1 Samuel 13:6
When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for the people were distressed,) then the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits.
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(6) Saw that they were in a strait.—It was evidently no ordinary Philistine foray or invasion which the Israelites had to make head against. The tradition preserved by Josephus tells us that a host of foreign allies had joined the Phœnician armies in this war. This accounts for the great numbers alluded to in the text: “People as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude” (1Samuel 13:5). The hearts of the as yet undisciplined Hebrews sank at the tidings of such an invasion. And in high places.—The word in the original Hebrew is not the same as the one usually rendered “high places” for prayer and sacrifice. The word here signifies towers. It is the same word which in Judges 9:46; Judges 9:49 is translated “a hold.” In the Speaker’s Commentary it is suggested that it was applied to a particular kind of tower which was the work of the old Canaanite inhabitants, and which remained as ruins in the time of Saul.

1 Samuel 13:6. Israel saw that they were in a strait — Though their wonderful success against the Ammonites had encouraged them to obey the summons of such a prosperous leader as Saul had been; yet when they saw the vast army of the Philistines, how well they were appointed, and themselves unprovided, their hearts failed them, and they slunk away from him as fast as they had flocked to him. The people were distressed — Notwithstanding their former presumption, that if they had a king they would be free from all such difficulties and distresses. Hereby God intended to teach them the vanity of confidence in men; and that they did not one jot less need his help now than they did when they had no king. And probably they were the more discouraged, because they did not find Samuel with Saul. Sooner or later men will be made to see that God and his prophets are their best friends.

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.In thickets - literally, "among thorns."

High places - Not the high places for worship, but holds or towers Judges 9:46, Judges 9:49; that particular kind of tower which was the work of the old Canaanite inhabitants, and which remained as ruins in the time of Saul.

1Sa 13:6-8. The Israelites' Distress.

6. When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait—Though Saul's gallantry was unabated, his subjects displayed no degree of zeal and energy. Instead of venturing an encounter, they fled in all directions. Some, in their panic, left the country (1Sa 13:7), but most took refuge in the hiding-places which the broken ridges of the neighborhood abundantly afford. The rocks are perforated in every direction with "caves," and "holes," and "pits"—crevices and fissures sunk deep in the rocky soil, subterranean granaries or dry wells in the adjoining fields. The name of Michmash ("hidden treasure") seems to be derived from this natural peculiarity [Stanley].

They were in a strait, notwithstanding their former presumption, that if they had a king they should be free from all such straits. And hereby God intended to teach them the vanity of all carnal confidence in men; and that they did not one jot less need the help and favour of God now than they did before, when they had no king.

The people were distressed; they were not mistaken in their apprehensions of danger, as men oft are, for they were really in great danger, their enemy’s host far exceeding theirs, both in number, and order, and courage, and arms.

The people did hide themselves in caves; whereof there were divers in those parts for this very use, as we read in Josephus, and in the Holy Scripture.

When the men of Israel saw they were in a strait, for the people were distressed,.... By reason of the vast army that the Philistines brought into the field, greatly superior to theirs, and were likely to be encompassed by them on every side; so that nothing but destruction was expected, which gave them the utmost anxiety and uneasiness; though Abarbinel refers this last clause, not to the people of Israel, but to the people of the Philistines, and takes it in this sense:

for the people drew nigh; the army of the Philistines was approaching, and got near to them; and so they were in great danger of being quickly attacked by them, and destroyed, their numbers being so great:

then the people did hide themselves in caves; of which there were many in the land of Judea, capable of receiving a large number, as the cave of Adullam, the cave of Engedi, &c. and such as the Israelites made to hide themselves when oppressed by the Midianites, Judges 6:2.

and in thickets; woods and forests, or among thorns, as Jarchi; where there was a very great number of brambles and thorn bushes; some, as Kimchi, interpret the word of munitions, garrisons, and fortified places, to which they betook themselves:

in rocks, and in high places, and in pits; in the holes of rocks and mountains, particularly in Mount Ephraim; see 1 Samuel 14:22 and where there were any pits or ditches, high or deep places, where they might be out of sight, and be sheltered from their enemies.

When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for the people were distressed,) then the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits.
6. in a strait] In distress and danger: as it were, hemmed in and unable to turn in any direction.

the people did hide themselves] Cp. Jdg 6:2.

in high places] The word thus translated occurs elsewhere only in Jdg 9:46; Jdg 9:49 (E. V. hold), and is supposed to mean “a fortified tower,” like the “peels” of the border counties, possibly the work of the old Canaanite inhabitants. But the context rather points to some natural hiding-place.

Verse 6. - The people were distressed. Literally, were squeezed, pressed together, were in difficulties. The Philistines had so promptly answered Saul's challenge, that the Israelites, forgetting their victory over Nahash, whose men, however, had probably very inferior arms to those worn by the Philistines, lost courage; and even the picked band of 2000 men dwindled to 600. As for the mass of the people, they acted with the most abject cowardice, hiding themselves in caves, of which there are very many in the limestone ranges of Palestine. David subsequently found safety in them when hunted by Saul. Also in thickets. The word as spelt here occurs nowhere else, nor do the versions agree as to its meaning. Most probably it signifies clefts, rifts or fissures in the rocks. The next word, rocks, certainly means precipitous cliffs; and thickets or thorn bushes would scarcely be placed between caverns and cliffs, both of which belong to mountains. In high places. This word occurs elsewhere only in Judges 9:46, 49, where it is rendered hold. But this meaning is not supported by the ancient versions, and it more probably signifies a vault or crypt, which better suits the hiding place next mentioned, pits, i.e. tanks, artificial reservoirs for water, with which most districts were well supplied in Palestine, even before its conquest by Israel. They were absolutely necessary, as the rains fall only at stated periods, and the chalky soil will not hold water; when dry they would form fit places for concealment. 1 Samuel 13:6When the Israelites saw that they had come into a strait (צר־לו), for the people were oppressed (by the Philistines), they hid themselves in the caves, thorn-bushes, rocks (i.e., clefts of the rocks), fortresses (צרחים: see at Judges 9:46), and pits (which were to be found in the land); and Hebrews also went over the Jordan into the land of Gad and Gilead, whilst Saul was still at Gilgal; and all the people (the people of war who had been called together, v. 4) trembled behind him, i.e., were gathered together in his train, or assembled round him as leader, trembling or in despair.

The Gilgal mentioned here cannot be Jiljilia, which is situated upon the high ground, as assumed in the Comm. on Joshua, pp. 68f., but must be the Gilgal in the valley of the Jordan. This is not only favoured by the expression ירדוּ (the Philistines will come down from Michmash to Gilgal, 1 Samuel 13:12), but also by ויּעל (Samuel went up from Gilgal to Gibeah, 1 Samuel 13:15), and by the general attitude of Saul and his army towards the Philistines. As the Philistines advanced with a powerful army, after Jonathan's victory over their garrison at Geba (to the south of Michmash), and encamped at Michmash (1 Samuel 13:5); and Saul, after withdrawing from Gilgal, where he had gathered the Israelites together (1 Samuel 13:4, 1 Samuel 13:8, 1 Samuel 13:12), with Jonathan and the six hundred men who were with him when the muster took place, took up his position at Geba (1 Samuel 13:15, 1 Samuel 13:16), from which point Jonathan attacked the Philistine post in the pass of Michmash (1 Samuel 13:23, and 1 Samuel 14:1.): Saul must have drawn back from the advancing army of the Philistines to the Gilgal in the Jordan valley, to make ready for the battle by collecting soldiers and presenting sacrifices, and then, after this had been done, must have advanced once more to Gibeah and Geba to commence the war with the army of the Philistines that was encamped at Michmash. If, on the other hand, he had gone northwards to Jiljilia from Michmash, where he was first stationed, to escape the advancing army of the Philistines; he would have had to attack the Philistines from the north when they were encamped at Michmash, and could not possibly have returned to Geba without coming into conflict with the Philistines, since Michmash was situated between Jiljilia and Geba.

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