|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
17:12-30 Jesse little thought of sending his son to the army at that critical juncture; but the wise God orders actions and affairs, so as to serve his designs. In times of general formality and lukewarmness, every degree of zeal which implies readiness to go further, or to venture more in the cause of God than others, will be blamed as pride and ambition, and by none more than by near relations, like Eliab, or negligent superiors. It was a trial of David's meekness, patience, and constancy. He had right and reason on his side, and did not render railing for railing; with a soft answer he turned away his brother's wrath. This conquest of his own passion was more honourable than that of Goliath. Those who undertake great and public services, must not think it strange if they are spoken ill of, and opposed by those from whom they expect support and assistance. They must humbly go on with their work, in the face not only of enemies' threats, but of friends' slights and suspicions.
Verses 16-19. - The Philistine .... presented himself. I.e. took his stand (see on 1 Samuel 10:23; 12:7, 16). This verse takes up the narrative, disturbed by the inserted explanation about David's family relations. The extraordinary formation of the ground, as described in ver. 3, shows how it was possible for this challenge to go on for forty days without either army advancing or retiring. During this long time it seems to have been the business of the friends at home to supply the combatants with food, and so Jesse sends David with an ephah, about three pecks, of parched corn - as the word is spelt in the Hebrew it means "parched pease." Also ten loaves, and, for the captain of their thousand, ten cheeses - rather, "ten slices of fresh curd." David was also to take their pledge. Apparently neither Eliab nor his brethren could write, and therefore they would send back to their father some token previously agreed upon to show that they were in good health, and had received the supplies sent them. Now Saul, etc. This is a part of Jesse's speech, telling David where he would find his brethren. For were, the right translation is, "They are in the terebinth valley, fighting with the Philistines."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the Philistine drew near morning and evening,.... Twice a day he came near the camp, within the hearing of it. The Jews (w) say, he took those seasons on purpose to disturb them in reading their "Shema", or "hear, O Israel", &c. and saying their prayers morning and evening:
and presented himself forty days; Successively, before the armies of Israel, daring them to send down a man to fight with him, and reproaching them for their cowardice in not doing it.
(w) T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 42. 2.
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