1 Kings xiii.
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Of one year. That is, he was good, and like an innocent child, and for two years continued in that innocency. (Challoner) (St. Gregory) (Worthington) — Israel. This verse is omitted in some copies of the Septuagint. It is extremely difficult to explain. Some translate Hebrew, “Saul was a son of one year old,” &c. (Symmachus) Others, “Saul begot a son the first year of his reign, (Raban) Isboseth, who was 40 years old when his father died, after governing all that while. (Serarius) — Syriac and Arabic, “In the first or second year of the reign of Saul….he chose,” &c. Hardouin supposes that the people dated their years by his reign only so long. Some think that the Hebrew is imperfect; and an ancient interpreter has, “Saul was 30 years old, when he began,” &c. (Calmet) — The Rabbins and many commentators assert, that the reign of Saul lasted only two years. (Tirinus) — But some of them explain this, as if he reigned alone only that term before he was rejected, when he could only be regarded as an usurper. Others, that he obtained the whole power for two years, after the death of Samuel. Usher concludes that, during the incursions of the Philistines, he could hardly be said to reign, and these commenced after he had been king two years. We might also translate, “Saul was the son of the year of his reign, (when he was confirmed at Galgal) and in the second year….he chose,” &c. (Calmet) — Perhaps the first translation, though somewhat mystical, may be the most literal, shewing that for one year Saul continued to act with the most engaging affability and moderation. But in the second he threw off the yoke, and was, in his turn, rejected by the Lord, as we shall soon behold. (Haydock) — Scaliger seems to prefer allowing that the numeral letters have been omitted by some transcriber, and that we should read, Saul was 30 years old. This, and similar variations, he attributes to the compendious method of using numeral letters; (Kennicott) an inconvenience very frequently attending all manuscripts, both sacred and profane. (Taylor)
Ver. 2. Dwellings, from Galgal (Salien) or from some other general assembly. (Calmet) — These 3000 were to be the king’s guards, supported at the expense of the nation, that the people might begin to feel one part of the royal prerogative. (Salien, the year before Christ 1089)
Ver. 3. Land. As soon as the next cities had heard the alarm, they sounded the trumpet, and so the news was conveyed to the most distant parts, in a short time, Judges iii. 27. — Hebrews. Probably those “on the other side” of the Jordan, who presently came to the assistance of their brethren, ver. 7. (Osiander) — It might also be the usual beginning of a proclamation. See Daniel iii. 4. (Menochius) — Septuagint and Aquila have a instead of r, in hibrim. “Let the servants (subjects) attend.” (Aquila) “The slaves have rebelled,” (Septuagint) meaning the Philistines, who ought to have been subject to Israel. (Haydock)
Ver. 4. Courage. Hebrew, “and Israel was in abomination (stinking) with the Philistines.” See Exodus v. 21. (Calmet) — Septuagint, “despised as nothing the strangers.” — Were should be omitted, as the verb is active, clamavit, in the Vulgate and Septuagint, though the Protestants have “were called,” &c. They shouted with alacrity, that Saul would lead them on to battle. (Haydock) — Osiander thinks that they “exclaimed against him,” for engaging them in this new war.
