Saul fought wars against the nations on every side of Israel (14:47). However, his most important enemies were the Philistines (the people from Philistia). During Saul’s rule, Israel and Philistia were constantly at war.
Philistia was a nation on the south-west side of Israel. It had 5 principal towns, and each town had its own ruler. Each of these towns had strong walls round it, and controlled the surrounding villages (6:17-18).
Philistia’s situation gave it several advantages. It was by the coast, so it controlled the sea ports. The main route to Egypt also went through Philistia. So, Philistia’s situation gave it control over the trade in and out of Israel. Many of Saul’s other enemies, for example Ammon and Moab, were on the east side of the river Jordan. The river acted as a natural defence for Israel. However, Philistia was next to the main part of Israel, and they were both on the west side of Jordan. So Israel became Philistia’s only important enemy.
The two nations were constantly trying to gain control over each other (4:9). The Philistines made iron, which Israel needed for tools and military equipment. Israel’s people mainly worked in agriculture, and the Philistines probably needed food from Israel.
Samuel had warned Israel’s people that their king would take their young men for his army (8:11-12). That is what happened. Saul forced all the strongest and bravest men in Israel to join him in the fight against the Philistines.
In the end, both Saul and his son Jonathan died in a battle against the Philistines (1 Samuel chapter 31; 2 Samuel chapter 1).
Next part: Judgement against Amalek (1 Samuel 15:1-2)
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© 2014, Keith Simons.