Read 1 Samuel 14
1 One day Jonathan son of Saul said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.” But he did not tell his father.
2 Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree in Migron. With him were about six hundred men, 3 among whom was Ahijah, who was wearing an ephod. He was a son of Ichabod’s brother Ahitub son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh. No one was aware that Jonathan had left.
4 On each side of the pass that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine outpost was a cliff; one was called Bozez and the other Seneh. 5 One cliff stood to the north toward Mikmash, the other to the south toward Geba.
6 Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”
7 “Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”
8 Jonathan said, “Come on, then; we will cross over toward them and let them see us. 9 If they say to us, ‘Wait there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are and not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the Lord has given them into our hands.”
11 So both of them showed themselves to the Philistine outpost. “Look!” said the Philistines. “The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in.” 12 The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, “Come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson.”
So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Climb up after me; the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.”
13 Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him. 14 In that first attack Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre.
Israel Routs the Philistines
15 Then panic struck the whole army—those in the camp and field, and those in the outposts and raiding parties—and the ground shook. It was a panic sent by God.
16 Saul’s lookouts at Gibeah in Benjamin saw the army melting away in all directions. 17 Then Saul said to the men who were with him, “Muster the forces and see who has left us.” When they did, it was Jonathan and his armor-bearer who were not there.
18 Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God.” (At that time it was with the Israelites.) 19 While Saul was talking to the priest, the tumult in the Philistine camp increased more and more. So Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.”
20 Then Saul and all his men assembled and went to the battle. They found the Philistines in total confusion, striking each other with their swords. 21 Those Hebrews who had previously been with the Philistines and had gone up with them to their camp went over to the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. 22 When all the Israelites who had hidden in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were on the run, they joined the battle in hot pursuit. 23 So on that day the Lord saved Israel, and the battle moved on beyond Beth Aven.
Jonathan Eats Honey
24 Now the Israelites were in distress that day, because Saul had bound the people under an oath, saying, “Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!” So none of the troops tasted food.
25 The entire army entered the woods, and there was honey on the ground. 26 When they went into the woods, they saw the honey oozing out; yet no one put his hand to his mouth, because they feared the oath. 27 But Jonathan had not heard that his father had bound the people with the oath, so he reached out the end of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it into the honeycomb. He raised his hand to his mouth, and his eyes brightened. 28 Then one of the soldiers told him, “Your father bound the army under a strict oath, saying, ‘Cursed be anyone who eats food today!’ That is why the men are faint.”
29 Jonathan said, “My father has made trouble for the country. See how my eyes brightened when I tasted a little of this honey. 30 How much better it would have been if the men had eaten today some of the plunder they took from their enemies. Would not the slaughter of the Philistines have been even greater?”
31 That day, after the Israelites had struck down the Philistines from Mikmash to Aijalon, they were exhausted. 32 They pounced on the plunder and, taking sheep, cattle and calves, they butchered them on the ground and ate them, together with the blood. 33 Then someone said to Saul, “Look, the men are sinning against the Lord by eating meat that has blood in it.”
“You have broken faith,” he said. “Roll a large stone over here at once.” 34 Then he said, “Go out among the men and tell them, ‘Each of you bring me your cattle and sheep, and slaughter them here and eat them. Do not sin against the Lord by eating meat with blood still in it.’”
So everyone brought his ox that night and slaughtered it there. 35 Then Saul built an altar to the Lord; it was the first time he had done this.
36 Saul said, “Let us go down and pursue the Philistines by night and plunder them till dawn, and let us not leave one of them alive.”
“Do whatever seems best to you,” they replied.
But the priest said, “Let us inquire of God here.”
37 So Saul asked God, “Shall I go down and pursue the Philistines? Will you give them into Israel’s hand?” But God did not answer him that day.
38 Saul therefore said, “Come here, all you who are leaders of the army, and let us find out what sin has been committed today. 39 As surely as the Lord who rescues Israel lives, even if the guilt lies with my son Jonathan, he must die.” But not one of them said a word.
40 Saul then said to all the Israelites, “You stand over there; I and Jonathan my son will stand over here.”
“Do what seems best to you,” they replied.
41 Then Saul prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel, “Why have you not answered your servant today? If the fault is in me or my son Jonathan, respond with Urim, but if the men of Israel are at fault, respond with Thummim.” Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, and the men were cleared. 42 Saul said, “Cast the lot between me and Jonathan my son.” And Jonathan was taken.
43 Then Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.”
So Jonathan told him, “I tasted a little honey with the end of my staff. And now I must die!”
44 Saul said, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan.”
45 But the men said to Saul, “Should Jonathan die—he who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Never! As surely as the Lord lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he did this today with God’s help.” So the men rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death.
