Poole on 1 Samuel 14:24: Saul's Rash Vow

Verse 24:[1] And the men of Israel were distressed that day: for Saul (Josh. 6:26) had adjured the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies. So none of the people tasted any food.


[And the men of Israel were joined together, וְאִֽישׁ־יִשְׂרָאֵ֥ל נִגַּ֖שׂ[2]] And a man of Israel was driven out (Montanus), had been crowded together (Pagnine, Vatablus), pressed (Drusius), vexed, afflicted (Kimchi in Drusius). The Israelites were pressed (Junius and Tremellius, similarly Munster), namely, with hunger (Munster, Vatablus), wearied (Osiander), made listless (Strigelius). Others thus: when the Israelites had assembled (Castalio, similarly Tigurinus). [Others read נִגָּשׁ,[3] and translate it, Saul coming near, etc. (Syriac, Arabic). But those words, וְאִישׁ־יִשְׂרָאֵל, and a man of Israel, they push back into the preceding verse; either in this way, even when the battled passed between Aven and the men of Israel (Syriac), or otherwise, and on the same day the Israelites waged war in Beth-aven (Arabic).


[Now, Saul adjured the people, or had adjured (thus Jonathan, Pagnine, Montanus, Munster, Strigelius, Dutch, English), וַיֹּאֶל֩ שָׁא֙וּל אֶת־הָעָ֜ם] Because by execration (curse [Septuagint]) Saul bound the people (Junius and Tremellius), by swearing he had bound (Castalio). The Future/Imperfect וַיֹּאֶל a great many derive from אָלָה, to swear, by Apocope,[4] in the place of יַאֲלֶה, as if it had its form from יָאַל/yaal;[5] or at least they certainly want it to agree in signification with אָלָה, to swear. Others compound it from יָאַל/yaal and אָלָה/alah, and translate it, and Saul dissolved by adjuring the people. You could render it, Saul resolved the people; that is, he dissolved, undermined; or, and Saul resolved near or before the people, or with the people; that is, he established, decreed, by an elegant Hebraism. Some retain the proper signification of יָאַל/yaal in the Hiphil; and Saul wanted to speak with the people (Malvenda). Saul ventured to bind the people with an oath in these words (Tigurinus). Moreover, the ו/and in וַיֹּאֶל is put in the place of כִּי/for (Vatablus out of the Hebrews); here it means after (Drusius), as in Isaiah 64:5, behold, thou art wroth, and we have sinned;[6] in the place of, because we have sinned, thou art wroth. Thus here, and he adjured, in the place of, because he had adjured (Vatablus). For he had adjured (Pagnine); because he bound, etc. (Junius and Tremellius). This was able to be done while they were going to the battle from Gibeah. For Jonathan did not hear. Others say that Saul said this during the pursuit (Vatablus).


[The man that eateth bread] Any food; for honey is also comprehended (Drusius out of Kimchi). Drink does not appear to have been prohibited, because the delay in drinking is briefer, and the necessity of it is more urgent to those fatigued with heat and battle (Menochius).


