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The Invasion of the Philistines
v. 1. Saul reigned one year, literally, "A son of [probably forty] years was Saul when he became king"; and when he had reigned two years over Israel (he was king, as nearly as can be estimated, twenty-two years),
v. 2. Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel, evidently from the total number of those who were able to bear arms ; whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash, some eight miles northeast of Jerusalem, and in Mount Bethel, the range on which the old Bethel lay, and a thousand were with Jonathan, the valiant son of Saul, in Gibeah of Benjamin; and the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent, he dismissed them to their homes.
v. 3. And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, on the hill near his home town, 1 Samuel 10:5, thereby taking the offensive against the invaders; and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear; the Israelites, especially those living west of Jordan, should know of Jonathan's heroic exploit, arouse themselves to action against the oppressors, and fight for their freedom.
v. 4. And all Israel heard say that Saul, who is named as the chief commander of the military forces of Israel, had smitten a garrison of the Philistines, and that Israel also was had in abomination with the Philistines, literally, "was ill-smelling," Genesis 34:30, said of one who is thoroughly despised and hated. And the people were called together after Saul to Gilgal, summoned to the old mustering-place to make ready for the campaign against the Philistines.
v. 5. And the Philistines gathered themselves together, they quickly mobilized an army, to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, or, one thousand, as the text seems originally to have had, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the seashore in multitude; and they came up, from the lowlands of Philistia, and pitched in Michmash, where Saul had first been stationed, eastward from Beth-aven, literally, "over against, in front of, Beth-aven," which itself was east of Michmash, Joshua 7:2.
v. 6. When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, in a most difficult and dangerous position, (for the people were distressed, oppressed by the enemy, who robbed and plundered as they chose,) then the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, secluded places in thorny undergrowth, and in rocks, in clefts and caves of the hills, and in high places, strongly built towers in lonely situations, and in pits.
v. 7. And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead, the territory of the two and one half tribes. As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, in the lowlands near Jordan, and all the people, the soldiers summoned to duty against the oppressors, followed him trembling, literally, "they trembled after him," utterly lacking in the spirit necessary to throw off the yoke of the tyrants. It was a time of trial for Saul and for all Israel, a period such as comes upon all Christians from time to time, to test their faith.
Saul's Unauthorized Sacrifice
v. 8. And he, Saul, tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed, 1 Samuel 10:8; but Samuel came not to Gilgal, not even on the morning of the seventh day; and the people were scattered from him, fearing that Samuel, after all, would not put in his appearance.
v. 9. And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me and peace-offerings, both to atone for the sins of the people and to establish their fellowship with Jehovah once more. And he offered the burnt offering, very likely through the priests who were at Gilgal.
v. 10. And it came to pass that, as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came, evidently still before the close of the seventh day; and Saul went out to meet him that he might salute him, with the customary greeting of peace and blessing.
v. 11. And Samuel said, knowing that Saul had not waited the full length of the appointed time, What hast thou done? And Saul said, in a feeble attempt to excuse his overhasty action, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash,
v. 12. therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, in a sudden descent with superior forces, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord, literally, "stroked or entreated His face," namely, with the object of gaining His grace and favor. I forced myself, therefore, the word used by Saul intimating a strong inward conflict which preceded his resolution to go ahead without the presence of Samuel, and offered a burnt offering.
v. 13. And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly; thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord, thy God, which He commanded thee, no excuse could alter the fact of his disobedience; for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom, namely, as a hereditary kingdom, upon Israel forever, if Saul had only followed His commandment strictly.
v. 14. But now thy kingdom shall not continue, it would not pass on to his sons, Saul would be the first and last of his line. The Lord hath sought Him a man after His own heart, this resolution had already been passed in the counsels of God, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over His people, as the successor of Saul, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee, he had not stood the test of absolute faith and trust in Jehovah; for he should have known that the Lord would find ways and means to bring Samuel within the limit of the time set or otherwise to send him word concerning the delay.
v. 15. And Samuel arose, after having made this statement, and gat him up from Gilgal unto Gibeah of Benjamin, the home of Saul. And Saul, before continuing his campaign, numbered the people that were present with him, about six hundred men. That was all that was left, in spite of his hasty sacrifice; he had indeed acted foolishly, as Samuel had said.
v. 16. And Saul and Jonathan, his son, and the people that were present with them, abode in Gibeah of Benjamin, or rather, in Geba, at the place where Jonathan had broken up the Philistine garrison ; but the Philistines encamped in Michmash, v. 5. Disobedience is the consequence of unbelief and doubt. Whenever Christians are put to a test, no matter how long the time of distress and tribulation lasts, they should simply cling to God's Word and promises, for disobedience may quickly be followed by rejection.
The Oppression of the Philistines
v. 17. And the spoilers, soldiers to whom was assigned the task of plundering and devastating the land of Israel, 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, toward the northeast, through the territory of Benjamin and Ephraim;
v. 18. and another company turned the way to Beth-horon, toward the west; and another company turned to the way of the border that looketh to the Valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness, in a southeasterly direction.
v. 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; so the Philistines had removed all smiths out of the whole country;
v. 20. but all the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his ax, and his mattock. So all the agricultural implements which the Israelites used, plowshares, hoes, axes, were sharpened by Philistine smiths, upon whom the subject people were altogether dependent.
v. 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. The verses have lately been rendered: "But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen every man his plowshare, and his ax, and his adze, and his hoe, and the price was a pim for the plowshares, and for the axes, and for the three-tined forks, and for the adzes, and for the setting of the goads. " Whenever the implements became dull and needed sharpening, and whenever the ox-goads needed new setting, it was necessary to make the trip to the lowlands occupied by the Philistines, who permitted the Hebrews to carry on the tillage only of the highlands and of the valley of the Jordan, and incidentally charged the Israelites a high price for all the work done by them. 3)
v. 22. So it came to pass in the day of battle, which is described in the next chapter, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan, they were unprovided with real weapons of war, being dependent upon their farm implements for arms against the enemy; but with Saul and with Jonathan, his son, was there found, they were the only ones that had real weapons.
v. 23. And the garrison of the Philistines, a post or vanguard from the main army, went out to the passage, or pass, of Michmash, as a protection against the Israelites, who might otherwise have slipped up through some of the valleys converging at this point and surprised the Philistine camp. The invariable result of forsaking the Lord is distress and tribulation, the object of such visitations being to cause the backsliders to repent of their sins and to place their full reliance upon the Lord.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 13". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany