1 Samuel 19:24
And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(24) And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner.—This was certainly not the first time that Saul had experienced a similar influence of the Spirit of God. We are told (1Samuel 10:10) that directly after his anointing by Samuel, he met a company of prophets, who were prophesying at Gibeah, and that “the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.” On that occasion he had been changed into another man. What was the meaning of the outpouring upon the faithless king now? The Chaldee, according to Raschi’s explanation, says he was mad. Is it not, however, better to explain the incident by understanding that once more the pitiful Spirit pleaded with the man whom the Lord had chosen to be His anointed? But, alas! when the moment of strange excitement was over, the blessed pleading was forgotten. Is not this a matter of every-day experience?

And lay down naked.—Not necessarily without any clothes, for under the tunic there was worn by men of the upper ranks certainly a fine-woven shirt of linen or cotton. Lyranus explains the words “stripped off his clothes” as simply denoting that he threw off his upper garment, “his royal robe.”

Is Saul also among the prophets?—The same thing having taken place before (see 1Samuel 10:12), this saying gained currency among the people. There seemed something strange to men in one so self-willed and disobedient as was Saul receiving, as it seemed to the by-standers, the Divine and much coveted gift. “Many,” says St. Augustine, “are the gifts of God which are possessed by evil men. Evil men have often great talents, great skill, great wealth. . . . The gift of prophesy is a great gift, but it was possessed by Saul. Saul, an evil king, prophesied at the very time he was persecuting holy David. Let not, therefore, men boast if they have God’s gifts; those gifts will profit them nothing without charity (1Corinthians 13:1-2). But let them think of the fearful account they must one day give to God, if they use not holy things holily.”—St. Augustine, in Psalms 103, quoted by Wordsworth.

1 Samuel 19:24. And he stripped off his clothes also — His royal robes. Perhaps this was intended to signify the taking away of his kingdom from him; and lay down — Hebrew, fell down, upon the earth; for his mind being in an ecstasy, he had not the use of his senses; God so ordering it, that David might have an opportunity to escape; naked — That is, stripped of his upper garments, as the word naked is often used; and it is here repeated to signify how long he lay in that posture. Day and night — So God kept him as it were in chains, till David was got out of his reach. Is Saul also among the prophets? — The same proverb which was used before is here revived, as an evidence of God’s wonderful care over David; he made Saul, in some sort, a prophet, that he might make David a king.

19:11-24 Michal's stratagem to gain time till David got to a distance was allowable, but her falsehood had not even the plea of necessity to excuse it, and manifests that she was not influenced by the same spirit of piety which had dictated Jonathan's language to Saul. In flying to Samuel, David made God his refuge. Samuel, as a prophet, was best able to advise him what to do in this day of distress. He met with little rest or satisfaction in Saul's court, therefore went to seek it in Samuel's church. What little pleasure is to be had in this world, those have who live a life of communion with God; to that David returned in the time of trouble. So impatient was Saul after David's blood, so restless against him, that although baffled by one providence after another, he could not see that David was under the special protection of God. And when God will take this way to protect David, even Saul prophesies. Many have great gifts, yet no grace; they may prophesy in Christ's name, yet are disowned by him. Let us daily seek for renewing grace, which shall be in us as a well of water springing up into everlasting life. Let us cleave to truth and holiness with full purpose of heart. In every danger and trouble, let us seek protection, comfort, and direction in God's ordinances.Naked - i. e., without his robe and other outer garments, but only the shirt. Compare the marginal references.

The whole history affords another instance of the protection of God vouchsafed to His servants, which forms so frequent a topic of the Psalms of David.

1Sa 19:24. Saul Prophesies.

24. lay down naked—that is, divested of his armor and outer robes—in a state of trance. Thus God, in making the wrath of man to praise Him, preserved the lives of all the prophets, frustrated all the purposes of Saul, and preserved the life of His servant.

His clothes, to wit, his military or royal garments; which he did, either that he might suit himself and his habit to the rest of the company; or because his mind being altogether taken up with Divine things, he did not understand or heed what he did.

Also: this implies that the messengers which he sent, who probably were military persons, had done so before him.

Prophesied before Samuel: this doth not contradict 1 Samuel 15:35, where it is said that Samuel came no more to see Saul; for here Saul goes to Samuel, and that not with design to see him, but to surprise David.

In like manner; as the rest of the prophets there did.

Lay down, Heb. fell, to wit, down upon the earth; for his mind being in an ecstasy, he had not the use of his senses or motion, as he Numbers 24:4; God so ordering it, that David might have an opportunity to escape.

Naked, i.e. stripped of his upper garments, as was said before, and as the word naked is oft used, as Isaiah 20:2 Micah 1:8. See also 2 Samuel 6:20 John 21:7. And it is here repeated to signify how long he lay in that posture.

All that day and all that night; so God kept him as it were in chains, till David was got out of. his reach.

Is Saul also among the prophets? The same proverb which was taken up upon a like occasion, 1 Samuel 10:12, is here remembered and revived upon this new occasion, as an evidence of God’s wonderful care over David; he made Saul in some sort a prophet, that he might make David a king.

And he stripped off his clothes also,.... Not all his clothes, but his upper garments, as men in such circumstances used to do, as the prophets sometimes did, and as it seems his messengers had done; according to Jarchi, R. Isaiah, and others (n), he stripped himself of his royal robes, and put on the habit of the scholars, the disciples, and sons of the prophets:

and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, as the messengers had done, singing such like songs, or foretelling such like things as they did; he and they speaking not of themselves, but as they were moved by the Holy Spirit of prophecy; for such gifts have sometimes been bestowed on men that were destitute of the grace of God, as Balaam, Caiaphas, and others:

and lay down: or "fell down" (o), as persons in an ecstasy or trance: and lay

naked all that day, and all that night; not entirely naked, both without his upper garment or royal robes, or else his armour; so an unarmed man is said to be naked, though otherwise he has his clothes on: thus Gelon having conquered the Carthaginians, and made himself master of all Sicily, went into the forum "naked" (i.e. unarmed), and declared he would restore the government to the citizens, wherefore a naked statue for him was erected in the temple of Juno (p); so Quinctius Cincinnatus was found ploughing naked (q), who cannot be supposed to be without any clothes on him. Jarchi, from Menachem, reports, that he had heard from an Arabian, that the word the Targum makes use of for "naked", signifies, in the Arabic language, one that is furious or mad, as persons in an ecstasy, or under a prophetic spirit, sometimes seemed to be; now Saul was kept and held in such circumstances a whole day and night, that David might have an opportunity of making his escape, and getting at such a distance from him that he could not overtake him:

wherefore they say, is Saul also among the prophets? this became a common saying, a proverbial expression, at least was now revived and observed with admiration; that Saul, who had behaved himself in so ill a manner, as an enemy to so good a man, should be found among the prophets of the Lord, and prophesying as they did.

(n) Vid. Hieron. Trad. Heb. in lib. Reg. fol. 76. G. (o) "et cecidit", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, "et corruit", Vatablus. (p) Aelian. Var. Hist. l. 6. c. 11. (q) Aurel. Victor. de Vir. Illustr. c. 20.

And he stripped off his {l} clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay {m} down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?

(l) His kingly apparel.

(m) He humbled himself as others did.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
24. naked] Not literally naked, but stripped of his outer garment.

Is Saul also among the prophets?] The origin of the proverb is related in 1 Samuel 10:11. It now received a fresh exemplification. This burst of prophetic inspiration was a startling reminder to Saul of that former occasion when the Spirit of God came upon him to fit him for that office in which he had failed so sadly. See Maurice, Prophets and Kings, p. 17 ff.

