1 Sam 14.1-15 tells us about the story of Jonathan, Saul’s son, and his armor bearer coming against a garrison of the Philistines, resulting in a great victory. It says, “Now the day came” and there is nothing in this phrase that tells us that there was anything extraordinary going to happen, but God knew he was going to use Jonathan for something remarkable. Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree (a tree that speaks of the Messiah) in Migron (“precipice”), and he had 600 men with him. He had Ahijah (“brother of Yehovah”), the son of Ahitub (“brother of good”), Ichabod’s (“glory has departed”) brother, the son Pinchas (“mouth of brass”), the son of Eli, the priest of the Lord at Shiloh (“peace bringer”), wearing the ephod with him (the high priest with the Ark-1 Sam 14.18).
Jonathan was going to cross over to the Philistine garrison through a pass with several crags, but he did not tell his father because he would’ve probably said “No.” One crag was named “Bozez (“surpassing white”) and the other was named “Seneh” (“thorny”). Jonathan tells his armor bearer that God is not limited by numbers and he can deliver with one or a thousand (Lev 26.8; Judges 3.31). He had a great trust in God here, but so did his armor bearer because he said he would go with him. However, they were not being presumptuous here. They were going to reveal themselves to the Philistines, but they were looking for a sign from the Lord to go ahead. Once Jonathan revealed himself, if the Philistines said to them, “Wait until we come to you”; then they will stand in their place and not go up to fight. But, if they say, “Come up to us” then they would go up because Yehovah has given them into their hands, and this would be a sign to them. This is a good concept to remember.
So Jonathan and his armor bearer revealed themselves and the Philistines thought that the Hebrews were coming out of their holes. So the men of the garrison called them and said, “Come up to us and we will tell you something.” It was then that Jonathan knew that the Lord had given them into their hands. These Philistines probably thought they were more deserters coming out of their holes (1 Sam 13.6) They climbed up the rocky terrain on their hands and knees and the garrison fell before Jonathan. Then there was a great trembling of the earth in the camp of the Philistines and Yehovah set the Philistines against each other because of the great fear and divine confusion.
1 Sam 14.16-23 tells us that Saul learns of the battle and the watchmen said the Philistine army was being dispersed and they were fighting one another. So Saul mustered his army because he knew this was the time to strike. However, Jonathan was not among them. Saul told Ahitub to bring the Ark up. Saul wanted to inquire of the Lord through the Urim V’Thummim about what was going on, but when Saul saw all that was happening and how disorganized the Philistines were, he didn’t need to inquire through the high priest so he told him to “withdraw your hand” out of the ephod where the Urim V’ Thummim were. They went forward into the battle and the Lord delivered them because of the actions of just two men.
It seems that there were many in Israel who had deserted or were captured slaves of the Philistines, and when they heard of Israel’s sure victory, they came in support of the Israelite army (v 21). These people probably hated their Philistine masters and used this opportunity to escape only when victory was assured. So Yehovah saved Israel because he used Jonathan and his armor bearer and they trusted the Lord.
1 Sam 14.24-30 tells us about a very foolish oath that Saul made. He told his men that none of them could eat until evening, and until he has avenged himself on his enemies. God had just given the Philistines into the hands of the Israelites through Jonathan and his armor bearer, and it was the job of Saul and the army to finish the job by chasing down the fleeing army and destroying it. On one hand, this sounds like the spiritual thing to do, to call a fast and wanting God to do a great work. But that is not what is going on here. Saul’s focus was wrong. He wanted them to fast so he could take vengeance on his enemies. He thought this was his battle, not the Lord’s. Saul was showing that doing something spiritual doesn’t mean it is right, especially if the focus is about you.
Saul did not have the spiritual authority or leadership to declare such a fast, Samuel did. If Saul wanted to voluntarily fast, he could, and if others wanted to join him, they could. But he had no right to place the whole army under it. However, Jonathan had not heard about the fast and the curse that went along with it, so he was not part of the ban. He ate some honey and he regained some of his strength after the battle (he was tired), but the people refrained from eating it, fearing the ban. Jonathan was told about the ban and he said that was not a wise thing to do. He felt better by eating and they could have afflicted the Philistines even more, and taken more spoil, if the army had eaten and been strengthened.
1 Sam 14.31-35 says there was a great victory against the Philistines, from Michmash (“concealed place”) to Aijlon (“field of deer”). There are three places with the name of Aijlon. There was a city in the tribe of Dan, famous for the moon standing still (Josh 10.12), and another in Zebulon (Judges 12.12), and this one in Judah (2 Chr 11.10). The people took the spoil and were so hungry that they ate the meat with the blood in it. Some told Saul that they were sinning against the Torah by doing this. Saul orders that a great stone be rolled to him so that the animals could be killed and the blood could drain out. He also would build an altar to the Lord.
1 Sam 14.36-46 tells us that Saul tried to inquire of the Lord by the Urim V’ Thummim about going after the Philistines by night, but he got no answer. He then called the chiefs, but in Hebrew it is “pinah” meaning “corners” because they were the “cornerstones” of the army. But why was there no answer?
Saul assumed a sin had been committed by someone. He never considered it was because of his rash oath.
Saul would carry out the death penalty, no matter who did it, but he did not know who sinned. But none of the people told him it was Jonathan. So, Saul said, “Give a perfect lot” alluding to the “thummim” which means “perfection.”
Saul separated himself and Jonathan to show that they were innocent, but the lot showed it was Jonathan, and Saul was shocked. He wanted to know what he had done, and Jonathan told him. But he hardened himself and pronounced a death penalty on Jonathan, instead of admitting that the problem was with him. Saul would spare Agag later, but kill his own son.
He started out humble (1 Sam 10.21) but pride had overtaken him now. However, the people rescued Jonathan and stood up to Saul. It was Jonathan who had worked with the Lord, and it was Saul who had undermined the victory by being foolish. It was right to spare Jonathan because the oath and the penalty were foolish laws. Jonathan also ate the honey in innocence and God had approved of Jonathan because he worked through him to bring the victory.
1 Sam 14.47-52 tells us that Saul had constant warfare and that he was able to establish his strength in Israel. He won many battles and had a large family. However, Saul’s power was shallow because he was not totally committed to the Lord and his relationship was more about being seen by men, but it was not built on a solid foundation. As a result, his kingdom was doomed to fall, as we shall soon see.
In Part 11, we will pick up here.