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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 14

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary


1 Samuel 13, 14. Saul’ s Early Struggles with the Philistines.— (J), chiefly from the ancient narrative concerning Saul. Editorial notes, or additions from other sources, are 1 Samuel 13:1; 1 Samuel 13:7 b, “ but as for Saul . . . Benjamin,” 1 Samuel 13:15 a; 1 Samuel 13:19-22; 1 Samuel 14:47-51.

Verses 1-15

1 Samuel 13:23 to 1 Samuel 14:15 . The ancient narrative, continuing 1 Samuel 13:18. Saul was at Geba (see on 1 Samuel 13:2), having with him the priest Ahijah, carrying the ephod— here not a garment, but some article used in casting the sacred lot (see 1 Samuel 2:28 *, Judges 8:27). A valley lay between the two camps, dominated on either side by a steep crag, called respectively Bozez, “ Shining,” and Seneh, “ Thorny.” Unknown to Saul and the Israelites, Jonathan and his armourbearer descended into the valley, exchanged taunts with the Philistines on the crag above, climbed up, took the enemy by surprise, and, assisted by an earthquake ( 1 Samuel 13:15), created a panic amongst them.

1 Samuel 13:2 . Migron: not identified.

1 Samuel 13:14 b. The text is corrupt and it is not clear how it should be restored.

Verses 16-23

1 Samuel 14:16-23 . The Israelites observe the confusion among the Philistines, and find that Jonathan and his armour-bearer are missing. Saul proposes to obtain an oracle by means of the ephod. (Thus with LXX; the references to the Ark have been introduced by an editor.) But, seeing the growing panic amongst the enemy, the king cuts short the priest in his ritual, and leads the people in pursuit. They are joined by their fellow-countrymen who were serving with the Philistines, and by Israelite refugees. The pursuit is carried beyond Beth-horon. (So probably, instead of Beth-aven, which, however, some would retain and understand as Beth-el.)

Verses 24-30

1 Samuel 14:24-30 . In order to propitiate Yahweh and secure His continued assistance, Saul had laid a solemn taboo upon the people, forbidding them to take food till nightfall. Then there was honeycomb upon the ground, and the people came to the honeycomb, and behold the bees had gone away, but no one put his hand to his mouth, for the people were afraid. Jonathan, however, knowing nothing about the taboo, tasted a little honey, and was much refreshed. When he was told of it, he treated the matter lightly.

1 Samuel 14:25 f. Here we have followed the reconstruction of the text in SBOT, partly based on the LXX. The words for “ forest” and “ honeycomb” are the same in Hebrew.

Verses 31-35

1 Samuel 14:31-35 . The pursuit continued as far as Aijalon. When it stopped, the exhausted people flew upon the cattle and sheep and ate them with the blood, a ritual sin ( Genesis 9:4 *, Leviticus 17:10-12 *), at which Saul was greatly distressed; he was evidently punctilious as to religious observances. He had a great stone set up as an altar, and had the animals for food slain in proper sacrificial fashion.

Verses 36-46

1 Samuel 14:36-46 . The next episode strikingly illustrates the primitive religious faith and practice of Israel. Saul proposed to make a night-attack upon the Philistines, and asked the priest to obtain an oracle as to whether Yahweh would approve. The silence of the oracle showed that some sin had roused the Divine displeasure. Saul proceeded to discover the sinner by lot, and in the first instance the lot was to be cast between Israel generally on the one hand, and Saul and Jonathan on the other. “ And Saul said; O Yahweh, God of Israel, why hast thou not answered thy servant this day? If this iniquity be in me or in my son Jonathan, O Yahweh, God of Israel, give Urim; but if it be in thy people Israel give Thummim. And Jonathan and Saul were taken and the people escaped.” A further casting of lots showed that Jonathan was the culprit. Saul sought to put him to death, but the people rescued him. There was no more fighting.

1 Samuel 14:41 . The rendering of this verse is from the text as reconstructed in SBOT on the basis of the LXX. Urim and Thummim were the sacred lots, perhaps stones kept in the ephod. The Jewish scholars who added the vowels to the text, interpreted the words as “ Lights” and “ Perfection,” but their meaning is uncertain (pp. 100f., Exodus 28:30 *).

1 Samuel 14:42 . In the LXX, the people make an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the lot being cast between the king and his son.

1 Samuel 14:43 . and, lo, I must die: rather, “ Here I am, let me die,” i.e. (Cent.B) “ I am ready to die.”

1 Samuel 14:45 . wrought this great salvation: rather, “ won this great victory.”

Verses 47-51

1 Samuel 14:47-51 . In this section the editor gives a concluding summary concerning Saul as king, before narrating his deposition in the next chapter. In the editor’ s eyes, Saul ceased to be king de jure, when Samuel anointed David to supersede him. But, according to the older documents, David himself did not take this view ( 1 Samuel 24:6, 1 Samuel 26:11). Saul fought successfully against a number of the neighbouring tribes: Moab; Ammon; Edom; Zobah, a Syrian state to the NE. of Palestine; Philistines; Amalekites. Next, a list of Saul’ s children; here “ Ishvi” is for “ Ishyo,” a contraction of “ Ish-Yahweh,” “ Man of Yahweh,” the same as Ishbaal. In early times Baal was used quite innocently as a title of Yahweh ( cf. Hosea 2:16). In 2 Samuel 23, etc., the name is given in the form Ishbosheth, “ Man of Shame,” the later Jews expressing their repugnance to Baal by substituting “ bosheth” for his name ( Numbers 32:38 *, 1 Kings 16:32 *). Then we are told that the commander-in-chief was the king’ s cousin: we should probably follow Josephus ( Ant. VI. vi. 6) in reading 1 Samuel 14:51 as “ And Kish, the father of Saul, and Ner, the father of Abner, were the sons of Abiel.” Ner is Saul’ s uncle, not (as 1 Chronicles 8:33; 1 Chronicles 9:36) Abner (Driver and Cent.B).

1 Samuel 14:52 . The ancient narrative, continues 1 Samuel 14:46.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 14". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/1-samuel-14.html. 1919.
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