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Poole on 1 Samuel 17:1-4: Goliath, Part 1

Verse 1:[1] Now the Philistines (1 Sam. 13:5) gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at (Josh. 15:35; 2 Chron. 28:18) Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim (or, the coast of Dammim,[2] called Pas-dammim, 1 Chron. 11:13[3]).

[The Philistines, gathering together] More specifically, they were seeing that the Jews were possessing their lands: Often before they put them to flight, and they knew Saul now to be mad. This was the occasion for the war (Martyr). Now, in this whole chapter is a hyperbatic[4] (or πρωθύστερον, the last first) to confirm the words with which the servant of Saul was commending David, 1 Samuel 16:18. A number of examples of such hyperbaton are extant, as in Genesis 5; Joshua 2; and elsewhere (Junius, Piscator).

The Philistines gathered together their armies to battle: To revenge their former great and shameful defeat, 1 Samuel 14.

[Between Shochoh and Azekah] Towns of the tribe of Judah, Joshua 15:35 (Junius). There was another Socho on the other side of Jordan, Judges 8:15 (Menochius).

[In the coasts of Dammim (thus Aquila[5] in Drusius,[6] Castalio, similarly Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Montanus, Junius and Tremellius), בְּאֶ֥פֶס דַּמִּֽים׃] To others it is a proper name (thus Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Septuagint, Malvenda, Glassius), as it is evident from 1 Chronicles 11:13, where it is given in a contracted form, פַּס דַּמִּים, Pas-dammim (Glassius, Malvenda). Now, proper names often omit certain letters in various passages (Glassius’ “Grammar” 766).

Verse 2:[7] And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array (Heb. ranged the battle[8]) against the Philistines.

[In the valley of terebinth[9] (thus the Septuagint)] Hebrew: in the valley of Elah[10] (Malvenda). See concerning the word אֵלָה/elah, Genesis 35:4[11] (Malvenda).

[They set the battle line in order] Hebrew: they ordered the battle: so that they might be prepared to meet the Philistines (Vatablus).

Verse 3:[12] And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them.

[Upon a mountain, etc.] It appears that there was military industry on both sides. Each side encamped on a hill, so that the enemy, if he wished to attack the other, would fight from an inferior position. You will say that a great part of the army was in the valley. Kimchi responds that the camps were indeed on the mountain, but the battle lines filled all to the valley (Martyr). Indeed, the words of Kimchi mean the contrary, which thus have it, the camps were lying in the valley…but the orders of the battle lines ascended into the mountain against the Philistines. And so they are said to be עֹמְדִים/standing on the mountain (Dieu[13]). The Philistines prepared the first battle line on the mountain, but the rest of the army was in the valley: on the other part of the mountain the Israelites placed their camp (Vatablus).

On a mountain on the other side, where they had disposed and fortified their camps, that if the one should assault the other, the assailant should have the disadvantage, and be obliged to fight from a lower place.

Verse 4:[14] And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named (2 Sam. 21:19) Goliath, of (Josh. 11:22) Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.

