And it shall be, when you shall hear a sound of going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then you shall go out to battle: for God is gone forth before you to smite the host of the Philistines.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)A sound of going.—Rather, the sound of marching. The sign may have been a natural one. David was to listen for the wind rustling in the tops of the bacas—a sound like that of walking on dead leaves—and then to make his attack. (But comp 2Kings 7:6.) But we are reminded, in connection with this fragment of David’s history, that all ancient people attached a prophetic import to the motion and rustling of leaves. Omens from trees are mentioned in the table of contents of the great Assyrian work on terrestrial omens, compiled by order of Sargon of Agadê or Accad (about 2200 B.C.). Comp. also the speaking oaks of Dodona, the laurel of Delos (Virg. Æn. iii. 91), and that of Delphi (Hymn to Apollo, 393). The “oak of the diviners” (Judges 9:37), and perhaps Deborah’s palm-tree, and even the burning bush, must be referred to the same order of ideas. The Arabs believe the thorny bushes of the gharqad capable of uttering prophetic words; and with them the samûra, or Egyptian thorn, is sacred. These analogies, however, do not militate against the reality or the miraculous character of the Biblical occurrence. The Divine communications with man always assume the form best adapted for striking the mind amidst reigning ideas. Biblical visions, e.g., always have the colour of the seer’s environment: those of Joseph are Egyptian; those of Ezekiel in the Exile, Assyrian. (See, further, Lenormant, La Divination en Chaldée).
Then thou shalt go out to battle.—A paraphrase of the term used in Samuel.
For God is gone forth.—“Then” (Samuel), viz., “when thou hast heard the signal.”And it shall be, when thou shalt hear a sound of going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt go out to battle: for God is gone forth before thee to smite the host of the Philistines.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)15. a sound of going] R.V. the sound of marching. Targ. the sound of angels coming to thy help. LXX. the sound of shaking.
thou shalt go out to battle] Samuel has a more vivid phrase, thou shalt bestir thyself.
smote the host of the Philistines from Gibeon even to Gazer] This victory was decisive; the main army of the Philistines was routed.
Gazer] R.V. Gezer. Cp. 1 Chronicles 6:67, note.Verse 15. - A sound of going. This is net a mere generic or longer form of expression to signify a sound itself. There is significance in the word "going." The sense of the Hebrew word would be thrown out more emphatically by such a rendering as, the sound of steps (literally, stepping). When the motion of the agitated leaves simulated the sound of steps, the stepping of men, then David and his army were to step forth to battle. Though the root of the "stepping" spoken of as heard in the trees is not identical with that of the "going" repeated twice in the remainder of the verse - Then thou shalt go out... for God is gone forth - yet it does alliterate to some extent with it, and rather creates the impression that it was intended to do so. However, the parallel place does not sustain this impression, inasmuch as a different word, "Thou shalt bestir thyself," is there employed, in place of the first occurrence of our supposed alliteration, in the clause, "Thou shalt go out." There is something stirring to the imagination, and probably it was felt so by David and his men, in the signal unseen yet not unheard, and in a sense not of earth, but midway between earth and heaven. The very various voices of the various trees, according to the character of their foliage, may well set poetry going, and startle or fascinate imagination, as the case may be. The music of one tree or grove is as different from that of another as can be - listen to the difference between the melancholy plaint so unceasing of some plantation of firs, and the multitudinous, silvery, rippling of but one white poplar of good size. Presumably the sound in the present ease more resembled that of the steady tramp of them that march. 2 Samuel 5:12, in the Chronicle we read למעלה נשּׂאת כּי, that his kingdom had been lifted up on high. The unusual form נשּׂאת may be, according to the context, the third pers. fem. perf. Niph., nisaa't having first been changed into נשּׂאת, and thus contracted into נשּׂאת; cf. Ew. 194, b. In 2 Samuel 19:43 the same form is the infin. abs. Niph. למעלה is here, as frequently in the Chronicles, used to intensify the expression: cf. 1 Chronicles 22:5; 1 Chronicles 23:17; 1 Chronicles 29:3, 1 Chronicles 29:25; 2 Chronicles 1:1; 2 Chronicles 17:12. With regard to the sons of David, see on 1 Chronicles 3:5-8.
In the account of the victories over the Philistines, the statement (2 Samuel 5:17) that David went down to the mountain-hold, which has no important connection with the main fact, and would have been for the readers of the Chronicle somewhat obscure, is exchanged in 1 Chronicles 14:8 for the more general expression לפניהם ויּצא, "he went forth against them." In 1 Chronicles 14:14, the divine answer to David's question, whether he should march against the Philistines, runs thus: מעליהם הסב אחריהם תּעלה לא, Thou shalt not go up after them; turn away from them, and come upon them over against the baca-bushes; - while in 2 Samuel 5:23, on the contrary, we read: אל־אחריהם הסב תעלה הסב אל־א לע, Thou shalt not go up (i.e., advance against the enemy to attack them in front); turn thee behind them (i.e., to their rear), and come upon them over against the baca-bushes. Bertheau endeavours to get rid of the discrepancy, by supposing that into both texts corruptions have crept through transcribers' errors. He conjectures that the text of Samuel was originally אחריהם תּעלה לא, while in the Chronicle a transposition of the words עליהם and אחריהם was occasioned by a copyist's error, which in turn resulted in the alteration of עליהם into מעליהם. This supposition, however, stands or falls with the presumption that by תּעלה לא (Sam.) an attack is forbidden; but for that presumption no tenable grounds exist: it would rather involve a contradiction between the first part of the divine answer and the second. The last clause, "Come upon them from over against the baca-bushes," shows that the attack was not forbidden; all that was forbidden was the making of the attack by advancing straight forward: instead of that, they were to try to fall upon them in the rear, by making a circuit. The chronicler consequently gives us an explanation of the ambiguous words of 2 Samuel, which might easily be misunderstood. As David's question was doubtless expressed as it is in 1 Chronicles 14:10, הפל על האעלה, the answer תּעלה לא might be understood to mean, "Go not up against them, attack them not, but go away behind them;" but with that the following וגו להם וּבאת, "Come upon them from the baca-bushes," did not seem to harmonize. The chronicler consequently explains the first clauses of the answer thus: "Go not up straight behind them," i.e., advance not against them so as to attack them openly, "but turn thyself away from them," i.e., strike off in such a direction as to turn their flank, and come upon them from the front of the baca-bushes. In this way the apparently contradictory texts are reconciled without the alteration of a word. In 1 Chronicles 14:17, which is wanting in Samuel, the author concludes the account of these victories by the remark that they tended greatly to exalt the name of David among the nations. For similar reflections, cf. 2 Chronicles 17:10; 2 Chronicles 20:29; 2 Chronicles 14:13; and for שׁם ויּצא, 2 Chronicles 26:15.
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