Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1Sa 13:1, 2.
1. Saul reigned one year--(see Margin). The transactions recorded
eleventh and twelfth chapters
were the principal incidents comprising the first year of Saul's reign;
and the events about to be described in this happened in the second
2. Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel--This band of picked
men was a bodyguard, who were kept constantly on duty, while the rest
of the people were dismissed till their services might be needed. It
seems to have been his tactics to attack the Philistine garrisons in
the country by different detachments, rather than by risking a general
engagement; and his first operations were directed to rid his native
territory of Benjamin of these enemies.
1Sa 13:3, 4.
GILGAL AGAINST THE
3, 4. And Jonathan--that is, "God-given."
smote the garrison of the Philistines . . . in Geba--Geba and
Gibeah were towns in Benjamin, very close to each other
(Jos 18:24, 28).
The word rendered "garrison" is different from that of
1Sa 13:23; 14:1,
and signifies, literally, something erected; probably a pillar or
flagstaff, indicative of Philistine ascendency. That the secret
demolition of this standard, so obnoxious to a young and noble-hearted
patriot, was the feat of Jonathan referred to, is evident from the
words, "the Philistines heard of it," which is not the way we should
expect an attack on a fortress to be noticed.
Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land--This, a well-known
sound, was the usual Hebrew war-summons; the first blast was answered
by the beacon fire in the neighboring places. A second blast was
blown--then answered by a fire in a more distant locality, whence the
proclamation was speedily diffused over the whole country. As the
Philistines resented what Jonathan had done as an overt attempt to
throw off their yoke, a levy, en masse, of the people was immediately
ordered, the rendezvous to be the old camping-ground at Gilgal.
5. The Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with
Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen--Either
this number must include chariots of every kind--or the word "chariots"
must mean the men fighting in them
or, as some eminent critics maintain, Sheloshim ("thirty"), has
crept into the text, instead of Shelosh ("three"). The gathering
of the chariots and horsemen must be understood to be on the Philistine
plain, before they ascended the western passes and pitched in the heart
of the Benjamite hills, in "Michmash," (now Mukmas), a "steep
precipitous valley" [ROBINSON], eastward from
6. When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait--Though
Saul's gallantry was unabated, his subjects displayed no degree of zeal
and energy. Instead of venturing an encounter, they fled in all
directions. Some, in their panic, left the country
but most took refuge in the hiding-places which the broken ridges of
the neighborhood abundantly afford. The rocks are perforated in every
direction with "caves," and "holes," and "pits"--crevices and fissures
sunk deep in the rocky soil, subterranean granaries or dry wells in the
adjoining fields. The name of Michmash ("hidden treasure") seems to be
derived from this natural peculiarity [STANLEY].
8. he--that is, Saul.
tarried seven days--He was still in the eastern borders of his kingdom,
in the valley of Jordan. Some bolder spirits had ventured to join the
camp at Gilgal; but even the courage of those stout-hearted men gave
way in prospect of this terrible visitation; and as many of them were
stealing away, he thought some immediate and decided step must be
9-14. Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace
offerings--Saul, though patriotic enough in his own way, was more
ambitious of gaining the glory of a triumph to himself than ascribing
it to God. He did not understand his proper position as king of Israel;
and although aware of the restrictions under which he held the
sovereignty, he wished to rule as an autocrat, who possessed absolute
power both in civil and sacred things. This occasion was his first
trial. Samuel waited till the last day of the seven, in order to put
the constitutional character of the king to the test; and, as Saul, in
his impatient and passionate haste knowingly transgressed
by invading the priest's office and thus showing his unfitness for his
high office (as he showed nothing of the faith of Gideon and other
Hebrew generals), he incurred a threat of the rejection which his
subsequent waywardness confirmed.
15, 16. Samuel . . . gat him . . . unto Gibeah . . . and Saul, and
Jonathan his son, and the people that were present with them, abode in
Gibeah--Saul removed his camp thither, either in the hope that, it
being his native town, he would gain an increase of followers or that
he might enjoy the counsels and influence of the prophet.
17, 18. the spoilers came out of the camp of the Philistines in three
companies--ravaging through the three valleys which radiate from
the uplands of Michmash to Ophrah on the north, through the pass of
Beth-horon on the west, and down the ravines of Zeboim
("the hyænas"), towards the Ghor or Jordan valley on the east.
19, 20. Now there was no smith found throughout . . . Israel--The
country was in the lowest state of depression and degradation. The
Philistines, after the great victory over the sons of Eli, had become
the virtual masters of the land. Their policy in disarming the natives
has been often followed in the East. For repairing any serious damage
to their agricultural implements, they had to apply to the neighboring
21. Yet they had a file--as a kind of privilege, for the purpose of
sharpening sundry smaller utensils of husbandry.