[And there went out a man, a bastard, הַבֵּנַיִם] The interpretations of this word vary (Grotius). Spurius or illegitimate [thus Tirinus and other followers of the Vulgate]. To me it is especially approved. They took it as it he were here called a man, one of the sons,[15] that is conceived σποράδην/dispersedly without a father. Some fo the Hebrews observe that this is the surname of the giants, who, despisers of all laws and of marriage, on account of this were born with the father uncertain (Grotius). It favors this, that in his genealogy the name of his father is never expressed, but only his mother’s, namely, Arapha[16] (Tirinus out of Sanchez). בֵּנַיִם/Benaim means between two, that is, conceived between two fathers, that is, whose father was uncertain. For, because stolen loves are wont to be vehement, they pour out all themselves and their own in generation, and beget giants and monsters (Lapide). Moreover, giant and bastard are the same, because each is called a son of the earth. See Persius’ Satire[17] 6, …I find in Manius an heir ready to hand, progeny of the earth…; and Juvenal’s[18] Satire 4, There is the equal of a miracle to survive to old age among the nobility; whence it happens that I prefer to be the younger brother of giants. Therefore, what the former calls a bastard, the latter calls a giant (Sanchez). And thus others translate it, a giant (Syriac, Arabic, Strigelius), a huge man, that is to say, a man of sons, that is, of men (for son is used in the place of man), that is, excellent: just as the Latins say, hominem paucorum, a man of a few; and the French, enfant de maison, a son of the house, in the place of, a son of a wealthy or noble house; that is, born in a great station (Castalio). Δυνατὸς/powerful (Septuagint in Grotius); that is to say, excellent among the sons, namely, of the Philistines. Certain others derive it from בֵּין/between (Grotius). Between two, that is, standing between two battle lines (Vatablus, Junius, Kimchi in Munster). A Dueler (Junius and Tremellius). Who between two, supply, was proposing the battle to be decided by single combat, 1 Samuel 17:8-10 (Piscator out of Junius). The dual number indicates that this pertains to this construction; but the Latin tongue is not able to bring this out suitable enough (Glassius’ “Grammar” 766). Intermediary (Pagnine, Montanus). Thus it was said that he was wont to proceed into the middle: he was, as it were, one going before the standard, standing between the two camps (Vatablus). A man of the center (Schindler in his Lexicon[19]). A man from the midst of them (Jonathan in Dieu); he may thus be called a man of middles, because he went out from the midst of the Philistines. That is jejune. The Hebrews have it more rightly, between two camps, which Jarchi[20] appears to express best, when he says that one is indicated, who was furnished with the power to go forth from his own battle line, so that he might stand between the two armies; that is to say, he was not a man of the battle line, who was obliged to hold the order of his battle line after the likeness of the other soldiers, and not to depart from it; or who was compelled to lead his battle line after the likeness of other captains: but he was a man of middles, to whom it was lawful to turn aside a great way from his battle line, and to set himself between the two camps (Dieu). They think it to be understood that he advanced εἰς τὰ μεταίχμια, into the space between the battle lines, as both Homer and Euripides[21] speak. Thus that Gaulish provocateur went forth to the bridge between the camps, whom Manlius Torquatus killed,[22] Livy’s History of Rome[23] 7 (Grotius). Others translate בֵּנַיִם/ Benaim as after the likeness of two, or the equal of two, both in size and strength (Lapide out of Sanchez).

A champion; Hebrew, a man between two, either because he used to come forth, and stand between the two armies; or because he moved that the business should be decided between two, whereof he would be one.

[Goliath by name] This Goliath differs from that one in 2 Samuel 21:19,[24] who is said to be the brother of this one in 1 Chronicles 20:5 (Hostus’[25] Concerning the Duel of David and Goliath[26] 2).

[Of a height of six cubits and a palm[27] (thus Jonathan, Arabic, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Montanus, Vatablus)] Understanding, one, or and a half cubit, that is, three palms (Vatablus). זָרֶת signifies, not the lesser palm of four fingers, but the greater of twelve, which Pliny, in Natural History[28] 7:3, calls dodrans/three-fourths, namely, three quarters of a foot; nine inches or thumbs. Jerome on Ezekiel 40 says, this is called, not palmus,[29] but palma,[30] which we observe done in Judges 3:16[31] (Mariana). But in vain do they feign a double palm; for the lesser palm of four fingers, or of three inches, a fourth of a foot, is the sole and true palm; nor do approved authors acknowledge any other (Hostus’ Concerning the Duel of David and Goliath 4). They translate זָרֶת as spithama[32] (Syriac, Junius and Tremellius), dodrans (Hostus). And dodrans/three-fourths is to be understood of a foot, not of a cubit, which contains a Greek foot and two digits, that is, eighteen Greek digits (Hostus’ Concerning the Duel of David and Goliath 4). This is a gigantic mass, which nearly doubles the common stature of the men of our age (Sanchez). He exceeded all other soldiers by more than a third part (Martyr). Scripture teaches that men in the first ages were of immense height and strength, Genesis 6:4; 14:5; Deuteronomy 1; 2; 9; and prophane histories confirm it. Hence the fables of the poets concerning the Cyclopes and Giants in Homer and Virgil. Diodorus Siculus, Historical Library[33] 1, says: The Egytians write that in the age of Isis there were men of massive body, whom the Greeks called Giants: The Egyptian Priests, certain monsters, afterwards defeated by Osiris. But these obtained a name, since these produced many illustrious works. The body of Orestes (this was the son of Agamemnon), dug up by direction of the oracle (of which mention is made in Herodotus’[34]Histories 1, and Gellius’ Attic Nights 3:10), is related in the records to have been seven cubits tall. Josephus, Antiquities 18:8, relates that Eleazar the Jew, a man seven cubits tall, was sent as a gift to Tiberius Cæsar[35] by Artabanus, king of the Parthians.[36] Another one of nine feet and of as many inches is found in Pliny’s Natural History 7:16. The same author in Natural History 6:30: The Syrbotæ, a tribe of Ethiopian Nomads, exceed eight cubits in height. Moreover, that the bodies of men were of old larger, and now, there is a diminution of things and men in the old age of the world, as it were, relate Pliny, Natural History 7:16, and Gellius, Attic Nights 3:10, out of Homer. Examples are extant in Homer, Iliad 5; 7; 20: and Virgil, in Æneid 12, has these things concerning Turnus[37] lifting a massive boulder, Twelve chosen men could scarcely lift it, the bodies of men of which sort the earth now produces. Saint Augustine, City of God 15:9, relates: I myself, along with some others, saw on the shore at Utica[38] a man’s molar tooth of such a size, that if it were cut down into teeth such as we have, it seemed to us that it could have made a hundred. But that, they believed, belonged to some giant (Hostus’ Concerning the Duel of David and Goliath 3). [Therefore, those that ridicule the narrations of Scripture concerning the Giants as smelling of fables reveal their own ignorance.] Moreover, in the place of six cubits some have four cubits (thus the Septuagint, Josephus in Serarius).

