1 Samuel 13


Saul chooses a body of troops, 1, 2.

Jonathan smites a garrison of the Philistines, 3, 4.

The Philistines gather together an immense host against Israel,


The Israelites are afraid; and some hide themselves in caves,

and others flee over Jordan, 6, 7.

Samuel delaying his coming, Saul offers sacrifice, 8, 9.

Samuel comes and reproves him, and Saul excuses himself, 10-12.

Samuel shows him that God has rejected him from being captain

over his people, 13, 14.

Samuel departs; and Saul and Jonathan, with six hundred men

abide in Gibeah, 15, 16.

The Philistines send out foraging companies, and waste the land,

17, 18.

Desolate state of the Israelitish army, having no weapons of

defence against their enemies, 19-23.


Verse 1. Saul reigned one year] A great deal of learned labour

has been employed and lost on this verse, to reconcile it with

propriety and common sense. I shall not recount the meanings put

on it. I think this clause belongs to the preceding chapter,

either as a part of the whole, or a chronological note added

afterwards; as if the writer had said, These things (related in

1Sa 12:1-25)

took place in the first year of Saul's reign: and then he

proceeds in the next place to tell us what took place in the

second year, the two most remarkable years of Saul's reign. In

the first he is appointed, anointed, and twice confirmed, viz., at

Mizpeh and at Gilgal; in the second, Israel is brought into the

lowest state of degradation by the Philistines, Saul acts

unconstitutionally, and is rejected from being king. These things

were worthy of an especial chronological note.

And when he had reigned] This should begin the chapter, and be

read thus: "And when Saul had reigned two years over Israel, he

chose him three thousand," tic. The Septuagint has left the clause

out of the text entirely, and begins the chapter thus: "And Saul

chose to himself three thousand men out of the men of Israel."

Verse 2. Two thousand were with Saul] Saul, no doubt, meditated

the redemption of his country from the Philistines; and having

chosen three thousand men, he thought best to divide them into

companies, and send one against the Philistine garrison at

Michmash, another against that at Beth-el, and the third against

that at Gibeah: he perhaps hoped, by surprising these garrisons,

to get swords and spears for his men, of which we find,

(1Sa 13:22,) they were entirely destitute.

Verse 3. Jonathan smote] He appears to have taken this garrison

by surprise, for his men had no arms for a regular battle, or

taking the place by storm. This is the first place in which this

brave and excellent man appears; a man who bears one of the most

amiable characters in the Bible.

Let the Hebrews hear.] Probably this means the people who dwelt

beyond Jordan, who might very naturally be termed here

haibrim, from abar, he passed over; those who are beyond the

river Jordan: as Abraham was called Ibri because he dwelt

beyond the river Euphrates.

Verse 4. The people were called together] The smiting of this

garrison was the commencement of a war, and in effect the shaking

off of the Philistine yoke; and now the people found that they

must stand together, and fight for their lives.

Verse 5. Thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen]

There is no proportion here between the chariots and the cavalry.

The largest armies ever brought into the field, even by mighty

emperors, never were furnished with thirty thousand chariots.

I think sheloshim, THIRTY, is a false reading for

shalosh, THREE. The Syriac has [Syriac] telotho alpin, and the

Arabic [Arabic] thalathato alf, both signifying THREE thousand;

and this was a fair proportion to the horsemen. This is most

likely to be the true reading.

Verse 6. The people did hide themselves] They, being few in

number, and totally unarmed as to swords and spears, were

terrified at the very numerous and well-appointed army of the

Philistines. Judea was full of rocks, caves, thickets, &c., where

people might shelter themselves from their enemies. While some hid

themselves, others fled beyond Jordan: and those who did cleave to

Saul followed him trembling.

Verse 8. He tarried seven days according to the set time] Samuel

in the beginning had told Saul to wait seven days, and he would

come to him, and show him what to do, 1Sa 10:8. What is here said

cannot be understood of that appointment, but of a different one.

Samuel had at this time promised to come to him within seven days,

and he kept his word, for we find him there before the day was

ended; but as Saul found he did not come at the beginning of the

seventh day, he became impatient, took the whole business into

his own hand, and acted the parts of prophet, priest, and king;

and thus he attempted a most essential change in the Israelitish

constitution. In it the king, the prophet, and the priest, are in

their nature perfectly distinct. What such a rash person might

have done, if he had not been deprived of his authority, who can

tell? But his conduct on this occasion sufficiently justifies that

deprivation. That he was a rash and headstrong man is also proved

by his senseless adjuration of the people about food, 1Sa 14:24,

and his unfeeling resolution to put the brave Jonathan, his own

son, to death, because he had unwittingly acted contrary to this

adjuration, 1Sa 14:44. Saul appears to have been a brave and

honest man, but he had few of those qualities which are proper for

a king, or the governor of a people.

