And Saul said to Ahiah, Bring here the ark of God. For the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And Saul said unto Ahiah . . .—The LXX. renders here, “And Saul said to Ahijah, Bring hither the ephod; for he bore the ephod in those days before the children of Israel.” This is a statement easily to be understood. Saul was in doubt what to do under the present emergency. Should he—seeing the panic that was evidently increasing in the Philistine camp, and knowing nothing of the cause, only that his son and the armour-bearer were missing—should he risk his little force, and, leaving his strong position, attack that great host of apparently panic-stricken enemies? So he sent for the high priest Ahijah, and bade him consult the Urim and Thummim in his ephod.
But the Hebrew and all the versions read as in our English Version, “Bring hither the Ark of God” What does this mean? Was the Ark, then, with that little band of Saul? We never before, or after, find the slightest hint that the sacred coffer ever left the “city of woods” (Kiriath-yearim) until David bore it to Zion. Then, again, the word preceding “Bring hither” is never used in connection with the Ark. No question or oracle could be asked of the Ark or by the Ark. The Urim and Thummim, whatever these mysterious objects were alone were used to give answers to questions solemnly asked by king and people, and this Urim and Thummim were connected, not with the Ark, but with the high-priestly ephod. On the whole, the reading of the LXX. probably represents the original Hebrew. The present Hebrew text, with the word “Ark,” is, however, clearly of extreme antiquity; the second part of the verse is most likely an explanatory gloss of some ancient scribe. Josephus’ account of this transaction shows us that he had before him a text corresponding to the LXX. His words are, “He bid the priest take the garment of his high priesthood and prophesy” (Antiq., 6 § 3). Maurer prefers the present Hebrew text, for he says, At that supreme moment of danger Saul wanted not the advice of an oracle, but rather the help and encouragement which the presence of the sacred Ark would give to his handful of soldiers. But this would rather degrade Saul to the level of the superstitious Hophni and Phinehas, the wicked sons of Eli. who, it will be remembered, exposed and lost the sacred Ark in the fatal battle in which they perished. Saul, with all his faults, was a far nobler type of man than those profligate, though brave, priests.1 Samuel 14:18-19. Saul said, Bring hither the ark of God — Finding only Jonathan and his armour-bearer missing, Saul did not know what to conclude, and therefore called in all haste for Ahiah the priest, to inquire of the Lord concerning it, and in what manner he and the people with him were to act. But before the priest had performed his office, the rout and flight of the Philistines were perceived so plainly that Saul called to the priest to desist, or, as it is expressed, to withdraw his hand, as there was no occasion for further inquiry, it being plain what the matter was, and what they had to do.1 Samuel 23:9; 1 Samuel 30:7. Moreover, not the ark, but the ephod with Urim and Thummim, was the proper instrument for inquiring of the Lord. If, however, the Hebrew text is correct, they must have brought the ark into Saul's camp from Kirjath-jearim 1 Samuel 7, possibly to be safe from the Philistines.
With the children of Israel, to wit, in the camp, whither sometimes it was brought; as 1 Samuel 4:5; and now the rather, partly because it was now in an unsettled condition, and without the tabernacle, and therefore easily removed from place to place; and partly because Saul thought to compensate Samuel’s absence with the presence of the ark.
for the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel; and so it always was, except a few months it was in the hands of the Philistines; so it was at Kirjathjearim, where it was last. Jarchi thinks a word is wanting, and to be supplied thus,"the ark of God was there at that time with the children of Israel,''at Gibeah; perhaps it might be removed first to Gilgal, when Saul and Samuel were there, and when they came to Gibeah it was brought along with them; but the last words may be considered as a distinct clause, and, literally tendered, are, "and the children of Israel": which Abarbinel accounts for thus, and Saul said this:
bring hither the ark of the Lord; and the children of Israel said so likewise, joined with him in it: though the ark had been with Saul, and the people, some time, and also the high priest, yet we do not find that Saul in all his straits and difficulties consulted the Lord before; but perceiving something extraordinary was doing, and might turn to his advantage, he begins to inquire.And Saul said unto Ahiah, Bring hither the ark of God. For the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)18. Bring hither the ark of God] Saul wished to “inquire of God” before going to battle. See Numbers 27:21. But apart from the fact that we have no mention of the transportation of the Ark from Kirjath-jearim, it was not the Ark, but the Ephod with Urim and Thummim which was the proper instrument for ascertaining the will of God. Moreover “bring hither” is a term applied to the Ephod (1 Samuel 23:9, 1 Samuel 30:7) but not to the Ark. It seems best therefore to follow the reading of the Sept.; “And Saul said to Ahia, bring hither the Ephod: for he wore the Ephod at that time before the children of Israel.”
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