1 Samuel 19:24Saul then set out to Ramah himself, and inquired, as soon as he had arrived at the great pit at Sechu (a place near Ramah with which we are not acquainted), where Samuel and David were, and went, according to the answer he received, to the Naioth at Ramah. There the Spirit of God came upon him also, so that he went along prophesying, until he came to the Naioth at Ramah; and there he even took off his clothes, and prophesied before Samuel, and lay there naked all that day, and the whole night as well. ערום, γυμνός, does not always signify complete nudity, but is also applied to a person with his upper garment off (cf. Isaiah 20:2; Micah 1:8; John 21:7). From the repeated expression "he also," in 1 Samuel 19:23, 1 Samuel 19:24, it is not only evident that Saul came into an ecstatic condition of prophesying as well as his servants, but that the prophets themselves, and not merely the servants, took off their clothes like Saul when they prophesied. It is only in the case of ערם ויּפּל that the expression "he also" is not repeated; from which we must infer, that Saul alone lay there the whole day and night with his clothes off, and in an ecstatic state of external unconsciousness; whereas the ecstasy of his servants and the prophets lasted only a short time, and the clear self-consciousness returned earlier than with Saul. This different is not without significance in relation to the true explanation of the whole affair. Saul had experienced a similar influence of the Spirit of God before, namely, immediately after his anointing by Samuel, when he met a company of prophets who were prophesying at Gibeah, and he had been thereby changed into another man (1 Samuel 10:6.). This miraculous seizure by the Spirit of God was repeated again here, when he came near to the seat of the prophets; and it also affected the servants whom he had sent to apprehend David, so that Saul was obliged to relinquish the attempt to seize him. This result, however, we cannot regard as the principal object of the whole occurrence, as Vatablus does when he says, "The spirit of prophecy came into Saul, that David might the more easily escape from his power." Calvin's remarks go much deeper into the meaning: "God," he says, "changed their (the messengers') thoughts and purpose, not only so that they failed to apprehend David according to the royal command, but so that they actually became the companions of the prophets. And God effected this, that the fact itself might show how He holds the hearts of men in His hand and power, and turns and moves them according to His will." Even this, however, does not bring out the full meaning of the miracle, and more especially fails to explain why the same thing should have happened to Saul in an intensified degree. Upon this point Calvin simply observes, that "Saul ought indeed to have been strongly moved by these things, and to have discerned the impossibility of his accomplishing anything by fighting against the Lord; but he was so hardened that he did not perceive the hand of God: for he hastened to Naioth himself, when he found that his servants mocked him;" and in this proceeding on Saul's part he discovers a sign of his increasing hardness of heart. Saul and his messengers, the zealous performers of his will, ought no doubt to have learned, from what happened to them in the presence of the prophets, that God had the hearts of men in His power, and guided them at His will; but they were also to be seized by the might of the Spirit of God, which worked in the prophets, and thus brought to the consciousness, that Saul's raging against David was fighting against Jehovah and His Spirit, and so to be led to give up the evil thoughts of their heart. Saul was seized by this mighty influence of the Spirit of God in a more powerful manner than his servants were, both because he had most obstinately resisted the leadings of divine grace, and also in order that, if it were possible, his hard heart might be broken and subdued by the power of grace. If, however, he should nevertheless continue obstinately in his rebellion against God, he would then fall under the judgment of hardening, which would be speedily followed by his destruction. This new occurrence in Saul's life occasioned a renewal of the proverb: "Is Saul also among the prophets?" The words "wherefore they say" do not imply that the proverb was first used at this time, but only that it received a new exemplification and basis in the new event in Saul's experience. The origin of it has been already mentioned in 1 Samuel 10:12, and the meaning of it was there explained.

