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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 13

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel,

Saul reigned one year - literally, a son of a year (was) Saul in 'reigning;' i:e., he had been a king for a year. The transactions recorded in the eleventh and twelfth chapters were the principal incidents comprised in the first year of Saul's reign; and the events about to be described in this passage happened in the second year. Some writers, however, regard the text as mutilated and defective in this first verse. The 'Hexapla' of Origen has this Greek reading-`Saul was (thirty) years old when he was made king, and he reigned-years in Israel,' the blank number being filled up by Houbigant, Wall, and others, as 'forty' (cf. Acts 13:21: Josephus, 'Antiquities,' b. 6: ch. 14:, sec. 9, where it is said that Saul lived eighteen years while Samuel was alive, and twenty two after that prophets death, = forty). The Septuagint omits the first verse altogether.

Verse 2

Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel; whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin: and the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent.

Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel. This hand of picked men was a body-guard who were kept constantly on duty, while the rest of the people were dismissed until their services might be needed. It seems to have been his tactics to attack the Philistine garrisons in the country by different detachments, rather than by risking a general engagement; and his first operations were directed to emancipate his native territory of Benjamin from the occupation of these enemies.

Verse 3

And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear.

Jonathan (God-given) smote the garrison of the Philistines ... in Geba. Geba and Gibeah were towns in Benjamin very close to each other (Joshua 18:24; Joshua 18:28). From the similarity of the names, they are apt to be confounded, and they are so in this chapter: for while the two places are accurately distinguished [ Gib`ah (H1390), Gibeah (1 Samuel 13:2), and Geba` (H1387) (1 Samuel 13:3)], the distinction is overlooked in our version (1 Samuel 13:16), where the Hebrew text has [ Geba` (H1387)], Geba. Gibeah (Tel el-Fulil) (see the note at 1 Samuel 10:26). Geba (Jeb'a), a small village half in ruins. "Garrison" [ nªtsiyb (H5333)] is different from the word used, 1 Samuel 13:23; 1 Samuel 14:1, and signifies something erected; probably a pillar or flag-staff, indicative of Philistine ascendancy; and that the secret demolition of this standard, so obnoxious to a young and noble-hearted patriot, was the feat of Jonathan referred to, is evident from the words, "the Philistines heard of it," which is not the way we should expect an attack on a fortress to be noticed.

[The Septuagint considers the word as a proper name-the name of the Philistine officer in command-and renders the clause, ton Nasib ton allofulon ton en too bounoo, smote Nasib, the foreigner who was on the hill.] This view is advocated by Stark ('Gaza und die Philistaische Kuste,' p. 164), who says, 'the slaughter of one Nasib at Geba was the occasion of a new campaign.' It is also adopted by Stanley (Smith's 'Dictionary,' article 'Jonathan'). This translation, however, is quite unwarrantable, as, in order to obtain the meaning, "the Philistines," always rendered in the Greek translation 'foreigners,' are changed from the plural into the singular, and 'Geba' into 'the hill.' [Perhaps, after all, the word "garrison" in our version should not be lightly discarded, for matsaab (H4673), garrison (2 Samuel 23:14) is rendered by the sacred historian nªtsiyb

(H5333), in the parallel passage, 1 Chronicles 11:16; while in 2 Samuel 8:6; 2 Samuel 8:14, the Septuagint themselves render nªtsiyb (H5333), by the Greek word froura, garrison, an outpost or detachment.]

Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land. This, a well-known sound, was the usual Hebrew war-summons: the first blast was suffered by the beacon-fire in the neighbouring places. A second blast was blown, then answered by a fire in a more distant locality, whence the proclamation was speedily diffused over the whole country. Since the Philistines resented what Jonathan had done as an overt attempt to throw off their yoke, a levy, en masse, of the people was immediately ordered, the rendezvous to be the old camping ground at Gilgal.

