|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
13:1-7 Saul reigned one year, and nothing particular happened; but in his second year the events recorded in this chapter took place. For above a year he gave the Philistine time to prepare for war, and to weaken and to disarm the Israelites. When men are lifted up in self-sufficiency, they are often led into folly. The chief advantages of the enemies of the church are derived from the misconduct of its professed friends. When Saul at length sounded an alarm, the people, dissatisfied with his management, or terrified by the power of the enemy, did not come to him, or speedily deserted him.
Verse 2. - Saul chose him. Literally, "And Saul chose him," the usual way of commencing the narrative of a king's reign. He probably selected these 3000 men at the end of the war with the Ammonites, to strengthen the small bodyguard which he had gathered round him at Gibeah (1 Samuel 10:26). As being always in arms, they would become highly disciplined, and form the nucleus and centre of all future military operations (see on 1 Samuel 14:52). He stationed these on either side of the defile in the mountain range of Bethel, so exactly described in Isaiah 10:28, 29, where Sennacherib, as we read, leaves his carriage, i.e. his baggage, at Michmash, and after defiling through the pass, arrives at Geba. Gibeah, where Jonathan was posted with 1000 of these picked warriors, was Saul's home, and his son would have the benefit there of the aid of Kish and Abner, while Michmash was the more exposed place, situate about seven miles northeast of Jerusalem. Conder ('Tent Work,' 2:110) describes this defile as "a narrow gorge with vertical precipices some 800 feet high - a great crack or fissure in the country, which is peculiar in this respect, that you only become aware of its existence when close to the brink; for on the north the narrow spur of hills hides it, and on the south a flat plateau extends to the top of the crags. On the south side of this great chasm stands Geba of Benjamin, on a rocky knoll, with caverns beneath the houses, and arable land to the east; and on the opposite side, considerably lower than Geba, is the little village of Michmash, on a sort of saddle, backed by an open and fertile corn valley. This valley was famous for producing excellent barley. Every man to his tent. This with us would be a warlike phrase; but as the mass of the Israelites then dwelt in tents, it means simply their dispersion homewards; and so the Syriac translates, "He dismissed them each to his house" (see Psalm 69:25).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel,.... Out of the 300,000 that went with him to fight the Ammonites, and returned with him to Gilgal, where he now was, and had stayed as may be supposed about a year, since now he had reigned two years. These 3000 men some of them doubtless were appointed as a guard about his person, and the rest were a standing army to preserve the peace of the nation, to protect them from their enemies, to watch the motions of the Philistines, and to be ready on any sudden invasion:
whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash, and in Mount Bethel; "Michmash", according to Bunting, (s) was four miles from Gilgal. Jerom (t) says, in his time it was shown a large village on the borders of Aella, or Jerusalem, retaining its ancient name, nine miles distant from it, near the village Rama. Adrichomius (u) says it is now called Byra, and Mr. Maundrell (w) observes that it is supposed by some to be the same with Beer, whither Jotham fled after he had delivered his parable, Judges 9:21. Michmash is in the Misnah (x) celebrated for the best wheat being brought from it; and near to it, as appears from hence, was Bethel, and the mount of that name; and so Jerom (y) speaks of Bethel as over against Michmash; and this mount very probably is the same said to be on the east of Bethel, where Abraham built an altar, Genesis 12:8 for Michmash lay to the east of Bethel:
and one thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin; the native place of Saul, and this Jonathan was the son of Saul, 1 Samuel 13:16. According to Bunting (z), Gibeah, where Jonathan was stationed, was eight miles from Michmash:
and the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent; to their own houses; or, as the Targum, to their cities; these were they that came at his summons, and were numbered at Bezek, and went with him to the relief of Jabeshgilead, and had been with him ever since, and now dismissed.
(s) Travels of the Patriarchs, &c. p. 126. (t) De loc Heb. fol. 93. F. (u) Thestrum Terrae S. p. 28. (w) Journey from Aleppo, p. 64. (x) Menachot, c. 8. sect. 1.((y) Ut supra, (De loc Heb.) fol. 89. G. (z) Ut supra, (Travels of the Patriarchs, &c.) p. 127.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel—This band of picked men was a bodyguard, who were kept constantly on duty, while the rest of the people were dismissed till their services might be needed. It seems to have been his tactics to attack the Philistine garrisons in the country by different detachments, rather than by risking a general engagement; and his first operations were directed to rid his native territory of Benjamin of these enemies.
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