And Saul said, Thus shall you say to David, The king desires not any dowry, but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged of the king's enemies. But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)An hundred foreskins.—Wordsworth’s note here, which he derives from Theodoret, is curious. Foreskins! why not heads? Here is a sign of Saul’s suspicious and malignant spirit. He, judging for himself, impiously suspects that David would go forth and destroy some of the Israelites—Saul’s own subjects—as he himself desired to destroy David, his own deliverer; and the foreskins were required as a proof that they who were killed were not Israelites. Josephus, however, with a strange exaggeration, mentions 600 heads as the price of Michal.1 Samuel 18:25. The king desireth not any dowry — It was customary in those times for the husband to give a present, or, as it is rendered, a dowry, to his father-in-law when he received his wife. But a hundred foreskins of the Philistines — Saul made this demand of David, probably thinking that the necessity he would be under of attacking the Philistines at a disadvantage, or, at all hazards, in order to get the proposed number of foreskins within the time limited, would bring him into such dangerous encounters, as he could scarcely escape from. It is likely that Saul required the foreskins rather than the heads of the Philistines, to take away all possibility of David’s deceiving him, by bringing the heads of such of his own men as might fall in battle, and passing them on him for the heads of the Philistines.1 Samuel 14:6.
a hundred foreskins of the Philistines—Such mutilations on the bodies of their slain enemies were commonly practised in ancient war, and the number told indicated the glory of the victory. Saul's willingness to accept a public service had an air of liberality, while his choice of so difficult and hazardous a service seemed only putting a proper value on gaining the hand of a king's daughter. But he covered unprincipled malice against David under this proposal, which exhibited a zeal for God and the covenant of circumcision.An hundred foreskins: these he desires rather than their heads; partly, for the greater convenience of bringing them, and presenting them before him; partly, to cover his malice against David with a pretence of zeal for God, and for his people, and for the covenant of circumcision; and partly, that the Philistines might be the more enraged against David for this reproachful and barbarous usage of them, and might therefore watch all opportunities to destroy him.
the king desireth not any dowry, but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged of the king's enemies; that is, he required or desired no other dowry of David, but that he would slay an hundred Philistines, and bring their foreskins to him; by which he would be able to know that they were Philistines he slew, not Israelites who were circumcised; though it cannot well be thought that Saul should have any suspicion of that, or take such a method to prevent it; but as those were almost, if not altogether, the only uncircumcised persons that were their neighbours, since the Arabians, Edomites, Midianites, &c. received circumcision from their ancestors, it would be a clear case to him that these were the men he slew; and whom he the rather pitched upon, because they were his enemies, and the enemies of Israel, and abhorred of the Lord; which carried in it a show of zeal for the glory of God, and the good of his people, and because he hoped David would fall by them in the enterprise, or however render himself very odious to them, and they would bear him ill will, and seek his ruin. Strabo (y) reports of the people in Carmania, that no man among them marries a wife before he cuts off the head of an enemy, and brings it to the king; and the king lays up the skulls in a treasury, and he is the most famous that has the most heads brought unto him. Saul chose not heads, but foreskins, for the reasons before given:
but Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines; he hoped in the enterprise the Philistines would be too powerful for him, and kill him.And Saul said, Thus shall ye say to David, The king desireth not any dowry, but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged of the king's enemies. But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
(Note: 1 Samuel 18:17-19 are omitted from the Septuagint version; but they are so, no doubt, only because Saul's first promise was without result so far as David was concerned.)
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