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The history of Israel under the reign of Saul, brightens up a little in this Chapter. Jonathan, the son of Saul, prompted, it should seem, by a Divine impulse, goes forth with his armour-bearer only, to a garrison of the Philistines. He is made successful: - the host of Israel, when informed of it, follows after; and a great slaughter is obtained over the Philistines. In the close of this Chapter, we have a short relation of Saul's family.
1 Samuel 14:1
(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.
There appears so much of God's mercy, manifested in what we read in this chapter, that I beg the Reader, more particularly to regard it, When the Lord works without means, and sometimes contrary to means, this becomes a more striking display of his Almighty hand. Let the Reader, before he enters upon the events recorded in this chapter, observe the dangerous state of Israel. There were with Saul, but six hundred men, and they trembling with fear: whereas, the host of the Philistines consisted of thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand of the sea shore for multitude. How was it, that this great host had not swallowed up the handful of Saul's army? Was it not, because the Lord restrained them? Can it be referred unto any other cause? Though Israel merited nothing from God, but his displeasure, yet the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great Name's sake. This Samuel had said, and this the Church had found, in all ages. Compare 1 Samuel 12:22 , with Psalms 106:7-8 . And cannot the Reader find similar proofs in his own history? Oh! it is sweet, it is precious, when we discover the aboundings of grace, over the aboundings of sin. There is a blessed nevertheless, in all the histories of God's people.
(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; (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.
Though Saul was thus reduced to the lowest state, and his fears were now visible, in taking shelter under a tree, instead of facing the enemy, yet we find no humblings of soul. He doth not send for Samuel, but Ahiah. He will not indeed again invade the priest's office, but calls for the priest of the Lord, and the Ark: but alas! there is no saving change made upon him. Though he hath the Ark of the divine presence with him, yet he finds no strength nor confidence in the presence of the Lord. Alas! outward services of worship without inward grace, only tend to keep the heart from God, and do not lead to God.
(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. (5) The forefront of the one was situate northward over against Michmash, and the other southward over against Gibeah. (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.
This is the first introduction we have, in the sacred history of Jonathan, the son of Saul; and a most pleasing one it is. There can be no doubt, but that his mind was under gracious influences, from the strong confidence he expressed in the sovereignty of the Lord. He knew enough of Jehovah, and that in a covenant way it appears, from the line he draws between Israel and the uncircumcised Philistines, to know that few or many, are of no avail with him. Reader! what a lesson is this, to you and me? Had Jonathan such confidence in God, and shall our faith be less? I beg the Reader to remark with me, the grounds of this well formed faith of Jonathan's, namely, the divine glory. He had heard, no doubt, of the Lord's former interferences, in Israel's distresses. Now, saith Jonathan, this is the time for God to work. The glory must be wholly his, if he save us. Oh! Reader! may the Holy Ghost give you and me to profit from this view of faith, in one who never possessed the advantages for the exercise of it, which you and I do. We have seen Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, accomplishing redemption: and his promise, like himself, is unchangeable. He saith; If we have faith as a grain of mustard seed, we might say to the sycamore tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and it should obey you. Luke 17:6 . Lord I would say, increase our faith!
(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. (8) Then said Jonathan, Behold, we will pass over unto these men, and we will discover ourselves unto them. (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. (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.
It should seem to have been pretty much the custom, in the early ages, to ascertain the reality of being commissioned by the Lord, by some sign. Thus Abraham's servant; (Genesis 24:12-21 ) and Gideon respecting the Midianites: Judges 6:36-40 . And Reader, I know not, what your own experience may furnish of such things, but I confess, that in the circumstances of my life, I do feel a growing confidence in divine assurances, when they are opened to my view by divine instructions. I consider that mercy, be it what it may, as good as possessed, which the Lord leads me to ask in the faith of Jesus. Oh! it is a sweet and self-rewarding employment, to watch the Lord Jesus in all things: for sure I am, that then, in all things, we shall find him watching over his people for good. What a very very precious scripture is that of he Lord by the prophet to this purpose: Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly, with my whole heart, and with my whole soul. Jeremiah 32:41 .
(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. (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. (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.
To what source, but the sovereignty of the Lord, can we ascribe it, that when these two poor solitary soldiers of the army of Israel, were climbing up, and were so exposed to danger, that the Philistines did not at once destroy them? How evidently did the Lord overrule the minds of the Philistines? And depend upon it, Reader, so it is in a thousand instances in life. The Lord God promised his people, to send the hornet among their enemies. And what is this, but the restraining power of his Almighty hand upon their minds? Deuteronomy 7:20 .
(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. (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.
It should seem, that a similar effect, like that which the Lord wrought in the host of Midian, must have been induced, to cause this great consternation, and trembling. The thing was of the Lord. Judges 7:22 .
(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. (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.
Probably, the watchmen upon the walls were enabled by somewhat more than mere outward discovery, to discern the hand of the Lord in this. The history of Israel furnished out instances of divine interposition, for the delivery of his people. Watchmen upon the walls of Zion, like the ministers of the gospel of Jesus, are supposed, by prayer, to keep up communication with heaven. Isaiah 62:6-7 .
(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. (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.
I cannot omit remarking to the Reader, in the history of Saul, how alike, unmoved by affliction or prosperity, this man's heart appears to have been towards the Lord. He set up indeed an enquiry, in commanding the priest to bring the ark; but receiving further conviction that the army of the Philistines were in distress, whatever the cause was which induced it, he waits not for direction from the Lord. Alas! to what a sad degree of degeneracy is the heart capable of ripening void of grace!
