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CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES
1 Samuel 14:1. “Garrison of the Philistines.” The advanced post mentioned in 1 Samuel 13:23. For the situation of the armies see note on 1 Samuel 13:6.
1 Samuel 14:2. “A pomegranate tree,” etc., rather the pomegranate, a well-known tree. “According to Judges 20:45, a rock near Gibeah bore the name ‘Rock of the pomegranate’ (Rimmon), and was well adapted for a fortified position. It is a natural supposition that the same rock is meant here, named after the well-known pomegranate.” (Erdmann.) This is the more probable because a pomegranate tree is not sufficiently high to admit of the erection of a tent beneath its branches. “Migron.” A place of this name is mentioned in Isaiah 10:28. Its exact site is not known, but it lay in this neighbourhood. It may be, however, that this spot is another of the same name, as the word signifies a precipice, and the entire district is rocky and precipitous. “Six hundred men.” “His forces, then, had not increased since he came to Gibeah, as might have been expected.” (Wordsworth.)
1 Samuel 14:3. “Ahiah, the son of Ahitub.” This man was therefore a great-grandson of Eli. He is generally snpposed to be the same person as Abimelech, mentioned in 1 Samuel 22:9; 1 Samuel 22:11. The signification of Abijah (as it ought to be written) is “Friend of Jehovah,” and that of Abimelech is Friend of the King, viz., of Jehovah. It is quite possible, however, that Ahiah may have died without sons, and been succeeded by a brother named Abimelech. “The Lord’s priest in Shiloh.” “As Eli was so emphatically known and described as God’s priest in Shiloh, and as there is every reason to believe that Shiloh was no longer the seat of the ark (see chap 22; 1 Chronicles 13:3-13.13.5), it is far better to refer these words to Eli.… This fragment of genealogy is a very valuable help to the chronology. The grandson of Phinehas, the son of Eli, was now High Priest; and Samuel, who was probably a few years older than Ahitub, was now an old man. All this indicates a period of about fifty years or upward from the taking of the ark by the Philistines.” (Biblical Commentary.)
1 Samuel 14:4. “Between the passages,” etc. The ground is thus described by Robinson in his Biblical Researches—“In the gorge or valley are two hills of a conical or rather spherical form, having steep rocky sides, with small wadies running up behind each, so as almost to isolate them. One is on the side towards Geba, and the other on the side towards Michmash. These would seem to be the two rocks mentioned in 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 the vicinity.” In his Later Researches he says, “The ridges on either side of the valley exhibit two elevated points which project into the great wady; and the easternmost of these bluffs on each side were probably the outposts of the two garrisons of the Philistines and the Israelites. The road passes around the eastern side of the southern hill, the post of Israel, and then strikes 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.”
1 Samuel 14:6. These uncircumcised. “It is remarkable that this epithet, used as a term of reproach, is confined almost exclusively to the Philistines. This is probably an indication of the long continued oppression of the Israelites by the Philistines, and their frequent wars.” (Biblical Commentary.) “May be.” “This indicates not a doubt but the humility which was coupled with Jonathan’s heroic spirit.” (Erdmann.)
1 Samuel 14:10. “This shall be a sign,” etc. “All attempts to bring Jonathan’s conduct within the rules of ordinary human action are vain. Though it is not expressly said, as in the case of Gideon (Judges 6:34), Othniel (1 Samuel 3:10), and others, that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, yet the whole course of the narrative, especially 1 Samuel 14:13-9.14.16, indicates an extraordinary Divine interposition and tends to place Jonathan on the same platform as the judges and saviours of Israel.” (Biblical Commentary.)
1 Samuel 14:11. “Behold the Hebrews come forth.” “As 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.” (Jamieson.) “Come up to us,” etc. “They hoped to have sport with them, not supposing that they could there climb the rock.” (Clericus.)
