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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 Samuel 13

Verse 1

1 Samuel 13:1. Saul reigned one year, &c.— The Hebrew here literally is, Saul was the son of a year, and he reigned two years. A passage which almost all the versions render differently, and upon which the comm entators are greatly divided. Dr. Waterland renders it, Saul had reigned one year, and was reigning on two years over Israel. Houbigant, after one of the versions in the Hexapla, reads, Saul when he began to reign was thirty years old, and he reigned two years.

Verse 5

1 Samuel 13:5. Thirty thousand chariots. {Three thousand chariots. Syr. Arab.} {A thousand princes in chariots. Bucher. Praef.}

Houbigant also reads three thousand; a reading, says he, which Bochart has shewn to be just, for very good reasons; for it appears that the number of thirty thousand chariots was never heard of even in the largest armies.

Verse 13

1 Samuel 13:13. Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly Samuel had ordered him to stay seven days; even until I come to thee, and shew thee what thou shalt do; which Josephus explains as a promise that he would come after seven days; i.e. after the seventh was begun; that they might sacrifice on the seventh of those days. Saul tarried the seven days; i.e. till the seventh day came: and when he saw that Samuel came not, הימים למועד lemoed haiamim, according to the appointed time of the days, the seventh day being far gone, and the prophet not appearing, impatient at the delay, and knowing that the sacrifices were to be offered on the seventh day, he determined to wait for the prophet no longer, and by his own authority orders the solemnity instantly to begin. In the midst of it Samuel appears, and justly reproves him for his presumption and impatience. The prophet, therefore, kept his appointment; but Saul, under a cloak of piety, (1 Samuel 13:12.) transgressed the commandment of God which the prophet delivered him, and thereby shewed that he intended to be absolute and arbitrary; to act as king, independent on the orders and without the direction of God, and to pay no regard to the established laws and religion, whenever his ambition or policy should prompt him to act contrary to them. And though some writers have endeavoured to extenuate this fault of Saul, and think it hard that he should be rejected for so comparatively small an offence; yet to me it appears in a quite different light, and to be a very heinous and aggravated instance of disobedience, and a thorough specimen of what the man would afterwards prove. Samuel expressly says, thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee. What was this commandment? Why, not only to wait seven days till Samuel came to assist at the sacrifice, but to receive God's direction by the prophet, what he should do, or what measures he was to take, upon the invasion of the Philistines, and not to act in so critical a conjuncture without his orders. Saul, under a pretence of piety, and making supplication to the Lord, absolutely contradicts the command, thinks himself above waiting for the prophet, takes upon himself the ordinance of an affair that no way belonged to him; and, as if God's direction by the prophet was of no consequence to him, resolves to act for himself, and deal with the Philistines as well as he could. Let any inferior prince thus violate the orders of his sovereign, and act in any affair of importance directly contrary to his instructions and duty, and no one will scruple to pronounce him guilty of rebellion, or think he was too hardly treated, by being removed from his dignity and government. Indeed, this instance of Saul's disobedience in the beginning of his reign, before he was well versed in the affairs of state, or experienced in war, or the kingdom made hereditary in his family; when all his people were in terror on account of the Philistines, and the delay of Samuel's coming made them apprehensive lest God should refuse to appear for their deliverance, was a strong specimen of that obstinate, rash, and impetuous temper, which made him unfit for the government to which he was raised, and was the true reason of his being rejected by God. Of this disposition he gave two proofs immediately after that of which I have been speaking: For when, upon Jonathan's invasion of the Philistines' garrison, the whole army was struck with a panic, so that in their terror they slew one another; what did the heroic Saul do? Why, he adjured the people, saying, cursed be the man that eateth any food until the evening, that I may be avenged of mine enemies: an execration fit only for a madman to utter, and than which nothing could be more extravagant, unless it was what immediately followed it, his laying himself under an execration to put to death his son Jonathan, for tasting a little honey without knowing that he incurred his father's curse upon eating it. The reader will observe here one or two immediate effects of Saul's acting without the advice of the prophet; his being denied the honour of gaining the victory, and having the dishonour to render it incomplete by his rashness; and the impertinency of part of his excuse for disobeying the prophet's orders, viz. that the people were scattered from him; when this very victory was obtained by two men only, Jonathan and his armour-bearer, who struck a terror into the whole hosts of the Philistines, so that in their haste to escape they destroyed one another. After this, he will not wonder that God determined Saul's kingdom should not continue, or that Samuel was displeased with, and gave him the rebuke that he so justly deserved. See Chandler's Review of the History of David, p. 25 and the notes on chap. 15:

Verse 14

1 Samuel 13:14. A man after his own heart A variety of able writers amongst us have lately fully explained and vindicated this expression from the insults of free-thinkers. We will refer at the end of the note to some of them, while we produce Bishop Warburton's Exposition, which appears to us extremely just. "David was a man of so opposite a character to Saul with regard to his sentiments of the law, that it appears to have been for this difference alone that he was decreed by God to succeed the other in the kingdom. Now David sojourned some time in Naioth, which was the academy of the prophets, chap. 1 Samuel 19:18. And here it was, as we may reasonably conclude, that he so greatly cultivated and improved his natural disposition of love and zeal for the law, as to merit that most glorious of all titles, the man after God's own heart: for, till this time, his employment and way of life had been very different; his childhood and youth were spent in the country, and his early manhood in camps and courts. But it is of importance to know, that this character was not given him for his private morals, but his public, his zeal for the advancement of the glory of the theocracy. This is seen from the first mention of him in this passage: and if we would but seek for the reason of this pre-eminence in David's public, not in his private character, we should see that it afforded no occasion of scandal. His zeal for the law was constantly the same; and above all he never fell into idolatry. But the phrase itself of a man after God's own heart, is best explained in the case of Samuel. Eli the prophet was rejected, and Samuel put into his place, just in the same manner as David superseded Saul. On this occasion, when God's purpose was denounced to Eli, we find it expressed in the same manner, chap. 1 Samuel 2:35. I will raise me up a faithful priest, who shall do according to that which is in my heart. And is not he who does according to what is in God's heart, a man after God's heart?" See Div. Leg. vol. 4: p. 360. Chandler's Review, p. 85. Patten's Vindication of David, &c. &c.

Verse 20

1 Samuel 13:20. All the Israelites went down to the Philistines That is, all the men of Israel went to such garrisons of the Philistines as were placed in their land; for we are not to suppose, that the Israelites went, for this purpose, into the country of the Philistines. This particular appears to have been mentioned to shew the interposition of God, and to magnify the greatness of the victory in consequence. See Judges 5:8; Judges 20:15-16.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 13". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/1-samuel-13.html. 1801-1803.