From Eternity Past


Chapter 60—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 at his call arisen to overthrow the Ammonites. Here was a serious error. His army was filled with hope and courage by the recent victory; and had he proceeded at once against other enemies of Israel, a telling blow might have been struck for the liberties of the nation. EP 447.1

Meanwhile, the Philistines were active. They had still retained some hill fortresses in the land of Israel, and now they established themselves in the very heart of the country. During the long period of their oppressive rule, the Philistines had endeavored to strengthen their power by forbidding the Israelites to practice the trade of smiths, lest they make weapons of war. The Hebrews still resorted to the Philistine garrisons for such work as needed to be done. Controlled by the abject spirit induced by long oppression, the men of Israel had to a great extent neglected to provide themselves with weapons of war. Bows and slings the Israelites could obtain, but none among them except Saul and his son Jonathan possessed a spear or sword. EP 447.2

Not until the second year of Saul's reign was an attempt made to subdue the Philistines. The first blow was struck by Jonathan, who overcame their garrison at Geba. The Philistines, exasperated, made ready for a speedy attack upon Israel. Saul proclaimed war by the trumpet, calling all men of war, including the tribes across the Jordan, to assemble at Gilgal. EP 447.3

The Philistines had gathered an immense force at Michmash—“thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and the people as the sand which is on the seashore in multitude.” Saul and his army at Gilgal were appalled at thought of the mighty forces they would have to encounter in battle. Many were so terrified that they dared not 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 withdraw were filled with terror. EP 447.4

When Saul was anointed king, he had received from Samuel explicit directions concerning the course to be pursued at this time. “Thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal,” said the prophet; “and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and show thee what thou shalt do.” 1 Samuel 10:8. EP 448.1