1 Samuel 14
Jonathan leads attack on Philistines
Two Israelites vs 20 Philistines1One day Saul’s son, Jonathan, told the soldier who carried his weapons, “Let’s sneak over to the Philistine camp.” Jonathan didn’t bother to tell his dad, the king.
2Saul camped with his 600 men just outside of Gibeah. He sat in the shade of a pomegranate tree by a clearing called Migron.  3A priest named Ahijah camped with Saul and the army. He was the son of Ahitub, grandson of Phinehas, and great-grandson of Eli, the former priest at Shiloh. His uncle, the brother of his dad, was Ichabod.  The priest wore an ephod apron.  No one realized Jonathan had slipped out of the camp.
4Jonathan decided to go to the Philistine camp through a small canyon pass between two rough and jagged outcroppings of rock. People called one hillside Rocky Ridge (Bozez)  and the other Briar Ridge (Seneh).  5Bright Ridge rose north of the pass, in front of Michmash.  Briar Ridge rose in the south, in front of Geba.
6Jonathan told his weapon’s man, “Come on, let's go get those animals. The LORD might handle this one for us. Nothing can stop the LORD. It doesn’t matter to him if we’re a battalion or a tag team.” 7His weapon’s man said, “You’re in command. Do what you think best. I’m with you.”
8Jonathan said, “Here’s what we do. We’re going to step out into their sight, so they’ll see us. 9Then we’ll let the LORD decide what happens next. If they say, ‘Stay where you are. We’ll come down there and fight you,’ then we’ll take that as a sign to wait here. 10But if they say ‘Come up here and fight us,’ that’s what we’ll do. It will be our sign from the LORD.”
11So, Jonathan and the soldier stepped out into the light. Philistines saw them and said, “Will you look at that? Hebrews are finally crawling out of the holes where they’ve been hiding.” 12They yelled down to Jonathan and the soldier, “Come on up. We’ll welcome you with an education. We’ll show you a thing or two.” Jonathan told his weapon’s man, “Follow me. The LORD has already given these guys to us. We just have to accept the gift.”
Jonathan’s two-man army attacks13Jonathan crawled up the hillside with the soldier behind him. Jonathan killed Philistines in front of him. His weapon’s man finished off the wounded and then killed Philistines who swung around behind them, attacking from the rear. 14In that first push forward, Jonathan killed about 20 men within the first 30 meters. 
15Panic broke out among the Philistines, first in the camp Jonathan attacked. Then panic spread to the army in the field, the command center, and even to raiding parties that got news about it and grew scared. Then an earthquake  pumped the panic and further rattled everyone. Philistines went crazy with fear.
Philistines desert their posts16Soldiers stationed at Saul’s lookout post in Gibeah, in the tribal territory of Benjamin, watched the Philistine army break apart and scatter.
17Saul wanted to know if anyone in his army had left the camp and triggered this reaction. He said, “Call the roll.” That’s when he found out Jonathan and his weapon’s man were missing. 18Saul told the priest Ahijah, “Get the Box of God.”  Back then, the sacred chest with the Ten Commandments followed Saul’s army. 19Saul was still talking with the priest when Philistine panic exploded to a new level. Saul told Ahijah, “Never mind.”
Saul’s army joins the fight20Saul rallied his men and charged into the broken Philistine line. Their soldiers were so terrified and confused that they were already killing each other to get out of there.
21Some Israelites had backed the Philistines and came to help them fight this battle. But suddenly, they switched sides and joined the army of Saul and Jonathan. 22Israelite deserters, too, heard what was happening. They had run away from the Philistines and hid in the hills of Ephraim. But they came back, rejoined the army, and helped chase runaway Philistines.
23Israel won that battle, thanks to the LORD. Israelites fought the retreating Philistines past Beth-aven.  By then, Saul’s army had grown to about 10,000 men. Fighting scattered with the runaways and continued throughout the hills of Ephraim.
Saul’s accidentally puts a curse on his son24Saul made a big mistake with his big mouth. He threatened his army with a ridiculous curse. He said, “If anyone eats anything before I finish crushing my enemies, let him choke on this curse: May something terrible happen to him.” So, his army went hungry.
25Along the battle trail, some soldiers came upon a honeycomb in the wild. Honey flowing in the Promised Land. 26But they didn’t eat any. They were afraid of Saul’s curse. 27Saul’s son Jonathan hadn’t heard about the curse. But he heard about the honey. He dipped a rod into it and took a taste. The sugar put a sparkle in his eyes.
28Then one of the soldiers told him, “Uh, your father said not to eat anything. He said, if anybody eats anything, ‘Let him choke on this curse: May something terrible happen to him.’ And now the army is running out of energy.” 29Jonathan said, “Well, that was a rotten thing for him to do. That doesn’t help anyone. It hurts us. See how this little taste of honey puts some spark back in me? 30It would have been better if he had told the men to eat up anything they found or captured. But now, doggone it, we won’t be able to finish off the Philistines. Not if we run out of energy.”
31Israelites were exhausted by the time they reached Aijalon, after starting the fight at Michmash. 
When Israelites ate bleeding meat32Famished, some soldiers eventually gave in. They slaughtered sheep, oxen, and calves and choked that meat down when it was still bleeding. 
33Word got back to Saul that his troops disobeyed him by eating meat, and they broke God’s law by eating bloody meat. He told soldiers, “What you did was despicable. Roll a large stone over here.”
34He ordered them to bring some of their own animals to sacrifice and then eat, their oxen and sheep. And he told them not to break God’s law again by eating bloody meat. So the men sacrificed their livestock there by the rock. 35Saul turned that rock into the first altar he ever built in worship of the LORD.
God: Saul can’t finish off Philistines36Afterward, Saul said, “Let’s wait until dark and sneak down into Philistine towns and take whatever we want. We’ll raid their land till daylight. And then we’ll turn the lights out on every one of those Philistines. We won’t leave anyone alive.” His soldiers said, “As you wish, sir.” But the priests said, “Whoa there. Wait a minute. Let’s see what God wants.”
37Saul framed the questions for the priest to ask: “Should I attack the Philistines? Would you give them to Israel?” God didn’t answer.
38Saul called in his commanders, hoping to find out why God was ghosting him.
39He said, “As sure as there’s a God alive who let us win that battle, whoever caused this trouble is gonna die. Even if it’s my own son, Jonathan.” No one said a word.
40Saul said, “Well, we’re going to find out who did it. We’ll narrow it down. My son and I will stand over here. The rest of the army over there. We’ll see which side has the offender.” The soldiers said, “Yes, sir! Whatever you say, sir.”
41Then Saul prayed, “Dear LORD God of Israel, why didn’t you answer me? We’ll use the priest’s sacred dice, the Lights and Perfection,  to see who sinned. If it was me or Jonathan, show us the Lights. If it was someone in the ranks, show us Perfection. Lights won the selection, marking Saul and son. That cleared the soldiers.
42Saul said, “Throw the stones again to choose between me and my son Jonathan.” The stones tagged Jonathan. He was the guilty one. 43Saul said to his son, “What in the world did you do this time?” Jonathan said, “I tasted a daub of honey that dripped onto my hands from my staff. When did that become a capital offense?”
44Saul said, “May God torture me and kill me if you don’t die, Jonathan!”
45The men pushed back on Saul and said, “You’re going to kill Jonathan, the one person most responsible for this incredible victory? No way. As sure as there’s a living LORD, don’t take a hair from Jonathan’s head. He and God worked together in this fight.” So, the men rescued Jonathan from his angry dad. He didn’t die.
46Saul decided not to wipe out the Philistines. Instead, he let them go back to their homes.
Saul’s wars with his neighbors47Once Saul settled into his role as Israel’s king, he fought neighboring enemies in all four directions: Moab, Ammon, Edom, Zobah,  and the Philistines. Whenever he engaged them, he routed them. 48He bravely fought the Amalekites of Syria who had been raiding and plundering Israel. Saul rescued those Israelites.
49Saul had three sons: Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malchishua. He had two daughters: Merab was the oldest, and Michal  was the younger one. 50Saul married Ahinoam, daughter of Ahimaaz. His cousin Abner commanded the army. Abner was the son of Saul’s Uncle Ner.
51Kish was Saul’s father. Abiel was Saul’s grandfather, the dad of Kish and his Uncle Ner. 52Saul fought the Philistines hard, from the start to the end of his reign. Whenever Saul spotted a strong and brave Israelite, he drafted him into Israel’s army.
Isaiah 10:28 places Migron somewhere north of Michmash pass. Some translators say the name may refer to a threshing floor, since the word for a threshing for sounds similar. Farmers used flat ground or flat rock as a threshing platform to beat grain kernels free from the stalks.
His mother died in childbirth the same day her husband, Phinehas, died in a battle between Israel and the Philistines. His dying mother named him Ichabod, which means “Nothing” (1 Samuel 4:21).
“Apron” is a guess. Scholars aren’t sure what an ephod looked like. Several centuries before Samuel, in the time of Moses, an ephod was an apron or vest worn by the high priest. Some scholars describe it as a skirt or a shift-like garment that covered the body from about the waist to the mid-thigh. Inside the ephod the priest carried the Urim and Thummim, objects described as meaning “lights” and “perfection.” These were two objects never described in the Bible. They show up first in Exodus 28:30. They might have been stones, marked or colored in different ways. The high priest used them to answer questions with a “yes” or “no” or “wait.” It might have worked a bit like tossing two coins in the air and seeing how they land. Two heads for “yes.” Two tails for “no.” One of each for “wait.” It might seem foolish to make an important decision that way, such as whether to go to war. But the people of Israel seemed to believe that God controlled the objects the priests used.
“Bozez” means shining, glittering, reflecting, as in Bright Ridge.
“Seneh: means thorny, as in Briar Ridge.
The pass ran between the two camps: Philistines at Michmash and the Israelites at Geba.
That’s 35 yards. But it’s more literally “within about half a furrow long in an acre.” A furrow is a line, a plowed row. A one-acre square is 208 feet on each side, width is 70 yards or 63 meters. Half of that would be roughly 35 yards or 30 meters. Imagine it as a football field. Jonathan and his buddy had killed 20 men before they got to the 40-yard line.
The entire Jordan River Valley sits on a massive fault line, cracks in the earth’s shifting crust. In 1927, a devastating earthquake produced a landslide that blocked the river for 21 hours—incredibly, at what some scholars say is the same site Joshua reported when the Israelites first crossed into the Promised Land that became Israel: “Adam” (Joshua 3:16). The location today is known by the similar-sounding name of Damiya. It’s about 20 miles (32 km) upstream from the fords near Jericho.
Box of the God was a chest better known as the Ark of the Covenant, the most sacred relic among Israelite ancestors of the Jewish people. It was a wooden chest plated with gold all over. Inside that chest was a golden jar with some manna, Aaron’s almond wood staff that budded, and stone tablets engraved with the Ten Commandments. Covering the chest was a lid with figures representing glorious celestial beings called cherubim. This was the place where God’s people found forgiveness (Exodus 25:10-22; Hebrews 9:4-5).
Beth-aven was part of a threesome of neighboring cities, with Bethel and Ai. Location uncertain. Suggestions: Burqa south of Bethel or tell Maryam. Beth-aven means Beth=house of Aven=idols. It’s the opposite of Bethel, Beth=house of el=God. There were times when Beth-aven became a sarcastic nickname for Bethel when the city was sinning.
The two towns were almost 20 miles (32 km) apart, as a bird flies. That’s a typical one-day walk.
Jews weren’t allowed to eat bloody meat. Blood was reserved for God on the sacrificial altar. Leviticus 7:26.
The Hebrew names are Urim and Thummim, described as meaning “lights” and “perfection.” These were two objects never described in the Bible. They might have been stones, marked or colored in different ways. The high priest used them to answer questions with a “yes” or “no” or “wait.” See note for 14:3.
Zobah was in what is now Syria, then called Aram. There’s no record in the Bible of Saul fighting any of these enemies but the Philistines. Some scholars say they wonder if an early editor picked these names up from David’s battles in 2 Samuel 8 and applied them to Saul as well.
Michal would later marry David, get taken back by her father Saul and given to another man, then taken back by David when he became king. She hated David for that and apparently never had any children.
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.