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)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.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." 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, 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. 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.
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