1 Samuel 13:19
Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears:
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(19) Now there was no smith found.—We must allow a year, perhaps two or three, to have elapsed while “Saul and Jonathan . . . abode in Gibeah,” during which period the Philistine raids went on unchecked, the Israelitish forces being too weak to venture with any hope of success into the open country. The statement respecting the destruction of the smithies probably only specially refers to the southern districts of Canaan—especially the territory of Benjamin, whence Saul and Jonathan, in the earlier years of the former’s reign, drew, no doubt, the majority of their men of war. These devastating forays are alluded to in 1Samuel 13:17-18.

1 Samuel 13:19. There was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel — To this miserable condition the Philistines had reduced them during the forty years’ tyranny which they exercised over them, as we read Jdg 13:1. But after Samuel had put an end to that tyranny, by the great overthrow which he gave the Philistines at Eben-ezer, it seems something strange they had not restored their artificers. But the sloth of the Israelites appears in their whole story: and it was not easy, in so short a time, for men to learn this trade, which the Philistines wisely destroyed, as the Chaldeans, when they took Jerusalem, carried away all the smiths to Babylon, that they who remained in the land might not arm themselves again, 2 Kings 24:14. 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.There was no smith - This was the result of the fierce inroads described in the preceding verses, and the method adopted to make the Philistine conquests permanent. 19, 20. Now there was no smith found throughout … Israel—The country was in the lowest state of depression and degradation. The Philistines, after the great victory over the sons of Eli, had become the virtual masters of the land. Their policy in disarming the natives has been often followed in the East. For repairing any serious damage to their agricultural implements, they had to apply to the neighboring forts. This was a politic course of the Philistines, which also other nations have used. So the Chaldeans took away their smiths, 2 Kings 24:14 Jeremiah 24:1 30:2; and Porsenna obliged the Romans by covenant, that they should use no iron but in the tillage of their lands. Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel,.... The Philistines, when they ruled over them, having removed them into their own country, and forbid any to learn or exercise that trade in Israel:

for the Philistines said, lest the Hebrews make swords or spears: this they did to prevent their having arms, and the use of them, that they might not rebel against them, and fight with them, and overcome them; it was a piece of policy to keep them subject to them; so Nebuchadnezzar, when he conquered the Jews and carried them captive, took care particularly to carry away their smiths, and left none but the poorest sort of people in the land, 2 Kings 24:14 and Porsena, king of the Etrusci, when he made a covenant with the Romans, upon the expulsion of their kings, made this a condition of peace with them, that they should use no iron but in husbandry (h). When this course was taken by the Philistines with the Israelites, and how long it had continued is not certain; it is probable it might be in the space of forty years they ruled over Israel, in which Samson was born, for we never read of any sword or spear that he made use of; and though there were two battles in the times of Eli, in both which Israel were beaten, they might make use only of bows and arrows, slings, and stones, clubs, &c, as also in the battle of Saul with the Ammonites; and as for the defeat of the Philistines in the time of Samuel, it was by thunder; and though the Philistines were then subdued, yet, as Samuel grew old, they regained their power in a good measure, and the Israelites had not spirit enough to oppose them, nor diligence and industry to learn and revive the trade of smiths among them; not even for what was necessary to husbandry, as the following verse shows.

(h) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 34. c. 14.

Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears:
19–23. The disarmament of the Israelites

19. Now there was no smith found, &c.] A signal proof of the severity of the Philistine oppression, and the difficulties against which Saul had to contend. This general disarmament clearly points to the lasting subjugation of a large district in the later years of Samuel’s judgeship and the beginning of Saul’s reign, and was not merely the temporary result of the present invasion. A similar tyranny was practised by the Canaanites before Deborah’s victory (Jdg 5:8, cp. Jdg 3:31); and Porsena is reported by Pliny to have prohibited the Romans from using iron except for agricultural purposes (Hist. Nat. XXXIV. 14).Verse 19. - There was no smith. This accounts for the contemptuous disregard of Saul by the Philistines. The people were disarmed, and resistance impossible. Apparently this policy had been long followed; but we need fuller information of what had happened between Samuel's victory at Mizpah and Saul's appointment as king, to enable us to understand the evident weakness of Israel at this time. But probably this description applies fully only to the districts of Benjamin, near the Philistines, The people further away had arms with which they defeated the Ammonites, and Saul and his men would have secured all the weapons which the enemy then threw away. But evidently no manufacture of weapons was allowed, and no one as far as possible permitted either to wear or possess arms. Samuel replied, "Thou hast acted foolishly, (and) not kept the commandment of Jehovah thy God, which He commanded thee: for now (sc., if thou hadst obeyed His commandment) Jehovah would have established thy sovereignty over Israel for ever; but now (sc., since thou hast acted thus) thy sovereignty shall not continue." The antithesis of הכין עתּה and תקוּם לא ועתּה requires that we should understand these two clauses conditionally. The conditional clauses are omitted, simply because they are at once suggested by the tenor of the address (see Ewald, 358, a.). The כּי (for) assigns the reason, and refers to נסכּלתּ ("thou hast done foolishly"), the וגו שׁמרתּ לא being merely added as explanatory. The non-continuance of the sovereignty is not to be regarded as a rejection, or as signifying that Saul had actually lost the throne so far as he himself was concerned; but תקוּם לא (shall not continue) forms the antithesis to עד־עולם הכין (established for ever), and refers to the fact that it was not established in perpetuity by being transmitted to his descendants. It was not till his second transgression that Saul was rejected, or declared unworthy of being king over the people of God (1 Samuel 15). We are not compelled to assume an immediate rejection of Saul even by the further announcement made by Samuel, "Jehovah hath sought him a man after his own heart; him hath Jehovah appointed prince over His people;" for these words merely announce the purpose of God, without defining the time of its actual realization. Whether it would take place during Saul's reign, or not till after his death, was known only to God, and was made contingent upon Saul's further behaviour. But if Saul's sin did not consist, as we have observed above, in his having interfered with the prerogatives of the priests by offering the sacrifice himself, but simply in the fact that he had transgressed the commandment of God as revealed to him by Samuel, to postpone the sacrifice until Samuel arrived, the punishment which the prophet announced that God would inflict upon him in consequence appears a very severe one, since Saul had not come to the resolution either frivolously or presumptuously, but had been impelled and almost forced to act as he did by the difficulties in which he was placed in consequence of the prophet delaying his coming. But wherever, as in the present instance, there is a definite command given by the Lord, a man has no right to allow himself to be induced to transgress it, by fixing his attention upon the earthly circumstances in which he is placed. As Samuel had instructed Saul, as a direct command from Jehovah, to wait for his arrival before offering sacrifice, Saul might have trusted in the Lord that he would send His prophet at the right time and cause His command to be fulfilled, and ought not to have allowed his confidence to be shaken by the pressing danger of delay. The interval of seven days and the delay in Samuel's arrival were intended as a test of his faith, which he ought not to have lightly disregarded. Moreover, the matter in hand was the commencement of the war against the principal enemies of Israel, and Samuel was to tell him what he was to do (1 Samuel 10:8). So that when Saul proceeded with the consecrating sacrifice for that very conflict, without the presence of Samuel, he showed clearly enough that he thought he could make war upon the enemies of his kingdom without the counsel and assistance of God. This was an act of rebellion against the sovereignty of Jehovah, for which the punishment announced was by no means too severe.
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