1 Samuel 14
-Jonathan, who had the help of his armor bearer, decided to cross over and check out the Philistine garrison that was on the other side. Jonathan did not tell his father of this bold adventure, probably because it would never have been approved. Saul was staying in the outskirts of his home town of Gibeah in Benjamin under the pomegranate tree that was in Migron according to Scripture. His 600 men were with him there (1 Samuel 14:1-2). Ichabod’s older brother, Ahijah, was there wearing the linen as one from the line of Eli in priestly service, and the people did not know that Jonathan had gone (1 Samuel 4:19-22; 14:3).
-Some description is given as to the area where Jonathan was venturing, and then the king’s son exclaimed in faith to his armor bearer, “Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the LORD will work for us, for the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few (1 Samuel 14:4-6).” His armor bearer told him to proceed with all that was in his heart and pledged his loyalty though this was a very dangerous mission in enemy territory. The plan was to reveal themselves to the Philistines with a sign being sent from God. If the enemy said, “Wait until we come to you…” then they would stand in their place and not go up to them. But, on the other hand, if they say, “Come up to us…” then they would indeed go up, for the LORD would have shown that He was going to give them into their hands (1 Samuel 14:7-10). As the action played out, the Philistines called Jonathan and his armor bearer to come up to them. In their minds, they thought there were many other Hebrews that would soon be coming out from hiding in a guerrilla style attack. Jonathan arose climbing up on his hands and feet with his armor bearer right behind him, and they proceeded to kill 20 Philistines in the first encounter by themselves within about half a furrow in an acre of land. Then there was trembling in the camp among all the people as the LORD began to operate His Divine plan. A great earthquake occurred, which is not that uncommon in this region, and Saul’s watchmen in Gibeah could observe what was happening. The multitude of Philistines were melting away before them by the Hand of the Almighty. They were dispersing with chaos and confusion. A quick census was taken by Saul’s camp to see who was there, and it became determined that Jonathan and his armor bearer were gone. As Saul spoke with the priest and asked for the Ark to be brought to him, the commotion in the Philistine camp escalated prompting Saul to say to the priest, “Withdraw your hand (referring to the use of the Urim and Thummin in withdrawing their hand from the linen ephod, or vest, as a way to determine God’s will).” The men with Saul rallied at this point and came to the battle. Every man’s sword, remember Israel was very limited in their weaponry here (refer back to 1 Samuel 13:19-22), was against his fellow man in a very great maelstrom of confusion. Apparently, there were Hebrews who had temporarily sided with the Philistines, but they betrayed the pagans and rejoined their brothers, the Israelites, who were with Saul and Jonathan. Then, all the men who had previously hidden themselves in fear (1 Samuel 13:6) responded coming out of the hill country of Ephraim and chasing the enemy closely in the battle. “So the LORD delivered Israel that day, and the battle spread beyond Beth-aven (1 Samuel 14:11-23).”
-The armies of Israel had been hard-pressed on that day, and Saul had done a very foolish thing. He put them under an oath to curse any man who ate food during the raging of the battle that day until he had avenged himself of his enemies. Notice here that the motivation was not Godly, it was for selfish desires of his own doing. So none of the people had tasted food that day and were famished thus weakening them. There was honey on the ground as they entered the forest during the battle (more than likely spoils from the enemy’s stash), but nobody dared to take and eat to become stronger except for Jonathan who had not been there to hear of the oath and curse. His “eyes brightened” with the nourishment as he ate, but soon he heard one of the men say, “Your father strictly put the people under oath, saying, ‘Cursed be the man who eats food today.’” Jonathan, seeing that the people were weary because of bad commands, said, “My father has troubled the land. See now, how my eyes have brightened because I tasted a little of this honey.” Then, he went on to say that if they would have eaten more of the spoils of their enemy, the slaughter of the Philistines that day would have been much greater. Chaos continued to reign that day as the Israelites struck down Philistines from Michmash all the way to Aijalon until the people became too weary (1 Samuel 14:24-31).
-Then, in their haste and hungry appetite, they rushed greedily upon the rest of the spoil of the Philistines taking sheep, oxen, and calves slaying them and eating them with the blood, which was against Mosaic Law. Saul, recognizing this, called them out, “Behold, the people are sinning against the LORD by eating with the blood. You have acted treacherously; roll a great stone to me today.” This stone rolling references a hasty altar that he wanted put together on which to offer a propitiatory sacrifice to the LORD to curb the Almighty’s anger. The people complied and brought their oxen and sheep to be slaughtered properly and cooked for eating in the right way. This was Saul’s first altar that he had built to the LORD (1 Samuel 14:32-35).
-After these things, Saul prompted his people to go down and take spoil from the Philistines by night until the morning killing all the men that they possible could. The people agreed with him, but the priest among them said, “Let us draw near to God here.” Saul inquired of the LORD for his direction in this matter; however, He did not answer him on that day. Therefore, Saul got the notion to draw all the chiefs of the people near and investigate for any sin that was holding up their progress towards the enemy. Not only that, Saul guaranteed that whoever was found guilty of insubordination, even if it was his son Jonathan, would surely die. The people went with his program as Saul asked for a perfect lot to determine the matter. He sided himself and his son Jonathan on one side and all the people on the other. The lot fell to him and Jonathan. Then, the lot was cast between them, and it was found that Jonathan indeed was the guilty party. He confessed his honey eating in the forest with the end of the staff that was in his hand. He surrendered his life for death before all the people and the king, who was his father. Saul was about to kill his son, but the people stepped up to speak common sense into the situation. They proclaimed, “Must Jonathan die, who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Far from it! As the LORD lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” Saul capitulated, which was becoming a trademark of his leadership in Israel. Thus, the people rescued Jonathan that day according to the will and plan of God. As future events would play out, Jonathan would do some rescuing of his own with his best friend, David, as King Saul became more and more jealous and violent (1 Samuel 18:1-20:42). When it was all said and done, Saul refrained from pursuing the Philistines allowing the enemy to go back to their own place (1 Samuel 14:36-46).
-“Now when Saul had taken the kingdom over Israel, he fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, the sons of Ammon, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines; and wherever he turned, he inflicted punishment. He acted valiantly and defeated the Amalekites, and delivered Israel from the hands of those who plundered them.” This denotes the rising success of the nation under kingly authority now during this period of Israel’s history. The Word of God, in some genealogy work, then names the king’s sons: Jonathan, Ishvi (aka Abinadab, see 1 Chronicles 10:2), and Malchi-shua. Not listed here, but in 1 Chronicles 8:33, Ish-bosheth (aka Eshbaal), is also named as a son of Saul, who was probably the youngest of his sons. It also lists his daughters: Merab, the first born, and the younger, Michal (who became David’s first wife, 1 Samuel 18:27). Saul’s wife was Ahinoam, the daughter of Ahimaaz. The captain in his army was his uncle, Abner, who was the son of Ner. War persisted with the Philistines becoming more and more severe all the days of Saul. The words… “when Saul saw any mighty man or any valiant man, he attached him to his staff” should be interpreted that he took them unto himself for their help in fighting and his benefit in controlling the nation (1 Samuel 14:47-52).
-*Application* We can see the double-mindedness of this first Israeli king being played out in this chapter. Some decisions were good and noble. Others were presumptuous and degenerating. Saul was never able to fully get it all going in the right direction with consistency. This, if we read interpreting Scripture with Scripture, demonstrates a lack of wisdom and faith (James 1:5-7). Let’s not have our doubts today. Let’s trust the LORD and seek His wisdom being assured of His accurate and unswerving Voice in our lives.
Verse to Memorize: 1 Samuel 14:6