This account is also worthy of note, as having an important bearing upon the so-called Schools of the Prophets in the time of Samuel, to which, however, we have only casual allusions. From the passage before us we learn that there was a company of prophets at Ramah, under the superintendence of Samuel, whose members lived in a common building (נוית), and that Samuel had his own house at Ramah (1 Samuel 7:17), though he sometimes lived in the Naioth (cf. 1 Samuel 19:18.). The origin and history of these schools are involved in obscurity. If we bear in mind, that, according to 1 Samuel 3:1, before the call of Samuel as prophet, the prophetic word was very rare in Israel, and prophecy was not widely spread, there can be no doubt that these unions of prophets arose in the time of Samuel, and were called into existence by him. The only uncertainty is whether there were other such unions in different parts of the land beside the one at Ramah. In 1 Samuel 10:5, 1 Samuel 10:10, we find a band of prophesying prophets at Gibeah, coming down from the sacrificial height there, and going to meet Saul; but it is not stated there that this company had its seat at Gibeah, although it may be inferred as probable, from the name "Gibeah of God" (see the commentary on 1 Samuel 10:5-6). No further mention is made of these in the time of Samuel; nor do we meet with them again till the times of Elijah and Elisha, when we find them, under the name of sons of the prophets (1 Kings 20:35), living in considerable numbers at Gilgal, Bethel, and Jericho (vid., 2 Kings 4:38; 2 Kings 2:3, 2 Kings 2:5,2 Kings 2:7, 2 Kings 2:15; 2 Kings 4:1; 2 Kings 6:1; 2 Kings 9:1). According to 2 Kings 4:38, 2 Kings 4:42-43, about a hundred sons of the prophets sat before Elisha at Gilgal, and took their meals together. The number at Jericho may have been quite as great; for fifty men of the sons of the prophets went with Elijah and Elisha to the Jordan (comp. 2 Kings 2:7 with 2 Kings 2:16, 2 Kings 2:17). These passages render it very probable that the sons of the prophets also lived in a common house. And this conjecture is raised into a certainty by 2 Kings 6:1. In this passage, for example, they are represented as saying to Elisha: "The place where we sit before thee is too strait for us; let us go to the Jordan, and let each one fetch thence a beam, and build ourselves a place to dwell in there." It is true that we might, if necessary, supply לפניך from 2 Kings 6:1, after שׁם לשׁבת, "to sit before thee," and so understand the words as merely referring to the erection of a more commodious place of meeting. But if they built it by the Jordan, we can hardly imagine that it was merely to serve as a place of meeting, to which they would have to make pilgrimages from a distance, but can only assume that they intended to live there, and assemble together under the superintendence of a prophet. In all probability, however, only such as were unmarried lived in a common building. Many of them were married, and therefore most likely lived in houses of their own (2 Kings 4:1.). We may also certainly assume the same with reference to the unions of prophets in the time of Samuel, even if it is impossible to prove that these unions continued uninterruptedly from the time of Samuel down to the times of Elijah and Elisha. Oehler argues in support of this, "that the historical connection, which can be traced in the influence of prophecy from the time of Samuel forwards, may be most easily explained from the uninterrupted continuance of these supports; and also that the large number of prophets, who must have been already there according to 1 Kings 18:13 when Elijah first appeared, points to the existence of such unions as these." But the historical connection in the influence of prophecy, or, in other words, the uninterrupted succession of prophets, was also to be found in the kingdom of Judah both before and after the times of Elijah and Elisha, and down to the Babylonian captivity, without our discovering the slightest trace of any schools of the prophets in that kingdom.

All that can be inferred from 1 Kings 18 is, that the large number of prophets mentioned there (1 Kings 18:4 and 1 Kings 18:13) were living in the time of Elijah, but not that they were there when he first appeared. The first mission of Elijah to king Ahab (1 Kings 17) took place about three years before the events described in 1 Kings 18, and even this first appearance of the prophet in the presence of the king is not to be regarded as the commencement of his prophetic labours. How long Elijah had laboured before he announced to Ahab the judgment of three years' drought, cannot indeed be decided; but if we consider that he received instructions to call Elisha to be his assistant and successor not very long after this period of judgment had expired (1 Kings 19:16.), we may certainly assume that he had laboured in Israel for many years, and may therefore have founded unions of the prophets. In addition, however, to the absence of any allusion to the continuance of these schools of the prophets, there is another thing which seems to preclude the idea that they were perpetuated from the time of Samuel to that of Elijah, viz., the fact that the schools which existed under Elijah and Elisha were only to be found in the kingdom of the ten tribes, and never in that of Judah, where we should certainly expect to find them if they had been handed down from Samuel's time. Moreover, Oehler also acknowledges that "the design of the schools of the prophets, and apparently their constitution, were not the same under Samuel as in the time of Elijah." This is confirmed by the fact, that the members of the prophets' unions which arose under Samuel are never called "sons of the prophets," as those who were under the superintendence of Elijah and Elisha invariably are (see the passages quoted above). Does not this peculiar epithet seem to indicate, that the "sons of the prophets" stood in a much more intimate relation to Elijah and Elisha, as their spiritual fathers, than the הנּביאים חבל or הנּביאים להקת did to Samuel as their president? (1 Samuel 19:20.) הנּביאים בּני does not mean filii prophetae, i.e., sons who are prophets, as some maintain, though without being able to show that בּני is ever used in this sense, but filii prophetarum, disciples or scholars of the prophets, from which it is very evident that these sons of the prophets stood in a relation of dependence to the prophets (Elijah and Elisha), i.e., of subordination to them, and followed their instructions and admonitions. They received commissions from them, and carried them out (vid., 2 Kings 9:1). On the other hand, the expressions חבל and להקה simply point to combinations for common working under the presidency of Samuel, although the words עליהם נצּב certainly show that the direction of these unions, and probably the first impulse to form them, proceeded from Samuel, so that we might also call these societies schools of the prophets.

