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Poole on 1 Samuel 17:25-30: David's Errand to the Army, Part 3

Verse 25:[1] And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and (Josh. 15:16) will give him his daughter, and make his father’s house free in Israel.

[And he said, etc.] We see here that Saul has not retained even semblance of his ancestral piety. For, when he was of a soul so dejected and dismayed, he did not call upon God, nor make sacrifice, nor command that a prophet be summoned and consulted: We see that there is nothing here, except civil and political calculations. He proposes rewards, etc. (Hezekiah conducts himself far differently, 2 Kings 18; 19). Neither do the people appear to be of a better mind: For all incite one another to desperation. David alone was undaunted (Martyr).

And the men of Israel said, etc.: It is observable, that Saul in his great distress doth not encourage himself in God, nor seek his counsel or favour by prayers and sacrifices, but expects relief from men only. This was one effect and sign of the departure of God’s Spirit from him.

[Have ye seen this man that is come up? for to reproach Israel is he come up (thus Piscator, Malvenda)] Others thus: Have ye not seen this man that is come up, to come up to afflict Israel with disgrace? (Junius and Tremellius). To go up here is the same thing as to advance. Otherwise he had rather descended into the valley (Malvenda out of Sanchez).

[And he will give his daughter] As Creon promised his sister, Jocasta, to the one that would overcome the Sphinx, a woman that by snares, which they were calling enigmas, was inflicting many evils upon Thebes, with the citadel preserved.[2] This is the truth of this fable, which the Athenians most satisfactorily understand in the song to Demetrius,[3] which is in the Athenæus[4] (Grotius).

[And he will make the house of his father free from tribute] That is, he will give to him those things that are today called the benefits and privileges of nobility (Piscator out of Junius). Just as the imposition of tributes was among the rights of the King, so also the liberation from tributes to whom he wills in consequence of virtue. The Greeks calls this ἀτέλειαν/exemption; the Latins, immunitatem/immunity; the barbarians, Francisiam/liberty (Grotius). The חָפְשִׁי/ free the Chaldean translates illustrious and noble (Vatablus).

Make his father’s house free; free from all those tributes and charges which either the court or the camp required.

Verse 26:[5] And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away (1 Sam. 11:2) the reproach from Israel? for who is this (1 Sam. 14:6) uncircumcised Philistine, that he should (1 Sam. 17:10) defy the armies of (Deut. 5:26) the living God?

[What shall be given, etc.] That is to say, I desire to know, and to submit my effort to this contest (Piscator).

[For who is this, etc.?] The reason for the implied statement, namely, that David wishes to engage that provocateur. It is Brachylogia[6] (Piscator). He makes use of a twofold argument; 1. from the person of the enemy, unjust and alien to God, and his terms: 2. from the dignity of those that are injured, whose disgrace God takes upon Himself (Junius).

For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, etc.?: Why should you all be thus dismayed at him? he is but a man, and that of an accursed race, a stranger and enemy to God, and no way able to stand before them who have the living and almighty God for their strength and refuge.

Verse 27:[7] And the people answered him after this manner, saying, (1 Sam. 17:25) So shall it be done to the man that killeth him.

Verse 28:[8] And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s (Gen. 37:4, 8, 11; Matt. 10:36) anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.

[He was angry, and said, etc.] He said these things, either out of envy, or perhaps out of fraternal charity (Martyr).

Eliab’s anger was kindled, either because he thought him guilty of intolerable folly, and pride, and presumption, in pretending to such an attempt; or because he feared and concluded he would be certainly ruined in the enterprise; or rather, because he envied him the glory of so great an undertaking; and took this proffer of David’s to be, what indeed it was, a reproach to himself, and to all the rest, that having the great God on their side, had not the faith or courage to fight with him.

[Why camest thou?] He appears not yet to have received his father’s gifts (Sanchez).

