Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, “Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!” 1 Samuel 13:19

In ancient cultures it was common practice, when oppressing an enemy, to deprive them of the means to make weaponry. We see this in later times when the Babylonians made sure they captured all the skilled workers and artisans so the remaining Israelites couldn’t rearm themselves (2 Kings 24:14).

Still, it’s a little strange after Samuel’s success in subduing the Philistines at Mizpah (7:13), that the Israelites didn’t start training blacksmiths and making iron implements especially as they were using them for farming (verses 20-21). Though it’s not clear whether they made these implements or traded for them.

Did the Israelites lack skill or motivation to make iron tools? While it’s hard to say it certainly clear that the Philistines were more skilled in the technique and were able to restrict Israel’s production of weaponry.

Yet this didn’t stop God’s enabling, giving Saul success over the Amorites (11:11) and Samuel’s victory over the Philistines. There were other weapons available to them—bows and arrows, clubs, slings. Yet what they most needed was God’s intervention (7:10).

In earlier times Deborah successfully routed the Canaanites and their nine hundred chariots fitted with iron (Judges 4:3) without even a spear or shield (5:8). Victory came when God sent a thunderstorm, perhaps their chariots became bogged (Judges 5:4).

Regardless of how poorly resourced we are or why, God is still able to give us victory. This doesn’t excuse apathy. We prepare as best we can for the tasks God calls us to. The Israelites still needed blacksmiths even if just for farming, yet these incidents remind us that we’re not dependent on human resources.