1 Samuel 13:1
Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel,
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(1) Saul reigned one year.—The only possible literal translation of the Hebrew of this verse is, “Saul was the son of one year (i.e., one year old); he began to reign, &c.” In several places in the Books of Samuel the numbers are quite untrustworthy (we have another instance of this in the 5th verse of this chapter). The present verse, however, is an old difficulty, the corruption or gap in the text dating from a far back period. The English translation is simply a probable, but conjectural, paraphrase. The Chaldee and some of the Rabbis thus strangely interpret it: “Saul was an innocent child when he began to reign”—that is, was as innocent as a one year old child, &c. The Syriac and others paraphrase much as our English Version. The LXX. omit the verse altogether. The Speaker’s Commentary thus literally translates the Hebrew, marking with a—where a number probably originally stood: “Saul was—years old when he began to reign, and he reigned—and two years over Israel.” On the whole, the usually accepted meaning is that Saul had reigned one year when the events related in the last chapter took place, and after he had reigned two years he chose out the 3,000 men, and did what is related in this chapter.

13:1-7 Saul reigned one year, and nothing particular happened; but in his second year the events recorded in this chapter took place. For above a year he gave the Philistine time to prepare for war, and to weaken and to disarm the Israelites. When men are lifted up in self-sufficiency, they are often led into folly. The chief advantages of the enemies of the church are derived from the misconduct of its professed friends. When Saul at length sounded an alarm, the people, dissatisfied with his management, or terrified by the power of the enemy, did not come to him, or speedily deserted him.The text of this verse, omitted by the Septuagint, is held to be corrupt, and the numerals denoting Saul's age at his accession as well as the duration of his reign, are thought to be omitted or faulty. Saul may have been about 30 at his accession, and have reigned some 32 years, since we know that his grandson Mephibosheth was five years old at Saul's death 2 Samuel 4:4; and 32 added to the seven and a half years between the death of Saul and that of Ishbosheth, makes up the 40 years assigned to Saul's dynasty in Acts 13:21. Neither is there any clue to the interval of time between the events recorded in the preceding chapter, and those which follow in this and succeeding chapters. But the appearance of Jonathan as a warrior 1 Samuel 13:2 compared with the mention of Saul as "a young man" 1 Samuel 9:2, implies an interval of not less than ten or fifteen years, perhaps more. The object of the historian is to prepare the way for the history of David's reign. He therefore passes at once to that incident in Saul's reign, which led to his rejection by God, as recorded in 1 Samuel 13:13-14. CHAPTER 13

1Sa 13:1, 2. Saul's Selected Band.

1. Saul reigned one year—(see Margin). The transactions recorded in the eleventh and twelfth chapters were the principal incidents comprising the first year of Saul's reign; and the events about to be described in this happened in the second year.Saul and Jonathan’s select band. Jonathan smiteth the garrison of the Philistines at Gibeah: the people are called together at Gilgal, 1 Samuel 13:1-4. The Philistines’ great host: the Israelites run into caves; and tremble, 1 Samuel 13:5-7. Saul offereth before Samuel cometh to him; he reproves him for it; foretelleth him that his kingdom should not last long, 1 Samuel 13:8-14. Three companies of the Philistines invade the land; they had no smith to make them swords, &c; nor had any of the Israelites, save Saul and Jonathan, sword or spear, 1 Samuel 13:15-23.

Reigned one year, i.e. had now reigned one year, from his first election at Mizpeh, in which time these things were done, which are recorded 1Sa 11 1Sa 12, to wit, peaceably, or righteously. Compare 2 Samuel 2:10.

Saul reigned one year,.... "Or the son of a year in his reigning" (s); various are the senses given of these words: some interpret them, Saul had a son of a year old when he began to reign, Ishbosheth, and who was forty years of age when his father died, 2 Samuel 2:10, others, who understand the words of Saul himself, think there is an "ellipsis" or defect of the number, and that it may be supplied, that Saul was the son of thirty or forty years, or whatsoever age he may be supposed to be at when he began his reign; others take the words in a figurative sense, that he was like a child of a year old, for purity and innocence; so the Targum,"as the son of a year, in whom there are no faults, so was Saul when he reigned;''or he was but a year old, reckoning from the time he was turned into another man, and had another heart, which was immediately after he was anointed king at Ramah by Samuel; or he was but a year old with respect to his kingdom: the inauguration of a king is "natalis imperil", the birthday of his kingdom, and therefore the words are well enough rendered by us, "Saul reigned one year"; which is to be reckoned either from his unction at Ramah, or rather from his election at Mizpeh, to the renewal of the kingdom at Gilgal:

and when he had reigned two years over Israel; which the Jewish chronologers (t) make to be the whole of his reign, which is not probable, considering the many things done in his reign, the many battles he fought with all his enemies on every side of him, and his long persecution of David; and there were no less than three high priests in his reign; Josephus says (q) he reigned eighteen years in the lifetime of Samuel, and twenty two years after his death, in all forty; which agrees with Acts 13:21. Some interpret it he reigned two years well, and the rest in a tyrannical way; or that at the end of two years, when David was anointed, the kingdom was not reckoned to him, but to David; and to this purpose Dr. Lightfoot writes, that he had been king one year from his first anointing by Samuel at Ramah, to his second anointing by him at Gibeah (Gilgal I suppose he means); and he reigned after this two years more, before the Lord cast him off, and anointed David; and the time he ruled after that was not a rule, but a tyranny and persecution (r); but the sense Ben Gersom gives is best of all, that one year had passed from the time of his being anointed, to the time of the renewal of the kingdom at Gilgal; and when he had reigned two years over Israel, then he did what follows, chose 3000 men, &c. In the first year of his reign was done all that is recorded in the preceding chapter; and when he had reigned two years, not two years more, but two years in all, then he did what is related in this chapter.

(s) "filius anni Saul in regnando ipsum", Montanus. (t) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 13. p. 35. Juchasin, fol. 11. 1.((q) Antiqu. l. 6. c. 14. sect. 9. (r) Works, vol. 1. p. 55.

Saul reigned {a} one year; and when he had reigned {b} two years over Israel,

(a) While these things were done.

(b) Before he took upon himself the state of a king.

Ch. 1 Samuel 13:1-7. Revolt of the Israelites under Saul from the Philistines

1. Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel] The Hebrew cannot be thus translated. It is the common formula for denoting the age of a king at his accession, and the length of his reign. See 2 Samuel 2:10; 2 Samuel 5:4; 1 Kings 14:21, &c. We must render, “Saul was [ ] years old when he began to reign, and reigned [ ] and two years over Israel.” Either the numbers were wanting in the original document, or they have been accidentally lost. 30 is supplied in the first place by some MSS. of the Sept., and is a plausible conjecture. The length of Saul’s reign may have been 22 or 32 years. He was in the prime of life when elected king, and his reign must have been of some considerable duration. But if he was only 30 years old at his accession, the events here recorded cannot have happened till at least 10 or 15 years after that event, for Jonathan, who has not been mentioned before, now appears as a stout warrior. In this case we have no account of the early years of Saul’s reign. This view appears to be preferable to the supposition that Saul was older at his accession, and that the history is continuous. See Introd. Ch. III.

The whole verse Is omitted by the older copies of the Septuagint, and possibly was not in the original text.Verse 1. - Saul's age and length of reign. Saul reigned one year. This verse literally translated is, "Saul was one year old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years over Israel." In its form it exactly follows the usual statement prefixed to each king's reign, of his age at his accession, and the years of his kingdom (2 Samuel 2:10; 2 Samuel 5:4; 1 Kings 14:21; 1 Kings 22:42, etc.). The rendering of the A.V. is too forced and untenable to be worth discussing. As we have seen before, the numerals in the Books of Samuel are not trustworthy; but the difficulty here is an old one. The Vulgate translates the Hebrew literally, as we have given it; the Septuagint omits the verse, and the Syriac paraphrases as boldly as the A.V.: "When Saul had reigned one or two years." The Chaldee renders, "Saul was as innocent as a one-year-old child when he began to reign." In the Hexaplar version some anonymous writer has inserted the word thirty, rashly enough; for as Jonathan was old enough to have an important command (ver. 2), and was capable of the acts of a strong man (1 Samuel 14:14), his father's age must have been at least thirty-five, and perhaps was even more. As regards the length of Saul's reign, St. Paul makes it forty years (Acts 13:21), exactly the same as that of David (1 Kings 2:11) and of Solomon (1 Kings 11:42); and Josephus testifies that such was the traditional belief of the Jews ('Antiq.,' 6:14, 9). On the other hand, it is remarkable that the word here for years is that used where the whole number is less than ten. The events, however, recorded in the rest of the book seem to require a longer period than ten years for the duration of Saul's reign; thirty-two would be a more probable number, and, added to the seven and a half years' reign of Ishbosheth (see 2 Samuel 5:5), they would make up the whole sum of forty years ascribed by St. Paul to Saul's dynasty. It is quite possible, however, that these forty years may even include the fifteen or sixteen years of Samuel's judgeship. But the two facts, that all the three sons of Saul mentioned in 1 Samuel 14:49 were old enough to go with him to the battle of Mount Gilboa, where they were slain; and that Ishbosheth, his successor, was forty years of age when his father died, effectually dispose of the idea that Saul's was a very short reign. OCCASION OF THE FIRST WAR AGAINST THE PHILISTINES (vers. 2-7). Samuel thereupon announced to them first of all, that the Lord would not forsake His people for His great name's sake, if they would only serve Him with uprightness. In order, however, to give no encouragement to any false trust in the covenant faithfulness of the Lord, after the comforting words, "Fear not," he told them again very decidedly that they had done wrong, but that now they were not to turn away from the Lord, but to serve Him with all their heart, and not go after vain idols. To strengthen this admonition, he repeats the תּסוּרוּ לא in 1 Samuel 12:21, with the explanation, that in turning from the Lord they would fall away to idols, which could not bring them either help or deliverance. To the כּי after תּסוּרוּ the same verb must be supplied from the context: "Do not turn aside (from the Lord), for (ye turn aside) after that which is vain." התּהוּ, the vain, worthless thing, signifies the false gods. This will explain the construction with a plural: "which do not profit and do not save, because they are emptiness" (tohu), i.e., worthless beings (elilim, Leviticus 19:4; cf. Isaiah 44:9 and Jeremiah 16:19).
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