Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
In Gabaa. That is, on the hill, for Gabaa signifieth a hill. (Challoner) (1 Paralipomenon xiii. 6.) --- It was perhaps the citadel, (Haydock) or an elevated situation, such as were generally chosen for the temples both of the true and of false gods. (Calmet) --- Abinadab was a Levite of renowned virtue. (Menochius) --- The people of this city knew that the ark was a source of blessings to those who received it with respect; and, that the Bethsamites had been punished only for their irreverence. (Worthington) --- Samuel was first consulted before the people, in a body, undertook to remove the ark; and here he was probably recognized for the judge of Israel, in which character he henceforward appears, exhorting all to obey the Lord with sincerity. He appoints a general assembly at Masphath, to enter into a solemn covenant with the Lord, and to adopt means for recovering their liberty. We have only a very concise account of these important transactions, owing to the modesty of the author, which the Holy Spirit would teach us to imitate. (Calmet) --- Sanctified. Chaldean, "set over," (Menochius) prepared by suitable purifications, &c. (Calmet) --- Some think, that Eleazar received the priestly or the Levitical consecration, Numbers viii. 7. We have no proof that he was of the family of Aaron, nor does his name occur in the genealogies of the Levites, as they are perhaps too short. Josephus ([Antiquities?] vi. 2.) asserts that he was a Levite. (Calmet) --- But even a laic, like Obededon of Geth, might have been the guardian of the ark, as he would not have to touch it. (Salien, the year before Christ 1112) --- Eleazar had two brothers, who acted in the same capacity when David intended to remove the ark to Sion. At that time he was perhaps dead, or decrepit, as his father might be on this occasion. (Haydock) --- It is not improbable but they were of the race of Aaron. (Tirinus)
Year. Some would date all the subsequent events from this period. But is it credible that Samuel should neglect for twenty years to make this exhortation to the people? and how will it be true, that God humbled the Philistines during the whole time (Calmet) of his administration, which perhaps (Haydock) only lasted so many years? (ver. 13.) (Calmet) --- It is more probable, therefore, that the power of the enemy was broken by the destruction caused by the presence of the ark, which kept them under due restraint for along time; and when they attempted, once more, to molest the Israelites, they were entirely discomfited by a miraculous storm, at the prayer of Samuel, ver. 10. Salien (the year of the world 2960) allows, that this took place in the twentieth year since the ark came to Cariathiarim, in which year Samuel appointed his children judges at Bersabee, though he continued to act, and was judge for twenty-three years, (some say thirty-eight) and even under the reign of Saul had almost an absolute sway, as the prophet of the Lord. (Haydock) --- Rested: continued steadfast, (Santius) "cried unto," (Pagnin) "Looked (Haydock) or returned," Septuagint. "Lamented after the Lord," Hebrew. (Menochius) --- They were not soon induced to break this solemn covenant, Isaias vii. 2. (Tirinus)
Saying. When the ark was translated, (Calmet) and on many other occasions, this was the theme of his discourse to the Israelites, pressing them to cease from doing evil, and to perform good works. (Haydock) --- Thus he preached every year in the different cities, ver. 16. (Lyranus) --- Astaroth. These were the principal idols of the country, (Salien; Judges ii. 11.) under which all the others were included. (Menochius) --- Prepare. God lays this injunction upon us, to remind us of our liberty, and we beg that he would convert us, acknowledging the necessity of his grace. (Calmet) --- "God does not require impossibilities, but by his command, admonishes thee to do what thou canst, and to pray for what thou art not able to perform, and he assists thee, that thou mayst be able to perform it." (Council of Trent, session vi., chap. 11.; St. Augustine, &c.)
Masphath lay south of Jerusalem, (Calmet) and was a convenient place for all to meet at. (Menochius) They came armed, and the Philistines (Calmet) suspecting their designs, proceeded to attack them. (Haydock)
Lord, having purified themselves with it, Exodus xix 24. Others think that it was a kind of a protestation, that they were willing to perish if they proved faithless; (Sa) or a symbol that they rejected every vestige of idolatry, and every sin, with true repentance. (Sanctius) (Tirinus) --- Water was also the most ancient species of libation, before honey, and afterwards wine were adopted. (Porphyrius) --- Though the law did not prescribe it, there was not prohibition. On the last day of the feast of tabernacles, the people went to the pool of Silo to fetch water, and to pour it out in the temple, as a libation to the Lord; and it is thought that Jesus Christ alludes to this custom, John vii. 24. (Lamy, Introd.) See 2 Kings xxiii. 16. (Calmet) --- Fasted. They confess their sins and do penance, while Samuel sits as judge, (Salien) an had been endeavouring for twenty years to excite them to repentance, and to adhere to the one true religion. (Tirinus)
Philistines. Those who distrust their own strength, and join true repentance with prayer, striving to interest the friends of God in their cause, may confidently hope for victory. (Haydock)
Suckling lamb. Any might be used, when eight days old, except for the paschal lamb, which must be older; a yearling, Exodus xxiii. 9., and Leviticus xxii. 27. --- Offered it, either by the hands of the priests, or by dispensation, which authorized him to sacrifice out of the tabernacle. --- Whole, without blemish; (Ecclesiasticus xlvi. 19.) or, not having time to divide it, according to the ritual, Leviticus i. 12. He consumed even the skin. (Salien) --- Septuagint, "with all the people."
Israel. The princes of the Tyrians had come to the assistance of the enemy; (Ecclesiasticus xlvi. 21.; Calmet) but all in vain. The greatness of the army only increased the greatness of the carnage, when the Lord enters the lists. (Haydock) --- the sacred penman speaks with great modesty of this victory, which is nevertheless one of the most important recorded in Scripture. The Philistines could not recover themselves for 20 years; they found it necessary to restore the cities which they had taken, (Calmet) to relinquish the tribute, and to come to such conditions as Samuel imposed upon them. He suffered them, however, to keep possession of some strong holds, such as Gabaa, from which they were expelled by Jonathan. Salien says in the 22d year of Samuel, and the last of Achitob, the high priest, in the year of the world 2961.
Bethchar, "the house of the penetrator." Cor denotes the celestial fluid, which the Philistines probably supposed was discharged by the heavens, independently of the great Creator. Hence their punishment was very appropriate. (Parkhurst) --- The latter heathens always represented their Jupiter armed with thunder and lightning---"The thunder roared aloud---
Th' affrighted hills from their foundation nod,
And blaze beneath the lightning of the God;
At one regard of his all-seeing eye,
The vanquish'd triumph, and the victors fly." (Pope, Iliad xvii. 596.)
Sen, "the tooth," a craggy rock of that appearance. Syriac Beth Jasan. (Calmet) --- some take it to be the same with Bethchar. (Malvenda) --- It was before ignoble, (Salien) and the situation not known, till this monument was erected, with the inscription, Thus far, &c. --- Help; "Aben-ezer," mentioned before, chap. iv. 1. The religious monuments were not prohibited by the law, Leviticus xxvi. 1. Samuel would take every precaution that they should not become objects of idolatry, as he was under the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit. (Calmet)
Any more, for a long time, (Menochius) during Samuel's administration; for we find them again attacking Saul, chap. xiii. This expression is often used to denote a cessation of some continuance, Isaias xxiii. 12, 15., and 2 Kings vii. 10.
Geth, which two cities still continued in their possession. Others, which had fallen to the share of Dan, they gave up, which explains Judges xviii. 1, 31. --- Philistines. Here ended the forty years' servitude. (Calmet) --- Salien (the year of the world 2860) rather thinks that it terminated in the death of Samson, when it was judged expedient to entrust the reins of government into the hands of an ole man, Heli, the high priest, as there was no need of an expert general, the heads of the Philistines being all destroyed, Judges xiii. 1. (Haydock) --- Amorrhites: the dispersed nations of Chanaan were all dept under. (Calmet)
Life; as sole judge for twenty years, (Gordon; Du Hamel) and conjointly with Saul till he died, almost 100 years old, a year or two before the unfortunate king. Saul put him on a level with himself; (chap. xi. 7.) and he continued to be regarded as the oracle of Israel ever since he was about forty years old; (Calmet) or he did not long survive the election of the new king, (Menochius) as Tirinus, Sanctius, &c., reduce his reign to two years, allowing thirty-eight to Samuel, so that both filled up the space of forty years, Acts xiii. 20. The life of Samuel, on this supposition, will not much exceed sixty, and he must have come into power in early life, chap. xii. 2. (Haydock) --- This verse is no proof that the present book was written long after Samuel's time. (Du Hamel)
Places. Septuagint, "in all these holy places." Some take Bethel to mean the city, where the ark was, (Calmet) or the holy of holies, in the tabernacle, at Silo, &c. (Haydock) --- The northern tribes might meet him at Bethel; those on the east of the Jordan, at Galgala, of Benjamin; and the tribes of Juda, Simeon, and Dan, might have an opportunity of hearing the holy prophet, and decide their controversies, at Masphath. (Calmet) --- Thus Samuel gave an excellent instruction to pastors and governors, to watch over their people. (Haydock)
Ramatha; his native place. His high office would not allow him to remain always near the tabernacle, chap. i. 11., and 28. (Calmet) --- Lord, by his direction, (Menochius) both to satisfy his own devotion, and that he might consult the Lord when the people wanted advice. (Calmet)