1 Samuel 23:9
And David knew that Saul secretly practiced mischief against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, Bring here the ephod.
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(9) Secretly practised mischief.—The idea of secrecy suggested in the English translation does not appear in the Hebrew; the accurate rendering would be, “was forging, or devising.” It is likely enough that Jonathan contrived to keep his friend informed of these Court plots against him.

Bring hither the ephod.—It is quite clear that a different method of enquiry was used by David on this occasion. In 1Samuel 23:3-4 it is merely stated that he enquired of the Lord; here at Keilah his enquiry was prefaced, in 1Samuel 23:6, by a definite statement that Abiathar the priest, with the ephod, had arrived here before he asked the question of God. The history tells us he directed Abiathar the priest to “bring hither the ephod,” thus pointedly connecting the enquiry in some way with the ephod. In this ephod were set twelve precious stones, one for each of the twelve tribes. The names of the tribes were engraved on these gems, the Rabbis tell us, along with some other sacred words. On important solemn occasions—it seems perfectly certain during a considerable time—that these stones were allowed by the providence of God, who worked so many marvels for His people, to be used as oracles. It has been already stated that according to a most ancient tradition the use of the sacred gems was restricted to the high priest, who could only call out the supernatural power at the bidding of the king or the head of the State for the time being (such an one as Joshua, for instance). The Divine response given by the sacred gems seems to have been the visible response to earnest, faithful prayer.

The common belief is that the ephod stones gave their answer to the royal and high priestly questions by some peculiar shining. But a passage (quoted at length in the Excursus M on the Urim and Thummim at the end of this Book) from the Babylonian Talmud (Treatise Yoma)—apparently little known—tells us that the Rabbis had two other explanations traditionally handed down from the days when the ephod and its holy gemmed breastplate was questioned on solemn occasions by the high priest.

1 Samuel 23:9-11. Bring hither the ephod — Which, doubtless, Abiathar put on; otherwise he could not have inquired of the Lord by it. The Lord said, He will come down — He purposeth to come if thou continue here. For still both David’s question and God’s answer are conditional, upon supposition. As David’s being there was the only motive for Saul’s coming, so, if he departed, Saul could have no inducement to come. And accordingly we find he laid aside his design so soon as he was informed that David had escaped. It seems probable from this place that God’s answer by Urim and Thummim was not by any change in the colour or situation of the precious stones in the breast-plate of the ephod, but by a voice or suggestion from God to the high-priest.23:7-13 Well might David complain of his enemies, that they rewarded him evil for good, and that for his love they were his adversaries. Christ was used thus basely. David applied to his great Protector for direction. No sooner was the ephod brought him than he made use of it. We have the Scriptures in our hands, let us take advice from them in doubtful cases. Say, Bring hither the Bible. David's address to God is very solemn, also very particular. God allows us to be so in our addresses to him; Lord, direct me in this matter, about which I am now at a loss. God knows not only what will be, but what would be, if it were not hindered; therefore he knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and how to render to every man according to his works.If Gad was with David at the forest of Hareth 1 Samuel 22:5, and there inquired for him of the Lord 1 Samuel 23:2,1 Samuel 23:4, but did not accompany him to Keilah, and if Abiathar's flight occurred at the time of David's being at Keilah, we have an additional striking instance of God's watchful providential care of David in thus sending Abiathar to supply the place of Gad at so critical a moment. 9. he said to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod—The consultation was made, and the prayer uttered, by means of the priest. The alternative conditions here described have often been referred to as illustrating the doctrine of God's foreknowledge and preordination of events. Saul secretly practised mischief against him; whereby it may seem he pretended that he raised his army to defend Keilah and his country from the Philistines, and kept his intention against David in his own breast. Or, designed or devised; for so the word signifies; and so it is here translated by many; and it seems both from 1 Samuel 23:8, and from his publicly avowed jealousy of and rage against David, that he declared his design to be against him, as a traitor to his crown and dignity.

Bring hither the ephod, and put it upon thee, that thou mayst ask counsel of God for me. And. David knew that Saul secretly practised mischief against him,.... That is, plotted and contrived it, formed schemes in order to do him mischief, giving out one thing, and designing another; so he pretended war against the Philistines, but his intention was to come against Keilah, and take David there:

and he said to Abiathar the priest, bring hither the ephod; not for David to put on, but for the priest himself, that being clothed with it, and the Urim and Thummim in it, he might inquire for him of the Lord.

And David knew that Saul secretly practised mischief against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, {d} Bring hither the ephod.

(d) To consult with the Lord by Urim and Thummim.

9. secretly practised] Lit. was forging. Omit “secretly.”

Bring hither the ephod] For the high-priest did not always wear it. See note on 1 Samuel 14:18, and cp. 1 Samuel 30:7.Verses 9-13. - Saul secretly practised mischief. This phrase is correctly translated "devised evil" in Proverbs 3:29; Proverbs 14:22. There is no idea of secrecy in the Hebrew verb, which literally means "to work in metals," "to forge." Saul's purpose was open enough, and when David heard of it he tells Abiathar to bring the ephod, and then offers earnest prayer to God for counsel and advice. In his prayer his two questions are put inversely to the logical order, but in accordance with their relative importance in David's mind, and no ground exists for altering the text. But when the ephod was brought forward the questions were of course put in their logical sequence. To the first question, "Will Saul come down to besiege Keilah?" the answer was, "He will." To the second, "Will the citizens of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul?" the answer also was, "They will. Whereupon he and his followers, now increased to 600 men, withdrew, and went whithersoever they could go. Literally. "they went about whither they went about," i.e. without any fixed plan, as chance or their necessities dictated. As David was once again at large, Saul had no longer any reason for besieging Keilah, especially as its citizens had preferred his side, as that of the more powerful, to gratitude for the safety of their lives and property.

CHAPTER 23:14-29 But his men said to him, "Behold, here in Judah we are in fear (i.e., are not safe from Saul's pursuit); how shall we go to Keilah against the ranks of the Philistines?" In order, therefore, to infuse courage into them, he inquired of the Lord again, and received the assurance from God, "I will give the Philistines into thy hand." He then proceeded with his men, fought against the Philistines, drove off their cattle, inflicted a severe defeat upon them, and thus delivered the inhabitants of Keilah. In 1 Samuel 23:6 a supplementary remark is added in explanation of the expression "inquired of the Lord," to the effect that, when Abiathar fled to David to Keilah, the ephod had come to him. The words "to David to Keilah" are not to be understood as signifying that Abiathar did not come to David till he was in Keilah, but that when he fled after David (1 Samuel 22:20), he met with him as he was already preparing for the march of Keilah, and immediately proceeded with him thither. For whilst it is not stated in 1 Samuel 22:20 that Abiathar came to David in the wood of Hareth, but the place of meeting is left indefinite, the fact that David had already inquired of Jehovah (i.e., through the oracle of the high priest) with reference to the march to Keilah, compels us to assume that Abiathar had come to him before he left the mountains for Keilah. So that the brief expression "to David to Keilah," which is left indefinite because of its brevity, must be interpreted in accordance with this fact.
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