1 Samuel 14
We left the host of Israel in a very ill posture, in the close of the
foregoing chapter; we saw in them no wisdom, nor strength, nor
goodness, to give us ground to expect any other than that they should
all be cut off by the army of the Philistines; yet here we find that
infinite power which works without means, and that infinite goodness
which gives without merit, glorified in a happy turn to their affairs,
that still Samuel's words may be made good: "The Lord will not forsake
his people, for his great name's sake,"
(1 Samuel 12:22.
In this chapter we have,
I. The host of the Philistines trampled upon, and triumphed over, by
the faith and courage of Jonathan, who unknown to his father
(1 Samuel 14:1-3),
with his armour-bearer only, made a brave attack upon them, encouraging
himself in the Lord his God,
1 Samuel 14:4-7.
He challenged them
(1 Samuel 14:8-12),
and, upon their acceptance of the challenge, charged them with such
fury, or rather such faith, that he put them to flight, and set them
one against another
(1 Samuel 14:13-14),
which gave opportunity to Saul and his forces, with other Israelites,
to follow the blow, and gain a victory,
1 Samuel 14:16-23.
II. The host of Israel troubled and perplexed by the rashness and folly
of Saul, who adjured the people to eat no food till night, which
1. Brought Jonathan to a præmunire,
1 Samuel 14:24-30.
2. Was a temptation to the people, when the time of their fast had
expired, to eat with the blood,,
1 Samuel 14:31-35.
Jonathan's error, through ignorance, had like to have been his death,
but the people rescued him,
1 Samuel 14:36-46.
III. In the close we have a general account of Saul's exploits
(1 Samuel 14:47,48)
and of his family,
1 Samuel 14:49-52.
|Jonathan Smites the Philistines.
||B. C. 1067.|
1 Now it came to pass upon a day, that Jonathan the son of Saul
said unto the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go
over to the Philistines' garrison, that is on the other side.
But he told not his father.
2 And Saul tarried in the uttermost part of Gibeah under a
pomegranate tree which is in Migron: and the people that were
with him were about six hundred men;
3 And Ahiah, the son of Ahitub, Ichabod's brother, the son of
Phinehas, the son of Eli, the LORD's priest in Shiloh, wearing an
ephod. And the people knew not that Jonathan was gone.
4 And between the passages, by which Jonathan sought to go over
unto the Philistines' garrison, there was a sharp rock on the
one side, and a sharp rock on the other side: and the name of the
one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh.
5 The forefront of the one was situate northward over against
Michmash, and the other southward over against Gibeah.
6 And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour,
Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these
uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for
there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few.
7 And his armourbearer said unto him, Do all that is in thine
heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy
8 Then said Jonathan, Behold, we will pass over unto these
men, and we will discover ourselves unto them.
9 If they say thus unto us, Tarry until we come to you; then we
will stand still in our place, and will not go up unto them.
10 But if they say thus, Come up unto us; then we will go up:
for the LORD hath delivered them into our hand: and this shall
be a sign unto us.
11 And both of them discovered themselves unto the garrison of
the Philistines: and the Philistines said, Behold, the Hebrews
come forth out of the holes where they had hid themselves.
12 And the men of the garrison answered Jonathan and his
armourbearer, and said, Come up to us, and we will shew you a
thing. And Jonathan said unto his armourbearer, Come up after me:
for the LORD hath delivered them into the hand of Israel.
13 And Jonathan climbed up upon his hands and upon his feet,
and his armourbearer after him: and they fell before Jonathan;
and his armourbearer slew after him.
14 And that first slaughter, which Jonathan and his
armourbearer made, was about twenty men, within as it were an
half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plow.
15 And there was trembling in the host, in the field, and among
all the people: the garrison, and the spoilers, they also
trembled, and the earth quaked: so it was a very great trembling.
We must here take notice,
I. Of the goodness of God in restraining the Philistines, who had a
vast army of valiant men in the field, from falling upon that little
handful of timorous trembling people that Saul had with him, whom they
would easily have swallowed up at once. It is an invisible power that
sets bounds to the malice of the church's enemies, and suffers them not
to do that which we should think there is nothing to hinder them
II. Of the weakness of Saul, who seems here to have been quite at a
loss, and unable to help himself.
1. He pitched his tent under a tree, and had but 600 men with him,
1 Samuel 14:2.
Where were now the 3000 men he had chosen, and put such a confidence
1 Samuel 13:2.
Those whom he trusted too much to failed him when he most needed them.
