1 Samuel 14:18
And Saul said unto Ahiah, Bring hither the ark of God. For the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel.
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(18) And Saul said unto Ahiah . . .—The LXX. renders here, “And Saul said to Ahijah, Bring hither the ephod; for he bore the ephod in those days before the children of Israel.” This is a statement easily to be understood. Saul was in doubt what to do under the present emergency. Should he—seeing the panic that was evidently increasing in the Philistine camp, and knowing nothing of the cause, only that his son and the armour-bearer were missing—should he risk his little force, and, leaving his strong position, attack that great host of apparently panic-stricken enemies? So he sent for the high priest Ahijah, and bade him consult the Urim and Thummim in his ephod.

But the Hebrew and all the versions read as in our English Version, “Bring hither the Ark of God” What does this mean? Was the Ark, then, with that little band of Saul? We never before, or after, find the slightest hint that the sacred coffer ever left the “city of woods” (Kiriath-yearim) until David bore it to Zion. Then, again, the word preceding “Bring hither” is never used in connection with the Ark. No question or oracle could be asked of the Ark or by the Ark. The Urim and Thummim, whatever these mysterious objects were alone were used to give answers to questions solemnly asked by king and people, and this Urim and Thummim were connected, not with the Ark, but with the high-priestly ephod. On the whole, the reading of the LXX. probably represents the original Hebrew. The present Hebrew text, with the word “Ark,” is, however, clearly of extreme antiquity; the second part of the verse is most likely an explanatory gloss of some ancient scribe. Josephus’ account of this transaction shows us that he had before him a text corresponding to the LXX. His words are, “He bid the priest take the garment of his high priesthood and prophesy” (Antiq., 6 § 3). Maurer prefers the present Hebrew text, for he says, At that supreme moment of danger Saul wanted not the advice of an oracle, but rather the help and encouragement which the presence of the sacred Ark would give to his handful of soldiers. But this would rather degrade Saul to the level of the superstitious Hophni and Phinehas, the wicked sons of Eli. who, it will be remembered, exposed and lost the sacred Ark in the fatal battle in which they perished. Saul, with all his faults, was a far nobler type of man than those profligate, though brave, priests.

1 Samuel 14:18-19. Saul said, Bring hither the ark of God — Finding only Jonathan and his armour-bearer missing, Saul did not know what to conclude, and therefore called in all haste for Ahiah the priest, to inquire of the Lord concerning it, and in what manner he and the people with him were to act. But before the priest had performed his office, the rout and flight of the Philistines were perceived so plainly that Saul called to the priest to desist, or, as it is expressed, to withdraw his hand, as there was no occasion for further inquiry, it being plain what the matter was, and what they had to do.

14:16-23 The Philistines were, by the power of God, set against one another. The more evident it was that God did all, the more reason Saul had to inquire whether God would give him leave to do any thing. But he was in such haste to fight a fallen enemy, that he would not stay to end his devotions, nor hear what answer God would give him. He that believeth, will not make such haste, nor reckon any business so urgent, as not to allow time to take God with him.For "the ark," some read "the ephod," owing to the improbability of the ark being with Saul at this time, and from the verb "Bring hither" being never applied to the ark, but regularly to the ephod 1 Samuel 23:9; 1 Samuel 30:7. Moreover, not the ark, but the ephod with Urim and Thummim, was the proper instrument for inquiring of the Lord. If, however, the Hebrew text is correct, they must have brought the ark into Saul's camp from Kirjath-jearim 1 Samuel 7, possibly to be safe from the Philistines. 18. Saul said unto Ahiah, Bring hither the ark of God—There is no evidence that the ark had been brought from Kirjath-jearim. The Septuagint version is preferable; which, by a slight variation of the text, reads, "the ephod"; that is, the priestly cape, which the high priest put on when consulting the oracle. That this should be at hand is natural, from the presence of Ahiah himself, as well as the nearness of Nob, where the tabernacle was then situated. That the priest may put on the ephod, and may inquire of the Lord before the ark what the occasion of this tumult among our enemies is, and what we shall do.

