Now the Philistines gathered together all their armies to Aphek: and the Israelites pitched by a fountain which is in Jezreel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Aphek.—The name Aphek was a common one, and was given to several “places of arms” in Canaan. It signifies a fort or a strong place. This Aphek was most likely situated in the Plain of Jezreel. Eusebius places it in the neighbourhood of En-dor.
By a fountain which is in Jezreel.—“By a fountain.” The LXX. wrongly adds “dor,” supposing the spring or fountain to be the well-known En-dor—spring of Dor—but En-dor, we know, lay many miles away from the camp of Saul. This “fountain” has been identified by modern travellers as Ain-Jalûd, the Fountain of Goliath, because it was traditionally regarded as the scene of the old combat with the giant. It is a large spring which flows from under the cavern in the rock which forms the base of Gilboa. “There is every reason to regard this as the ancient fountain of Jezreel, where Saul and Jonathan pitched before their last fatal battle, and where, too, in the days of the Crusades, Saladin and the Christians successively encamped.”—Robinson, Palestine, 3:167, 8.1 Samuel 29:1-2. The Philistines gathered, the Israelites pitched — Or rather, had gathered, had pitched; for we are informed in the foregoing chapter that the Philistines were come to Shunen, and it is probable David’s departure from their army was prior to Saul’s consulting the woman at Endor. The lords of the Philistines passed on by hundreds, &c. — When they took a view of their army, the great men appeared, some at the head of a hundred, some of a thousand soldiers. David and his men passed on with Achish — Who seems to have been the general of the army, and to have made David and his men his life-guard, according to his resolution, chap. 1 Samuel 28:2. From this we may learn how dangerous a thing it is to deviate from truth, and what inconveniences it often brings us into. The pretences which David made to Achish (as related chap. 28.) of his inveteracy to the Israelites, and of the damage he had done them in making incursions upon them, were the inducements that prompted Achish to make David and his men his life-guard; whereby David was brought into the grievous strait of either fighting against his own countrymen, or betraying his benefactor.2 Samuel 8.
1Sa 29:1-5. David Marching with the Philistines to Fight with Israel.
1. Aphek—(Jos 12:8), in the tribe of Issachar, and in the plain of Esdraelon. A person who compares the Bible account of Saul's last battle with the Philistines, with the region around Gilboa, has the same sort of evidence that the account relates what is true, that a person would have that such a battle as Waterloo really took place. Gilboa, Jezreel, Shunem, En-dor, are all found, still bearing the same names. They lie within sight of each other. Aphek is the only one of the cluster not yet identified. Jezreel on the northern slope of Gilboa, and at the distance of twenty minutes to the east, is a large fountain, and a smaller one still nearer; just the position which a chieftain would select, both on account of its elevation and the supply of water needed for his troops [Hackett, Scripture Illustrated].David marching with the Philistines, is disallowed by their princes: Achish pleadeth for him and against his will dismisseth him, 1 Samuel 29:1-7. He expostulateth with Achish, 1 Samuel 29:8, his answer, 1 Samuel 29:9,10. David departeth, 1 Samuel 29:11.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1 Samuel 29:1-5. The Philistine lords’ distrust of David
1. Now the Philistines, &c. The narrative of 1 Samuel 28:1-2 is resumed, with a further description of the positions of the armies before the battle.
Aphek] This cannot be the Aphek of 1 Samuel 4:1, in the neighbourhood of Bethhoron, for in that case there would be no reason to account for Saul’s army being already encamped at Jezreel. Possibly it is to be identified with Fûleh, about two miles to the W. of Shunem: or, as Lieut. Conder thinks, with Fukûa, 6 miles S.E. of Jezreel. In the latter case, the Philistines had shifted their camp from Shunem, and turned the strong position of Jezreel on the side where it is most assailable: but this seems less probable, and does not agree with the account of the flight of the Israelites to Mount Gilboa (1 Samuel 31:1).
a fountain which is in Jezreel] “The fountain in Jezreel” was probably the present Ain Jâlûd, less than two miles E.S.E. of Zerîn. “It is a very large fountain, flowing out from under a sort of cavern in the wall of conglomerate rock, which here forms the base of Gilboa. It spreads out at once into a fine limpid pool, forty or fifty feet in diameter. A stream sufficient to turn a mill flows off eastwards down the valley.” Robinson, Bibl. Res. II. 323. It may have been the identical “spring of Harod” at which Gideon tested his men (Jdg 7:1 ff.). The modern name of Jezreel is Zerîn: the feeble initial j (y) having been dropped, and the termination el changed to în, as in Beitîn for Bethel.
Jezreel was a strong and central position. It stood upon the brow of a steep rocky descent of at least 100 feet to the N.E., at the opening of the middle branch of the three eastern forks of the plain of Esdraelon, commanding the broad and fertile valley which slopes eastward to the Jordan, and all the extent of the great plain reaching westward to the long blue ridge of Carmel. See Robinson, Bibl. Res. II. 318 ff. Jezreel was the favourite residence of Ahab (1 Kings 21:1 ff.); there Jezebel established a temple of Astarte with 400 priests (1 Kings 18:19); here was enacted the tragedy of Naboth’s judicial murder (1 Kings 21:13); and here Jezebel met with her end (2 Kings 9:30 ff.).Verse 1. - The Philistines gathered, etc. The narrative, broken off for the description of Saul's abasement, is again resumed from 1 Samuel 28:1. Aphek. As we saw on 1 Samuel 4:1, this word, signifying a fortress, is a very common name for places. If it was the Aphek in Judah there mentioned, David's dismissal would have taken place near Gath, and so soon after Achish joined the Philistine army. Mr. Conder thinks it was the place represented by the modern village Fuku'a, near Mount Gilboa, in the tribe of Issachar; but as this was distant from Ziklag eighty or ninety miles, it would not have been possible for David to have reached home thence on the third day (1 Samuel 30:1), nor was it probable that his presence with his little army would remain long unnoticed. A fountain which is in Jezreel. Hebrew, "the fountain." Conder says, "Crossing the valley we see before us the site of Jezreel, on a knoll 500 feet high. The position is very peculiar, for whilst on the north and northeast the slopes are steep and rugged, on the south the ascent is very gradual, and the traveller coming northward is astonished to look down suddenly on the valley with its two springs: one, 'Ain Jalud, welling out from a conglomerate cliff, and forming a pool 100 yards long with muddy borders; the other, the Crusaders' fountain of Tubania" ('Tent-Work,' 1:124). The former is the fountain mentioned here; and it is evident that even now Saul had chosen a strong position for his army. The reading of the Septuagint, En-dor instead of "the fountain" (Hebrew, En, or Ain), is indefensible, as the Israelites were many miles to the southward. 1 Samuel 28:14). He "fell straightway (lit. he hastened and fell) upon the ground. For he was greatly terrified at the words of Samuel: there was also no strength in him, because he had eaten no food the whole day and the whole night," sc., from mental perturbation or inward excitement. Terror and bodily exhaustion caused him to fall powerless to the ground.
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