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13 By this time Saul had reigned for one year.[a] In the second year of his reign, he selected three thousand special troops and took two thousand of them with him to Michmash and Mount Bethel while the other thousand remained with Jonathan, Saul’s son, in Gibeah in the land of Benjamin. The rest of the army was sent home. 3-4 Then Jonathan attacked and destroyed the garrison of the Philistines at Geba. The news spread quickly throughout the land of the Philistines, and Saul sounded the call to arms throughout Israel. He announced that he had destroyed the Philistine garrison and warned his men that the army of Israel stank to high heaven as far as the Philistines were concerned. So the entire Israeli army mobilized again and joined at Gilgal. The Philistines recruited a mighty army of three thousand chariots, six thousand horsemen, and so many soldiers that they were as thick as sand along the seashore; and they camped at Michmash east of Beth-aven.

When the men of Israel saw the vast mass of enemy troops, they lost their nerve entirely and tried to hide in caves, thickets, coverts, among the rocks, and even in tombs and cisterns. Some of them crossed the Jordan River and escaped to the land of Gad and Gilead. Meanwhile, Saul stayed at Gilgal, and those who were with him trembled with fear at what awaited them. Samuel had told Saul earlier to wait seven days for his arrival, but when he still didn’t come, and Saul’s troops were rapidly slipping away, he decided to sacrifice the burnt offering and the peace offerings himself. 10 But just as he was finishing, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet him and to receive his blessing, 11 but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?”

“Well,” Saul replied, “when I saw that my men were scattering from me, and that you hadn’t arrived by the time you said you would, and that the Philistines were at Michmash, ready for battle, 12 I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I reluctantly offered the burnt offering without waiting for you to arrive.”

13 “You fool!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have disobeyed the commandment of the Lord your God. He was planning to make you and your descendants kings of Israel forever, 14 but now your dynasty must end; for the Lord wants a man who will obey him. And he has discovered the man he wants and has already appointed him as king over his people; for you have not obeyed the Lord’s commandment.”

15 Samuel then left Gilgal and went to Gibeah in the land of Benjamin.

When Saul counted the soldiers who were still with him, he found only six hundred left! 16 Saul and Jonathan and these six hundred men set up their camp in Geba in the land of Benjamin; but the Philistines stayed at Michmash. 17 Three companies of raiders soon left the camp of the Philistines; one went toward Ophrah in the land of Shual, 18 another went to Beth-horon, and the third moved toward the border above the valley of Zeboim near the desert.

19 There were no blacksmiths at all in the land of Israel in those days, for the Philistines wouldn’t allow them for fear of their making swords and spears for the Hebrews. 20 So whenever the Israelites needed to sharpen their plowshares, discs, axes, or sickles, they had to take them to a Philistine blacksmith. 21 The schedule of charges was as follows:

For sharpening a plow point, 60¢

For sharpening a disc, 60¢

For sharpening an ax, 30¢

For sharpening a sickle, 30¢

For sharpening an ox goad, 30¢

22 So there was not a single sword or spear in the entire “army” of Israel that day, except for Saul’s and Jonathan’s. 23 The mountain pass at Michmash had meanwhile been secured by a contingent of the Philistine army.


  1. 1 Samuel 13:1 Saul had reigned for one year. The Hebrew, from which the numbers have evidently dropped out in copying, reads: “Saul was . . . years old when he began to reign, and he reigned . . . and two years over Israel.”

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