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Poole on 1 Samuel 20:18-23: A Plan for the Sounding of Saul

Verse 18:[1] Then Jonathan said to David, (1 Sam. 20:5) To morrow is the new moon: and thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty (Heb. missed[2]).

[And thou shalt be required (thus the Syriac), וְנִפְקַדְתָּ] And thou shalt be visited (Montanus, Jonathan, Piscator), that is, thou shalt be remembered (Mariana, Pagnine, Vatablus); thou shalt be desired (Munster, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius).

[כִּ֥י יִפָּקֵ֖ד מוֹשָׁבֶֽךָ׃] Because thy sitting shall be visited (Jonathan, Montanus, Mariana, Malvenda, Piscator), that is, by visitation it shall be found to be empty. A Metonymy of the efficient (Piscator). Because vacant shall be the house (that is, place) of thy circuit (Jonathan); because (or when [Junius and Tremellius]) thy seat shall be vacant (Syriac, Junius and Tremellius, Pagnine). To be visited here signifies to fail/lack, as in Numbers 31:49[3] (Mariana, Munster). Whether Saul reclined at his feasts, or sat, is uncertain; with this only noted, that, before their entrance into Egypt, the Hebrews were wont to sit, Genesis 43; afterwards they were reclining. See Exodus 12;[4] Song of Solomon 1;[5] Ezekiel 23;[6] Amos 6[7] (Sanchez).

Thy seat, that is, the place where David used to sit at meals with Saul. See verse 25.

Verse 19:[8] And when thou hast stayed three days, then thou shalt go down quickly (or, diligently; Heb. greatly[9]), and come to (1 Sam. 19:2) the place where thou didst hide thyself when the business was in hand (Heb. in the day of the business[10]), and shalt remain by the stone Ezel (or, that sheweth the way[11]).

[Unto the day after tomorrow: Then thou shalt go down swiftly,וְשִׁלַּשְׁתָּ֙ תֵּרֵ֣ד מְאֹ֔ד] Verbatim: and thou shalt repeat three times, and thou shalt go down greatly (Vatablus, Montanus). Then thou shalt hide three days, and thou shalt go down greatly (Pagnine, thus Vatablus); that is, thou shalt hide thyself in a very low-lying place (Vatablus), lest thou be able to be seen (Munster). And when thou wilt have been away unto the third day (Hebrew, thou wilt have repeated three times: A Synecdoche of genus: Compare verse 5 [Piscator]), thou shalt go down diligently (Junius and Tremellius, Piscator), namely, at Beth-lehem. Compare verse 6 (Piscator). And when thou wilt have stayed three days, then thou shalt go down swiftly (English, similarly the Dutch). Now, on the third day thou shalt go down immediately (Tigurinus), or quickly (Strigelius). Then for three days thou shalt go down, etc. (Munster). Now, thou shalt go down to the top three times. It is appropriate to keep in mind, that a little previously it was said, tomorrow, or the next day.[12] Therefore, this is the meaning, if I will be able, I will be present tomorrow at that place. But, if tomorrow I will not have been able to learn how my father is inclined, I will give diligence, that I might learn it at least by the third day. Therefore, thou shalt go down tomorrow. But if I come not tomorrow, thou shalt conclude that I have not yet been able to ascertain it; and so thou shalt go down also the day after tomorrow, or again on the third down from now, if perhaps I will not have come on the day after tomorrow; so that on whichever of these three days I will have come, be thou present. In the place of thou shalt go down three times, in the Hebrew it is thou shalt repeat three times to go down: Thus elsewhere, thou shalt be direct to do, in the place of thou shalt do directly; and in Jeremiah 49, make deep to dwell,[13] in the place of dwell deeply, that is, hide yourselves deep within. In French, he triumphs to do, in the place of, he does things worthy of triumph. Thus Horace, whose age trembled to conclude his fortieth year,[14] that is, he concluded with trembling (Castalio). And thou shalt do three times, and shalt watch, and shalt come (Septuagint). Others thus: and at the third hour thou wilt be urgently required, but thou shalt come, etc. (Syriac). Therefore, when with the third hour elapsed the midday meal has been put on, and thou required, come, etc. (Arabic).

When thou hast stayed three days; either at Beth-lehem with thy friends, verse 6, or elsewhere, as thou shalt see fit.