Verse 9. And he offered the burnt-offering.] This was most

perfectly unconstitutional; he had no authority to offer, or cause

to be offered, any of the Lord's sacrifices.

Verse 10. Behold, Samuel came] Samuel was punctual to his

appointment; one hour longer of delay would have prevented every

evil, and by it no good would have been lost. How often are the

effects of precipitation fatal!

Verse 11. And Saul said] Here he offers three excuses for his

conduct: 1. The people were fast leaving his standard. 2. Samuel

did not come at the time, lemoed; at the very

commencement of the time he did not come, but within that time he

did come. 3. The Philistines were coming fast upon him. Saul

should have waited out the time; and at all events he should not

have gone contrary to the counsel of the Lord.

Verse 12. I forced myself] It was with great reluctance that I

did what I did. In all this Saul was sincere, but ha was rash, and

regardless of the precept of the Lord, which precept or command he

most evidently had received, 1Sa 13:13. And one part of this

precept was, that the Lord should tell him what he should do.

Without this information, in an affair under the immediate

cognizance of God, he should have taken no step.

Verse 14. The Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart]

That this man was David is sufficiently clear from the sequel. But

in what sense was he a man after God's own heart? Answer: 1. In

his strict attention to the law and worship of God. 2. In his

admitting, in the whole of his conduct, that God was King in

Israel, and that he himself was but his vicegerent. 3. In never

attempting to alter any of those laws, or in the least change the

Israelitish constitution. 4. In all his public official conduct he

acted according to the Divine mind, and fulfilled the will of his

Maker: thus was he a man after God's own heart. In reference to

his private or personal moral conduct, the word is never used.

This is the sense alone in which the word is used here and

elsewhere; and it is unfair and wicked to put another meaning on

it in order to ridicule the revelation of God, as certain infidels

have done.

Verse 15. And Samuel arose] Though David, in the Divine purpose,

is appointed to be captain over the people, yet Saul is not to be

removed from the government during his life; Samuel therefore

accompanies him to Gibeah, to give him the requisite help in this


About six hundred men.] The whole of the Israelitish army at

this time, and not one sword or spear among them!

Verse 17. The spoilers came out] The Philistines, finding that

the Israelites durst not hazard a battle, divided their army into

three bands, and sent them in three different directions to

pillage and destroy the country. Jonathan profited by this

circumstance, and attacked the remains of the army at Michmash, as

we shall see in the succeeding chapter.

Verse 19. Now there was no smith found] It is very likely that

in the former wars the Philistines carried away all the smiths

from Israel, as Porsenna did in the peace which he granted to the

Romans, not permitting any iron to be forged except for the

purposes of agriculture: "Ne ferro, nisi in agricultura,

uterentur." The Chaldeans did the same to the Jews in the time of

Nebuchadnezzar; they carried away all the artificers, 2Ki 24:14;

Jer 24:1; 29:2. And in the same manner did Cyrus treat the

Lydians, Herod. lib. i., c. 145. See several examples in Calmet.

Verse 20. But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines]

We find from this that they did not grant them as much as Porsenna

did to the Romans; he permitted the people to manufacture the

implements of husbandry.

Verse 21. Yet they had a file] The Hebrew petsirah, from

patsar, to rub hard, is translated very differently by the

versions and by critics. Our translation may be as likely as any:

they permitted them the use of files, (I believe the word means

grindstone,) to restore the blunted edges of their tridents

axes, and goads.

Verse 22. In the day of battle-these was neither sword nor

spear] But if the Israelites enjoyed such profound peace and

undisturbed dominion under Samuel, how is it that they were

totally destitute of arms, a state which argues the lowest

circumstances of oppression and vassalage? In answer to this we

may observe, that the bow and the sling were the principal arms of

the Israelites; for these they needed no smith: the most barbarous

nations, who have never seen iron, have nevertheless bows and

arrows; the arrow heads generally made of flint. Arrows of this

kind are found among the inhabitants of the South Sea islands; and

even axes, and different implements of war, all made of stone, cut

and polished by stone, are frequent among them. The arms of the

aboriginal Irish have been of this kind. I have frequently seen

heads of axes and arrows of stone, which have been dug up out of

the ground, formed with considerable taste and elegance. The

former the common people term thunderbolts; the latter,

elf-stones. Several of these from Ireland, from Zetland, and

from the South Sea islands, are now before me.

Now it is possible that the Israelites had still bows and

arrows: these they could have without the smith; and it is as

likely that they had slings, and for these they needed none. But

then these were missiles; if they came into close fight, they

would avail them nothing: for attacks of this kind they would

require swords and spears; of these none were found but with Saul

and Jonathan.

WE see, in this chapter, Israel brought to as low a state as

they were under Eli; when they were totally discomfited, their

priests slain, their ark taken, and the judge dead. After that,

they rose by the strong hand of God; and in this way they are now

to rise, principally by means of David, whose history will soon


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