1 Samuel 14:14. “Twenty men within, as it were, an half acre of land.” Rather a half furrow of a yoke of land. “This indicates the position of the fallen, after Jonathan, pressing impetuously on. had struck them down one after another, and his armour-bearer after him, had killed those that were not dead. This occurred in the space of about half a furrow in a piece of land which one with a yoke of oxen could plough in a day.” (Erdmann.) “Their terror and flight are perfectly conceivable, if we consider that the outposts of the Philistines were so stationed upon the top of the ridge of the steep mountain wall that they could not see how many were following, and the Philistines could not imagine it possible that two Hebrews would have ventured to climb the rock alone and make an attack upon them. Sallust relates a similar occurrence in connection with the scaling of a castle in the Numidian war. Bell. Jugurtha. c. 89, 90.” (Keil.)
1 Samuel 14:15. “The earth quaked.” Keil and others think that it merely trembled “with the noise and tumult of the frightened foe,” but there can be no reason why it should not be understood to describe a real earthquake—a supernatural interposition of God. “Just as a strong east wind” divided the waters of the Red Sea; just as the great hailstones smote the Canaanites to death “at the going down of Bethhoron” (Joshua 10:11), as “the stars in their courses fought against Sisera;” “as the Lord thundered with a great thunder … and discomfited the Philistines at Ebenezer (1 Samuel 8:10), … so now the earth quaked at the presence of the Lord who fought for Jonathan.” (Biblical Commentary.) “A very great trembling”—“a trembling of God,” i.e., “a supernatural terror infused by God into the Philistines.” (Kiel.)
1 Samuel 14:16. “The watchmen of Saul looked.” This shows that the distance between the two encampments was not great. “The multitude melted away.” The Hebrew text is here very obscure. Multitude may be rendered tumult. Many read “the multitude,” or “the tumult, dispersed hither and thither.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—1 Samuel 14:1-9.14.16
JONATHAN’S VICTORY OVER THE PHILISTINES
I. Reveals the character of Jonathan. His words and his deeds proclaim him to have been a man of physical courage, and of humble piety. These two elements united in the character of one man make him as perfect a specimen of manhood as it is possible to find. The possession of either characteristic—and especially of the latter—gives to its possessor a claim on our respect. Courage—an absence of fear in the presence of bodily danger—a willingness to expose one’s body to risk for the sake of gaining a certain end—is a quality which is not met with in every person, and it deserves to be acknowledged and honoured wherever it is found. But there are many physically brave men who have no godliness: God, in whom they live and move and have their being, is never acknowledged by them, and their deeds of daring are undertaken and accomplished without any thought of seeking His help or rendering to Him thanksgiving for deliverance. And it cannot be denied that there are godly men who are naturally timid in the presence of bodily danger—that, although godliness has a tendency to make a man brave in every sense of the word, it does not so change his natural disposition as to make one who is constitutionally fearful bold and daring in a remarkable degree. But when a courageous man is a man of God—when his deeds of daring are undertaken in dependence upon God, and when he acknowledges Him in all his ways, he is a man in the highest sense of the word, and a consciousness of God’s favour increases his natural courage and makes him willing to do and to dare anything in the path of duty. That Saul was a physically brave man we have abundant proof. But he had now been for some time in the field, and had evidently done nothing. So far as can be gathered from the Scripture record, he had remained inactive since his interview with Samuel. We can but contrast his present hesitation with his decision in relation to the Ammonite invasion, and see in the change which had come over him how departure from God may make a naturally courageous man timid and hesitating. But Jonathan evidently added to his father’s natural bravery a spirit of humble dependence upon God, and reminds us of Israel’s first warlike leader Joshua, in whom were also united these two noble characteristics. “Let us go over to the Philistines’ garrison” speaks for the courage of the warrior-prince, while “It may be that the Lord will work for us” tells of his godly character.
