1 Sam 13:1-7 – Saul Fights the Philistines

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1Sam 13:1

  1. We often think of Saul as the failed king and David as the successful king, but at least Saul’s first years as king were seemingly okay. Had it not been for the events of this chapter, Saul’s kingship would have lived on.
  2. The situation in Israel was not very good. In verses 19-22 we see that the Philistines controlled the people of Israel and did not allow them to work as blacksmiths because they were afraid that the Israelites would forge swords.
    1. The Philistines were militarily and technologically totally superior to the Israelis. The situation could be compared to that of the Indians when the Europeans arrived in North America.
    2. In order for the Israelis to sharpen their axes or plowshares, they had to go down to the Philistines.
    3. In the army of Israel, only Saul and his son Jonathan had swords and spears.

1Sam 13:2

  1. When Israel has been at war in the past, the people have been summoned according to need, but now Saul selects 3,000 men to be part of a standing army.

1Sam 13:3-4

  1. Israel had been at peace with the Philistines for some time, but this was only because they had bowed to the Philistines and let them rule. All was peace and quiet, the Philistines let Israel be as long as they bowed to the Philistines and made no trouble.
    1. But is it really right for God’s people to bow down to their enemy just to get some peace and quiet? Is this what God had in mind when he promised the land of Israel to Abraham? Didn’t God choose Saul to be king over Israel? Hasn’t God delivered his people many times before?
      1. Jonathan was not content to be cowed by his enemies, he was courageous and knew that God is with the people of Israel.
    1. We Christians do not have the Philistines as enemies, but we do fight against “principalities and powers and rulers of the world here in darkness, against the spirit powers of evil in the heavens.” (Ephesians 6:12)
      1. Just as Israel had peace of mind as long as they bowed to the enemy, so we have peace of mind when we do not challenge the devil. As long as we are weak and stay in our place, they leave us alone, but as soon as we show some boldness, we are considered “hateful”!
      2. When we boldly testify to our faith in Jesus and do what we can to spread the kingdom of God, we challenge our enemy and it is very possible that he will become angry and retaliate. We must be careful not to let our desire for a little “peace and quiet” be more important to us than spreading the gospel.
      3. It can sometimes be difficult to tell if the situation you are in makes the devil happy or angry. If you encounter resistance, is it because you’ve gone wrong or because you’ve gone right, or is it purely for objective reasons?
        1. If it suddenly starts raining, is it because God sent the rain, the devil sent the rain, or is it raining because it’s autumn?
        2. If you have no idea whether you have gone right or wrong, you should pray, study the Bible and talk to a spiritual leader.
  2. It is interesting to note that in verse 3 it says that it was “Jonathan” who attacked the Philistine outpost, but in verse 4 it says that it was “Saul”. When Saul spreads the news of Jonathan’s heroism, he simply takes credit for the deed himself. How do you think it would have sounded if Jonathan had lost the battle?
    1. Here we see the first sign that all is not quite right with Saul’s leadership. He was jealous and did not want anyone else to be praised more than himself, a problem he will wrestle with even more in the later comparison with David (1 Sam 18:5-9).
    2. We also see another problem in Saul’s leadership, he takes matters into his own hands, even though he doesn’t really have the right to do so.

1Sam 13:5

  1. Jonathan won’t settle for a little peace and quiet in exchange for submission. But Jonathan’s heroics have upset the Philistines, and now the armies of both Israel and the Philistines are gathering on opposite sides.
  2. The Philistines must have been very upset because with an army of this enormous size, the aim is probably to finish off the Israelis once and for all!
  3. Biblical scholars disagree whether it was really 30,000 chariots that the Bible translates, or whether, due to a translation error, it was 3,000 chariots that the Bible 2000 translates. The more likely case is that it was 3000 chariots because there were only 6000 horsemen. It is more likely that there were 2 riders on each chariot than that each rider had 5 chariots each.

1Sam 13:6-7

  1. It was indeed a miserable situation for Israel: most are fleeing and hiding in pits, those who remain with Saul are “trembling” and they have only two swords to share against an overwhelmingly large army bent on their destruction.
    1. Although Israel could hardly have worse odds, they should remember that if God is on their side, they can defeat any enemy.
      1. In the same way, today we need not be unduly afraid of our enemy, the devil, even if he comes at us with a seemingly insurmountable mountain of problems (Matthew 17:20-21).
  2. The people of Israel had many times in the past had problems with warlike people who wanted to destroy them, but perhaps they had hoped that now that they have a king, he will solve their problems. But just as before, it is God who must intervene and help them.
    1. From this we can learn the important lesson never to rely blindly on men, but on God. Perhaps you have felt at some point that as long as you are allowed to be in this or that church, your problems will be solved, but after a while you hopefully realise that your problems are not really solved by the church or its pastor, but by God.
    2. Today’s believers need to learn not to rely blindly on the priest or pastor for our own personal relationship with God. God’s intention for our lives is not that our spirituality consists of going to church from time to time to receive communion and then being content with that.
  3. If you only pray and read the Bible when you are in church on Sundays, then you are in danger of having surrendered your entire spirituality to the pastor. Remember that God loves you and wants to have a personal relationship with you.
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