We have often referred to this passage as we have studied the Book of 1 Samuel. It shows clearly the kind of power that the Philistines (the nation called Philistia) had over Israel at this time.
The Philistines did not establish their own government to rule Israel. They allowed the people in Israel to govern themselves. When the people in Israel appointed a king, the Philistines did not stop them. Even when King Saul gathered an army to fight Ammon, the Philistines did not stop him (11:6-8). In fact, they probably approved. Saulís success against Ammon made the Philistinesí own country safer.
However, the Philistines were still controlling Israel. They would not allow anyone in Israel to work with iron. For that purpose, they sent groups of their soldiers into Israel. Those soldiers established bases at Gibeah (10:5) and Geba (13:3), and probably at other places too.
That action gave them two advantages:
(1) Although Israelís people could not make iron tools, they still needed them. They were agricultural workers, and they needed good tools. So they had to go to Philistia. The Philistines sold these tools, and they made the tools sharp. The prices were expensive. It was a good trade for the men in Philistia.
(2) Israelís army did not have the proper equipment. In particular, swords were very rare in Israel. The result was that Israelís army was weaker than Philistiaís army. It seemed unlikely that Israelís men could ever defeat the Philistines. So, the Philistines would continue to control Israel in this manner.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.