1 Samuel 23:28
Why Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against the Philistines: therefore they called that place Selahammahlekoth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(28) Sela-hammahlekoth.—Literally, as in the margin of our Bibles, the rock (or, still better, the cliff) of divisions. Other scholars, with greater reason, prefer the derivation from a Hebrew word signifying to be smooth—the cliff of smoothness: that is, of slipping away or escaping. Ewald rather fancifully interprets the term as the “Cliff of Destiny or of Fate.”

23:19-29 In the midst of his wickedness, Saul affected to speak the language of piety. Such expressions, without suitable effects, can only amuse or deceive those who hear, and those who use them. This mountain was an emblem of the Divine Providence coming between David and the destroyer. Let us not be dismayed at the prospect of future difficulties, but stay ourselves upon Him who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working. Sooner than his promise shall fail, he will commission Philistines to effect our escape, at the very moment when our case appears most desperate. God requires entire dependence on him, If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established, Isa 7:9.Sela-hammahlekoth - See the margin. (Identified by Conder with a narrow and impassable gorge between El Kolah and Maon, called Malaky). 25. David … came down into a rock, and abode in the wilderness of Maon—Tell Main, the hillock on which was situated the ancient Maon (Jos 15:55), and from which the adjoining wilderness took its name, is one mile north, ten east from Carmel. The mountain plateau seems here to end. It is true the summit ridge of the southern hills runs out a long way further towards the southwest; but towards the southeast the ground sinks more and more down to a tableland of a lower level, which is called "the plain to the right hand [that is, to the south] of the wilderness" [Van De Velde]. i.e.

The rock of divisions, because there Saul was separated, and in a manner pulled asunder from David, who was now almost within his reach. Therefore Saul returned from pursuing after David,.... Stopped short at once, as soon as ever he received the message:

and went against the Philistines; to stop them in their progress, and drive them out of his country:

therefore they called that place Selahammahlekoth, which signifies the rock of divisions. David and his men, very probably, gave it this name, not only because it divided between Saul and his men, and David and his men, when they were one on one side of it, and the other on the other side of it; but because Saul was, by the providence of God, divided and separated from David here, whereby he escaped falling into his hands. The Targum is,"therefore they called that place the rock of division, the place where the heart of the king was divided to go here and there:''he was divided in his own mind, and at a loss what to do; he was in two minds, as Jarchi says, and did not know which to follow, whether to return and deliver his country from the hands of the Philistines, or to pursue and take David; and others represent the soldiers of Saul as divided, some saying that since the son of Jesse was just falling into their hands, they should not leave him; others, that the war of Israel should be regarded before him, who might be found at any time (u).

(u) Midrash apud Yalkut in loc.

Wherefore Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against the Philistines: therefore they called that place {l} Selahammahlekoth.

(l) That is, stone of division, because there they divided themselves one from another.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
28. Sela-hammahlekôth] Either (1) “Rock of escapes;” or more probably (2) “Rock of divisions,” because there Saul had to relinquish the pursuit of David.

Lieut. Conder thinks he has discovered the scene of David’s escape. Between the ridge of El Kôlah and the neighbourhood of Maon there is a great gorge called “the Valley of the Rocks:” to part of this the name Wady Malâki now applies, and there is no other place near Maon where cliffs, such as are to be inferred from the word Sela, can be found. See Tent Work, II. 91.In his anxiety, however, lest David should escape him after all, he charged them, "Go, and give still further heed (הכין without לב, as in Judges 12:6), and reconnoitre and look at his place where his foot cometh (this simply serves as a more precise definition of the nominal suffix in מקומו, his place), who hath seen him there (sc., let them inquire into this, that they may not be deceived by uncertain or false reports): for it is told me that he dealeth very subtilly."
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