A Helpless People
“So it came about, on the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan” (v. 22a).- 1 Samuel 13:16-23
Saul seemed determined to hurl himself and his men into battle against the invading Philistines in the passage we studied yesterday. He was so eager, in fact, that he was unwilling to wait for divine instruction. But with Samuel having come and gone without making God’s will clear, all the fight appears to have gone out of Saul. Now, with no divine authorization or direction for war, Saul seemingly retreats to Gibeah with Jonathan and their men.
The Philistines, meanwhile, remain camped at Michmash. With no unified army of Israel to challenge on the field of battle, they alter their tactics, sending out raiding parties to the north, west, and southeast. These parties probably take plunder and gather supplies to feed the occupying army. However, it seems from today’s passage that they also confiscate the Israelites’ swords and spears (except for Saul’s and Jonathan’s). Then, to ensure that Israel will not be able to make new weapons, the raiders put all of the nation’s blacksmiths out of business, perhaps by confiscating their tools, perhaps by deporting the blacksmiths themselves. Without skilled metalworkers, Israel’s ability to wage war is severely crippled. Furthermore, although the Philistines allow the Israelites to keep their farming tools, the Israelites are forced to go to their oppressors to have their plows, axes, and other implements sharpened—and that at an exorbitant price.
Thus, the condition of Israel as chapter 13 draws to a close is one of utter helplessness. The nation lies at the mercy of its Philistine oppressor. The new king, in whom the Israelites invested so many hopes, has not delivered them from the Philistines. In fact, despite Saul’s early success against the Ammonites, things have gotten worse for them. Why is this? God has allowed the Israelites to sink so low to remind them of truths they have forgotten. The people attempted to throw off the authority of God in asking for a king. They later came to see their sin in making such a request, but by then their king was on his throne, and he has now tried to usurp the position of God by refusing His counsel. Therefore, God has allowed His people and their king to be oppressed by their enemies until they recognize His ongoing sovereignty. Thankfully, there is still at least one man who remembers that God is the King, as we will see in tomorrow’s study.
It seems that the Israelites were trusting in Saul and that Saul was trusting in himself, but no one was trusting God. The result was predictably negative. Likewise, trusting anything other than God will have negative consequences for us. Examine your heart today to see whether you are trusting Him in everything and for everything.
Passages for Further Study