Ver. 5. Chariots. This number seems almost incredible, as the Philistines were but a contemptible nation, compared with various others which never brought so many chariots into the field. Zara, king of Ethiopia, in his army of a million men, had only 300, 2 Paralipomenon xiv. 9. Adarezer had 1000, and Sesac 1200 chariots, while Solomon could only boast of 1400. Hence the Syriac and Arabic read “3000;” and it is supposed that the Hebrew has im, at the end of shelosh, redundant. (Bochart, Capel, &c.) The number of horsemen would otherwise bear no proportion with the chariots. We must also observe, that under this name the Scripture denotes those who upon the chariots. They were drawn by two horses, and one man guided the horses, while another stood on the chariot; and in battle, eight other soldiers attended it. These remarks will tend to explain many difficult passages, in which we read of chariots being slain and hamstrung, which may be understood of the men and horses, 2 Kings viii. 4., and x. 18. In one place we read 700, and in another 7000 chariot were slain, (1 Paralipomenon xix. 18,) the latter number comprising the 10 attendants; so here, the Philistines might have 3000 chariots, which being each accompanied with ten men, might be counted as 30,000. (Calmet) — Others think that there were 30,000 men fighting on chariots. (Lyranus; Salien) — The Tyrians might have come to the assistance of their old friends, as chap. vii. 10. See 3 Kings iv. 26. (Menochius) — Number. Josephus specifies “300,000 infantry.” (Haydock) — Bethaven. Many copies of the Septuagint read, “Bethoron,” more probably, as Bethel must have been on the east of Machmas, which lay north of Gabaa, chap xiv. 5. (Calmet) “over-against Bethoron on the south.” (Grabe) (Haydock) — Hebrew also, “having Bethaven on the east.” Bethel was called Bethaven after the schism of Jeroboam, so that this name seems to have been substituted by a later writer, (Calmet) unless it might have had both names long before, Josue xviii. 12. (Haydock) — This is not contrary to chap. vii. 13, as the Philistines had been quiet for a long time. Hebrew álom, properly denotes the term of a jubilee or 50 years. (Du Hamel)
Ver. 6. Straitened, the people form the northern provinces, and provisions being cut off, by the immense army of the Philistines. (Calmet) — Providence was pleased to convince the people that, though they had been able to muster so large a force against the Ammonites, at so short a warning, they must not depend on the efforts of their new king. (Haydock) — He suffered many of the army to retire, as he sent away most of Gedeon’s soldiers, that the whole glory of the victory might be attributed to him. (Salien) — Dens. So the Chaldean. Some explain the Hebrew, “high places (Haydock) or towers.” (Calmet) — Septuagint, “ditches or holes.” (Menochius) — Bothrois. In that country there are many spacious caverns, chap. xxiv., and Josue x. (Haydock)
Ver. 7. Hebrews. Septuagint, “the people, who came over, (the river) crossed the Jordan.” (Haydock) — The title of Hebrews, “passengers,” seems to be applied to those who lived on the east side of the river, (Calmet) though probably some others would seek for a retreat in that country, or even hide themselves in the regions of the Ammonites, out of which they had lately driven the inhabitants. (Haydock) — Hebrew, “the Hebrews passed over the Jordan, the land of,” &c. (Calmet) — Afraid. Septuagint in a sort of “ecstasy” of fear.
Ver. 8. Of Samuel. Yet the prophet condemns his proceedings, either because he did not wait till the expiration of the seventh day, (Calmet; St. Ignatius, &c.; Salien) or because he ventured to offer sacrifice himself. (Lyra after Sulp. Severus, &c.) (Haydock) (Worthington) — He had however the high priest with him; (chap. xiv. 3,) so that he might have performed this sacred function, at the request of Saul: and we do not find that the latter is accused of sacrilege. (Salien) — The magnitude of the punishment is no proof of the nature of the transgression, as God often punishes, with great severity, sins which to us might appear venial. (Haydock) — This is true, particularly with respect to those who first dare to transgress a positive command; (Numbers xv. 32.; Menochius) as Saul seems to have done the injunction of the prophet, chap. x. 8. The regal dignity was a gratuitous gift. (Salien) — With a trembling heart, we must consider how he was rejected for neglecting to wait so short a time,” (St. Gregory) when the circumstances seems to plead so strongly in his favour. How impenetrable are the judgments of God! and how punctually does he require his orders to be obeyed! (Calmet)