II. Reveals God’s approval of His servant’s undertaking. This victory of Jonathan’s is one among the many instances upon record in the history of God’s Church of the special seal of Divine approval which is always set upon eminent faith. Old Testament history gives many illustrations of the truth of the Saviour’s words, “All things are possible to Him that believeth” (Mark 9:23), and the success which crowned this undertaking makes it a striking one. It is instructive to notice the increasingly evident marks of Divine approval which were vouchsafed to Jonathan on this occasion. God first condescends to give His servant just enough encouragement to lead him to persevere in his project by accepting the sign which he had proposed. Here was just enough token of God’s approval to lead him to go on, but not enough to do away with the exercise of faith. A man of less confidence in God might have faltered here, and have been tempted to regard the Philistines’ invitation as only a remarkable coincidence. But Jonathan’s faith was strong enough to see in it a token that “the Lord had delivered the enemy into the hand of Israel,” and the faith which could discern the Divine approval in an incident apparently so trivial was soon to receive an abundant reward in an unmistakable manifestation of Jehovah’s presence in the terror-stricken host, and in the quaking earth. This is the method of Divine working generally. God always looks with approval upon undertakings which are born of confidence in His power and goodness, but although He may, during their progress, vouchsafe sufficient tokens of His power and presence to encourage the hearts of His servants, He may withhold His most decisive and unmistakable manifestations until their courage and faith have been abundantly tested.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
1 Samuel 14:6. Divine power of faith, which makes a man more than men! The question is not what Jonathan can do, but what God can do, whose power is not in the means, but in Himself. O admirable faith in Jonathan, whom neither the steepness of rocks nor the multitude of enemies can dissuade from such an assault!—Bp. Hall.
Hope, founded on faith.
1. It is certain,—a matter of faith—that the Lord can save by many or by few.
2. It may be a matter of hope that He will work for us. (People often say: “I have faith that we shall succeed in this enterprise.” That is not properly a matter of faith, but only of hope. We believe that God can give success when it is His will; we are persuaded that our enterprise is righteous and would have desirable results; therefore we hope it may be God’s will to give us success).—Translator of Lange’s Commentary.
CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES
1 Samuel 14:18. “Bring hither the ark of God.” “Many expositors, thinking it extremely improbable that the ark had been removed from Kirjath-jearim, where it was afterwards found by David (2 Samuel 6:2-10.6.3), regard the Hebrew text as here incorrect, and follow the Septuagint reading of ephod. It must, however, be remembered that the Chaldee, the Syriac, the Arabic, and the Vulgate support the authorised version. It has been remarked that if Saul had spoken of the ark he would not have said ‘bring hither,’ but ‘carry forward,’ nor would he afterwards have commanded the high priest to ‘withdraw his hand.’ ”(Tr. of Lange’s Commentary.) Dr. Erdmann, Wordsworth, and others, see no reason to doubt the correctness of the Hebrew MSS.
1 Samuel 14:19. “Withdraw thine hand.” Saul, seeing the battle was growing hotter, resolved to go forward without delay.
1 Samuel 14:21. “The Hebrews.” These might have been prisoners held by the Philistines. “They are called Hebrews, according to the name which was current among foreigners.” (Keil.)
1 Samuel 14:23. “Bethaven.” On the mountains of Benjamin, lying east of Bethel, and between it and Michmash, “According to 1 Samuel 14:31 the Philistines fled westward from Michmash to Ajalon. But if we bear in mind that the camp of the Philistines was on the eastern side of Michmash, before Bethaven, according to 1 Samuel 13:5, and that the Israelites forced their way into it from the south, we shall see that the battle might easily have spread out beyond Bethaven, and that eventually the main body of the enemy might have fled out as far as Ajalon, and have been pursued to that point by the victorious Israelites.” (Keil.)
1 Samuel 14:24. “Adjured the people.” He made them take an oath.
1 Samuel 14:25. “Honey upon the ground.” Eastern countries abound with wild bees, who deposit their combs in the hollows of the trees. “Large combs may be seen hanging on the trees, as you pass along, full of honey.” (Roberts.) The same thing may be seen in some parts of Europe, especially in Spain.
1 Samuel 14:27. “Jonathan heard not,” and therefore was not bound by his father’s oath; could not be said to have transgressed it. “In the eagerness of pursuit he would not stop to do more than ‘put forth the end of the rod.’ ” (Wordsworth.)
