1 Samuel 17:18
And carry these ten cheeses to the captain of their thousand, and look how your brothers fare, and take their pledge.
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(18) Look how thy brethren fare.—The same learned commentator (Wordsworth), following out this curious line of Patristic interpretation, remarks on these words: “David is sent by his father to his brethren from Bethlehem. So the Divine David, Jesus Christ, who was born at Bethlehem, was sent to His brethren by his Heavenly Father.” He completes the analogy between David and Christ by pointing out how David was ill-received by his brethren, though he came at his father’s bidding to show them an act of kindness; so Christ, when sent by His Father from heaven on an embassy of love, was ill-received by His own brethren, the Jews. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:11).

17:12-30 Jesse little thought of sending his son to the army at that critical juncture; but the wise God orders actions and affairs, so as to serve his designs. In times of general formality and lukewarmness, every degree of zeal which implies readiness to go further, or to venture more in the cause of God than others, will be blamed as pride and ambition, and by none more than by near relations, like Eliab, or negligent superiors. It was a trial of David's meekness, patience, and constancy. He had right and reason on his side, and did not render railing for railing; with a soft answer he turned away his brother's wrath. This conquest of his own passion was more honourable than that of Goliath. Those who undertake great and public services, must not think it strange if they are spoken ill of, and opposed by those from whom they expect support and assistance. They must humbly go on with their work, in the face not only of enemies' threats, but of friends' slights and suspicions.Take their pledge - i. e., bring back what they have to say in return. 18. carry these ten cheeses to the captain—to enlist his kind attention. Oriental cheeses are very small; and although they are frequently made of so soft a consistence as to resemble curds, those which David carried seem to have been fully formed, pressed, and sufficiently dried to admit of their being carried.

take their pledge—Tokens of the soldiers' health and safety were sent home in the convenient form of a lock of their hair, or piece of their nail, or such like.

Unto the captain of their thousand; in whose power it was in a great measure, either to preserve them, or to expose them to utmost hazards.

Take their pledge, i.e. bring me some token of their welfare from them. And carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand,.... Their chiliarch or colonel, who had the command of 1000 men, and under whom Jesse's sons fought; Jarchi thinks this was Jonathan, who had 1000 men with him at Gibeah, and so now, 1 Samuel 13:2, these cheeses were sent by Jesse to the captain, to be distributed among his men, or a present to himself, that he might use his sons well who were under his command:

and look how thy brethren fare; whether in good health, in good spirits, and in safety:

and take their pledge; that is, if they had been obliged for want of money to pawn any of their clothes, or what they had with them to buy food with, that he would redeem and take up the pledge, by paying the money for which they were pawned; for it is thought that soldiers at this time were not maintained at the expense of the king and government, but at their own, and the families to which they belonged: though some are of opinion that this was some token which they had sent by a messenger to their father, by which he might know he came from them, so Ben Gersom; and which David was now to take with him, and return it; or a token that he was to bring from them, whereby he might be assured of their welfare; and so the Targum, "and bring their goodness", a token of their being in good health. The Jews (z) understand it of bills of divorce to be given to their wives, that if they should die in battle, or be taken captive, that their wives might marry after three years.

(z) Hieron. Trad. Heb. in lib. Reg. fol. 76. D.

And carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand, and look how thy brethren fare, and take their {e} pledge.

(e) If they have laid anything to gauge for their necessity, redeem it out.