Ver. 12. Lord, by sacrifices. — Holocaust. Hebrew, “I forced myself therefore,” &c. It is asked whether Saul offered sacrifice, or caused it to be offered by the priests. The text seems to assert that he did it himself. Samuel and David did the like; and we read that Solomon ascended to the brazen altar, at Gabaon, for the same purpose, 2 Paralipomenon i. 5. If it was lawful to erect altars out of the tabernacle, notwithstanding the divine prohibition, why might not individuals also offer sacrifice on certain solemn occasions? The Hebrew kings seem to have exercised some of the sacerdotal functions, particularly before the building of the temple; for afterwards we find one of their kings severely punished for presuming to offer incense, 4 Kings xv. 5. (Calmet) — Yet the proofs that they ever lawfully offered sacrifice, are not very satisfactory, as, in the Scripture language, a person is often said to do what he enjoins another to perform on his account; and if some prophets have acted in the character of priests, by divine dispensation, we need not extend the privilege to all who have dared to assume the like prerogative. The law is clear. It is the duty of all who do not regulate their conduct by it, to know that they have God’s approbation. Their expressing no scruple on the occasion, proves nothing, no more than the sacred writer’s omitting to stigmatize their proceedings. But here, if Saul really offered the holocaust, the words of Samuel, Thou hast done foolishly, convey a sufficient reproach: but if he did not, we must suppose that he blames the neglect of waiting the full term of days. (Haydock)
Ver. 13. Ever. He foresaw this want of obedience, and therefore promised the sceptre to Juda, Genesis xlix. (Menochius) — God’s foresight of sin, and preordination to punish it, does not take away free-will nor the possibility of a reward. (St. Augustine) (Worthington)
Ver. 14. Continue long. This seems to have been a threat, which Saul might still have escaped, if he had not proved disobedient again. St. Gregory says, “he might have been loosed from the bonds of his former disobedience;” prioris inobedientić nexus enodaret. The second rebellion caused him to be entirely rejected, and the prophet was ordered to go and anoint David, chap. xv. (Salien)
Ver. 15. Samuel. Piscator suspects that we ought to read Saul, as no mention is made of the prophet in the sequel of this war, and he is never consulted. (Calmet) — Josephus says he returned home. (Haydock) — But all the versions are conformable to the text: and Samuel went with the king and his 600 soldiers, to Gabaa, (Calmet) that he might not appear to retain any ill-will towards Saul, and that his followers might not be quite dispirited, as they knew that he had the thunderbolts of heaven in his hand; and if he was with them, they had nothing to fear from the myriads of their opponents. His presence was very seasonable, for they had to cut their way through the enemy. (Salien) — And the….Benjamin. All this is omitted in Hebrew, Chaldean, and in many Greek and Latin copies. (Calmet) — It is found in the Alexandrian and Vatican Septuagint. — In the hill, is a translation of Gabaa, which alone occurs in those editions. (Haydock)
Ver. 17. Plunder, seeing that the Israelites durst not come to an engagement. Jonathan took advantage of their absence, chap. xiv. — Land of Sual, “foxes,” not far from the birth-place of Gedeon, Judges vi. 11.
Ver. 18. Bethoron, the lower, to the north-west of Gabaa. — Seboim was one of the cities which perished along with Sodom. (Calmet)
Ver. 19. Smith. The Philistines had taken these precautions before Samuel gained the victory over them, and he consented that the people should employ the Philistines as before, when he made peace with them; (Salien) or they had again begun to get the upper hand at the beginning of Saul’s reign, as the Israelites had been long in the enjoyment of peace, and negligent. (Tirinus) — Josephus extends this species of servitude only to the neighbourhood of Gabaa, and says the major part of Saul’s 600 men “was destitute of arms, because that country had neither iron nor people to make arms.” The immense army which had so lately discomfited the Ammonites, was surely not without weapons. But most of them had retired, (Haydock) and those who accompanied the king might rely chiefly on their expertness in using the sling, Judges xx. 16. (Menochius) — The brave men who came to join David, are praised on this account, as well as for shooting with bow and arrow, 1 Paralipomenon xii. 2. Furious battles have been also fought with sharpened stakes, burnt at the end, (Virgil, Ćneid vii.) and with various implements of husbandry, of which the Hebrews were not deprived. In the defeat of Sisara, they had not a buckler nor a lance among 40,000 (Judges v. 8.; Calmet) as the Philistines had already begun to deprive the Israelites of such weapons. (Haydock) — Other nations have since imitated their policy, 4 Kings xxiv. 14. (Justin. i. 7.)
