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the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 13

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

Verses 1-23


The period covered by these chapters is doubtless of some length, whose history is summed up in the closing verses of the second (v. 47-52). But there are special features reported in detail which constitute the substance of the lesson.


Saul’s plan seems to have been not a large standing army but a small body- guard, divided between him and his son (1 Samuel 13:2 ), for the purpose of harassing the enemy in detachments.

“Garrison” (1 Samuel 13:3 ) is rendered by some “pillar” or “flag-staff.” In any event Jonathan’s act was a signal for battle, and the hosts gathered (1 Samuel 13:3-4 ).


Some regard “30,000 chariots” (1 Samuel 13:5 ) as a textual error, and that it should be “3,000.” But the Israelites act as though there were 30,000 (1 Samuel 13:6-7 ), and even Saul loses his balance (1 Samuel 13:9 ). Had he withheld his hand until the end of the seventh day Samuel would have appeared, whose delay doubtless was providentially ordered to test the king’s character.

The king failed. He had no right to intrude into the priest’s office. It showed a lack of faith and obedience, and a desire to get glory to himself rather than God. Moreover, under rebuke he showed no humility or penitence, but a self-justifying spirit (1 Samuel 13:11-12 ), that led to his rejection from the kingdom and the prophecy of a successor of another type (1 Samuel 13:13-14 ).

“A TREMBLING OF GOD” (1 Samuel 13:15-18 )

The closing verses of chapter 13 depict the awful condition into which Israel had fallen under the mastery of the Philistines. They were totally disarmed. With the exception of a file for sharpening their smaller instruments of husbandry, there were weapons in the hands of none except the two named.

It is clear from this that what follows at the opening of the next chapter was supernatural. 1 Samuel 14:6 shows Jonathan’s faith, superinduced doubtless by a special enduement of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise his conduct would have been rashness. The thought is further strengthened by the earthquake in 1 Samuel 14:15 , which contributed to the panic in the enemy’s camp. “There was a trembling in the host,” is in the margin, “a trembling of God,” i.e., a trembling which He produced.

ZEAL WITHOUT WISDOM (1 Samuel 14:19-46 )

Ecclesiastes says there is “a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 ), and Saul thought there was a time to cease praying and begin acting for God had heard his prayer and was answering it (1 Samuel 14:19 ). The deserters were all coming back and the Lord was giving victory (1 Samuel 14:21-23 ).

But the king had laid a foolish obligation on his soldiers, and a foolish vow upon himself (1 Samuel 14:24-30 ). It was a case of zeal without wisdom as his son points out, and it came near costing him the loss of his son, but for the intervention of the people (1 Samuel 14:36-45 ).

When Jonathan speaks of the honey “enlightening” his eyes (1 Samuel 14:29 ), it is another way of referring to the refreshment experienced by eating it.

The event in verse 32 took place at the end of the day’s battle. With the obligation about eating removed, the hungry soldiers could wait neither to cook their meat nor properly slay their animals. The stone Saul commanded brought (1 Samuel 14:33 ) was to slaughter the animals upon, obeying the Levitical law about the blood, and seems afterward to have been used for an altar of worship.


1. What do some think “garrison” means in this lesson?

2. What was the character of Saul’s failure in this case?

3. What shows the extent of Israel’s subjection to the Philistines?

4. How would you explain Jonathan’s action in verse 6?

5. Tell the story of Saul’s foolishness in this battle.

6. What is the meaning of “enlightening” in verse 29?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 13". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/1-samuel-13.html. 1897-1910.
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