King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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1 Samuel 13

The invasion of the Philistines. (1-7) Saul sacrifices, He is reproved by Samuel. (8-14) The policy of the Philistines. (15-23)

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The invasion of the Philistines

1 Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel,

2 Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel; whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Bethel, 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 Bethaven.

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 in pits.

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.

Saul sacrifices, He is reproved by Samuel

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.

The policy of the Philistines

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 Bethhoron: 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 his mattock.

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 of Michmash.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Of one year. That is, he was good, and like an innocent child, and for two years continued in that innocency. Ch. S. Greg. W. — Israel. This verse is omitted in some copies of the Sept. It is extremely difficult to explain. Some translate Heb. “Saul was a son of one year old,” &c. Sym. 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. Serar. — Syr. and Arab. “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 Heb. is imperfect; and an ancient interpreter has, “Saul was 30 years old, when he began,” &c. C. — The Rabbins and may commentators assert, that the reign of Saul lasted only two years. T. — 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. C. — 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. H. — 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 MSS. both sacred and profane. Taylor.

Ver. 2. Dwellings, from Galgal (Salien) or from some other general assembly. C. — 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, A.C. 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. Judg. iii. 27. — Hebrews. Probably those “on the other side” of the Jordan, who presently came to the assistance of their brethren, v. 7. Osiander. — It might also be the usual beginning of a proclamation. See Dan. iii. 4. M. — Sept. and Aquila have a instead of r, in hibrim. “Let the servants (subjects) attend.” Aq. The slaves have rebelled,” (Sept.) meaning the Philistines, who ought to have been subject to Israel. H.

Ver. 4. Courage. Heb. “and Israel was in abomination (stinking) with the Philistines.” See Ex. vi. 21. C. — Sept. “despised as nothing the strangers.” — Were should be omitted, as the verb is active, clamavit, in the Vulg. and Sept. though the Prot. have “were called,” &c. They shouted with alacrity, that Saul would lead them on to battle. H. — 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 Par. xiv. 9. Adarezer had 1000, and Sesac 12000 chariots, while Solomon could only boast of 1400. Hence the Syr. and Arab. read “3000;” and it is supposed that the Heb. 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 K. viii. 4. and x. 18. In one place we read 700, and in another 7000 chariot were slain, (1 Par. 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. C. — Others think that there were 30,000 men fighting on chariots. Lyran. Salien. — The Tyrians might have come to the assistance of their old friends, as C. vii. 10. See 3 K. iv. 26. M. — Number. Josephus specifies “300,000 infantry.” H. — Bethaven. Many copies of the Sept. read, “Bethoron,” more probably, as Bethel must have been on the east of Machmas, which lay north of Gabaa, chap xiv. 5. (C.) “over-against Bethoron on the south.” Grabe. H. — Heb. 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, (C.) unless it might have had both names long before. Jos. xviii. 12. H. — this is not contrary to C. vii. 13, as the Philistines had been quiet for a long time. Heb. alom, properly denotes the term of a jubilee or 50 years. D.

Ver. 6. Straitened, the people from the northern provinces, and provisions being cut off, by the immense army of the Philistines. C. — 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. H. — He suffered any 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 Chal. Some explain the Heb. “high places (H.) or towers.” C. — Sept. “ditches or holes.” M. — Bothrois. In that country there are many spacious caverns. C. xxiv. Jos. x. H.

Ver. 7. Hebrews. Sept. “the people, who came over, (the river) crossed the Jordan.” H. — The title of Hebrews, “passengers,” seems to be applied to those who lived on the east side of the river, (C.) 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. H. — Heb. “the Hebrews passed over the Jordan, the land of,” &c. C. — Afraid. Sept. 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, (C. S. Ignatius, &c. Salien) or because he ventured to offer sacrifice himself. Lyra. after Sulp. Serverus, &c. H. W. — He had however the high priest with him; (C. 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. H. — This is true, particularly with respect to those who first dare to transgress a positive command; (Num. xv. 32. M.) as Saul seems to have done the injunction of the prophet, C. 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,” (S. Greg.) 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! C.

Ver. 12. Lord, by sacrifices. — Holocaust. Heb. “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 Par. 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 K. xv. 5. C. — 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. H.

Ver. 13. Ever. He foresaw this want of obedience, and therefore promised the sceptre to Juda. Gen. xlix. M. — God’s foresight of sin, and preordination to punish it, does not take away free-will nor the possibility of a reward. S. Aug. W.

Ver. 14. Continue long. This seems to have been a threat, which Saul might still have escaped, if he had not proved disobedient again. S. Greg. says, “he might have been loosed from the bonds of his former disobedience;” prioris inobedientiæ nexus enodaret. The second rebellion caused him to be entirely rejected, and the prophet was ordered to go and anoint David. C. 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. C. — Josephus says he returned home. H. — But all the versions are conformable to the text: and Samuel went with the king and his 600 soldiers, to Gabaa, (C.) 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 Heb. Chal. and in many Greek and Latin copies. C. — It is found in the Alex. and Vat. Sept. — In the hill, is a translation of Gabaa, which alone occurs in those editions. H.

Ver. 17. Plunder, seeing that the Israelites durst not come to an engagement. Jonathan took advantage of their absence. C. 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. C.

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. T. — 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, (H.) and those who accompanied the king might rely chiefly on their expertness in using the sling. Judg. xx. 16. M. — The brave men who came to join David, are praised on this account, as well as for shooting with bow and arrow. 1 Par. xii. 2. Furious battles have been also fought with sharpened stakes, burnt at the end, (Æn. 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 (Judg. v. 8. C.) as the Philistines had already begun to deprive the Israelites of such weapons. H. — Other nations have since imitated their policy. 4 K. xxiv. 14. Justin. i. 7.

Ver. 20. All Israel, whom the Philistines had conquered, particularly the neighbouring tribes. C. — They were obliged to go to the places where the enemy kept garrisons, (M.) as they did at Gabaa, Bethel, &c. — Share. Sept. Syr. &c. “scythe,” or “sickle for corn;” theristerion. H. — The original term, macharesha, may signify all sorts of implements. — Spade. Heb. is supposed to mean, “a coulter.” Sept. “instrument,” which the prophets often say will be turned into a sword, in times of war. Joel iii. 15. Mic. iv. 3. — Rake. The same generical term is used in Heb. as was before translated a plough-share. Sept. have “scythe;” drepanon. C.

Ver. 21. Mended, by the Philistines. H. — The Heb. is variously translated. “Their implements were like saws; or, they had a file to sharpen the,” &c. C. — Sept. “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 v. 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. H.

Ver. 23. Further. Heb. “went out to the passage (H.) or defile of Machmas,” leading to Gabaa. C. — Sept. “and there came out of the station of the strangers, to the other side (or beyond) Machmas,” where they have been fixed. C. vi. 11. 16. H.