[On the day in which it is lawful to work, בְּי֣וֹם הַֽמַּעֲשֶׂ֑ה] On the working day (Septuagint). On the non-holiday (Jonathan, Tigurinus); on the day determined for labors (Strigelius), that is, lest thou then be seen by those making a journey; for, since on the day of Kalends, just as on the Sabbath, it is not lawful to go very far from the city, hiding places will be less necessary (Menochius). Or otherwise: because on that day it is lawful in travel to complete so much of a journey, as the solemnity of the Sabbath, or another feast day, would not permit (Tirinus out of Sanchez). Whence I gather two things necessarily, in my judgment: 1. On New Moons servile work was not able performed, otherwise than Tostatus, Lapide, and Ribera[15] think. For, since religion concedes this to other solemnities, it is not to be denied to the day of the new moon, Psalm 81:3. Objection: But New Moons are not numbered among the other feasts, Leviticus 23. Response: There only annual feasts are treated. Whence neither are the Sabbaths reckoned after those words in Leviticus 23:4, these are the feasts, etc. (Sanchez). 2. Hence I gather that this stone was farther from the city than two thousand cubits,[16] which was a Sabbath Day’s journey (Tirinus out of Sanchez). [But others translate the passage far differently:] And thou shalt come to the place in which thou hadst hidden in the day of work (Montanus, Pagnine, Vatablus), that is, in the day of business (Vatablus, English), in the day of that deed (Pagnine), or transaction (Dutch); when the work was done (Munster), on which day that business was transacted (Junius and Tremellius), that is, with me interceding for thy deliverance from the hand of my father (Junius, similarly the Dutch). When I prosecuted thine affair before my father, and he promised me with an oath added, that he would not kill thee (Vatablus out of Munster). On which day this business shall be done (Castalio).

When the business was in hand; Hebrew, in the day of business; or, of the business. And these words are to be joined, either, 1. With the words next foregoing; and so they note the time when David hid himself there; which was, when this same business which now they were treating about was in agitation formerly, to wit, to discover Saul’s mind and purpose towards him, 1 Samuel 19:2, 3. Or, 2. With the more remote words; and so they note the time when David should come to the place appointed, and formerly used to hide himself in, upon a like occasion, to wit, in the day when the business here spoken of was to be done, that is, when the discovery of Saul’s mind was to be made.

[And thou shalt sit by the stone, the name of which is Ezel,וְיָ֣שַׁבְתָּ֔ אֵ֖צֶל הָאֶ֥בֶן הָאָֽזֶל׃] And thou shalt remain, or sit, behind the stone Ezel (Tigurinus, Munster, Castalio, Strigelius), at the stone of travelers (Pagnine, Montanus), or of the way, that is, the indicator of the way (Vatablus). Verbatim: the stone of going; which shows the way to those making a journey (Piscator). But such a place would be less apt as a hiding place for David, since such stones are stationed at the meeting of multiple roads (Montanus). Others maintain that this was said, because Jonathan and David were wont to go there, if they were desiring to transact anything secret between them (Piscator); or because many were wont frequently to go and resort there for refreshment (Malvenda). Near this stony lookout (Junius and Tremellius). Hebrew: the stone of aditionis, the right of approaching. But perhaps it is to be read abitionis, of departure. אָזַל is to depart above in 1 Samuel 9:7.[17] At the lookout, the eyes, as it were, depart to watch those coming (Piscator), near that stone (Syriac, similarly the Arabic).

By the stone Ezel, or, by the stone of going, or travelling, that is, by that stone which directs travelers in the way, to wit, in some cave, or convenient place, which was near that stone.

Verse 20:[18] And I will shoot three arrows on the side thereof, as though I shot at a mark.

[Three arrows (Hebrew, a triad of arrows[19] [Piscator]) I will let fly beside it, צִדָּ֣ה אוֹרֶ֑ה] To the side I will shoot (Montanus), to the side of it (Pagnine, Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius), that is, the stone (Munster, Vatablus, Mariana). The ה in this place does not have the point (ּ) in the center, which is the sign of the feminine pronoun,[20] although it signifies this (Vatablus).

[As if exercising myself at a mark, לְשַֽׁלַּֽח־לִ֖י לְמַטָּרָֽה׃] By shooting to me (by shooting them [Pagnine]) at a mark (Montanus, Tigurinus, thus Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, Munster, similarly Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Aquila and Symmachus[21] in Drusius), or sign (Grotius). Thus it is taken in Job 16:12;[22] Lamentations 3:12[23] (Grotius). מַטָּרָה is taken from נָטַר, φυλάττω, to watch or guard, whence it is not strange, if a contentious interpreter, who is wont to press the etymologies of words, renders the same word φυλακὴν, a watch (Drusius). The לִי, to me, is superfluous (Vatablus, Piscator). But the Septuagint has εἰς τὴν Ἀματταρί, to Amattari, as if it were the name of a place (Grotius). But I think that it should be read εἰς τὸν Ματταρὰ, or surely λαμματαρά/lammatara: the ancient Glosses, Lamatara, a sign, or conditio/ condition/agreement (read condictum/agreement). Symmachus: to the appointed, or agreed upon, target (Drusius). Moreover, he established this sign, because he was not knowing if he would be able to come alone to speak with David; or, should he come secretly, anyone was able to arrive suddenly (Lyra, similarly Tostatus, Sanchez). Now, he gave the sign of the arrows, rather than of stone, or spear, etc., to avoid suspicion; because Jonathan was pursuing a deep acquaintance with the archer’s art, and he excelled at it; and so he also took a lad with him, because he was accustomed so to do (Tostatus).