Whose height was six cubits and a span; which is not strange, for besides the giants mentioned in Scripture, Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and Pliny, and others, make mention of persons seven cubits high, which is near double to an ordinary man’s height.

[1] Hebrew: וַיַּאַסְפ֙וּ פְלִשְׁתִּ֤ים אֶת־מַֽחֲנֵיהֶם֙ לַמִּלְחָמָ֔ה וַיֵּאָ֣סְפ֔וּ שֹׂכֹ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר לִיהוּדָ֑ה וַֽיַּחֲנ֛וּ בֵּין־שׂוֹכֹ֥ה וּבֵין־עֲזֵקָ֖ה בְּאֶ֥פֶס דַּמִּֽים׃ [2] Hebrew: בְּאֶ֥פֶס דַּמִּֽים׃. [3] 1 Chronicles 11:13: “He was with David at Pas-dammim (בַּפַּ֣ס דַּמִּ֗ים), and there the Philistines were gathered together to battle, where was a parcel of ground full of barley; and the people fled from before the Philistines.” [4] That is, an inversion of normal order. [5] Aquila of Sinope produced his Greek version of the Old Testament in the second century of the Christian era. Aquila’s translation champions the cause of Judaism against Christianity in matters of translation and interpretation. The product is woodenly literalistic. [6] John Drusius (1550-1616) was a Protestant scholar; he excelled in Oriental studies, Biblical exegesis, and critical interpretation, as is evident from his Annotationes in Pentateuchum, Josuam, Judices, Ruth, Samuelem, Estheram, Jobum, Coheleth, seu Ecclesiasten, Prophetas Minores, Ecclesiasticum, Tobit, 1 Librum Machabæorum and Notæ Majores in Genesin, Exodum, Leviticum, et Priora 18 Capita Numerorum. He served as Professor of Oriental Languages at Oxford (1572), at Leiden (1577), and at Franeker (1585). [7] Hebrew: וְשָׁא֤וּל וְאִֽישׁ־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ נֶאֶסְפ֔וּ וַֽיַּחֲנ֖וּ בְּעֵ֣מֶק הָאֵלָ֑ה וַיַּעַרְכ֥וּ מִלְחָמָ֖ה לִקְרַ֥את פְּלִשְׁתִּֽים׃ [8] Hebrew: וַיַּעַרְכ֥וּ מִלְחָמָ֖ה. [9] Hebrew: בְּעֵ֣מֶק הָאֵלָ֑ה. [10] Thus taken as a proper name. [11] Genesis 35:4: “And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak (הָאֵלָה) which was by Shechem.” [12] Hebrew: וּפְלִשְׁתִּ֞ים עֹמְדִ֤ים אֶל־הָהָר֙ מִזֶּ֔ה וְיִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל עֹמְדִ֥ים אֶל־הָהָ֖ר מִזֶּ֑ה וְהַגַּ֖יְא בֵּינֵיהֶֽם׃ [13] Louis de Dieu (1590-1642) was a Dutch Reformed minister, linguist, and orientalist. He brought his considerable learning to bear upon the interpretation of the Scripture. [14] Hebrew: וַיֵּצֵ֤א אִֽישׁ־הַבֵּנַ֙יִם֙ מִמַּחֲנ֣וֹת פְּלִשְׁתִּ֔ים גָּלְיָ֥ת שְׁמ֖וֹ מִגַּ֑ת גָּבְה֕וֹ שֵׁ֥שׁ אַמּ֖וֹת וָזָֽרֶת׃ [15]Son is בֵּן. [16] 2 Samuel 21:18: “And it came to pass after this, that there was again a battle with the Philistines at Gob: then Sibbechai the Hushathite slew Saph, of the lineage of Arapha (clause added in the Vulgate), which was of the sons of the giant.” [17] Aulus Persius Flaccus (34-62) was a Roman satirist. [18] Decimus Junius Juvenalis was a Roman poet, flourishing at the turn of the second century. [19] Valentine Schindler (died 1604) was a Lutheran Hebraist. He was Professor of Oriental Languages at Wittenberg and at Helmstadt, and composed Lexicon Pentaglotton: Hebraicum, Chaldaicum, Syriacum, Talmudico-Rabbinicum, et Arabicum. [20] The details of the life of Rabbi Salomon Jarchi (Solomon Jarchi ben Isaac) have been obscured by the mists of time. It is relatively safe to associate him with the eleventh century. He commented on the whole of the Hebrew Bible, and the principal value of his commentary is its preservation of traditional Jewish interpretation. He also authored