Poole on 1 Samuel 14:15, 16: Trembling and Slaughter in the Philistine Camp

Verse 15:[1] And (Judg. 7:21; 2 Kings 7:7; Job 18:11) there was trembling in the host, in the field, and among all the people: the garrison, and (1 Sam. 13:17) the spoilers, they also trembled, and the earth quaked: so it was (Gen. 35:5) a very great trembling (Heb. a trembling of God[2]).


[And a miracle was made in the camp, through the fields,וַתְּהִי֩ חֲרָדָ֙ה בַמַּחֲנֶ֤ה בַשָּׂדֶה֙] And there was a trembling, or panic (or stupor [Septuagint], confusion [Jonathan]), in the camp, and in the field (Montanus), that is, either, as much in the camp as in the field; or, in the camp, which was in the field (Menochius).


Trembling; a great consternation; partly from this unexpected and prodigious slaughter, which made them suspect there was more than man in the case, and that the Lord (of whose infinite power they had had former experience) was come forth to fight against them; and partly from the Lord, who took away their spirits and strength, and struck them with fear and amazement. In the field, that is, in the whole host, which was there in the field.


[And the people of the garrison, etc.,וּבְכָל־הָעָ֔ם הַמַּצָּב֙ וְהַמַּשְׁחִ֔ית חָרְד֖וּגַּם־הֵ֑מָּה ] And the whole people, those that were in Massab, and those that were spoiling, were stupefied (Septuagint). And in all the people of the garrison, and the spoilers were cast into confusion, even they (Jonathan). First in all the people that were in the garrison, then these that were ravaging were terrified (Tigurinus). But also those that were of the garrison were terrified of the plunderer (Munster). Others thus: and in all or the whole people; the outpost and the spoiler (or the garrison and the ravager [Pagnine]) became frightened, even they (Montanus, Pagnine). And in that whole people, the soldiers of the garrison and the plunderers (Hebrew: the man of the garrison and the spoiler,[3] an Enallage of number [Piscator]) trembled there also (Junius and Tremellius). That is, both those that were remaining in the station for the protection of the camp, and the skirmishers, who were being sent outside of the camp to plunder and to strike against Israel (Junius, Piscator). In the place of even there, it is to be read even those: that is to say, not only the common and less trained soldiers, etc. (Piscator). Those three divisions, of which 1 Samuel 13:17, or others, separating with the same goal, suffered the same same ἀορασίαν/blindness, or insanity, which is less incredible (Sanchez). The outpost (that is, those that had been posted in the outpost) and the plunderer trembled, even they (Vatablus). מַצָּב/garrison is from יָצַב, to station: These are lancers, who go before the army, and they cause the people to stand; but מַשְׁחִית[4] are those that go out from ambush points (Kimchi in Drusius).


Among all the people, that is, among all the rest of their forces, as well those in the garrison (as it is here explained in the following words) at Michmash, as the spoilers, mentioned 1 Samuel 13:17; the report of this prodigy, and with it the terror of God, speedily passing from one to another.


[And the earth was moved (thus Jonathan), וַתִּרְגַּז] And the earth was shaken (Pagnine, Montanus, Malvenda, similarly Junius and Tremellius); and the land was astonished (Septuagint); the earth trembled (Munster, Tigurinus, Arabic, Syriac, Castalio, Strigelius), that is, because of the trembling of the Philistines. It is a Metaphor (Drusius); or Hyperbole, whereby the consternation of the Philistines is signified (Munster). Earth is in the place of the inhabitants of the earth (Mariana). Earth, that is, that part of the earth in which the camp of the Philistines was, that is, the men of the garrison, etc. A Synecdoche of the whole, and a Metonymy of the subject (Piscator). Or, perhaps the earth itself trembled unexpectedly (Mariana, Menochius out of Salian, Martyr). The movement of the earth was miraculous, and thence the terror and perturbation sent upon them by God (Lapide). And the earth trembled more than they (Arabic).


The earth quaked; either, 1. Metaphorically and hyperbolically, the whole land, that is, the inhabitants of the land, to wit, of the Philistines, trembled. Or rather, 2. Properly, God sent an earthquake among them, which probably overthrew their tents and chariots, and destroyed many of their persons, and scattered the whole host, making them to flee away for their lives.


[And it happened as if a miracle from God, וַתְּהִ֖י לְחֶרְדַּ֥ת אֱלֹהִֽים׃] And it was for a trembling (or in fear [Pagnine]) of God (Montanus). The fear of the Lord entered them (Syriac). [They explain it in two ways.] 1. The greatest trembling (thus Junius and Tremellius); so that it might pass unto the greatest trembling (Vatablus, Drusius, Piscator), as in Genesis 1:2; 30:8[5] (Vatablus). What things are great are said to be of God, like the mountains of God,[6] the cedars of God,[7] the fire of God, etc. (Sanchez, similarly Drusius, Menochius). But this is only a secondary and consequent signification; for the term of God added denotes primarily and properly the efficient cause (Glassius’ “Grammar” 65). A trembling of God is here understood as having been sent by God (thus Glassius, Sanchez, Vatablus, Drusius). And fear was caused by the Lord (Septuagint). And it was for a disturbance from before the Lord (Jonathan). And a vehement fear came fell upon their hearts from the Lord (Arabic). For the Gentiles were wont to attribute any fear or disturbance of which there was no apparent cause to one of their gods: to Pan, for example, whence a Panic attack. Concerning such fear sent by God, see Genesis 35; Exodus 23; Deuteronomy 7; Isaiah 37 (Sanchez).


