1 Samuel 17:25
And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father's house free in Israel.
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(25) And make his father’s house free in Israel.—Among the lavish offers Saul made to the one who should vanquish the giant was this, “The family of the successful combatant should be free in Israel.” The exact signification here of the Hebrew word rendered “free” is disputed. The simple meaning would seem to be freedom from personal service in the army and elsewhere, what in mediaeval history is known by the general term Corvée. It also probably includes a certain exemption from taxation or enforced contributions to war expenses.

Ewald goes still further, and considers that the royal. promise included the elevation of the house of the victorious warrior to noble rank, as henceforth they would be “free”—“freeholders,” a family released from the ordinary service of subjects; and this high distinction, the great German scholar considers, would easily come to be looked upon as hereditary, and thus such favoured houses would form an intermediate stage between the king and the simple subject. Although it is clear that a wonderful advance in the internal development of the kingdom of the children of Israel had taken place in Saul’s reign, yet it is doubtful if the government of the first king was as yet sufficiently organised to justify us in accepting, in its fulness, the conclusion of the ingenious comment of Ewald here. It does not appear from the narrative that these promises were ever fulfilled by Saul in the case of the house of Jesse.

1 Samuel 17:25-26. The king will make his father’s house free — Free from all those tributes and charges which either the court or the camp required. Who is this uncircumcised Philistine? &c. — Thus David expresses a high indignation that they, who were the servants of the living God, and fought under his banners, should be thus terrified by the great bulk of this idolater, as if the strength of God were not greater than that of this giant.

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.Free in Israel - In all the other passages (fifteen) where this word occurs, it means free, as opposed to being a slave (Deuteronomy 15:12-13, Deuteronomy 15:18, etc.) Here it may imply a freedom from all such services and burdens as are spoken of in 1 Samuel 8:11-17. 25. make his father's house free in Israel—His family should be exempted from the impositions and services to which the general body of the Israelites were subjected. It is observable, that Saul in his great distress doth not encourage himself in God, nor seek his counsel or favour by prayers and sacrifices, but expects relief from men only. This was one effect and sign of the departure of God’s Spirit from him.

Make his father’s house free; free from all those tributes and charges which either the court or the camp required.

And the men of Israel said,.... To one another:

have ye seen this man that is come up? taken notice of him, and observed him?

surely to defy Israel is he come up; to challenge them to fight with him, and upbraid them with cowardice that they did not:

and it shall be that the man who killeth him; this, and what follows, they said to encourage any person to engage with him, though none of them cared to encounter him themselves:

the king will enrich him with great riches; give him a large gratuity, make a present of a great sum of money to him:

and will give him his daughter to be his wife, in like manner as Caleb promised to give his daughter in marriage to the person that should take Kirjathsepher, Judges 1:12,

and make his father's house free in Israel; from all tributes, taxes, levies, impositions, king's service, and duty; or, as the Targum,"make his father's house freemen, nobles;''raise it to the rank of nobility.

And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father's house {g} free in Israel.

(g) From taxes and payments.

25. will give him his daughter] Compare Caleb’s offer, Joshua 15:16. Saul procrastinated about fulfilling the promise, and imposed further conditions (1 Samuel 18:17 ff.).

make his father’s house free] Probably exemption from taxes and personal services to the king is meant. Cp. 1 Samuel 8:11 ff.

Verses 25-27. - To defy Israel. Rather, "to cast scorn on," "to dishonour Israel" (see on ver. 10). The king will enrich him with great riches,... and make his father's house free in Israel. Many years must have elapsed before Saul could thus have developed the powers of the crown, and the last words show that contributions were levied from all the households in Israel for the support of the king and his retinue. There had manifestly been a great advance since the day when Jesse sent the king a few loaves of bread, a skin of wine, and a kid (1 Samuel 16:20). Still we cannot imagine that Saul had introduced taxes, nor was the political organisation of the State ripe enough for so advanced a state of things. The words more probably refer to freedom from personal service in the army and elsewhere; though it is quite possible that on special occasions contributions may have been levied, and presents, no doubt, were constantly being made to the king, though on no regular system. Taketh away the reproach. The noun formed from the verb rendered defy in ver. 10, where see note. Uncircumcised. See on 1 Samuel 14:6. David, like Jonathan, sees a ground of confidence in the uncovenanted relation of the Philistine towards God. The living God. A second ground of confidence. The god of the Philistines was a lifeless idol; Jehovah a Being who proved his existence by his acts. So shall it be done. As the people all answer David's inquiries in the same way, Saul had evidently made a proclamation to this effect, which we may suppose he fulfilled, though not in the frankest manner (1 Samuel 18:17, 27). 1 Samuel 17:25All the Israelites fled from Goliath, and were so afraid. They said (ישׂראל אישׁ is a collective noun), "Have ye seen this man who is coming? (הרּאיתם, with Dagesh dirim as in 1 Samuel 10:24. Surely to defy Israel is he coming; and whoever shall slay him, the king will enrich him with great wealth, and give him his daughter, and make his father's house (i.e., his family) free in Israel," viz., from taxes and public burdens. There is nothing said afterwards about the fulfilment of these promises. But it by no means follows from this, that the statement is to be regarded as nothing more than an exaggeration, that had grown up among the people, of what Saul had really said. There is al the less probability in this, from the fact that, according to 1 Samuel 17:27, the people assured him again of the same thing. In all probability Saul had actually made some such promises as these, but did not feel himself bound to fulfil them afterwards, because he had not made them expressly to David himself.
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