He durst not stay in Gibeah, but got into some obscure place, in the
uttermost part of the city, under a pomegranate-tree, under
Rimmon (so the word is), Ha-Rimmon, that Rimmon near
Gibeah, in the caves of which those 600 Benjamites that escaped his
Some think that there Saul took shelter, so mean and abject was his
spirit, now that he had fallen under God's displeasure, every hour
expecting the Philistines upon him, and thereby the accomplishment of
1 Samuel 13:14.
Those can never think themselves safe that see themselves cast out of
2. Now he sent for a priest, and the ark, a priest from Shiloh, and the
ark from Kirjath-jearim,
1 Samuel 14:3,18.
Saul had once offended by offering sacrifice himself,
1 Samuel 13:9.
Now he resolves never to fall into that error again, and therefore
sends for a priest, and hopes to compromise the matter with God
Almighty by a particular reformation, as many do whose hearts are
unhumbled and unchanged. Samuel, the Lord's prophet, had forsaken him,
but he thinks he can make up that loss by commanding Ahiah, the Lord's
priest, to attend him, and he will not make him stay for him nor
reprove him, as Samuel had done, but will do just as he bids him,
1 Samuel 14:18,19.
Many love to have such ministers as will be what they would have them
to be, and prophesy smooth things to them; and their caressing them
because they are priests, they hope, will atone for their enmity to
those ministers that deal faithfully and plainly with them. He will
also have the ark brought, perhaps to upbraid Samuel, who in the days
of his government, for aught that appears, had not made any public use
of it; or in hopes that this would make up the deficiency of his
forces; one would have supposed that they would never bring the ark
into the camp again, since, the last time, it not only did not save
them, but did itself fall into the Philistines' hands. But it is common
for those that have lost the substance of religion to be most fond of
the shadows of it, as here is a deserted prince courting a deserted
III. Of the bravery and piety of Jonathan, the son of Saul, who was
much fitter than the father to wear the crown. "A sweet imp (says
bishop Hall) out of a crab-stock."
1. He resolved to go incognito--unknown to any one, into
the camp of the Philistines; he did not acquaint his father with his
design, for he knew he would forbid him; nor the people, for he knew
they would all discourage him, and, because he resolved not to heed
their objections, he resolved not to hear them, nor ask their advice,
1 Samuel 14:1,3.
Nor had he so great an opinion of the priest as to consult him, but,
being conscious of a divine impulse putting him upon it, he threw
himself into the mouth of danger, in hope of doing service to his
country. The way of access to the enemies' camp is described
(1 Samuel 14:4,5)
as being peculiarly difficult, and their natural entrenchments
impregnable, yet this does not discourage him; the strength and
sharpness of the rocks do but harden and whet his resolutions. Great
and generous souls are animated by opposition and take a pleasure in
breaking through it.
2. He encouraged his armour-bearer, a young man that attended him, to
go along with him in the daring enterprise,
(1 Samuel 14:6):
"Come, and let us put our lives in our hands, and go over to
the enemies' garrison, and try what we can do to put them
into confusion." See whence he draws his encouragements.
(1.) "They are uncircumcised, and have not the seal of the covenant in
their flesh, as we have. Fear not, we shall do well enough with them,
for they are not under the protection of God's covenant as we are,
cannot call him theirs as we can, by the sign of circumcision." If such
as are enemies to us are also strangers to God, we need not fear them.