[Until I am avenged, וְנִקַּמְתִּי] And (in the place of so that) I might be avenged; until I am avenged (Pagnine, Glassius). A prefixed ו/and sometimes signifies until, as in Genesis 18:4, 5, until I, taking, will bring, etc. (Glassius’ “Grammar” 690). Question: Whether Saul prudently and holily said or did this? Response 1: Some answer in the affirmative (thus Tostatus, Lapide, Ambrose[7] in Sanchez, Serarius, Salian in Lapide). 1. That law was neither harsh, not unsuitable; since by a brief delay the enemy was able to escape, and a divinely given opportunity to go to waste. Military discipline is wont to be harsher, and commands more grievous things than to fast for one day. 2. God Himself appears to approve of the edict; because after it was violated He was unwilling to answer; and He shows by lots that, not Saul, but Jonthan, is the sinner, verse 41 (Lapide). He appointed this law of the fast from upright zeal, lest his enemies should escape; and so that by this fast he might give thanks to God for the victory, and appeal to Him to perfect that completely and fully. Hence it appears that Saul was a pious man, and that God favored him: although in the preceding chapter He took the kingdom from the posterity of him, as if less perfectly obedient, He did not cast him away, until he had committed more grievously the crime of disobedience (Lapide). Response 2: Others maintain that Saul sinned (thus Lyra, Sanchez, Chrysostom in Sanchez, Menochius, Martyr, Junius, Piscator, Grotius). This edict argues the imprudence of Saul, a man both imperious and προπετοῦς/rash: for it is needful for those fighting for a long time to be refreshed with food, and the punishment is too harsh for such an offense. Moreover, the ignorant ought to be excepted (Grotius). The good end of taking vengeance on enemies, he corrupted with two evil means; namely, the interdict upon necessary food, and the adjuration or execration. This is the second argument that Saul is devoid of the Spirit of God (Junius, Piscator, Malvenda). Saul appears to do this, having been induced by pride: for thus he says, that I might avenge myself of my enemies (Martyr). Saul sinned in a twofold manner: 1. for he swore wickedly; 1. because without necessity, for God had given sufficient victory, and there was no necessity of pursuing the enemy farther without divine counsel, which Saul did not await; 2. he did not except what he ought to have excepted, namely, a case of necessity; 3. it was an occasion of sin to the people; see on verse 32. 2. He sinned because He willed wickedly to fulfill the oath (Lyra). And this error, which was certainly not slight, I think to have arisen from this, that, although he undertook to take counsel of God, He did not await His response: which has something of boorish impiety in it; as if that time, which that religious, and in a certain measure necessary, consultation would consume, would be a waste. What if then God, in the second place, did not respond, verse 37, because in the first His oracle was not esteemed as it should have been, nor awaited? You will ask, If Saul sinned, how did God show that by the lots? The force of this reason, which is certainly not infirm, I seem to be able to weaken in this way. 1. This was done so that hence men might learn, that obedience is to be rendered to Kings, even commanding hard things; and how great is the force of an anathema, or curse, that is from a superior power; which, although it is unjust, is nevertheless to be feared. 2. So that He might punish the foolishness and sin of Saul in this way (Sanchez); and to declare the innocence of Jonathan: for many, knowing that he ate, were able to be scandalized (Lyra).


Were distressed, with hunger, and weakness, and faintness, thence arising; and all by reason of the following oath. As Saul’s intention was good, namely, to execute vengeance upon God’s and his enemies; so the matter of the obligation was not simply and in itself unlawful, if it had not been so rigorous in excluding all food, without any exception of cases of necessity; and in obliging the people to it under pain of a curse, and an accursed death, 1 Samuel 14:38, 39, 44, which was a punishment far exceeding the fault.


[And it did not eat, וְלֹֽא טָעַ֥ם] And it did not taste (Vatablus, Drusius). To taste is put in the place of to eat, 2 Samuel 3:35;[8] Jonah 3:7;[9] Acts 10:10;[10] 20:11.[11] Thus Cæsar concerning the Britons, they think it not lawful to taste hare or goose[12] (Drusius). The people abstained from all food (Vatablus). That modesty of the people is praiseworthy: but again they were to be blamed, who did not equally revere the edicts of God (Martyr).


None of the people tasted any food; partly in obedience to the king’s command; and partly for fear of the curse.

[1] Hebrew: וְאִֽישׁ־יִשְׂרָאֵ֥ל נִגַּ֖שׂ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֑וּא וַיֹּאֶל֩ שָׁא֙וּל אֶת־הָעָ֜ם לֵאמֹ֗ר אָר֣וּר הָ֠אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר־יֹ֙אכַל לֶ֜חֶם עַד־הָעֶ֗רֶב וְנִקַּמְתִּי֙ מֵאֹ֣יְבַ֔י וְלֹֽא טָעַ֥ם כָּל־הָעָ֖ם לָֽחֶם׃ [2]נָגַשׂ, in the Niphal conjugation, signifies to be driven, to be pressed, or to be oppressed. [3]נָגַשׁ signifies to draw near. [4] That is, the loss of a sound at the end of a word. [5]יָאַל, in the Hiphil, can signify to show willingness, to determine, to undertake. [6] Hebrew: הֵן־אַתָּ֤ה קָצַ֙פְתָּ֙ וַֽנֶּחֱטָ֔א. [7] Ambrose (340-397), Bishop of Milan, was a man of great influence, ecclesiastically and politically, and was instrumental in the conversion of Augustine. [8] 2 Samuel 3:35: “And when all the people came to cause David to eat meatלְהַבְר֧וֹת) אֶת־דָּוִ֛ד לֶ֖חֶם) while it was yet day, David sware, saying, So do God to me, and more also, if I taste bread (אֶטְעַם־לֶחֶם), or ought else, till the sun be down.” [9] Jonah 3:7: “And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing (אַֽל־יִטְעֲמוּ֙ מְא֔וּמָה): let them not feed, nor drink water…” [10] Acts 10:10: “And he became very hungry, and would have eaten (γεύσασθαι/ tasted): but while they made ready, he fell into a trance…” [11] Acts 20:11: “When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten (γευσάμενος/tasted), and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.” [12]The Gallic Wars 5:12.

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