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The Philistines Defeated
v. 1. Now it came to pass upon a day, a certain day came along, that Jonathan, the son of Saul, said unto the young man that bare his armor, Come, and let us go over to the Philistines' garrison, the advanced post which was to guard against surprise attacks on the part of the Israelites, 1 Samuel 13:23, that is on the other side. But he told not his father, who probably would have forbidden the undertaking as too dangerous.
v. 2. And Saul tarried in the uttermost part of Gibeah, at the extreme northern edge of the city, under a pomegranate-tree which is in Migron, the place which he had chosen being apparently well adapted for military purposes, since it was on the edge of a precipice; and the people that were with him were about six hundred men;
v. 3. and Ahiah, the son of Ahitus, Ichabod's brother, 1 Samuel 4:21, the son of Phinehas, the son of Ell, the Lord's priest in Shiloh, where the Tabernacle was still standing, although the ark was near Kirjath-jearim, wearing an ephod, performing the functions of the high priest. And the people knew not that Jonathan was gone, it was a secret expedition on his part.
v. 4. And between the passages, the various passes which were made possible by several side valleys at that point, by which Jonathan sought to go over unto the Philistines' garrison, there was a sharp rock on the one side, a pillar like rock with steep sides, and a sharp rock on the other side; and the name of the one was Bozez and the name of the other Seneh, and these columns guarded the pass.
v. 5. The forefront, the highest crag, of the one was situate northward over against Michmash, and the other southward over against Gibeah.
v. 6. And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armor, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised, the name which the Jews usually applied to the heathen that were their enemies; it may be that the Lord will work for us, in helping them overcome their enemies; for there is no restraint to the Lord, He is at perfect liberty, to save by many or by few. Jonathan's resolution was based upon the firm conviction that Israel was the people of God and that Jehovah was its almighty Lord, who would not refuse His children His assistance against the enemies of His kingdom if only they would place their trust firmly in Him.
v. 7. And his armor-bearer said unto him, Do all that is in thine heart, cheerfully and courageously carrying out his intention. Turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart.
v. 8. Then said Jonathan, proposing a sign by which he could tell whether the Lord approved of his undertaking or not, Behold, we will pass over unto these men, and we will discover ourselves unto them, purposely letting the Philistines see them as they advanced.
v. 9. If they say thus unto us, Tarry until we come to you, this showing that they had plenty of courage for attacking; then we will stand still in our place and will not go up unto them.
v. 10. But if they say thus, Come up unto us, this showing that they did not have the courage to abandon their position, no matter how boastfully they talked, then we will go up, for the Lord hath delivered them into our hand; and this shall be a sign unto us.
v. 11. And both of them discovered themselves unto the garrison of the Philistines, boldly showed themselves as they advanced; and the Philistines said, voicing their scornful contempt for the Israelites in general, Behold, the Hebrews come forth out of the holes where they had hid themselves, 1 Samuel 13:6.
v. 12. And the men of the garrison answered Jonathan and his armor-bearer and said, Come up to us, and we will show you a thing, their very scornful overconfidence making them unfit for battle. And Jonathan said unto his armor-bearer, Come up after me; for the Lord hath delivered them into the hand of Israel.
v. 13. And Jonathan climbed up upon his hands and upon his feet, scaling the steep cliff, and his armor-bearer after him; and they, the enemies, fell before Jonathan, he struck them down as he went along; and his armor-bearer slew after him, finishing the task left uncompleted by Jonathan.
v. 14. And that first slaughter, which Jonathan and his armor-bearer made, was about twenty men, within as it were an half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plow, literally, "in about a half-furrow of a yoke of land," the ground plowed by a yoke of oxen in half a day. The twenty men, fleeing before Jonathan, were killed and lay in a row of that length along the ridge.
v. 15. And there was trembling in the host, in the main camp, in the field, and among all the people, in the entire army; the garrison, the men of the outposts, and the spoilers, the companies of plunderers, they also trembled, the panic of fright spreading by quick contagion, and the earth quaked, under the confused uproar of the Philistines; so it was a very great trembling, a terror of God, sent upon the Philistines for their destruction.
v. 16. And the watchmen of Saul, the sentinels, in Gibeah of Benjamin looked; and, behold, the multitude melted away, thrown into confusion by Jonathan's attack, they dispersed hither and thither, they were disorganized and broken up, and they went on beating down one another, they were tossed to and fro and continued to be slain.
