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David Saves the City of Keilah

23 David was asked, “Did you know that the Philistines are fighting against Keilah? They are robbing the threshing floors.”[a]

David asked Yahweh, “Should I go and attack these Philistines?”

“Go,” Yahweh told David, “attack the Philistines, and save Keilah.”

David’s men told him, “We’re afraid of staying here in Judah. How much more afraid do you think we’ll be if we go to Keilah against the Philistine army?”

David asked Yahweh again, and Yahweh answered him. He said, “Go to Keilah. I’m giving you the power to defeat the Philistines.”

David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines, drove off their livestock, and decisively defeated them. So David rescued the people who lived in Keilah.

When Ahimelech’s son Abiathar fled to David at Keilah, Abiathar brought a priestly ephod[b] with him.

When Saul was told that David went to Keilah, Saul said, “Elohim has delivered him into my hands. He has trapped himself by going into a city which has a gate with a double door held shut by a bar.” So Saul called together all the troops to go to war and blockade Keilah, where David and his men were.

When David learned that Saul was planning to harm him, he told the priest Abiathar, “Bring the ephod.” 10 Then David said, “Yahweh Elohim of Israel, I have actually heard that Saul is going to come to Keilah and destroy the city on account of me. 11 Will the citizens of Keilah hand me over to him? Will Saul come here as I have heard? Yahweh Elohim of Israel, please tell me.”

“He will come,” Yahweh answered.

12 “Will the citizens of Keilah hand me and my men over to Saul?” David asked.

“They will hand you over,” Yahweh answered.

13 So David and his men, about six hundred[c] in all, left Keilah. They went wherever they could go. Then Saul was told, “David has escaped from Keilah!” So he gave up the campaign. 14 David lived in fortified camps in the desert, and he lived in fortified camps in the mountains of the desert of Ziph. Saul was always searching for him, but Elohim didn’t let him capture David.

David in the Desert of Ziph

15 David was afraid because[d] Saul had come to kill him at Horesh in the desert of Ziph. 16 Saul’s son Jonathan came to David at Horesh. He strengthened David’s faith in Yahweh.[e] 17 “Don’t be afraid,” he told David, “my father Saul won’t find you. You will rule Israel, and I will be your second-in-command. Even my father Saul knows this.” 18 Both of them made a pledge in Yahweh’s presence. David stayed in Horesh, and Jonathan went home.

19 Then the men of Ziph went to Saul in Gibeah. They said, “David is hiding with us in fortified camps at Horesh on the hills of Hachilah, south of Jeshimon. 20 Come, Your Majesty, whenever you want. We will hand him over to you.”

21 Saul responded, “Yahweh bless you for feeling sorry for me! 22 Please make more plans, and watch where he goes. Who has seen him there? I’m told he’s very clever. 23 Watch and learn about all the hiding places where he may be hiding, and come back to me with the facts. Then I’ll go with you, and if he’s in the country, I’ll search for him among all the families of Judah.” 24 They left for Ziph ahead of Saul.

David in the Desert of Maon

David and his men were in the desert of Maon, in the plains south of Jeshimon. 25 When Saul and his men came to look for him, David was told the news. So he went to his mountain stronghold in the desert of Maon. Saul heard about it and pursued David into the desert of Maon. 26 Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men went on the other side of the mountain. David was hurrying to get away from Saul, and Saul and his men were going around the mountain toward David and his men, trying to capture them. 27 Then a messenger came to Saul and said, “Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the country.”

28 Saul gave up pursuing David and went to fight the Philistines. So that place was called Slippery Rock.[f] 29 From there David went to stay in the fortified camps of En Gedi.


  1. 1 Samuel 23:1 A threshing floor is an outdoor area where grain is separated from its husks.
  2. 1 Samuel 23:6 Ephod is a technical term for a part of the priest’s clothes. Its exact usage and shape are unknown.
  3. 1 Samuel 23:13 Masoretic Text; Greek “four hundred.”
  4. 1 Samuel 23:15 Or “David saw that.”
  5. 1 Samuel 23:16 Dead Sea Scrolls, Greek; Masoretic Text “in Elohim.”
  6. 1 Samuel 23:28 1 Samuel 23:29 in English Bibles is 1 Samuel 24:1 in the Hebrew Bible.