During Saulís entire rule, there were frequent battles between the armies of Israel and Philistia. This one happened in the valley called Elah, near to the border between Judah (in southern Israel) and Philistia.
The two armies made their camps on opposite hills above the valley. A river flows through that valley during the rainy season; at other times, the valley is dry. From their camps, the armies watched each other. They waited for 40 days for one side to begin the battle (17:16).
On several occasions, Saul gathered all Israelís men to fight a battle. However, Saul could not do that for this battle. The men would be away from their homes and their work for too long. So instead, Saul only gathered the men whom he considered the best soldiers. Both he and his enemy preferred the men who had the most experience (17:33).
For example, Jesse had 8 sons. His three oldest sons joined Saulís army. They were perhaps between 30 and 40 years old. Their brothers remained at home in Bethlehem. They carried on their work and they guarded their own town. The nations on every side of Israel were enemies; any of them could attack at any time.
Only Jesseís youngest boy, David, left Bethlehem frequently. It was his task to carry food to Israelís camp for his brothers (17:15; 17:17). The soldiers could only remain in the camp for so long because someone brought them food.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.