[Why hast thou left, etc.? וְעַל־מִ֙י נָטַ֜שְׁתָּ מְעַ֙ט הַצֹּ֤אן הָהֵ֙נָּה֙] With (upon [Montanus]) whom hast thou left those few sheep? (Septuagint, Arabic, similarly the Syriac, Arabic), little of flock (Malvenda), the small of the flocks (Jonathan).

With whom hast thou left those few sheep? thou art much fitter to tend sheep, than to appear in an army, or to fight with a giant.

[I know thy pride, and the wickedness of thine heart] He wants to appear to be καρδιογνώστης, a knower of hearts.[9] What was to be spoken of with the highest praises, namely, that he fulfilled the things commanded by his father, so that he might assist his brethren, this is here made a crime in David. His brother accuses him, as if he abandoned his service and calling, etc. The same happened to Christ (Martyr). It commonly happens that to virtue is given a certain name of vice by near relations. See Horace’s[10] Satires 1:3, but we invert the very virtues (Grotius).

Thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; thy self-confidence, and vainglory, and curiosity.

Verse 29:[11] And David said, What have I now done? (1 Sam. 17:17) Is there not a cause?

[What have I done? Can it be that there is no word?הֲל֖וֹא דָּבָ֥ר הֽוּא׃] Can it be that there is a word? (Munster, Pagnine, Montanus, Septuagint). Was it not a word that I spoke? (Jonathan, Vatablus), that is, the word that I spoke is pure; without action and without event (Vatablus). I have not brought it about in action (Munster). Indeed, have I spoken only words? (Arabic). What have I done now by speaking and listening? Is there not freedom to speak? Or is that which I did anything other than a mere word? (Malvenda). I spoke a word that is in the mouth of all: on what account then have I sinned? (Munster). Word is sometimes the same thing as proverb, that is, what passes in the familiar speech of men, as in Zechariah 7:7[12] (Sanchez). Others thus: But are these now words? (Syriac). Hitherto I have brought forth words alone; what willest thou say when thou shalt see the very deeds? thou shalt learn with certainty from the very deed that I have not spoken mere words boastfully (Malvenda). Others: have I acted of my own accord? (Castalio); do I not have a mandate? (Strigelius). Is there not business? that is, for the sake of accomplishing which our father sent me here (Junius, Piscator). Is there not a cause? (Osiander, Dutch, English), why I have come hither; I have proceeded, not of my own will, but of the will of our father (Osiander).

Is there not a cause? Either, 1. Of my coming; my father sent me on an errand. Or rather, 2. Of my thus speaking: is there not reason in what I say? Is this giant invincible? is our God unable to oppose him, and subdue him?

Verse 30:[13] And he turned from him toward another, and (1 Sam. 17:26, 27) spake after the same manner (Heb. word[14]): and the people answered him again after the former manner.

