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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

1 Samuel 14

Verse 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.

The Philistines' garrison - margin, the standing camp in "the passage of Michmash" (1 Samuel 13:16; 1 Samuel 13:23), now Wady es-Suweinit. It begins in the neighbourhood of Betin (Beth-el) and el-Bireh (Beeroth), and as it breaks through the ridge below these places its sides form precipitous walls. On the right, about a quarter of an acre below, it again breaks off, and passes between high perpendicular precipices (Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' 2:, p. 116; Stanley's 'Sinai and Palestine,' p. 201; Porter's 'Handbook of Syria and Palestine,' pp. 214, 215).

Verse 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;

Saul tarried in the uttermost part of Gibeah. His head quarters were removed from Geba to Migron, 'in the extremity or skirts of Gibeah,'-thus at once retreating from the Philistines and drawing near to the high priest, as well as Samuel (1 Samuel 13:15), who was in Gibeah. The exact site of Migron has not been ascertained; but it lay along the road which ran through this passage (Isaiah 10:28), and probably, as Porter suggests, somewhere on the bank of Wady Kirah. There was, therefore, only the breadth of the ravine between the two camps. Saul had encamped, along with Samuel and Ahiah, the high priest on the top of one of the conical or spherical hills which abound in the Benjamite territory, and favourable for an encampment, called Migron (a precipice).

Under a pomegranate tree, [ haarimown (H7416), the pomegranate] - some noted tree. But as the pomegranate is of too low a stature for Saul to erect a tent under its shade, many take the word as the name of the town a little northeast of Gibeah and Michmash (Joshua 15:32; Judges 20:45; Judges 1:0 Chr. 14:32; Zechariah 14:10), now Rummon: 'a village,' says Robinson ('Biblical Researches,' 2:, pp. 113, 132), 'which forms a remarkable object in the landscape, being situated on and around the summit of a conical chalky hill, and visible in all directions.'

Verse 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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

Between the passages - i:e., the deep and great ravine of Suweinit, which extended from west to east.

Jonathan sought to go over unto the Philistines' garrison - a distance of about three miles, running between two jagged points, or, Hebrew, 'teeth of the cliff.'

There was a sharp rock on the one side, and a sharp rock on the other side ... Bozez (shining, from the aspect of the chalky rock) ... Seneh (the thorn, probably from a solitary acacia on its top). They are the only rocks of the kind in this vicinity; and the top of the crag toward Michmash was occupied as the post of the Philistines. 'In the gorge or valley are two hills of a conical or rather a spherical form, having steep rocky sides, with small wadies running up behind each, so as almost to isolate them. One is on the side toward Geba (Jeb'a), and the other toward Michmash (Mukhmas). These would seem to be the two rocks mentioned in connection with Jonathan's adventure. They are not, indeed, so "sharp" as the language of Scripture would seem to imply, but they are the only rocks of the kind in this vicinity' (Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' 2:, p.

116). The ridges on each side of the valley exhibit two elevated points which project into the great wady; and the easternmost of these bluffs on each side probably the outposts of the two garrisons of the Israelites and the Philistines.

The road passes around the eastern side of the southern hill, the post of Israel, and then strikes up over the western part of the northern one, the post of the Philistines, and the scene of Jonathan's adventure. These hills struck us now, more than formerly, as of sharp ascent, and as appropriate to the circumstances of the narrative. They are isolated cliffs in the valley, except so far as the low ridge, at the end of which they are found, connected them back with the higher ground on, each side (Robinson's 'Later Biblical Researches,' Second Journey p. 289). The two camps were in sight of each other; and it was up the steep rocky sides of this isolated eminence that Jonathan and his armour-bearer (1 Samuel 14:6) made their adventurous approach. This enterprise is one of the most gallant and romantic that history records. The action, viewed in itself, was rash, and contrary to all established rules of military discipline, which do not permit soldiers to fight, or to undertake any enterprise that may involve important consequences, without the order of the generals. It might be that he was incited to it by a divine impulse, his patriotic spirit being roused by rumours of the depredations committed by the three marauding parties (1 Samuel 13:17-18) on the peasantry in the neighbourhood.

Verse 5

The forefront of the one was situate northward over against Michmash, and the other southward over against Gibeah. No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

Jonathan said to the young man ... Come, and let us go over unto the garrison, [ 'el (H413) matsab (H4673). The Septuagint takes this word as the name of a place, and translates it as: Diaboomen eis Messab, let us go over to Messab].

It may be that the Lord will work for us. This expression did not imply a doubt: it signified simply that the object he aimed at was not in his own power, that it depended upon God, and that he expected success neither from his own strength nor his own merit.

Verse 7

And his armourbearer said unto him, Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 8

Then said Jonathan, Behold, we will pass over unto these men, and we will discover ourselves unto them.