1 Samuel 14:31. “Aijalon, or Ajalon.” “There is no doubt that the town has been discovered by Dr. Robinson in the modern Yalo, a little to the north of the Jaffa road, and about fourteen miles out of Jerusalem. It stands on the side of a long hill which forms the southern boundary of a fine valley of cornfields which there seems no reason for doubting was the valley which witnessed the defeat of the Canaanites.” (Smith’s Biblical Dictionary.) See also Keil’s note on 1 Samuel 14:23. “Aijalon would be from fifteen to twenty miles from Michmash.” (Bib. Commentary.)
1 Samuel 14:32. “With the blood,” “blood being on the bodies because they were on the ground.” (Erdmann).
1 Samuel 14:33. “Sin against the Lord.” A breach of the law. Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:26; Leviticus 19:26, etc. “The prohibition was still older than the law of Moses,” Genesis 9:4. (Biblical Commentary.) “They were painfully conscientious in keeping the king’s order, for fear of the curse, but had no scruple in transgressing God’s command.” (Jamieson). “Roll a great stone.” “By laying the animal’s head upon the 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.” (Jamieson.)
1 Samuel 14:34. “As everywhere before, so here, the people display unconditional obedience to Saul.” (Erdmann.)
1 Samuel 14:35. “And Saul built an altar.” “He began to build it,” i.e., he built this altar at the beginning, or as the first altar. (Keil.) “It seems to be implied that though he had reigned three years, and had been enabled by God to gain many victories, yet he had not made any such acknowledgement of gratitude to God for his successes, and that he had ascribed the credit of them to himself.” (Wordsworth.) “He began to build an altar to the Lord, but did not finish it, in his haste to pursue the Philistines that night, as it follows in 1 Samuel 14:36.” (Biblical Commentary.)
1 Samuel 14:36. “Let us go down.” “Saul rushes on in his wild desire of revenge, perhaps incited by the consciousness of having committed a gross folly, and thereby hindered the victory.… According to Jonathan’s statement (1 Samuel 14:30) the defeat was not total.” (Erdmann.) “Then said the priest.” “Ahiah seems to have been in doubt that Saul’s hasty impetuosity was not ‘working the righteousness of God,’ and with equal courage and faithfulness, worthy of his office as the priest, when every one else yielded to Saul’s humour, proposed that they should draw near to God to inquire of Him.” (Biblical Commentary.)
1 Samuel 14:37. “Asked counsel.” By the Urim and Thummim attached to the ephod of the High Priest. (See Judges 18:5; 1 Chronicles 10:13; Hosea 4:12; 1 Samuel 10:22.)
1 Samuel 14:38. “Know and see wherein this sin.” Which Saul infers from God’s silence.
1 Samuel 14:39. “For, as the Lord liveth.” “Saul’s rashness becomes more and more apparent.” (Biblical Commentary.) “Not a man answered him.” “The silence of the people is a sign of their conviction that Jonathan had done nothing wrong.” (Erdmann.)
1 Samuel 14:40. “Do what seemeth good.” Another evidence of the people’s submission. (See 1 Samuel 14:34; 1 Samuel 14:36.)
1 Samuel 14:41. “A perfect lot.” Lot is not in the original. It should be rendered “Give perfectness, or truth,” i.e., reveal Thy will. But it is clear from the sequel that Saul did not now inquire of the Lord by the Urim and Thummim, but appealed to the lot.
1 Samuel 14:42. “Jonathan was taken.” “What Jonathan had done was not wrong in itself, but became so simply on account of the oath with which Saul had forbidden it. But Jonathan did not hear the oath, and therefore had not even consciously transgressed. Nevertheless a curse lay upon Israel, which was to be brought to light as a warning to the culprit. Therefore Jehovah had given no reply to Saul. But when the lot, which had the force of a Divine verdict, fell upon Jonathan, sentence of death was not thereby pronounced on him by God, but it was simply made manifest that through his transgression of his father’s oath, with which he was not acquainted, guilt had been brought upon Israel, The breach of a command issued with a solemn oath, even when it took place unconsciously, excited the wrath of God, as being a profanation of the Divine name. But such a sin could only rest as guilt upon the man who had committed, or the man who had occasioned it. Now, where the command in question was one of God Himself, there could be no question that, even in the case of unconscious transgression, the sin fell upon the transgressor, and it was necessary that it should either be expiated by him, or forgiven him. But where the command of a man had been unconsciously transgressed, the guilt might also fall upon the man who issued the command, that is to say, if he did it without being authorised or empowered by God. In the present instance Saul had issued the prohibition without Divine authority, and had made it obligatory upon the people by a solemn oath. The people had conscientiously obeyed the command, but Jonathan had transgressed it without being aware of it. For this Saul was about to punish him with death, but the people opposed it. They not only pronounced Jonathan innocent, but they also exclaimed that he had gained the victory for Israel with God (1 Samuel 14:45). In this fact (Jonathan’s victory) there was a Divine verdict. And Saul could not fail to recognise now that it was not Jonathan, but he himself who had sinned, and through his arbitrary and despotic command had brought guilt upon Israel, on account of which God had given him no reply.” (Keil.)