With the children of Israel, to wit, in the camp, whither sometimes it was brought; as 1 Samuel 4:5; and now the rather, partly because it was now in an unsettled condition, and without the tabernacle, and therefore easily removed from place to place; and partly because Saul thought to compensate Samuel’s absence with the presence of the ark.

And Saul said unto Ahiah, bring hither the ark of the Lord,.... That he, the high priest, might put on the ephod, with the Urim and Thummim, and inquire by them of the Lord before it, concerning the affair of Jonathan, what he had done, and the agitation that was in the host of the Philistines; so the Septuagint version, "bring the ephod", of which, with the Urim and Thummim, Kimchi interprets it; and ask, whether it was right for him to go out unto them, or continue where he was:

for the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel; and so it always was, except a few months it was in the hands of the Philistines; so it was at Kirjathjearim, where it was last. Jarchi thinks a word is wanting, and to be supplied thus,"the ark of God was there at that time with the children of Israel,''at Gibeah; perhaps it might be removed first to Gilgal, when Saul and Samuel were there, and when they came to Gibeah it was brought along with them; but the last words may be considered as a distinct clause, and, literally tendered, are, "and the children of Israel": which Abarbinel accounts for thus, and Saul said this:

bring hither the ark of the Lord; and the children of Israel said so likewise, joined with him in it: though the ark had been with Saul, and the people, some time, and also the high priest, yet we do not find that Saul in all his straits and difficulties consulted the Lord before; but perceiving something extraordinary was doing, and might turn to his advantage, he begins to inquire.

And Saul said unto Ahiah, Bring hither the ark of God. For the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel.
18. Bring hither the ark of God] Saul wished to “inquire of God” before going to battle. See Numbers 27:21. But apart from the fact that we have no mention of the transportation of the Ark from Kirjath-jearim, it was not the Ark, but the Ephod with Urim and Thummim which was the proper instrument for ascertaining the will of God. Moreover “bring hither” is a term applied to the Ephod (1 Samuel 23:9, 1 Samuel 30:7) but not to the Ark. It seems best therefore to follow the reading of the Sept.; “And Saul said to Ahia, bring hither the Ephod: for he wore the Ephod at that time before the children of Israel.”

1 Samuel 14:18Saul therefore resolved to ask God, through the priest Ahiah, what he should do; whether he should go out with his army against the Philistines or no. But whilst he was talking with the priest, the tumult in the camp of the Philistines became greater and greater, so that he saw from that what ought to be done under the circumstances, and stopped the priest's inquiring of God, and set out with his people without delay. We are struck, however, with the expression in 1 Samuel 14:18, "Bring hither the ark of God," and the explanation which follows, "for the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel," inasmuch as the ark was then deposited at Kirjath-jearim, and it is a very improbable thing that it should have been in the little camp of Saul. Moreover, in other cases where the high priest is spoken of as inquiring the will of God, there is no mention made of the ark, but only of the ephod, the high priest's shoulder-dress, upon which there were fastened the Urim and Thummim, through which inquiry was made of God. And in addition to this, the verb הגּישׁה is not really applicable to the ark, which was not an object that could be carried about at will; whereas this verb is the current expression used to signify the fetching of the ephod (vid., 1 Samuel 23:9; 1 Samuel 30:7). All these circumstances render the correctness of the Masoretic text extremely doubtful, notwithstanding the fact that the Chaldee, the Syriac, and Arabic, and the Vulgate support it, and recommend rather the reading adopted by the lxx, προσάγαγε τὸ Ἐφούδ· ὅτι αὐτὸς ἦρεν τὸ Ἐφοὺδ ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ ἐνώπιον Ἰσραήλ, which would give as the Hebrew text, ישׂראל לפני ההוּא בּיּום האפוד נשׂא הוּא כּי האפוד הגּישׁה. In any case, וב'ני ישׂראל@ at the end of the verse should be read ישׂ לבני or לפני, since וּ gives no sense at all.
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