Behold, we will pass over unto these men, and we will discover ourselves unto them, [ wªnigliynuw (H1540)] - we will appear, show ourselves. [The Septuagint, mistaking gaalaah (H1540), be revealed or laid bare, for gaalaal (H1557), be rolled, has idou, heemeis diabainomen pros tous andras, kai katakulistheesometha pros autous, we will cross over to the men, and will be rolled down (tumble) upon them.]

Verse 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.

If they say ...

Verse 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.

Come up ... the Lord hath delivered them into our hand. When Jonathan appears here to prescribe a sign or token of God's will, we may infer that the same spirit which inspired this enterprise suggested the means of its execution, and put into his heart what to ask of God (see the notes at Genesis 24:12-14).

Verse 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.

Behold, the Hebrews come forth out of the holes. Since it could not occur to the sentries that two men had come with hostile designs, it was a natural conclusion that they were Israelite deserters; and hence, no attempt was made to hinder their ascent, or stone them, as they were scrambling up the ridge.

Verse 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. No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

And they fell before Jonathan, [ wayipluw (H5307); Septuagint, reading wayipªnuw, they stared at, kai epeblepsan kata prosoopou Ioonathan, kai epataxen autous, kai ho airoon ta skeuee autou, epedidou opisoo autou, and they looked toward the face of Jonathan, and he smote them, and his armour-bearer gave it them (dealt similar blows) behind him]. This accords with the statement of Josephus, that Jonathan's feat was performed very early in the morning, when the Philistine army was mostly asleep, and some newly awake.

Verse 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.

That first slaughter ... within ... an half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plow. This was a very ancient mode of measurement, and it still subsists in the East, [But Dr. Kennicott ('First Dissertation,' p. 452) purposes, by a slight change of the punctuation, a different text, which brings out a meaning exactly corresponding to that of the Septuagint-kai egeneethee hee pleegee hee prootee heen epataxen Ioonathan kai ho airoon ta skeuee autou hoos eikosi andres en bolisi kai en petrobolois kai en kochlaxi tou pediou, And this first slaughter, by which Jonathan and his armour-bearer smote about twenty men, was accomplished by arrows, by slinging of stones, and by flints of the field.] The men who saw them scrambling up the rock had been surprised and killed; and the spectacle of twenty corpses would suggest to others that they were attacked by a numerous force. The success of the adventure was aided by a panic that struck the enemy, produced both by the sudden surprise and the shock of an earthquake. The feat was begun and achieved by the faith of Jonathan, and the issue was of God.

Verse 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.

And there was trembling in the host in the field and among all the people: the garrison and the And there was trembling in the host, in the field, and among all the people: the garrison, and the spoilers, they also trembled. [The Septuagint has kai egeneethee ekstasis en tee parembolee kai en agroo, kai pas ho laos ho en Messab, kai di' diaftheirontes exesteesan, kai autoi ouk eethelon poiein, And there was a trembling in the camp, and in the field, and on all the people in Messab, and the spoilers stood still, and would not do (anything).]

Verse 16

And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked; and, behold, the multitude melted away, and they went on beating down one another.

The watchmen of Saul ... looked. The wild disorder in the enemies' camp was descried, and the noise of dismay heard on the heights of Gibeah.

Verse 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.

Said Saul ... Number now, and see who is gone from us. The idea occurred to him that it might be some daring adventurer belonging to his own little troop, and it would be easy to discover him.

Verse 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.

Saul said unto Ahiah, Bring hither the ark of God. There is no evidence that the ark had been brought from Kirjath-jearim. [The Septuagint version is preferable; which, by a slight variation, of the text, reads: Prosagage to Efoud, bring 'the ephod' - i:e., the priestly cape, which the high priest put on when consulting the oracle. That this should be at hand is natural, from the presence of Ahiah himself, as well as the nearness of Nob, where the tabernacle was then situated.]

Verse 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.

Withdraw thine hand. The priest, invested with the ephod, prayed with raised and extended hands. Saul, perceiving that the opportunity was inviting and that God appeared to have sufficiently declared in favour of His people, requested the priest to cease, that they might immediately join in the contest. The season for consultation was past, the time for prompt action was come.

Verse 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 discomfiture.

Saul and all the people. The whole warriors in the garrison of Gibeah, the Israelite deserters in the camp of the Philistines, and the fugitives among the mountains of Ephraim, now all rushed to the pursuit, which was hot and sanguinary.

Verse 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.

The Hebrews that were with the Philistines before that time, [ wªhaa-`Ibriym (H5680). The Septuagint, reading wªhaa`ªbaadiym, renders it: kai hoi douloi hoi ontes echthes kai triteen heemeran, and the slaves who had been (with them) yesterday and the third day.] The whole body of Hebrews who thus rallied round the king to aid him in pursuing the Philistine fugitives is stated in the Septuagint to have comprised [hoos deka chiliades androon] about 10,000 men. Josephus gives the same humor ('Antiquities,' b. 6:, ch. 6:, sec. 3).