Ver. 20. All Israel, whom the Philistines had conquered, particularly the neighbouring tribes. (Calmet) — They were obliged to go to the places where the enemy kept garrisons, (Menochius) as they did at Gabaa, Bethel, &c. — Share. Septuagint, Syriac, &c., “scythe,” or “sickle for corn;” theristerion. (Haydock) — The original term, macharesha, may signify all sorts of implements. — Spade. Hebrew is supposed to mean, “a coulter.” Septuagint, “instrument,” which the prophets often say will be turned into a sword, in times of war, Joel iii. 15., and Micheas iv. 3. — Rake. The same generical term is used in Hebrew as was before translated a plough-share. Septuagint have “scythe;” drepanon. (Calmet)
Ver. 21. Mended, by the Philistines. (Haydock) — The Hebrew is variously translated. “Their implements were like saws; or, they had a file to sharpen the,” &c. (Calmet) — Septuagint, “and the fruits were ready to be gathered. But the vessels (instruments for labour) were three sicles for a tooth, and the same price (or station, upostasis, a word used [in] ver. 23, in the latter sense) for an axe or a scythe;” as if the Philistines required three sicles for doing the smallest thing, when the harvest was at hand. (Haydock)
Ver. 23. Further. Hebrew, “went out to the passage (Haydock) or defile of Machmas,” leading to Gabaa. (Calmet) — Septuagint, “and there came out of the station of the strangers, to the other side (or beyond) Machmas,” where they have been fixed, chap. vi. 11, 16. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The war between Saul and the Philistines. The distress of the Israelites. Saul offereth sacrifice before the coming of Samuel: for which he is reproved.
1 Saul *was a child of one year when he began to reign, and he reigned two years over Israel.
2 And Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel: and two thousand were with Saul in Machmas, and in Mount Bethel: and a thousand with Jonathan in Gabaa of Benjamin: and the rest of the people he sent back every man to their dwellings.
3 And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines which was in Gabaa. And when the Philistines had heard of it, Saul sounded the trumpet over all the land, saying: Let the Hebrews hear.
4 And all Israel heard this report: Saul hath smitten the garrison of the Philistines: and Israel took courage against the Philistines. And the people were called together after Saul to Galgal.
5 The Philistines also were assembled to fight against Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and a multitude of people besides, like the sand on the sea-shore for number. And going up they camped in Machmas, at the east of Bethaven.
6 And when the men of Israel saw that they were straitened (for the people were distressed), they hid themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in dens, and in pits.
7 And some of the Hebrews passed over the Jordan into the land of Gad and Galaad. And when Saul was yet in Galgal, all the people that followed him were greatly afraid.
8 And he waited seven days, according to the appointment of Samuel, *and Samuel came not to Galgal, and the people slipt away from him.
9 Then Saul said: Bring me the holocaust, and the peace-offerings. And he offered the holocaust.
10 And when he had made an end of offering the holocaust, behold Samuel came: and Saul went forth to meet him and salute him.
11 And Samuel said to him: What hast thou done? Saul answered: Because I saw that the people slipt from me, and thou wast not come according to the days appointed, and the Philistines were gathered together in Machmas,
12 I said: Now will the Philistines come down upon me to Galgal, and I have not appeased the face of the Lord. Forced by necessity, I offered the holocaust.
13 And Samuel said to Saul: Thou hast done foolishly, and hast not kept the commandments of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee. And if thou hadst not done thus, the Lord would now have established thy kingdom over Israel for ever:
14 But thy kingdom shall not continue. *The Lord hath sought him a man according to his own heart: and him hath the Lord commanded to be prince over his people, because thou hast not observed that which the Lord commanded.
15 And Samuel arose and went up from Galgal to Gabaa of Benjamin. And the rest of the people went up after Saul, to meet the people who fought against them, going from Galgal to Gabaa, in the hill of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people, that were found with him, about six hundred men.
16 And Saul, and Jonathan his son, and the people that were present with them, were in Gabaa of Benjamin: But the Philistines encamped in Machmas.
17 And there went out of the camp of the Philistines three companies to plunder. One company went towards the way of Ephra to the land of Sual.
18 And another went by the way of Bethoron, and the third turned to the way of the border, above the valley of Seboim towards the desert.
19 Now there was no smith to be found in all the land of Israel, for the Philistines had taken this precaution, lest the Hebrews should make them swords or spears.
20 So all Israel went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his ploughshare, and his spade, and his axe, and his rake.
21 So that their shares, and their spades, and their forks, and their axes, were blunt, even to the goad, which was to be mended.
22 And when the day of battle was come, there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan, except Saul and Jonathan his son.
23 And the army of the Philistines went out in order to advance further in Machmas.
1: Year of the World 2911, Year before Christ 1093.
8: 1 Kings x. 8.
14: Acts xiii. 22.