v. 17. Then said Saul, whose attention had been called to the confusion in the enemy's camp, unto the people that were with him, Number now, call the roll, and see who is gone from us. And when they had numbered, behold, Jonathan and his armor-bearer were not there.
v. 18. And Saul said unto Ahiah, Bring hither the ark of God. For the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel; it was often taken along to war, as being a symbol of God's presence.
v. 19. And it came to pass, while Saul talked unto the priest, in the effort to get some statement of God, that the noise, the confused tumult, that was in the host of the Philistines went on and increased; and Saul said unto the priest, Withdraw thine hand; there was no need of a special Revelation the course which he ought to take was obvious.
v. 20. And Saul and all the people that were with him assembled themselves, raised the battle-cry, and they came to the battle, advancing against the enemy ; and, behold, every man's sword was against his fellow, and there was a very great discomfiture, a headless confusion.
v. 21. Moreover, the Hebrews that were with the Philistines before that time, either prisoners or levies serving in their army, which went up with them into the camp from the country round about, they went over to Israel and turned their arms against their oppressors, even they also turned to be with the Israelites that were with Saul and Jonathan.
v. 22. Likewise all the men of Israel which had hid themselves in Mount Ephraim, whose ranges extended down to this neighborhood, when they heard that the Philistines fled, even they also followed hard after them in battle.
v. 23. So the Lord saved Israel that day, it was an obvious display of His power; and the battle passed over unto Beth-aven, it continued, at least for a large part of the army, in a northeasterly direction. If in the battles which the Church of the Lord must wage only a few men take the lead with a courageous stand, others will follow, and even the weak and those of little faith are inspired to stand on the Lord's side.
Saul's Unwise Adjuration
v. 24. And the men of Israel were distressed that day, harassed, thoroughly wearied; for Saul had adjured the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening that I may be avenged on mine enemies. This was an act of false zeal, unauthorized by the Lord, Saul having more regard to his royal power than to the honor of Jehovah. So none of the people tasted any food, although they were jaded to the point of exhaustion.
v. 25. And all they of the land, namely, those who had now joined the forces of Saul, came to a wood, into a forested section of the hills; and there was honey upon the ground, flowing down in streams from the overloaded hives of wild bees.
v. 26. And when the people were come into the wood, behold, the honey dropped, running down from the trees where the bees had stored it; but no man put his hand to his mouth, to eat any of the honey; for the people feared the oath.
v. 27. But Jonathan heard not when his father charged the people with the oath, he was not aware of the curse; wherefore he put forth, while hastily passing by, the end of the rod that was in his hand and dipped it in an honeycomb, one visible in the structure of the bees, and put his hand, with which he had removed the honey from the rod, to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened, the slight refreshment revived his strength, and this showed in the glow of his eyes.
v. 28. Then answered one of the people and said, Thy father straitly charged the people with an oath, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food this day; and the people were, rather, are, faint. It was a timid protest against Saul's rash order.
v. 29. Then said Jonathan, My father hath troubled the land, brought disaster to the army of Israel and to all whom they represented; see, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened because I tasted a little of this honey.
v. 30. How much more, if haply, by any means, the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies which they found? For had there not been now a much greater slaughter among the Philistines? Had the soldiers had nourishing food, they would have been in condition to inflict a much more severe defeat upon the Philistines.
v. 31. And they smote the Philistines that day, those who had not fled toward Beth-aven, from Michmash to Aijalon, far in the western foothills; and the people were very faint, weary to the point of utter exhaustion.
v. 32. And the people, as soon as it was evening, flew upon the spoil, in a ravenous desire for food, and took sheep and oxen and calves, and slew them on the ground; and the people did eat them with the blood, too impatient to let the blood drain out according to God's command, Leviticus 19:26. This was the result of Saul's unwise adjuration.
v. 33. Then they told Saul, saying, Behold the people sin against the Lord, in that they eat with the blood. And he said, Ye have transgressed, their conduct being faithlessness to the covenant of Jehovah ; roll a great stone unto me this day, right now.
v. 34. And Saul said, Disperse yourselves among the people and say unto them, Bring me hither every man his ox and every man his sheep, and slay them here, where the blood could drain off properly, and eat; and sin not against the Lord in eating with the blood. And all the people brought every man his ox with him that night and slew them there.