(2.) "God is able to make us two victorious over their unnumbered
regiments. There is no restraint in the Lord, no limitation to
the holy One of Israel, but it is all one to him to save by many or
by few." This is a true easily granted in general, that it is all
alike to Omnipotence what the instruments are by which it works; and
yet it is not so easy to apply it to a particular case; when we are but
few and feeble then to believe that God can not only save us, but save
by us, this is an instance of faith, which, wherever it is, shall
obtain a good report. Let this strengthen the weak and encourage the
timid: let it be pleaded with God for the enforcing of our petitions
and with ourselves for the silencing of our fears: It is nothing
with God to help, whether with many or with those that have no
2 Chronicles 14:11.
(3.) "Who knows but he that can use us for his glory will do it? It
may be the Lord will work for us, work with us, work a sign or
miracle for us." So the Chaldee. We may encourage ourselves with hope
that God will appear for us, though we have not ground on which to
build an assurance. An active faith will venture far in God's cause
upon an it may be. Jonathan's armour-bearer, or esquire, as if
he had learned to carry, not his arms only, but his heart, promised to
stand by him and to follow him whithersoever he went,
1 Samuel 14:7.
We have reason to think that Jonathan felt a divine impulse and
impression putting him upon this bold adventure, in which he was
encouraged by his servant's concurrence, otherwise the danger was so
great which he ran upon that he would have tempted God rather than
trusted him. And perhaps he had an actual regard to that word of Joshua
One man of you shall chase a thousand, borrowed from Moses,
3. How bold soever his resolution was, he resolved to follow Providence
in the execution of it, which, he believed, would guide him with its
and which therefore he would carefully attend and take hints of
direction from. See how he put himself upon Providence, and resolved to
be determined by it. "Come" (says he to his confidant), "we will
discover ourselves to the enemy, as those that are not afraid to look
them in the face
(1 Samuel 14:8),
and then, if they be so cautious as to bid us stand, we will advance no
further, taking it for an intimation of Providence that God would have
us act defensively, and we will prepare as well as we can to give them
a warm reception
(1 Samuel 14:9);
but if they be so presumptuous as to challenge us, and the first
sentinel we meet with bid us march on, we will push forward, and make
as brisk an onset, assuredly gathering thence that it is the will of
God we should act offensively, and then not doubting but he will
stand by us,"
1 Samuel 14:10.
And upon this issue he puts it, firmly believing, as we all should,
(1.) That God has the governing of the hearts and tongues of all men,
even of those that know him not, nor have any regard to him, and serves
his own purposes by them, though they mean not so, neither do their
hearts think so. Jonathan knew God could discover his mind to him if he
pleased, and would do it, since he depended upon him, as surely by the
mouth of a Philistine as by the mouth of a priest.
(2.) That God will, some way or other, direct the steps of those that
acknowledge him in all their ways, and seek unto him for
direction, with full purpose of heart to follow it. Sometimes we find
most comfort in that which is least our own doing, and into which we
have been led by the unexpected, but well observed, turns of
4. Providence gave him the sign he expected, and he answered the
signal. He and his armour-bearer did not surprise the Philistines when
they were asleep, but discovered themselves to them by day-light,
1 Samuel 14:11.
The guards of the Philistines,
(1.) Disdained them, upbraided them with the cowardice of many of their
people, and looked upon them to be of the regiment of sneakers:
Behold, the Hebrews come forth out of their holes. If some of
Christ's soldiers play the coward, others that play the man may perhaps
be upbraided with it.
(2.) They defied them
(1 Samuel 14:12):
Come, and we will show you a thing, as if they came like
children to gaze about them; but meaning, as Goliath
(1 Samuel 17:44),
that they would give them as meat to the fowls of the air. They
bantered them, not doubting but to make a prey of them. This greatly
emboldened Jonathan. With it he encouraged his servant; he had spoken
(1 Samuel 14:6):
It may be the Lord will work for us; but now he speaks with
(1 Samuel 14:12):
The Lord has delivered them, not into our hands (he sought not
his own glory), but into the hand of Israel, for he aimed at
nothing but the advantage of the public. His faith being thus
strengthened, no difficulty can stand before him; he climbs up the rock
upon all four
(1 Samuel 14:13),
though he has nothing to cover him, nor any but his own servant to
second him, nor any human probability of any thing but death before
5. The wonderful success of this daring enterprise. The Philistines,
instead of falling upon Jonathan, to slay him, or take him prisoner,
fell before him
(1 Samuel 14:13)
unaccountably, upon the first blows he gave. They fell, that is,
(1.) They were many of them slain by him and his armour-bearer,
1 Samuel 14:14.
Twenty Philistines fell presently. It was not so much the name of
Jonathan that made them yield so tamely (though some think that this
had become terrible to them, since he smote one of their garrisons,
1 Samuel 13:3),
but it was God's right hand and his arm that got him this victory.
(2.) The rest were put to flight, and fell foul upon one another
(1 Samuel 14:15):
There was trembling in the host. There was no visible cause for
fear; they were so numerous, bold, and advantageously posted; the
Israelites had fled before them; not an enemy made head against them,
but one gentleman and his man; and yet they shook like an aspen-leaf.
The consternation was general: they all trembled; even the
spoilers, those that had been most bold and forward, shared in the
common fright, the joints of their loins were loosed, and their knees
smote one against another, and yet none of them could tell why or
wherefore. It is called a trembling of God (so the original
phrase is), signifying not only, as we render it, a very great
trembling, which they could not resist nor reason themselves clear of,
but that it was supernatural, and came immediately from the hand of
God. He that made the heart knows how to make it tremble. To complete
the confusion, even the earth quaked, and made them ready to fear that
it would sink under them. Those that will not fear the eternal God, he
can make afraid of a shadow. See
|The Philistines Destroyed.
||B. C. 1067.|
16 And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked; and,
behold, the multitude melted away, and they went on beating down
17 Then said Saul unto the people that were with him, Number
now, and see who is gone from us. And when they had numbered,
behold, Jonathan and his armourbearer were not there.
