Beginning of the End


Saul Makes a Terrible Mistake

This chapter is based on 1 Samuel 13; 14.

After the assembly at Gilgal, Saul disbanded the army that had come together at his call to overthrow the Ammonites. This was a serious error. His army was filled with hope and courage by the recent victory. If he had moved at once against other enemies of Israel, he could have struck a mighty blow for the freedom of the nation. BOE 311.1

Meanwhile, the Philistines were active. They had still kept some hill fortresses in Israel, and now they established themselves in the very heart of the country. During their long oppressive rule, the Philistines had tried to strengthen their power by forbidding the Israelites to practice the trade of smiths, so they could not make weapons of war. Even in peacetime, the Hebrews still took such work to the Philistine camp. Discouraged by long oppression and controlled by love of ease, the men of Israel had largely neglected to provide themselves with weapons of war. The Israelites could obtain bows and slings, but none of them possessed a spear or sword except Saul and his son Jonathan. BOE 311.2

Not until the second year of Saul’s reign did he make an attempt to subdue the Philistines. The first blow was struck by Jonathan, who overcame their garrison at Geba. The exasperated Philistines got ready for a speedy attack on Israel. Saul declared war by the sound of the trumpet, calling all men of war, including the tribes across the Jordan, to assemble at Gilgal. BOE 311.3

The Philistines had gathered an immense force at Michmash—“thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the seashore in multitude.” Saul and his army at Gilgal were shocked at the mighty forces they would have to encounter in battle. Many were so terrified that they did not dare to come to the encounter. Others hid in caves and amid rocks in that region. As the time drew near, desertions rapidly increased, and those who did not leave were filled with terror. BOE 311.4

When Saul was anointed king, Samuel had given him explicit directions about what he should do at this time. “You shall go down before me to Gilgal,” said the prophet, “and urely I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, till I come to you and show you what you should do.” (1 Samuel 10:8). BOE 311.5