(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. (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. (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. (23) So the LORD saved Israel that day: and the battle passed over unto Bethaven.
The close of this account of the battle, left no room to question, but that this salvation was of the Lord. How sweet is it to remark in all the spiritual victories of the Lord's people, that the Lord's arm alone bringeth salvation!
(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. (25) And all they of the land came to a wood; and there was honey upon the ground. (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. (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. (28) 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. (29) Then said Jonathan, My father hath troubled the land: see, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey. (30) How much more, if haply the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies which they found? for had there not been now a much greater slaughter among the Philistines? (31) And they smote the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon: and the people were very faint. (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. (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. (34) 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. (35) And Saul built an altar unto the LORD: the same was the first altar that he built unto the LORD. (36) ¶ And Saul said, Let us go down after the Philistines by night, and spoil them until the morning light, and let us not leave a man of them. And they said, Do whatsoever seemeth good unto thee. Then said the priest, Let us draw near hither unto God. (37) And Saul asked counsel of God, Shall I go down after the Philistines? wilt thou deliver them into the hand of Israel? But he answered him not that day. (38) And Saul said, Draw ye near hither, all the chief of the people: and know and see wherein this sin hath been this day. (39) For, as the LORD liveth, which saveth Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die. But there was not a man among all the people that answered him. (40) Then said he unto all Israel, Be ye on one side, and I and Jonathan my son will be on the other side. And the people said unto Saul, Do what seemeth good unto thee. (41) Therefore Saul said unto the LORD God of Israel, Give a perfect lot. And Saul and Jonathan were taken: but the people escaped. (42) And Saul said, Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son. And Jonathan was taken. (43) Then Saul said to Jonathan, Tell me what thou hast done. And Jonathan told him, and said, I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in mine hand, and, lo, I must die. (44) And Saul answered, God do so and more also: for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan. (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. (46) Then Saul went up from following the Philistines: and the Philistines went to their own place.
There is, no doubt, somewhat of obscurity in this passage. Saul's whole conduct was wrong. In a false mistaken zeal for Israel, he brings the people under an heavy curse, if they partook of any food, until the battle was over. In this, we hear of no consultation with the Lord, no direction from him: and yet the Lord gives a decided answer, in pointing out the offender, in the person of Jonathan. And yet on the other hand, the eyes of Jonathan were so enlightened in eating of the honey, that from this refreshment, his ability to pursue the victory was certainly increased. Perhaps the sense of the passage is, that the most highly favored servants of the Lord, may be brought into trouble; and, like Jonathan, though evidently raised up of the Lord, for the deliverance of his people, may suffer persecution from those on whom they have the highest claims of favor. And probably, as Saul in his carnal state, was every day more and more departing from God, he was permitted to fall under the dreadful oath he had taken for another, so as ultimately to become the victim of it himself. The sequel of Saul's history, too plainly shows this. And the sin, which by his rashness, he led the people into, when in their extreme hunger, they eat the blood with their food, seems to have been one of those things which aggravated his transgressions. See Genesis 9:4 . and the note in the Commentary on Genesis 9:4 .
(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. (48) And he gathered an host, and smote the Amalekites, and delivered Israel out of the hands of them that spoiled them. (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: (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. (51) And Kish was the father of Saul; and Ner the father of Abner was the son of Abiel. (52) And there was sore war against the Philistines all the days of Saul: and when Saul saw any strong man, or any valiant man, he took him unto him.
The victory, which begun from such small and inconsiderable means, as Jonathan and his armour bearer, was prosecuted to great exploits. It should seem, as if the Lord meant that Israel should learn from it, how much his mercy was with his people, notwithstanding their undeservings. if we spiritualize the subject, as it concerns God's people, the same gracious lesson is exhibited to us now. We may, without going far in the enquiry of our lives, see enough to discover that our success is wholly in God's favor, not man's desert; that grace is not bestowed for our merit, nor withheld for our transgressions. The rich and full salvation by Jesus, founded as it is in free and sovereign love, like the dew of heaven, waiteth not for man, neither tarrieth for the sons of men; but comes to us of the Lord's own bounty, and hath for its beginning God's love, and for its end God's glory. For of him and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory, forever, and ever. Amen.
PAUSE over this chapter, my soul, and mark, in the history of Saul, the sure consequences of rebellion against God. The word of the Lord assures us, that, when a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh, even his enemies to be at peace with him. But, when sinners neglect and despise the Lord, he can convert their very comforts into crosses. And Saul, though at the head of a kingdom, shall be afflicted, and his crown be filled with thorns.
But, my soul, while remarking, as in this man's history, the sure consequences of sin, remark no less in his history, and in thine own, how gracious the Lord is, notwithstanding all our multiplied transgressions. The Lord will not retain his anger forever, because he delighteth in mercy. By some slender instrument, like that of Jonathan, he will work out deliverance for his people. Oh! my soul, learn to impress upon thy mind those precious things of God's grace. And in all thy manifold undeservings, never lose sight of divine love. And when at any time trials and difficulties occur for the exercise of faith, keep a steady eye unto Jesus, that it may be enlightened with the droppings of his grace, as the honey did unto him. And depend upon it, in the strength of the Lord Jesus, it will be found that all difficulties are as nothing. He can, and will make thee more than conqueror, through the sovereignty of his power. All obstacles, in the way to the accomplishment of his holy purpose, will be as nothing, for there is no restraint to the Lord, he saveth, by many or by few.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 14". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29