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.
19 And it came to pass, while Saul talked unto the priest, that
the noise that was in the host of the Philistines went on and
increased: and Saul said unto the priest, Withdraw thine hand.
20 And Saul and all the people that were with him assembled
themselves, and they came to the battle: and, behold, every man's
sword was against his fellow, and there was a very great
21 Moreover the Hebrews that were with the Philistines before
that time, which went up with them into the camp from the
country round about, even they also turned to be with the
Israelites that were with Saul and Jonathan.
22 Likewise all the men of Israel which had hid themselves in
mount Ephraim, when they heard that the Philistines fled, even
they also followed hard after them in the battle.
23 So the LORD saved Israel that day: and the battle passed
over unto Beth-aven.
We have here the prosecution and improvement of the wonderful
advantages which Jonathan and his armour-bearer gained against the
I. The Philistines were, by the power of God, set against one another.
They melted away like snow before the sun, and went on beating down
(1 Samuel 14:16),
(1 Samuel 14:20)
every man's sword was against his fellow. When they fled for
fear, instead of turning back upon those that chased them, they
reckoned those only their enemies that stood in their way, and treated
them accordingly. The Philistines were very secure, because all the
swords and spears were in their hands. Israel had none except what
Saul and Jonathan had. But now God showed them the folly of that
confidence, by making their own swords and spears the instruments of
their own destruction, and more fatal in their own hands than if they
had been in the hands of Israel. See the like done,
II. The Israelites were hereby animated against them.
1. Notice was soon taken of it by the watchmen of Saul, those that
stood sentinel at Gibeah,
1 Samuel 14:16.
They were aware that the host of the enemy was in great confusion, and
that a great slaughter was made among them, and yet, upon search, they
found none of their own forces absent, but only Jonathan and his
(1 Samuel 14:17),
which no doubt greatly animated them, and assured them that it could be
no other than the Lord's doing, when there was no more of man's doing
than what those two could do against a great host.
2. Saul began to enquire of God, but soon desisted. His spirit had not
come down so far as to allow him to consult Samuel, though, it is
probable, he was near him; for we read
(1 Samuel 13:15)
that he had come to Gibeah of Benjamin; but he called for the ark
(1 Samuel 14:18),
desiring to know whether it would be safe for him to attack the
Philistines, upon the disorder they perceived them to be in. Many will
consult God about their safety that would never consult him about their
duty. But, perceiving by his scouts that the noise in the enemy's camp
increased, he commanded the priest that officiated to break off
abruptly: "Withdraw thy hand
(1 Samuel 14:19),
consult no more, wait no longer for an answer." He was very unwise
indeed if (as some think) he forbade him to lift up his hands in
prayer; for when Joshua was actually engaged with Amalek Moses
continued still to lift up his hands. It is rather a prohibition to his
enquiring of the Lord, either,
(1.) Because now he thought he did not need an answer, the case was
plain enough. And yet the more evident it was that God did all the more
reason he had to enquire whether he would give him leave to do any
(2.) Because now he would not stay for it; he was in such haste to
fight a falling enemy that he would not stay to make and end of his
devotions, nor hear what answer God would give him. A little thing will
divert a vain and carnal mind from religious exercises. He that
believeth will not make haste, such haste as this, nor reckon any
business so urgent as not to allow time to take God along with him.
3. He, and all the little force he had, made a vigorous attack upon the
enemy; and all the people were cried together (so the word is,
1 Samuel 14:20),
for want of the silver trumpets wherewith God appointed them to sound
an alarm in the day of battle,
They summoned them together by shouting, and their number was not so
great but that they might soon be got together. And now they seem bold
and brave when the work is done to their hands. Our Lord Jesus had
conquered our spiritual enemies, routed and dispersed them, so that we
are cowards indeed if we will not stand to our arms when it is only to
pursue the victory and to divide the spoil.
4. Every Hebrew, even those from whom one would least have expected it,
now turned his hand against the Philistines.
(1.) Those that had deserted and gone over to the enemy, and were among
them, now fought against them,
1 Samuel 14:21.
Some think, they were such as had been taken prisoners by them, and now
they were goads in their sides. It rather seems that they went in to
them voluntarily, but, now that they saw them falling, recovered the
hearts of Israelites, and did valiantly for their country.
