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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

1 Samuel 17

 

 

Verse 1

Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephesdammim.

The Philistines gathered together their armies - twenty-seven years after their overthrow at Michmash. Having now recovered their spirits and strength, they sought an opportunity of wiping out the infamy of that national disaster, as well as of regaining their lost ascendancy over Israel.

Shochoh - now Shuweikeh, a town marked by ancient ruins, nine Roman miles from Eleutheropolis, toward Jerusalem, situated on the southern side of a spacious wady, which extends in a northwesterly direction from the spurs of the Judah hills until it opens down into the Shephelah, or plain of Philistia.

Azekah - now Zakariyeh, another site of ancient ruins on a round projecting eminence, about two miles distant, on the same side of the valley.

Ephes-dammim - `the portion or effusion of blood' [Septuagint, Efermen; Alexandrian, afesdommein], lying between the other two, and chosen as the site of the Philistine encampment.


Verse 2

And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines.

Saul and the men of Israel ... pitched by the valley of Elah [ b


Verse 3

And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them.

And there was a valley between them , [ w


Verse 4

And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.

There went out a champion - Hebrew, a man between two; i:e., a person who, on the part of his own people, undertook to determine the national quarrel by engaging in single combat with a chosen warrior in the hostile army. This was frequently done in ancient warfare, when the issue of the contest depended on the personal strength and courage of the combatants; and the well-known story of the Horatii and Curiatii shows that the custom was transmitted even to classic times.

Out of the camp , [ mimach


Verse 5

And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass.

Helmet of brass. The Philistine helmet had the appearance of a row of feathers set in a tiara, or metal band, to which were attached scales of the same material, for the defense of the neck and the sides of the face.

A coat of mail - a kind of corslet, quilted with leather or plates of metal, reaching only to the chest, and supported by shoulder straps, leaving the shoulders and arms at full liberty.


Verse 6

And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders.

Greaves of brass - boots for the defence of the leg, rising to nearly the knee, and without feet, terminating at the ankle, made of bull's hide leather, wood, or in one plate of metal, but rounded to the shape of the leg, and often lined with felt or sponge. Some of the ancient greaves, however, did not come so far up as the knee. They frequently were made to open behind, and were fastened by buttons, buckles, or ties to the leg. More rarely the lacing was in front. The object contemplated in the wearing of this defensive armour was to protect the calf, rather than the shin; and hence, in time of battle, they with sometimes worn only on the left leg, which, with the left side, was commonly the parts of the body most exposed in action, on account of the buckler being worn on the left arm. They were useful in guarding the legs, not only against the spikes of the enemy, but in making way among thorns and briers (see Layard's 'Nineveh and its Remains,' 2:, p. 337).

A target of brass - a circular frame carried at the back, suspended by a long belt which crossed the breast from the shoulders to the loins.


Verse 7

And the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam; and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.

Staff of his spear - rather under five feet long, and capable of being used as as javelin (1 Samuel 19:10). It had an iron head.

One bearing a shield. In consequence of their great size and weight, the Oriental warrior had a trusty and skillful friend, whose office it was to bear the large shield, behind which he avoided the missile weapons of the enemy. He was covered, cap-a-pied, with defensive armour, while he had only two offensive weapons-a sword by his side and a spear in his hand.


Verse 8-9

And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 10

And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.

I defy the armies of Israel ... give me a man, that we may fight together. In cases of single combat, a warrior used to go out in front of his party, and, advancing toward the opposite ranks, challenge some one to fight with him. If his formidable appearance, or great reputation for physical strength and heroism deterred any from accepting the challenge, he used to parade himself within hearing of the enemy's lines, speechify in a loud, boastful, bravado style, defying them, and pouring out torrents of abuse and insolence to provoke their resentment.


Verse 11

When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verses 12-16

Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehemjudah, whose name was Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man went among men for an old man in the days of Saul.

Compare the notes at 1 Samuel 16:14-23. The Vatican manuscript of the Septuagint omits the whole passage (1 Samuel 17:12-32); and Kennicott ('Dissertation on the Hebrew Text') maintains the propriety of its omission as an interpolation (pp. 418-432; also pp. 554-558). But the internal evidence in support of its authenticity is strong; and Tischendorf, in the notes to his edition, asserts it on the authority of the most ancient MSS. [The Alexandrian version begins this 12th verse, kai eipe Dauid.] (See observations at the end of this chapter.)

Verse 16. The Philistine ... presented himself forty days - i:e., probably for a long time, as the phrase is frequently used in the East (see the note at Genesis 7:12).


