Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 14

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 12


‘And Jonathan said to his armourbearer, Come up after me.’

1 Samuel 14:12

I. In marked contrast to the dispirited father is the splendid courage of his heroic son. There are great gulfs between some Bible fathers and their sons. But never was there a wider separation between a father’s heart and the heart of his child than there is in our Lesson. Saul was dispirited, Jonathan was bold. Saul was quite hopeless, Jonathan was flushed with a sure hope in God. Saul only wanted to get alone and brood, but Jonathan was ready for all hazards. You see the separating work of sin. It was Saul’s sin that had sundered the two hearts. It was not because Saul was ageing and Jonathan was young; and it was not because the one was father and the other child, that there lay such a gulf between the two. It was because the hope and joy and swift obedience of Jonathan were distant by a whole world from the disobedience of Saul. And sin is always separating like that. We sometimes talk of social sins. But every sin at last is anti social.

II. Jonathan then was full of hope and courage.—None but a hero would have ever dreamed of going single-handed against the Philistines. And when we read about the strength of their position, and the almost inaccessible cliffs below them, the very thought of attack might seem absurd. Now the Bible never encourages reckless daring. It is no record of madcap escapades. And had this been a wild adventure of hot-blooded youth we should never have had the story of it here. What lifts it up out of the rank of escapades is faith. It roots in a noble and reasonable trust in God. Jonathan was inspired and moved by the Spirit of the Highest. His bold adventure then, crowned by success, is but one of a thousand that have helped the world. It is through the lonely daring of faith that we are saved.

III. The whole conduct of Jonathan in this episode reveals the depth of the trust in God that filled him.—We note it, for example, in his silence. He never told his father what he was doing. He felt that Saul would never have understood. He whispered no word of it to the army of Israel. They would have called it an act of rashest folly. Jonathan consulted not with flesh and blood when the Spirit of God called him to his task. ‘He had no swagger about him,’ said a war correspondent of General Gordon; ‘he sauntered past me and among the men as silent as a statue, and as quiet as a civilian.’ Deep faith is silent. True trust is never noisy. Like a strong river, it covers up the boulders round which the shallow stream stops to fret and chatter. I daresay David was thinking of his dear friend, long since slain on the heights of Gilboa, when the chords of his harp were swept to that undying music, ‘ Be still and know that I am God.’

IV. The strength of his trust too comes out in another way.—Jonathan distrusted all military stratagem. He only asked for a sign from God. He went up, openly, to the base of the Philistine stronghold, and at the sign of God, he made the assault. Does not that show that he knew that it was God’s work? He was to win through the sovereignty of the Lord, and not through the stratagem of man. And Jonathan found, as in like perils a thousand soldiers of the Cross have found, that the foolishness of God is wiser than men.


(1) ‘One thing should be emphasised—the character of Jonathan as the story reveals it. We see here the same soldierly ability as marked Saul in his original choice of Michmash. From his father the son had inherited his dash and reckless courage as well as his cleverness in strategy. But there was that in Jonathan which last Lesson showed wanting in Saul—spiritual understanding and faith in God. The sixth verse is the key to the whole passage. Jonathan counted on the Lord to work for him, while Saul took matters into his own hand. There are no words more famous in the Old Testament than these: “There is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few.” And as Jonathan trusted in the Lord, so the faithful armourbearer trusted in Jonathan, as verse 7 shows. Faith in God inspires confidence, and every one is strengthened by a heroic religious soul.’

(2) ‘Let no disciple of Jesus undertake any enterprise without the witness of the Spirit with his spirit that God has sent him. It was according to that dispensation that Gideon and Jonathan should ask signs; but in this last time—when the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true; and as the anointing which the believing soul has received teacheth him all things, and is truth and is no lie—we get our assurance of the mind of God not by asking the evidence of external signs, but by the inward witness of the Spirit with our spirit, first that we are sons of God, and then concerning every truth which He reveals unto us, and every service which He calls us to fulfil.’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 14". The Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.