General Summary of Saul's other Wars, and Account of his Family. - 1Sa 14:47. “But Saul had taken the sovereignty.” As Saul had first of all secured a recognition of himself as king on the part of all the tribes of Israel, through his victory over the Ammonites at Jabesh (1Sa 11:12.), so it was through the victory which he had gained over the Philistines, and by which these obstinate foes of Israel were driven back into their own land, that he first acquired the kingship over Israel, i.e., first really secured the regal authority over the Israelites. This is the meaning of הַמְּלוּכָה לָכַד; and this statement is not at variance either with the election of Saul by lot (1Sa 10:17.), or with his confirmation at Gilgal (1Sa 11:14-15). But as Saul had to fight for the sovereignty, and could only secure it by successful warfare, his other wars are placed in the foreground in the summary account of his reign which follows (1Sa 14:47, 1Sa 14:48), whilst the notices concerning his family, which stand at the very beginning in the case of other kings, are not mentioned till afterwards (1Sa 14:49-51). Saul fought successfully against all the enemies of Israel round about; against Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, the kings of Zobah, a district of Syria on this side the Euphrates (see at 2Sa 8:3), and against the Philistines. The war against the Ammonites is described in 1Sa 11:1-15; but with the Philistines Saul had to wage repeated war all the days of his life (1Sa 14:52). The other wars are none of them more fully described, simply because they were of no importance to the history of the kingdom of God, having neither furnished occasion for any miraculous displays of divine omnipotence, nor brought about the subjection of hostile nations to the power of Israel. “Whithersoever he turned, he inflicted punishment.” This is the rendering which Luther has very aptly given to יַרְשִׁיאַ; for הִרְשִׁיעַ signifies to declare wrong, hence to condemn, more especially as applied to judges: here it denotes sentence or condemnation by deeds. Saul chastised these nations for their attacks upon Israel.
“And he acquired power;” חַיִל עָשָׂה (as in Num 24:18) does not merely signify he proved himself brave, or he formed an army, but denotes the development and unfolding of power in various respects. Here it relates more particularly to the development of strength in the war against Amalek, by virtue of which Saul smote this arch-enemy of Israel, and put an end to their depredations. This war is described more fully in 1 Samuel 15, on account of its consequences in relation to Saul's own sovereignty.
Saul's family. - 1Sa 14:49. Only three of his sons are mentioned, namely those who fell with him, according to 1Sa 31:2, in the war with the Philistines. Jisvi is only another name for Abinadab (1Sa 31:2; 1Ch 8:33; 1Ch 9:39). In these passages in the Chronicles there is a fourth mentioned, Esh-baal, i.e., the one who is called Ish-bosheth in 2Sa 2:8, etc., and who was set up by Abner as the antagonist of David. The reason why he is not mentioned here it is impossible to determine. It may be that the name has fallen out simply through some mistake in copying: the daughters Michal and Merab are mentioned, with special reference to the occurrence described in 1Sa 18:17.
Abner the general was also Saul's cousin. For “son of Abiel” (ben Abiel) we must read “sons of Abiel” (bne Abiel: see 1Sa 9:1).
The statement, “and the war was hard (severe) against the Philistines as long as Saul lived,” merely serves to explain the notice which follows, namely, that Saul took or drew to himself every strong man and every brave man that he saw. If we observe this, which is the true relation between the two clauses in this verse, the appearance of abruptness which we find in the first notice completely vanishes, and the verse follows very suitably upon the allusion to the general. The meaning might be expressed in this manner: And as Saul had to carry on a severe war against the Philistines his whole life long, he drew to himself every powerful man and every brave man that he met with.