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In this Chapter the history of Saul's reign opens, and a sad opening of it is recorded. He is invaded by foes from abroad, and disorders at home, His subjects desert him, and the enemy advances upon him. In this distress he offers sacrifice, and thereby breaks the divine commands. The Lord rejects him from being king; and though the sentence is not immediately executed, yet he is told of the event, and consequently waits its execution. Such is the state of things as recorded in this chapter.
1 Samuel 13:1
(1) ¶ Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel,
The expression in the original, which we render Saul reigned one year, is, Saul was the son of one year; meaning, perhaps, that as the child of one year, it was an infancy of government, and nothing in it worth recording.
(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.
This choice of some, and disbanding others, was without taking counsel of God, it should seem, for we hear nothing of the Lord's direction in it. Reader! depend upon it, in the smallest, as well as the highest concerns, nothing should be undertaken without God. In all thy ways, is the precept, acknowledge him; and then the promise is absolute, he will direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:6 . For my own part I desire to eye Jesus in everything; for well assured I am, that he is in everything that concerns his people.
(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.
Here is an act of presumption in Saul, unadvised of God, and as it should seem, treacherous to men. The Philistines throughout the land soon heard of the treachery done by the Israelites to one of their garrisons, and as is common among men, the whole nation took indignation at it. Let the Reader fail not to trace the hand of God in it. For as there is no intercourse between Saul and the Lord by prayer, there is no communion by way of counsel to direct him.
(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.
In all this relation here is nothing said of the Lord of Hosts, nothing of the ministry of his servants. Where is Samuel, where are the priests of the Lord? How strikingly do we behold in this what the Lord hath said in another part of scripture, when God's people neglect him, and seek confidence in human strength, one thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one, at the rebuke of five shall ye flee; till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill. Isaiah 30:17 .
(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.
Samuel had promised (see 1 Samuel 10:8 .) to visit Saul at the end of seven days; not to lead him to war, but to offer peace-offerings; and then to instruct him further into the mind and will of God, concerning the government of his people Israel. Saul could not but know this. But resolving to do somewhat of his own, in the mean time, perhaps to make his name great among the nations, an army, is chosen, others of the soldiers are dismissed, the Philistines are smitten, and he rushes into the sacred office. What a daring spirit must this man have possessed, and how full of impiety. Though the Lord had made him king, yet he had not made the Lord his God. Reader! what will not the carnal mind attempt, when human glory, and not divine praise, is made the object of pursuit.
(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.
Observe, under what specious pretences Saul covered the motives of his conduct; like the first sinners in the garden of Eden: self-justification, even to the last, we find in their apology. Genesis 3:10-13 . But Reader! do not in the conduct of Saul overlook the picture it affords of the human heart. How doth every man attempt to justify himself in his actions under the false covering of some supposed good, until the film of self-deception is taken from off his eyes by the Holy Ghost; and never until he is convinced of sin doth he seek justification in the righteousness of Christ.
(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 forever. (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 reproof of the prophet corresponded to Saul's transgression. Uzzah, in the succeeding age, was struck dead for touching the ark. And another of the same name was smitten with the leprosy, for invading the Priest's office. Saul therefore had room given him for repentance, had he sought it. See 2Sa 6:6-7 ; 2 Chronicles 26:16-21 .
(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.
The departure of Samuel from Saul, was a sad presage of ruin. Yet we read of no compunction on the part of Saul. Alas! when men are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, what awful examples do they afford, of indifferency under the sorest judgments!
(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.
Nothing can demonstrate more fully the low and impoverished state of Israel, than what is here said of the ravages of the enemy, and their being destitute of even the common weapons of defence. It should seem, from their having no smith in all the territories of Israel, that the policy of the Philistines in times past, (probably in the wars when they had been victorious over Israel) had compelled them not to exercise this art among them. And, as while they were at peace, the Israelites found the Philistines not unwilling to sharpen or repair their instruments of husbandry, the Israelites did not trouble themselves to keep in order their weapons of war. Indeed, while the Lord was their King, and humbled the nations before them, they needed none. But now, when they have by sin, made God their enemy, to what a humbled state are they reduced, before their foes! No weapon (God saith) formed against his people, shall prosper. But when his people transgress against him, he can make our very blessings become weapons of evil, and convert our comforts into the artillery of his displeasure. See Isaiah 54:17 . Compared with Deuteronomy 28:1-25 .
READER! mark with me, the very awful state of an unrenewed mind, in the conduct of Saul. No situation, no providences, however prosperous, in themselves; no elevation in rank, or power, can produce real comfort, or happiness, while the heart remains carnal, and unregenerated by grace. The Lord had given Saul a kingdom: and the Lord had turned him from the pursuit of his father's asses, to the pursuit of government; but Saul, though another man, as the scripture terms it, in outward things, remained the same man, as to vital godliness. Learn Reader here from, that it is not a change of place, or rank, or circumstances, that availeth anything; but the putting of the old man which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts, and the being renewed in the spirit of the mind: and the putting on the new man, which after God, is created in righteousness, and true holiness.
Precious Jesus! grant me grace to learn once more from hence, in the view of Saul's profanation of thy Priestly office, how infinitely important must be the view of thy alone offering, and priesthood, in the sight of Jehovah; and how rejoiced my soul ought to be, in taking shelter under thy holy censer! Yes! dearest Lord! thou, and thou alone, art a Priest forever, by oath, and the solemn inauguration of thy God and Father. Taken from among men, as it concerned thy manhood, thou wast called to this office from all eternity. And as it relates to thine eternal power and Godhead, thine own glorious perfections, and attributes, become the golden altar, on which, and from whence, the saving efficacy of the whole priesthood, derive their importance. From both, may my soul find continual comfort, and confidence. Never, like Saul, may I bring my poor offerings, or fancied peace offerings, without an eye to thy precious, and all-sufficient sacrifice: for it is thou only, dearest Lord, that canst make, or hath made, our peace in the blood of the cross. To seek acceptance another way, though with the most costly rites, as Saul did, is to show contempt to thy person, thy blood, and thy finished righteousness; and to call down the vengeance of heaven. But while, through the influence of the Holy Ghost, my soul is enabled to look stedfastly to thee, and to rely on thy precious, all atoning blood, and sacrifice, for acceptance with God, and the Father; let . me, blessed Jesus, every day, and all the day, be continually coming in thy name, and righteousness, boldly to the throne of grace, that I may find mercy, and grace to help, in all times of need.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 13". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent