Saul Fights the Philistines
13 Saul lived for one year and then became king, and when he had reigned for two years over Israel, Saul chose three thousand men of Israel. Two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin. The rest of the people he sent home, every man to his tent. Jonathan defeated the garrison of the Philistines that was at Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, “Let the Hebrews hear.” And all Israel heard it said that Saul had defeated the garrison of the Philistines, and also that Israel had become a stench to the Philistines. And the people were called out to join Saul at Gilgal.
And the Philistines mustered to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen and troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude. They came up and encamped in Michmash, to the east of Beth-aven. When the men of Israel saw that they were in trouble (for the people were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns, and some Hebrews crossed the fords of the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.
Saul’s Unlawful Sacrifice
He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the LORD.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the LORD your God, with which he commanded you. For then the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.” And Samuel arose and went up from Gilgal. The rest of the people went up after Saul to meet the army; they went up from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin.
And Saul numbered the people who were present with him, about six hundred men. And Saul and Jonathan his son and the people who were present with them stayed in Geba of Benjamin, but the Philistines encamped in Michmash. And raiders came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies. One company turned toward Ophrah, to the land of Shual; another company turned toward Beth-horon; and another company turned toward the border that looks down on the Valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness.
Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears.” But every one of the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, or his sickle, and the charge was two-thirds of a shekel for the plowshares and for the mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening the axes and for setting the goads. So on the day of the battle there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people with Saul and Jonathan, but Saul and Jonathan his son had them. And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the pass of Michmash.
1 Samuel 13 Commentary
by Hank Workman
I’ve always wondered if Samuel purposely showed up late. It set things in motion as to bad choices which were justifiable in Saul’s eyes, but ultimately showed the spiritual trust he had.
Like the sand of the seashore, the Philistines assembled against Israel. A call to war rang out. When the men showed up and looked out they stood in terror. One by one, hundred by hundred, they ran to hide… and Samuel was late. He was supposed to be there to offer a sacrifice before they went to war before the first attack took place. It was an act seeking God’s blessing and spiritual direction. Minutes turned to hours and Saul took things into his own hands as he watched more of his men dissipate. He stepped in and acted as a priest offering the sacrifice. Don’t you know, when the sacrifice was complete, Samuel showed up.
Although justified reasoning was given by Saul, Samuel’s words were cutting: You’ve acted foolishly. Your kingdom will end. God already has someone in the wings to take your place.
It gets worse. Samuel leaves and Saul counts his troops. Only 600 men are with him. But that’s not all. The Philistines themselves have the monopoly on the manufacturing of iron. Israel has no blacksmith. These 600 stood with not a sword or spear in hand. The only ones in the land belong to Saul and his son Jonathan. Imagine.
Just like Samuel’s tardiness, it sometimes seems God shows up at the very last minute. Seriously, doesn’t it sometimes? I have no doubt Samuel was late because he was told to do so. His delay showed something very important about Saul – his trust. It showed if he would take things into his own hands or not. Samuel had been a top spiritual advisor to this green king and that counsel when taken had gone well. But his taking things into his own hands changed all that. It’s never right to do wrong so that you can do right. Compromise never works.
There are countless scriptures throughout the Word that speak of ‘waiting’ on the Lord. Waiting for Him to answer; waiting on his direction before moving; waiting on Him to answer our prayers or step into a situation before we make the move ourselves. If God is sovereign, then our actions need to show we trust Him and wait until He provides the answer and gives direction even if by our own sight He’s late.
1 Samuel 13 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Here in 1 Samuel 13, we see the battle between the Philistines and the Israelites begin when Jonathan decides to attack a Philistine garrison. Up until this point, the Israelites were at peace because they kind of just accepted their place in the hierarchy.
It is not likely that Jonathan made a mistake here, as he was an incredible military leader. So, it’s safe to say that boldness was stirred up in him and that he had the faith of the Lord when he stood against the Philistine garrison.
We also see an impatient Saul take matters into his own hands. Instead of waiting like he is told, he decides to offer a sacrifice before the battle and without Samuel. We saw the same thing happen many chapters ago with the ark of the covenant. The elders decided (without asking God) to bring it into battle. Both situations show impatience and a lack of trust in the Lord.
This is one characteristic of Moses that was exceptional. When the people were complaining, and all hope seemed to be lost, Moses (usually) waited patiently on the Lord. He waited because he trusted and he knew his own limitations.
What is interesting about these two stories of Jonathan and Saul is that Jonathan was not rebuked for attacking the Philistines, yet, Saul was heavily rebuked for deciding to offer up a sacrifice. What was different about the two?
Once again, we don’t know all the details about why Jonathan chose to attack. However, we do know Jonathan was a man of great faith and Saul was not. We discover through the rest of 1 Samuel how each of them operated when they were under pressure. Jonathan was a brave man, willing to listen to the Lord, and move on his command. Saul was a paranoid man of little faith who relied on his own decision-making to achieve victory. Keep this in mind as we read on…