Verses 19-29 (1 Samuel 23:19-29)

Here, 1. The Ziphites offer their service to Saul, to betray David to him, 1 Sam. 23:19, 20. He was sheltering himself in the wilderness of Ziph (1 Sam. 23:14, 15), putting the more confidence in the people of that country because they were of his own tribe. They had reason to think themselves happy that they had an opportunity of serving one who was the ornament of their tribe and was likely to be much more so, who was so far from plundering the country, or giving it any disturbance with his troops, that he was ready to protect it and to them all the good offices that there was occasion for. But, to ingratiate themselves with Saul, they went to him, and not only informed him very particularly where David quartered (1 Sam. 23:19), but invited him to come with his forces into their country in pursuit of him, and promised to deliver him into his hand, 1 Sam. 23:20. Saul had not sent to examine or threaten them, but of their own accord, and even without asking a reward (as Judas did?What will you give me?), they offered to betray David to him who, they knew, thirsted after his blood. 2. Saul thankfully receives their information, and gladly lays hold of the opportunity of hunting David in their wilderness, in hopes to make a prey of him at length. He intimates to them how kindly he took it (1 Sam. 23:21): Blessed be you of the Lord (so near is God to his mouth, though far from his heart), for you have compassion on me. It seems he looked upon himself as a miserable man and an object of pity; his own envy and ill-nature made him so, otherwise he might have been easy and have needed no man?s compassion. He likewise insinuates the little concern that the generality of his people showed for him. ?You have compassion on me, which others have not.? Saul gives them instructions to search more particularly for his haunts (1 Sam. 23:22), ?for? (says he) ?I hear he deals very subtilely,? representing him as a man crafty to do mischief, whereas all his subtlety was to secure himself. It was strange that Saul did not go down with them immediately, but he hoped by their means to set his game with the more certainty, and thus divine Providence gave David time to shift for himself. But the Ziphites had laid their spies upon all the places where he was likely to be discovered, and therefore Saul might come and seize him if he was in the land, 1 Sam. 23:23. New he thought himself sure of his prey and pleased himself with the thoughts of devouring it. 3. The imminent peril that David was now brought into. Upon intelligence that the Ziphites had betrayed him, he retired from the hill of Hachilah to the wilderness of Maon (1 Sam. 23:24), and at this time he penned the Ps. 54:1-7, as appears by the title, wherein he calls the Ziphites strangers, though they were Israelites, because they used him barbarously; but he puts himself under the divine protection: ?Behold, God is my helper, and then all shall be well? Saul, having got intelligence of him, pursued him closely (1 Sam. 23:25), till he came so near him that there was but a mountain between them (1 Sam. 23:26), David and his men on one side of the mountain flying and Saul and his men on the other side pursuing, David in fear and Saul in hope. But this mountain was an emblem of the divine Providence coming between David and the destroyer, like the pillar of cloud between the Israelites and the Egyptians. David was concealed by this mountain and Saul confounded by it. David now flees as a bird to his mountain (Ps. 11:1) and finds God to him as the shadow of a great rock. Saul hoped with his numerous forces to enclose David, and compass him in and his men; but the ground did not prove convenient for his design, and so it failed. A new name was given to the place in remembrance of this (1 Sam. 23:28): Selah-hammah-lekoth?the rock of division, because it divided between Saul and David. 4. The deliverance of David out of this danger. Providence gave Saul a diversion, when he was just ready to lay hold of David d01 ; notice was brought him that the Philistines were invading the land (1 Sam. 23:27), probably that part of the land where his own estate lay, which would be seized, or at least spoiled, by the invaders; for the little notice he took of Keilah?s distress and David?s relief of it, in the beginning of this chapter, gives us cause to suspect that he would not now have left pursuing David, and gone to oppose the Philistines, if some private interests of his own had not been at stake. However it was, he found himself under a necessity of going against the Philistines (1 Sam. 23:28), and by this means David was delivered when he was on the brink of destruction. Saul was disappointed of his prey, and God was glorified as David?s wonderful protector. When the Philistines invaded the land they were far from intending any kindness to David by it, yet the overruling providence of God, which orders all events and the times of them, made it very serviceable to him. The wisdom of God is never at a loss for ways and means to preserve his people. As this Saul was diverted, so another Saul was converted, just then when he was breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the saints of the Lord, Acts 9:1. 5. David, having thus escaped, took shelter in some natural fortresses, which he found in the wilderness of En-gedi, 1 Sam. 23:29. And this Dr. Lightfoot thinks was the wilderness of Judah, in which David was when he penned Ps. 63:1-11, which breathes as much pious and devout affection as almost any of his psalms; for in all places and in all conditions he still kept up his communion with God.

- Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary