1 Samuel: A Modern Bible Commentary

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Certainly the standard works do not contain all that God has ever spoken to His children, and those who say that the Bible is all there is are mistaken. Nahash, king of the Ammonites, and his army attacked the tribes on the east of the Jordan. No doubt he intended to enforce the claim to a part of Gilead asserted by his ancestor in the time of Jephthah see Judges In desperation, the men of Jabesh-gilead appealed for help from the tribes west of the Jordan.

Even though Saul had been officially appointed king, the tribes seem still to have remained in their independent and self-governed state. At this critical time Saul was at his finest. He slew his oxen and sent the pieces thereof to every tribe to dramatize that this crisis called for a united Israel see v. He joined his authority with that of Samuel in the message. Under this leadership, the armies of Israel dealt a stunning defeat to the Ammonites, and Saul gave all credit to the Lord see v.

The victory provided the catalyst for uniting the tribes into one nation for the first time. So strong was the support for Saul that some suggested that those who had earlier questioned his right to rule be put to death. Saul rejected this proposal. Samuel reminded the people that the Lord had always been just in His dealings with them and told them that they should likewise deal justly with one another. He then recalled the times when Israel had forgotten the Lord and experienced great calamity. He urged them to serve the Lord lest an even greater calamity overtake them.

The Bible says that there were thirty thousand chariots, but this figure is believed to be an error in transcription. One prominent Bible scholar discussed the problem and gave the opinion that the correct figure is three thousand see Clarke, Bible Commentary, Errors of this sort arose out of translation problems and perhaps also the exaggeration of later scribes who took it upon themselves to add to the record, thinking that they were adding to the glory of Israel.

It was not long before Saul began to have an exaggerated opinion of his power and importance. This tendency is natural to men who forget the Lord and trust in themselves. It is true that this was a time of great crisis. When Samuel was late in coming, Saul took things into his own hands and offered the sacrifices.

This action was a great sin. When the Philistines were marshalled against Israel in Michmash, Saul waited for Samuel, under whose hand he had received his kingly anointing and to whom he had looked in the days of his humility for guidance; he asked that the prophet come and offer sacrifices to the Lord in behalf of the people.

Scholars believe that at this time the Israelites did not know how to work with iron. The Philistines guarded the secret carefully to maintain superiority in weapons over the softer brass weapons of the Israelites. As a result, the Israelites did not have the superior chariots of iron, nor could they manufacture swords and spears of iron.

A share was a metal instrument used to plough the ground, and a coulter was a small garden hoe used to loosen the earth and weed the soil. A mattock was an Egyptian hoe or grubbing axe, and a goad was a sharp rod about eight feet long used to prod stubborn animals. In the armies of ancient times, certain men were assigned to go out and destroy crops, homes, barns, cattle, and so forth. Their prime purpose was not to take human life, but to make living difficult for the civilian population who supported the military see Clarke, Bible Commentary, These verses give insights into the character of Jonathan, son of Saul, a young man of great faith in God see vv.

The venture into the Philistine camp was not foolhardy but was based on faith and courage. The courageous attack of Jonathan and his armor-bearer on the camp of the Philistines suddenly altered the circumstances of the battle. The Philistines were thrown into disarray, and even the men who had hid themselves came forth now to join the battle see v. In the heat of the battle, Saul had compelled his men to swear with an oath that they would fast all that day.

Study Guide for 1 Samuel 1 by David Guzik

This restriction put the men in distress, for their fasting added the weakness of hunger to the fatigue of battle. See v. First, Jonathan, who had been in the camp of the Philistines at the time Saul made his army swear not to eat, violated the oath by partaking of some wild honey see vv. When told about the oath, Jonathan frankly said that his father had done a foolish thing.

Since his own strength had been revived by the food, he wondered aloud how much greater the victory would have been if the people had been allowed to eat instead of fighting in a state of physical exhaustion see vv. The animals were not properly killed to drain out their blood, which violated the Mosaic law see Leviticus — Saul immediately sought to make atonement for this violation by offering sacrifices to the Lord see vv.

But when he sought revelation from the Lord about whether to go against the Philistines, no answer came see vv. Saul concluded that some other sin of the people was the cause of the lack of response from the Lord. He then directed that all the people be gathered together to meet him and Jonathan, swearing with an oath that the guilty party would be put to death.

To dramatize his determination to carry through with his threat, Saul indicated he would even put his own son to death if he were proven guilty see v. But Jonathan did not hear the oath, and therefore had not even consciously transgressed. The people had conscientiously obeyed the command, but Jonathan had transgressed it without being aware of it.


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For this Saul was about to punish him with death, in order to keep his oath. But the people opposed it. And Saul could not fail to recognise now, that it was not Jonathan, but he himself, who had sinned, and through his arbitrary and despotic command had brought guilt upon Israel, on account of which God had given him no reply. The Amalekites were old Israelite enemies, and their punishment had long been foretold see Exodus —16 ; Deuteronomy — Answer the following questions as you consider the lives of the people discussed in this part of the Old Testament:.

Would it have been easier to love Hannah or Peninnah? Have you ever been guilty of blaming someone else for problems that lie at least partly within yourself? What kind of counsel would you have given Peninnah in this situation? What are the first indications that Eli had lost the power of discernment?

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Is it unfair to suppose that Eli should have been able to discern that Hannah was not a drunken woman? Westminster John Knox Press. Tsumura, David Toshio The First Book of Samuel. Breytenbach, Andries In Johannes Cornelis de Moor and H. Van Rooy ed. Coogan, Michael D. Roberts ed. David and Zion: biblical studies in honor of J. Eynikel, Erik Past, present, future: the Deuteronomistic history and the prophets.

Bible Study with Commentary

Halpern, Baruch Jones, Gwilym H In John Barton and John Muddiman ed. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press. Klein, R. In Bromiley, Geoffrey W ed.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Knight, Douglas A Petersen and Kent Harold Richards ed.

1 Samuel: Putting God First (7 session study)

Old Testament Interpretation. In Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard ed. Mercer Dictionary of the Bible.

Book of 1 Samuel

Mercer University Press. McCarter Jr. Kyle Anchor Bible. Schleffer, Eben Soggin, Alberto Introduction to the Old Testament. Spieckerman, Hermann In Leo G. Perdue ed. The Blackwell Companion to the Hebrew Bible. Van Seters, John Walton, John H In Andrew E. Hill, John H. Walton ed. A Survey of the Old Testament. An inclusio is a literary device, used frequently in the Bible, to mark the beginning and the end of a significant narrative.