Poole on 1 Samuel 14:13, 14: Jonathan's Intrepid Attack

Verse 13:[1] And Jonathan climbed up upon his hands and upon his feet, and his armourbearer after him: and they fell before Jonathan; and his armourbearer slew after him.


[Now, he ascended] Not in the sight of the Philistines, but from another direction (Menochius, Mendoza out of Cajetan and Tostatus and Josephus), lest they be driven down by the Philistines with stones: Hence they were ascending by another way, much more difficult and believed inaccessible (Mendoza).


[Crawling on his hands and feet (thus Vatablus)] Or advancing (Junius and Tremellius, Piscator). For the ascent was arduous and steep (Junius, Piscator, Malvenda, similarly Mendoza). But their arms, grasped with the teeth, or thrown over the shoulder onto the back, or fixed to their sides, they were carrying with them. Moreover, they were ascending in that way, so that they might not be seen by the Philistines, but might escape detection unto the summit, and hasten in concealment unto the tents of the enemy (Mendoza for the most part out of Vatablus). Or, perhaps it is proverbial, on hands and feet; that is, with all their strength, or with all their might (Junius).


And Jonathan climbed, etc.: The Philistines could easily have hindered their ascent, but thought scorn to do it, not questioning but they could cut them off in a moment when they were come up to them according to their invitation.


[Some fell before Jonathan; others his armorbearer was killing after him (similarly the Syriac, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius), that is, with arms taken by one from the slain (Junius), וְנֹשֵׂ֥א כֵלָ֖יו מְמוֹתֵ֥ת אַחֲרָֽיו׃] Before Jonathan, and the one bearing his equipment killing after him (Montanus). Jonathan thus: they were falling, incapacitated, weakened, or certainly run through, wounded (similarly Kimchi); or Kimchi says this, they were falling, and the armorbearer was killing (Drusius). Jonathan was making his way through the enemy with his sword (Vatablus). Question: How was it possible that such slaughters were wrought by two men? Response 1: Because they rushed upon those sleeping (Josephus in Mendoza). I do not agree, for the Philistines a little before were introduced as awake and speaking (Mendoza). But Hugo, following Josephus, says that Jonathan changed his place, and withdrew from that in which he had been seen by the sentries; and that he turned aside to another, whence he attacked the enemy, sleeping and secure. This conjecture does not displease (Malvenda). Response 2: The Philistines were killed, not so much by Jonathan and his armorbear, as by themselves through mutual wounds. Which was done, either, 1. as a result of a mist suddenly spread (Lyra): But that mist would have no less impeded Jonathan from seeing the enemy, than the enemy from seeing them (Estius). But this rationale is not cogent: For it was not necessary that Jonathan see the enemy, since, with the exception of the one armorbearer, the rest were enemies. There is another, more weighty reason, that then the battle, and the multitude of men prostrated, would not have been known by the watchmen[2] (Sanchez). Or, 2. inasmuch as they, cast into confusion by the sudden attack, and believing that the attack was made, not by two only, but by the all the enemies, were not recognizing one another, since they had joined together from various nations and tongues into one army (Josephus in Mendoza). Or, 3. as a result of ἀορασίᾳ or blindness sent from heaven, just as in Genesis 19:11; 2 Kings 6:18, etc. (Estius out of Lyra, Sanchez). And just as those, although they saw other things, did not see the gate, Samaria, Elisha; so it is seen to have happened in this passage: The Philistines were indeed seeing all the other armed bodies; yet they were not recognizing that at this time it was especially of use to them, whether they were enemies, whom they should attack with the sword, or allies. I suspect that the same ἀορασίαν/blindness descended, as often as enemies are said to have slain one another with mutual wounds, as in Judges 7:22; 2 Chronicles 20:23. Pausanias,[3] in Description of Greece “Phocis”, a little after the middle, relates something similar to have happened to the Gauls, or Galatians, when they attempted to plunder a temple of the Delphic Apollo. But there is, I believe, something fabulous in that narration (Sanchez). Response 3: God had instilled a panicy fear in them (Lapide, similarly Menochius, Mendoza out of Cajetan and Tostatus); whereby gripped, and somewhat frenzied, they were wounding one another (Mendoza). There was great confusion and commotion from the sudden coming of the Hebrews, and the din of arms, which they were hearing everywhere (Sanchez). It was easy for God to cast their imaginations into confusion, so that they were thinking their friends to be their enemies: just as we see naturally to be done in melancholics and maniacs (Lapide on verse 14).


Verse 14:[4] And that first slaughter, which Jonathan and his armourbearer made, was about twenty men, within as it were an half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plow (or, half a furrow of an acre of land[5]).


Jonathan and his armourbearer being endowed with extraordinary strength and courage, and having with incredible boldness killed the first they met with, and so proceeding with success, it is not strange if the Philistines were both astonished and intimidated; God also struck them with a panic terror; and withal, infatuated their minds, and possibly put an evil spirit among them, which in this universal confusion made them conceive that there was treachery amongst themselves, and therefore caused them to sheath their swords in one another’s bowels, as appears from 1 Samuel 14:16, 20.


[In the middle part of an jugeri/half-acre, which a pair of oxen was wont to plow in a day, כְּבַחֲצִ֥י מַעֲנָ֖ה צֶ֥מֶד שָׂדֶֽה׃] [They render it variously.] Almost in the middle of a jugero/half-acre; that is, the actus[6] of jugatorum/yoked oxen (Junius and Tremellius). Hebrew: by the jugo/yoke of a pair (Junius). The word שָׂדֶה/ field he does not express; why he translated that by actus, I do not know. And he translates מַעֲנָה as jugerum/half-acre, which with Rabbi Salomon, Kimchi, and Rabbi Levi, I prefer to understand as furrow; that is, a line, which a plowman draws with oxen in what length he wills. Jonathan righly calls it the walking of oxen, for along a furrow oxen go in plowing. The origin of the word confirms this. For מַעֲנָה is properly the depression of earth, which a plow makes; from עָנָה, to be pressed down: it is the same as מַעֲנִית in Psalm 129:3, where it undoubtedly denotes furrow[7] (Dieu). In the middle part of an jugeri/half-acre, and the space of the field of two oxen; that is, how great a space two oxen are able to plow in a field in a day (Munster, similarly the Vulgate and Jonathan and Kimchi and Rabbi Salomon and Rabbi Levi in Dieu). Approximately the space of half a walk of a jugi/yoke of axen in a field (Jonathan, similarly the English, Dutch). But see how many things are assumed here (Dieu): 1. צֶמֶד/pair is a pair of oxen.[8] 2. שָׂדֶה/field is in the place of בַּשָּׂדֶה, in the field (thus Munster, Kimchi in Dieu, Piscator). 3. Pair of oxen is here put in the place of the space that a pair of oxen plow in one day; which everyone has seen to be mere conjectures (Dieu). As in the middle of an jugeri/half-acre, that is, an half-acre of a field (Piscator, Vatablus); that is, in so small a space, as much as is the half part of an jugeri/half-acre, or of a furrow dranw by a par of oxen along a whole jugerum/half-acre of land; that is to say, in an exceedingly small space they killed twenty (Vatablus). צֶמֶד is properly a pair of animals yoked together, etc. It is set down metonymically for the field that such a pair is able to plow in one day (Piscator). As in the middle or half of a furrow of an jugeri/ half-acre of a field, or land (Montanus, Mariana, English) (or in a field [Tigurinus]). In the space of a field of almost a half of a jugeri/half-acre (Castalio). Here, the bravery of Jonathan is commended, because in so small a space, where enemies were so near to each other, and one was able to help the other, so many were slain. But does not the space appear sufficiently ample, if in length you take half of a furrow; but in breadth how much a pair of oxen is able to plow in one day? so is it strange that twenty men fell there? I myself believe that the space was far smaller. צֶמֶד signifies a pair, as in Judges 19:3,וְצֶ֣מֶד חֲמֹרִ֑ים, and a pair of asses: צֶמֶד פָּרָשִׁים, a pair of horsemen.[9] Thus in this place,צֶ֥מֶד שָׂדֶֽה׃, a pair of fields. But what is this field? It clarifies that מַעֲנָה/furrow, which precedes; namely, that it is what a farmer accomplishes in drawing furrows; that long raised bed, which, from the beginning whence a furrow is started, to the end of the field where it stops, is extended between two furrows; sometimes a farmer makes many little plots of this sort in one field, just as he draws more or fewer furrows. Thus the space was very small; that is, in the length of half of a furrow, in the breadth of two small plots. But it one should think a greater space indicated, he would translate it, almost in half of a furrow of a jugeri/half-acre (Dieu). The Vulgate understood jugerum by its own periphrase, which is two hundred and forty feet long, and one hundred and twenty broad (Mariana). A half jugerum the Hebrews explain as the space of a quarter mile. Such a space Hebraically and Metonymically is indicated with a twofold name: 1. It is called מַעֲנָה or מַעֲנִית, tilled ground; that is, as much as a pair of oxen is able to plow in a day. Thus Kimchi and Jerome, although Kimchi also renders it furrow, and line or ridge that is plowed up by oxen. Thus it is called, either from עָנָה, to press down, to subjugate, etc., as if it were called the pressing down, breaking up, or working of the earth: See Psalm 129:3: or from עָנָה, to answer, because it consists of furrows or channels answering to each other in matched order: this sort of jugerum of the Hebrews has, when it is ἑτερόμηκες (with one side longer), one hundred and ninety-two feet of length, ninety-six of breadth, eigthteen thousand and four hundred and thirty-two of area, according to Cappel, whom you may see. 2. צֶמֶד is a pair or yoke, from צָמַד/tzamad, to join together, to couple, etc., as if a space of ground that a vigorous pair or yoke of oxen is able to plow in a day (Waser’s Concerning the Ancient Measurements of the Hebrews[10] 1:13. [Upon these things some light will shine from those things that Malvenda notes.] Varro, Concerning Agriculture[11] 1:10, says: They call a jugum/yoke, what joined oxen are able to plow in one day. A jugerum, what has two squared actus. A squared actus, what is both one hundred and twenty feet broad, and as many long. Isidore, Etymologies 15:15: Farmers of the province of Bætica[12] call a field an actus. Pliny, Natural History 18:3: What is able to be plowed by a jugo/yoke of oxen in a day was called a jugerum. What oxen could plow in a single, measured exertion was called an actus. This was one hundred and twenty feet: doubled in length, it was making a jugerum. Festus:[13] An actus signifies in Geometry the lesser part of a jugeri, that is, on hundred and twenty feet (Malvenda). [From these things it is evident why Junius used the language of actu, of which Dieu was confessing himself to be ignorant.] I do not suppose that Jonathan either undertook or attempted anything in addition; since he was now achieving what he wanted: it was not safe to remain any longer in the camp thus cast into confusion, since all were raging and wild with insanity, and killing whomever they met (Sanchez).

[1] Hebrew: וַיַּ֣עַל יוֹנָתָ֗ן עַל־יָדָיו֙ וְעַל־רַגְלָ֔יו וְנֹשֵׂ֥א כֵלָ֖יו אַחֲרָ֑יו וַֽיִּפְּלוּ֙ לִפְנֵ֣י יוֹנָתָ֔ן וְנֹשֵׂ֥א כֵלָ֖יו מְמוֹתֵ֥ת אַחֲרָֽיו׃ [2] See verse 16. [3] Pausanias was a Greek geographer of the second century AD. [4] Hebrew: וַתְּהִ֞י הַמַּכָּ֣ה הָרִאשֹׁנָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֙ר הִכָּ֧ה יוֹנָתָ֛ן וְנֹשֵׂ֥א כֵלָ֖יו כְּעֶשְׂרִ֣ים אִ֑ישׁ כְּבַחֲצִ֥י מַעֲנָ֖ה צֶ֥מֶד שָׂדֶֽה׃ [5] Hebrew: כְּבַחֲצִ֥י מַעֲנָ֖ה צֶ֥מֶד שָׂדֶֽה׃. [6] That is, a land measure of one hundred and twenty feet. [7] Psalm 129:3: “The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows (לְמַעֲנוֹתָם [Kethib]; לְמַעֲנִיתָם [Qere]).” [8]צֶמֶד is related to the verbal root צָמַד, to bind or join. [9] See Isaiah 21:7, 9. [10]De Antiquis Mensuris Hebræorum. [11]De Re Rustica. [12] In southern Spain. [13] Sextus Pompeius Festus was a second century Roman grammarian. He composed an epitome of Verrius Flaccus’ De Verborum Significatu.

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