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Monday, December 14, 2015

The Self-Harmony of the Bible - 3 (Part Twelve)

Did the Philistines Come Into Israel During Samuel’s Days?
            1 Samuel 7:13 (HCSB) states: “So the Philistines were subdued and did not invade Israel’s territory again. The LORDS hand was against the Philistines all of Samuel’s [days].” So, the skeptic asserts that 1 Samuel 13:5 (JPS), which says: “And the Philistines assembled themselves together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horseman, and people as the sand which is on the sea-shore in multitude; and they came up, and pitched in Michmas, eastward of Beth-aven [inside of Israel],” contradicts that, for Samuel was still alive, as 1 Samuel 13:10 shows.
            However, the skeptic is too hasty in his reading of 1 Samuel 7:13. He confuses the first part, that the Philistines were humbled and did not come into Israel’s territory with the latter, that Jehovah’s hand was against them during Samuel’s time; thus conflating them. Or, he thinks that by ‘they did not come into the territory of Israel again’ the writer implied that no more, for all time, did they come in to Israel. However, such a confused conclusion is not true.
            The phrase ‘they did not come into Israel’ does not imply an end to all invasions, but a respite of a good deal of time. 2 Kings 6:23 uses the phrase in such a way.[1] Also, the Philistines, while “brought low,” were not subjugated; however, as 1 Samuel 7:14 shows, Israel did eventually regain cities lost.[2] Further, as is almost unanimously agreed, “all the days of Samuel,” refers to his period as sole (or chief) leader of Israel, not to all his life.
            We read that by the time of Saul’s fighting against the Philistines that the Israelites were disarmed and there was a severe shortage of blacksmiths due to Philistine policy. How can this be reconciled with the fact that the hand of Jehovah was against the Philistines?
Two suggestions that come to mind: This expression is generalization made in a brief space, wherein the author did not want to digress into material he had not yet come to. And/or, the Philistines had gained some of their might back. We note, however, while they had a great deal of influence of Israel, they did not have large forces in Israel, contenting themselves with an uneasy peace secured by a number of garrisons. Further, no mention is made of, nor should we suppose that, they reclaimed the Israelite territory they previously controlled.
            In that case, as the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges does, we note: “[“all the days of Samuel” refers] only to the period of Samuel’s active judgeship. . . . We may conjecture that the Philistines reestablished their ascendancy [though not on the same scale – author] in his old age, in consequence of the weak and corrupt government of his sons.”c
            Therefore, we need not resort to saying that the scriptures contradict themselves. The cessations of invasions was not for all time, so even if by “the days of Samuel” his life was meant, it is perfectly acceptable to suppose that Jehovah’s hand was against them. At Mishmash Jehovah did defeat the Philistines. Further Israel, while not superior to the Philistines, still was able to regain their lost territory. And, while groaning under the Philistines and forbidden to have smiths, we do not see them being robbed of their grain as occurred under the Midianites. (Judges 6:1-6) In fact, 1 Samuel does not say that Jehovah sold them into the hands of the Philistines, nor that they became impoverished. In fact they had peaceful relations with other nations such as Amorites. – 1 Samuel 7:14



[1] In that verse it is noted that “the marauder bands of the Syrians” did not “come again into the land of Israel, but in the next verse, the king of Syria “gathered all his army.” – 2 Kings 6:23,24 NWT

[2] As noted previously, the Philistines did remain, to some degree, in Israel; however, their greater might was broken. Further, verse 13 describes that they no more came into Israel’s territory, but for some length of time ending short after their great defeat they still possessed some of Israel’s territory. Therefore, we need not, and should not, assume that their ‘not entering Israel’ was in an absolute sense, as note 5 points out. Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments notes that the Philistines “Came no more – That is, with a great host, but only molested them with straggling parties and garrisons.” Recall, that this verse is an overview of many years and that generalities would be expected in this telescopic overview.

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