1 Samuel 14:16
And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked; and, behold, the multitude melted away, and they went on beating down one another.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked . . .—The distance between the outposts of the little Israelite army and the vast Philistine host was only about two miles, but a deep ravine or chasm lay between them. The watchmen of Saul were well able to see the scene of dire confusion in the outposts, a confusion which they could discern was rapidly spreading through the more distant camp of the main body.

The Hebrew words, vayēleh vahălom, in the last clause of the verse, have been variously rendered; the Rabbinical interpretation is the best: “magis magisque pangebatur”—“were more and more broken up.” This takes hălom as an infinitive absolute. The LXX. considers this word an adverb, and translates enthen hai enthen, hither and thither, and does not attempt to give any rendering for vayēleh.

1 Samuel 14:16-17. Behold the multitude melted away — Were discomfited and scattered; so that fewer and fewer were seen in a company together. They went on beating down one another — Not being able in this confusion to distinguish their friends from their enemies. Then said Saul, Number now, &c. — Saul, upon the report of the watchmen concerning the seeming confusion in the army of the Philistines, concluded that some of his people had gone out unknown, and attacked them. He therefore ordered them to be numbered, to see who were missing.14:16-23 The Philistines were, by the power of God, set against one another. The more evident it was that God did all, the more reason Saul had to inquire whether God would give him leave to do any thing. But he was in such haste to fight a fallen enemy, that he would not stay to end his devotions, nor hear what answer God would give him. He that believeth, will not make such haste, nor reckon any business so urgent, as not to allow time to take God with him.Multitude - The word is in 1 Samuel 14:19 (margin) rendered tumult. It must have the same meaning here. The sentence is obscure and probably corrupt; perhaps it means, "and behold the tumult! and it went on" (increased) "melting away and beating down." 16. the watchmen of Saul … looked—The wild disorder in the enemies' camp was described and the noise of dismay heard on the heights of Gibeah. In Gibeah, or, in the hill, as the very same word is rendered, 1 Samuel 13:16, and that was the fittest place for watchmen.

The multitude, to wit, of that numerous host of the Philistines.

Melted away, i.e. were strangely and suddenly dispersed, and put to flight.

Beating down one another; either,

1. Accidentally, through hasty flight; or,

2. With design to destroy one another, as the authors or abettors of the present calamity. Possibly God blinded their eyes or their minds, that they could not distinguish friends from foes. Compare Judges 7:22 2 Kings 6:18, &c.; 2 Chronicles 20:23. And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked,.... The city of Gibeah was built on an hill, from where it had its name; and these watchmen or sentinels of Saul were set by him no doubt in the highest part of it, whereby they could overlook the army of the Philistines as they lay encamped, and could observe their motions, and give notice accordingly; and it being now broad day light, could see the condition they were in:

and, behold, the multitude melted away; like snow gradually, and yet apace; they could discern their numbers lessening more and more, through the slaughter of many made among them by one another, and the flight of others; and they went on beating down one another; they could perceive they fled with great precipitation, throwing one another down in running, tumbling over one another, and trampling on each other which were in their way.

And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked; and, behold, the multitude melted away, and they went on beating down one another.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16–23. The rout of the Philistines

16. in Gibeah of Benjamin] If Tuleil-el-Fûl is the true site of the town of Gibeah, we must either suppose that Gibeah is here used of the surrounding district, or read Geba for Gibeah, since according to Lieut. Conder, Michmash is not visible from Tuleil-el-Fûl. See note on 1 Samuel 10:5.

they went on beating down one another] It is doubtful if this or any other meaning can be extracted from the present Heb. text The Sept. gives a good sense: “And behold, the camp was in confusion on every side.”Verse 16. - The watchmen, etc. Condor says ('Tent Work,' 2:115), "The watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin must have seen dearly across the chasm the extraordinary conflict of two men against a host, as the 'multitude melted away, and they went on beating down one another.' The noise in the host was also, no doubt, clearly heard at the distance of only two miles, and the army would have crossed the passage with comparatively little difficulty by the narrow path which leads down direct from Geba to Michmash, west of the Philistine camp. Thence the pursuit was towards Bethel, across the watershed, and headlong down the steep descent of Aijalon - that same pass where the first great victory of Joshua had been gained, and where the valiant Judas was once more, in later times, to drive back the enemies of Israel to the plains." The multitude. The Hebrew is, "And behold the tumult (the word is so rendered in ver. 19, margin) was reeling and going... and thither." Of course hither has dropped out of the text before and thither (comp. 1 Samuel 13:8). The Septuagint and Vulgate both read "hither and thither." Tumult means the din made by a confused mass of people, and so the crowd itself. Melted away does not give the exact meaning. The Philistines were not dispersing, but were reeling, moving to and fro purposeless, and in confusion. It may mean, however, to shake or melt with terror, as in Isaiah 14:31, where it is rendered art dissolved. "Behold, we go over to the people and show ourselves to them. If they say to us, Wait (דּמּוּ, keep quiet) till we come to you, we will stand still in our place, and not go up to them; but if they say thus, Come up unto us, then we will go up, for Jehovah hath (in that case) delivered them into our hand." The sign was well chosen. If the Philistines said, "Wait till we come," they would show some courage; but if they said, "Come up to us," it would be a sign that they were cowardly, and had not courage enough to leave their position and attack the Hebrews. It was not tempting God for Jonathan to fix upon such a sign by which to determine the success of his enterprise; for he did it in the exercise of his calling, when fighting not for personal objects, but for the kingdom of God, which the uncircumcised were threatening to annihilate, and in the most confident belief that the Lord would deliver and preserve His people. Such faith as this God would not put to shame.
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