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KEILAH (kē-ī'la, Heb. ke‘îlâh)

A city lying in the foothills of Judah (Josh.15.44). It was threatened by the Philistines, but David rescued it (1Sam.23.1-1Sam.23.13). Abiathar the priest joined him there. The people of Keilah, when faced with the threat of Saul’s antagonism against David, would have betrayed David; therefore David had to leave.A man of Judah, descended from Caleb, son of Jephunneh (1Chr.4.19).

KEILAH ke ī’ lə (קְעִילָ֔ה). 1. A fortified town in the Shephelah district of Libnah-Mareshah near Achzib, now identified with modern Khirbt Qila 8 1/2 m. NW of Hebron. Mentioned as one of the towns given by lot to Judah (Josh 15:44).

David led a daring expedition to Keilah to deliver it from attacks by the Philistines who were robbing the threshing floors. Saul heard that he was there and sent troops to capture David and his men. David was forced to retreat again into the wilderness of Ziph, when it became apparent after consulting the ephod that the men of Keilah might turn him over to Saul (1 Sam 23:1-13).

Keilah is mentioned in the Amarna Letters as Qilti, an Egyp. base. Letters to Akh-en-Aton, pharaoh of Egypt, from the princes of Jerusalem and Hebron complained of each other’s occupation of Keilah at various times.

Keilah was inhabited by Jews returning from the Exile and was included in the roster of those who participated in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem under Nehemiah (Neh 3:17, 18).

There is a tradition that the prophet Habakkuk was buried in Keilah.

2. A descendant of Caleb son of Jephunneh, called a Garmite (1 Chron 4:19).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(qe`ilah; Keeilam):

(1) A city of the Shephelah mentioned (Jos 15:44) along with Nezib, Aehzib and Mareshah. Among those who repaired the walls of Jerusalem was "Hashabiah, the ruler of half the district of Keilah, for his district. After him repaired their brethren, Bavvai the son of Henadad, the ruler of half the district of Keilah" (Ne 3:17,18).

1. David and Keilah:

It is, however, from the story of the wandering of David that we have most information regarding this place. It was a city with gates and bars (1Sa 23:7). The Philistines came against it and commenced robbing the threshing-floors. David, after twice inquiring of Yahweh, went down with his 600 men (1Sa 23:13) and "fought with the Philistines, and brought away their cattle, and slew them with great slaughter." Saul hearing that David and his men were within a fortified town "summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men" (1Sa 23:8). Then David asked Abiathar the priest to bring him an ephod, and he inquired of Yahweh whether, if Saul came, the men of Keilah would surrender him to save that city; hearing from Yahweh, "They will deliver thee up," he and all his men escaped from Keilah and went into the wilderness. The reputed strength of Keilah is confirmed by its mention in 5 tablets in the Tell el-Amarna Letters under the name of Kilts (qilti, Petrie) with Gedor, Gath, Rabbah and Gezer.

2. Identification:

Although other identifications were proposed by the older topographers, there is now a general consensus of opinion that the site of this city is Khurbet Kila (Josephus, Ant, VI, xiii, 1, in his account of David’s adventure calls the place "Killa"). It is a hill covered with ruins in the higher part of Wady es Sur, 1,575 ft. above sea-level, whose terraced sides are covered with grainfields. The Eusebius, Onomasticon (Latin text) states that it was 8 miles from Eleutheropolis, which is about the distance of Khurbet Kila from Beit Jibrin. Beit Nusib (Nezib) is a couple of miles away, and Tell Sandahannah (Mareshah) but 7 miles to the West (Jos 15:44). An early Christian tradition states that the prophet Habakkuk was buried at Keilah.

(2) The Garmite (which see), 1Ch 4:19; see PEF, 314, Sh XXI.