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the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 14

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-52

Jonathan had been acting for God at the time Saul had pronounced his prohibition, so that he was not there to hear it. With the end of his rod he dipped honey from a honeycomb. In eating it, his eyes were enlightened, which certainly involves a revival of strength. Honey is typical of the ministry of the Word of God. Just as the worker bees digest the nectar before storing the honey for the use of all the hive, so believers, meditating on the Word, digest it before presenting it to others in ministry. A little of this sweetness can be a wonderful stimulation to strengthen the souls of saints for conflict. Is it not often the case that our eyes are enlightened by only a little God-given ministry from one who has himself digested the truth that he ministers?

Then Jonathan is told of the curse his father had pronounced. But added to this is the pertinent notice, "and the people were faint." Jonathan discerns that his father had troubled the land. His own eating of the honey proved his father wrong. He rightly replies therefore that if the people had been allowed to eat of the spoil of the enemy, they would have had strength to accomplish a much greater victory. The distance they traversed that day was between fifteen and twenty miles, if their rout had been direct, which likely it was not since engaged in battle on the way. Of course they were extremely faint when the evening came.

As soon as Saul's curse was lifted at evening, the people killed and ravenously ate the animals they had taken as spoil, not taking time to drain the blood from them, according to the commandment of God. This was reported to Saul, who was insensible to the fact that he himself had occasioned this disobedience to God, telling the people, "Ye have transgressed," and requiring them to roll a great stone to him, evidently upon which to slaughter the animals. Then the order was circulated among the people to bring their animals to Saul and kill them there, making sure the blood was shed. He could be meticulous in matters of this kind, while in other matters, just as serious, he could calmly ignore the rights of God.

At this time Saul built his first altar to the Lord. But why did he do so? Was it not because he had been avenged on HIS enemies? It was not for the sake of God's own glory among His people Israel but rather because he thought God had backed up his own self-importance in this victory. Is this not mere childish reasoning?

He becomes quite bold when he knows the Philistines are defeated, and proposes that they pursue them by night to accomplish what had been hindered by his senseless interdict. The people were not enthusiastic, telling him to do what seemed good to him. How different were their words to those of Jonathan's armor bearer in verse 7: "I am with thee according to thy heart." In this case the priest was apparently doubtful, and suggested that they inquire from God.

But God gave no answer to Saul's questioning. Certainly He had a wise reason for this, and allowed matters to develop just as He did in order to show Saul that he would not be able to do as he pleased just because he was king. It was necessary that Saul should be shown up as being wrong before the people. If he had taken this to heart, his ensuing history might have been different, but he ignored many danger signs that God put in his way.

Saul decided that God did not answer him because someone had sinned; so he adopted the method of Joshua in the case of Achan (Joshua 7:16-18) in finding the offender; but ignored the question of the tribes: rather he put all the people on one side and only himself and Jonathan on the other. He must have strongly suspected Jonathan, for he declared that if the sin was in Jonathan he would surely die. Actually his own prohibition had been sin. Jonathan's eating of the honey was not sin at all. But God did not bring matters out in this way. Rather, in response to the casting of lots, God had Jonathan taken, in accordance with Saul's idea of what sin was.

In answer to Saul's demand as to what he had done, Jonathan did not even mention that he had not been present when Saul uttered his curse, but acknowledged that he had tasted a little honey with the end of his rod, and adds that for this he must die. In Achan's case, he had stolen and hid some valuable goods, knowing full well of GOD'S curse upon Jericho (Joshua 8:20-21). Jonathan, being hungry, had eaten food that God had graciously put in his way. It was a perfectly normal and right thing to do. But Saul considered his foolish curse to be as serious as God's curse; and though Jonathan had been ignorant of it, Saul uses God's name to back up his cruel declaration that Jonathan must die.

However, God speaks through the people, who discern that Saul is breaking the bounds of honor and righteousness. They strongly insist that Jonathan, who had wrought for God in this great salvation of Israel, must not suffer on account of what was only his father's arrogance. They rescued Jonathan from so unjust a sentence. In this way God used the occasion for the humiliation of Saul before the people. Men very commonly use their position of authority just to get their own way, but God knows how to bring such men down, as He did with Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:29-33).

Of course at this time Saul retained no energy and little influence with the people to further press the pursuit of the Philistines, and the Philistines returned home, not anxious either to initiate further warfare at the time.

However, in Saul's taking the kingdom, we read in verse 47 of his fighting against five different enemies of Israel. Moab (meaning "what father?") speaks of the sensual, opulent, easy-going religion that settles down in smug self-complacency (Jeremiah 48:11). Ammon (meaning "peoplish") is typical of false, satanic doctrine that gives the people the honor that belongs only to God. Its king was Nahash ("a serpent" --2 Samuel 10:1-2; 2 Samuel 10:1-2).

Edom means the same as Adam ("red earth"), and pictures simply man in the flesh. Zobah means "a station" or "standing", apparently indicating the religious pride of having "arrived" at the ultimate end. The Philistines (meaning "wallowers") speak of formal religion with its mass of ritual in which men become swamped. However, Saul is not said to have defeated them, but only to have "vexed them."

On the other hand, because the Amalekites were spoiling Israel, Saul gathered an army and smote them, delivering Israel out of their hands. Amalek means "licking up," and speaks of the lusts of the flesh which continually threaten the people of God. Saul was given power from God to defeat that enemy, though in the next chapter he would not fully carry out God's judgment against Amalek and later on it was an Amalekite who reported to David that he had killed Saul (2 Samuel 1:6-8).

Verse 49 tells us that Saul had three sons, Jonathan being evidently the eldest: Ishbosheth (Ishui) figures for a time in later history: of Melchi-shua we read very little. Two daughters are also mentioned, of whom we shall hear again. Nothing is told us of his wife except her name and her father's name, Ahimaaz. It seems doubtful that this was the same man who was a messenger for David, for Saul's father in law would likely be too old to be a runner at the time of the history of 2 Samuel 17:17; 2 Samuel 18:19-29. At this time, however, Saul's uncle (Abner) was captain of Saul's host. The names of his father and grandfather are mentioned. The Philistines were (at least for Saul) the major enemies, and war continued with them throughout Saul's reign. He never did fully subdue them. He always watched for strong men to add to his force.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 14". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/1-samuel-14.html. 1897-1910.
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