He turned from him toward another, etc.: For being secretly moved by God’s Spirit to undertake the combat, he speaks with divers persons about it, that so it might come to the king’s ear.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר׀ אִ֣ישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל הַרְּאִיתֶם֙ הָאִ֤ישׁ הָֽעֹלֶה֙ הַזֶּ֔ה כִּ֛י לְחָרֵ֥ף אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עֹלֶ֑ה וְֽ֠הָיָה הָאִ֙ישׁ אֲשֶׁר־יַכֶּ֜נּוּ יַעְשְׁרֶ֥נּוּ הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ׀ עֹ֣שֶׁר גָּד֗וֹל וְאֶת־בִּתּוֹ֙ יִתֶּן־ל֔וֹ וְאֵת֙ בֵּ֣ית אָבִ֔יו יַעֲשֶׂ֥ה חָפְשִׁ֖י בְּיִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ [2]Library 3:5:8. Apollodorus of Athens was a second century BC Greek poet and historian; his authorship of the Library is disputed. In Greek mythology, Creon becomes King of Thebes upon the death of King Laius, unwittingly killed by Oedipus. Creon’s greatest calamity as king was the trial of the Sphinx. Hera sent the Sphinx, which was laying the fields of Thebes waste. The Thebans possessed an oracle, promising deliverance from the Sphinx upon the answering of her riddle; however, the Sphinx would devour those that tried to answer, and failed. Creon promised his sister and the kingdom to the man that would successfully answer and deliver Thebes. Oedipus does so; the Sphinx casts itself from the citadel; and Oedipus unwittingly inherits his father’s throne and marries his mother. [3] Demetrius was the son of Poseidon and Aphrodite, companion of Demeter, goddess of the harvest. [4]Deipnosophistæ 6:63. Athenæus of Naucratis (late first, early second century AD) wrote Deipnosophistæ (or Banquet of the Learned), a dialogue in which the characters discuss a wide range of topics. In the song, the myth of the Sphinx is applied to the plundering Aetolians, reaching far (as if traveling on wings), and tearing and crushing (as if with lions’ paws). [5] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר דָּוִ֗ד אֶֽל־הָאֲנָשִׁ֞ים הָעֹמְדִ֣ים עִמּוֹ֮ לֵאמֹר֒ מַה־יֵּעָשֶׂ֗ה לָאִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֤ר יַכֶּה֙ אֶת־הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֣י הַלָּ֔ז וְהֵסִ֥יר חֶרְפָּ֖ה מֵעַ֣ל יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל כִּ֣י מִ֗י הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֤י הֶֽעָרֵל֙ הַזֶּ֔ה כִּ֣י חֵרֵ֔ף מַעַרְכ֖וֹת אֱלֹהִ֥ים חַיִּֽים׃ [6] That is, a concise, or clipped, form of expression. [7] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר לוֹ֙ הָעָ֔ם כַּדָּבָ֥ר הַזֶּ֖ה לֵאמֹ֑ר כֹּ֣ה יֵעָשֶׂ֔ה לָאִ֖ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֥ר יַכֶּֽנּוּ׃ [8] Hebrew: וַיִּשְׁמַ֤ע אֱלִיאָב֙ אָחִ֣יו הַגָּד֔וֹל בְּדַבְּר֖וֹ אֶל־הָאֲנָשִׁ֑ים וַיִּֽחַר־אַף֩ אֱלִיאָ֙ב בְּדָוִ֜ד וַיֹּ֣אמֶר׀ לָמָּה־זֶּ֣ה יָרַ֗דְתָּ וְעַל־מִ֙י נָטַ֜שְׁתָּ מְעַ֙ט הַצֹּ֤אן הָהֵ֙נָּה֙ בַּמִּדְבָּ֔ר אֲנִ֧י יָדַ֣עְתִּי אֶת־זְדֹנְךָ֗ וְאֵת֙ רֹ֣עַ לְבָבֶ֔ךָ כִּ֗י לְמַ֛עַן רְא֥וֹת הַמִּלְחָמָ֖ה יָרָֽדְתָּ׃ [9] See Acts 1:24: “And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts (καρδιογνῶστα) of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen…” And Acts 15:8: “And God, which knoweth the hearts (ὁ καρδιογνώστης Θεὸς), bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us…” [10] Horace (65 BC-8 AD) was a Roman poet, perhaps the greatest of his day. [11] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר דָּוִ֔ד מֶ֥ה עָשִׂ֖יתִי עָ֑תָּה הֲל֖וֹא דָּבָ֥ר הֽוּא׃ [12] Zechariah 7:7: “Should ye not hear the words (אֶת־הַדְּבָרִים) which the Lord hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?” [13] Hebrew: וַיִּסֹּ֤ב מֵֽאֶצְלוֹ֙ אֶל־מ֣וּל אַחֵ֔ר וַיֹּ֖אמֶר כַּדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֑ה וַיְשִׁבֻ֤הוּ הָעָם֙ דָּבָ֔ר כַּדָּבָ֖ר הָרִאשֽׁוֹן׃ [14] Hebrew: כַּדָּבָר.

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