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the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 14

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-52

1 Samuel 14:2 . Under a pomegranate tree. רמן Rimmon, a rock in the tribe of Judah. Joshua 15:32. Judges 20:47. This reading agrees best with the position of Saul’s army, in a place of safety.

1 Samuel 14:3 . Ahiah. Ahimelech, whom Saul slew with all the priests of Nob: 1 Samuel 22:9.

1 Samuel 14:6 . Let us go over to the garrison. מצב Matzab, a station, an out-post of the army. Hence Mythe, near Tewkesbury, a Roman station. In the time of sore calamity, which is a time of prayer, God prompted Jonathan, like Samson, to effectuate the salvation of the nation.

1 Samuel 14:14 . A yoke; meaning oxen. Our Saxon fathers had much the same phrase, when they measured land by an ox-gang.

1 Samuel 14:18 . Bring hither the ark. The LXX, Bring hither the ephod, which is evidently the true reading, as the ark was not with Saul. The army would not go to war without the ark of Jehovah’s strength.

1 Samuel 14:21 . The Hebrews, which had been captured and made slaves, came over to their brethren as soon as they could escape.

1 Samuel 14:24 . Saul adjured the people not to taste food; whereas the more prudent Gideon had required bread of the men of Succoth for his army.

1 Samuel 14:26 . The honey dropped from the hollow of trees, in that land of milk and honey, through the great heat of the weather. Honey-dews in excessively hot days will drop from the leaves of oaks, &c.; after which the leaf is apt to curl and decay.

1 Samuel 14:35 . Saul built an altar, as priests and princes had ever done in all parts of the earth. What time he lost whilst the highest duties await his arm! He should have asked counsel when first engaged in this war.

1 Samuel 14:39 . He shall surely die, though perfectly ignorant, and consequently innocent; for he had broken no known law. Rash vows should rarely be kept. This vow greatly lowers the character of Saul.

1 Samuel 14:52 . Sore war all the days of Saul; yea, in most of the days of David also. Strong man. Saul’s guards were the finest men that the nation could boast.


While the Philistines encamped on the plain, and sent out their parties to plunder the land; while Saul guarded the passes of the mountain! with six hundred men; and while all the inhabitants were fleeing from the invader, or hiding among rocks and in caves; Jonathan, prompted by a divine impulse, ventured with his armour-bearer to attack the garrison, or advanced guard of the enemy. What an act of faith and courage. A single man, attended with his lusty servant, advanced against an army. What an accomplishment of the promise, “one of you shall chase a thousand!” The Philistines said, “come,” intending to take him prisoner, or to put him to death. But on seeing in his countenance the soul of a hero, they awaited not the first blow of his sword: twenty of them fell before him. The consternation communicated itself to the camp; and they probably thought the gods were come down in the likeness of men; for correspondently to the divine impulse, the terrors of God fell on the multitude, and the earth trembled under their feet. What a scene of confusion! It was a nation affrighted at once. See the thousands of chariots locking the wheels of one another, and overturned by the fright and fury of the horses. See every man, infuriated with fear, cut down those who entangled him or obstructed his escape. See the Hebrew captives and slaves in this host, perceiving the hand of God against the enemy, catch up arms and attack their masters. See Jonathan enrol his name among the first of heroes, and heroes who believed in God; see him proceed in the career of slaughter till a thousand had fallen at his feet. See him restrain his arm only by the approach of night, and on reaching the confines of the enemy’s country. Here is the glorious son; but where is the gloomy father? Ah, the father, stung with his sentence, and torporized with unbelief, abode in Gibeah till the watchmen apprized him of the enemy’s route. And what did he do? When man is not guided by a gracious influence he often greatly errs. So Saul called for the ark, or rather for the ephod that the priest might consult the Lord; but ere that was performed, he said stay thy hand; and cursing the man who should taste any food, he instantly joined the pursuit. But the day that we haste to duty before devotion, we make poor speed; the people could not pursue with vigour for want of food. Finding honey in the hollow trees of a wood, they preferred hunger to a curse; but blessed not the policy of their prince. Jonathan, having passed the wood, was refreshed with a comb of the honey to complete the glories of the day. From this signal victory we may learn, that it is better for a nation to trust in God than in an arm of flesh. A single man, when animated by divine influence, is in himself a victorious army; for it is one with God to save by many or by few. Let the christian minister also be emboldened to speak and act for God, though scarcely a single man stand up to support him in the work; and let the individual not be afraid, though he be surrounded with the alien host. Jonathan was emboldened by the consideration that he went against the uncircumcised: for this was a sign of their not being in covenant with God. Saul having offended at Gilgal, now farther offended by rash swearing and hasty passions, so that the Lord answered him not. Thus while the son was exalted in the eyes of the nation, the father sunk in their esteem. Let us beware of strong passions and rash vows: they will bring shame upon us in the sight of God and men. Ah, how calamitous had this day proved to Saul, had not the people saved Jonathan from becoming a victim, like Jephthah’s daughter, to the rashness of a father’s vow. Thus while they opposed oath to oath, and humbled Saul for his sin, they saved him the best of sons, the friend and companion of all his future wars.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 14". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/1-samuel-14.html. 1835.
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