And I will shoot three arrows, etc.: He chose this way to avoid Saul’s suspicion, because bows and arrows were the principal arms of those times; and Jonathan, as well as others, did oft go forth to exercise himself with them, both for recreation, and improvement of his skill in that art. Besides, he knew not that he should have any opportunity of private converse with David, by reason of passengers, though the event proved better than he expected.

Verse 21:[24] And, behold, I will send a lad, saying, Go, find out the arrows. If I expressly say unto the lad, Behold, the arrows are on this side of thee, take them; then come thou: for there is peace to thee, and no hurt (Heb. not any thing[25]); (Jer. 4:2) as the LORD liveth.

[Behold, the arrows are to the inside of thee,הִנֵּ֥ה הַחִצִּ֣ים׀ מִמְּךָ֣ וָהֵ֗נָּה קָחֶ֧נּוּ׀ וָבֹ֛אָה] Verbatim: Behold, the arrows are from thee and below (from thee, and here [Septuagint]); take it, and come (Montanus, Septuagint). They are on the near side of thee (Syriac, Mariana, Castalio), behind thee (Osiander), at thy back (Arabic), by thee on the near side (Junius and Tremellius), before thee (Munster); they lie behind thee (Strigelius); they lie towards here (Tigurinus). Verbatim: and hither, understand, coming (Vatablus).

[Take them (or it [Piscator]), and come (Syriac, Arabic, thus Strigelius, Osiander)] Or, take each of them: Hebrew, take it, in the masculine gender; because חֵץ/arrow, to which that pronoun is referred, is masculine. And the Singular is in the place of a Plural (Piscator). Others translate it, take him (understanding, the boy [Tigurinus Notes]), and come (Tigurinus). Jonathan allowed the boy to go quite a distance away before shooting the arrow, and then he shot an arrow that would not reach that boy (Menochius).

Behold, I will send a lad, etc.: I will send him out before I shoot, to find out and take up the arrows which I shall shoot. And I shall shoot them either short of him, or beyond him, as I shall see occasion.

[There is peace to thee, and there is nothing of hurt, וְאֵ֥ין דָּבָ֖ר] And not a word (Montanus); there is not anything, understanding, of evil, or danger (Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Munster, Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, Mariana, Osiander). A Synecdoche of genus (Piscator). There is nothing of business (Tigurinus), that is, nothing impedes thee from coming. An elegant Hebraism: there is nothing that could harm thee or be an impediment (Malvenda).

Verse 22:[26] But if I say thus unto the young man, Behold, the arrows are beyond thee; go thy way: for the LORD hath sent thee away.

[The arrows are beyond thee, מִמְּךָ֣ וָהָ֑לְאָה] From thee and beyond (Pagnine, Montanus), understanding, they are (Pagnine); from thee and thither (Jonathan); before thee (Arabic, Strigelius); beyond thee (Dutch, English, Syriac); before thee and beyond (Munster); they lie, projected from thee, and beyond (Tigurinus); they are beyond thee farther (Junius and Tremellius); beyond that (Castalio).

[The Lord hath sent thee away] That is, He commands thee to depart (Vatablus, similarly Junius, Piscator).

For the LORD hath sent thee away: Take this for an intimation of God’s providence, that thou shouldst keep away from the court.

Verse 23:[27] And as touching (1 Sam. 20:14, 15; see 1 Sam. 20:42) the matter which thou and I have spoken of, behold, the LORD be between thee and me for ever.

[The Lord be between me and thee] Hebrew: Behold, the Lord between me and thee[28] (Montanus), understanding, is witness (Septuagint, Junius and Tremellius, Grotius), and, if anyone deals falsely, an avenger; which is tacitly implied in every oath, as we said in Concerning the Law of War and Peace[29] 2:13:10 (Grotius). May He be our judge, etc. (Munster).

