1 Samuel 13:2
Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel; whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin: and the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent.
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(2) Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel.—This is a very important statement, as it tells us of the first beginning of a standing army in Israel. This was the first step towards the development of Israel into a great military power. It was Saul’s military genius and foresight which enabled David and Solomon to make those great conquests which raised Israel for a time to the position of one of the greatest Eastern Powers. The really great life of Saul was frittered away in repelling what may be termed Israel’s domestic enemies. such as the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites; but he left behind him a powerful and disciplined army, and a nation carefully trained to war. It has been asked, how was it, considering the position of Israel and the Philistines at that juncture—the latter people possessing evidently not a few strong places in the territories of the tribes, from whence they were in the habit of sallying forth, and harassing and pillaging the people—that Saul, instead of at once declaring war, dismissed the people gathered at Gilgal, only retaining so few? The probability is that Saul, with true military instinct, saw that Israel was at this period by no means trained or armed to undertake a regular war with such an enemy. He therefore adopted the wise course here related.

Whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash.—Michmash was a position strongly situated at the head of a pass some nine miles north-east of Jerusalem. The “one thousand” he placed under the command of his son Jonathan, and stationed them in the neighbourhood of his old home, where he would have the benefit of the aid of his family and kinsfolk. This is the first mention of the gallant and chivalrous prince, the story of whose unbroken and romantic friendship with David is one of the most touching episodes of these books. “If the substance of this narrative was written in David’s reign, we may perhaps see the effect of David’s generous and loving nature in the care taken to give Jonathan his due place of honour in the history.”—Speaker’s Commentary.

13:1-7 Saul reigned one year, and nothing particular happened; but in his second year the events recorded in this chapter took place. For above a year he gave the Philistine time to prepare for war, and to weaken and to disarm the Israelites. When men are lifted up in self-sufficiency, they are often led into folly. The chief advantages of the enemies of the church are derived from the misconduct of its professed friends. When Saul at length sounded an alarm, the people, dissatisfied with his management, or terrified by the power of the enemy, did not come to him, or speedily deserted him.The state of things which preceded the events described in this chapter seems to have been a comparative peace between Israel and the Philistines, since Saul had only 3,000 men under arms. At the same time Philistine garrisons continued to occupy the country of the Israelites in certain strong places, whereof one was at Geba (Jeba), in the immediate neighborhood of Gibeah 1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 13:3, and exactly opposite Michmash (Mukhmas), which was on the northern edge of the great Wady Suweinit. 2. Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel—This band of picked men was a bodyguard, who were kept constantly on duty, while the rest of the people were dismissed till their services might be needed. It seems to have been his tactics to attack the Philistine garrisons in the country by different detachments, rather than by risking a general engagement; and his first operations were directed to rid his native territory of Benjamin of these enemies. Saul chose, Heb. and (i.e. then, as that adverb is oft used, as Genesis 3:5 18:10, &c.)

Saul chose. Three thousand men of Israel; which he thought sufficient for constant attendance and service, intending to summon the rest when need should be.

Michmash; a tract of ground near Ramah and Beth-el, in the border of Benjamin, and near to the Philistines.

Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel,.... Out of the 300,000 that went with him to fight the Ammonites, and returned with him to Gilgal, where he now was, and had stayed as may be supposed about a year, since now he had reigned two years. These 3000 men some of them doubtless were appointed as a guard about his person, and the rest were a standing army to preserve the peace of the nation, to protect them from their enemies, to watch the motions of the Philistines, and to be ready on any sudden invasion:

whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash, and in Mount Bethel; "Michmash", according to Bunting, (s) was four miles from Gilgal. Jerom (t) says, in his time it was shown a large village on the borders of Aella, or Jerusalem, retaining its ancient name, nine miles distant from it, near the village Rama. Adrichomius (u) says it is now called Byra, and Mr. Maundrell (w) observes that it is supposed by some to be the same with Beer, whither Jotham fled after he had delivered his parable, Judges 9:21. Michmash is in the Misnah (x) celebrated for the best wheat being brought from it; and near to it, as appears from hence, was Bethel, and the mount of that name; and so Jerom (y) speaks of Bethel as over against Michmash; and this mount very probably is the same said to be on the east of Bethel, where Abraham built an altar, Genesis 12:8 for Michmash lay to the east of Bethel:

and one thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin; the native place of Saul, and this Jonathan was the son of Saul, 1 Samuel 13:16. According to Bunting (z), Gibeah, where Jonathan was stationed, was eight miles from Michmash:

and the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent; to their own houses; or, as the Targum, to their cities; these were they that came at his summons, and were numbered at Bezek, and went with him to the relief of Jabeshgilead, and had been with him ever since, and now dismissed.

(s) Travels of the Patriarchs, &c. p. 126. (t) De loc Heb. fol. 93. F. (u) Thestrum Terrae S. p. 28. (w) Journey from Aleppo, p. 64. (x) Menachot, c. 8. sect. 1.((y) Ut supra, (De loc Heb.) fol. 89. G. (z) Ut supra, (Travels of the Patriarchs, &c.) p. 127.

Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel; whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin: and the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent.
2. Saul chose him three thousand men] And Saul chose, &c. The formation of a standing army marks an important epoch in the history of a nation. It was a natural result of the election of a king, who was to be a military leader. Cp. 1 Samuel 14:52. This body was only large enough to form a nucleus for the general levy of fighting men (1 Samuel 13:4), like the hus-carls of the Saxon kings for the Land-Fyrd. See Green’s Hist. of the Engl. People, p. 75.

in Michmash] The villages of Mŭkhmâs and Jeba preserve the names and mark the sites of Michmash and Geba. They stand on the N. and S. respectively of the Wady es Suweinit, a deep ravine with precipitous sides running from the highlands of Benjamin to Jericho. “About two miles S. E. of Ai it becomes a narrow gorge with vertical precipices some 800 feet high.” Jonathan was in Gibeah, a few miles to the S. W. of Geba. See note on 1 Samuel 10:5. We may conjecture that when Saul occupied Michmash the Philistines transferred their post, which had previously been at Gibeah (1 Samuel 10:5), to Geba, in order to watch him more closely. Jonathan thereupon seized Gibeah, from which he made the successful sally described in 1 Samuel 13:3.

mount Beth-el] The high ground between Bethel and Michmash.

Jonathan] The first mention of Saul’s eldest son, whose memory is famous not so much for his military achievements, as for his fast friendship with David. The name Jonathan means “the gift of Jehovah,” and may be compared with the Greek Theodore.

Verse 2. - Saul chose him. Literally, "And Saul chose him," the usual way of commencing the narrative of a king's reign. He probably selected these 3000 men at the end of the war with the Ammonites, to strengthen the small bodyguard which he had gathered round him at Gibeah (1 Samuel 10:26). As being always in arms, they would become highly disciplined, and form the nucleus and centre of all future military operations (see on 1 Samuel 14:52). He stationed these on either side of the defile in the mountain range of Bethel, so exactly described in Isaiah 10:28, 29, where Sennacherib, as we read, leaves his carriage, i.e. his baggage, at Michmash, and after defiling through the pass, arrives at Geba. Gibeah, where Jonathan was posted with 1000 of these picked warriors, was Saul's home, and his son would have the benefit there of the aid of Kish and Abner, while Michmash was the more exposed place, situate about seven miles northeast of Jerusalem. Conder ('Tent Work,' 2:110) describes this defile as "a narrow gorge with vertical precipices some 800 feet high - a great crack or fissure in the country, which is peculiar in this respect, that you only become aware of its existence when close to the brink; for on the north the narrow spur of hills hides it, and on the south a flat plateau extends to the top of the crags. On the south side of this great chasm stands Geba of Benjamin, on a rocky knoll, with caverns beneath the houses, and arable land to the east; and on the opposite side, considerably lower than Geba, is the little village of Michmash, on a sort of saddle, backed by an open and fertile corn valley. This valley was famous for producing excellent barley. Every man to his tent. This with us would be a warlike phrase; but as the mass of the Israelites then dwelt in tents, it means simply their dispersion homewards; and so the Syriac translates, "He dismissed them each to his house" (see Psalm 69:25). 1 Samuel 13:2The war with the Philistines (1 Samuel 13-14) certainly falls, at least so far as the commencement is concerned, in the very earliest part of Saul's reign. This we must infer partly from the fact, that at the very time when Saul was seeking for his father's asses, there was a military post of the Philistines at Gibeah (1 Samuel 10:5), and therefore the Philistines had already occupied certain places in the land; and partly also from the fact, that according to this chapter Saul selected an army of 3000 men out of the whole nation, took up his post at Michmash with 2000 of them, placing the other thousand at Gibeah under his son Jonathan, and sent the rest of the people home (1 Samuel 13:2), because his first intention was simply to check the further advance of the Philistines. The dismission of the rest of the people to their own homes presupposes that the whole of the fighting men of the nation were assembled together. But as no other summoning together of the people has been mentioned before, except to the war upon the Ammonites at Jabesh (1 Samuel 11:6-7), where all Israel gathered together, and at the close of which Samuel had called the people and their king to Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:14), the assumption is a very probable one, that it was there at Gilgal, after the renewal of the monarchy, that Saul formed the resolution at once to make war upon the Philistines, and selected 3000 fighting men for the purpose out of the whole number that were collected together, and then dismissed the remainder to their homes. In all probability Saul did not consider that either he or the Israelites were sufficiently prepared as yet to undertake a war upon the Philistines generally, and therefore resolved, in the first place, only to attack the outpost of the Philistines, which was advanced as far as Gibeah, with a small number of picked soldiers. According to this simple view of affairs, the war here described took place at the very commencement of Saul's reign; and the chapter before us is closely connected with the preceding one.

1 Samuel 13:2

Saul posted himself at Michmash and on the mount of Bethel with his two thousand men. Michmash, the present Mukhmas, a village in ruins upon the northern ridge of the Wady Suweinit, according to the Onom. (s. v. Machmas), was only nine Roman miles to the north of Jerusalem, whereas it took Robinson three hours and a half to go from one to the other (Pal. ii. p. 117). Bethel (Beitin; see at Joshua 7:2) is to the north-west of this, at a distance of two hours' journey, if you take the road past Deir-Diwan. The mountain (הר) of Bethel cannot be precisely determined. Bethel itself was situated upon very high ground; and the ruins of Beitin are completely surrounded by heights (Rob. ii. p. 126; and v. Raumer, Pal. pp. 178-9). Jonathan stationed himself with his thousand men at (by) Gibeah of Benjamin, the native place and capital of Saul, which was situated upon Tell el Phul (see at Joshua 18:28), about an hour and a half form Michmas.

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