1 Samuel 14:45. “So the people rescued Jonathan.” “Observe the humiliation to which Saul is reduced by his disobedience and by the consequent withdrawal of Divine grace, and by his rashness and infatuation. The son is raised above the father, and the people above the king.” (Wordsworth.)
1 Samuel 14:46. “Then Saul went up,” “Saul desisted from further pursuit of the Philistines, with whose overthrow, so far as it could be effected under the harmful consequences of his blind zeal, he had to be contented. The Philistines went back to their own land. In spite of this serious defeat their strength was not broken (comp. 1 Samuel 14:52). The fact that Saul desisted from pursuit shows that he understood the Lord’s silence as a denial, and was obliged to recognise as the cause of it, not Jonathan’s conduct, but his own arbitrary and rash procedure.” (Erdmann.)
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—1 Samuel 14:17-9.14.46
The whole of Saul’s conduct in relation to Jonathan’s victory shows us a man acting from passion rather than from principle. Such action in any man must end in mischief, but it is far more mischievous when he holds any position of responsibility and influence—when the destinies of others are largely in his hand. It is a sight which makes one sad to see a noble vessel tossing on a stormy sea with no hand upon the wheel to direct her course, and therefore at the mercy of every wind and wave. Although she is a lifeless object we seem almost to pity her when we reflect that a firm hand upon the rudder would give her all she needs to rise superior to the storm and steer straight to her haven. But how much sadder is the sight of a gifted man—one upon whom God has bestowed many opportunities of usefulness and capabilities of using them—throwing them all aside and drifting through life like an unpiloted vessel at the mercy of every wave of passionate impulse, because he will not make the will of God the guide of his life. But if the vessel was not only going to destruction herself but was laden with passengers who would in all probability share her fate, the greatness of the misfortune would be increased a thousand fold. And so it is when a man who does not make his duty the guiding principle of his life holds to a great extent the happiness or misery of his fellow-creatures in his power. Such a man not only wrecks his own life but involves them in distress and perhaps in ruin. Saul here presents us with a sad example of such characters. Instead of riding victoriously over the difficulties which beset the nation at this time, and possibly winning for himself and for them a season of rest from foreign oppression, he drifts towards the rocks himself and involves them in imminent danger because he rejects the hand which would have piloted him in safety. Such a man—
I. Throws away God-given opportunities. Here was an opportunity which, if rightly used, might have entirely subdued the power of the Philistines. The Divine recognition of Jonathan’s faith and courage was shown by miraculous signs, which struck them with terror and led to a “very great discomfiture.” But the victory could not be followed up because the people were faint from want of food, the consequence of Saul’s unreasonably exacting from them a vow to fast until the evening—a vow which had its origin in nothing higher than a spirit of passionate revenge. The opportunity thus lost never returned during the life of Saul, for it is recorded that “there was sore war against the Philistines all his days” (1 Samuel 14:52).
II. Is always filled with a sense of his own importance. Saul did not come into the field until the rout of the enemy had set in—he only had to follow up the victory which was the fruit of Jonathan’s faith and the interposition of God. We should hardly expect to hear a man under such circumstances speaking much about himself and dictating to others as though all the glory of the day was due to his valour. But with Saul there is no word of recognition of the services of his son nor ascription of praise to the God of battles. The work was his, and the aim that he had in view was personal revenge—“that I may be avenged on mine enemies” (1 Samuel 14:24). A man who does not give to God the glory due unto Him is always prone to be vain-glorious.
