads} only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.

After God had used the Philistines to deliver him, David stayed in the strongholds of Ane GEH-dee.

Now, just as God tells us not to make our own defense, He also instructs us not to make our own offense. Here in chapter 24, we see that David has the perfect opportunity to end all of his suffering, but refuses.

24:1-3 An Unfortunate Choice Of Rest Room

Saul once again begins to pursue David, this time with and army of 3,000 men. But, nature calls.

Saul had to take a break to relieve himself in a cave. The Hebrew phrase used here means literally, "to cover his feet." This is descriptive enough to demonstrate that this is the more lengthy of Saul's two choices.

But it "just so happened" that Saul chose the one cave where David and all his men were hiding. "This must be a divine appointment!" David's men told him. "Saul has been given into your hand! Kill him!"

24:4 The Edge Of Saul's Robe

David secretly cut off the edge of Saul's robe as he sat in the cave. What did this mean? The robe was like a man's uniform, and the wing, edge, or fringe, his rank or authority.

There is a thread - if you'll pardon the pun -running through Scripture regarding this. Remember that the high priest had a blue robe, with the fringe being pomegranates and bells. Their purpose was to make a tinkling noise when he entered the holy place, proving his authority and right to be there - if there was no noise, God would strike him dead.

Back in chapter 15, Saul had torn the fringe off the robe of the prophet Samuel.

1Sam. 15:28 So Samuel said to him, "The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today..."

In rejecting Samuel's authority as prophet, Saul lost his authority as king.

The prophet Ezekiel was told to shave his head and beard and to do certain things with the hair as a testimony against the house of Israel. He was told to take a few hairs and bind them in the edges of his robe (Eze. 5:3) representing the few Israelites that would remain there, in subjection to the authority of the governor of Babylon.

You may also recall the story of the woman who'd been hemorrhaging for 12 years, having suffered much at the hands of many physicians,

Luke 8:44-48 came up behind Him, and touched the fringe of His cloak; and immediately her hemorrhage stopped.

In doing this, she was submitting herself to the authority of Christ, and she was instantly made well. It worked for others as well.

Mark 6:56 ...they were laying the sick in the market places, and entreating Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured.

If you need a physical, spiritual, or emotional healing tonight, touch the fringe of His cloak - submit your life to His authority.

Knowing this, what was David doing when he cut off the edge of Saul's robe? It was a terrible statement. True, he had not killed Saul, but he had as much as pulled the crown off of Saul's head.

24:5-7 Touch Not The Lord's Anointed

David was deeply convicted in his heart for doing this. Saul was the authority that God had appointed over Israel. Therefore, it was up to God to remove him.

Many Christians in America today need to understand this concept. It is true that we have had many ungodly leaders in all different levels of authority, from bosses to mayors to governors to presidents. But too often, I hear Christians speaking out against these authorities, feeling justified because the man they are speaking against is obviously ungodly.

But the Bible is clear:

Rom. 13:1-2 Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

This was written by Paul the apostle, who himself was under one of the most ungodly authorities in the history of the church. The Roman Empire killed millions of Christians, and yet he wrote to be in subjection to the ungodly authorities over us. How much more should we, who are free to meet in church publicly without fear of death, submit to the authorities over us?

Does that mean everything they do is right? No, but we are instructed regarding that as well:

1Tim. 2:1-4 ...I urge that entreaties {and} prayers, petitions {and} thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

So, they may not be saved, but God wants them to be. They may not be godly, but God has placed them there for a purpose.

The next time you feel like cutting off the edge of their robe, pray for them instead.

24:8-15 David Pleads With Saul

Once Saul had gone back down to his troops, David revealed himself, showing Saul that he'd had the opportunity to kill him, but had not taken the chance. He was not out to kill Saul, as Saul believed.

24:16-22 Saul's Response

Once again, Saul is convicted in his heart that he has been doing wrong. He also admits that it is David who will one day sit on the throne of Israel.

Go to next study

Go to previous study