v. 35. And Saul built an altar unto the Lord, apparently as a monument of the great victory; the same was the first altar that he built unto the Lord.
v. 36. And Saul said, after the people had once more been strengthened through the food which they ate, Let us go down after the Philistines by night and spoil them, take more booty, until the morning light, and let us not leave a man of them. Saul seems to have been aware of the fact that his rash order had been foolish, and therefore wanted to make up for lost time. And they, his counselors, or the people, said, Do whatsoever seemeth good unto thee. Then said the priest, Ahiah, Let us draw near hither unto God, to consult Him by means of the Urim and Thummim and thus to get His decision.
v. 37. And Saul asked counsel of God, Shall I go down after the Philistines? Wilt Thou deliver them into the hand of Israel? But He answered him not that day, at that time, this being an indication that the Lord had turned from the people and withdrawn His assistance.
v. 38. And Saul said, pursuing the hint given him by the silence of Jehovah, Draw ye near hither, all the chief of the people, the representatives, probably the elders, Numbers 11:30; and know and see wherein this sin, indicated by the silence of Jehovah, hath been this day.
v. 39. For, as the Lord liveth, which saveth Israel, though it be in Jonathan, my son, he shall surely die. This was another rash oath, and just as foolish as the first. But there was not a man among all the people that answered him, evidently from terror regarding the consequences.
v. 40. Then said he unto all Israel, Be ye on one side, and I and Jonathan, my son, will be on the other side, namely, in the casting of lots to determine the guilty one. And the people said unto Saul, Do what seemeth good unto thee.
v. 41. Therefore Saul said unto the Lord God of Israel, Give a perfect lot, exemption from punishment, establish the truth. And Saul and Jonathan were taken; but the people escaped, they went out free, the lot did not accuse them.
v. 42. And Saul said, Cast lots between me and Jonathan, my son. And Jonathan was taken, discovered as the one on whom, in Saul's opinion, rested the fault.
v. 43. Then Saul said to Jonathan, Tell me what thou hast done. And Jonathan told him and said, I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in mine hand, and, lo, I must die; he was ready to pay the penalty, although in this case, since the mere command of a man was concerned, the guilt really fell on him who gave the foolish order.
v. 44. And Saul answered, with another unwarranted oath, God do so and more also; for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan.
v. 45. And the people, rousing themselves from their attitude of apparent indifference and silent submission at last, said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? They regarded his great victory as a direct evidence of God's favor and assistance. God forbid! As the Lord liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day, he was obviously a tool in the hand of God. So the people rescued Jonathan, from the fate which was threatening him, that he died not.
v. 46. Then Saul went up from following the Philistines, he did not continue the pursuit; and the Philistines, by no means permanently disabled, went to their own place, to their own country. The cause of the Lord's silence was evidently not Jonathan's conduct, but Saul's own arbitrary and rash act. If men profess to seek God's glory and honor, but at the same time take His name in vain time and again, the Lord often punishes them by letting them continue in their foolishness.
v. 47. So Saul took the kingdom over Israel, he was now really established in his royal power, and fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, and against the children of Ammon, and against Edom, south of the Dead Sea, and against the kings of Zobah, a district of Syria between the Euphrates and the Orontes, and against the Philistines, whose power was not yet broken; and whithersoever he turned himself, he vexed them, he chastised them, he punished them for their attacks on Israel.
v. 48. And he gathered an host, he increased in strength and made his power felt, and smote the Amalekites, the desert tribes in the South, and delivered Israel out of the hands of them that spoiled them, making an end to their raids against the territory of Israel.
v. 49. Now, the sons of Saul were Jonathan, and Ishui, and Melchishua; and the names of his two daughters were these: the name of the first-born Merab, and the name of the younger Michal;
v. 50. and the name of Saul's wife was Ahinoam, the daughter of Ahimaaz; and the name of the captain of his host was Abner, the son of Ner, Saul's uncle, and thus his own cousin.
v. 51. And Kish was the father of Saul; and Ner, the father of Abner, was the son of Abiel.
v. 52. And there was sore war against the Philistines all the days of Saul; and, for this reason, when Saul saw any strong man or any valiant man, who would probably make a good soldier, he took him unto him. Even men whom God has rejected as His children are still used by Him in performing His will in the world.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 14". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany