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.
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(8) And he tarried seven days.—When was this “set time” appointed? It seems difficult at first to refer back to the day of Saul’s mysterious prophetic consecration (1Samuel 10:8), which took place at least some three or four years—perhaps much longer—before the event here related, especially as we know that Saul and Samuel had been together on one occasion certainly at Gilgal in the meantime (1Samuel 11:14-15); and yet the extraordinary solemnity of the warning of the seer at the time of the anointing at Ramah evidently pointed to some event which should in the future happen at Gilgal, and which would be a most important epoch in King Saul’s career. All these conditions are satisfied in the meeting between the prophet and the king, here related. It is best, then, to understand this event as the one alluded to on the day of anointing at Ramah, and to conclude that this grave warning and positive direction had been repeated, probably more than once, since then by the seer to the king. (On the place Gilgal, and on the nature of the “sin of Saul,” which was so terribly punished, see Excursus E and F at end of this Book.) Saul, we read, waited seven days, but before the seventh expired, gave up waiting, and offered the sacrifice without the seer, and thus, as Josephus says, “he did not fully obey the command.” His faith failed him under pressure at the last, and he acted on his own responsibility, quite irrespective of the positive command of God.

The people were scattered from him.--This trial of the king’s faith was doubtless a severe one. The panic which pervaded all Israel was every hour thinning the host Saul had gathered round him at Gilgal. The martial king longed for a chance of joining battle: and this he was forbidden to do until the seer had offered sacrifice, and publicly inquired of the Lord; and the day passed by, and Samuel came not. An attack on the part of the Philistine army, encamped at no great distance, seemed imminent, and Saul’s forces were rapidly melting away.

13:8-14 Saul broke the order expressly given by Samuel, see ch.Had appointed - This appointment has of course nothing whatever to do with that made years before 1 Samuel 10:8, the keeping of which is expressly mentioned at the natural time 1 Samuel 11:15. But Samuel had again, on this later occasion, made an appointment at the end of seven days. It seems to have been as a trial of faith and obedience, under which, this time, Saul unhappily broke down. 8. he—that is, Saul.

tarried seven days—He was still in the eastern borders of his kingdom, in the valley of Jordan. Some bolder spirits had ventured to join the camp at Gilgal; but even the courage of those stout-hearted men gave way in prospect of this terrible visitation; and as many of them were stealing away, he thought some immediate and decided step must be taken.

Seven days; not seven complete days; for that the last day was not finished plainly appears from Samuel’s reproof, which had then been groundless and absurd, and he had falsely charged Saul with breaking God’s command therein, 1 Samuel 13:13. And as Samuel came on the seventh day, and that with intent to sacrifice; so doubtless he came in due time for that work, which was to be done before sun-setting, Exodus 29:38,39. So Saul waited only six complete days, and part of the seventh, which is here called seven days; for the word day is oft used for a part of the day, as among lawyers, so also in sacred Scripture; as Matthew 12:40, where Christ is said to be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights, i.e. one whole day, and part of the other two days. Moreover this place may be thus rendered: He tarried until the seventh day, (as this same phrase is used, Genesis 7:10, Heb. until the seventh of the days,) (as the Hebrew lamed is oft taken,) the set time that Samuel had appointed. And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed,.... He tarried to the seventh day, but not to the end of it, or towards the close of it, as he should have done:

but Samuel came not to Gilgal; so soon as Saul expected:

and the people were scattered from him; many deserted him, the Philistines drawing nigh, and Samuel not coming, as Saul expected, and had given the people reason to expect.

And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were {g} scattered from him.

(g) Thinking that the absence of the prophet was a sign, that they would lose the victory.

8–14. Saul’s disobedience and its penalty

8. the set time that Samuel had appointed] It seems clear that the historian intends to refer to Samuel’s injunction in 1 Samuel 10:8, although in all probability the interview there recorded had taken place many years before. But the command may have been repeated now, and in any case the spirit of it survived. Chosen by Jehovah expressly to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, Saul was not at liberty to begin the war of independence upon his own authority, but was to wait until duly commissioned to do so by Samuel.Verse 8. - Seven days, according, to the set time. See on 1 Samuel 10:8. The lapse of time between Samuel's appointment of the seven days during which Saul was to wait for him to inaugurate the war of independence, and the present occasion, was probably not so great as many commentators suppose; for 1 Samuel 13:1 is, as we have seen, wrongly translated, and everything else leads to the conclusion that the defeat of the Ammonites, the choice of the 3000, and Jonathan's attack on the garrison at Geba followed rapidly upon one another. As the Philistines would rightly regard Israel's choice of a king as an act of rebellion, we cannot suppose them to have been so supine and negligent as not at once to have prepared for war. Had appointed. The Hebrew word for this has been omitted by some accident. It is given in the Septuagint and Chaldee and some MSS. The whole importance of the occurence arose out of its having been appointed by Samuel on his selection of Saul as king. The war with the Philistines (1 Samuel 13-14) certainly falls, at least so far as the commencement is concerned, in the very earliest part of Saul's reign. This we must infer partly from the fact, that at the very time when Saul was seeking for his father's asses, there was a military post of the Philistines at Gibeah (1 Samuel 10:5), and therefore the Philistines had already occupied certain places in the land; and partly also from the fact, that according to this chapter Saul selected an army of 3000 men out of the whole nation, took up his post at Michmash with 2000 of them, placing the other thousand at Gibeah under his son Jonathan, and sent the rest of the people home (1 Samuel 13:2), because his first intention was simply to check the further advance of the Philistines. The dismission of the rest of the people to their own homes presupposes that the whole of the fighting men of the nation were assembled together. But as no other summoning together of the people has been mentioned before, except to the war upon the Ammonites at Jabesh (1 Samuel 11:6-7), where all Israel gathered together, and at the close of which Samuel had called the people and their king to Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:14), the assumption is a very probable one, that it was there at Gilgal, after the renewal of the monarchy, that Saul formed the resolution at once to make war upon the Philistines, and selected 3000 fighting men for the purpose out of the whole number that were collected together, and then dismissed the remainder to their homes. In all probability Saul did not consider that either he or the Israelites were sufficiently prepared as yet to undertake a war upon the Philistines generally, and therefore resolved, in the first place, only to attack the outpost of the Philistines, which was advanced as far as Gibeah, with a small number of picked soldiers. According to this simple view of affairs, the war here described took place at the very commencement of Saul's reign; and the chapter before us is closely connected with the preceding one.

1 Samuel 13:2

Saul posted himself at Michmash and on the mount of Bethel with his two thousand men. Michmash, the present Mukhmas, a village in ruins upon the northern ridge of the Wady Suweinit, according to the Onom. (s. v. Machmas), was only nine Roman miles to the north of Jerusalem, whereas it took Robinson three hours and a half to go from one to the other (Pal. ii. p. 117). Bethel (Beitin; see at Joshua 7:2) is to the north-west of this, at a distance of two hours' journey, if you take the road past Deir-Diwan. The mountain (הר) of Bethel cannot be precisely determined. Bethel itself was situated upon very high ground; and the ruins of Beitin are completely surrounded by heights (Rob. ii. p. 126; and v. Raumer, Pal. pp. 178-9). Jonathan stationed himself with his thousand men at (by) Gibeah of Benjamin, the native place and capital of Saul, which was situated upon Tell el Phul (see at Joshua 18:28), about an hour and a half form Michmas.

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