1 Samuel 28:5
And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled.
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(5) He was afraid.—There is no doubt that Saul was discouraged when he viewed the enemy’s ranks from the eminence of Gilboa. They were far more numerous than he had expected. But the real reason of his trembling must be looked for in the consciousness that God had forsaken him. Many of the well-known Israelite warriors had, during the late events, taken service with his dreaded rival, David, and David, he knew, was now the vassal of Achish, a Philistine king. We may imagine Saul, the forsaken of God, as be stood on the white chalk hill of Gilboa, gazing on the long lines of Philistine tents pitched on the opposite hill of Shunem, wondering if his old friend was there, with his mighty following, in the division of Gath.

1 Samuel 28:5. His heart greatly trembled — When he saw their numbers, their orders, and their appointments, he judged himself to be greatly overpowered, and fell into great terror upon the prospect. Had he kept close to God he needed not to have feared all the armies of the Philistines.28:1-6 David could not refuse Achish without danger. If he promised assistance, and then stood neuter, or went over to the Israelites, he would behave with ingratitude and treachery. If he fought against Israel, he would sin greatly. It seemed impossible that he should get out of this difficulty with a clear conscience; but his evasive answer, intended to gain time, was not consistent with the character of an Israelite indeed. Troubles are terrors to the children of disobedience. In his distress, Saul inquired of the Lord. He did not seek in faith, but with a double, unstable mind. Saul had put the law in force against those that had familiar spirits, Ex 22:18. Many seem zealous against, sin, when they are any way hurt by it, who have no concern for the glory of God, nor any dislike of sin as sin. Many seem enemies to sin in others, while they indulge it in themselves. Saul will drive the devil out of his kingdom, yet harbours him in his heart by envy and malice. How foolish to consult those whom, according to God's law, he had endeavoured to root out!Gilboa - Now called Jebel Fukuak. But the ancient name is preserved in the village of Jelbon, situated on the south side of the mountain. It was separated from Shunem (see the marginal reference) by the deep valley of Jezreel. The Philistines either advanced along the seacoast, and then entered the valley of Jezreel from the west, or they came by the present road right through Samaria, starting from Aphek 1 Samuel 29:1. 4. the Philistines … pitched in Shunem—Having collected their forces for a last grand effort, they marched up from the seacoast and encamped in the "valley of Jezreel." The spot on which their encampment was fixed was Shunem (Jos 19:18), now Sulem, a village which still exists on the slope of a range called "Little Hermon." On the opposite side, on the rise of Mount Gilboa, hard by "the spring of Jezreel," was Saul's army—the Israelites, according to their wont, keeping to the heights, while their enemies clung to the plain. Saul saw the host from Mount Gilboa, 1 Samuel 31:1.

His heart greatly trembled; partly, from the greatness and resoluteness of the host of the Philistines, who were the aggressors; partly, from the loss of David, who might have been of great use to him at this time; partly, from the conscience of his own manifest guilt, and just expectation of Divine vengeance oft threatened, and now in all likelihood to be inflicted upon him. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines,.... From the mountains of Gilboa, where he had pitched his camp:

he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled; on sight of the numbers of them, and thinking perhaps of the death of Samuel, and of the loss of David; who was now among the Philistines, and might possibly fight against him, and for the Philistines, of which he might be informed; however, he was not with him, and his conscience might accuse him of various sins he had been guilty of, for which he might fear the Lord would now reckon with him.

And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled.
5. he was afraid] The consciousness that “the Spirit of Jehovah had departed from him” made the once brave king a coward.Verses 5, 6. - When Saul saw, etc. It is plain from this that the Philistines had not forced their way up through the Israelite territory; for this was evidently Saul's first sight of their forces, and his alarm was caused by finding them so much larger than he had expected. He therefore in his anxiety enquired of Jehovah, but received no answer, neither by dreams. He had expected these to be vouchsafed, possibly to himself, but more probably to some class of prophets (see Jeremiah 23:25, where false prophets claim to have dreamed, in imitation no doubt of true prophets); but though dreams were thus recognised as a means for communicating God's will to man, yet, as Erdmann well remarks, "a subordinate position is certainly assigned in the Old Testament to the dream as the medium of the Divine influence on the inner life, which in sleep sinks into a state of passiveness." Nor by Urim. Though Abiathar after the massacre of his family had fled to David with the ephod, it is quite possible that Saul may have had another ephod made, and have set up a fresh sanctuary, perhaps at Gibeon, with Zadok, of the family of Eleazar, as high priest. This would account for Zadok being joined with Ahimelech, the son of Abiathar, as one of two high priests early in David's reign (2 Samuel 8:17). It is remarkable, however, that Saul does not mention the Urim himself in ver. 15, and very probably it is named here not because the ephod was actually used, but as enumerating all the various ways by which men inquired of Jehovah. Nor by prophets. In his dee spair Saul may have turned to some reputed soothsayer present with the host, but his wilful life had alienated both priest and prophet from him. And this is the meaning of the passage in 1 Chronicles 10:14: "Saul enquired not of Jehovah; therefore he slew him." He may have gone through the form of inquiring, and certainly now would have been glad of an answer, but his whole mind was determinately set upon carrying out his own purposes, and he would never permit, after the first year or two of his reign, the royal prerogative to bend to the will of God. Achish said, "Ye have not made an invasion to-day, have ye?" אל, like μὴ, is an interrogative sense; the ה has dropped out: vid., Ewald, 324, b. David replied, "Against the south of Judah, and the south of the Jerahmeelites, and into the south of the Kenites," sc., we have made an incursion. This reply shows that the Geshurites, Gerzites, and Amalekites dwelt close to the southern boundary of Judah, so that David was able to represent the march against these tribes to Achish as a march against the south of Judah, to make him believe that he had been making an attack upon the southern territory of Judah and its dependencies. The Negeb of Judah is the land between the mountains of Judah and the desert of Arabia (see at Joshua 15:21). The Jerahmeelites are the descendants of Jerahmeel, the first-born of Hezron (1 Chronicles 2:9, 1 Chronicles 2:25-26), and therefore one of the three large families of Judah who sprang from Hezron. They probably dwelt on the southern frontier of the tribe of Judah (vid., 1 Samuel 30:29). The Kenites were protgs of Judah (see at 1 Samuel 15:6, and Judges 1:16). In 1 Samuel 27:11 the writer introduces the remark, that in his raid David left neither man nor woman of his enemies alive, to take them to Gath, because he thought "they might report against us, and say, Thus hath David done." There ought to be a major point under דּוד עשׂה, as the following clause does not contain the words of the slaughtered enemies, but is a clause appended by the historian himself, to the effect that David continued to act in that manner as long as he dwelt in the land of the Philistines. משׁפּט, the mode of procedure; lit. the right which he exercised (see 1 Samuel 8:9).
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