Verse 17: Then said Saul unto the people that were with him, Number now, and see who is gone from us. And when they had numbered, behold, Jonathan and his armourbearer were not there.
Saul probably supposed that not only Jonathan, but also some considerable number of his army, was gone, and that by them that slaughter was made.
Verse 18: And Saul said unto Ahiah, Bring hither the ark of God. For the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel.
[Bring the Ark of God (thus Munster, Tigurinus), הַגִּ֖ישָׁה אֲר֣וֹן הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים] Cause to come near (bring near [Syriac, Arabic, Pagnine, Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius, Piscator]) the ark of God (Montanus, Jonathan). So that we might ask the Lord what work is needed (Vatablus); whether I ought to pursue the Philistines (Piscator). Bring the ark, here it is not to bring that from its place to him. This would have been too arrogant and unnecessary. Now, the ark is said to be brought, as a counselor or witness is said to be called; although they come not to us, but we to them (Sanchez). Bring the ark, that is, summon, bring near the protection that the ark furnishes; that is to say, Put on the Ephod, which is kept near the ark; and by the Urim and Thummim consult the Lord before the ark (Tirinus, similarly Menochius, Osiander, Vatablus). Bring to thee the ark, in the place of, bring thyself to the ark. An Hypallage (Malvenda). Here, the Septuagint has, bring the Ephod. For they were bringing, not so much the ark, as the Ephod; in the breastplate of which were the Urim and Thummim (Drusius). These things indicate that Samuel was not present, or that at least Saul was not willing to consult him. Saul preferred to make use of that sacrificing priest, who at his will and command would either consult the Lord, or leave off: For he was not able to bear Samuel as too severe or rigid (Martyr).
Bring hither the ark of God: That the priest may put on the ephod, and may inquire of the Lord before the ark what the occasion of this tumult among our enemies is, and what we shall do.
[The ark of God was there] The ark was taken from Kirjath-jearim, because Saul judged that its presence would be most advantageous (Serarius). It was able easily to be brought, since it was outside of the tabernacle, and lodging in an inn, as it were. Perhaps, because Samuel had withdrawn, Saul commanded the ark to be brought. For he wanted to appear studious of the law, and as about to do nothing without the command of the Lord (Martyr).
[With the children of Israel] Hebrew: and the children of Israel. Therefore, and here means with. Thus in Exodus 1:5, and Joseph is in the place of with Joseph (Drusius). Thus in Genesis 46:1, Israel took his journey וְכָל, and all, with all that he had. In 2 Samuel 8:18, and Benaiah וְהַכְּרֵתִי, and the Cherethites, with the Cherethites, etc., that is, was, that is, he was in charge of the Cherethites, etc.; in 2 Samuel 20:23, עַל/over is put in the same expression. On the other hand, עִם/with is also put in the place of ו/and, as noted elsewhere (Glassius’ “Grammar” 690).
With the children of Israel, to wit, in the camp, whither sometimes it was brought; as 1 Samuel 4:5; and now the rather, partly because it was now in an unsettled condition, and without the tabernacle, and therefore easily removed from place to place; and partly because Saul thought to compensate Samuel’s absence with the presence of the ark.
Verse 19: And it came to pass, while Saul (Num. 27:21) talked unto the priest, that the noise (or, tumult) that was in the host of the Philistines went on and increased: and Saul said unto the priest, Withdraw thine hand.
[And while he was speaking, etc.] We do not read how God was consulted, or how He responded to the questions (Sanchez). Some thus expound it; while he was speaking, that is, while he was giving instruction to the priest, that he might consult the Lord: but others, while he was setting before him the heads of the questions (Martyr). While Saul was saying these things to the priest (Syriac, similarly the Arabic).
[A great tumult arose, etc., וְהֶהָמ֗וֹן אֲשֶׁר֙ בְּמַחֲנֵ֣ה פְלִשְׁתִּ֔ים וַיֵּ֥לֶךְ הָל֖וֹךְ וָרָ֑ב] And the crowd (the greater part of the army [Syriac, similarly the Arabic], that multitude [Junius and Tremellius]) that was in the encampment of the Philistines, both was going in going, and was being multiplied (Montanus, similarly Jonathan); was proceeding incessantly to struggle (Junius and Tremellius); was going, in going and contending (Junius, Piscator); was melting away (Syriac); was fleeing (Arabic). Others thus: a tumult (and the sound [Septuagint])…was going in going, and was increasing (Pagnine); in proceeding was spreading gradually and increasing (Munster, similarly Tigurinus, Castalio, Vatablus).