Verse 17

And Jesse said unto David his son, Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to thy brethren;

Take now for thy brethren. In those times campaigns seldom lasted above a few days. The soldiers were volunteers or militia, who were supplied with provisions from time to time by their friends at home. The Arab women still carry provisions to their husbands when out on fighting expeditions (Van de Velde, 2:, p. 146).

Parched corn , [ haqaaliy' (Hebrew #7039), only here, qaaliy] - roasted grain (see the notes at 1 Samuel 25:8; Leviticus 23:14; Ruth 2:14; 2 Samuel 17:28.


Verse 18

And carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand, and look how thy brethren fare, and take their pledge.

Carry these ten cheeses unto the captain - to enlist his kind attention. [ `aseret (Hebrew #6235) charitseey (Hebrew #2757) hechaalaab (Hebrew #2461), ten cuttings (slices of curdled milk - i:e., soft cheese) (Gesenius). The Septuagint has: kai tas deka strufalidas tou galaktis toutou, and ten rounds (little forms, shapes) of this milk.] Oriental cheeses are very small, resembling in shape and size our penny loaves, as the cheeses of the ancient Hebrews seem also to have been (cf. Job 10:10; Psalms 68:15); and although they are frequently made of so soft a consistence as to resemble curds, those which David carried seem to have been fully formed, pressed, and sufficiently dried to admit of their being carried. [The Hebrew word chariyts (Hebrew #2757) signifies not only a cutting or slice, but a threshing-sledge; and hence, Harmer ('Observations,' 1:, pp. 510, 511) supposes that 'what Jesse bid his son David carry to the officer of the army were ten baskets, somewhat of the shape of their threshing instruments, in which was coagulated milk.] Baskets made of rushes or the dwarf palm are the cheese vats of Barbary (Shaw's 'Travels,' p. 168); into these they put the curds, and, binding them up close, press them. But the Eastern cheeses are of so very soft a consistency, after their being pressed, and even when they are brought to be eaten, that Sandys imagined they were not pressed at all - "a beastly kind of unpressed cheese that lies in a lump," being his description of this part of the Eastern diet. Now, if the cheeses sent by Jesse were as soft and tender as those now in use in the East, or if the milk was only coagulated, so as to be what we mean by the word curds, which forms a considerable part of the diet in the East, can we imagine any way more commodious for the carrying them to the army than in the rush-baskets in which curds were formed into cheese?' (See the note at 2 Samuel 17:29; Job 10:10 : also see Burckhardt, 'Notes on the Bedouins,' 1:,

p. 60).

Take their pledge. Tokens of the soldiers' health and safety were sent home in the convenient form of a lock of their hair, a piece of their nail, or such like. Some think that nothing more is meant by 'taking their pledge' than that Jesse wished David to bring some proof or assurance of their having gotten the provisions he had sent.


Verse 19

Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 20

And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle.

David ... left the sheep with a keeper , [ shomeer (Hebrew #8104)] - a watchman, and hence, a shepherd. This is the only instance in which the hired shepherd is distinguished from the master or one of the family.

Trench , [ hama`gaalaah (Hebrew #4570), the wagon-rampart] - some rude attempt at a rampart, formed by a line of carts or chariots, which from the earliest times was the practice of nomad people (see the note at Judges 7:20).

As the host ... shouted for the battle - i:e., he heard as he arrived the well-known war cry of Israel (cf. Numbers 23:21; Joshua 6:5; Judges 7:20).


Verse 21

For Israel and the Philistines had put the battle in array, army against army.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 22

And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren.

David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage - literally, left the vessels (stores) from upon him (with which he was charged) in the hand of the keeper of the stores. [The Septuagint, ta skeuee autou af' heautou epi cheira fulakos.]

And ran into the army , [ hama`


Verse 23

And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them.

And as he talked ... Goliath ... spake according to the same words - i:e., repeated the challenge.


Verse 24

And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 25

And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father's house free in Israel.

The men of Israel said Have ye seen this man? On percei ing the disma of the Israelite soldiers Da id The men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man? On perceiving the dismay of the Israelite soldiers, David was astonished, and ran with eager curiosity from man to man, and from rank to rank, inquiring into all the circumstances of the affair, and whether any or what reward was promised to the person who should free his countrymen from the reproach of the unaccepted challenge.

Make his father's house free in Israel - i:e., his family should be exempted from the impositions and service to which the general body of the Israelites were subjected.


Verse 26-27

And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 28

And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.

Eliab his oldest brother heard ... and Eliab's anger was kindled against David. The language of Eliab is very churlish, and shows very clearly that he spoke, not under the influence of sudden and momentary irritation, but of a settled dislike and rooted jealousy.

With whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? David himself was young, and he may have had to commit his flock to the care of one younger than himself. In the East, particularly among the Arab nomads, when the warriors of a tribe are engaged in distant forays, or in war, their tents and flocks are frequently left to the care of a mere child. Whilst the child in a civilized country is still under the care of its nurse, the Bedouin boy is compelled to exercise his highest faculties; and on his prudence or sagacity may sometimes depend the safety of his tribe.

I know thy pride , [ z


Verse 29

And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?

David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause? - i:e., Is there not force and reason in what I have said? Is the state of our country so desperate that there is no hope of an Israelite being able, with the help or God, to encounter and discomfit this arrogant giant?


Verse 30

And he turned from him toward another, and spake after the same manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner.

And he turned from him toward another, and spake after the same manner. His eager inquires were addressed to various persons, until, in the directing providence of God, they were reported to the king, who summoned him into the royal presence.


Verse 31-32

And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them before Saul: and he sent for him. No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 33

And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.

Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him. The king judged from appearances, which led him to conclude that David was quite unfit for so unequal a combat, both on account of his youth and his inexperience in arms.


Verse 34

And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:

David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep. The purport of the reply was that, though a raw and undisciplined youth, he was not untried in deeds of valour, and agility, and strength.

There came a lion, and a bear. The lion which anciently infested Palestine and the whole of Western Asia (Jeremiah 49:19; Zechariah 11:3) is thought to have been the Persian variety, which is described by Olivier ('Egyptian Sepulchres and Syrian Shrines') as neither so fierce nor so powerful as its African congener, and as prone to capture its prey rather by cunning than by violence. On laying hold of a sheep, he makes off with it with the utmost expedition, but often abandons it to save himself on the approach of a man, though it is known in many instances to have exerted itself vigorously to retain it. The bear must have been the Syrian bear, which is believed to be a distinct species, or perhaps a variety of the brown bear. Bears, though inhabiting generally the cold latitudes of the north, are found also in the more genial climes of the south. Dr. Shaw mentions them in Barbary, and Thevenot saw them in the desert south of Palestine.

And took a lamb out of the flock [ zeh (Hebrew #2088), "this", instead of seh (Hebrew #7716), "lamb or sheep". This erroneous reading has disfigured the Hebrew text in most of the editions of the Hebrew Bible that have been printed subsequently to the second edition of Bomberg, in 1525. It is found in no Hebrew manuscript, nor in any previous printed edition; and it must have originated with the compositor in Bomberg's printing-office, who confounded the two words by reason of the similarity of the sound of the two sibilant letters. It deprives the passage of all meaning, and it has accordingly been corrected in the various translations; but, with the exception of a few editions in which the correct reading is given, it continues still to keep its place in the recent beautiful and commodious German Polyglot Bible (Black's 'Exegetical Study of the Original Scriptures).] Those youthful feats of David seem to have been performed with no weapon more effective than the rude staves usually carried in the hand of an Eastern shepherd, particularly the iron-headed club (Psalms 23:4), which is used for repelling the attacks of wolves and other ravenous animals (Amos 3:12). 'I have known,' says Dr. Wilson ('Lands of the Bible,' 1:, p. 321), 'a shepherd in India encounter with it a tiger which he found mangling one of his goats. It is ranch in use among the Fellahin of Wady Musa, and the Arabs in general.'


Verse 35

And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.

I went out after him, and smote him. The deeds relate to two different rencontres; for those animals, like all beasts of prey, prowl alone, and singly. This appears further from the use of the pronoun "him;" and as the bear is mentioned last, the encounter with it was probably the most recent. The description, therefore, in all probability is applicable to it; for, while the lion springs upon its prey with a tremendous roar, and tears it with its claws, the bear steals forward in silence, and 'arising' on its hind legs, clutches it in the horrid embrace of its fore legs. The "beard" applies to the lion alone. [The "beard," bizqaanow (Hebrew #2206), signifies also the chin; and accordingly the Septuagint has: ekrateesa tou farungos, I caught it by the throat.] But Josephus ('Antiquities,' b. 6:, ch. 9:, sec. 3) says, 'when he leaped upon me with violence, I caught him by the tail, and dashed him against the ground.'


Verse 36

Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 37

David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee.

The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion , [ miyad (Hebrew #3027)] - from the hand. It would have been natural for a youth, and especially an Oriental youth, to make a parade of his gallantry. But David's piety sank all consideration of his own prowess, and ascribed the success of those achievements to the divine aid, which he felt assured would not be withheld from him in a cause which so intimately concerned the safety and honour of His people.

Saul said ... Go, and the Lord be with thee. The pious language of the modest but valiant youth impressed the monarch's heart. He felt that it indicated the true military confidence for Israel, and therefore made up his mind, without any demur, to sanction a combat on which the fate of his kingdom depended, and with a champion supporting his interests apparently so unequal to the task. The tradition of the combat between David and Goliath, in which the latter was killed, is preserved among the Arabs; because he is mentioned in the Koran, where he is called Galut or Jalut. The Arabs also call the dynasty of the Philistine kings, who reigned in Palestine when the Hebrews came there, Galuliah or Jaluliah.


Verse 38

And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail.

Saul armed David with his armour. The ancient Hebrews were particularly attentive to the personal safety of their warriors; and hence, Saul equipped the youthful champion with his own defensive accoutrements, which would be in the best style. It is probable that Saul's coat of mail, or corslet, was a loose shirt; otherwise it could not have fitted both a stripling and a man of the colossal stature of the king.


Verse 39

And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.

He assayed to go , [ wayo'el (Hebrew #422) laaleket (Hebrew #1980)] - and he tried (began) to go away, to walk. [The Septuagint renders it, graphically, kai ekopiase peripateesas hapax kai dis, and he made one or two efforts to walk.]

For be had not proved it. The Septuagint omits this clause, and it does appear superfluous.

I cannot go with these (literally, in these);

For I have not proved them , [ kiy (Hebrew #3588) lo' (Hebrew #3808) nicaah (Hebrew #5254)] - for I have not yet tried them; i:e., I have no experimental acquaintance with them.

And David put them off him , [Septuagint, kai afairousin auta ap' autou, and they took them (the armour) off him].


Verse 40

And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.

He took his staff in his hand , [ maqlow (Hebrew #4731)] - his shoot, rod, staff (cf. Genesis 32:2; Exodus 12:2). [Septuagint, elabe teen bakteerian, he took the stick.]

And chose him five smooth stones , [ wayibchar (Hebrew #977) low (H3807a)] - and selected for himself five smooth stones; i:e., smoothed by the action of the water.

Out of the brook , [ min (Hebrew #4480) hanachal (Hebrew #5158)] from the torrent, wady.

And put them in a shepherd's bag , [ bikliy (Hebrew #3627) haaro`iym (Hebrew #7462)] - in the dress-scrip hung round the neck of shepherds.

Sling. The sling consisted of a double rope with a thong, probably of leather, to receive the stone. The slinger held a second stone in his left hand. David chose five stones, as a reserve in case the first should fail. Shepherds in the East carry a sling and stones still for the purpose both of driving away or killing the enemies that prowl about the flock. It was and is a favourite weapon in Syria and Arabia. Polybius says, 'The arms which the Achaeans principally employed were slings. They were educated in the use of these weapons from their childhood; and, by dint of long-continued practice, they could take so accurate an aim that they could throw the stone on the head of an enemy or on any other part of his body they chose.'


Verse 41-42

And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 43

And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. Cursed David by his gods , [ bee'


Verse 44

And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.

The Philistine said ...


Verse 45

Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.

Said David to the Philistine. When two champions met, they generally made each of them a speech, and sometimes recited some verses, filled with allusions and epithets of the most opprobrious kind, and hurling contempt and defiance at one another (as in Homer's 'Iliad,' 1:, 4; also 23:, 21). This kind of abusive dialogue is common among the Arab combatants still. David's speech, however, presents a striking contrast to the usual strain of those invectives. It was full of pious trust; and to God he ascribed all the glory of the triumph he anticipated.


Verses 46-48

This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 49

And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.

Smote the Philistine in his forehead - at the opening for the eyes. That was the only exposed part of his body.


Verse 50

So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 51

Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.

Cut off his head - not as an evidence of the giant's death, for his slaughter had been effected in presence of the whole army, but as a trophy to be borne to Saul. The heads of slain enemies are always regarded in the East as the most welcome tokens of victory. But the Israelites were not in the habit of mutilating the corpses of their slain enemies; and there is no evidence that they did so on this occasion to the other soldiers of the Philistines. But Goliath was not an ordinary enemy, nor did he fall in the ordinary fight. He fell by Yahweh's special interposition; and the head of the Philistine giant was to be kept, doubtless after embalmment, as a memento of a great national deliverance, as well as a memorial to David of God's favour to him.


Verse 52

And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron.

