Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, by John Nelson Darby, [1857-62], at sacred-texts.com
David, despised as he may be, is the king and saviour of the people; he puts the Philistines to flight with great slaughter. He finds nothing but treachery in Israel, of which Saul makes use in the hope of seizing David. But as the wisdom of the prophet is with David, so has he also God's answer by the ephod of the priest which is with him.
Let us observe in passing, that Saul has greatly aggrandised himself to outward view. He is no longer with his six hundred men who followed him trembling; he can speak of his captains of thousands and captains of hundreds; he can bestow fields and vineyards; he has his Doeg, the head over his herdsmen. Before God, inwardly, he makes frightful progress in evil; he is not only forsaken of God, but he breaks through all the restraints of conscience, and of the testimony and ordinances of God. For the prophet Samuel and the priests ought to have been a restraint to one who professed to be identified with the interests of God's people. Outward progress in prosperity, joined to actual progress in evil inwardly, is a very solemn thing. It is at once a snare to the flesh and a trial to faith. David, on the contrary, is apparently-and in fact, as to circumstances-driven out from the people. He has neither home nor refuge. But the testimony of God, in the person of the prophet Gad, and communion with God by the priest's ephod, are his portion in his exile. Cast out by man, he is where the resources of God are realised according to the need of His people.
Remark also that David himself acts as priest, to obtain the expression of God's mind. He takes the ephod to seek counsel of God; he eats the shewbread, a remarkable type of Christ teaching us that, when all is ruined, blessing is made over to those who by faith walk in obedience, understanding the duty of the believer who discerns the moral place of faith, what it owes to God, and how it may rely on Him.
Remark, also, that that which here distinguishes David is not shining deeds, the fruit of the power of faith, but the instinct and intelligence of that which is suitable to his position a moral discernment of that which is pleasing to God, and of the line of conduct which His servant should pursue as the vessel of His spiritual energy, while the power which belongs to him is in the hands of another. It is the walk of one who has apprehended that which is suitable to this difficult position, in all the circumstances it brings him into; who respects that which God respects, and does the work of God without fear when God calls him: a remarkable type of Jesus in all this, and example for us. Besides this spiritual perception, these moral suitabilities; the greater part of this history sets before us the way in which God makes everything tend towards the accomplishment of His purposes (in spite of all the motives and intentions of men) in order to place David, through patience and the energy of faith, in the position He had prepared for him.
Nevertheless David needs the intervention and the safeguard of God. Having quitted Keilah (chap. 23), in consequence of God's warning, he goes into the wilderness. There he is surrounded by Saul's men. But at the moment when Saul would have taken him, the Philistines invade the land, and Saul is obliged to return.