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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible

1 Samuel 13

 

 

Verse 1

1 SAMUEL CHAPTER 13

Saul and Jonathan’s select band. Jonathan smiteth the garrison of the Philistines at Gibeah: the people are called together at Gilgal, 1 Samuel 13:1-4. The Philistines’ great host: the Israelites run into caves; and tremble, 1 Samuel 13:5-7. Saul offereth before Samuel cometh to him; he reproves him for it; foretelleth him that his kingdom should not last long, 1 Samuel 13:8-14. Three companies of the Philistines invade the land; they had no smith to make them swords, &c; nor had any of the Israelites, save Saul and Jonathan, sword or spear, 1 Samuel 13:15-23.

Reigned one year, i.e. had now reigned one year, from his first election at Mizpeh, in which time these things were done, which are recorded 1Sa 11 1Sa 12, to wit, peaceably, or righteously. Compare 2 Samuel 2:10.


Verse 2

Saul chose, Heb. and (i.e. then, as that adverb is oft used, as Genesis 3:5 18:10, &c.)

Saul chose. Three thousand men of Israel; which he thought sufficient for constant attendance and service, intending to summon the rest when need should be.

Michmash; a tract of ground near Ramah and Beth-el, in the border of Benjamin, and near to the Philistines.


Verse 3

The first design of Saul and Jonathan was to free then land from the garrisons which the Philistines had in it; and they first begin to clear their own country of Benjamin.

Geba; not the same place called Gibeah, 1 Samuel 13:2, (for if the place were the same, why should he vary the name of it in the same story, and in the next verse? nor is it likely that Jonathan would choose that place for his camp where the Philistines had a garrison,) but another place in the same tribe, in which there were two distinct places, Geba and Gibeah, Joshua 18:24,28.

Let the Hebrews hear, i.e. he sent messengers to tell them all what Jonathan had done, and how the Philistines were enraged at it, and made great preparations for war; and therefore what necessity there was of gathering themselves together, and coming to him, for his and their own defence.


Verse 4

Saul had smitten, i.e. Jonathan by Saul’s direction and encouragement. The actions of an army are commonly ascribed to their general.

Gilgal; the place before appointed b Samuel, 1 Samuel 10:8.


Verse 5

Thirty thousand chariots: this number seems incredible to infidels; to whom it may be sufficient to reply, that it is far more rational to acknowledge a mistake in him that copied out the sacred text in such numeral or historical passages, wherein the doctrine of faith and good life is not directly concerned, than upon such a pretence to question the truth and divinity of the Holy Scriptures, which are so fully attested, and evidently demonstrated. And the mistake is not great in the Hebrew, schalosh for schellshim; and so indeed those two ancient translators, the Syriac and Arabic, translate it, and are supposed to have read in their Hebrew copies, three thousand. Nor is it necessary that all these should be military chariots, but many of them might be for carriages of things belonging to so great an army; for such a distinction of chariots we find Exodus 14:7. But there is no need of this reply.

