Poole on 1 Samuel 15:4-6: Preparations for War on Amalek

Verse 4:[1] And Saul gathered the people together, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah.

[And Saul ordered the people, וַיְשַׁמַּע] And Saul assembled the people (Jonathan, Pagnine, Montanus, Drusius, Munster, Hebrews in Vatablus). Verbatim: he caused to hear: for he gathered them through a herald (Drusius out of Vatablus). He called together (English, Tigurinus, Arabic); and he gave notice (Septuagint). He publicly declared to the entire people war (Syriac). He announced to the people (Dutch, similarly Strigelius, Osiander), that is, he published this mandate of God concerning the extermination of the Amalekites; so that the Israelites might know that they were to take up arms by divine commandment: And so they appeared readily (Osiander).

[And he mustered them like sheep, וַֽיִּפְקְדֵם֙ בַּטְּלָאִ֔ים] And he mustered, or numbered, them in Telaim (Syriac, Munster, Tigurinus, Pagnine, Montanus, Junius and Tremellius). It is the name of a place (Vatablus out of the Hebrews, Kimchi in Buxtorf). But, on the other hand, they say that it has the article ה prefixed (the point of which [ּ] is placed under the prefixed ב [Glassius’ “Sacred Grammar” 760]), which has no place before proper nouns. But Kimchi alleges examples to the contrary, like בַּקַּרְקֹר, in Karkor, Judges 8:10, and בַּשִּׁטִּים, in Shittim, in Numbers 25:1 (Buxtorf’s Vindication 778). The article is not wont to be set before proper names, except when they are appellative: thus סֻכּוֹת/Succoth appellatively signifies Booths;[2] and שִׁטִּים/Shittim, a sort of thorn;[3] and קִרְקֵר, to destroy a wall[4] (Drusius). In the field of Telem, a town of the tribe of Judah, concerning which Joshua 15:24[5] (Junius, Piscator). This does not satisfy; for from טֶלֶם/Telem it would be in the plural טְלָמִים/Telamim, not טְלָאִים/Telaim (Drusius). Perhaps the place was named from the abundance of sheep (Malvenda); just as among the Greeks, Ῥήνη/Rhene,[6] Ἄρνη/Arne,[7] Πολυρρήνιον/Polyrrhenium[8] (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:43:423). To others it is an appellative: He numbered them in, or with, Paschal lambs (Jonathan, Hebrews in Vatablus). טְלָאִים denotes this in Isaiah 40:11[9] (Drusius). They maintain that it was the time of the Passover, and so each led his lamb with him; which lambs were afterwards numbered (Drusius generally out of Vatablus and Munster). Or, by the sacrificial victims of the Passover, which generally were being eaten by groups of ten, was undertaken a census of the people (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals). But this does not fit: For those ten were not all soldiers, but partly old men, children, and women (Sanchez). Moreover, the Hebrews maintain that they were numbered in this way, because it was prohibited to number the people, which also ill befell David. But the reason is different here. For, not without necessity did Saul do this; and he numbered, not all the people, but only the army. Wherefore it was not needful to have recourse to the sheep (Drusius). The author of Tanchuma[10] compares this place with 1 Samuel 11:8, he numbered them בְּבָזֶק, in Bezek, which the Hebrews translate, by stones, or pebbles/counters[11] (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 423). [See what things we gathered there.] The Vulgate appears to have read כַּטְּלָאִים (Lapide, Cappel). And it translates it, like sheep. For, it is the custom of shepherds accurately to number their sheep and lambs, leading them out of the sheepfold through some narrow passage (Menochius out of Sanchez). See Leviticus 27:32 (Sanchez). The Septuagint has, in Gilgal; either, because the same place has both names; or, because these places were neighbors, and the one was made more manifest from the celebrity of the other (Mendoza). (Thus also Josephus in Mendoza.) A name less well known they exchanged for one more well known: which is common in that edition. Thus elsewhere Jehu has been changed into Judah, and Pethuel into Bethuel;[12] and six hundred others. Moreover, Grammarians are bewildered by the form טְלָאִים, which ought rather to be טְלֵאִים; as from טוֹמֵא, one polluted, we say טְמֵאִים, men polluted; and from צוֹמֵא, one thirsting, צוֹמֵאִים, thirsting men. For by rule from טָלֶה/lamb it would be טָלִים/lambs; as from קָנֶה/ cane/reed, קָנִים/reeds. Nevertheless, understand that there is a similar thing in the Hebraism נְכָאִים, men stricken, Isaiah 16:7,[13] from the singular נָכֶה, one stricken, 2 Samuel 4:4;[14] 9:3;[15] Isaiah 66:2[16] (Drusius).

[Ten thousand men of Judah] These are numbered separately, because they were stronger and more bellicose (Lapide). And because they were more obedient to Saul than the Benjamites, although they were of the Royal tribe. Moreover, Saul in this place, being certain of the divine protection, requires fewer troops (Mendoza).

