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Poole's on 1 Samuel 28:20-25: The Witch at Endor, Part 5

Verse 20:[1]  Then Saul fell straightway all along (Heb. made haste, and fell with the fullness of his stature[2]) on the earth, and was sore afraid, because of the words of Samuel:  and there was no strength in him; for he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night.

[He fell stretched out upon the earth (thus the Septuagint, Strigelius),וַיִּפֹּ֤ל מְלֹא־קֽוֹמָתוֹ֙ אַ֔רְצָה]  And Saul hastened, and fell the fullness (from the fullness [Vatablus]) of his stature to the earth (Montanus, Vatablus); that is, he immediately toppled, as he had been erect.  He put a verb in the place of an adverb; as often elsewhere, and in verse 24, especially in this sort of speaking (Vatablus).  Immediately he toppled, as great as he was (Pagnine, Tigurinus).  In French, d’ aussi hault qu’il estoit, as tall as he was (Vatablus); in his full (or whole [Junius and Tremellius, Munster]) stature (Jonathan).  He fell with his whole weight (Castalio).  For, in great fear, the blood and spirit are recalled to the heart:  Whence it happens, that the parts vacated are not able to uphold the body.  Thus the Devil not only makes sport of the soul, but also destroys the body.  The Devil yields comforts of this sort to those consulting him.  At the same time, no prayers of Saul are heard here:  thus he had already been altogether hardened (Martyr).

Saul fell along on the earth, being quite dispirited with these sad and surprising tidings, and so unable to stand.

[There was no strength in him]  That is, to raise himself (Vatablus).


Verse 21:[3]  And the woman came unto Saul, and saw that he was sore troubled, and said unto him, Behold, thine handmaid hath obeyed thy voice, and I have (Judg. 12:3; 1 Sam. 19:5; Job 13:14) put my life in my hand, and have hearkened unto thy words which thou spakest unto me.

[And so that woman entered]  For she had departed for a bit, so that Saul might be able to converse with Samuel more freely, with witnesses removed (Menochius, similarly Lapide out of Tostatus, Sanchez).

The woman came unto Saul; from whom she departed, when she had brought him and Samuel together, that they might more freely converse together, as being alone.

[I have put my life in my hand]  A Hebraism:  I have exposed myself to danger (Vatablus); just like those things that we have in our hands, that are able to fall out, or to be wrested from our grip, etc. (Sanchez).  See on Judges 12:3 (Piscator).


Verse 22:[4]  Now therefore, I pray thee, hearken thou also unto the voice of thine handmaid, and let me set a morsel of bread before thee; and eat, that thou mayest have strength, when thou goest on thy way.

[Hearken thou also unto the voice of thine handmaid, etc.]  Josephus notes the humanity of this woman, and that with the affairs of Saul ruined, although she was afflicted with so great an injury from Saul (who had prohibited the art, whence she had supplied that nourishment for herself).  Be we are able to add, that the astute woman readily understood, that, if the King had died in her house, she was afterwards going to be punished, as if he had died by her evil deed (Martyr).

Now therefore, I pray thee, etc.:  This earnestness did not come merely from her humanity and respect to Saul, but from a prudent and necessary care of herself, because if Saul had died in her house, his blood would have been charged upon her.

[So that, eating, thou mayest regain strength, and be able to make the journey, וִיהִ֤י בְךָ֙ כֹּ֔חַ כִּ֥י תֵלֵ֖ךְ בַּדָּֽרֶךְ׃]  And it shall be, or so that it might be, in thee energy, or strength, so that thou mightest go in the way (Montanus, similarly Pagnine, Jonathan, Tigurinus), or along the way (Pagnine).  And then thou shalt proceed along the way (Munster).  Seeing that thou art going to go in the way (Syriac, similarly the Septuagint, Arabic).  When thou shalt depart in the way (Junius and Tremellius, similarly Vatablus).


Verse 23:[5]  But he refused, and said, I will not eat.  But his servants, together with the woman, compelled him; and he hearkened unto their voice.  So he arose from the earth, and sat upon the bed.

[I will not eat]  For, he preferred to perish by starvation, than by the sword of the enemy (Sanchez).

[They compelled him (thus the Septuagint, Munster, Pagnine, similarly Montanus), וַיִּפְרְצוּ־בוֹ]  And they increased in strength against him (Jonathan); they asked him (Arabic, similarly the Syriac).  They stood in his presence (Junius and Tremellius).  Hebrew:  they broke in on him.  Metonymy of affect.  Thus the Germans say, to cut the tunic of someone.  Compare 1 Samuel 15:27 (Piscator).

Compelled him, that is, did over-persuade him, by importunate entreaties, as the next words show.


Verse 24:[6]  And the woman had a fat calf in the house; and she hasted, and killed it, and took flour, and kneaded it, and did bake unleavened bread thereof…

[She had a calf of the pasture, עֵגֶל־מַרְבֵּק[7]A calf fat (Munster, Tigurinus, similarly Jonathan, Junius and Tremellius), nourished (Syriac, similarly the Arabic).  Vitulum saginarii, a calf of the fattening stall (Pagnine, Montanus, Piscator, Mariana, Malvenda).  The place where animals are fattened is called a saginarium, fattening stall (Piscator).  מַרְבֵּק/marbek (or, רִבְקָא/ribka, which is the same thing [Kimchi and Jonathan in Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals]) properly signifies bonds (of the neck [Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 303]) whereby threshing calves are bound (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:32:311).  For, in Arabic rabaka, or ribka, is properly the leash on the neck of an ox.  Therefore, a עֵגֶל־מַרְבֵּק is a calf that threshes grain in bonds, and grows fat on the eating of it.  Nevertheless, you rightly translate it calf of the fattening stall.  The Consequent in the place of the Antecedent (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:31:302).  Calf of the stable, or fattened (Mariana).  Those somewhat more luxurious nourish such calves for delicacies, of which sort this one appears to be, since she also appears to have couches for reclining (Sanchez).

