1 Samuel 13:17
And the spoilers came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies: one company turned to the way that leads to Ophrah, to the land of Shual:
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(17) And the spoilers came out.—The compiler of these Books of Samuel does not profess to give a detailed account of this or any of the wars of Saul It would seem that the Philistines, with their great armed demonstration (1Samuel 13:5), had completely cowed the Israelites, certainly in the southern part of Canaan. Probably the allied forces were now suffered to leave the Philistine host, and we next hear of the old raids re-commencing. The three companies spoken of in this and the next verse were directed to ravage districts in the tribe of Benjamin, for in that locality are situated all the places mentioned. Unchecked, they seem to have carried out their plans. These armed companies swept away all the smithies in the south part of the land. The fortunes of Saul now reached their lowest ebb. “The heights of his own tribe . . . and the passes of his own tribe were occupied by hostile garrisons. We see him leaning on his gigantic spear, whether it be on the summit of the Rock Rimmon . . . or under the tamarisk of Ramah . . . or on the heights of Gibeah. There he stood with his small band, the faithful six hundred, and as he wept aloud over the misfortunes of his country . . . another voice swelled the wild, indignant lament—the voice of Jonathan, his son.”—Dean Stanley: Lectures on the Jewish Church.

13:15-23 See how politic the Philistines were when they had power; they not only prevented the people of Israel from making weapons of war, but obliged them to depend upon their enemies, even for instruments of husbandry. How impolitic Saul was, who did not, in the beginning of his reign, set himself to redress this. Want of true sense always accompanies want of grace. Sins which appear to us very little, have dangerous consequences. Miserable is a guilty, defenceless nation; much more those who are destitute of the whole armour of God.The spoilers - "The devastator:" the same word is used of the destroying Angel Exodus 12:23. The verse describes the system adopted by the Philistines by which for a time they subjugated the Israelites. From their central camp at Michmash they sent out three bands to kill and lay waste and destroy. One took a northerly direction toward Ophrah - five miles east of Bethel, identified with "Ephrain" 2 Chronicles 13:19 and the modern "Taiyibeh," - and toward the land of Shual, possibly the same as Shalim 1 Samuel 9:4; the second westward to Beth-horon; and the third eastward, by the unknown valley of Zeboim, toward the wilderness, i. e., the Jordan valley, toward Jericho. 17, 18. the spoilers came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies—ravaging through the three valleys which radiate from the uplands of Michmash to Ophrah on the north, through the pass of Beth-horon on the west, and down the ravines of Zeboim ("the hyænas"), towards the Ghor or Jordan valley on the east. In three companies; that they might march several ways, and so waste several parts of the country.

Ophrah; a city of Benjamin, Joshua 18:23, south-west from Michmash. And the spoilers came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies,.... Saul not daring to come out to fight them, and there being none throughout the land to oppose them, they sent out three companies of soldiers to ravage and spoil the country; of so little use and service was a king to Israel, they were so extremely desirous of; and this was suffered, to convince them of their vain confidence in him, and that their trust ought to be in the Lord their God; never was their country more exposed to rapine and violence than now:

one company turned unto the way that leadeth to Ophrah; a city in the land of Benjamin, of which see Joshua 18:23 and lay southwest from Michmash, where the army of the Philistines were:

unto the land of Shual: which the Targum paraphrases,"the land of the south;''it seems to have had its name from the multitude of foxes in it, Shual signifying a fox.

And the spoilers came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies: one company turned unto the way that leadeth to Ophrah, unto the land of Shual:
17. the spoilers came out] Lit. the destroyer, the part of the army sent out to harry the country. (a) One band of marauders turned northwards to Ophrah, a city of Benjamin (Joshua 18:23), conjecturally placed by Robinson at et Taiyibeh, 4 miles N. E. of Bethel, in the land of Shual (= jackal) possibly the same as Shalim (1 Samuel 9:4). (b) Another band took a westerly direction to Beth-horon (= house of caverns) on the main pass from the hill country of Judaea into the plain of Philistia. (c) A third band went eastwards to “the way of the border,” probably that between Judah and Benjamin, by “the valley of Zeboim” (Nehemiah 11:34) = “the ravine of hyenas,” “towards the wilderness” or uncultivated district between the central district of Benjamin and the Jordan valley. Mr Grove went from Jericho to Michmash up a wild gorge bearing the name Shuk-ed-Dubba, or “ravine of the hyena,” the exact Arabic equivalent of “the valley of Zeboim,” and possibly the same. Dict. of Bible, iii. 1819.

Southwards, Saul’s camp in Geba protected the country. The tense of the verbs “turned” expresses repeated action, indicating that these ravages were continued for some time. The Philistines hoped to draw Saul out from his strong position, and force him to an engagement.Verses 17, 18 - The spoilers. The conduct of the Philistines is that of men over confident in their strength. They ought to have pounced at once upon Saul in the plain of Jordan, where their cavalry would have secured for them the victory, and then, following Samuel's and Saul's route, have seized the other end of the defile, and overpowered Jonathan. But they despised them both, and regarding the country as conquered, proceed to punish it, as probably they had cone on previous occasions, when no one had dared to make resistance. Leaving then the main army to guard the camp at Michmash, they sent out light armed troops to plunder the whole land. One company turned unto the way... to Ophrah, unto the land of Shual. This company went northward, towards Ophrah, a place five miles east of Bethel. The land of Shual, i.e. fox land, was probably the same as the land of Shalim in 1 Samuel 9:4. Another company, etc. This went eastward, towards Beth-heron, for which see Joshua 10:11. The third went to the south east, towards the wilderness of Judaea. Zeboim, and all the places mentioned, are in the tribe of Benjamin, which had committed the offence of making for itself a king. To the south Saul held the mountain fastnesses towards Jerusalem. DESCRIPTION OF ISRAEL'S EXTREME STATE OF OPPRESSION (vers. 19-23). The offering of the sacrifice was hardly finished when Samuel came and said to Saul, as he came to meet him and salute him, "What hast thou done?" Saul replied, "When I saw that the people were scattered away from me, and thou camest not at the time appointed, and the Philistines were assembled at Michmash, I thought the Philistines will come down to me to Gilgal now (to attack me), before I have entreated the face of Jehovah; and I overcame myself, and offered the burnt-offering." יי פּני חלּה: see Exodus 32:11.
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