|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
17:1-11 Men so entirely depend upon God in all things, that when he withdraws his help, the most valiant and resolute cannot find their hearts or hands, as daily experience shows.
Verses 2, 3. - The valley of Elah. I.e. of the terebinth tree. A valley between them. Conder ('Tent Work,' 2:160) describes the spot from personal observation thus: "Saul, coming down by the highway from the land of Benjamin, encamped by the valley on one of the low hills; and between the two hosts was the gai or ravine." In the A.V. no exactness of rendering is ever attempted, and both the emek, the broad strath or valley of Elah, with gently sloping sides, and the flag, the narrow, precipitous ravine, are equally rendered valley. Really the gai is most remarkable, and fully explains how the two hosts could remain in face of one another so long without fighting; for Conder proceeds, "Two points require to be made clear as to the episode of David's battle with Goliath: one was the meaning of the expression gai or ravine; the other was the source whence David took the 'smooth stones.' A visit to the spot explains both. In the middle of the broad, open valley we found a deep trench with vertical sides, impassable except at certain places - a valley in a valley, and a natural barrier between the two hosts. The sides and bed of this trench are strewn with rounded and waterworn pebbles, which would have been well fitted for David's sling. Here, then, we may picture to ourselves the two hosts, covering the low, rocky hills opposite to each other, and half hidden among the lentisk bushes. Between them was the rich expanse of ripening barley, and the red banks of the torrent, with its white, shingly bed. Behind all were the distant blue hill walls of Judah, whence Saul had just come down. The mail clad champion advanced from the west through the low corn, with his mighty lance perhaps tufted with feathers, his brazen helmet shining in the sun. From the east a ruddy boy in his white shirt and sandals, armed with a goat's hair sling, came down to the brook, and, according to the poetic fancy of the Rabbis, the pebbles were given voices, and cried, 'By us shalt thou overcome the giant.' The champion fell from an unseen cause, and the wild Philistines fled to the mouth of the valley, where Gath stood towering on its white chalk cliff, a frontier fortress, the key to the high road leading to the corn lands of Judah and to the vineyards of Hebron."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together,.... He being cured, at least being better of his disorder, through the music of David, and alarmed and aroused by the invasion of the Philistines, which might serve to dissipate any remains of it, or prevent its return, got together his forces:
and pitched by the valley of Elah; which Jerom (u) says Aquila and Theodotion interpret "the valley of the oak"; but the Vulgate Latin version, the valley of Terebinth; which, according to our countryman Sandys (w), was four miles from Ramaosophim, where Samuel dwelt; for he says,"after four miles riding, we descended into the valley of Terebinth, famous, though little, for the slaughter of Goliath;''and in the Targum this valley is called the valley of Butma, which in the Arabic language signifies a "terebinth", or turpentine tree; though some translate it "the oak"; and, according to some modern travellers (x), to this day it bears a name similar to that; for they say it is"now called the vale of Bitumen, very famous all over those parts for David's victory over Goliath:"
and set the battle in array against the Philistines; prepared to give them battle.
(u) Deloc. Heb. fol. 91. F. (w) Travels, p. 157. ed. 5. (x) Egmont and Heyman's Travels, vol. 1. p. 305.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. valley of Elah—that is, "the Terebinth," now Wady Er-Sumt [Robinson]. Another valley somewhat to the north, now called Wady Beit Hanina, has been fixed on by the tradition of ages.
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