[And she baked unleavened bread, וַתֹּפֵ֖הוּ מַצּֽוֹת׃And she bake it (or from it [Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius, Munster, Tigurinus, Vatablus]) unfermented cakes (Montanus, Pagnine, thus the Septuagint, Jonathan), unleavened bread (Munster, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius).  I translate it, unleavened cakes.  For that term elsewhere (as in Exodus 12:39[8]) is expressed, and agrees in general with the posited adjective, namely, מַצּוֹת/unleavened (Piscator).  On account of haste, she was not able to leven it (Mariana, similarly Vatablus).

Unleavened bread:  Not having time to leaven it.


Verse 25:[9]  And she brought it before Saul, and before his servants; and they did eat.  Then they rose up, and went away that night.

[They travelled through the night]  They appear to have made their journey on foot, because thus they could more easily hide, both from their own, and from the enemy; if they had happened to mee any of them by night, while they were making their journey (Menochius).

That night:  that is, Before morning; for he came by night, verse 8, and went away before day; not willing to have it discovered that he had consulted with a witch.

[1] Hebrew: וַיְמַהֵ֣ר שָׁא֗וּל וַיִּפֹּ֤ל מְלֹא־קֽוֹמָתוֹ֙ אַ֔רְצָה וַיִּרָ֥א מְאֹ֖ד מִדִּבְרֵ֣י שְׁמוּאֵ֑ל גַּם־כֹּ֙חַ֙ לֹא־הָ֣יָה ב֔וֹ כִּ֣י לֹ֤א אָכַל֙ לֶ֔חֶם כָּל־הַיּ֖וֹם וְכָל־הַלָּֽיְלָה׃

[2] Hebrew:  וַיְמַהֵ֣ר שָׁא֗וּל וַיִּפֹּ֤ל מְלֹא־קֽוֹמָתוֹ֙.

[3] Hebrew: וַתָּב֤וֹא הָֽאִשָּׁה֙ אֶל־שָׁא֔וּל וַתֵּ֖רֶא כִּי־נִבְהַ֣ל מְאֹ֑ד וַתֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֗יו הִנֵּ֙ה שָׁמְעָ֤ה שִׁפְחָֽתְךָ֙ בְּקוֹלֶ֔ךָ וָאָשִׂ֤ים נַפְשִׁי֙ בְּכַפִּ֔י וָֽאֶשְׁמַע֙ אֶת־דְּבָרֶ֔יךָ אֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבַּ֖רְתָּ אֵלָֽי׃

[4] Hebrew: וְעַתָּ֗ה שְׁמַֽע־נָ֤א גַם־אַתָּה֙ בְּק֣וֹל שִׁפְחָתֶ֔ךָ וְאָשִׂ֧מָה לְפָנֶ֛יךָ פַּת־לֶ֖חֶם וֶאֱכ֑וֹל וִיהִ֤י בְךָ֙ כֹּ֔חַ כִּ֥י תֵלֵ֖ךְ בַּדָּֽרֶךְ׃

[5] Hebrew: וַיְמָאֵ֗ן וַ֙יֹּאמֶר֙ לֹ֣א אֹכַ֔ל וַיִּפְרְצוּ־ב֤וֹ עֲבָדָיו֙ וְגַם־הָ֣אִשָּׁ֔ה וַיִּשְׁמַ֖ע לְקֹלָ֑ם וַיָּ֙קָם֙ מֵֽהָאָ֔רֶץ וַיֵּ֖שֶׁב אֶל־הַמִּטָּֽה׃

[6] Hebrew:  וְלָאִשָּׁ֤ה עֵֽגֶל־מַרְבֵּק֙ בַּבַּ֔יִת וַתְּמַהֵ֖ר וַתִּזְבָּחֵ֑הוּ וַתִּקַּח־קֶ֣מַח וַתָּ֔לָשׁ וַתֹּפֵ֖הוּ מַצּֽוֹת׃

[7] מַרְבֵק signifies a stall.

[8] Exodus 12:39:  “And they baked unleavened cakes (עֻגֹ֥ת מַצּ֖וֹת) of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened (כִּ֣י לֹ֣א חָמֵ֑ץ); because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual.”

[9] Hebrew:  וַתַּגֵּ֧שׁ לִפְנֵֽי־שָׁא֛וּל וְלִפְנֵ֥י עֲבָדָ֖יו וַיֹּאכֵ֑לוּ וַיָּקֻ֥מוּ וַיֵּלְכ֖וּ בַּלַּ֥יְלָה הַהֽוּא׃

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday

Matthew Henry: 'We are here told how Saul received this terrible message from the ghost he consulted. He desired to be told what he should do (1 Samuel 28:15), but was only told what he had not done and what should be done to him. Those that expect any good counsel or comfort otherwise than from God, and in the way of his institutions, will be as wretchedly disappointed as Saul here was. Observe,

I. How he sunk under the load, 1 Samuel 28:20. He was indeed unfit to bear it, having eaten nothing all the day before, nor that night. He came fasting from the camp, and continued fasting; not for want of food, but for want of an…


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday

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