(2.) Those that had fled their colours, and hid themselves in the
mountains, returned to their posts, and joined in with the pursuers
(1 Samuel 14:22),
hoping by their great zeal and officiousness, now that the danger was
over and the victory sure, to atone for their former cowardice. It was
not much to their praise to appear now, but it would have been more
their reproach if they had not appeared. Those that are remiss and
faint-hearted indeed that will not act in the cause of God when they
see it victorious, as well as righteous. Thus all hands were at work
against the Philistines, and every Israelite slew as many as he could,
without sword or spear; yet it is said
(1 Samuel 14:23),
it was the Lord that saved Israel that day. He did it by them,
for without him they could do nothing. Salvation is of the
|Saul's Rash Oath.
||B. C. 1067.|
24 And the men of Israel were distressed that day: 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. So
none of the people tasted any food.
25 And all they of the land came to a wood; and there was
honey upon the ground.
26 And when the people were come into the wood, behold, the
honey dropped; but no man put his hand to his mouth: for the
people feared the oath.
27 But Jonathan heard not when his father charged the people
with the oath: wherefore he put forth the end of the rod that
was in his hand, and dipped it in a honeycomb, and put his
hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened.
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 faint.
29 Then said Jonathan, My father hath troubled the land: see, I
pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a
little of this honey.
30 How much more, if haply the people had eaten freely to day
of the spoil of their enemies which they found? for had there not
been now a much greater slaughter among the Philistines?
31 And they smote the Philistines that day from Michmash to
Aijalon: and the people were very faint.
32 And the people flew upon the spoil, and took sheep, and
oxen, and calves, and slew them on the ground: and the people
did eat them with the blood.
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: roll a great stone unto me this day.
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, 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.
35 And Saul built an altar unto the LORD: the same was the
first altar that he built unto the LORD.
We have here an account of the distress of the children of Israel, even
in the day of their triumphs. Such alloys are all present joys subject
to. And such obstructions does many a good cause meet with, even when
it seems most prosperous, through the mismanagement of instruments.
I. Saul forbade the people, under the penalty of a curse, to taste any
food that day,
1 Samuel 14:24.
Here we will suppose,
1. That as king he had power to put his soldiers under this interdict,
and to bind it on with a curse; and therefore they submitted to it, and
God so far owned it as to discover, by the lot, that Jonathan was the
delinquent that had meddled with the accursed thing (though
ignorantly), on which account God would not be at that time enquired of
2. That he did it with a good intention, lest the people, who perhaps
had been kept for some time at short allowance, when they found plenty
of victuals in the deserted camp of the Philistines, should fall
greedily upon that, and so lose time in pursing the enemy, and some of
them, it may be, glut themselves to such a degree as not to be fit for
any more service that day. To prevent this, he forbade them to taste
any food, and laid himself, it is likely, under the same restraint. And
yet his making this severe order was,
(1.) Impolitic and very unwise; for, if it gained time, it lost
strength, for the pursuit.
(2.) It was imperious, and disobliging to the people, and worse than
muzzling the mouth of the ox when he treads out the corn. To
forbid them to feast would have been commendable, but to forbid them so
much as to taste, though ever so hungry, was barbarous.
(3.) It was impious to enforce the prohibition with a curse and an
oath. Had he no penalty less than an anathema wherewith to support his
military discipline? Death for such a crime would have been too much,
but especially death with a curse. Though superiors may chide and
correct, they may not curse their inferiors; our rule is, Bless, and
curse not. When David speaks of an enemy he had that loved cursing
perhaps he meant Saul,
II. The people observed his order, but it had many inconveniences
1. The soldiers were tantalized; for, in their pursuit of the enemy, it
happened that they went through a wood so full of wild honey that it
dropped from the trees upon the ground, the Philistines having perhaps,
in their flight, broken in upon the honeycombs, for their own
refreshment, and left them running. Canaan flowed with honey, and here
is an instance of it. They sucked honey out of the rock, the flinty
yet, for fear of the curse, they did not so much as taste the honey,
1 Samuel 14:25,26.
Those are worthy of the name of Israelites that can deny themselves and
their own appetites even when they are most craving, and the delights
of sense most tempting, for fear of guilt and a curse, and the table
becoming a snare. Let us never feed ourselves, much less feast
ourselves, without fear.
