Now they told David, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors.” Therefore David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” But David’s men said to him, “Behold, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” Then David inquired of the Lord again. And the Lord answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.” And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines and brought away their livestock and struck them with a great blow. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.
When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech had fled to David to Keilah, he had come down with an ephod in his hand. Now it was told Saul that David had come to Keilah. And Saul said, “God has given him into my hand, for he has shut himself in by entering a town that has gates and bars.” And Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” Then David said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.” And the Lord said, “He will come down.” Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the Lord said, “They will surrender you.” Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition. And David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand. – 1 Samuel 23:1-14 ESV
There are many ways in which David was a type of Christ, providing a foreshadowing of the Messiah who was to come. Jesus would be a descendant of David and would be born in the city of Bethlehem, just as David had been. David had been a shepherd and Jesus was the Good Shepherd. Like David, Jesus had been the king-elect, sent by God to become the King of kings and Lord of lords. But also like David, He would experience a time of waiting, in which He would minister on behalf of the people of Israel, but not necessarily receive their full appreciation for His efforts.
In this passage, David, though pursued by his enemy, Saul, would continue to fight against the Philistines. He was on the run and living in hiding with his rag-tag group of malcontents and misfits, but he had not given up his desire to destroy the enemies of Israel. Jesus too, lived his life as a man without a home, with no place to even lay His head (Luke 9:58). He was surrounded by a motley crew made up of fishermen, tax collectors and other less-than-impressive individuals. And Jesus was constantly pursued by his enemies, the Pharisees and Sadduccees. Both David and Jesus were both fighting the same unseen enemy, Satan, whose every desire was to cut short their rule and reign, in an effort to thwart the plan of God. Even the people of Israel, who greatly benefited by the efforts of both men would, in many ways, turn their backs on them. David would rescue the people of Keilah, only to learn that they would betray him to Saul if given the chance. Jesus would offer the people of Israel salvation from death and freedom from sin, but the majority would turn their backs on Him, rejecting Him as their Messiah, preferring the darkness of their lives over the light of life being offered to them (John 3:19).
David, like Jesus, was faithful to God. He still saw himself as a servant of God, and was willing to fight the enemies of God even while living on the run from Saul. When David received word that the Philistines were harassing the inhabitants of the Israelite city of Keilah and robbing their threshing floors, he immediately determined to do something about it. But not before he sought the will of God. David had learned some valuable lessons from his decision to flee to Gath and then deceive the priests at Nob. The first one had almost cost him his life. The second one had resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of innocent people. And in neither case had he sought out the will of God. So this time he did. And God gave His approval. David and his growing band of men went to Keilah, attacked the Philistines and “struck them with a great blow” (1 Samuel 23:5 ESV). They saved the inhabitants of Keilah.
But news of David’s good deed made its way to Saul, who saw this as just another opportunity to trap David and destroy him. He was not grateful for David’s help against the enemies of Israel. He refused to see David as an ally, but instead, viewed him as a threat and an enemy to his way of life. In the same way, the Pharisees refused to see Jesus as a fellow minister to the people of Israel. He was a threat to the status quo and they were jealous of His growing popularity. They refused to see His miracles and victories over demons and diseases as having come from God. As far as they were concerned, He as the enemy and they were willing to do anything to get rid of Him.
Saul, true to form, made his way to Keilah with a large force to take David, and he was willing to destroy the city and everyone in it if necessary, just to get his hands on David. But David was well acquainted with Saul’s unbridled hatred for him and knew that he would most likely show up at Keilah. So David sought the will of God once more. This time he used the Urim and Thummim.
The Urim and Thummim were a means of revelation entrusted to the high priest. No description of them is given. The Urim and Thummim were used at critical moments in the history of God’s people when special divine guidance was needed. The civil leader was expected to make use of this means for all important matters for which he needed direction. – Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
The book of Exodus provides us with an explanation of their function.
Insert the Urim and Thummim into the sacred chestpiece so they will be carried over Aaron’s heart when he goes into the Lord’s presence. In this way, Aaron will always carry over his heart the objects used to determine the Lord’s will for his people whenever he goes in before the Lord. – Exodus 28:30 NLT
These were evidently two stones that were placed in the pocket of the high priest’s ephod. It is thought that one was light in color and the other was dark. When a decision was necessary, each stone was assigned a different answer or opposing outcome. Whichever one was pulled out was believed to be a divine answer from God. We are told that Abiathar, the only priest to have escaped the slaughter at Nob, had brought along the high priest’s ephod, and now David determined to use the Urim and Thummim to ascertain God’s insights and direction. David wanted to know if Saul was coming and if the people of Keilah would betray him to Saul. God affirmed both questions. So David and his men left Keilah and “went wherever they could go” (1 Samuel 23:13 ESV).
David would return to the caves, but he was far from alone. His entourage had grown to more than 600 men. But more importantly, He was accompanied by God. Even though Saul “sought him every day,” God was with Him and “did not give him into his hand” (1 Samuel 23:14 ESV). David had been rejected by the people of Keilah as their savior, but he had not been rejected by God. His deliverance of them was not enough to forestall his betrayal by them. The very same thing happened to Jesus. In John’s gospel we read the sobering words, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11 ESV). David would continue to experience rejection by his own people. He would find himself under constant threat by Saul. But he would remain faithful to God and committed to his cause to stand against the enemies of God. He would suffer greatly, but his suffering would eventually lead to his exaltation as the king of Israel. Jesus too, would suffer, even to the point of death, but as the apostle Paul reminds us:
…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:8-11 ESV
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.