1 Samuel 13
Those that desired a king like all the nations fancied that, when they
had one, they should look very great and considerable; but in this
chapter we find it proved much otherwise. While Samuel was joined in
commission with Saul things went well,
1 Samuel 11:7.
But, now that Saul began to reign alone, all went to decay, and
Samuel's words began to be fulfilled: "You shall be consumed, both you
and your king;" for never was the state of Israel further gone in a
consumption than in this chapter.
I. Saul appears here a very silly prince.
1. Infatuated in his counsels,
1 Samuel 13:1-3.
2. Invaded by his neighbours,
1 Samuel 13:4,5.
3. Deserted by his soldiers,
1 Samuel 13:6,7.
4. Disordered in his own spirit, and sacrificing in confusion,
1 Samuel 13:8-10.
5. Chidden by Samuel,
1 Samuel 13:11-13.
6. Rejected of God from being king,
1 Samuel 13:14.
II. The people appear hear a very miserable people.
1. Disheartened and dispersed, ver.
1 Samuel 13:6,7.
1 Samuel 13:15,16.
1 Samuel 13:17,18.
1 Samuel 13:19-23.
This they got by casting off God's government, and making themselves
like the nations: all their glory departed from them.
|The Philistines War against Israel.
||B. C. 1067.|
1 Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over
2 Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel; whereof two
thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Beth-el, and a
thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin: and the rest
of the people he sent every man to his tent.
3 And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was
in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the
trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear.
4 And all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison
of the Philistines, and that Israel also was had in abomination
with the Philistines. And the people were called together after
Saul to Gilgal.
5 And the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight
with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen,
and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude:
and they came up, and pitched in Michmash, eastward from
6 When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for
the people were distressed,) then the people did hide themselves
in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and
7 And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad
and Gilead. As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the
people followed him trembling.
We are not told wherein it was that the people of Israel offended God,
so as to forfeit his presence and turn his hand against them, as Samuel
(1 Samuel 12:15);
but doubtless they left God, else he would not have left them, as here
it appears he did; for,
I. Saul was very weak and impolitic, and did not order his affairs with
discretion. Saul was the son of one year (so the first words are
in the original), a phrase which we make to signify the date of his
reign, but ordinarily it signifies the date of one's birth, and
therefore some understand it figuratively--he was as innocent and good
as a child of a year old; so the Chaldee paraphrase: he was without
fault, like the son of a year. But, if we admit a figurative sense,
it may as well intimate that he was ignorant and imprudent, and as
unfit for business as a child of a year old: and the subsequent
particulars make this more accordant with his character than the
former. But we take it rather, as our own translation has it, Saul
reigned one year, and nothing happened that was considerable, it
was a year of no action; but in his second year he did as follows:--
1. he chose a band of 3000 men, of whom he himself commanded 2000, and
his son Jonathan 1000,
1 Samuel 13:2.
The rest of the people he dismissed to their tents. If he intended
these only for the guard of his person and his honorary attendants, it
was impolitic to have so many, if for a standing army, in apprehension
of danger from the Philistines, it was no less impolitic to have so
few; and perhaps the confidence he put in this select number, and his
disbanding the rest of that brave army with which he had lately beaten
(1 Samuel 11:8-11),
was looked upon as an affront to the kingdom, excited general disgust,
and was the reason he had so few at his call when he had occasion for
them. The prince that relies on a particular party weakens his own
interest in the whole community.
2. He ordered his son Jonathan to surprise and destroy the garrison of
the Philistines that lay near him in Geba,
1 Samuel 13:3.
I wish there were no ground for supposing that this was a violation or
infraction of some articles with the Philistines, and that it was done
treacherously and perfidiously. The reason why I suspect it is because
it is said that, for doing it, Israel was had in abomination,
or, as the word is, did stink with the Philistines
(1 Samuel 13:4),
as men void of common honesty and whose word could not be relied on. If
it was so, we will lay the blame, not on Jonathan who did it, but on
Saul, his prince and father, who ordered him to do it, and perhaps kept
him in ignorance of the truth of the matter. Nothing makes the name of
Israel odious to those that are without so much as the fraud and
dishonesty of those that are called by that worthy name. If professors
of religion cheat and over-reach, break their word and betray their
trust, religion suffers by it, and is had in abomination with the
Philistines. Whom may one trust if not an Israelite, one that, it
is expected, should be without guile?
