“Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, ‘Lest the Hebrews make swords or spears.’” 1 Samuel 13:19
During the reign of Saul the Philistines primarily occupied the plains along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Their’s was not a kingdom in the sense that we generally think of kingdoms, rather it was a federation of independent city states each led by its own king.
Often during the times of war, companies from one Philistine city or another would make raids into the Hebrew territory, higher up in the hills and mountains, killing isolated farmers, stealing anything valuable, and sometimes conquering a city or town and demanding tribute from its inhabitants. At other times different kings would join together for a more ambitious incursion.
The Philistines had been successful with this strategy. So successful that there was not a single blacksmith in all of Israel and Judah. If the Israelites needed a tool sharpened or repaired the had to go to a Philistine to get the work done paying ridiculously high prices for the service. In addition to the money they made, this monopoly on blacksmiths ensured that Israel did not have the ability to make the swords and spears necessary to properly defend themselves against their enemies, making them easier to control.
One might ask, “Why is God permitting his people to be treated this way?”
The answer is that this situation is the result of Israelite unfaithfulness.
When Israel entered into the land of Canaan God had promised that he would go before the people and he would give them the land and they were to drive the other nations out before them, but the children of Israel failed to do as God had instructed them to do. They did not drive out the idolatrous nations, instead they permitted some to live along side them resulting in even greater disobedience and unfaithfulness as they repeatedly adopted the idolatrous practices of their neighbors.
This failure to fully remove existing inhabitants as God had instructed also meant that the powerful Philistine alliance was also permitted to remain which was a problem and a threat for many generations.
God gives his people instructions so that he can bless them and prosper them in the best way for them. Their failure to exercise faith, obedience and tenacity when they first occupied the land resulted in vulnerabilites that eventually resulted in hardship for the people of Israel.
We too by our disobedience to God’s instructions deprive ourselves of the blessings God desires to give and open the door for difficulty and hardship from which God would have protected us.
Friends, it’s not always easy to follow God and accomplish everything he’s set before us to do but he’s promised that he’ll be with us and supply all our needs and ensure the success of all our honest efforts to do as he’s called us to do. Yes, sacrifice may be required but given the blessings in store and the consequences of failing to make the effort these are investments we can’t afford to not make.