Shmuel 1-Chapter 23: Dovid’s further escapes from Shaul

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Chapter 23: Dovid’s further escapes from Shaul

1. The battle against the Philistines in the city of Kiela:

  • Dovid was informed that the Philistines were battling in the city of Kiela and that they were looting the storehouses of grain.
  • Dovid gathers an army from Yehuda and consults with G-d: Dovid consulted with G-d [through the Urim Vetumim that was brought by Avyasar the surviving son of Achimelech], ask him if he should go and smite these Philistines. G-d replied to Dovid that he should go and smite the Philistines and save the Jewish people in the city of Keila.
  • The people of Dovid said to him we the people of Yehuda are fearful of [even Shaul, and certainly we are fearful[1] of] heading to the city of Kiela to fight the battle the Philistines. So Dovid resumed to again consult with G-d, and G-d answered him he should get out descend towards the city of Kiela “As I had given them into your hands.”
  • Their success in battle: So Dovid and his men descended to the city of Kiela and waged battle against the Philistines. They were very successful in capturing their cattle and smiting them a great blow. Dovid saved the inhabitants of the city of Kiela from the Philistines.

2. Avyasar brought to Dovid the Choshen and Urim Vetumim:

  • When Avyasar, the surviving son of Achimelech, fled towards Dovid towards the borders of the city of Keila, he brought with him the Eiphod [which contained within it the Choshen and Urim Vetumim].

3. Shaul discovers that Dovid is in Keila and prepares to battle him:

  • Saul was informed that Dovid had arrived in the city of Keila. Shaul said to himself that it is evident that Gd had handed him over into his hands, as Dovid has [foolishly now] taken refuge for himself in a fortified city [of which he certainly feels no need to run away from]. So, Shaul summoned all of the nation to go out to war against David, to the center the city of Keila to capture Dovid and all of his men.
  • Dovid discovers Shaul’s plot: That Shaul was plotting evil against him and he therefore asked Avyasar to bring him the Eiphod [which contain the Choshen and Urim Vetumim in order to consult with G-d].
  • Dovid consults with G-d regarding what to do about the threat from Shaul: Dovid spoke with Hashem the G-d of Israel saying, “please listen to your servant, as Saul is seeking to come to the city of Keila and to destroy the entire city due to me. Please inform me oh G-d, the G-d of Israel, will the residents of the city of Keila hand me over into Saul’s hand. Will Saul come down to the city as your servant has heard? So, Hashem [answered only the second question, as one cannot ask Hashem through the Urim Vetumum more than one question at a time, and the second question was of greater importance and should have been preceded by Dovid[2]] told Dovid that Shaul is planning to descend to the city.” So Dovid asked again, would the residents of the city of Keila hand me and my men over to the hands of Saul? Hashem replied to Dovid that indeed, yes, they would hand them over.

4. Dovid’s further escapes from Saul:

  • Dovid escapes from the city of Keila: So, Dovid and his 600 men got up and left the city of Keila and they went where they went [to an area of refuge]. Saul was informed that Dovid had escaped from the city of Keila and he therefore abstained from going down to wage battle in it.
  • Dovid’s new place of residence: Dovid lived in the desert in fortified areas, and mountains and hills in the desert of Ziff. Shaul searched for them for many days, but G-d did not hand them over into his hands. Dovid saw that Shaul would go out and search for him to kill him. During this whole time Dovid remained in the desert of Ziff, in the forest.
  • Yehonason meets up with Dovid in the desert: Yehonason the son of Saul got up and went to meet Dovid in the forest. When they met, they made a new pact together. Yehonason told Dovid that [G-d is with him and therefore] he has nothing to fear and the hand of his father Shaul will not find him, and that he will reign over the Jewish people [as he has been promised by the prophet of G-d]. Yehonason told Dovid that he will be for him his Viceroy in his monarchy, and that also his father Shaul is aware of all this. The two of them made a pact before G-d [i.e. the Urim Vetumim[3]], and Dovid dwelled in the forest while Yehonason went home.

5. Shaul is informed of the whereabouts of Dovid and devises a plan to capture him:

  • The residence of Zifim went up to Shaul who was in [his hometown of] Givosa [as he had given up on finding Dovid[4]] and told him that Dovid is hiding himself amongst them, and he is found in the forest in the Valley of Chaquila which is on the right of Yeshimon. “Now, whenever you the King desire to go down to the area let us know and we will hand you Dovid into your hands”
  • Shaul replied to them “Blessed are you to G-d as you have mercy on me. Go on and prepare yourselves to discover his exact hiding place through witnessing his movement there, as I’ve been told that he is very cunning and sly [to not stay in one place more than a day and he is constantly on the run[5]]. You should go out and search for all the hiding places that he may be hiding in and then return to me when everything is set and I will go with you. If he is [not[6]] found in the [above hiding places in your land then certainly he is in the[7]] land [of his tribe, which is Judea[8] and] I will search for him amongst all the thousands of Judea [by forcing the members of this tribe to all search for him there[9]].”

6. Shaul pursues and corners Dovid but he escapes capture by a miracle:

  • The discovery of Dovid’s hiding place: So, the people of Zifim left Shaul and went towards Zifa to do their mission. At that time Dovid and his men were in the desert of Madon Arava, to the right of the Yishimon. So Shaul and his men went to search for Dovid, however Dovid was informed of this and he descended from the area of the rock [i.e. cave that he was hiding and went] to the desert of Maon. Shaul discovered this and he chased after Dovid in the desert of Maon.
  • Dovid is cornered: When Saul was walking [with his men] on one side of the mountain Dovid and his men were on the other side of the mountain. Dovid was pressured to run away from Shaul and Shaul and his men had surrounded Dovid and his men and were on the verge of capturing them.
  • Dovid Escapes: [Suddenly, while this was happening] a messenger [who in truth was an actual angel of G-d who was sent by Him to save Dovid[10]] came to Shaul and told him that he must hurry and wage war as the Philistines have spread upon the land. So Shaul gave up chasing after Dovid and he went to battle the Philistines. For this reason, that area became known by the name of the rock of dispute [as Shaul was internally undecided as to whether he should save his country from the Philistines and give up the chase of Dovid or continue the chase of Dovid despite the loss of his land[11]].


[1] Radak and Ralbag 23:3

[2] See Rashi 23:11 and all other Mefarshim

[3] Metzudos Tziyon 23:17

[4] Malbim 23:19

[5] See Rashi 23:22

[6] See Metzudos Dovid 23:23

[7] See Metzudos Dovid 23:23

[8] See Metzudos Dovid 23:23

[9] See Metzudos Dovid 23:23

[10] See Rashi 23:27

[11] See Rashi 23:28

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