Saying, Let the Hebrews hear - i:e., obey the summons. [The Septuagint has: Eetheteekasin hoi douloi , The slaves have obeyed; as if the text were haa`ªbaadiym, slaves, instead of haa-`Ibriym (H5680), the Hebrews.] The following may be given as a representation of the exact position of affairs: Michmash (now Mukhmas) and Geba (now Jeb'a) lay on opposites sides of "the passage of Michmash" (now Wady Suweinit), which is an open valley, about a mile broad at this point, but which contracts in its descent eastward to the Jordan into a narrow precipitous defile. Gibeah (now Tel el-Fulil) was south of both. Michmash was at first occupied by Saul with a large portion of his army: Jonathan, his son, remained in Gibeah, the capital, with another. The latter had made a successful sally on the Philistine garrison at Geba, and the Philistines having heard of it, determined to take speedy and ample revenge by an invasion of the Hebrew territory on a large scale. Saul, by a war-summons, collected a general muster of the fighting men of his kingdom at Gilgal, and on his temporary withdrawal for that purpose from Michmash, the Philistines took possession of the fortress which he had left.

Verse 4

And all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines and that Israel also was had in And all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines, and that Israel also was had in abomination with the Philistines. And the people were called together after Saul to Gilgal.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 5

And the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude: and they came up, and pitched in Michmash, eastward from Bethaven.

Thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen. Either this number must include chariots of every kind, or the word "chariots" must mean the men fighting in them (2 Samuel 10:18; 1 Kings 20:21; 1 Chronicles 19:18). [ shªloshiym (H7970), thirty, is omitted in one manuscript. Instead of "thirty," the Syriac and Arabic versions have shaalosh (H7969), three. It has been suggested that lª- of Yisraa'eel (H3478), having been twice written by mistake, was then interpreted as "thirty", and that the present reading originated in this way. Or the true number may be l-' (lamed-'aleph), i:e., (31), where the 'aleph (') was afterward taken for 'elep (H505) (1,000) (Davidson's 'Revision of the Hebrew Text of the Old Testament').] The gathering of the chariots and horsemen must be understood to be on the Philistine plain, before they ascended the western passes, and pitched in the heart of the Benjamin hills, in "Michmash" (now Mukhmas), a 'steep, precipitous valley' (Robinson) eastward from Beth-aven (Beth-el).

Verse 6

When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for the people were distressed,) then the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits.

When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait. Though Saul's gallantry was unabated, his subjects displayed no degree of zeal and energy. Instead of venturing an encounter, they fled in all directions. [The Septuagint, apparently reading it as: waagash, come near, instead of nigas (H5065), pressed, harassed, renders this clause as: kai aneer Israeel eiden hoti stenoos autoo mee prosagein auton, and the men Israel saw that he was in such difficulties that he could not advance to him-namely, the Philistine.] Numbers of the people took refuge in the hiding-places which the broken ridges of the neighbourhood abundantly afford. The rocks are perforated in every direction with 'caves,' and 'holes,' and 'pits,' crevices and fissures sunk deep in the rocker soil, subterranean granaries or dry wells in the adjoining fields. The name of Michmash (hidden treasure) seems to be derived from this natural peculiarity (Stanley, 'Sinai and Palestine,' pp. 199, 200; Drew's 'Scripture Lands,' pp. 113-115; also Stewart's 'Tent and Khan,' p. 359).

Verse 7

And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.

And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead, [ wª-`Ibriym (H5680) `aabªruw (H5674); Septuagint, reading wª`obªriym, renders it as: kai di' diabainontes diebeesan, and the crossers crossed].

Verse 8

And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him.

He tarried seven days. Saul was still at Gilgal, in the eastern borders of his kingdom, in the valley of Jordan.