[Draw in thine hand] For he was extending his hands to pray (Menochius, Tirinus, Sanchez, Lyra). This is a gesture of those praying, Psalm 28:2; 44:20. He commands that he pray no longer, or ask an oracle from God (Sanchez): that is to say, cease solicitously to inquire of the will of God; the matter itself and the cry of the enemy now speak, that our might is certainly required; that we might be pluck Jonathan from danger, and overthrow our agitated enemies (Tirinus out of Tostatus). אֱסֹ֥ף יָדֶֽךָ׃, gather (recover [Pagnine, Montanus], bring back, or draw back [Vatablus, Tigurinus], take back [Syriac, Junius and Tremellius, Piscator]) thine hand (Septuagint): that is to say, leave the Ephod there, do not take hold of it; for I do not have the leisure to consult the Lord (Vatablus). He commands him to gather his hand to himself, that he might not uncover the Urim and Thummim, and consult God by them (Kimchi in Drusius). There is to be no further hesitation at this juncture in the consulting of God: but rather an approaching unto the Philistines (Piscator). Whereby Saul undertook the matter without consulting God; and perhaps for no other cause did he act foolishly, when he proclaimed a fast for the soldiers until night (Sanchez). Here, Saul proceeded to reveal his soul as averse to God (Junius, Piscator). The nature of hypocrites is here seen in Saul. For these appear very religious in dangers; but a little afterwards, when they appear to be free from danger, they no longer seek or regard God (Osiander). Because he did not quickly have a response, he ceased from petitioning (Lyra). Previously he carried himself as if he would do nothing without consulting God: But here he sufficiently declares the value he places upon the will of God; that is to say, I know well enough what is to be done. It is not needful that thou consult god (Martyr).
…but at the first trumpets, when the hostile waters
Of Dirce and Ismenos we will be drinking from our helms;
I warn thee, to me, yearning for the trumpet and arms,
Come not then, nor with winds or winged fowl seen
Put off the day of battle; far away then will be thy soft
Island, and the alarms of terrifying Phœbus:
Then shall I be augur, and with me all that are ready
to be mad in fight… (Grotius).
Withdraw thine hand: Trouble not thyself in putting on the breastplate, with the ephod, to inquire of God; for I now plainly discern the matter; the business calls not for prayer, but for action. But if it did so, there was the more need of God’s direction and blessing, that they might act with more success. Herein therefore he shows his impatience in waiting upon God; his hypocrisy, in pretending to religion; and yet his profaneness, in neglecting and despising it.
Verse 20: And Saul and all the people that were with him assembled themselves (Heb. were cried together), and they came to the battle: and, behold, (Judg. 7:22; 2 Chron. 20:23) every man’s sword was against his fellow, and there was a very great discomfiture.
[Therefore, Saul shouted/summoned, etc., וַיִּזָּעֵ֣ק שָׁא֗וּל וגו״] Saul then calling out, etc. (Syriac, Arabic). And so Saul summoned to arms (Osiander). And assembled (by a war-cry called together [Tigurinus], summoned [Montanus]) was Saul, and the people, etc. (Pagnine, Jonathan).
[And they came to the place of battle] Hebrew: up to the battle. Here, עַד, up to, is in the place of אֶל/to (Drusius).
Every man’s sword was against his fellow: The Philistines slew one another; which might come, either from mistake, of which see on verse 16; or from mutual jealousies and passions, to which God could easily dispose them.
Verse 21: Moreover the Hebrews that were with the Philistines before that time, which went up with them into the camp from the country round about, even they also turned to be with the Israelites that were with Saul and Jonathan.