18. look how thy brethren fare] Visit thy brethren and enquire after their welfare. Cp. Genesis 37:14.

take their pledge] Bring home some token from them that they are well: the equivalent of a letter.David's arrival in the camp, and wish to fight with Goliath. - David had been dismissed by Saul at that time, and having returned home, he was feeding his father's sheep once more (1 Samuel 17:12-15). Now, when the Israelites were standing opposite to the Philistines, and Goliath was repeating his challenge every day, David was sent by his father into the camp to bring provisions to his three eldest brothers, who were serving in Saul's army, and to inquire as to their welfare (1 Samuel 17:16-19). He arrived when the Israelites had placed themselves in battle array; and running to his brethren in the ranks, he saw Goliath come out from the ranks of the Philistines, and heard his words, and also learned from the mouth of an Israelite what reward Saul would give to any one who would defeat this Philistine (1 Samuel 17:20-25). He then inquired more minutely into the matter; and having thereby betrayed his own intention of trying to fight with him (1 Samuel 17:26, 1 Samuel 17:27), he was sharply reproved by his eldest brother in consequence (1 Samuel 17:28, 1 Samuel 17:29). He did not allow this to deter him, however, but turned to another with the same question, and received a similar reply (1 Samuel 17:30); whereupon his words were told to the king, who ordered David to come before him (1 Samuel 17:31).

This is, in a condensed form, the substance of the section, which introduces the conquest of Goliath by David in the character of an episode. This first heroic deed was of the greatest importance to David and all Israel, for it was David's first step on the way to the throne, to which Jehovah had resolved to raise him. This explains the fulness and circumstantiality of the narrative, in which the intention is very apparent to set forth most distinctly the marvellous overruling of all the circumstances by God himself. And this circumstantiality of the account is closely connected with the form of the narrative, which abounds in repetitions, that appear to us tautological in many instances, but which belong to the characteristic peculiarities of the early Hebrew style of historical composition.

(Note: On account of these repetitions and certain apparent differences, the lxx (Cod. Vat.) have omitted the section from 1 Samuel 17:12 to 1 Samuel 17:31, and also that from 1 Samuel 17:55 to 1 Samuel 18:5; and on the ground of this omission, Houbigant, Kennicott, Michaelis, Eichhorn, Dathe, Bertheau, and many others, have pronounced both these sections later interpolations; whereas the more recent critics, such as De Wette, Thenius, Ewald, Bleek, Sthelin, and others, reject the hypothesis that they are interpolations, and infer from the supposed discrepancies that 1 Samuel 17 and 18 were written by some one who was ignorant of the facts mentioned in 1 Samuel 16, and was altogether a different person from the author of this chapter. According to 1 Samuel 16:21., they say, David was Saul's armour-bearer already, and his family connections were well known to the king, whereas, according to 1 Samuel 17:15, David was absent just at the time when he ought as armour-bearer to have been in attendance upon Saul; whilst in 1 Samuel 17:33 he is represented as a shepherd boy who was unaccustomed to handle weapons, and as being an unauthorized spectator of the war, and, what is still more striking, even his lineage is represented in 1 Samuel 17:55. as unknown both to Abner and the king. Moreover, in 1 Samuel 17:12 the writer introduces a notice concerning David with which the reader must be already well acquainted from 1 Samuel 16:5., and which is therefore, to say the least, superfluous; and in 1 Samuel 17:54 Jerusalem is mentioned in a manner which does not quite harmonize with the history, whilst the account of the manner in which he disposed of Goliath's armour is apparently at variance with 1 Samuel 21:9. But the notion, that the sections in question are interpolations that have crept into the text, cannot be sustained on the mere authority of the Septuagint version; since the arbitrary manner in which the translators of this version made omissions or additions at pleasure is obvious to any one. Again, the assertion that these sections cannot well be reconciled with 1 Samuel 16, and emanated from an author who was unacquainted with the history in 1 Samuel 16, is overthrown by the unquestionable reference to 1 Samuel 16 which we find in 1 Samuel 16:12, "David the son of that Ephratite," - where Jerome has correctly paraphrased הזּה, de quo supra dictum est, - and also by the remark in 1 Samuel 16:15, that David went backwards and forwards from Saul to feed his father's sheep in Bethlehem. Neither of these can be pronounced interpolations of the compiler, unless the fact can be established that the supposed discrepancies are really well founded. But it by no means follows, that because Saul loved David on account of the beneficial effect which is playing upon the harp produced upon his mind, and appointed him his armour-bearer, therefore David had really to carry the king's armour in time of war. The appointment of armour-bearer was nothing more than conferring upon him the title of aide-de-camp, from which it cannot be inferred that David had already become well known to the king through the performance of warlike deeds. If Joab, the commander-in-chief, had ten armour-bearers (2 Samuel 18:15, compare 1 Samuel 23:37), king Saul would certainly have other armour-bearers besides David, and such as were well used to war. Moreover, it is not stated anywhere in 1 Samuel 16 that Saul took David at the very outset into his regular and permanent service, but, according to 1 Samuel 16:22, he merely asked his father Jesse that David might stand before him, i.e., might serve him; and there is no contradiction in the supposition, that when his melancholy left him for a time, he sent David back to his father to Bethlehem, so that on the breaking out of the war with the Philistines he was living at home and keeping sheep, whilst his three eldest brothers had gone to the war. The circumstance, however, that when David went to fight with Goliath, Saul asked Abner his captain, "Whose son is this youth?" and Abner could give no explanation to the king, so that after the defeat of Goliath, Saul himself asked David, "Whose son art thou?" (1 Samuel 17:55-58), can hardly be comprehended, if all that Saul wanted to ascertain was the name of David's father. For even if Abner had not troubled himself about the lineage of Saul's harpist, Saul himself could not well have forgotten that David was a son of the Bethlehemite Jesse. But there was much more implied in Saul's question. It was not the name of David's father alone that he wanted to discover, but what kind of man the father of a youth who possessed the courage to accomplish so marvellous a heroic deed really was; and the question was put not merely in order that he might grant him an exemption of his house from taxes as the reward promised for the conquest of Goliath (1 Samuel 17:25), but also in all probability that he might attach such a man to his court, since he inferred from the courage and bravery of the son the existence of similar qualities in the father. It is true that David merely replied, "The son of thy servant Jesse of Bethlehem;" but it is very evident from the expression in 1 Samuel 18:1, "when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul," that Saul conversed with him still further about his family affairs, since the very words imply a lengthened conversation. The other difficulties are very trivial, and will be answered in connection with the exposition of the passages in question.)

