Saul Fails the Lord, 1-22
13:1 Saul was [thirty] years old when he began to reign; he ruled over Israel for [forty] years. 13:2 Saul selected for himself three thousand men from Israel. Two thousand of these were with Saul at Micmash and in the hill country of Bethel; the remaining thousand were with Jonathan at Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin. He sent all the rest of the people back home.
Saul was [thirty] years old when he began to reign; he ruled over Israel for [forty] years – The numbers are in brackets in this translation (NET) because they are textually very uncertain.
We simply do not know how old Saul was when he became king. But for how many years did he rule?
NRSV leaves the matter open: “Saul was . . . years old when he began to reign; and he reigned . . . and two years over Israel.”
AV: “Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel . . . .”
NIV: “Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years.”
NEB: “Saul was fifty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel for twenty-two years.”
Linking the second number with what follows in v2, ESV: “Saul lived for one year and then became king, and when he had reigned for two years over Israel, 2 Saul chose three thousand men of Israel.”
The problem is that something is missing from the Hebrew text, which reads: ‘he reigned . . . and two years’
The figure of 42 years (NIV) comes from a harmonisation of Acts 13:21 (which has ’40 years’) with the ‘two’ that occurs in the present text.
Regarding the omissions in the text, Baldwin suggests that ‘it seems likely that that information was missing from the start, or that it was misunderstood and therefore omitted by later scribes who thought the numbers given could not be right.’
Bergen may be on to something when he suggests that the number ‘two’ was introduced into the text to indicate the length of time Saul ruled before being disqualified from the role. The longer numbers (esp. the ’40 years’ of Acts 13:21) represent the length of time he functioned as king, despite having been rejected as such by the Lord.
See this discussion by Claude Mariottini.
13:3 Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost that was at Geba and the Philistines heard about it. Then Saul alerted all the land saying, “Let the Hebrews pay attention!” 13:4 All Israel heard this message, “Saul has attacked the Philistine outpost, and now Israel is repulsive to the Philistines!” So the people were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.
13:5 For the battle with Israel the Philistines had amassed 3,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen, and an army as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Micmash, east of Beth Aven. 13:6 The men of Israel realized they had a problem because their army was hard pressed. So the army hid in caves, thickets, cliffs, strongholds, and cisterns. 13:7 Some of the Hebrews crossed over the Jordan River to the land of Gad and Gilead. But Saul stayed at Gilgal; the entire army that was with him was terrified. 13:8 He waited for seven days, the time period indicated by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the army began to abandon Saul.
13:9 So Saul said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings.” Then he offered a burnt offering. 13:10 Just when he had finished offering the burnt offering, Samuel appeared on the scene. Saul went out to meet him and to greet him.
Some ancient manuscripts have ‘30,000 chariots’, and are followed by AV; RSV; NRSV; GNB; ESV; NASB95. This would be a huge number, especially given the comparison with just 6,000 horsemen.
Others manuscripts have ‘3,000 chariots’ (so NET; NIV84; NIV).
Gleason Archer (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties) takes the smaller number as original, commenting that
‘The accurate preservation of statistics and of the spelling of proper names is notoriously difficult in manuscript transmission, and 1 Samuel has more than its share of textual errors.’
13:11 But Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul replied, “When I saw that the army had started to abandon me and that you didn’t come at the appointed time and that the Philistines had assembled at Micmash, 13:12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down on me at Gilgal and I have not sought the LORD’s favor.’ So I felt obligated to offer the burnt offering.”
13:13 Then Samuel said to Saul, “You have made a foolish choice! You have not obeyed the commandment that the LORD your God gave you. Had you done that, the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever! 13:14 But now your kingdom will not continue! The LORD has sought out for himself a man who is loyal to him and the LORD has appointed him to be leader over his people, for you have not obeyed what the LORD commanded you.”
“A man who is loyal to him” – often translated, ‘a man after God’s own heart’, or similar.
13:15 Then Samuel set out and went up from Gilgal to Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin. Saul mustered the army that remained with him; there were about six hundred men. 13:16 Saul, his son Jonathan, and the army that remained with them stayed in Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin, while the Philistines camped in Micmash. 13:17 Raiding bands went out from the camp of the Philistines in three groups. One band turned toward the road leading to Ophrah by the land of Shual; 13:18 another band turned toward the road leading to Beth Horon; and yet another band turned toward the road leading to the border that overlooks the valley of Zeboim in the direction of the desert.
13:19 A blacksmith could not be found in all the land of Israel, for the Philistines had said, “This will prevent the Hebrews from making swords and spears.” 13:20 So all Israel had to go down to the Philistines in order to get their plowshares, cutting instruments, axes, and sickles sharpened. 13:21 They charged two-thirds of a shekel to sharpen plowshares and cutting instruments, and a third of a shekel to sharpen picks and axes, and to set ox goads. 13:22 So on the day of the battle no sword or spear was to be found in the hand of anyone in the army that was with Saul and Jonathan. No one but Saul and his son Jonathan had them.
v19 The Israelites were still in the Bronze Age, whereas the Philistines had access to iron.
v21 ‘The Hebrew test of 1 Sam 13:21 included a word which puzzlied translators for a long time. The word is pim. The AV translated it as “file” (for sharpening), but that was pure guesswork: nobody really knew what a pim was. But during the twentieth century archeologists excavating sites such as Timnah, Ashdod and Ekron discovered some small dome-shaped weights, inscribed with the Hebrew word pim. So now we know what a pim was: about a quarter of an ounce of silver, or two-thirds of a shekel. This was what the Philistines charged the Israelites to sharpen their ploughshares or mattocks.
What is so significant about this particular discovery is that these weights are found only in strata from the ninth to seventh centuries BC, after which the pim apparently disappeared. That makes is highly likely that 1 Samuel – or at least a version of it – was written during that period, rather than in the second century BC, as some critics have suggested, five hundred years after the weight had vanished from circulation.’ (Coupland, Spicing up your Speaking, 134)
v22 Since the Philistines had a monopoly of technology for maintaining the latest weaponry, they not only charged a high rate for such maintenance (v21), but also knew how little equipment the Israelites had.