The opinions entertained with regard to the nature of these unions, and their importance in relation to the development of the kingdom of God in Israel, differ very widely from one another. Whilst some of the fathers (Jerome for example) looked upon them as an Old Testament order of monks; others, such as Tennemann, Meiners, and Winer, compare them to the Pythagorean societies. Kranichfeld supposes that they were free associations, and chose a distinguished prophet like Samuel as their president, in order that they might be able to cement their union the more firmly through his influence, and carry out their vocation with the greater success.

(Note: Compare Jerome (Epist. iv. ad Rustic. Monach. c. 7): "The sons of the prophets, whom we call the monks of the Old Testament, built themselves cells near the streams of the Jordan, and, forsaking the crowded cities, lived on meal and wild herbs." Compare with this his Epist. xiii. ad Paulin, c. 5.)

The truth lies between these two extremes. The latter view, which precludes almost every relation of dependence and community, is not reconcilable with the name "sons of the prophets," or with 1 Samuel 19:20, where Samuel is said to have stood at the head of the prophesying prophets as עליהם נצּב, and has no support whatever in the Scriptures, but is simply founded upon the views of modern times and our ideas of liberty and equality. The prophets' unions had indeed so far a certain resemblance to the monastic orders of the early church, that the members lived together in the same buildings, and performed certain sacred duties in common; but if we look into the aim and purpose of monasticism, they were the very opposite of those of the prophetic life. The prophets did not wish to withdraw from the tumult of the world into solitude, for the purpose of carrying on a contemplative life of holiness in this retirement from the earthly life and its affairs; but their unions were associations formed for the purpose of mental and spiritual training, that they might exert a more powerful influence upon their contemporaries. They were called into existence by chosen instruments of the Lord, such as Samuel, Elijah, and Elisha, whom the Lord had called to be His prophets, and endowed with a peculiar measure of His Spirit for this particular calling, that they might check the decline of religious life in the nation, and bring back the rebellious "to the law and the testimony." Societies which follow this as their purpose in life, so long as they do not lose sight of it, will only separate and cut themselves off from the external world, so far as the world itself opposes them, and pursues them with hostility and persecution. The name "schools of the prophets" is the one which expresses most fully the character of these associations; only we must not think of them as merely educational institutions, in which the pupils of the prophets received instruction in prophesying or in theological studies.

(Note: Thus the Rabbins regarded them as מדרשׁ בּתּי; and the earlier theologians as colleges, in which, as Vitringa expresses it, "philosophers, or if you please theologians, and candidates or students of theology, assembled for the purpose of devoting themselves assiduously to the study of divinity under the guidance of some one who was well skilled as a teacher;" whilst others regarded them as schools for the training of teachers for the people, and leaders in the worship of God. The English Deists - Morgan for example - regarded them as seats of scientific learning, in which the study of history, rhetoric, poetry, natural science, and moral philosophy was carried on.)