Verse 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. No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 23

So the LORD saved Israel that day: and the battle passed over unto Bethaven.

So the Lord saved Israel that day; and the battle passed over unto Beth-aven - i:e., Beth-el. It passed over the forest, now destroyed, on the central ridge of Palestine, then over to the other side, from the eastern pass of Michmash (1 Samuel 14:31), to the western pass of Aijalon, through which they escaped into their own plains. Josephus asserts that 'many ten thousands of the Philistines were slain in this rout' ('Antiquities,' b. 6:, ch. 6:, sec. 4).

Verse 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.

Saul had adjured the people. Afraid lest so precious an opportunity of effectually humbling the Philistine power might be lost, the impetuous king laid an anathema on any one who should taste food until the evening. This rash and foolish denunciation distressed the people, by preventing them taking such refreshments as they might get on the march, and materially hindered the successful attainment of his own patriotic object.

Verse 25

And all they of the land came to a wood; and there was honey upon the ground.

All they of the land came to a wood; and there was honey. The honey is described as "upon the ground," 'dropping' from the trees, and in honey-combs, indicating it to be bees' honey. 'Bees in the East are not, as in England, kept in hives; they are all in a wild state. The forests literally flow with honey; large combs may be seen hanging on the trees as you pass along, full of honey' (Roberts). [The Septuagint has: Iaal drumos een melissoonos kata prosoopon tou agrou, Jaal was a thicket (forest) full of beehives along the face of the ground.]

Verse 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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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 an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened.

Jonathan ... put forth the end of the rod ... and dipped it in an honey-comb, [ bªya`ªrat (H3295) hadªbaash (H1706)] - not, properly, the "honey-comb," i:e., the cells in which the honey is contained, but the dropping of the honey comb; i:e., liquid honey (cf. Psalms 19:2) (Gesenius).

Verses 28-30

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 31

And they smote the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon: and the people were very faint. The people were very faint.

Verse 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.

And ... flew upon the spoil. At evening, when the time fixed by Saul had expired, faint and famishing, the pursuers fell voraciously upon the cattle they had taken, and threw them on the ground, to cut off their flesh and eat it raw, so that the army, by Saul's rashness, were defiled by eating blood, or living animals; probably as the Abyssinians do, who cut a part of the animal's rump, but close the hide upon it, and nothing mortal follows from that wound. They were painfully conscientious in keeping the king's order, for fear of the curse, but had no scruple in transgressing God's command. To prevent this violation of the law, Saul ordered a large stone to be rolled, and those that slaughtered the oxen to cut their throats on that stone. By laying the animal's head on the high stone, the blood oozed out on the ground, and sufficient evidence was afforded that the ox or sheep was dead before it was attempted to eat it.

Verse 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.

Ye have transgressed: roll a great stone unto me this day. [The Septuagint has: ek Geththaim kulisate moi lithon entautha megan, from Gethaim roll me a great stone.]

Verses 34-44

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 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.

The people rescued Jonathan, that he died not. When Saul became aware of Jonathan's transgression in regard to the honey, albeit it was done in ignorance, and involved no guilt, he was, like Jephthah, about to put his son to death, in conformity with his vow. But the more enlightened conscience of the army prevented the tarnishing the glory of the day by the blood of the young hero, to whose faith and valour it was chiefly due.

Verse 46

Then Saul went up from following the Philistines: and the Philistines went to their own place.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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 vexed them.

So Saul ... fought against all his enemies on every side. This signal triumph over the Philistines was followed, not only by their expulsion from the land of Israel, but by successful incursions against various hostile neighbours, on the east as well as west of the Jordan, whom he harassed, though he did not subdue them.

Kings of Zobah - in northern Syria, adjoining Hamath on the north, and extending to the Euphrates. It was a rich and important region. In the time of Saul it was governed by a number of petty but independent rulers, whom he "vexed."

Verse 48

And he gathered an host, and smote the Amalekites, and delivered Israel out of the hands of them that spoiled them.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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:

The sons of Saul were Jonathan (i:e., whom Yahweh gave).

And Ishui, [Septuagint, Iessiou].

And Melchi-shua, [Septuagint, Melchisa].

... Merab, [ Meerab (H4764), increase; Septuagint, Merob; Josephus, Merobee].

... Michal, [Septuagint, Melchol; Josephus, Michala].

Verse 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.

Abner - i:e., father of a light [Septuagint, Abenneer].

... Ner - i:e., a light, a lamp; the grandfather of Saul.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 14". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/1-samuel-14.html. 1871-8.