3. When he had thus exasperated the Philistines, then he began to raise
forces, which, if he had acted wisely, he would have done before. When
the Philistines had a vast army ready to pour in upon him, to avenge
the wrong he had done them, then was he blowing the trumpet through
the land, among a careless, if not a disaffected people, saying,
Let the Hebrews hear
(1 Samuel 13:3),
and so as many as thought fit came to Saul to Gilgal,
1 Samuel 13:4.
But now the generality, we may suppose, drew back (either in dislike of
Saul's politics or in dread of the Philistines' power), who, if he had
summoned them sooner, would have been as ready at his beck as they were
when he marched against the Ammonites. We often find that after-wit
would have done much better before and have prevented much
II. Never did the Philistines appear in such a formidable body as they
did now, upon this provocation which Saul gave them. We may suppose
they had great assistance from their allies, for
(1 Samuel 13:5),
besides 6000 horse, which in those times, when horses were not so much
used in war as they are now, was a great body, they had an incredible
number of chariots, 30,000 in all: most of them, we may suppose, were
carriages for the bag and baggage of so vast an army, not chariots of
war. But their foot was innumerable as the sand of the
sea-shore, so jealous were they for the honour of their nation and
so much enraged at the baseness of the Israelites in destroying their
garrison. If Saul had asked counsel of God before he had given the
Philistines this provocation, he and his people might the better have
borne this threatening trouble which they had now brought on themselves
by their own folly.
III. Never were the people of Israel so faint-hearted, so sneaking, so
very cowardly, as they were now. Some considerable numbers, it may be,
came to Saul to Gilgal; but, hearing of the Philistines' numbers and
preparations, their spirits sunk within them, some think because they
did not find Samuel there with Saul. Those that, awhile ago, were weary
of him, and wished for a king, now had small joy of their king unless
they could see him under Samuel's direction. Sooner or later, men will
be made to see that God and his prophets are their best friends. Now
that they saw the Philistines making war upon them, and Samuel not
coming in to help them, they knew not what to do; men's hearts
failed them for fear. And.
1. Some absconded. Rather than run upon death among the Philistines,
they buried themselves alive in caves and thickets,
1 Samuel 13:6.
See what work sin makes; it exposes men to perils, and then robs them
of their courage and dispirits them. A single person, by faith, can
say, I will not be afraid of 10,000
but here thousands of degenerate Israelites tremble at the approach of
a great crowd of Philistines. Guilt makes men cowards.
2. Others fled
(1 Samuel 13:7):
They went over Jordan to the land of Gilead, as far as they
could from the danger, and to a place where they had lately been
victorious over the Ammonites. Where they had triumphed they hoped to
3. Those that staid with Saul followed him trembling, expecting
no other than to be cut off, and having their hands and hearts very
much weakened by the desertion of so many of their troops. And perhaps
Saul himself, though he had so much honour as to stand his ground, yet
had no courage to spare wherewith to inspire his trembling
|Saul Reproved by Samuel; Sentence Passed upon Saul.
||B. C. 1067.|
8 And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that
Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the
people were scattered from him.
9 And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace
offerings. And he offered the burnt offering.
10 And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of
offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went
out to meet him, that he might salute him.
11 And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, 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;
12 Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me
to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I
forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.
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: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon
Israel for ever.
14 But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought
him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him
to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept
that which the LORD commanded thee.
I. Saul's offence in offering sacrifice before Samuel came. Samuel,
when he anointed him, had ordered him to tarry for him seven days in
Gilgal, promising that, at the end of those days, he would be sure to
come to him, and both offer sacrifices for him and direct him what he
should do. This we had
1 Samuel 10:8.
Perhaps that order, though inserted there, was given him afterwards, or
was given him as a general rule to be observed in every public congress
at Gilgal, or, as is most probable, though not mentioned again, was
lately repeated with reference to this particular occasion; for it is
plain that Saul himself understood it as obliging him from God now to
stay till Samuel came, else he would not have made so many excuses as
he did for not staying,
1 Samuel 13:11.
This order Saul broke. He staid till the seventh day, yet had not
patience to wait till the end of the seventh day. Perhaps he began to
reproach Samuel as false to his word, careless of his country, and
disrespectful of his prince, and thought it more fit that Samuel should
wait for him than he for Samuel. However,
1. He presumed to offer sacrifice without Samuel, and nothing appears
to the contrary but that he did it himself, though he was neither
priest nor prophet, as if, because he was a king, he might do any
thing, a piece of presumption which king Uzziah paid dearly for,
2 Chronicles 26:16-23,
2. He determined to engage the Philistines without Samuel's
directions, though he had promised to show him what he should
do. So self-sufficient Saul was that he thought it not worth while
to stay for a prophet of the Lord, either to pray for him or to advise
him. This was Saul's offence, and that which aggravated it was,
(1.) That for aught that appears, he did not send any messenger to
Samuel, to know his mind, to represent the case to him, and to receive
fresh directions from him, though he had enough about him that were
swift enough of foot at this time.
(2.) That when Samuel came he rather seemed to boast of what he had
done than to repent of it; for he went forth to salute him, as
his brother-sacrificer, and seemed pleased with the opportunity he had
of letting Samuel know that he needed him not, but could do well enough
without him. He went out to bless him, so the word is, as if he
now thought himself a complete priest, empowered to bless as well as
sacrifice, whereas he should have gone out to be blessed by him.
(3.) That he charged Samuel with breach of promise: Thou camest not
within the days appointed
(1 Samuel 13:11),
and therefore if any thing was amiss Samuel must bear the blame, who
was God's minister; whereas he did come according to his word, before
the seven days had expired. Thus the scoffers of the latter days
think the promise of Christ's coming is broken, because he does not
come in their time, though it is certain he will come at the set time.
(4.) That when he was charged with disobedience he justified himself in
what he had done, and gave no sign at all of repentance for it. It is
not sinning that ruins men, but sinning and not repenting, falling and
not getting up again. See what excuses he made,
1 Samuel 13:11,12.
He would have this act of disobedience pass,
[1.] For an instance of his prudence. The people were most of them
scattered from him, and he had no other way than this to keep those
with him that remained and to prevent their deserting too. If Samuel
neglected the public concerns, he would not.
[2.] For an instance of his piety. He would be thought very devout, and
in great care not to engage the Philistines till he had by prayer and
sacrifice engaged God on his side: "The Philistines," said he,
"will come down upon me, before I have made my supplication to the
Lord, and then I am undone. What! go to war before I have said my
prayers!" Thus he covered his disobedience to God's command with a
pretence of concern for God's favour. Hypocrites lay a great stress
upon the external performances of religion, thinking thereby to excuse
their neglect of the weightier matters of the law. And yet,
lastly, He owns it went against his conscience to do it: I forced
myself and offered a burnt-offering, perhaps boasting that he had
broken through his convictions and got the better of them, or at least
thinking this extenuated his fault, that he knew he should not have
done as he did, but did it with reluctancy. Foolish man! to think that
God would be well pleased with sacrifices offered in direct opposition
both to his general and particular command.
II. The sentence passed upon Saul for this offence. Samuel found him
standing by his burnt-offering, but, instead of an answer of peace, was
sent to him with heavy tidings, and let him know that the sacrifice
of the wicked is abomination to the Lord, much more when he brings
it, as Saul did, with a wicked mind.
1. He shows him the aggravations of his crime, and says to this king,
Thou art wicked, which it is not for any but a prophet of the
Lord to say,
He charges him with being an enemy to himself and his interest--Thou
hast done foolishly, and a rebel to God and his
government--"Thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy
God, that commandment wherewith he intended to try thy obedience."
Note, Those that disobey the commandments of God do foolishly for
themselves. Sin is folly, and sinners are the greatest fools.
2. He reads his doom
(1 Samuel 13:14):
"Thy kingdom shall not continue long to thee or thy family; God
has his eye upon another, a man after his own heart, and not
like thee, that will have thy own will and way." The sentence is in
effect the same with Mene tekel, only now there seems room left
for Saul's repentance, upon which this sentence would have been
reversed; but, upon the next act of disobedience, it was made
1 Samuel 15:29.
And now, better a thousand times he had continued in obscurity tending
his asses than to be enthroned and so soon dethroned. But was not this
hard, to pass so severe a sentence upon him and his house for a single
error, an error that seemed so small, and in excuse for which he had so
much to say? No, The Lord is righteous in all his ways and does
no man any wrong, will be justified when he speaks and clear when he
judges. By this,
(1.) He shows that there is no sin little, because no little god to sin
against; but that every sin is a forfeiture of the heavenly kingdom,
for which we stood fair.
(2.) He shows that disobedience to an express command, though in a
small matter, is a great provocation, as in the case of our first
(3.) He warns us to take heed of our spirits, for that which to
men may seem but a small offence, yet to him that knows from what
principle and with what disposition of mind it is done, may appear a
(4.) God, in rejecting Saul for an error seemingly little, sets off, as
by a foil, the lustre of his mercy in forgiving such great sins as
those of David, Manasseh, and others.
(5.) We are taught hereby how necessary it is that we wait on our
God continually. Saul lost his kingdom for want of two or three
|The Israelites' Low Condition.
||B. C. 1067.|
15 And Samuel arose, and gat him up from Gilgal unto Gibeah of
Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people that were present with
him, about six hundred men.
16 And Saul, and Jonathan his son, and the people that were
present with them, abode in Gibeah of Benjamin: but the
Philistines encamped in Michmash.
17 And the spoilers 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:
18 And another company turned the way to Beth-horon: and
another company turned to the way of the border that looketh to
the valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness.
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:
20 But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to
sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and
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.
22 So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was
neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people
that were with Saul and Jonathan: but with Saul and with
Jonathan his son was there found.
23 And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the passage
1. Samuel departs in displeasure. Saul has set up for himself, and now
he is left to himself: Samuel gat him from Gilgal
(1 Samuel 13:15),
and it does not appear that he either prayed with Saul or directed him.
Yet in going up to Gibeah of Benjamin, which was Saul's city, he
intimated that he had not quite abandoned him, but waited to do him a
kindness another time. Or he went to the college of the prophets there,
to pray for Saul when he did not think fit to pray with him.
2. Saul goes after him to Gibeah, and there musters his army, and finds
his whole number to be but 600 men,
1 Samuel 13:15,16.
Thus were they for their sin diminished and brought low.
3. The Philistines ravage the country, and put all the adjacent parts
under contribution. The body of their army, or standing camp (as it is
called in the margin,
1 Samuel 13:23),
lay in an advantageous pass at Michmash, but thence they sent out three
separate parties or detachments that took several ways, to plunder the
country, and bring in provisions for the army,
1 Samuel 13:17,18.
By these the land of Israel was both terrified and impoverished, and
the Philistines were animated and enriched. This the sin of Israel
brought upon them,
4. The Israelites that take the field with Saul are unarmed, having
only slings and clubs, not a sword or spear among them all, except what
Saul and Jonathan themselves have,
1 Samuel 13:19,22.
(1.) How politic the Philistines were, when they had power in their
hands, and did what they pleased in Israel. They put down all the
smiths' shops, transplanted the smiths into their own country, and
forbade any Israelite, under severe penalties, to exercise the trade or
mystery of working in brass or iron, though they had rich mines of both
in such plenty that it was said of Asher, his shoes shall be iron
This was subtilely done of the Philistines, for hereby they not only
prevented the people of Israel from making themselves weapons of war
(by which they would be both disused to military exercises and
unfurnished when there was occasion), but obliged them to a dependence
upon them even for the instruments of husbandry; they must go to them,
that is, to some or other of their garrisons, which were dispersed in
the country, to have all their iron-work done, and no more might an
Israelite do than use a file
(1 Samuel 13:20,21),
and no doubt the Philistines' smiths brought the Israelites long bills
for work done.
(2.) How impolitic Saul was, that did not, in the beginning of his
reign, set himself to redress this grievance. Samuel's not doing it
was very excusable; he fought with other artillery; thunder and
lightning, in answer to his prayer, were to him instead of sword and
spear; but for Saul, that pretended to be a king like the kings of the
nations, to leave his soldiers without swords and spears, and take no
care to provide them, especially when he might have done it out of the
spoils of the Ammonites whom he conquered in the beginning of his
reign, was such a piece of negligence as could by no means be excused.
(3.) How slothful and mean-spirited the Israelites were, that suffered
the Philistines thus to impose upon them and had no thought nor spirit
to help themselves. It was reckoned very bad with them when there was
not a shield or spear found among 40,000 in Israel
and it was not better now, when there was never an Israelite with a
sword by his side but the king and his son, never a soldier, never a
gentleman; surely they were reduced to this, or began to be so, in
Samuel's time, for we never find him with sword or spear in his hand.
If they had not been dispirited, they could not have been disarmed, but
it was sin that made them naked to their shame.