the first comprehensive commentary on the Talmud. [21] Euripides (c. 480-406) was a Greek playwright, one of the great tragedians. [22] Manlius Torquatus was one of the great leaders, generals, and heroes of the Roman Republic. He served as consul three times (347, 344, 340 BC), and as dictator three times (353, 349, 320 BC). As a young tribune, at the Battle of the Anio River (361 BC), he accepted the challenge of a Gaulish giant to decide the contest in single combat, killed him, and took his torc (an ornamental collar) as a trophy. [23] Titus Livius (c. 59 BC-17 AD) wrote a history of Rome, Ab Urbe Condita, from its founding to the time of Augustus. [24] 2 Samuel 21:19: “And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim, a Beth-lehemite, slew Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.” [25] Matthew Hostus (1509-1587) was a German Protestant and antiquarian, who labored as an archeologist and as a professor of Greek. [26]In Monomachiam Davidis et Goliathi. [27] Hebrew: גָּבְה֕וֹ שֵׁ֥שׁ אַמּ֖וֹת וָזָֽרֶת׃. [28] Gaius Plinius Secundus, or Pliny the Elder (23-79), distinguished himself as a learned author, a celebrated Roman Procurator, and a courageous soldier. In his Natural History, Pliny in encyclopedic fashion attempts to cover the entire field of human knowledge as it stood in his day. It remains an invaluable resource in the fields of history, geography, literature, and Biblical studies. [29] As it is here. [30] The suggested difference between the two might be that the palma measures from the wrist to the finger-tips; but the palmus, the width of the four fingers of the palm. [31] Judges 3:16: “But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length (גֹּ֣מֶד אָרְכָּ֑הּ; habentem in medio capulum longitudinis palmæ manus, having in the midst a hilt of the length of the palm of the hand, in the Vulgate); and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh.” [32] That is, three quarters of a foot. [33] Diodorus Siculus (c. 90-c. 30 BC), a Greek historian, wrote the massive Bibliotheca Historica in forty books. Unhappily, only fifteen books have survived. [34] Herodotus (c. 484-c. 425) was a Greek historian, sometimes called “The Father of History”. [35] Tiberius Cæsar reigned from AD 14 to 37. [36] Artabanus II reigned as King of the Partians from AD 12 to circa 40. [37] Turnus is the legendary King of the Rutuli, the chief antagonist of Æneas in the Æneid. [38] Utica was an ancient Carthaginian city, located on the northern coast of Africa (Tunisia).

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Sep 03, 2022

Matthew Henry: 'It was not long ago that the Philistines were soundly beaten, and put to the worse, before Israel, and they would have been totally routed if Saul's rashness had not prevented; but here we have them making head again. Observe,

I. How they defied Israel with their armies, 1 Samuel 17:1. They made a descent upon the Israelites' country, and possessed themselves, as it should seem, of some part of it, for they encamped in a place which belonged to Judah. Israel's ground would never have been footing for Philistine-armies if Israel had been faithful to their God. The Philistines (it is probable) had heard that Samuel had fallen out with Saul and forsaken him, and no longer…


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Sep 03, 2022

Study 1 Samuel with the illustrious Matthew Poole!

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