Ten thousand men of Judah: Who are particularly noted here, as also 1 Samuel 11:8, either as select persons of extraordinary strength and courage; or to commend that tribe, which, though the kingdom had been promised to their own tribe, yet were forward in serving and obeying a king of another, and that a far meaner tribe.

Verse 5:[17] And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and laid wait (or, fought[18]) in the valley.

[To a city of Amalek] That is, the Metropolis and head of the kingdom (Menochius).

A city of Amalek; their chief city, where their king was, as is probable from verse 8.

[He laid ambushes in the torrent (similarly the Septuagint, Munster, Montanus, Vatablus), וַיָּ֖רֶב בַּנָּֽחַל׃] Or, near the torrent (Strigelius). וַיָּרֶב they take for וַיַאֲרֶב, from אָרַב, to lie in ambush (Drusius). And he placed ambushes in the valley (Piscator, English). And he stationed a camp in the river (Jonathan). Others: he fought, or contended (understanding, with him [Junius, Piscator]), in the valley (Piscator, English, similarly certain interpreters in Munster and in Vatablus). They think the root to be רוּב, to dispute, to contend (Munster). But רוּב is usually taken, not of hostile combat and collision (of which matter the speech is here), but of contention of words, or lawsuit and disputation (Piscator). But, indeed, רִיב is used for a fight, or battle, as Rabbis Levi and Salomon testify. And thus the Septuagint translates it in Genesis 13:7[19] and elsewhere, and in Judges 11:25,[20] and in Genesis 26:20;[21] Nehemiah 13:17.[22] Hence the name יָרֵב/ Jareb, whether of a King, or of a city, Hosea 10:6 (Drusius).

Laid wait, intending to draw them forth of their city by some pretence, like that of Joshua, Joshua 7, and then to intercept them, and so surprise their city: which haply they did, though it be not here recorded, it being not worth while to mention all the minute circumstances of such matters.

Verse 6:[23] And Saul said unto (Num. 24:21; Judg. 1:16; 4:11) the Kenites, (Gen. 18:25; 19:12, 14; Rev. 18:4) Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them: for (Ex. 18:10, 19; Num. 10:29, 32) ye shewed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.

[And Saul said to the Kenite, Depart ye, etc.] Whoever desires to be held as neutral ought to separate themselves from the enemies, and present themselves as impartial to both. See what things were said in Concerning the Law of War and Peace 3:17 (Grotius). The Kenites, the Kinsmen of Jethro, were dwelling on the borders of Judah and the Amalekites, Judges 1:16 (Piscator out of Junius). Hence we are taught, 1. that intercourse and nearness with wicked men is to be avoided, lest anything of evil fall out because of the near evil (Sanchez). 2. Just how advantageous the intercourse and fellowship of the Saints is. Here God keeps what He had promised to Abraham, I will bless them that bless thee, etc.[24] The Amalekites had afflicted the Jews; the Kenites had benefited them: And so the former are destroyed; the latter, preserved (Martyr).

[Get ye down] For the Kenites were dwelling in elevated places and cliffs, where was passage unto Amalek, Numbers 24:21 (Junius). Forster explains the preceeding words of the Kenites, and he quarreled in the torrent, namely, with the Kenite, until he persuaded him to depart from thence; because רוּב, to contend, is used only of verbal contention (Malvenda on verse 5). Moreover, depart, withdraw, get ye down, is a collection of asyndetons, an indication of swiftness. Thus in Genesis 18:6. That is to say, withdraw as swiftly as possible (Malvenda, similarly Vatablus).

The Kenites; a people descending from or nearly related unto Jethro, who anciently dwelt in rocks near the Amalekites, Numbers 24:21, and afterwards some of them dwelt in Judah, Judges 1:16, whence it is probable they removed, (which, dwelling in tents, they could easily do,) and retired to their old habitation, because of the wars and troubles wherewith Judah was annoyed.

[Lest I involve thee with him, פֶּן־אֹֽסִפְךָ֙ עִמּ֔וֹ] Lest perchance I destroy thee with him (Munster, Tigurinus, Montanus, Pagnine, Jonathan, similarly the Syriac, Arabic). אָסַף, to gather, to remove, is the same thing as סוּף, to cease (Munster). Lest I sweep away, or, lest I remove thee from the midst with him (Piscator, similarly Junius and Tremellius). Lest I associate thee with him (Septuagint). Lest I gather thee with him; that is, refer to one common destruction (Malvenda).

[For thou showed mercy, etc.] Hebrew: and thou didst, etc.[25] The particle and is often causal; thus in Isaiah 64:5, thou art wroth, and (in the place of, because) we have sinned;[26] in John 5:39, search the Scriptures, and they are they, etc., that is, because they are they (Mendoza). Jethro, whose offspring the Kenites were, had been kind to Moses and Israel, in salutary counsels, in offering sacrifices, Exodus 18:12, in directing them, Numbers 10:31 (Menochius, Tirinus). The deed of the father is attributed to his descendants (Vatablus).

Ye showed kindness; some of your progenitors did so, Exodus 18:12; Numbers 10:31, and for their sakes all of you shall fare the better. You were not guilty of that sin for which Amalek is now to be destroyed.

[1] Hebrew: וַיְשַׁמַּ֤ע שָׁאוּל֙ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם וַֽיִּפְקְדֵם֙ בַּטְּלָאִ֔ים מָאתַ֥יִם אֶ֖לֶף רַגְלִ֑י וַעֲשֶׂ֥רֶת אֲלָפִ֖ים אֶת־אִ֥ישׁ יְהוּדָֽה׃ [2] See Genesis 33:17: “And Jacob journeyed to Succoth (סֻכֹּתָה), and built him an house, and made booths (סֻכֹּת) for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth (סֻכּוֹת).” [3] For example, Exodus 25:5: “And rams’ skins dyed red, and badgers’ skins, and shittim wood (וַעֲצֵ֥י שִׁטִּֽים׃, perhaps acacia wood)…” [4] See Isaiah 22:5: “For it is a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity by the Lord God of hosts in the valley of vision, breaking down the walls (מְקַרְקַ֥ר קִ֖ר [קָרַר in the Pilpel conjugation]), and of crying to the mountains.” [5] Joshua 15:24: “Ziph, and Telem (וָטֶלֶם), and Bealoth…” [6] Ῥήνη/Rhene was one of the Cylcades in the Ægean sea. Ῥήν signifies sheep. [7] Ἄρνη/Arne was a town in Bœotia. Ἀρνειός signifies a ram. [8] Πολυρρήνιον/Polyrrhenium was a town in Crete. Πολύρρην signifies rich in lambs. [9] Isaiah 40:11: “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs (טְלָאִים) with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” [10] There are no less than three midrashic collections covering the Pentateugh called Tanchuma. These collections receive their name from Rabbi Tanchuma, a fifth generation amora. Some of the homiletical material may have originated with him; but, as the collections now stand, they were neither written nor arranged by him. [11]בזק may mean to scatter or smash. [12] Joel 1:1: “The word of the Lord that came to Joel the son of Pethuel (פְּתוּאֵל; Βαθουήλ/Bathuel, in the Septuagint).” [13] Isaiah 16:7: “Therefore shall Moab howl for Moab, every one shall howl: for the foundations of Kir-hareseth shall ye mourn; surely they are stricken (אַךְ־נְכָאִֽים׃).” [14] 2 Samuel 4:4: “And Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a son that was lame of his feetנְכֵ֣ה) רַגְלָ֑יִם). He was five years old when the tidings came of Saul and Jonathan out of Jezreel, and his nurse took him up, and fled: and it came to pass, as she made haste to flee, that he fell, and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.” [15] 2 Samuel 9:3: “And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may shew the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet (נְכֵ֥ה רַגְלָֽיִם׃).” [16] Isaiah 66:2: “For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit (וּנְכֵה־רוּחַ), and trembleth at my word.” [17] Hebrew: וַיָּבֹ֥א שָׁא֖וּל עַד־עִ֣יר עֲמָלֵ֑ק וַיָּ֖רֶב בַּנָּֽחַל׃ [18] Hebrew: וַיָּרֶב. [19] Genesis 13:7: “And there was a strife (וַיְהִי־רִיב; καὶ ἐγένετο μάχη, and there was a fight, in the Septuagint) between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land.” [20] Judges 11:25: “And now art thou any thing better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? did he ever strive (הֲר֥וֹב רָב֙; μὴ μαχόμενος ἐμαχέσατο, fighting, he did not fight, in the Septuagint) against Israel, or did he ever fight against them…” [21] Genesis 26:20: “And did strive (וַיָּרִיבוּ; καὶ ἐμαχέσαντο, and did fight, in the Septuagint) the herdmen of Gerar with Isaac’s herdmen, saying, The water is ours: and he called the name of the well Esek; because they strove with him.” [22] Nehemiah 13:17: “Then I contended (וָאָרִיבָה; καὶ ἐμαχεσάμην, and I fought, in the Septuagint) with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day?” [23] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר שָׁא֣וּל אֶֽל־הַקֵּינִ֡י לְכוּ֩ סֻּ֙רוּ רְד֜וּ מִתּ֣וֹךְ עֲמָלֵקִ֗י פֶּן־אֹֽסִפְךָ֙ עִמּ֔וֹ וְאַתָּ֞ה עָשִׂ֤יתָה חֶ֙סֶד֙ עִם־כָּל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל בַּעֲלוֹתָ֖ם מִמִּצְרָ֑יִם וַיָּ֥סַר קֵינִ֖י מִתּ֥וֹךְ עֲמָלֵֽק׃ [24] Genesis 12:3. [25] Hebrew: וְאַתָּ֞ה עָשִׂ֤יתָה חֶ֙סֶד֙. [26] Hebrew: אַתָּ֤ה קָצַ֙פְתָּ֙ וַֽנֶּחֱטָ֔א.

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