[1-Samuel 13:1] SAUL REIGNED ONE YEAR; AND WHEN HE HAD REIGNED TWO YEARS OVER ISRAEL,
Some say that the whole reign of Saul lasted only two years (Seder Olam), others (Rashi) three years. Abarbanel says 17 years and this explanation is the one I would be inclined to accept. I would say that the above verse is telling us that Saul was anointed king, returned home, came back to war against Nahash the Ammonite and was re-consecrated all within one year. Then after reigning two more years over all Israel the following events took place. To my mind this explanation is the best and simplest but for some reason no-one else seems to have seen it that way. One does however find that the simplest explanation is the correct one and it seems to wait around for the simplest person to come up with it.
[1-Samuel 13:2] 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.
In the Brit-Am Commentary to the previous chapter we said that, A short while ago Saul was no more than a good-looking well-built farm boy looking for some wayward donkeys at the behest of his uncle (1-Samuel 12:5) . That was indeed the impression we received from Scripture though nothing expressly along such lines was actually said. We now learn that Saul already had at least one grown-up son who was a warrior and leader of men in his own right. We later learn that he had other sons and one of them, Ish-Boshet, was already forty years old (2-Samuel 2:10) when Saul died in battle. In those days people married early and had children at an early age but a man had to be at least twenty years old before he went out to war. We will find a similar phenomenon with David who will be introduced as apparently a young man and then be revealed as not so young (by our standards) after all. There is a saying that a person is "only as old as he feels". We all know that this is not exactly so. Our physical existence is limited and our chronological existence shows in our body and face to one degree or other. Nevertheless we have a tendency to overestimate the limitations imposed upon us and to underestimate our true potential. Even at an "old" age we can still begin new things and new experiences. The game is not over until the Great Referee in the Sky says so. We are still in the running.
[1-Samuel 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.
"THE GARRISON": Hebrew "Natziv" which can perhaps preferably be rendered as "Provincial Governor".
Geba is not far from Michmash (where Jonathan was with one thousand men) in the heart of Israel. We learn from this that the Philistines had enjoyed some kind of suzerainty over Israel. The Radak says that under Samuel the Hebrews had begun to throw off the yoke of the Philistines. When Samuel got old however his command of the people weakened and so did the people and the Philistines regained a great degere of control. Samuel, according to some reckonings, was actually only in his fifties at this stage but he represents the other side of the "old age" equation. Nevertheless, we should learn from the Ancient Hebrews: Old or "aging" men go out to war, take on new enterprises, and father children.
"THE HEBREWS": This is another name for Israelites and in Scripture applied only to Israelites. Archaeologists claim that a similar name was applied to a whole group of people in the Middle East, -mainly those who did not belong to any permanent social framework. It may yet turn out however that the term was uniquely applicable to Israelites and that is how we understand it while leaving other options of acceptance open for the time being. At all events the Bible use the name "Hebrew" as synonymous with Israelite. The so-called "Celts" in the west (British Isles, Gaul, Switzerland) did not call themselves "Celts" but rather "Hiberi" or "Iberi" as we have written elsewhere and these names are simply variations on the name "Hebrew".
[1-Samuel 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.
"SAUL HAD SMITTEN": It was actually Jonathan (1-Samuel 13:3) that smote the Philistine Representative and he may have done so on his own initiative. Nevertheless Saul gave his backing to this action and so in the eyes of the Philistines the whole kingdom of Saul was responsible.
[1-Samuel 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 BETHAVEN.
The Israelites had a total of three thousand warriors against a vast host of the enemy. The enemy had 30,000 chariots and 6,000 cavalry. They had five times as many chariots as cavalry. These were the usual proportions of chariots to cavalry in the Middle East at that time. Later in Neo-Assyrian times (after ca 700 BCE) the proportions were to change. One explanation is that it needed the introduction of the stirrup to make horses more manageable and the cavalry more useful. I personally find it difficult to conceive of the stirrup taking so long a time to be invented.
[1-Samuel 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.
"HIGH PLACES": Hebrew "Tsariach" meaning a form of small fortress. All over Israel one finds the remains of small fortresses dating back to Ancient Israel. These are often built in a design similar to that of the "brochs" in Northern Scotland.
[1-Samuel 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.
[1-Samuel 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.
[1-Samuel 13:9] AND SAUL SAID, BRING HITHER A BURNT OFFERING TO ME, AND PEACE OFFERINGS. AND HE OFFERED THE BURNT OFFERING.
When there was no Temple it was permitted for anybody to perform a sacrifice and so it was permitted for Saul so in this case he may have had a Cohen (Priest) perform the ceremony on his behalf. Saul felt the need to make the sacrifice and not wait for Samuel since the few people he had were deserting him. It is not clear whether Saul intended to placate his followers and show them he was prepared for battle OR to to allay the wrath of the Almighty that may have been aroused against Israel.
[1-Samuel 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.
We have all experienced this or something like it. We wait and wait and then give up waiting often to our regret.
[1-Samuel 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-Samuel 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.
[1-Samuel 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.
"FOR EVER": Saul on the one hand was only a temporary king to whom the rulership had been "loaned". The true ruler was to be David for whom the kingship was destined. What therefore does it mean here as if that if Saul had behaved correctly he (i.e. his descendants) would have been king forever? The answer is that the lineage of Saul would have had a rulership under the House of David or (as suggested by Nachmanides) a limited autonomy of their own over a part of Israel. We saw a similar phenomenon in the Roman and German Empires were local kings ruled over their own areas while being subservient to the Emperor. At one state in the Roman Empire rulership was divided between four Emperors and sub-Emperors and it worked reasonably for a while. In the Khazar Empire there were two kings: one who actually ruled and another who conducted ceremonies etc. Numerous similar examples are known from history.
The prjected rulership of the House of Saul and the House of David that should have been was prototypical of the future joint rulership of the Messiah son of David and the Messiah son of Joseph. The Commentary "Shem MeShmuel" (the Sochatover Rebbe, a Chassidic Rebbe in Poland in the 1800s) says:
"It would seem that the point of their being two Annointed Saviours in the future, Messiah son of Joseph and Messiah son of David, is that the Messiah son of Joseph is destined to destroy the seed of Amalek and fight the War of Gog and Magog, and all the other wars that he is destined to bring to a succesful close as the Sages spoke, "Esau cannot be defeated except by means of the descendants of Rachel" (Breishit Rabah 73;5). Then after the removal of the concealing darkness will shine the light of the Messiah son of Davidwhose only mission is to bring knowledge of the Almighty into the worldIt would seem that something of this nature was seen in the rulership of King Saul, prior to that of King David. The initial intention was that Saul finish all the fighting since he was descended from the Sons of Rachel [favorite wife of Jacob] and he was an [intended] prototype of the Messiah son of Joseph. After Saul came the Kingdom of David who was an example of the future Messiah son of David whose goal should be only to increase the revelation of Divine Light [in the world] and to build the Temple"
(quoted by Elyahu Yedid, "Shaul Bechir HaShem", p.29).
As we have explained in our book "Joseph. The Israelite destiny of America", and elsewhere the point of these two Messiahs is not only that they are actual personages and leaders who are destined to appear but also that they represent Prophesied historical proscesses and peoples of Israel. The Messiah son of Joseph represents the Lost Ten Tribes as headed by Joseph and the part they are destined to play leading up till the End Times. The Messiah son of David represents Judah meaning the Jewish people in their most perfect expression that they will reach unto and achieve in the Mesdsianic Era. We are now approaching this era and something of what is destined to take place has already began to do so. On the other hand they say that the darkest part of the night is just before dawn.
[1-Samuel 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.
David was destined to be king even before the transgression of Saul but a place for the House of Saul would have been found within the framework of the Kingdom of David that in the time of Solomon became a vast Empire.
[1-Samuel 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.
Apparently out of the initial three thousand only 600 remained.
[1-Samuel 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-Samuel 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-Samuel 13:18] 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.
"Daat Mikra" says that when the Philistines saw how few warriors had remained with Saul they thought that only a small force would be sufficient to put him in his place. The majority of the Philistine army was then split into three and sent out on punitive expeditions into the heart of Israel. This was to be their undoing.
[1-Samuel 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:
Some Modern historians claim that the Philistines introduced iron and that they had a monopoly on it. This is not so. The Philistines merely arrogated to themselves the right to work iron and prevented the Hebrews from doing so even though it may actually have been they themselves who learnt the practice from Israelites. The Radak says that the Philistines transported all the Israelite smiths and iron-workers into their own lands.
[1-Samuel 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-Samuel 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-Samuel 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.
Yehudah Kiel (Daat Mikra) points out that we saw in 1-Samuel chapter 11 how the Israelites defeated Ammon and apparently then they did have swords and certainly they would have been able to take weapons in booty from the Ammonites. Kiel suggests that all those who had swords had fled from the service of Saul and taken their weapons with them leaving only archers and sling-shot throwers behind. Also the Bible does not tell us everything. Perhaps in the interim after the defeat of Ammon the Philistines had succeeded in re-asserting their authority over all Israel and had managed in a relatively short time to put their hands on all available weapons. The Israeli could have done the same to the Palestinians if they had wanted to, and still can, at least for the moment. In Biblical Prophecy the Philistines represent Palestinians. The name Palestine is a Latinised version of "Philistia", the Land of the Philistines. Supporters of the Palestinians are allies of the Philistines and maybe their descendants?
[1-Samuel 13:23] AND THE GARRISON OF THE PHILISTINES WENT OUT TO THE PASSAGE OF MICHMASH.
"MICHMASH": This is near the present Jewish settlement of Ma'ale Micmas in the territory of Benyamin. The area of Micmas is in the liberated Israeli area of the "west bank" with the east bank (Jordan) still unfortunately occupied by Arab bandits and illegal squatters who are temporarily sojourning in the region waiting for their flight out. They and their Palestinian kin are all waiting for their numerous friends in the western world to do the right thing and fly them away to better accommodations in Algeria, Morocco, Argentina, or Brazil. Isaiah (11:14) prophesies that this is what will happen, see http://britam.org/isaiah/chap-eleven.html. Brit-Am supporter and friend of ours, Chris Josephson (of "Biblelite") has planted an almond orchard in the settlement of Ma'ale Michmas in honor of her late husband.
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