According to the set time that Samuel had appointed., [The Septuagint, Dielipen hepta heemeras too marturioo, hoos eipe Samoueel, he tarried seven days at the Testimony, as Samuel said.] Some bolder spirits had ventured to join the camp at Gilgal; but even the courage or those stout-hearted men gave way in prospect of this terrible visitation; and as many of them were stealing away, Saul thought some immediate and decided step must be taken. He seems to have waited until the seventh day was far advanced; probably until about the time of the evening sacrifice.

Verse 9

And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering.

Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. Saul, though patriotic enough in his own way, was more ambitious of gaining the glory of a triumph to himself than ascribing it to God. He did not understand his proper position as king of Israel; and although aware of the restrictions under which he held the sovereignty, wished to rule as an autocrat who possessed absolute power both in civil and sacred things. This occasion was his first trial. Samuel waited until the last day of the seven, in order to put the constitutional character of the king to the test; and as Saul, in his impatient and passionate haste, knowingly transgressed (1 Samuel 13:12) by want of faith, and thus showing his unfitness for his special office of theocratic ruler, as he showed nothing of the faith of Gideon and other Hebrew generals, he incurred a threat of the rejection which his subsequent waywardness confirmed. 'When Saul ordered animals to be brought to him for burst and peace offerings, it is to be remarked that he is said only to have offered the former (1 Samuel 13:9; 1 Samuel 13:12). And I cannot forbear alluding to the gratuitous supposition that Saul invaded the priest's office in this transaction, and that it was for this he was reprehended by Samuel. I call it gratuitous, because Samuel never speaks of such a thing to Saul. The king's fault was want of a full and confiding faith. In the burnt offering no priest was at that time required (cf. Judges 6:26; Judges 13:15-23; 1 Samuel 7:9; 1 Samuel 10:8; 1 Samuel 20:6; 1 Samuel 20:29; 2 Samuel 24:24); and even if there were, Samuel was not a priest' ('Israel according to the Flesh,' p. 147).

Verses 10-13

And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 14

But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.

Now thy kingdom shall not continue. Saul had for some time been swerving from his proper and bounden allegiance to Yahweh as king of Israel, by acting as an autocrat in appointing a standing army (1 Samuel 13:2) - a great innovation-and now in not patiently waiting the time fixed for celebrating the solemn rites of religion. He seems to have been desirous of exercising independent authority, like the pagan rulers in the neighbouring countries, and to have become imperious and self-willed, giving unmistakeable indications that, under his government, the divine law, as established by Moses, would soon have been superseded, had not Yahweh, in this first stage of the monarchy, interposed, raising up a new dynasty, and thus vindicated His theocratic supremacy by a precedent set up as a beacon, too much disregarded, for the warning of future kings in Israel.

The Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart - namely, David, who in his public and official conduct acted for the most part as a constitutional king of Israel under the theocracy, conforming to the laws, upholding the worship, and testifying devoted allegiance to the authority and revealed will of Yahweh. No doubt he was at one unhappy period of his reign guilty of adultery and murder, and by the commission of those heinous transgressions he was a great sinner. But the phrase, "a man after God's own heart," has no reference to the piety or virtues of private and personal character; because no mere man in that respect has come up to the standard of the divine law. It is used solely with regard to official fidelity in the service of Yahweh in Israel (cf. 1 Samuel 2:35); and David was certainly entitled to be characterized as "a man after God's own heart," from his ardent zeal and undeviating exertions for the interests of the true religion, in opposition to idolatry.

And the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people [ naagiyd (H5057), leader, prince] - specially a theocratic prince or ruler (cf. 1 Samuel 9:16; 1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 25:30; 2 Samuel 6:21; 2 Samuel 7:8; 1 Kings 1:35; 1 Kings 14:7; Isaiah 55:4; Daniel 9:25).

Verse 15

And Samuel arose, and gat him up from Gilgal unto Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people that were present with him, about six hundred men.