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּֽאמֶר־ל֥וֹ יְהוֹנָתָ֖ן מָחָ֣ר חֹ֑דֶשׁ וְנִפְקַ֕דְתָּ כִּ֥י יִפָּקֵ֖ד מוֹשָׁבֶֽךָ׃ [2] Hebrew: יִפָּקֵד. [3] Numbers 31:49: “And they said unto Moses, Thy servants have taken the sum of the men of war which are under our charge, and there lacketh (נִפְקַד, is visited) not one man of us.” [4] See verse 11, in particular. [5] See verse 12. [6] See verses 17, 41. [7] See verse 4. [8] Hebrew: וְשִׁלַּשְׁתָּ֙ תֵּרֵ֣ד מְאֹ֔ד וּבָאתָ֙ אֶל־הַמָּק֔וֹם אֲשֶׁר־נִסְתַּ֥רְתָּ שָּׁ֖ם בְּי֣וֹם הַֽמַּעֲשֶׂ֑ה וְיָ֣שַׁבְתָּ֔ אֵ֖צֶל הָאֶ֥בֶן הָאָֽזֶל׃ [9] Hebrew: מְאֹד. [10] Hebrew: בְּי֣וֹם הַֽמַּעֲשֶׂ֑ה. [11] Hebrew: הָאָזֶל. [12] See verse 12. [13] Jeremiah 49:8: “Flee ye, turn back, dwell deep (הֶעְמִ֣יקוּ לָשֶׁ֔בֶת, make deep to dwell), O inhabitants of Dedan; for I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him, the time that I will visit him.” So also verse 30. [14]Odes 2:4. [15] Francis Ribera (1537-1591) was a Spanish Jesuit scholar, most remembered for his commentary on Revelation in which he advances the Futurist scheme of interpretation. [16] That is, about three quarters of a mile. [17] 1 Samuel 9:7: “Then said Saul to his servant, But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? for the bread is departed (אָזַל) from our vessels, and there is not a present to bring to the man of God: what have we?” [18] Hebrew: וַאֲנִ֕י שְׁלֹ֥שֶׁת הַחִצִּ֖ים צִדָּ֣ה אוֹרֶ֑ה לְשַֽׁלַּֽח־לִ֖י לְמַטָּרָֽה׃ [19] Hebrew: שְׁלֹ֥שֶׁת הַחִצִּ֖ים. [20]אֶבֶן/stone is feminine. [21] Symmachus (second century) produced a Greek translation of the Old Testament, which survives only in fragments. Symmachus’ work is characterized by an apparent concern to render faithfully the Hebrew original, to provide a rendering consistent with the rabbinic exegesis of his time, and to set forth the translation in simple, pure, and elegant Septuagint-style Greek. [22] Job 16:12: “I was at ease, but he hath broken me asunder: he hath also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for his mark (וַיְקִימֵ֥נִי ל֜֗וֹ לְמַטָּרָֽה׃).” [23] Lamentations 3:12: “He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark (כַּמַּטָּרָא) for the arrow.” [24] Hebrew: וְהִנֵּה֙ אֶשְׁלַ֣ח אֶת־הַנַּ֔עַר לֵ֖ךְ מְצָ֣א אֶת־הַחִצִּ֑ים אִם־אָמֹר֩ אֹמַ֙ר לַנַּ֜עַר הִנֵּ֥ה הַחִצִּ֣ים׀ מִמְּךָ֣ וָהֵ֗נָּה קָחֶ֧נּוּ׀ וָבֹ֛אָה כִּֽי־שָׁל֥וֹם לְךָ֛ וְאֵ֥ין דָּבָ֖ר חַי־יְהוָֽה׃ [25] Hebrew: וְאֵ֥ין דָּבָ֖ר. [26] Hebrew: וְאִם־כֹּ֤ה אֹמַר֙ לָעֶ֔לֶם הִנֵּ֥ה הַחִצִּ֖ים מִמְּךָ֣ וָהָ֑לְאָה לֵ֕ךְ כִּ֥י שִֽׁלַּחֲךָ֖ יְהוָֽה׃ [27] Hebrew: וְהַ֙דָּבָ֔ר אֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבַּ֖רְנוּ אֲנִ֣י וָאָ֑תָּה הִנֵּ֧ה יְהוָ֛ה בֵּינִ֥י וּבֵינְךָ֖ עַד־עוֹלָֽם׃ [28] Hebrew: הִנֵּ֧ה יְהוָ֛ה בֵּינִ֥י וּבֵינְךָ֖. [29] De Jure Belli ac Pacis.

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Matthew Henry: 'He settles the method of intelligence, and by what signs and tokens he would give him notice how his father stood affected towards him. David would be missed the first day, or at least the second day, of the new moon, and would be enquired after, 1 Samuel 20:18. On the third day, by which time he would have returned from Bethlehem, he must be at such a place (1 Samuel 20:19), and Jonathan would come towards that place with his bow and arrows to shoot for diversion (1 Samuel 20:20), would send his lad to fetch his arrows, and, if they were shot short of the lad, David must take it for a signal of safety, an…


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