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Saul Fails the Lord

13 Saul was [thirty][a] years old when he began to reign; he ruled over Israel for [forty][b] years. Saul selected for himself 3,000 men from Israel. Of these 2,000 were with Saul at Micmash and in the hill country of Bethel; the remaining 1,000 were with Jonathan at Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin.[c] He sent all the rest of the people back home.[d]

Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost[e] that was at Geba and the Philistines heard about it. Then Saul alerted[f] all the land saying, “Let the Hebrews pay attention!” All Israel heard this message,[g] “Saul has attacked the Philistine outpost, and now Israel is repulsive[h] to the Philistines!” So the people were summoned to join[i] Saul at Gilgal.

Meanwhile the Philistines gathered to battle with Israel. Then they went up against Israel[j] with 3,000 chariots,[k] 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. The men of Israel realized they had a problem because their army was hard pressed. So the army hid in caves, thickets, cliffs, strongholds,[l] and cisterns. Some of the Hebrews crossed over the Jordan River[m] to the land of Gad and Gilead. But Saul stayed at Gilgal; the entire army that was with him was terrified. He waited for seven days, the time period indicated by Samuel.[n] But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the army began to abandon Saul.[o]

So Saul said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings.” Then he offered a burnt offering. 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.[p]

11 But Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul replied, “When I saw that the army had started to abandon me,[q] and that you didn’t come at the appointed time, and that the Philistines had assembled at Micmash, 12 I thought,[r] ‘Now the Philistines will come down on me at Gilgal and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt obligated[s] to offer the burnt offering.”

13 Then Samuel said to Saul, “You have made a foolish choice! You have not obeyed[t] the commandment that the Lord your God gave[u] you. Had you done that, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom will not continue. The Lord has sought out[v] for himself a man who is loyal to him,[w] and the Lord has appointed[x] him to be leader over his people, for you have not obeyed what the Lord commanded you.”

15 Then Samuel set out and went up from Gilgal[y] to Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin.[z] Saul mustered the army that remained with him; there were about 600 men. 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.[aa] 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; 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 Zeboyim in the direction of the desert.

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.” 20 So all Israel had to go down to the Philistines in order to get their plowshares, cutting instruments, axes, and sickles[ab] sharpened. 21 They charged[ac] two-thirds of a shekel[ad] to sharpen plowshares and cutting instruments, and one-third of a shekel[ae] to sharpen picks and axes, and to set ox goads. 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.

Jonathan Ignites a Battle

23 A garrison of the Philistines had gone out to the pass at Micmash.


  1. 1 Samuel 13:1 tc The MT does not have “thirty.” A number appears to have dropped out of the Hebrew text here, since as it stands the MT (literally, “a son of a year”) must mean that Saul was only one year old when he began to reign! The KJV, attempting to resolve this, reads “Saul reigned one year,” but that is not the normal meaning of the Hebrew text represented by the MT. Although most LXX mss lack the entire verse, some Greek mss have “thirty years” here (while others have “one year” like the MT). The Syriac Peshitta has Saul’s age as twenty-one. But this seems impossible to harmonize with the implied age of Saul’s son Jonathan in the following verse. Taking into account the fact that in v. 2 Jonathan was old enough to be a military leader, some scholars prefer to supply in v. 1 the number forty (cf. ASV, NASB). The present translation (“thirty”) is a possible but admittedly uncertain proposal based on a few Greek mss and followed by a number of English versions (e.g., NIV, NCV, NLT). Other English versions simply supply ellipsis marks for the missing number (e.g., NAB, NRSV).
  2. 1 Samuel 13:1 tc The MT has “two years” here. If this number is to be accepted as correct, the meaning apparently would be that after a lapse of two years at the beginning of Saul’s reign, he then went about the task of consolidating an army as described in what follows (cf. KJV, ASV, CEV). But if the statement in v. 1 is intended to be a comprehensive report on the length of Saul’s reign, the number is too small. According to Acts 13:21 Saul reigned for forty years. Some English versions (e.g., NIV, NCV, NLT), taking this forty to be a round number, add it to the “two years” of the MT and translate the number here as “forty-two years.” While this is an acceptable option, the present translation instead replaces the MT’s “two” with the figure “forty.” Admittedly the textual evidence for this decision is weak, but the same can be said of any attempt to restore sense to this difficult text (note the ellipsis marks at this point in NAB, NRSV). The Syriac Peshitta lacks this part of v. 1.
  3. 1 Samuel 13:2 tn Heb “at Gibeah of Benjamin.” The words “in the territory” are supplied in the translation for clarity.
  4. 1 Samuel 13:2 tn Heb “each one to his tents.”
  5. 1 Samuel 13:3 tn Or perhaps “struck down the Philistine official.” See the note at 1 Sam 10:5. Cf. TEV “killed the Philistine commander.”
  6. 1 Samuel 13:3 tn Heb “blew the ram’s horn in.”
  7. 1 Samuel 13:4 tn The words “this message” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  8. 1 Samuel 13:4 tn Heb “stinks.” The figurative language indicates that Israel had become repulsive to the Philistines.
  9. 1 Samuel 13:4 tn Heb “were summoned after.”
  10. 1 Samuel 13:5 tc The MT omits “they went up against Israel” in a case of homoioteleuton, but these words are preserved in LXX.
  11. 1 Samuel 13:5 tc The translation follows the Lucianic Greek rescension and the Syriac. Many English versions follow the MT (e.g., KJV, NASB, NRSV, TEV) reading “30,000” here. One expects there to be more horsemen than chariots, cf. 2 Kgs 13:7; 2 Chr 12:3.
  12. 1 Samuel 13:6 tn Or perhaps “vaults.” This rare term also occurs in Judg 9:46, 49. Cf. KJV “high places”; ASV “coverts”; NAB “caverns”; NASB “cellars”; NIV, NCV, TEV “pits”; NRSV, NLT “tombs.”
  13. 1 Samuel 13:7 tn The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation for clarity.
  14. 1 Samuel 13:8 tn This apparently refers to the instructions given by Samuel in 1 Sam 10:8. If so, several years had passed. On the relationship between chs. 10 and 13, see V. P. Long, The Art of Biblical History (FCI), 201-23.
  15. 1 Samuel 13:8 tn Heb “dispersed from upon him”; NAB, NRSV “began to slip away.”
  16. 1 Samuel 13:10 tn Heb “to bless him.”
  17. 1 Samuel 13:11 tn Heb “dispersed from upon me.”
  18. 1 Samuel 13:12 tn Heb “said.”
  19. 1 Samuel 13:12 tn Or “I forced myself” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV, CEV); NAB “So in my anxiety I offered”; NIV “I felt compelled.”
  20. 1 Samuel 13:13 tn Or “kept.”
  21. 1 Samuel 13:13 tn Heb “commanded.”
  22. 1 Samuel 13:14 tn This verb form, as well as the one that follows (“appointed”), indicates completed action from the standpoint of the speaker. This does not necessarily mean that the Lord had already conducted his search and made his choice, however. The forms may be used for rhetorical effect to emphasize the certainty of the action. The divine search for a new king is as good as done, emphasizing that the days of Saul’s dynasty are numbered.
  23. 1 Samuel 13:14 tn Heb “according to his heart.” The idiomatic expression means to be like-minded with another, as its use in 1 Sam 14:7 indicates.
  24. 1 Samuel 13:14 tn Heb “commanded.”
  25. 1 Samuel 13:15 tc The LXX and two Old Latin mss include the following words here: “on his way. And the rest of the people went up after Saul to meet the warring army. When they arrived from Gilgal….”
  26. 1 Samuel 13:15 tn Heb “at Gibeah of Benjamin.” The words “in the territory” are supplied in the translation for clarity (likewise in the following verse).
  27. 1 Samuel 13:16 tn The juxtaposition of disjunctive clauses in v. 16 indicates synchronic action.
  28. 1 Samuel 13:20 tc The translation follows the LXX (“their sickle”) here, rather than the MT “plowshares,” which is due to dittography from the word earlier in the verse.
  29. 1 Samuel 13:21 tn Heb “the price was.” The meaning of the Hebrew word פְּצִירָה (petsirah) is uncertain. This is the only place it occurs in the OT. Some propose the meaning “sharpening,” but “price” is a more likely meaning if the following term refers to a weight (see the following note on the word “shekel”). See P. K. McCarter, I Samuel (AB), 238.
  30. 1 Samuel 13:21 tn This word, which appears only here in the OT, probably refers to a stone weight. Stones marked פִּים (pim) have been found in excavations of Palestinian sites. The average weight of such stones is 0.268 ounces, which is equivalent to about two-thirds of a shekel. This probably refers to the price charged by the Philistines for the services listed. See P. K. McCarter, I Samuel (AB), 238; DNWSI 2:910; and G. I. Davies, Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions, 259.
  31. 1 Samuel 13:21 tc Heb “and for a third, a pick.” The Hebrew text suffers from haplography at this point. The translation follows the textual reconstruction offered by P. K. McCarter, I Samuel (AB), 235.