Samuel ... gat him ... unto Gibeah., [The Septuagint has: kai anestee Samoueel kai apeelthen ek Galgaloon kai to kataleimma tou laou anebee opisoo Saoul eis apanteesin opisoo tou laou tou polemistou, And Samuel went up from Gilgal, and the remnant of the people went up after Saul, along with the men of war-ek Galgaloon eis Gabaa Beniamin-from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin.] One manuscript reads 'Saul' instead of "Samuel" at the beginning of this verse. Dr. Walls is of opinion that the Hebrew scribe, while copying, missed a line, and so added to the sentence concerning Samuel that which ended the verse concerning Saul.

Verse 16

And Saul, and Jonathan his son, and the people that were present with them, abode in Gibeah of Benjamin: but the Philistines encamped in Michmash.

Saul ... abode in Gibeah, [ bª-Geba` (H1387)] - in Geba. Saul removed his camp there, either in the hope that, being near his native town, he would gain an increase of followers, or that he might enjoy the counsels and influence of the prophet. [The Septuagint adds: kai (G2532) eklaion (G2799), and the people wept, considering how small a band they were against the immense host of the enemy.]

Verse 17

And the spoilers came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies: one company turned unto the way that leadeth to Ophrah, unto the land of Shual:

The spoilers came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies. Those predatory bands, sallying from Michmash, ravaged through the three valleys which radiate from the uplands of Michmash to Ophrah (now Tayibeh) (see the note at Judges 7:2) on the north, through the rocky pass of Beth-horon on the west, and down the ravines of Zeboim (the hyaenas), eastward toward the Ghor, or Jordan valley, on the east.

Verse 18

And another company turned the way to Beth-horon: and another company turned to the way of the border that looketh to the valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 19

Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears:

Now there was no smith ... throughout ... Israel. The country was in the lowest state of depression and degradation. The Philistines, after the great victory over the sons of Eli, had become the virtual masters of the land. Their policy in disarming the natives has been often followed in the East, (cf. Judges 5:8: see a similar instance in modern times, Morgan's 'History of Algiers,' p. 196, quoted by Taylor, 'Calment's Fragments,' No. 91:) For repairing any serious damage to their agricultural implements, they had to apply to the neighbouring forts.

Verse 20

But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 21

Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads. Yet they had a file - as a kind of privilege, for the purpose of sharpening various smaller utensils of farming. [The Septuagint, kai een ho trugeetos hetoimos tou therizein; ta de skeuee een treis sikloi eis ton odonta, kai tee axinee kai too drepanoo hupostasis een hee autee, 'and the grape season (vintage) was ready for the reaping. Now the implements were three shekels for the tooth, and to the ax and to the sickle there was the same subject.' This is a literal and correct rendering; but it is wholly meaningless, or what meaning there is in it is irrelevant to the context.]

Verse 22

So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan: but with Saul and with Jonathan his son was there found.

In the day of battle, [ bªyowm (H3117) milchemet (H4421)] (a verbal noun) - in the day of fighting. [The Septuagint: kai egeneethee en tais heemerais tou polemou Machmas, 'and it happened in the time of the war of Michmash'-a meaning quite different from that of the Hebrew text.]

There was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people. They had no weapons of offence but their rude implements of husbandry. But by means of these a bold, energetic militia could do great execution; and in the well-known instances of the royalist peasantry of La Vendee, or the Hays of Cramond, in Scotland, we have examples of the alert and effective manner in which a pastoral or agricultural people can arm themselves at a moment's notice. Saul and Jonathan alone were furnished with proper military weapons; but the Israelites, on this as on former occasions (see the note at Judges 3:31; Judges 5:8) found that "the Lord saveth not with sword and appear: for the battle is the Lord's" (1 Samuel 17:47).

Verse 23

And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the passage of Michmash.

The garrison of the Philistines went out to the passage of Michmash. They were seen to remove their camp from the village to the pass of Michmash - i:e., half a mile or so southeast, to the brow of the cliff overhanging the ravine which separates Michmash from Geba (Porter's 'Hand-book.' p. 214).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/1-samuel-13.html. 1871-8.
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