III. Will refuse to acknowledge himself in the wrong, even when his own nature and God Himself declare him to be so. Saul could hardly have been without some natural affection for his noble son, yet he would have seen him die rather than confess that he had acted foolishly and sinfully. If he had been in a condition of spirit to listen to the voice of God, he might have discerned as plainly as his subjects did that God had been that day with Jonathan, and that the sin which caused Him to vouchsafe no answer to his inquiry was with him and not with his son. But a man under the dominion of his passions is as deaf to the voice of God as he is to that of his own better nature, which is indeed itself a voice of God.
IV. Must be humiliated in the end. Saul’s vows and oaths were only like straws in the stream when the people’s sense of justice was aroused. If he was blind to all his own interests, and deaf to the voice of reason and of God, they were not. Up to this moment they had yielded to him an unwavering obedience, but now they make a firm stand. Saul may say to Jonathan, “Thou shalt surely die;” but he is met with the united voice of the people, “There shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground.” How sad a contrast his position here to that which he held after the Ammonite victory (1 Samuel 11:12-9.11.14). He who would not humble himself before God is now compelled to submit to the decision of his subjects.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
1 Samuel 14:18. Saul is a speciemen of that class of persons who show a certain reverence and zeal for the outward forms of religion, and cherish even a superstitious reliance on them, but are not careful to cherish the inner spirit of vital religion, without which all outward forms and ordinances, even though instituted by God Himself, are mere “sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:12).—Wordsworth.
Hypocrites in a strait repair to God, not so much to serve Him as to serve themselves upon Him; for at another time they think themselves men good enough, and act as if they were petty gods within themselves.—Trapp.
1 Samuel 14:19. The neglect of prayer was the beginning of Saul’s fall, as all the Fathers interpret that place where it is said that Saul commanded the priest to withdraw his hand from the ark. There are some who with Saul will call for the ark, and will presently cry “Away with it!” that is, will begin their prayers, and will break them off in the midst of any occasion.—Bp. Andrews.
Saul will consult the ark: hypocrites, when they have leisure, will perhaps be holy. But when the tumult was aroused Saul’s piety decreased. The ark must give place to arms. Worldly minds regard holy duties no further than they stand with their own carnal purposes. Saul, who would before wilfully sacrifice ere he fought (1 Samuel 13:9), will now, in the other extreme, fight in a wilful indevotion.—Bp. Hall.
The courage of Jonathan had already achieved the victory, while Saul was talking about what was to be done; so much more successful was the faith and obedience of the son, than the worldly policy and formal indifference of the father.—Wordsworth.
1 Samuel 14:39. Those who are indulgent to their own sins are generally severe in animadverting on the sins of others, and such as most disregard God’s authority are most impatient when their own commands appear to be slighted.—Scott.
1 Samuel 14:24-9.14.46. There is here a sixfold testimony against Saul.
1. The word of his own mouth: “Till I have avenged myself on mine enemies.
2. The word of his son: “My father hath troubled the land.”
3. The failure of the pursuit of the Philistines.
4. The Lord’s silence when He was inquired of.
5. The silence of the people at his oath.
6. The decision of the people, by which God’s decision was made apparent, and Saul’s conflict with the Lord and himself shown to be a conflict also with the people, who recognised God’s hand and will better than he. On God’s side there are not lacking co-working means by which man, when he detaches himself from God, may be brought to consider himself and return to God. And if he do not return, it is because of the energy with which the human will persistently follows its own path, and rejects all God’s exhortations and influences.—Lange’s Commentary.
This narrative allows us to draw some general inferences as to the character of Saul’s personal religion at this time.