We are not in possession indeed of any minute information concerning their constitution. Prophesying could neither be taught nor communicated by instruction, but was a gift of God which He communicated according to His free will to whomsoever He would. But the communication of this divine gift was by no means an arbitrary thing, but presupposed such a mental and spiritual disposition on the part of the recipient as fitted him to receive it; whilst the exercise of the gift required a thorough acquaintance with the law and the earlier revelations of God, which the schools of the prophets were well adapted to promote. It is therefore justly and generally assumed, that the study of the law and of the history of the divine guidance of Israel formed a leading feature in the occupations of the pupils of the prophets, which also included the cultivation of sacred poetry and music, and united exercises for the promotion of the prophetic inspiration. That the study of the earlier revelations of God was carried on, may be very safely inferred from the fact that from the time of Samuel downwards the writing of sacred history formed an essential part of the prophet's labours, as has been already observed at pp. 8, 9 (translation). The cultivation of sacred music and poetry may be inferred partly from the fact that, according to 1 Samuel 10:5, musicians walked in front of the prophesying prophets, playing as they went along, and partly also from the fact that sacred music not only received a fresh impulse from David, who stood in a close relation to the association of prophets at Ramah, but was also raised by him into an integral part of public worship. At the same time, music was by no means cultivated merely that the sons of the prophets might employ it in connection with their discourses, but also as means of awakening holy susceptibilities and emotions in the soul, and of lifting up the spirit of God, and so preparing it for the reception of divine revelations (see at 2 Kings 3:15). And lastly, we must include among the spiritual exercises prophesying in companies, as at Gibeah (1 Samuel 10:5) and Ramah (1 Samuel 19:20).

The outward occasion for the formation of these communities we have to seek for partly in the creative spirit of the prophets Samuel and Elijah, and partly in the circumstances of the times in which they lived. The time of Samuel forms a turning-point in the development of the Old Testament kingdom of God. Shortly after the call of Samuel the judgment fell upon the sanctuary, which had been profaned by the shameful conduct of the priests: the tabernacle lost the ark of the covenant, and ceased in consequence to be the scene of the gracious presence of God in Israel. Thus the task fell upon Samuel, as prophet of the Lord, to found a new house for that religious life which he had kindled, by collecting together into closer communities, those who had been awakened by his word, not only for the promotion of their own faith under his direction, but also for joining with him in the spread of the fear of God and obedience to the law of the Lord among their contemporaries. But just as, in the time of Samuel, it was the fall of the legal sanctuary and priesthood which created the necessity for the founding of schools of the prophets; so in the times of Elijah and Elisha, and in the kingdom of the ten tribes, it was the utter absence of any sanctuary of Jehovah which led these prophets to found societies of prophets, and so furnish the worshippers of Jehovah, who would not bend their knees to Baal, with places and means of edification, as a substitute for what the righteous in the kingdom of Judah possessed in the temple and the Levitical priesthood. But the reasons for the establishment of prophets' schools were not to be found merely in the circumstances of the times. There was a higher reason still, which must not be overlooked in our examination of these unions, and their importance in relation to the theocracy. We may learn from the fact that the disciples of the prophets who were associated together under Samuel are found prophesying (1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 19:20), that they were also seized by the Spirit of God, and that the Divine Spirit which moved them exerted a powerful influence upon all who came into contact with them. Consequently the founding of associations of prophets is to be regarded as an operation of divine grace, which is generally manifested with all the greater might where sin most mightily abounds. As the Lord raised up prophets for His people at the times when apostasy had become great and strong, that they might resist idolatry with almighty power; so did He also create for himself organs of His Spirit in the schools of the prophets, who united with their spiritual fathers in fighting for His honour. It was by no means an accidental circumstance, therefore, that these unions are only met with in the times of Samuel and of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. These times resembled one another in the fact, that in both of them idolatry had gained the upper hand; though, at the same time, there were some respects in which they differed essentially from one another. In the time of Samuel the people did not manifest the same hostility to the prophets as in the time of Elijah. Samuel stood at the head of the nation as judge even during the reign of Saul; and after the rejection of the latter, he still stood so high in authority and esteem, that Saul never ventured to attack the prophets even in his madness. Elijah and Elisha, on the other hand, stood opposed to a royal house which was bent upon making the worship of Baal the leading religion of the kingdom; and they had to contend against priest of calves and prophets of Baal, who could only be compelled by hard strokes to acknowledge the Lord of Sabaoth and His prophets. In the case of the former, what had to be done was to bring the nation to a recognition of its apostasy, to foster the new life which was just awakening, and to remove whatever hindrances might be placed in its way by the monarchy. In the time of the latter, on the contrary, what was needed was "a compact phalanx to stand against the corruption which had penetrated so deeply into the nation." These differences in the times would certainly not be without their influence upon the constitution and operations of the schools of the prophets.

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