Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of
The Philistines, when they ruled over them, having removed them into their own country, and forbid any to learn or exercise that trade in Israel:
for the Philistines said, lest the Hebrews make swords or spears:
this they did to prevent their having arms, and the use of them, that they might not rebel against them, and fight with them, and overcome them; it was a piece of policy to keep them subject to them; so Nebuchadnezzar, when he conquered the Jews and carried them captive, took care particularly to carry away their smiths, and left none but the poorest sort of people in the land, ( 2 Kings 24:14 ) ( Jeremiah 24:1 ) and Porsena, king of the Etrusci, when he made a covenant with the Romans, upon the expulsion of their kings, made this a condition of peace with them, that they should use no iron but in husbandry F8. When this course was taken by the Philistines with the Israelites, and how long it had continued is not certain; it is probable it might be in the space of forty years they ruled over Israel, in which Samson was born, for we never read of any sword or spear that he made use of; and though there were two battles in the times of Eli, in both which Israel were beaten, they might make use only of bows and arrows, slings, and stones, clubs, &c, as also in the battle of Saul with the Ammonites; and as for the defeat of the Philistines in the time of Samuel, it was by thunder; and though the Philistines were then subdued, yet, as Samuel grew old, they regained their power in a good measure, and the Israelites had not spirit enough to oppose them, nor diligence and industry to learn and revive the trade of smiths among them; not even for what was necessary to husbandry, as the following verse shows.
F8 Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 34. c. 14.