1 Samuel Chapter 13: 2nd Year of Saul’s Reign, War with the Philistines, Doesn’t Wait for Samuel

Feb 12th, 2010 | By | Category: 1 & 2 Samuel, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

1 Samuel Chapter 13: 2nd Year of Saul’s Reign, War with the Philistines, Doesn’t Wait for Samuel

1 Sam. 13:1 Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel,

The first clause “Saul reigned one year” should end chapter 12 because the activities of the first year of his reign were covered in chapters 11 and 12. Chapter 13 begins a new phase in Saul’s life. “When he had reigned two years over Israel, he chose three thousand men of Israel,” etc.

1 Sam. 13:2 Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel; whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Beth-el, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin: and the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent.

In Saul’s second year as king, he chose 3,000 men of Israel. Earlier he had recruited 330,000 men to fight the Ammonites (1 Sam. 11:8). He sent the bulk of that number back to their homes and kept a select few for a standing army. Samuel had predicted that when the people had a king, he would choose captains over militia and have bodyguards in attendance and maid service.

The people would be conscripted for national duty. The bureaucracy was starting, and it was only Saul’s second year. The government was beginning to expand and get more and more into the private lives of individuals. Moreover, Saul had to tax the people to support the army.

The word “mishmash,” which is similar to Michmash, means “confusion.” The situation would become a real mess as time went on.

Of the 3,000 men, 2,000 were with Saul in Michmash and Mount Beth-el, and 1,000 were with Jonathan, his son, in Gibeah. The three places were close together.

1 Sam. 13:3 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.

Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, which was near Gibeah and Beth-el. Verse 3 shows that the Philistines were mixed in among the Israelites. They occupied mostly the plains, whereas the Israelites were more in towns and villages on the hilltops. Roads ran along the spine of the hills and mountains, and the towns radiated right and left off that spine. The Philistines were sprinkled throughout many places in the nation of Israel.

A “garrison” was an outpost (like sentry duty). Thus it was a very small contingent, as opposed to a fortress, for example. The Philistines constantly provoked the Israelites by erecting signs, statues, or monuments to indicate that the Israelites were under their subjugation. Such “signs” were a stench to the Israelites. Jonathan probably destroyed this garrison because it was particularly odious.

“Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear.” How would Saul have blown the trumpet throughout the whole land? First, one person blew a trumpet on top of a hill, and then a sentry in each adjacent village blew a trumpet to indicate he had heard the sound. Those sentries, in turn, blew a trumpet in the other direction to the next village. By this method, it did not take long for the message to go from hill to hill to hill until the entire nation knew. The length of the blast constituted the message—a long blast or a short blast, for example—to indicate war, to call the nation to congregate, etc. Thus there was a signal system based on the blowing of the horn from hill to hill.

1 Sam. 13:4 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.

1 Sam. 13:5 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 Beth-aven.

1 Sam. 13:6 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.

When Philistines in the area heard about the destruction of the garrison, they mustered forces to fight Israel. Notice that Saul gathered the people together in Gilgal, one of the places Samuel had visited on his judging circuit. The Philistine forces consisted of 3,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen. The custom was to have two men to a chariot. One man drove the horses, and the other was armed with a spear. The Philistines actually had many more chariots, but the nature of the land could not hold them all. Therefore, they took only a sufficient number for maneuvering in the plain below. The footmen who followed the chariots were so numerous  that they were described as being like “the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude.”

Incidentally, the number 30,000 was a copyist’s error in the ending of the Hebrew word. With the topography in this part of Israel being mountainous with narrow defiles, the land was not conducive to having 30,000 chariots.

As the Philistine forces and chariots came into the valleys, the Israelites were terrified. In distress, the people hid themselves in caves, in thickets, behind rocks, in high places, and in pits. In other words, they experienced a helter-skelter type of fright, running in all directions to hide wherever they could, high or low. Consider how Saul felt. He had gathered the Israelites together, but as the large Philistine host was about to confront them, most became deserters.

1 Sam. 13:7 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.

Some of the Israelites even fled over the Jordan River into the land of Gad and Gilead. The translators should have added another word to the last sentence. “As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people [who] followed him trembled.” The account had just stated that there were a number of deserters—in fact, so many that Saul was alarmed. He was left in Gilgal with the trembling remainder.

1 Sam. 13:8 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 the people were scattered from him [Saul].” This statement confirms the thought that the majority of the people had deserted Saul and were not following him.

Samuel had told Saul to wait for him at Gilgal for seven days. (Evidently, Samuel had given this instruction when the trouble was just starting to threaten, telling Saul to do nothing for seven days.) Saul did wait for seven days “according to the set time that Samuel had appointed,” but since the day was ticking by and Samuel had not appeared, Saul felt he had to act.

As the Lord’s people, we have similar tests. We sometimes do things strictly forbidden by the Lord’s Word, but we rationalize that they are for expediency’s sake. Instead, we should wait and have faith if there is a delay.

Having waited the seven days, Saul probably felt he was justified in acting. The problem is that he did not have sufficient faith in what Samuel had said, and even more important, he, as the king of Israel, did not have faith in God, for whom Samuel was the mouthpiece. Thus a lack of faith in Jehovah led Saul to perform an act of disobedience. The circumstances seemed to justify his action, and the people would probably have supported his decision. Saul reasoned, “If I continue to wait for Samuel and do not make an offering to the Lord, even more people will desert, and my chances of victory in armed conflict will be zilch.” Thus Saul began to swerve only two years after beginning his reign. Already his true colors were showing.

We can see the force of the temptation, but Samuel had been very explicit. We are reminded of the temptation in the Garden of Eden. God said, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:16,17). Despite this specific instruction, Adam willfully transgressed under temptation.

1 Sam. 13:9 And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering.

1 Sam. 13:10 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.

Burnt offerings were usually followed by peace offerings. Saul offered the burnt offering, and as soon as he had finished, Samuel arrived—before Saul could offer the peace offerings. In other words, Samuel caught Saul in the act of performing a priestly function, which he had no right to do. Had Saul been of the tribe of Levi, he at least would have had an excuse.

Incidentally, both Sauls (the king here and the Apostle Paul in the New Testament) were of the little tribe of Benjamin. They were completely different people, yet both were potential “giants.” King Saul was a physical giant but a miserable failure in character. The apostle was little in physical stature but a giant in integrity throughout his life.

“Saul went out to meet him [Samuel], that he might salute him.” Not only did Saul not seem ashamed, but instead of continuing with the peace offerings, he went out to meet Samuel. This incident reveals some interesting things about character. Saul would have “saluted” Samuel by bowing before him and giving some token of respect.

1 Sam. 13:11 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 Sam. 13:12 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.

Samuel’s reaction was, “What hast thou done?” (Again we are reminded of the Garden of Eden when “the voice” of Jehovah, the Logos, called to Adam and Eve, who were hiding behind a tree, “Where art thou?”—Gen. 3:8,9.) Saul tried to justify his course, saying, “The people were scattered from me when you did not come within the days appointed, and the Philistines were gathered together at Michmash. Therefore, I thought they would come against me at Gilgal, and since I had not made supplication unto the LORD, I forced myself to offer a burnt offering.”

What an elaborate attempt at justification, especially in saying, “I forced myself”! In other words, Saul was saying, “I did not want to disobey, but under these circumstances, I reluctantly started the offerings.”

1 Sam. 13:13 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 Sam. 13:14 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.

Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly.” When Samuel instructed Saul with regard to the seven days and Saul did not wait the full length of time but acted precipitously in offering a burnt offering, the Gospel Age equivalent, or antitype, would be the nominal Church’s not waiting for Jesus to return but setting up their own kingdom instead. In several places in Scripture, Saul is a representation of nominal spiritual Israel. The seven days picture the seven stages of the Church in the Gospel Age. To see the antitype clearly, we have to read the entire account of Saul’s life, plus all of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings, and then reflect on what has been read. Certain highlights will then begin to manifest themselves. Saul, David, and Solomon were all types, and each reigned 40 years. When we think back on Saul’s life, it becomes obvious that he was a type.

The same principle is true from another standpoint as well. While Saul was a type of the nominal Church, the principle also applies to the Lord’s people as individuals. Samuel’s telling Saul what to do is equivalent to the Lord’s giving instruction from His Word. If God’s Word instructs us to do something, we would be foolish to ignore the pronouncement. Perhaps a brother calls attention to a particular instruction or example rather than our finding the information on our own. When the instruction is clearly expounded, we should accept it as God’s Word, not as the teaching of the individual. It is true that many who quote Scripture misapply it and are offended when we do not obey, for they think they understand the text and make it a mandatory requirement. However, it is up to the individual who is given the admonition to try to studiously discern whether it is really the Lord’s Word. If the instruction is truly in the Scriptures, then the personality presenting the admonition is to be disregarded, and the instruction is to be accepted as coming from God. That is where Saul failed. While Saul may have felt that Samuel was a servant of the Lord, he did not have a sufficiency of respect for Samuel to consider his words as the equivalent of the Lord’s saying them.

Why was the seven-day time period set aside for Saul? The seven days were a test, and the antitype teaches the unfitness of Papacy and the clergy of the nominal Church down through the Gospel Age. They were the custodians of the Bible, but they abused that privilege. When they are pushed aside in the Kingdom Age and see others seated on the 12 thrones of Israel, they should realize their unfitness and render proper obedience to The Christ.

Comment: God was making pictures and types, so He must have known the character of Saul in advance and how the king would react. From the point of Saul’s disobedience in not waiting for Samuel, it was determined that David would be established as king in due time.

Reply: Yes, David was being schooled while Saul was going downhill. However, we should keep in mind that Saul had a good heart condition in the very beginning. Incidentally, even Satan was obedient in the beginning—until he deflected. God said of him, “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee” (Ezek. 28:15).

Thus the idea of “once in grace, always in grace” is a serious fallacy.

Samuel continued, “But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart … to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.” Just two years into Saul’s reign, God determined that David would succeed him, yet Saul was permitted to reign for 38 more years for a total of 40 years. Even though God was taking steps to choose someone as successor, Saul tarried. This delay is very much like the long reign of the nominal Church. The true Christian was told in effect, “Suffer it to be so.” As the Apostle Paul said in principle, “Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it” (1 Cor. 4:12). And thus it has been during the long Gospel Age. To the Israelites living back there, Saul’s reign seemed interminably long, but God had reasons for permitting it.

Comment: Similarly, Babylon was cast off from favor in 1878, but the nominal system is still around.

Reply: Yes, and prior to 1878, the Lord gave opportunities to repent that were of no avail.

1 Sam. 13:15 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.

Out of the original 3,000, Saul now numbered only 600 men, for the majority had deserted, fearing the Philistines.

1 Sam. 13:16 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.

1 Sam. 13:17 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:

1 Sam. 13:18 And another company turned the way to Beth-horon: and another company turned to the way of the border that looketh to the valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness.

Saul had a small host of only 600 with him, for many had fled in fear. Divided into three companies, the Philistines had the strategy in mind to surround and confront the Israelite army. One company was in front, and the second and third companies were on the right and left sides to meet in the back. The situation looked bleak indeed for Israel.

1 Sam. 13:19 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 Sam. 13:20 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 Sam. 13:21 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.

1 Sam. 13:22 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 Sam. 13:23 And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the passage of Michmash.

Verses 19-23 tell of the circumstances that existed in Israel at the time the battle with the Philistines was about to take place. No blacksmith was permitted in the land, meaning there was no foundry with an anvil, furnace, or related equipment. By occupying the valleys, the Philistines were in a position to enforce this ban. The situation looked hopeless for Israel with only 600 men, no weapons of war, and their inability to manufacture weapons. In this little host, Saul and Jonathan, his son, were the only two individuals who had swords and spears.

The Israelites had only small agricultural implements such as pitchforks, hoes, and sickles. In addition, they had small files, but the files could sharpen only the smaller tools. To sharpen larger implements such as plowshares, the Israelites had to rely on the Philistines. While there was somewhat of a status quo between the Philistines and the Israelites in that they were not always fighting in open warfare, the Philistines, being in the lowlands, were in the dominant position. In the battle that was about to take place, the Philistines wanted to get even for the garrison, or outpost, that Israel had defiled.

(1985-1987 Study)

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