1 Samuel 14:35
And Saul built an altar to the LORD: the same was the first altar that he built to the LORD.
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(35) The same was the first altar that he built . . .—More accurately, as in margin, the same he began to build as an altar. The great Jewish commentators are divided as to the precise meaning of the old Hebrew language of this verse. Abarbanel interprets the words, “that King Saul began to build, but did not finish.” The Midrash prefers to understand the statement as telling how “Saul began among the kings of Israel the building of altars.” The more obvious meaning, if we translate as in our English Version, seems to be that this was the first public acknowledgment King Saul made to God for the mercies and goodness vouchsafed to him.

14:24-35 Saul's severe order was very unwise; if it gained time, it lost strength for the pursuit. Such is the nature of our bodies, that daily work cannot be done without daily bread, which therefore our Father in heaven graciously gives. Saul was turning aside from God, and now he begins to build altars, being then most zealous, as many are, for the form of godliness when he was denying the power of it.And Saul built ... - i. e., of the great stone which they had rolled to kill the oxen and sheep upon, he began to build an altar to Yahweh (see the margin); but he did not finish it (compare 1 Chronicles 27:24), in his haste to pursue the Philistines that night. 31-34. the people were very faint. And the people flew upon the spoil—at evening, when the time fixed by Saul had expired. Faint and famishing, the pursuers fell voraciously upon the cattle they had taken, and threw them on the ground to cut off their flesh and eat them raw, so that the army, by Saul's rashness, were defiled by eating blood, or living animals; probably, as the Abyssinians do, who cut a part of the animal's rump, but close the hide upon it, and nothing mortal follows from that wound. They were painfully conscientious in keeping the king's order for fear of the curse, but had no scruple in transgressing God's command. To prevent this violation of the law, Saul ordered a large stone to be rolled, and those that slaughtered the oxen to cut their throats on that stone. By laying the animal's head on the high stone, the blood oozed out on the ground, and sufficient evidence was afforded that the ox or sheep was dead before it was attempted to eat it. Either for a monument of the victory; or rather, for sacrifice, as the next words imply.

The same was the first altar, though he had occasion to do so oft ere this time. So this is quoted as another evidence of his neglect of God and his worship. It is true, Saul sacrificed before this, as at Gilgal; but that was upon an old altar, erected by others. And Saul built an altar unto the Lord,.... To offer peace offerings upon, in thankfulness for the victory obtained over his enemies, or sin offerings to make atonement for the sin of the people, perhaps both, however the former:

the same was the first altar that he built unto the Lord; for though he had offered sacrifice at Gilgal, there was an altar ready built for him: or "he began to build"; he laid the first stone of it, and the builders built upon it; so some others say, that he was the first of the kings that built an altar to the Lord (d); others, the first of the judges that built one; though Gideon built one, it was for his own private use, not for all Israel, as this, so R. Isaiah; but Ben Gersom, and so Abarbinel, refer this to the great stone Saul ordered to be rolled to him, and take the sense to be, that that began to be built an altar to the Lord; that was the beginning of one; for he did not now stay to finish it, being eager on his pursuit of the Philistines, as follows.

(d) See Kimchi in loc.

And Saul built an altar unto the LORD: the same was the first altar that he built unto the LORD.
35. the same was the first altar] Lit. “it he began to build as an altar to Jehovah.” The E. V. probably gives the right sense. The altar was erected as a thank-offering for the victory. “The great stone” most likely formed part of it.Verse 35. - And Saul built an altar unto Jehovah as a thank offering for the Divine favour in gaining so great a victory. The same was the first altar, etc. Literally, "As to it he began to build an altar unto Jehovah." On these words the question has arisen whether the meaning be that Saul began to build an altar, but with characteristic impetuosity left off before he had completed it; or whether on that occasion he commenced the custom followed by David (2 Samuel 24:25) of erecting altars as the patriarchs had done in old time. The latter interpretation is more in accordance with the usage of the Hebrew language, and is approved by the translations of the Septuagint and Vulgate.

CHAPTER 14:36-52 JONATHAN'S DANGER AND DELIVERANCE (vers. 36-46). When one of the people told him thereupon of his father's oath, in consequence of which the people were exhausted (העם ויּעף belongs to the man's words; and ויּעף is the same as in Judges 4:21), Jonathan condemned the prohibition. "My father has brought the land (i.e., the people of the land, as in 1 Samuel 14:25) into trouble (עכר, see at Genesis 34:30): see how bright mine eyes have become because I tasted a little of this honey. How much more if the people had eaten to-day of the booty of its enemies, would not the overthrow among the Philistines truly have then become great?" כּי אף, lit. to this (there comes) also that equals not to mention how much more; and עתּה כּי is an emphatic introduction of the apodosis, as in Genesis 31:42; Genesis 43:10, and other passages, and the apodosis itself is to be taken as a question.
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