Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)In Gath . . . in the streets of Askelon.—Two chief cities of the Philistines, poetically put for the whole. In the former David had himself resided (1Samuel 21:10; 1Samuel 27:3-4), and in the latter was a famous temple of Venus, which was doubtless “the house of Ashtaroth” (1Samuel 31:10), where the Philistines put the armour of Saul. “Tell it not in Gath” appears to have become a proverb. (See Micah 1:10.)
Lest the daughters of the Philistines.—It was customary for women to celebrate national deliverances and victories (Exodus 15:21; 1Samuel 18:6). The word uncircumcised might be applied to the heathen generally, but it so happens that, with the exception of Genesis 34:14, it is used in the historical books only of the Philistines (Judges 14:3; Judges 15:18; 1Samuel 14:6; 1Samuel 17:26; 1Samuel 17:36; 1Samuel 31:4; 1Chronicles 10:4).2 Samuel 1:20. Tell it not in Gath, &c. — Such a lamentable misfortune and disgrace, David would, if possible, have concealed from all the enemies of Israel. And he finely insinuates in these words what matter of triumph it would be to the Philistines, and seems scarce able to bear the thought of it, especially as it would be greatly to the dishonour both of God and his people. Lest the daughters, &c. — He mentions these, because it was the custom of women in those times and places to celebrate with triumphal songs and dances those victories which their men obtained.1 Samuel 21:10; 1 Samuel 27:2. Askelon, the chief seat of worship (1 Samuel 31:10 note).
how are the mighty fallen!—This forms the chorus.Tell it not in Gath: this is not a precept, but a poetical wish; whereby he doth not so much desire that this might not be done, which he knew to be vain and impossible; as express his great sorrow because it was and would be done, to the great dishonour of God and of his people. He mentions
the daughters of the Philistines, because it was the custom of women in those times and places to celebrate those victories which their men obtained, with triumphant songs and dances; as Exo 15 Jud 11:34 1 Samuel 18:6.
publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon; another of the principalities of the Philistines, and the sense the same as before:
lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph; it being usual in those times and countries for women, young women more especially, to express their joy, on occasion of victories obtained, by singing and dancing, Judges 11:34.Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)20. Tell it not in Gath, &c.] Gath on account of its political importance, Askelon as a great religious centre, are chosen as representative of the whole country. Gath seems to have had special prominence as the city of Achish; not impossibly the temple of Ashtaroth in which Saul’s armour was deposited was the famous temple of Venus at Askelon. See note on 1 Samuel 31:10. The phrase “Tell it not in Gath” is quoted in Micah 1:10 (E. V. declare), and perhaps passed into a proverb.
Publish it not] Additional force is gained by keeping the usual meaning of the word, publish not the good news (LXX. accurately, μὴ εὐαγγελίσησθε). Of course the words can only be understood as a poetical wish that it were possible for Israel to be spared the degradation of Philistine triumph. The news was carried at once throughout the land (1 Samuel 31:9).
the daughters of the Philistines] Victories were celebrated by the women of the country with public songs and dances. Cp. 1 Samuel 18:6; Exodus 15:20-21.
the uncircumcised] The common epithet for the Philistines, as heathen who had no share in Jehovah’s covenant with Israel. No small part of the bitterness of defeat to a pious heart consisted in the triumph of the heathen over God’s inheritance. Cp. 1 Samuel 14:6.Verse 20. - Gath... Askelon. By thus localizing the triumph, and bringing before the mind the thought of multitudes in these well-known places rejoicing with dance and song over the news of their victory, a more affecting picture is produced by the contrast with Israel's distress than could have been effected by mere generalizations. Probably, too, there was present in David's mind the remembrance of scenes which he had witnessed in these towns. In course of time, "Tell it not in Gath" became a proverb (Micah 1:10). The daughters. It is the custom in the East for the women to celebrate the prowess of the nation's warriors (Exodus 15:20; 1 Samuel 18:6; Psalm 68:11 Revised Version). Uncircumcised. For some unknown reason, this word is used as a term of reproach, especially of the Philistines (1 Samuel 14:6; 1 Samuel 17:26). 2 Samuel 1:15.), passing sentence of death in these words: "Thy blood come upon thy head (cf. Leviticus 20:9; Joshua 2:1;(1); for thy mouth hath testified against thee, saying, I have slain the Lord's anointed."
(Note: "Thy mouth hath testified against thee, and out of it thou art judged (Luke 19:22), whether thou hast done it or not. If thou hast done it, thou receivest the just reward of thy deeds. If thou hast not done it, then throw the blame upon thine own lying testimony, and be content with the wages of a wicked flatterer; for, according to thine own confession, thou art the murderer of a king, and that is quite enough to betray thine evil heart. David could see plainly enough that the man was no murderer: he would show by his example that flatterers who boast of such sins as these should get no hearing from their superiors." - Berleb. Bible.)
David regarded the statement of the Amalekite as a sufficient ground for condemnation, without investigating the truth any further; though it was most probably untrue, as he could see through his design of securing a great reward as due to him for performing such a deed (vid., 2 Samuel 4:10), and looked upon a man who could attribute such an act to himself from mere avarice as perfectly capable of committing it. Moreover, the king's jewels, which he had brought, furnished a practical proof that Saul had really been put to death. This punishment was by no means so severe as to render it necessary to "estimate its morality according to the times," or to defend it merely from the standpoint of political prudence, on the ground that as David was the successor of Saul, and had been pursued by him as his rival with constant suspicion and hatred, he ought not to leave the murder of the king unpunished, if only because the people, or at any rate his own opponents among the people, would accuse him of complicity in the murder of the king, if not of actually instigating the murderer. David would never have allowed such considerations as these to lead him into unjust severity. And his conduct requires no such half vindication. Even on the supposition that Saul had asked the Amalekite to give him his death-thrust, as he said he had, it was a crime deserving of punishment to fulfil this request, the more especially as nothing is said about any such mortal wounding of Saul as rendered his escape or recovery impossible, so that it could be said that it would have been cruel under such circumstances to refuse his request to be put to death. If Saul's life was still "full in him," as the Amalekite stated, his position was not so desperate as to render it inevitable that he should fall into the hands of the Philistines. Moreover, the supposition was a very natural one, that he had slain the king for the sake of a reward. But slaying the king, the anointed of the Lord, was in itself a crime that deserved to be punished with death. What David might more than once have done, but had refrained from doing from holy reverence for the sanctified person of the king, this foreigner, a man belonging to the nation of the Amalekites, Israel's greatest foes, had actually done for the sake of gain, or at any rate pretended to have done. Such a crime must be punished with death, and that by David who had been chosen by God and anointed as Saul's successor, and whom the Amalekite himself acknowledge in that capacity, since otherwise he would not have brought him the news together with the royal diadem.
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