[The Hebrews that had been with the Philistines, etc., וְהָעִבְרִ֗ים הָי֤וּ לַפְּלִשְׁתִּים֙] And the Hebrews (certain Hebrews [Junius and Tremellius]) had been to the Philistines (Montanus, Jonathan, Junius and Tremellius), or among the Philistines (Munster). And the servants that were, etc. In the place of עִבְרִים/Hebrews, they read עֲבָדִים/servants (Drusius). Others thus: the Hebrews that had been with (or for [Tigurinus Notes]) the Philistines, etc. (Pagnine, Tigurinus, Castalio, English, Strigelius), that is, that were previously supporting the Philistines (Vatablus).
[And had gone up with them into the camp, אֲשֶׁ֙ר עָל֥וּ עִמָּ֛ם בַּֽמַּחֲנֶ֖ה סָבִ֑יב] That had gone up with them to or into the camp all around (Junius and Tremellius, Dutch, similarly Montanus, Jonathan), or from the country round about (English). Those that had gone up with them into the camp were along the circumference (Pagnine, Martyr), that is, they had withdrawn themselves from the rest of the army (Vatablus). I translate it, placed in the circuit, that is, of the camp: that is, near the baggage. For they were slaves of the Philistines (Piscator). They were forced to carry their baggage. Now, baggage is wont to serve as a wall for a camp (Martyr). And they were in the midst of the army (Munster). They had brought up the rear (Castalio); they had followed their camp (Strigelius).
Which went up with them into the camp; either by constraint, as servants; or in policy, to gain their favour and protection.
[They turned back so that they might be with Israel, etc.,וְגַם־הֵ֗מָּה לִֽהְיוֹת֙ עִם־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל] Verbatim: and also they to be with Israel (Montanus). They (understand, were turned, or were returning [Septuagint, Pagnine, Tigurinus, English, Osiander, Jonathan) so that they might be with Israel (Septuagint, Pagnine, etc.).
Verse 22: Likewise all the men of Israel which (1 Sam. 13:6) had hid themselves in mount Ephraim, when they heard that the Philistines fled, even they also followed hard after them in the battle.
[They joined themselves with their own, וַיַּדְבְּקוּ] They adhered (Montanus, Septuagint); they followed hard (Drusius), in the place of יַדְבִיקוּ, as elsewhere וְדִרְכוּ in the place of יַדְרִיכוּ (Drusius).
Verse 23: (Ex. 14:30; Ps. 44:6, 7; Hos. 1:7) So the LORD saved Israel that day: and the battle passed over (1 Sam. 13:5) unto Beth-aven.
[And the Lord saved Israel, etc.] Indeed, the Jews were unworthy of this benefit: the King was impious; the people, distrustful of God, had fled to caves. Wherefore the merits of the people are not to be regarded here, but faith alone and the promise of God. Parents thus conduct themselves towards their children; now they punish them sinning, but now they are lenient upon them sinning. Why should not God do the same? (Martyr).
[The fight came to Beth-aven, וְהַ֙מִּלְחָמָ֔ה עָבְרָ֖ה אֶת־בֵּ֥ית אָֽוֶן׃] And the war (or battle [Septuagint, Syriac], or fight [Munster, Tigurinus]) passed over to Beth-aven (Montanus). Others: and the warriors passed over (Pagnine, similarly Jonathan, Drusius); the army passed over (Junius and Tremellius). Hebrew: battle; metonymically (Junius), men of battle. Here, the term אַנְשֵׁי/men, as also elsewhere. Thus deceit in the place of men of deceit, that is, deceitful men; wine, in the place of a man of wine, that is, a drunkard (Drusius).
The battle, that is, the warriors who were engaged in the battle, and were pursuing and fighting with the Philistines.
 Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר שָׁא֗וּל לָעָם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אִתּ֔וֹ פִּקְדוּ־נָ֣א וּרְא֔וּ מִ֖י הָלַ֣ךְ מֵעִמָּ֑נוּ וַֽיִּפְקְד֔וּ וְהִנֵּ֛ה אֵ֥ין יוֹנָתָ֖ן וְנֹשֵׂ֥א כֵלָֽיו׃  Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר שָׁאוּל֙ לַֽאֲחִיָּ֔ה הַגִּ֖ישָׁה אֲר֣וֹן הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים כִּֽי־הָיָ֞ה אֲר֧וֹן הָאֱלֹהִ֛ים בַּיּ֥וֹם הַה֖וּא וּבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃  The Hiphil frequently conveys a causative sense.  See 1 Samuel 6:21-7:2.  Hebrew: וּבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃.  Hebrew: וְיוֹסֵף.  Exodus 1:5: “And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt alreadyוַֽיְהִ֗י כָּל־נֶ֛פֶשׁ יֹצְאֵ֥י יֶֽרֶךְ־יַעֲקֹ֖ב שִׁבְעִ֣ים נָ֑פֶשׁ וְיוֹסֵ֖ף הָיָ֥ה) בְמִצְרָֽיִם׃).”  Hebrew: וַיְהִ֗י עַ֣ד דִּבֶּ֤ר שָׁאוּל֙ אֶל־הַכֹּהֵ֔ן וְהֶהָמ֗וֹן אֲשֶׁר֙ בְּמַחֲנֵ֣ה פְלִשְׁתִּ֔ים וַיֵּ֥לֶךְ הָל֖וֹךְ וָרָ֑ב פ וַיֹּ֧אמֶר שָׁא֛וּל אֶל־הַכֹּהֵ֖ן אֱסֹ֥ף יָדֶֽךָ׃  Hebrew: וְהֶהָמוֹן. אָסַף signifies to gather, to remove.  In Greek mythology, Capaneus was a famous warrior, whose massive size and strength were rivaled only by his arrogance. He was one of the seven champions making war on Thebes.  In Greek mythology, Amphiaraus was a gifted seer. Although he foresaw the tragic end of the ward of the Seven against Thebes, he was persuaded to join the venture anyway.  The Ismenos River was flowing near Thebes; Dirce was one of its springs. Phœbus/Bright is one of the epithets of Apollo, god of prophecy.  Hebrew: וַיִּזָּעֵ֣ק שָׁא֗וּל וְכָל־הָעָם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אִתּ֔וֹ וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ עַד־הַמִּלְחָמָ֑ה וְהִנֵּ֙ה הָיְתָ֜ה חֶ֤רֶב אִישׁ֙ בְּרֵעֵ֔הוּ מְהוּמָ֖ה גְּדוֹלָ֥ה מְאֹֽד׃  Hebrew: וַיִּזָּעֵק. זָעַק, to call or cry out, in the Niphal signifies to be called, or to assemble.  Hebrew: וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ עַד־הַמִּלְחָמָ֑ה.  Hebrew: וְהָעִבְרִ֗ים הָי֤וּ לַפְּלִשְׁתִּים֙ כְּאֶתְמ֣וֹל שִׁלְשׁ֔וֹם אֲשֶׁ֙ר עָל֥וּ עִמָּ֛ם בַּֽמַּחֲנֶ֖ה סָבִ֑יב וְגַם־הֵ֗מָּה לִֽהְיוֹת֙ עִם־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר עִם־שָׁא֖וּל וְיוֹנָתָֽן׃  Hebrew: וְכֹל֩ אִ֙ישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל הַמִּֽתְחַבְּאִ֤ים בְּהַר־אֶפְרַ֙יִם֙ שָֽׁמְע֔וּ כִּֽי־נָ֖סוּ פְּלִשְׁתִּ֑ים וַֽיַּדְבְּק֥וּ גַם־הֵ֛מָּה אַחֲרֵיהֶ֖ם בַּמִּלְחָמָֽה׃  The expected Hiphil form. See Judges 18:22: “And when they were a good way from the house of Micah, the men that were in the houses near to Micah’s house were gathered together, and overtook (וַיַּדְבִּיקוּ) the children of Dan.”  See Jeremiah 9:3a: “And they bend (וַיַּדְרְכוּ, they cause to tread) their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth…”  The expected Hiphil form.  Hebrew: וַיּ֧וֹשַׁע יְהוָ֛ה בַּיּ֥וֹם הַה֖וּא אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְהַ֙מִּלְחָמָ֔ה עָבְרָ֖ה אֶת־בֵּ֥ית אָֽוֶן׃  See, for example, Psalm 55:11.