Saul disobeyed God
1 Saul was no longer a young man when he became the king. He ruled Israel for forty-two years.
2 Several years after he became king, he chose three thousand men from the Israeli army to go with him to fight the Philistines. Then he sent the other soldiers back home. Of the men he chose, two thousand stayed with Saul at Micmash and in the hilly area near Bethel, and a thousand stayed with Saul's son Jonathan at Gibeah, in the area where the descendants of Benjamin lived.
3 Jonathan and the men who were with him attacked the Philistine soldiers who were camped at Geba. The other Philistines heard about that. So Saul realized that the army of Philistia would probably come to fight the Israelis again. So Saul sent messengers to blow trumpets throughout Israel to gather the people together and proclaim to them, “All you Hebrews need to hear that now the Philistines will start a war with us!” 4 The messengers told the rest of the army to gather together with Saul at Gilgal. And all the people in Israel heard the news. People were saying, “Saul's army has attacked the Philistine camp, with the result that now the Philistines hate us Israelis very much.”
5 The Philistines gathered together and were given equipment to fight the Israelis. The Philistines had 3,000 chariots, and 6,000 chariot-drivers. Their soldiers seemed to be as many as grains of sand on the seashore [HYP]. They went up and set up their tents at Micmash, to the east of Beth-Aven (which means ‘house of wickedness’, and really referred to Bethel town). 6 The Philistines attacked the Israelis very strongly, and the Israeli soldiers realized that they were in a very bad situation. So many of the Israeli soldiers hid in caves and holes in the ground, or among the rocks, or in pits, or in wells. 7 Some of them crossed the Jordan River at a place where it was very shallow. Then they went to the area where the descendants of Gad lived and to the Gilead region.
But Saul stayed at Gilgal. All the soldiers who were with him were shaking because they were so afraid. 8 Saul waited seven days, which was the number of days that Samuel had told him to wait for him. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal during that time, so many of the men in Saul's army began to leave him and run away. 9 So Saul said to the soldiers, “Bring to me an animal to be completely burned on the altar and one for the offering to enable us to maintain fellowship with God.” So the men did that. 10 And just as he was finished burning those offerings, Samuel arrived. Saul went to greet him.
11 Samuel saw what Saul had done, and he said to Saul, “Why have you done this?” Saul replied, “I saw that my men were leaving me and running away, and that you did not come here during the time that you said that you would come, and that the Philistine army was gathering together at Micmash.
12 So I thought, ‘The Philistine army is going to attack us here at Gilgal, and I have not yet asked Yahweh to bless/help us.’ So I felt it was necessary to offer the burnt offerings to seek God's blessings.”
13 Samuel replied, “What you did was very foolish! You have not obeyed what Yahweh, your God, commanded about sacrifices. If you had obeyed him, God would have allowed you and your descendants to rule Israel for a long time. 14 But now because of what you have done, you will die, and after you die, none of your descendants will rule. Yahweh is seeking for a man to be king who be just the kind of person that he wants him to be, so that he can appoint him to be the leader of his people. Yahweh will do this because you have not obeyed what he commanded.”
15 Then Samuel left Gilgal and went up to Gibeah. Saul stayed at Gilgal with his soldiers. There were only about 600 of them left who had not run away.
Saul's army had difficulties
16 Saul and his son Jonathan and the soldiers who were with them went to Geba city in the area of the tribe of Benjamin and set up their tents there. The Philistine army set up their tents at Micmash. 17 Three groups of Philistia men soon left the place where their army was staying, and went and ◄made raids on the Israeli towns/attacked the Israelis and took their possessions►. One group went north toward Ophrah city in the Shual region. 18 One group went west to Beth-Horon city. The third group went toward the Israeli border, above Zeboim Valley, near the desert.
19 At that time, there were no men in Israel who ◄were blacksmiths/could make things from iron►. The people of Philistia would not permit the Israelis to have men who could do that, because they were afraid that they would make iron swords and spears for the Hebrews to use. 20 So whenever the Israelis needed to sharpen the blades of their plows, or picks, or axes, or sickles, they were forced to take those things to a Philistia man who could sharpen those things. 21 They needed to pay ◄one fourth of an ounce/8 grams► of silver for sharpening a plow, and ◄an eighth of an ounce/4 grams► of silver to sharpen an axe, or a sickle, or ◄an ox goad/a pointed rod to jab an ox to make it walk►.
22 So because the Israelis could not make weapons from iron, on the day that the Israelis fought against the men of Philistia, Saul and Jonathan were the only Israeli men who had swords. None of the others had a sword; they had only bows and arrows.
23 Before the battle started, some Philistia men went to ◄the pass/a narrow place between two cliffs► outside Micmash to guard it.