Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
After this. So far is omitted in the Hebrew, &c., but we find it in most editions of the Septuagint and in Josephus. (Calmet) --- Fight. He had threatened an invasion before, and had perhaps (Haydock) attacked some of the tribes on the east side of the Jordan, and treated them with the same cruelty as he intended for those of Jabes, which was a city of the first consequence. (Josephus, [Antiquities?] vi. 5.) --- Naas, "a serpent." There was a king of this country of the same name, in the days of David. The people had been quiet since Jephte had made such havoc among them, about ninety years before. (Judges xi.) (Calmet) --- Covenant. They were willing to pay him tribute. But it seems they had offered him some insult, which made the king resolve to punish them more severely. They make no mention of Saul, as they did not wish to let the king know of his election; (Salien) and perhaps had no great confidence in him, (Haydock) as he was not yet fully confirmed in his dignity, (Calmet) and had let a whole month pass without taking any measures for the deliverance of his country, though it was on that pretext that he was elected. (Haydock) --- They considered what had passed as of no consequence, chap. xii. 12.
Eyes: strange proposal! He would not render them quite blind, that he might not be deprived of their service. But he wished to render them unfit for war, (Calmet) as the buckler covers the left eye; (Josephus) and people who shoot with bow and arrow, keep it closed. (Calmet)
Days. We have examples of similar requests in history. (Grotius, Jur. iii. 23.) See Judith vii. 23.
Of Saul. Septuagint, "to Saul," which may remove the surprise of Abulensis, that the king is not mentioned. (Salien) --- Saul was absent at the time, so that they made known the threatening danger to the people.
Field. So David fed sheep, even after he was anointed king. The ancients had very different sentiments of royalty from what we have. Their kings and great men did not esteem it beneath them to cultivate the earth. Several of them wrote on the subject.Jura dabat populis, posito modo prætor aratro,
Pascebatque suas ipse Senator oves. (Ovid, Fast. i.)
Many of the most eminent Roman generals were taken from the plough. (Calmet) --- Xenophon introduces the younger Cyrus, saying, "Many of these trees were planted with my own hands." (Cicero, Senect. 17.)
Spirit of fortitude, prudence, and zeal. (Haydock)
Oxen, with which he had been ploughing. --- Pieces. Hebrew does not say that he sent them; and Josephus intimates, that he only "hamstrung them, and sent messengers," &c. (Haydock) --- But such actions are far more impressive than words. See Judges xix 29., and Acts xxi. 10., &c. (Calmet) --- Samuel. Saul adds the name of the prophet, as the people had still great confidence in him, and he always acted as God's envoy. (Haydock) --- Oxen. He does not threaten capital punishment, but insinuates that both duty and interest require the presence of all. (Salien) --- Of the Lord; that is, a great fear: (Calmet) or, God moved the people to shew a ready obedience and reverence to their king's commands.
Bezec, where Adonibezec had reigned, (Judges i.; Menochius) near the place where they crossed the Jordan, a little below Scythopolis, to go to Jabes, which was about thirty miles distant. (Calmet) --- Thousand. Josephus makes the army consist of 770,000, who were collected at Bala. Septuagint have 600,000 of Israel; and they agree with this author, in allowing also 70,000 to Juda alone. But this is a larger army than what came out of Egypt, and exceeds the limits of probability, unless all assembled, as the preceding verse seems (Haydock) to insinuate; (Menochius) and we find far greater numbers, 2 Paralipomenon xiii. 3, 17., if no (Haydock) error have there crept in. (Kennicott)
Hot. Josephus says, Saul "being seized with the divine spirit, ordered them to inform the citizens of Jabes, that he would come to their assistance on the third day, and rout the enemy before the sun arose." But the message of which the Scripture here speaks, (Haydock) was sent from Bezec. Saul, in effect, came upon the Ammonites unawares before it was light, gained a complete victory, (Calmet) and then pursued the fugitives till noon.
To you, Naas, (Haydock) which they speak in irony, and that the enemy may be off his guard. (Calmet) --- We must thus deceive our passions, that we may not be blinded (Haydock) or slain by them. (St. Gregory, v. 1. in Reg.) (Worthington)
Camp. It was not then customary to throw up any fortifications, but only to place sentinels in all the avenues. --- Watch, which ended at sunrise. (Calmet)
Them. It seems there were but few discontented persons. (Salien) --- They address themselves to Samuel, who they knew had not regarded their request of a king with approbation, as if to give him a little mortification. But he makes a proposal of confirming the election with still greater solemnity, if they persevered in their resolution, (Haydock) as he intimated they might still recede, (Calmet) and be content with the former mode of government, as being far better. (Haydock)
They made. Septuagint, "and there (again the prophet; Josephus) Samuel anointed Saul king." The same ceremonies as had been used before, except the casting of lots, were here repeated, particularly the solemn anointing, (Salien) whence, in the following chapter, (ver. 3) Saul is styled the anointed. (Menochius) --- The Lord. His ark was probably present, and the priests to offer victims. (Salien, the year of the world 2963)