2. Jonathan fell under the curse through ignorance. He heard not of
the charge his father had given; for, having bravely forced the lines,
he was then following the chase, and therefore might justly be looked
upon as exempted from the charge and intended in it. But it seems it
was taken for granted, and he himself did not object against it
afterwards, that it extended to him, though absent upon so good an
occasion. He, not knowing any peril in it, took up a piece of a
honey-comb, upon the end of his staff, and sucked it
(1 Samuel 14:27),
and was sensibly refreshed by it: His eyes were enlightened,
which began to grow dim through hunger and faintness; it made his
countenance look pleasant and cheerful, for it was such as a stander-by
(1 Samuel 14:29):
See how my eyes have been enlightened. He thought no harm, nor
feared any, till one of the people acquainted him with the order, and
then he found himself in a snare. Many a good son has been thus
entangled and distressed, in more ways than one, by the rashness of an
inconsiderate father. Jonathan, for his part, lost the crown he was
heir to by his father's folly, which, it may be, this was an ill omen
3. The soldiers were faint, and grew feeble, in the pursuit of the
Philistines. Jonathan foresaw this would be the effect of it; their
spirits would flag, and their strength would fail, for want of
sustenance. Such is the nature of our bodies that they soon grow unfit
for service if they be not supplied with fresh recruits. Daily work
cannot be done without daily bread, which our Father in heaven
graciously gives us. It is bread that strengthens man's
heart; therefore Jonathan reasoned very well, If the people had
eaten freely, there would have been a much greater slaughter
(1 Samuel 14:30);
but, as it was, they were very faint, too much fatigued (so the
Chaldee), and began to think more of their meat than of their work.
4. The worst effect of all was that at evening, when the restraint was
taken off and they returned to their food again, they were so greedy
and eager upon it that they ate the flesh with the blood, expressly
contrary to the law of God,
1 Samuel 14:32.
Two hungry meals, we say, make the third a glutton; it was so here.
They would not stay to have their meat either duly killed (for they
slew the cattle upon the ground, and did not hang them up, as they used
to do, that the blood might all run out of them) or duly dressed, but
fell greedily upon it before it was half boiled or half roasted,
1 Samuel 14:32.
Saul, being informed of it, reproved them for the sin
(1 Samuel 14:33):
You have transgressed; but did not, as he should have done,
reflect upon himself as having been accessory to it, and having made
the Lord's people to transgress. To put a stop to this
irregularity, Saul ordered them to set up a great stone before him, and
let all that had cattle to kill, for their present use, bring them
thither, and kill them under his eye upon that stone
(1 Samuel 14:33),
and the people did so
(1 Samuel 14:34),
so easily were they restrained and reformed when their prince took care
to do his part. If magistrates would but use their power as they might,
people would be made better than they are with more ease than is
III. On this occasion Saul built an altar
(1 Samuel 14:35),
that he might offer sacrifice, either by way of acknowledgment of the
victory they had obtained or by the way of atonement for the sin they
had been guilty of. The same was the first altar that he built,
and perhaps the rolling of the great stone to kill the beasts on
reminded him of converting it into an altar, else he would not have
thought of it. Saul was turning aside from God, and yet now he began to
build altars, being most zealous (as many are) for the form of
godliness when he was denying the power of it. See
Israel has forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples. Some read
it, He began to build that altar; he laid the first stone, but
was so hasty to pursue his victory that he could not stay to finish
|Jonathan Condemned to Die; Jonathan Rescued.
||B. C. 1067.|
36 And Saul said, Let us go down after the Philistines by
night, and spoil them until the morning light, and let us not
leave a man of them. And they said, Do whatsoever seemeth good
unto thee. Then said the priest, Let us draw near hither unto
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.
38 And Saul said, Draw ye near hither, all the chief of the
people: and know and see wherein this sin hath been this day.
39 For, as the LORD liveth, which saveth Israel, though it be
in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die. But there was not a
man among all the people that answered him.
40 Then said he unto all Israel, Be ye on one side, and I and
Jonathan my son will be on the other side. And the people said
unto Saul, Do what seemeth good unto thee.
41 Therefore Saul said unto the LORD God of Israel, Give a
perfect lot. And Saul and Jonathan were taken: but the people
42 And Saul said, Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son.
And Jonathan was taken.
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
44 And Saul answered, God do so and more also: for thou shalt
surely die, Jonathan.
45 And the people said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who hath
wrought this great salvation in Israel? 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. So the people rescued
Jonathan, that he died not.
46 Then Saul went up from following the Philistines: and the
Philistines went to their own place.
I. Saul's boasting against the Philistines. He proposed, as soon as his
soldiers had got their suppers, to pursue them all night, and not
leave a man of them,
1 Samuel 14:36.
Here he showed much zeal, but little discretion; for his army, thus
fatigued, could as ill spare a night's sleep as a meal's meat. But it
is common for rash and foolish men to consider nobody but themselves,
and, so that they might but have their humour, not to care what
hardships they put upon those that are under them. However, the people
were so obsequious to their king that they would by no means oppose the
motion, but resolved to make the best of it, and, if he will go on,
they will follow him: Do whatsoever seemeth good to thee. Only
the priest thought it convenient to go on with the devotions that were
broken off abruptly
(1 Samuel 14:19),
and to consult the oracle: Let us draw near hither unto God.
Princes and great men have need of such about them as will thus be
their remembrancers, wherever they go, to take God along with them.
And, when the priest proposed it, Saul could not for shame reject the
proposal, but asked counsel of God
(1 Samuel 14:37):
"Shall I go down after the Philistines? And shall I speed?"
II. His falling foul on his son Jonathan: and the rest of this
paragraph is wholly concerning him: for, while he is prosecuted, the
Philistines make their escape. We know not what mischief may ensue upon
on rash resolve.
1. God, by giving an intimation of his displeasure, put Saul upon
searching for an accursed thing. When, by the priest, he consulted the
oracle, God answered him not,
1 Samuel 14:37.
Note, When God denies our prayers it concerns us to enquire what the
sin is that has provoked him to do so. Let us see where the sin
1 Samuel 14:38.
For God's ear is not heavy that it cannot hear, but it is sin that
separates between us and him. If God turns away our prayer, we have
reason to suspect it is for some iniquity regarding our hearts, which
we are concerned to find out, that we may put it away, may mortify it,
and put it to death. Saul swears by his Maker that whoever was the
Achan that troubled the camp, by eating the forbidden fruit, should
certainly die, though it were Jonathan himself, that is, though ever so
dear to himself and the people, little thinking that Jonathan was the
(1 Samuel 14:39):
He shall surely die, the curse shall be executed upon him. But
none of the people answered him, that is, none of those who knew
Jonathan had broken the order would inform against him.
2. Jonathan was discovered by lot to be the offender. Saul would have
lots cast between himself and Jonathan on the one side, and the people
on the other, perhaps because he was as confident of Jonathan's
innocency in this matter as of his own,
1 Samuel 14:40.
The people, seeing him in a heat, durst not gainsay any thing he
proposed, but acquiesced: Do as seemeth good unto thee. Before
he cast lots, he prayed that God would give a perfect lot
(1 Samuel 14:41),
that is, make a full discovery of this matter, or, as it is in the
margin, that he would show the innocent. This was with an air of
impartial justice. Judges should desire that truth may come out,
whoever may suffer by it. Lots should be cast with prayer, because they
are a solemn appeal to Providence, and by them we beg of God to direct
and determine us
for which reason some have condemned games that depend purely upon lot
or chance as making too bold with a sacred thing. Jonathan at length
(1 Samuel 14:42),
Providence designing hereby to countenance and support a lawful
authority, and to put an honour upon the administration of public
justice in general, reserving another way to bring off one that had
done nothing worthy of death.
3. Jonathan ingenuously confesses the fact, and Saul, with an angry
curse, passes sentence upon him. Jonathan denies not the truth, nor
goes about to conceal it, only he thinks it hard that he must die
1 Samuel 14:43.
He might very fairly have pleaded his invincible ignorance of the law,
or have insisted upon his merit, but he submitted to the necessity with
a great and generous mind: "God's and my father's will be done:" thus
he showed as much valour in receiving the messengers of death himself
as in sending them among the Philistines. It is as brave to yield in
some cases as it is in other cases to fight. Saul is not mollified by
his filial submission nor the hardness of his case; but as one that
affected to be thought firm to his word, and much more to his oath;
even when it bound him hardest, with another imprecation he gives
judgment upon Jonathan
(1 Samuel 14:44):
"God do so and more also to me if I do not execute the law upon
thee, for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan."
(1.) He passed this sentence too hastily, without consulting the
oracle. Jonathan had a very good plea in arrest of the judgment. What
he had done was not malum in se--bad in itself; and, as
for the prohibition of it, he was ignorant of that, so that he could
not be charged with rebellion or disobedience.
(2.) He did it in fury. Had Jonathan been worthy to die, yet it would
have become a judge, much more a father, to pass sentence with
tenderness and compassion, and not with such an air of triumph, like a
man perfectly divested of all humanity and natural affection. Justice
is debased when it is administered with wrath and bitterness.
(3.) He backed it with a curse upon himself if he did not see the
sentence executed; and this curse did return upon his own head.
Jonathan escaped, but God did so to Saul, and more also; for he was
rejected of God and made anathema. Let none upon any occasion dare to
use such imprecations as these, lest God say Amen to them, and make
their own tongues to fall upon them,
This stone will return upon him that rolleth it. Yet we have reason to
think that Saul's bowels yearned toward Jonathan, so that he really
punished himself, and very justly, when he seemed so severe upon
Jonathan. God made him feel the smart of his own rash edict, which
might make him fear being again guilty of the like. By all these
vexatious accidents God did likewise correct him for his presumption in
offering sacrifice without Samuel. An expedition so ill begun could not
end without some rebukes.
4. The people rescued Jonathan out of his father's hands,
1 Samuel 14:45.
Hitherto they had expressed themselves very observant of Saul. What
seemed good to him they acquiesced in,
1 Samuel 14:36,40.
But, when Jonathan is in danger, Saul's word is no longer a law to
them, but with the utmost zeal they oppose the execution of his
sentence: "Shall Jonathan die--that blessing, that darling, of
his country? Shall that life be sacrificed to a punctilio of law and
honour which was so bravely exposed for the public service, and to
which we owe our lives and triumphs? No, we will never stand by and see
him thus treated whom God delights to honour." It is good to see
Israelites zealous for the protection of those whom God has made
instruments of public good. Saul had sworn that Jonathan should die,
but they oppose their oath to his, and swear he shall not die: "As
the Lord liveth there shall not only not his head, but not a
hair of his head fall to the ground;" they did not rescue him by
violence, but by reason and resolution; and Josephus says they made
their prayer to God that he might be loosed from the curse. They
pleaded for him that he has wrought with God this day; that is,
"he has owned God's cause, and God has owned his endeavours, and
therefore his life is too precious to be thrown away upon a nicety." We
may suppose Saul had not so perfectly forgotten the relation of a
father but that he was willing enough to have Jonathan rescued, and
well pleased to have that done which yet he would not do himself: and
he that knows the heart of a father knows not how to blame him.
5. The design against the Philistines is quashed by this incident
(1 Samuel 14:46):
Saul went up from following them, and so an opportunity was lost
of completing the victory. When Israel's shields are clashing with one
another the public safety and service suffer by it.
|The Amalekites Destroyed.
||B. C. 1067.|
47 So Saul took the kingdom over Israel, and fought against all
his enemies on every side, against Moab, and against the children
of Ammon, and against Edom, and against the kings of Zobah, and
against the Philistines: and whithersoever he turned himself, he
48 And he gathered a host, and smote the Amalekites, and
delivered Israel out of the hands of them that spoiled them.
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 firstborn Merab, and the name of the younger Michal:
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.
51 And Kish was the father of Saul; and Ner the father of
Abner was the son of Abiel.
52 And there was sore war against the Philistines all the days
of Saul: and when Saul saw any strong man, or any valiant man, he
took him unto him.
Here is a general account of Saul's court and camp.
1. Of his court and family, the names of his sons and daughters
(1 Samuel 14:49),
and of his wife and his cousin-german that was general of his army,
1 Samuel 14:50.
There is mention of another wife of Saul's
(2 Samuel 21:8),
Rizpah, a secondary wife, and of the children he had by her.
2. Of his camp and military actions.
(1.) How he levied his army: When he saw any strong valiant man,
that was remarkably fit for service, he took him unto him
(1 Samuel 14:52),
as Samuel had told them the manner of the king would be
(1 Samuel 8:11);
and, if he must have a standing army, it was his prudence to fill it up
with the ablest men he could make choice of.
(2.) How he employed his army. He guarded his country against the
insults of its enemies on every side, and prevented their incursions,
1 Samuel 14:47,48.
It is supposed that he acted only defensively against those that used
to invade the borders of Israel; and whithersoever he turned
himself, as there was occasion, he vexed them, by checking
and disappointing them. But the enemies he struggled most with were
the Philistines, with whom he had sore war all his days,
1 Samuel 14:52.
He had little reason to be proud of his royal dignity, nor had any of
his neighbours cause to envy him, for he had little enjoyment of
himself after he took the kingdom. He could not vex his enemies
without some vexation to himself, such thorns are crowns quilted