Shaaraim (see Joshua 15:36), even unto Gath, and unto Ekron. [The Septuagint has: heoos eisodou Geth, as far as the entrance into Gath; kai heoos tees pulees Askaloonos, and as far as the gate of Ascalon].


Verse 53

And the children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they spoiled their tents.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 54

And David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armour in his tent.

David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem. This must have been at some future period, because the Jebusites still held the fort (2 Samuel 5:7).

But he put his armour in his tent. This clause, like the former, is proleptical. David being on a temporary visit to his brethren, could have no tent of his own on the field. But on his commencement of a wandering life he would have a tent, in which he kept the armour of Goliath, until it could be deposited in the safe custody of the sanctuary at Nob, where it was placed as a votive offering to the Lord.


Verse 55

And when Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine, he said unto Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, whose son is this youth? And Abner said, As thy soul liveth, O king, I cannot tell.

Saul ... said unto Abner ... whose son is this youth? A young man is more spoken of in many Eastern countries by his father's name than his own. The growth of the beard and other changes on a now full-grown youth prevented the king from recognizing his former favourite minstrel.


Verse 56

And the king said, Inquire thou whose son the stripling is.

Enquire thou whose son the stripling is , [ haa`aalem (Hebrew #5958), a youth of marriageable age; Septuagint, ho neaniskos]. The Vatican copy of the Septuagint omits the four concluding verses of this chapter, as well as the entire paragraph comprised between 1 Samuel 17:12-31. Both of these passage are regarded by Michaelis, Professor Dathe, and many English critics (among whom is Kennicott, 'Dissertation,' 2:, pp. 419-428), as an interpolation. In the view of these writers the omission of the passage in the middle of the chapter leaves the narrative apparently in its natural connection, David's remark to Saul (1 Samuel 17:32) bearing a direct reference to the panic-stricken state of the army, described in 1 Samuel 17:11. David was at that time serving as minstrel to the king (1 Samuel 16:23); and as he had also been promoted, through the royal favour, to the post of armour-bearer to Saul (1 Samuel 16:21), we are prepared to find him near the person of his sovereign when the battle was set in array.

Moreover, in volunteering to fight the giant, David, according to this textual hypothesis, appears to sustain the character given of him, on his being recommended to the king as "a mighty valiant man, and a man of war" (1 Samuel 16:18); and the ready compliance of Saul with his proposal to encounter the Philistine is thus easily accounted for; whereas it appears irreconcilable with the idea of his being a stranger and a raw shepherd youth, who had just arrived a little before in the camp. But the rejection of a long passage as interpolated, though a common and convenient expedient of early writers for getting rid of a difficulty in the original text, is not a principle much favoured by modern critics, especially when the internal evidence in favour of the genuineness of the portions objected to is so strong as in this chapter. Since little countenance is given to the theory of Horsley, who would transfer the passage in 1 Samuel 16:14-23 to the end of 1 Samuel 18:5, on the ground that not only Saul, but Abner also, were strangers to David's person, although, as the Hebrew text stands, he had resided at court as an attendant on the king some time before the engagement with Goliath. This circumstance, however strange it may seem, is capable of satisfactory explanation, without the necessity of admitting that any portion of the text is either spurious or dislocated.

(1) The interval of a few years from the cessation of his early services to Saul, until his memorable engagement with Goliath, may have produced so great a change on David's appearance that the minstrel boy could not be recognized in the bearded face and homely dress of the grown shepherd.

(2) The cold and formal etiquette of an Eastern court, which placed the young musician at a humble distance from the immediate presence of the king, might keep Saul comparatively a stranger to his features; and Abner might have been absent during his attendance at court on some military expedition, so that he had no opportunity of seeing David.

(3) The king's moody temper, not to say frequent fits of insanity, would alone be sufficient to explain the circumstance of his not recognizing a youth who, during the time of his mental aberration, had been much near him, trying to soothe his distempered soul. Or,

(4) The rumour of Samuel's commission to anoint another king, and his journey to Beth-lehem for that object, together with the fact that David had come from that village, and the suspicion, after the conquest of Goliath, which procured him so much glory throughout the nation, that David was destined for the throne (1 Samuel 18:8), might have so excited his jealousy that he dissembled, and, pretending not to know David, kept his vigilant eye upon him, with a view to accomplish the destruction of this young and formidable rival. Any of these probabilities may account for Saul's inquiry at Abner (1 Samuel 17:25); and all of them combined are sufficient to remove the difficulties of this chapter, without calling in question the integrity of the text.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 17:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/1-samuel-17.html. 1871-8.

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