Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel,
Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel; whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin: and the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent.
And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear.1 Samuel 13:3-4. Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines — The Philistines, though subdued by Samuel at Eben-ezer, and driven out of the country, yet still retained possession of some strong-holds. Saul blew the trumpet — That is, he sent messengers to tell them all what Jonathan had done, and how the Philistines were enraged at it, and therefore what necessity there was of gathering themselves together for their own defence. Israel heard that Saul had smitten, &c. — Perhaps contrary to some treaty. That Israel was held in abomination with the Philistines — That is, that they were highly incensed to take revenge.
And all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines, and that Israel also was had in abomination with the Philistines. And the people were called together after Saul to Gilgal.
And the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude: and they came up, and pitched in Michmash, eastward from Bethaven.1 Samuel 13:5. Thirty thousand chariots — The Syriac and Arabic copies mention only three thousand chariots, which seems to be the true reading; for there is no foundation for believing that the Philistines could bring into the field thirty thousand chariots of war. Indeed we read of nothing like it in all history. Or, we may suppose that most of them were but carriages for the baggage of the army.
When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for the people were distressed,) then the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits.1 Samuel 13:6. Israel saw that they were in a strait — Though their wonderful success against the Ammonites had encouraged them to obey the summons of such a prosperous leader as Saul had been; yet when they saw the vast army of the Philistines, how well they were appointed, and themselves unprovided, their hearts failed them, and they slunk away from him as fast as they had flocked to him. The people were distressed — Notwithstanding their former presumption, that if they had a king they would be free from all such difficulties and distresses. Hereby God intended to teach them the vanity of confidence in men; and that they did not one jot less need his help now than they did when they had no king. And probably they were the more discouraged, because they did not find Samuel with Saul. Sooner or later men will be made to see that God and his prophets are their best friends.
And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.1 Samuel 13:7-8. Some of the Hebrews went over Jordan — They fled as far as they could from the present danger, even into the country of the two tribes and a half. All the people followed him trembling — That is, all that were left, who, it appears, were not many. He tarried seven days — Not seven complete days, for the last day was not finished. According to the set time that Samuel had appointed — This seems to refer to the command given two years before, and recorded 1 Samuel 10:8 : see the note on that verse. But Samuel came not to Gilgal — So soon as Saul expected him.
And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him.
And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering.
And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him.
And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash;1 Samuel 13:11-12. I saw that thou camest not — When the seventh day was come, and a good part of it was past, I concluded thou wouldst not come that day. I have not made supplication — Hence it appears that sacrifices were accompanied with solemn prayers. I forced myself — I did it against my own mind and inclination: I offered a burnt-offering lest my enemies should attack me before I had commended myself and my cause to God, and entreated his aid and blessing.
Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.
And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.1 Samuel 13:13. The Lord would have established thy kingdom for ever — The phrase, for ever, in Scripture, often signifies only a long time. And this declaration would have been abundantly verified, if the kingdom had been enjoyed by Saul, and by his son, and by his son’s son; after whom the kingdom might have come to Judah.
But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.1 Samuel 13:14. A man after his own heart — That is, such a man as will fulfil all the desires of his heart, and not oppose, them as thou dost. The Lord hath commanded — That is, hath appointed, as the word commanded is often used. But although God threatened Saul with the loss of his kingdom for his sin, yet, it is not improbable, there was a tacit condition implied, namely, if he did not repent of this, and of all his sins; for the full, and final, and peremptory sentence of Saul’s rejection is plainly ascribed to another cause, 1 Samuel 15:11; 1 Samuel 15:23-29; and, till that second offence, neither the Spirit of the Lord departed from him, nor was David anointed in his stead. But, “was not this a severe sentence now passed on Saul? Was it not hard to punish so little a sin with the loss of his kingdom?” Not to mention that no sin is little, because God, against whom all sin is committed, is a being of infinite majesty; and not to insist that what to men seems a small offence, to him, who knows the heart, may appear a heinous crime; this sin of Saul certainly can in no point of view be thought little, being an act of manifest disobedience to a known and express command of God; and disobedience to God, though in a small matter, is a great provocation. “Samuel expressly says, Thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee. What was this commandment? Why, not only to wait seven days till Samuel came to assist at the sacrifice, but to receive God’s direction, by the prophet, what he should do, or what measures he was to take upon the invasion of the Philistines, and not to act in so critical a conjuncture without his orders. Saul, under a pretence of piety, and making supplication to the Lord, absolutely contradicts the command, thinks himself above waiting for the prophet, takes upon himself the ordinance of an affair that no way belonged to him; and, as though God’s direction by the prophet was of no consequence to him, resolves to act for himself, and deal with the Philistines as well as he could. Let any inferior prince thus violate the orders of his sovereign, and act in any affair of importance directly contrary to his instructions and duty, and no one will scruple to pronounce him guilty of rebellion, or think he was too hardly treated by being removed from his dignity and government.” — Dodd and Chandler.
And Samuel arose, and gat him up from Gilgal unto Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people that were present with him, about six hundred men.1 Samuel 13:15-17. Saul numbered the people, about six hundred men — A strange alteration since the last year, when, going out against the Ammonites, he had three hundred thousand with him, besides those of Judah, chap. 1 Samuel 11:6. Saul, and the people, abode in Gibeah — This was a strong place, in which they could defend themselves better than in the open field. The spoilers came out, in three companies — The Philistines sent out parties three several ways, to ravage the country, there being none to oppose them. This, we find from sundry instances, was the method which the enemies of Israel usually took to distress them.
And Saul, and Jonathan his son, and the people that were present with them, abode in Gibeah of Benjamin: but the Philistines encamped in Michmash.
And the spoilers came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies: one company turned unto the way that leadeth to Ophrah, unto the land of Shual:
And another company turned the way to Bethhoron: and another company turned to the way of the border that looketh to the valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness.
Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears:1 Samuel 13:19. There was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel — To this miserable condition the Philistines had reduced them during the forty years’ tyranny which they exercised over them, as we read Jdg 13:1. But after Samuel had put an end to that tyranny, by the great overthrow which he gave the Philistines at Eben-ezer, it seems something strange they had not restored their artificers. But the sloth of the Israelites appears in their whole story: and it was not easy, in so short a time, for men to learn this trade, which the Philistines wisely destroyed, as the Chaldeans, when they took Jerusalem, carried away all the smiths to Babylon, that they who remained in the land might not arm themselves again, 2 Kings 24:14.
But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock.1 Samuel 13:20-21. The Israelites went down to the Philistines — Not to the country of the Philistines, for that was too far from many parts of the land of Israel; but to their garrisons, which they held among them even after Samuel had driven the main body of them out of the country. In these, it seems, the Philistines kept all the smiths, and there they allowed them to exercise their art for the uses following. Yet they had a file, &c. — They were allowed some proper instruments and tools for sharpening their implements of husbandry, in some degree; but no other.
Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads.
So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan: but with Saul and with Jonathan his son was there found.1 Samuel 13:22. There was neither sword nor spear — This, it seems, must be restrained to the six hundred that were with Saul and Jonathan; for there were, no doubt, a considerable number of swords and spears among the Israelites, but they generally hid them, as now they did their persons, from the Philistines. And the Philistines had not yet attained to so great a power over them as wholly to disarm them, but thought it sufficient to prevent the making of new arms, knowing that the old ones would shortly be decayed and useless. There were likewise other arms more common in those times and places than swords and spears; to wit, bows and arrows, and slings and stones. And besides these, people anciently often used clubs, wherewith to beat down their enemies; and, before the invention of spears with iron points, they had sharp stakes hardened in the fire, as many authors inform us.
And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the passage of Michmash.1 Samuel 13:23. And the garrison of the Philistines went out — This probably refers to the garrison mentioned in the beginning of the next chapter. And Michmash seems to have been the name of the garrison, not of the passage: as if it had been said, The garrison of the Philistines in Michmash went out to the passage. For Michmash, it appears, was upon a high hill, as Gibeah was, between which places was a valley, called here a passage, into which the garrison descended to invite the Israelites to battle.