1. It leads us to perceive how strangely partial his religion was in its operation. The faint and distressed state of the people led them, as soon as they had the opportunity, to eat the animals which they had slain, “in their blood.” And Saul immediately took steps to prevent the continuance of this infringement of the ritual. So far, of course, he was right. But the eagerness with which he condemned the sin of the people contrasts strangely with the moral obtuseness which prevented him from seeing that his own folly had been the occasion of their sin.… His religion was of that order which allows its professor to be vastly more affected by something outward and formal, than by the indulgence, within himself, of a wrong and impious state of mind. It puts us in mind of that most thorough manifestation of hypocrisy, when the betrayers of Jesus shrank back with sanctimonious step from the threshold of the judgment-hall, and would not set foot within it, “lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.” And yet although their consciences would not allow them to do this, the very same consciences, when Pilate came out to them and declared that Jesus was innocent, presented no obstacle to their murderous cry, “Crucify Him!”.… Oh! strange admixture of care for external proprieties with downright inward guilt!… Nothing so blunts the moral sense.… as the idea that ceremonial acts independently of holiness of heart constitute real religion; … high-toned morality declines just in proportion as mere ceremonial religion assumes the sway.…
2. It does not appear to have been characterised by the slightest self-suspicion.… It never seems to have entered his mind that he could by any possibility have been in the wrong; but he was most ready to suppose that any one else might be to blame.… One would have thought that if anything could have brought him to a sense of his error, it would have been the discovery that his rash decree and oath had implicated his own son in liability to suffering and death. Our indignation rises when we hear him say, “God do so and more also,” etc. and we are ready to exclaim, “What! another oath? Has not one done mischief enough? Cannot you see it? Do you not feel it?” Nothing can exceed the hardening influence of that professed religion which leaves a man unsuspicious and ignorant of himself.—Miller.
1 Samuel 14:47. “So Saul took the kingdom.” “As Saul had first of all secured a recognition of himself as king on the part of all the tribes of Israel by his victories over the Ammonites at Jabesh (1 Samuel 11:12), so it was through the victory which he had gained over the Philistines, and by which these obstinate foes of Israel were driven back into their own land, that he first acquired the kingship over Israel, i.e., first really secured the regal authority over the Israelites.… The war against the Ammonites is described in chap. 11; but with the Philistines Saul had to wage war all the days of his life (1 Samuel 14:52). The other wars are none of them more fully described, simply because they were of no importance to the kingdom of God.” (Keil.) Dr. Erdmann takes a different view of these words. He says: “The words do not stand in pragmatical connection with the preceding narrative of the battle against the Philistines, as if the intention was to state that thus Saul gained royal authority. His accession to the throne is mentioned merely as starting-point for the historical statistical statement of the various wars which he carried on from the beginning of his government.… What is said of them before and after this is determined by the theocratic point of view, and is designed to show how Saul, in fulfilling his royal calling (essentially a warlike one), came into principal conflict with the theocratic task and significance of the kingdom, and therefore incurred of necessity the judgment of God.” “There seems to be something of disapprobation in this expression, as if Saul took it as his own, rather than received it from God.” (Wordsworth.) “Zobah.” “This was one of the petty Aramæan kingdoms flourishing at this time (Psalms 60:0, title). It seems to have been situated between Damascus and the Euphrates. The details given in 2 Samuel 8:3-10.8.8; 2 Samuel 8:12; 2 Samuel 10:6-10.10.8; 2 Chronicles 8:3, show it to have been a wealthy and powerful tribe, and to have asserted its independence in Solomon’s reign.” (Biblical Commentary.)
1 Samuel 14:49. “Ishni.” Abinadab stands for this name in 1 Samuel 31:2; 1 Chronicles 8:33; 1 Chronicles 9:39. In the passages in Chronicles there is a fourth son mentioned, named Esh-baal, who is doubtless the one called Ishbosheth in 2 Samuel 2:8. It is impossible to say why he is not mentioned here.
1 Samuel 14:51. This verse should be read: “And Kish the father of Saul, and Ner the father of Abner, were the sons of Abiel.”
1 Samuel 14:52. “When Saul saw any strong man,” etc. “This remark is probably made in anticipation of David’s being taken into Saul’s service, 1 Samuel 16:18-9.16.19; 1 Samuel 18:2, where the expressions are the same as here.” (Biblical Commentary.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 14". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent