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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

1 Samuel 14

Verses 1-46


War against the Philistines (13:15-14:46)

After Samuel left Gilgal, Saul took his troops and joined with the other section of the Israelite army, which was under Jonathan. Together they prepared for the battle against the Philistines (15-18). The Philistines were confident of victory, partly because for many years they had so controlled metal-working activities in the area that the Israelites owned hardly any weapons. This enabled the Philistines to raid throughout Israel without fear of strong resistance (19-22). In addition they controlled the mountain pass by which the Israelites hoped to attack them (23).
Jonathan, however, without telling his father, worked out a daring plot to attack the Philistines. To begin with he took his armour-bearer, climbed up the rocky slope on the other side of the pass, and approached the Philistine camp (14:1-7). The two men tricked the Philistines by pretending they were deserting from the Israelite army. The Philistines relaxed their defences and welcomed the supposed deserters. Jonathan and his servant then attacked the unsuspecting enemy and killed twenty men (8-14). Panic quickly spread through the Philistine camp (15).
On hearing of the Philistines’ confusion, Saul hurriedly assembled a fighting force and went out to do battle. He was so eager to seize the opportunity to attack the enemy that he did not wait to receive God’s directions through the priest (16-20; see v. 3). Israelites who had earlier deserted to the Philistines or hidden themselves in fear suddenly returned to Saul’s side and joined in the battle (21-23).
Saul put a curse on any soldier who stopped to eat that day, as he wanted to carry the battle on unbroken till the Philistines were destroyed. It was a stupid curse, for tiredness and hunger prevented the Israelites from being fully successful (24-30).

As soon as night fell, the soldiers ate freely. By eating food that was forbidden by God’s law, they showed that, although they feared to break the king’s command, they did not fear to break God’s. Saul was distressed when he heard what the people had done (31-35; cf. Leviticus 17:14). He was even more distressed when he learnt that God would not guarantee him victory in a proposed night attack on the Philistines. Assuming that one of his soldiers was responsible for this hindrance to God’s help, he added to his previous rash curse an equally rash vow to punish the offender (36-39).

When it was revealed that Jonathan was the offender, Saul gave a further demonstration of his unpredictable nature. He did not carry out his vow, but heeded the voice of those who demanded Jonathan’s release (40-46).


Verses 47-52


Summary of Saul’s reign (14:47-52)

Despite his many weaknesses of character, Saul was a strong leader in battle and led Israel to many victories (47-48). He helped develop this strong leadership by collecting around him the best and most capable men from his own family circle and from the army (49-52).

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 14". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/1-samuel-14.html. 2005.