Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Yet they had a file for the mattocks . . .—This translation, the sense of which is not very clear, is supported by the Targum and by many of the great Hebrew commentators—Rashi, for instance. Gesenius and the majority of modern scholars, however, render the word in the original translated “file” (p’tsirah) by “bluntness.” The passage then would run: “And there was bluntness (or dulness) of edge to the mattocks; “or,” so that bluntness of the edges occurred to the mattocks.” “The forks” were probably an instrument with three prongs, like our trident.
And to sharpen the goads.—The words from “and there was bluntness,” &c. (English Version, “they had a file”), down to “axes,” form a parenthesis.
“This parenthesis indicates that the result of the burthensome necessity of going to the Philistines was that many tools became useless by dulness, so that even these poorer sort of arms did the Israelites not much service at the breaking out of the war.”—Bunsen.
The LXX. read this 21st verse with considerable changes: “And the vintage was ready to be gathered, and the tools were three shekels to the tooth to sharpen], and to the axe and to the scythe there was the same rate” (or, as the Greek has been rendered,” tools cost three shekels apiece [to sharpen]”).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. Therefore the mouths or edges of the mattocks a coulters, &. were dull or blunt. Or rather thus, When (Heb. and put for when, as the particle and is sometimes rendered, as Mark 15:25) the mouths or edges of the mattocks, &c. were blunt. So this passage very well agrees both with the foregoing and following words; and the whole sense of the place is entirely thus, They went to the Philistines to sharpen their shares, and mattocks, and coulters, and axes, when they were blunt, and (which was more strange, they were forced to go to them even)
to sharpen their goads.
to sharpen the goads; with which they pricked and pushed on the oxen in ploughing, when sluggish and remiss. (The word for "file" in the verse is "pim", and occurs only here in the Hebrew scriptures. It is not used elsewhere in other Hebrew writings. Therefore the translators of the 1611 Authorised Version had only the root derivation to deduce what the word meant. Literally, it means "a file with mouths". However, recently archaeologists have found a stone inscribed with this word. Also they found a stone inscribed with the word "shekel". Hence they deduced that the word was really a weight of measure equal to about one third of a shekel. Newer translations usually translate this as "the charge was a third of a shekel ...", hence removing the obvious contradiction between this verse and the preceding one. Editor.)Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)21. Yet they had a file] So the Targum and some Rabbinic commentators. If the rendering is correct, the meaning will be that for the ordinary sharpening of tools they had files, but for any forging work they had to go to the Philistines. But the best rendering appears to be either, “When the edges, &c. were blunt:” or that of the Vulgate, “So the edges of the mattocks … used to be blunt.” The result of the necessity of going so far to get their tools repaired was that they got into a very unserviceable condition. The words, “and to set (i.e. sharpen or point) the goad” must be taken as depending on “the Israelites went down to the Philistines,” the intervening words being regarded as a parenthesis.Verse 21. - A file. Margin, a file with mouths. The word only occurs here, and is translated a file on the authority of Rashi. Almost all modern commentators agree that it means bluntness, and that this verse should be joined on to the preceding, and the two be translated, "But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen his sickle, and his ploughshare, and his axe, and his mattock, whenever the edges of the mattocks, and the ploughshares, and the forks, and the axes were blunt, and also to set (so the margin rightly) the goads." The Israelites were thus in a state of complete dependence upon the Philistines, even for carrying on their agriculture, and probably retained only the hill country, while their enemies were masters of the plains.
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