Chariots here may very well be put for the men that rode upon them, and fought out of them, by a figure called a metonymy of the subject for the adjunct, or the thing containing for the thing contained in it, than which none more frequent. In the very same manner, and in the very same figure, the basket is put for the meat in it, Deuteronomy 28:5,17; the wilderness, for the wild beasts of the wilderness, Psalms 29:8; the nest, for the birds in it, Deuteronomy 32:11; the cup, for the drink in it, Jeremiah 49:12 1 Corinthians 10:21. And, to come more closely to the point, a horse is put for a horse-load of wares laid upon it, 1 Kings 10:28; and an ass of bread is put for an ass-load of bread, both in the Hebrew text of 1 Samuel 16:20, and in an ancient Greek poet. And, yet nearer, the word chariots is manifestly put either for the horses belonging to them, or rather for the men that fought out of them; as 2 Samuel 10:18, where it is said in the Hebrew that David slew seven hundred chariots; that is, seven thousand men which fought in chariots, as it is explained, 1 Chronicles 19:18; and 1 Kings 20:21, where Ahab is said to smite horses and chariots; and 1 Chronicles 18:4 Psalms 76:6, where the chariot and horse (i.e. the men that ride and fight in chariots, or upon horses) are said to be cast into a dead sleep; and Ezekiel 39:20, where it is said, Ye shall be filled at my table with horses and chariots, (i.e. with men belonging to the chariots; for surely the chariots of iron had been very improper food,) with mighty men, &c. And let any cavilling infidel produce a wise reason why it may not, and ought not, to be so understood here also. Add to all this, that the Philistines were not alone in this expedition, but had the help of the Canaanites and the Tyrians, as is very credible, both from /APC Sirach 40:20, and from the nature of the thing. If it be further inquired, Why the Philistines should raise so great an army at this time? the answer is obvious, That not only their old and formidable enemy Samuel was yet alive, but a new enemy was risen, even king Saul, who was lately confirmed in his kingdom, and had been flushed with his good success against the Ammonites, and was likely to grow more and more potent, if not timely prevented; and they thought that now the Israelitish affairs were come to some consistency, being put into the hands of a king; and therefore they thought fit, once for all, to put forth all their strength to suppress the Israelites, and to prevent that ruin which otherwise threatened them.


Verse 6

They were in a strait, notwithstanding their former presumption, that if they had a king they should be free from all such straits. And hereby God intended to teach them the vanity of all carnal confidence in men; and that they did not one jot less need the help and favour of God now than they did before, when they had no king.

The people were distressed; they were not mistaken in their apprehensions of danger, as men oft are, for they were really in great danger, their enemy’s host far exceeding theirs, both in number, and order, and courage, and arms.

The people did hide themselves in caves; whereof there were divers in those parts for this very use, as we read in Josephus, and in the Holy Scripture.


Verse 7

All the people, to wit, his whole army, opposed to the common people, 1 Samuel 13:6.


Verse 8

Seven days; not seven complete days; for that the last day was not finished plainly appears from Samuel’s reproof, which had then been groundless and absurd, and he had falsely charged Saul with breaking God’s command therein, 1 Samuel 13:13. And as Samuel came on the seventh day, and that with intent to sacrifice; so doubtless he came in due time for that work, which was to be done before sun-setting, Exodus 29:38,39. So Saul waited only six complete days, and part of the seventh, which is here called seven days; for the word day is oft used for a part of the day, as among lawyers, so also in sacred Scripture; as Matthew 12:40, where Christ is said to be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights, i.e. one whole day, and part of the other two days. Moreover this place may be thus rendered: He tarried until the seventh day, (as this same phrase is used, Genesis 7:10, Heb. until the seventh of the days,) (as the Hebrew lamed is oft taken,) the set time that Samuel had appointed.


Verse 9

Either himself; or rather by the priest, as Solomon is said to offer, 1 Kings 3:4. Compare 1 Samuel 1:3.


Verse 10

Behold, Samuel came, i.e. it was told Saul, Behold, Samuel is coming.

Salute him, i.e. congratulate his coming. This he did, partly out of custom; and partly, that by this testimony of his affection and respect to Samuel, he might prevent that rebuke which his guilty conscience made him expect.


Verse 11

What hast thou done? he suspected that Saul had transgressed, either by his dejected countenance, or some words uttered by him, though not here expressed; but he asks him, that he might be more fitly and certainly informed, and that Saul might be brought to an ingenuous confession of his sin, and true repentance for it.

within the days appointed, i.e. when the seventh day was come, and a good part of it past; whence I concluded thou wouldst not come that day, and that thou hadst forgotten thy appointment, or been hindered by some extraordinary occasion.


Verse 12

I have not made supplication to the Lord; hence it appears that sacrifices were accompanied with solemn prayers.

I forced myself; I did it against my own mind and inclination. My conscience told me I should forbear it, and punctually obey God’s command delivered to me by Samuel, but my necessity urged me to make haste.


Verse 13

Thou hast done foolishly in that very thing wherein thou thinkest thou hast done wisely and politicly, in disobeying my express command upon a pretended necessity, or reason of state.

The Lord thy God; not only upon common grounds, as thou art his creature, and one of his people; but in a special manner, who hath conferred peculiar favours and honours upon thee; which is an aggravation of thy sin.

Now would the Lord have established thy kingdom on Israel for ever.

Quest. How could this be true, when the kingdom was promised to Judah, Genesis 49:10, and consequently must necessarily be taken away from Saul, and from his tribe?

Answ. First, The phrase for ever, in Scripture use, ofttimes signifies only a long time, as Genesis 43:9 Exodus 21:6 1 Samuel 28:2. So this had been abundantly verified, if the kingdom had been enjoyed by Saul, and by his son, and by his son’s son; after whom the kingdom might have come to Judah. Secondly, Though the kingdom had been promised to Saul and to his posterity for ever in a larger sense, yet that was upon condition of his obedience. And therefore God might well promise the kingdom to Judah, because at that time, and before, he foresaw that Saul would by his disobedience forfeit that promise, and that he would take the forfeiture, and transfer the kingdom to Judah.


Verse 14

Hath sought, i.e. hath found or discovered, as men do by seeking, an anthropopathy.

A man after his own heart, i.e. such a man as he desires, one who will fulfil all the desires of his heart, and not oppose them, as thou dost.

Hath commanded, i.e. hath appointed or decreed, as the word command is sometimes used; for it was not yet actually done.

Because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.

Quest. First, What was Saul’s sin?

Answ. Either, first, That Saul invaded the priest’s office, and offered the sacrifice himself; which is not probable, both because he had priests with him, and among others an eminent one, Ahiah, 1 Samuel 14:3, and therefore had no occasion nor pretence for that presumption. Or rather, secondly, That Saul did not wait the full time for Samuel’s coming; for that is the thing which God commanded, 1 Samuel 10:8, and the breach of this command is the only thing for which Saul makes an apology, 1 Samuel 13:11,12.

Quest. Secondly, Why did God so severely punish Saul for so small an offence, and that occasioned by great necessity, and done with an honest intention?

Answ. First, Men are very incompetent judges of God’s judgments, because they see but very little, either of the majesty of the offended God, or of the heinous nature and aggravations of the offence. For instance, men see nothing but Saul’s outward act, which seems small; but God saw with how wicked a mind and heart he did this; with what rebellion against the light of his own conscience, as his own words imply; with what gross infidelity and distrust of God’s providence; with what contempt of God’s authority, and justice, and many other wicked principles and motions of his heart, unknown to men. Besides, God clearly saw all that wickedness that yet lay hid in his heart, and foresaw all his other crimes; and therefore had far more grounds for his sentence against him than we can imagine. Secondly, God doth sometimes punish small sins severely, and that for divers weighty reasons, as that all men may see what the least sin deserves, and how much they owe to God’s free and rich mercy for passing by their great offences; and what need they have not to indulge themselves in any small sin, as men are very prone to do, upon vain presumptions of God’s mercy, whereby they are easily and commonly drawn on to heinous crimes; and for many other reasons: so that some such instances of God’s severity are necessary discipline and caution to all mankind in the present and future ages; and therefore there is far more of mercy and kindness in such actions, than of rigour and harshness, since this is but particular to one person, and the other is a universal good. Thirdly, It must be remembered that the kingdom of Saul and of Israel was now in its infancy, and that this was the first command which he received from God. And it hath been ever held a piece of wisdom in all lawgivers, severely to punish the first violations of their laws, to secure their honour and obedience, and to affright and caution offenders for the future. And accordingly God dealt with Cain the first murderer; with Israel, for their first idolatry with the calf; with the first miscarriage of the priests, Leviticus 10:1; with the first profaner of the sabbath, Numbers 15:35; with the first gross hypocrites in the Christian church, Acts 5:5,10. And therefore it is neither strange nor unjust if he deal with Saul after the same manner, and upon the same grounds. Fourthly, Though God threaten Saul with the loss of his kingdom for this sin, yet it is not improbable that there was a tacit condition implied, as is usual in such cases, as Jonah 3:4, to wit, if he did not heartily repent of this and of all his sins; for the full, and final, and peremptory sentence of Saul’s rejection is plainly ascribed to another cause, 1 Samuel 15:11,23,26,28,29; and till that second offence neither the Spirit of the Lord departed from him, nor was David anointed in his stead, 1 Samuel 16:13,14.


Verse 15

Unto Gibeah of Benjamin; whither Saul also followed him, as appears from the next verse; either because it was better fortified than Gilgal; or because he expected a greater increase of his army there, it being in his own tribe, and nearer the heart of his kingdom; or because he hoped for Samuel’s assistance there.


Verse 17

In three companies; that they might march several ways, and so waste several parts of the country.

Ophrah; a city of Benjamin, Joshua 18:23, south-west from Michmash.


Verse 18

Beth-boron; a city of Ephraim, Joshua 16:3. north-west from Michmash.

The wilderness, i.e. the wilderness of Jordan, eastward.


Verse 19

This was a politic course of the Philistines, which also other nations have used. So the Chaldeans took away their smiths, 2 Kings 24:14 Jeremiah 24:1 30:2; and Porsenna obliged the Romans by covenant, that they should use no iron but in the tillage of their lands.


Verse 20

To the Philistines; not to the land of the Philistines, for it is not said so, and that was too remote; but to the stations and garrisons which the Philistines yet retained in several parts of Israel’s land, though Samuel’s authority had so far overawed them, that they durst not give the Israelites much disturbance. In these, therefore, the Philistines kept all the smiths, and here they allowed them the exercise of their art for the uses here following.


Verse 21

So the sense is, They allowed them some small helps to make their mattocks, and in some sort to serve their present use. But these words may be otherwise translated, and are so by some learned, both ancient and modern, translators: thus, Therefore the mouths or edges of the mattocks a coulters, &. were dull or blunt. Or rather thus, When (Heb. and put for when, as the particle and is sometimes rendered, as Mark 15:25) the mouths or edges of the mattocks, &c. were blunt. So this passage very well agrees both with the foregoing and following words; and the whole sense of the place is entirely thus, They went to the Philistines to sharpen their shares, and mattocks, and coulters, and axes, when they were blunt, and (which was more strange, they were forced to go to them even)

to sharpen their goads.


Verse 22

Quest. How could the Israelites smite either the garrison of the Philistines, above, 1 Samuel 13:3, or the host of the Ammonites, 1 Samuel 11:11, without arms? And when they had conquered them, why did they not take away their arms, and reserve them to their own use?

Answ. 1. This want of swords and spears is not affirmed concerning all Israel, but is restrained unto those six hundred who were with Saul and Jonathan, whom God by his providence might suffer to be without those arms, that the glory of the following victory might be wholly ascribed to God; as for the very same reason God would have but three hundred men left with Gideon, and those armed only with trumpets, and pitchers, and lamps Jud 7. There were no doubt a considerable number of swords and spears among the Israelites, but they generally hid them, as now they did their persons, from the Philistines. And the Philistines had not yet attained to so great a power over them, as wholly to disarm them, but thought it sufficient to prevent the making of new arms, knowing that the old ones would shortly be decayed and useless.

2. There were other arms more common in those times and places than swords and spears, to wit, bows and arrows, and slings and stones; as appears from Jude 20:16 2 Samuel 1:18,22 2 Kings 3:25 1 Chronicles 12:1,2; besides clubs, and instruments of agriculture, which might easily be turned into weapons of war.

3. God so governed the affairs of the Israelites, that they had no great number of swords or spears, Jude 5:8, that so they might be kept in more dependence upon and subjection unto God, wherein their safety and happiness consisted. And therefore that famous victory obtained against the Philistines in Samuel’s days, was not got by the sword of men, but only by thunder from heaven, 1 Samuel 7:10.


Verse 23

A place so called, because it was near to Michmash, and led towards Gibeah, which, it seems, they designed to besiege, and in the mean time to waste the adjoining country.

 


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Samuel 13:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/1-samuel-13.html. 1685.

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