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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

1 Samuel 13

A.M. 2909. B.C. 1095.

Saul and Jonathan’s life-guard, 1Sa 13:1 , 1 Samuel 13:2 . Jonathan smites a garrison, and the people are called together, 1 Samuel 13:3 , 1 Samuel 13:4 . The Philistines come up, and the Israelites are terrified, 1 Samuel 13:5-7 . Saul’s sacrifices, 1 Samuel 13:8-10 . Is reproved by Samuel, 1 Samuel 13:11-14 . The people diminished, plundered, and disarmed, 1 Samuel 13:15-23 .

Verses 3-4

1 Samuel 13:3-4. Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines The Philistines, though subdued by Samuel at Eben-ezer, and driven out of the country, yet still retained possession of some strong-holds. Saul blew the trumpet That is, he sent messengers to tell them all what Jonathan had done, and how the Philistines were enraged at it, and therefore what necessity there was of gathering themselves together for their own defence. Israel heard that Saul had smitten, &c. Perhaps contrary to some treaty. That Israel was held in abomination with the Philistines That is, that they were highly incensed to take revenge.

Verse 5

1 Samuel 13:5. Thirty thousand chariots The Syriac and Arabic copies mention only three thousand chariots, which seems to be the true reading; for there is no foundation for believing that the Philistines could bring into the field thirty thousand chariots of war. Indeed we read of nothing like it in all history. Or, we may suppose that most of them were but carriages for the baggage of the army.

Verse 6

1 Samuel 13:6. Israel saw that they were in a strait Though their wonderful success against the Ammonites had encouraged them to obey the summons of such a prosperous leader as Saul had been; yet when they saw the vast army of the Philistines, how well they were appointed, and themselves unprovided, their hearts failed them, and they slunk away from him as fast as they had flocked to him. The people were distressed Notwithstanding their former presumption, that if they had a king they would be free from all such difficulties and distresses. Hereby God intended to teach them the vanity of confidence in men; and that they did not one jot less need his help now than they did when they had no king. And probably they were the more discouraged, because they did not find Samuel with Saul. Sooner or later men will be made to see that God and his prophets are their best friends.

Verses 7-8

1 Samuel 13:7-8. Some of the Hebrews went over Jordan They fled as far as they could from the present danger, even into the country of the two tribes and a half. All the people followed him trembling That is, all that were left, who, it appears, were not many. He tarried seven days Not seven complete days, for the last day was not finished. According to the set time that Samuel had appointed This seems to refer to the command given two years before, and recorded 1 Samuel 10:8: see the note on that verse. But Samuel came not to Gilgal So soon as Saul expected him.

Verses 11-12

1 Samuel 13:11-12. I saw that thou camest not When the seventh day was come, and a good part of it was past, I concluded thou wouldst not come that day. I have not made supplication Hence it appears that sacrifices were accompanied with solemn prayers. I forced myself I did it against my own mind and inclination: I offered a burnt-offering lest my enemies should attack me before I had commended myself and my cause to God, and entreated his aid and blessing.

Verse 13

1 Samuel 13:13. The Lord would have established thy kingdom for ever The phrase, for ever, in Scripture, often signifies only a long time. And this declaration would have been abundantly verified, if the kingdom had been enjoyed by Saul, and by his son, and by his son’s son; after whom the kingdom might have come to Judah.

Verse 14

1 Samuel 13:14. A man after his own heart That is, such a man as will fulfil all the desires of his heart, and not oppose, them as thou dost. The Lord hath commanded That is, hath appointed, as the word commanded is often used. But although God threatened Saul with the loss of his kingdom for his sin, yet, it is not improbable, there was a tacit condition implied, namely, if he did not repent of this, and of all his sins; for the full, and final, and peremptory sentence of Saul’s rejection is plainly ascribed to another cause, 1 Samuel 15:11; 1 Samuel 15:23-29; and, till that second offence, neither the Spirit of the Lord departed from him, nor was David anointed in his stead. But, “was not this a severe sentence now passed on Saul? Was it not hard to punish so little a sin with the loss of his kingdom?” Not to mention that no sin is little, because God, against whom all sin is committed, is a being of infinite majesty; and not to insist that what to men seems a small offence, to him, who knows the heart, may appear a heinous crime; this sin of Saul certainly can in no point of view be thought little, being an act of manifest disobedience to a known and express command of God; and disobedience to God, though in a small matter, is a great provocation. “Samuel expressly says, Thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee. What was this commandment? Why, not only to wait seven days till Samuel came to assist at the sacrifice, but to receive God’s direction, by the prophet, what he should do, or what measures he was to take upon the invasion of the Philistines, and not to act in so critical a conjuncture without his orders. Saul, under a pretence of piety, and making supplication to the Lord, absolutely contradicts the command, thinks himself above waiting for the prophet, takes upon himself the ordinance of an affair that no way belonged to him; and, as though God’s direction by the prophet was of no consequence to him, resolves to act for himself, and deal with the Philistines as well as he could. Let any inferior prince thus violate the orders of his sovereign, and act in any affair of importance directly contrary to his instructions and duty, and no one will scruple to pronounce him guilty of rebellion, or think he was too hardly treated by being removed from his dignity and government.” Dodd and Chandler.

Verses 15-17

1 Samuel 13:15-17. Saul numbered the people, about six hundred men A strange alteration since the last year, when, going out against the Ammonites, he had three hundred thousand with him, besides those of Judah, chap. 1 Samuel 11:6. Saul, and the people, abode in Gibeah This was a strong place, in which they could defend themselves better than in the open field. The spoilers came out, in three companies The Philistines sent out parties three several ways, to ravage the country, there being none to oppose them. This, we find from sundry instances, was the method which the enemies of Israel usually took to distress them.

Verse 19

1 Samuel 13:19. There was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel To this miserable condition the Philistines had reduced them during the forty years’ tyranny which they exercised over them, as we read Judges 13:1. But after Samuel had put an end to that tyranny, by the great overthrow which he gave the Philistines at Eben-ezer, it seems something strange they had not restored their artificers. But the sloth of the Israelites appears in their whole story: and it was not easy, in so short a time, for men to learn this trade, which the Philistines wisely destroyed, as the Chaldeans, when they took Jerusalem, carried away all the smiths to Babylon, that they who remained in the land might not arm themselves again, 2 Kings 24:14.

Verses 20-21

1 Samuel 13:20-21 . The Israelites went down to the Philistines Not to the country of the Philistines, for that was too far from many parts of the land of Israel; but to their garrisons, which they held among them even after Samuel had driven the main body of them out of the country. In these, it seems, the Philistines kept all the smiths, and there they allowed them to exercise their art for the uses following. Yet they had a file, &c. They were allowed some proper instruments and tools for sharpening their implements of husbandry, in some degree; but no other.

Verse 22

1 Samuel 13:22. There was neither sword nor spear This, it seems, must be restrained to the six hundred that were with Saul and Jonathan; for there were, no doubt, a considerable number of swords and spears among the Israelites, but they generally hid them, as now they did their persons, from the Philistines. And the Philistines had not yet attained to so great a power over them as wholly to disarm them, but thought it sufficient to prevent the making of new arms, knowing that the old ones would shortly be decayed and useless. There were likewise other arms more common in those times and places than swords and spears; to wit, bows and arrows, and slings and stones. And besides these, people anciently often used clubs, wherewith to beat down their enemies; and, before the invention of spears with iron points, they had sharp stakes hardened in the fire, as many authors inform us.

Verse 23

1 Samuel 13:23. And the garrison of the Philistines went out This probably refers to the garrison mentioned in the beginning of the next chapter. And Michmash seems to have been the name of the garrison, not of the passage: as if it had been said, The garrison of the Philistines in Michmash went out to the passage. For Michmash, it appears, was upon a high hill, as Gibeah was, between which places was a valley, called here a passage, into which the garrison descended to invite the Israelites to battle.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 13". Benson's Commentary. 1857.