46 Then Saul stopped pursuing the Philistines, and they withdrew to their own land.
47 After Saul had assumed rule over Israel, he fought against their enemies on every side: Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines. Wherever he turned, he inflicted punishment on them. 48 He fought valiantly and defeated the Amalekites, delivering Israel from the hands of those who had plundered them.
49 Saul’s sons were Jonathan, Ishvi and Malki-Shua. The name of his older daughter was Merab, and that of the younger was Michal. 50 His wife’s name was Ahinoam daughter of Ahimaaz. The name of the commander of Saul’s army was Abner son of Ner, and Ner was Saul’s uncle. 51 Saul’s father Kish and Abner’s father Ner were sons of Abiel.
52 All the days of Saul there was bitter war with the Philistines, and whenever Saul saw a mighty or brave man, he took him into his service.
1 Samuel 14 highlights the differences in faith and leadership between King Saul and his son Jonathan. By exploring this chapter we are encouraged to live out our faith actively and set aside any religious legalism that could hold us back. There is a big difference in Jonathan and Saul’s posture of faith. We can either shrink back in the face of conflict and hard times like Saul or press forward bravely, like Jonathan. We can be actors in God’s will or observers of it. As Christians, God calls us to be actors and actively work with God to accomplish His work. In Matthew 16:24-26 God tells us to pick up the cross and follow Him. We are also called to be “good soldiers of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
When facing difficult circumstances we can be tempted with doubt or with unbelief. Sometimes that can prompt us to put God to the test. But Jonathan, by asking for the sign, did not put God to the test, but himself. He was rooted and anchored in the knowledge of God’s character, and did not need something to confirm that God would protect him. He wanted to see if he was truly acting in wisdom and faith or if he was deceived. He actively engaged with his faith.
It is important for us to submit to the spiritual authority of God and our church community as well. Saul, rather than immediately joining Jonathan in the battle, hung back. He also made an individualistic proclamation that anyone who ate would be cursed with the intent of securing his victory. This exposes something important. Saul demanded spiritual actions from his army. Rather than leading by example, he forced compliance. Sometimes we take our idea of what is holy and right and force it upon other people. We demand certain actions for us to consider someone holy. Our legalistic works-based demands can cause people to sin against God with their hearts and actions—which is exactly what we see later in this chapter when, as a result of Sauls demand, people began breaking God’s law not to eat the blood of animals.
We can easily work our way down in a rabbit hole of legalism. When we are facing hard circumstances, we need to look to the example of Jonathan and live our faith actively, setting aside the weights of legalism that can do harm to us and our community. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” Hebrews 12:1-2.
- Do you tend to be an actor or an observer in your faith?
- How can you actively trust God in your life right now?
- Are there ways you’re tempted toward legalism? Do you have unrealistic expectations for those around you? What are ways you can surrender that extra weight?
1 Samuel 13-15 highlights the beginning of Saul’s downfall as king. Here’s a brief excerpt from this article from The Bible Project that is helpful in understanding Saul’s missteps as king.
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3 thoughts on “1 Samuel 14”
It’s painful to read the missteps of Saul and how he set aside God’s laws & precepts and pursued his own personal agenda. He is prideful, impatient, foolish & reckless with his words and demands, leading him further & further away from the heart of God. Speaking of the heart, I’m reminded that “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” (Prov.. 21:2) When I’m tempted to rush into something today, I will pause, pray and seek wise council before plunging into something I may later regret. Lord, create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me is my prayer today. (Psalm 51:10)
Saul is an interesting character. He was a leader with many followers. But he trusted more of his own wisdom than waiting on God. When in verse 36 Saul said, “Let us go down and pursue the Philistines by night and plunder them till dawn, and let us not leave one of them alive.” His followers said, “Do whatever seems best to you.” When the priest stopped him and said “Let us inquire of God here,” he went through the motions of asking God for directions. But when God didn’t give him an answer that day he made his own decision. It’s hard for me to wait, especially when I think I have the answer anyway. But I must learn to wait. God wants me to trust Him and his timing is perfect.
I think it’s sad that Saul placed his oath above the life of his own son due to his hotheadedness. It would have been much better for him to repent to his son and fellow men that he had made an oath too hastily and arrogantly. Because of his arrogance, Saul’s soldiers had to advocate for Jonathan because Saul couldn’t let go of his command to put to death anyone who ate that day. There is also a lesson here for speaking up against injustice. Had Saul’s men not spoken up, Jonathan would have been killed that day. There have been moments in my life where I have not spoken up. I have regretted these moments deeply. Thank God I have Jesus to advocate on my behalf!