Verse 16:[8] And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked; and, behold, the multitude melted away, and they (1 Sam. 14:20) went on beating down one another.



[The watchmen Saul, הַצֹּפִים֙ לְשָׁא֔וּל] The watchmen of Saul (Septuagint, Montanus, Munster, Tigurinus, Syriac, Arabic), or to Saul (Jonathan, Malvenda). Thus it is expressed, like תְּפִלָּה֮ לְמֹשֶׁ֪ה, a prayer of Moses;[9] מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד, a psalm of David.[10] The Hebrew supply, אֲשֶׁר לְשָׁאוּל, which were to Saul (Drusius). Now, the watchmen seeing where, they report to Saul (Junius and Tremellius).


[In Gibeah of Benjamin (thus all interpreters)] [I marvel that no one here translates בְּגִבְעַת, in Gibeah, as in the hill of Benjamin. Which sort of place was especially suitable for watchment. And thus they translate this same expression in 1 Samuel 13:16.[11]]


In Gibeah, or, in the hill, as the very same word is rendered, 1 Samuel 13:16, and that was the fittest place for watchmen.


[And, behold, the multitude laid low, and fleeing this way and that,נָמ֖וֹג וַיֵּ֥לֶךְ וַהֲלֹֽם׃] It was dissolved (it had trembled (Syriac, similarly the Arabic), and departed and was battered[12] (Montanus); it departed and was broken, that is, thereupon it was worn away; which is to say, the slaughter was increased (Vatablus). It was moving on and being worn out (Pagnine); it had withdrawn and had been routed (Syriac); having been routed, it was being scattered (Arabic). And, behold, the Philistine crowd as dissolved, and, in going, was shattered (Munster); it was melting, and was going on, and was crushed (Dutch). And they went on beating one another (English). That, behold, that multitude was melting, and was proceeding incessantly to beat itself (Junius and Tremellius). Hebrew: and it went in going and beating itself (Junius, Piscator). The infinitive is put in the place of an indicative[13] (certain interpreters in Malvenda). And, behold, the multitude melted away rushing this way and that (Tigurinus). The Vulgate translates הֲלֹם as hither: that is, and it went also hither, understanding, and thither (Malvenda).


The multitude, to wit, of that numerous host of the Philistines. Melted away, that is, were strangely and suddenly dispersed, and put to flight. Beating down one another; either, 1. Accidentally, through hasty flight; or, 2. With design to destroy one another, as the authors or abettors of the present calamity. Possibly God blinded their eyes or their minds, that they could not distinguish friends from foes. Compare Judges 7:22; 2 Kings 6:18, etc.; 2 Chronicles 20:23.

[1] Hebrew: וַתְּהִי֩ חֲרָדָ֙ה בַמַּחֲנֶ֤ה בַשָּׂדֶה֙ וּבְכָל־הָעָ֔ם הַמַּצָּב֙ וְהַמַּשְׁחִ֔ית חָרְד֖וּ גַּם־הֵ֑מָּה וַתִּרְגַּ֣ז הָאָ֔רֶץ וַתְּהִ֖י לְחֶרְדַּ֥ת אֱלֹהִֽים׃ [2] Hebrew: לְחֶרְדַּ֥ת אֱלֹהִֽים׃. [3] Hebrew: הַמַּצָּב֙ וְהַמַּשְׁחִ֔ית. [4]שָׁחַת signifies to ruin or corrupt. [5] Genesis 30:8: “And Rachel said, With great wrestlings (נַפְתּוּלֵ֙י אֱלֹהִ֧ים׀, wrestlings of God) have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.” [6] Psalm 36:6: “Thy righteousness is like the great mountains (כְּהַרְרֵי־אֵל, like the mountains of God); thy judgments are a great deep: O Lord, thou preservest man and beast.” [7] Psalm 80:10: “The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars (אַרְזֵי־אֵל, the cedars of God).” [8] Hebrew: וַיִּרְא֤וּ הַצֹּפִים֙ לְשָׁא֔וּל בְּגִבְעַ֖ת בִּנְיָמִ֑ן וְהִנֵּ֧ה הֶהָמ֛וֹן נָמ֖וֹג וַיֵּ֥לֶךְ וַהֲלֹֽם׃ [9] Psalm 90 title. [10] For example, see the titles of Psalm 3; 4; 5. [11] 1 Samuel 13:16: “And Saul, and Jonathan his son, and the people that were present with them, abode in Gibeah of Benjamin (בְּגֶ֣בַע בִּנְיָמִ֑ן, in the hill of Benjamin): but the Philistines encamped in Michmash.” [12]הָלַם signifies to smite, to hammer; הֲלֹם, hither. [13] Here, הֲלֹם is taken as the infinite of הָלַם.

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