1 Samuel 17:12-15

1 Samuel 17:12-15 are closely connected with the preceding words, "All Israel was alarmed at the challenge of the Philistine; but David the son of that Ephratite (Ephratite, as in Ruth 1:1-2) of Bethlehem in Judah, whose name was Jesse," etc. The verb and predicate do not follow till 1 Samuel 17:15; so that the words occur here in the form of an anacolouthon. The traditional introduction of the verb היה between ודוד and בּן־אישׁ (David was the son of that Ephratite) is both erroneous and misleading. If the words were to be understood in this way, היה could no more be omitted here than היתה in 2 Chronicles 22:3, 2 Chronicles 22:11. The true explanation is rather, that 1 Samuel 17:12-15 form one period expanded by parentheses, and that the historian lost sight of the construction with which he commenced in the intermediate clauses; so that he started afresh with the subject ודוד in 1 Samuel 17:15, and proceeded with what he had to say concerning David, doing this at the same time in such a form that what he writes is attached, so far as the sense if concerned, to the parenthetical remarks concerning Jesse's eldest sons. To bring out distinctly the remarkable chain of circumstances by which David was led to undertake the conflict with Goliath, he links on to the reference to his father certain further notices respecting David's family and his position at that time. Jesse had eight sons and was an old man in the time of Saul. באנשׁים בּא, "come among the weak." אנשׁים generally means, no doubt, people or men. But this meaning does not give any appropriate sense here; and the supposition that the word has crept in through a slip of the pen for בּשּׁנים, is opposed not only by the authority of the early translators, all of whom read אנשׁים, but also by the circumstance that the expression בּשּׁנים בּוא does not occur in the whole of the Old Testament, and that ביּמים בּוא alone is used with this signification.

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