1 Samuel 13:20
But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock.
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(20) To sharpen every man his share, and his coulter.—Porsenna, we read, in the time of the wars of the Republic, allowed the Romans iron implements for agriculture only. Coulter.—In Isaiah 2:4, Joel 3:10, this word is rendered “ploughshares “; so most of the older versions. We cannot now with any precision distinguish between these two implements of tillage.

And his mattock.—Jerome renders the Hebrew word here by “hoe” (sarculum). It was probably a kind of heavy hoe, used for turning up the ground.

1 Samuel 13:20-21. The Israelites went down to the Philistines — Not to the country of the Philistines, for that was too far from many parts of the land of Israel; but to their garrisons, which they held among them even after Samuel had driven the main body of them out of the country. In these, it seems, the Philistines kept all the smiths, and there they allowed them to exercise their art for the uses following. Yet they had a file, &c. — They were allowed some proper instruments and tools for sharpening their implements of husbandry, in some degree; but no other.

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 best rendering of the passage is perhaps as follows: "But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen etc. 1 Samuel 13:21, whenever there was bluntness of edge to their shares and coulters and prong-forks and axes, and to point their goads." Coulters and mattocks were cutting instruments of the type of the share. 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. To the Philistines; not to the land of the Philistines, for it is not said so, and that was too remote; but to the stations and garrisons which the Philistines yet retained in several parts of Israel’s land, though Samuel’s authority had so far overawed them, that they durst not give the Israelites much disturbance. In these, therefore, the Philistines kept all the smiths, and here they allowed them the exercise of their art for the uses here following.

But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines,.... Were obliged to go into Palestine, into some one or other of the cities of the Philistines, or to their garrisons, where the trade of a smith was exercised:

to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter; which are the parts of the plough made of iron, with which the earth is cut and thrown up:

and his axe and his mattock; or pick axe; with the one wood is felled and cut, and with the other stones are dug; and each of these for their several uses needed sharpening; and when they did, they were obliged to go to the Philistines to have them done, they having no smiths among them.

But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock.
20. to sharpen] The word signifies “to sharpen by forging.”

his share, &c.] The agricultural implements mentioned cannot be identified with any certainty. The words rendered “share” and “mattock” are derived from the same root meaning to cut, and are almost identical in form. That rendered “coulter” is elsewhere translated “plow-share” (Isaiah 2:4, &c.).

Verse 20. - The Israelites went down to the Philistines. I.e. to their land. This could only have applied to the districts near the Philistines, unless we suppose that they set up forges also at their garrisons. To sharpen. The verb chiefly refers to such work as required an anvil and hammer. As regards the implements, not only do the versions disagree in their renderings, but the Septuagint has a very curious different reading, to the effect that at harvest time the Israelites had to pay the Philistines three shekels for repairing and whetting their tools. The share is more probably a sickle. The coulter is certainly a ploughshare, as rendered in Isaiah 2:4; Joel 3:10. Of the ax there is no doubt; and the mattock is a heavy hoe for turning up the ground, as spades for that purpose are scarcely anywhere used, except in our own country. 1 Samuel 13:20The Israelites could not offer a successful resistance to these devastating raids, as there was no smith to be found in the whole land: "For the Philistines thought the Hebrews might make themselves sword or spear" (אמר followed by פּן, "to say, or think, that not," equivalent to being unwilling that it should be done). Consequently (as the words clearly imply) when they proceeded to occupy the land of Israel as described in 1 Samuel 13:5, they disarmed the people throughout, i.e., as far as they penetrated, and carried off the smiths, who might have been able to forge weapons; so that, as is still further related in 1 Samuel 13:20, all Israel was obliged to go to the Philistines, every one to sharpen his edge-tool, and his ploughshare, and his axe, and his chopper. According to Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3, and Joel 3:10, את is an iron instrument used in agriculture; the majority of the ancient versions render it ploughshare. The word מחרשׁתו is striking after the previous מחרשׁתּו (from מחרשׁת); and the meaning of both words is uncertain. According to the etymology, מחרשׁת might denote any kind of edge-tool, even the ploughshare. The second מחרשׁתו is rendered τὸ δρέπανον αὐτοῦ (his sickle) by the lxx, and sarculum by Jerome, a small garden hoe for loosening and weeding the soil. The fact that the word is connected with קרדּם, the axe or hatchet, favours the idea that it signifies a hoe or spade rather than a sickle. Some of the words in 1 Samuel 13:21 are still more obscure. והיתה, which is the reading adopted by all the earlier translators, indicates that the result is about to be given of the facts mentioned before: "And there came to pass," i.e., so that there came to pass (or arose), פּים הפּצירה, "a blunting of the edges." פּצירה, bluntness, from פּצר, to tear, hence to make blunt, is confirmed by the Arabic futâr, gladius fissuras habens, obtusus ensis, whereas the meaning to hammer, i.e., to sharpen by hammering, cannot be established. The insertion of the article before פּצירה is as striking as the omission of it before פּים; also the stat. abs. instead of the construct פּצירת. These anomalies render it a very probable conjecture that the reading may have been הפּים הפציר (inf. Hiph. nomin.). Accordingly the rendering would be, "so that bluntness of the edges occurred in the edge-tools, and the ploughshares, and the trident, and the axes, and the setting of the goad." קלּשׁון שׁלשׁ is to be regarded as a nom. comp. like our trident, denoting an instrument with three prongs, according to the Chaldee and the Rabbins (see Ges. Thes. p. 1219). דּרבן, stimulus, is probably a pointed instrument generally, since the meaning goad is fully established in the case of דּרבון in Ecclesiastes 12:11.

(Note: 1 Samuel 13:21 runs very differently in the lxx, namely, καὶ ἦν ὁ τρυγητὸς ἕτοιμος τοῦ θερίζειν, τὰ δὲ σκεύη ἦν τρεῖς σίκλοι εἰς τὸν ὀδόντα, καὶ τῇ ἀξίνῃ καὶ τῷ δρεπάνῳ ὑτόστασις ἦν ἡ αὐτή; and Thenius and Bttcher propose an emendation of the Hebrew text accordingly, so as to obtain the following meaning: "And the sharpening of the edges in the case of the spades and ploughshares was done at three shekels a tooth (i.e., three shekels each), and for the axe and sickle it was the same" (Thenius); or, "and the same for the sickles, and for the axes, and for setting the prong" (Bttcher). But here also it is easy enough to discover that the lxx had not another text before them that was different from the Masoretic text, but merely confounded הפציר with הבציר, τρυγητός, and took קלּשׁון שׁלשׁ, which was unintelligible to them, e conjectura for השּׁן שׁק שׁלשׁ, altogether regardless of the sense or nonsense of their own translation. The latest supporters of this senseless rendering, however, have neither undertaken to prove the possibility of translating ὀδόντα (ὀδούς), "each single piece" (i.e., each), or inquired into the value of money at that time, so as to see whether three shekels would be an unexampled charge for the sharpening of an axe or sickle.)

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