1 Samuel 14


Jonathan and his armour-bearer purpose to attack a garrison of

the Philistines, 1.

Saul and his army, with Ahiah the priest, tarry in Gibeah, 2, 3.

Jonathan plans his attack of the Philistine garrison, 4-10.

He and his armour-bearer climb over a rock: attack and rout the

garrison, 11-15.

Saul and has company, seeing confusion on the Philistine host,

come out against them; as did the men who had hidden

themselves; and the Philistines are defeated, 16-23.

Saul lays every man under a curse who shall eat food until the

evening; in consequence of which the people are sorely

distressed, 24-26.

Jonathan, not hearing the adjuration, eats a little honey, which

he found on the ground, 27-30.

The Philistines being defeated, the people seize on the spoil,

and begin to eat flesh without previously bleeding the animals,

which Saul endeavours to prevent, 31-34.

He builds an altar there, 35.

Inquires of the Lord if he may pursue the Philistines by night,

but receives no answer, 36, 37.

Attributes this to some sin committed by some unknown person:

makes inquiry by lot; and finds that Jonathan had tasted the

honey, on which he purposes to put him to death, 38-44.

The people interpose, and rescue Jonathan, 45.

Saul fights against the Moabites, Ammonites, and Amalekites,


An account of the family of Saul, 49-52.


Verse 1. Come, and let us go over] This action of Jonathan was

totally contrary to the laws of war; no military operation should

be undertaken without the knowledge and command of the general.

But it is likely that he was led to this by a Divine influence.

The armour-bearer is the origin of what we call esquire, from

escu, old French, a shield; armiger is the Latin, from arma,

weapons, and gero, I bear. In the times of chivalry, the armiger,

or esquire, was the servant of the knight who went after him, and

carried his lance, shield, &c. It is now (strange to tell!) a

title of honour.

Verse 2. Under a pomegranate tree] Under Rimmon, which not only

signifies a pomegranate tree, but also a strong rock, in which six

hundred Benjamites took shelter, Jud 20:45. Probably it was in

this very rock that Saul and his six hundred men now lay hidden.

Verse 3. Ahiah, the son of Ahitub] Phinehas, son of Eli the high

priests had two sons, Ahitub and I-chabod; the latter was born

when the ark was taken, and his mother died immediately after.

Ahiah is also called Ahimelech, 1Sa 22:9.

Wearing an ephod.] That is, performing the functions of the high

priest. This man does not appear to have been with Saul when he

offered the sacrifices, 1Sa 13:9, &c.

Verse 4. The name of the one was Bozez] Slippery; and the name

of the other Seneh, treading down.-Targum.

Verse 6. Let us go over] Moved, doubtless, by a Divine impulse.

There is no restraint to the Lord] This is a fine sentiment; and

where there is a promise of defense and support, the weakest, in

the face of the strongest enemy, may rely on it with the utmost


Verse 7. Behold, I am with thee] I shall accompany thee

whithersoever thou goest, and share all thy dangers.

Verse 9. If they say thus unto us] Jonathan had no doubt asked

this as a sign from God; exactly as Eliezer the servant of Abraham

did, Ge 24:12.

Verse 12. Come up to us, and we will show you a thing.] This was

the favourable sign which Jonathan had requested. The Philistines

seem to have meant, Come, and we will show you how well fortified

we are, and how able to quell all the attacks of your countrymen.

Verse 13. Jonathan climbed up] It seems he had a part of the

rock still to get over. When he got over he began to slay the

guards, which were about twenty in number, these were of a sort of

outpost or advanced guard to the garrison.

Slew after him] Jonathan knocked them down, and the

armour-bearer despatched them. This seems to be the meaning.

Verse 14. A half acre of land] The ancients measured land by the

quantum which a yoke of oxen could plough in a day. The original

is obscure, and is variously understood. It is probably a

proverbial expression for a very small space.

Verse 15. There was trembling in the host] They were terrified

and panic-struck; the people in general round about, those in the

garrison, the spoilers, and the whole country, were struck with

terror; the commotion was universal and most extraordinary. The

trembling of the earth is probably not to be taken literally, but

as a metaphor for a great commotion in the country, though God

might have interposed in an extraordinary manner, and produced a

real earthquake; but their being panic-struck was sufficient to

produce all the requisite confusion and dismay.

Verse 16. The watchmen of Saul] Those who were sent out as

scouts to observe the motions of the army.

Melted away] There was no order in the Philistine camp, and the

people were dispersing in all directions. The Vulgate has, Et ecce

multitudo prostrata, "And behold the multitude were prostrate;"

many lay dead upon the field, partly by the sword of Jonathan and

his armour-bearer, and partly by the swords of each other,

1Sa 14:20.

Verse 17. Number now] Saul perceived that the Philistines were

routed, but could not tell by what means; supposing that it must

be by some of his own troops, he called a muster to see who and

how many were absent.

Verse 18. Bring hither the ark of God] He wished to inquire what

use he should make of the present favourable circumstances, and to

proceed in the business as God should direct.

Verse 19. While Saul talked unto the priest] Before he had made

an end of consulting him, the increasing noise of the panic-struck

Philistines called his attention; and finding there was no time to

lose, he immediately collected his men and fell on them.

Verse 21. The Hebrews that were with the Philistines] We may

understand such as they held in bondage, or who were their

servants. Instead of Hebrews the Septuagint read, οιδουλοι,

the slaves; from which it is evident that, instead of Ibrim,

Hebrews, they found in their text abadim, servants. But

this reading is not countenanced by any other version, nor by any

MS. yet discovered.

Verse 22. The men-which had hid themselves] See 1Sa 13:6.

The Vulgate and the Septuagint add here, And there were with

Saul about ten thousand men; but this is supported by no other


Verse 24. Saul had adjured the people] He was afraid, if they

waited to refresh themselves, the Philistines would escape out of

their hands, and therefore he made the taking any food till sunset

a capital crime. This was the very means of defeating his own

intention; for as the people were exhausted for want of food, they

could not continue the pursuit of their enemies: had it not been

for this foolish adjuration, there had been a greater slaughter of

the Philistines, 1Sa 14:30.

Verse 25. There was honey upon the ground] There were many wild

bees in that country, and Judea is expressly said to be a land

flowing with milk and honey.

Verse 26. The honey dropped] It seems to have dropped from the

trees on the ground. Honey dews, as they are called, are not

uncommon in most countries; and this appears to have been

something of this kind. I have seen honey in considerable quantity

on the trees and long grass in the fields, and have often eaten of


Verse 27. His eyes were enlightened.] Hunger and fatigue affect

and dim the sight; on taking food, this affection is immediately

removed. This most people know to be a fact.

Verse 31. They smote the Philistines-from Mishmash to Aijalon]

The distance Calmet states to be three or four leagues.

Verse 32. The people did eat them with the blood.] They were

faint through hunger, and did not take time to bleed the cattle on

which they fed. This was another bad effect of Saul's rash


Verse 33. Roll a great stone unto me] Probably this means that

they should set up an altar to the Lord, on which the animals

might be properly slain, and the blood poured out upon the earth;

and a large stone was erected for an altar.

Verse 35. Saul built an altar] And this we are informed was the

first he had built; Samuel, as prophet had hitherto erected the

altars, and Saul thought he had sufficient authority to erect one

himself without the prophet, as he once offered sacrifice without


Verse 36. Then said the priest] It is evident that Ahiah doubted

the propriety of pursuing the Philistines that night; and as a

reverse of fortune might be ruinous after such a victory, he

wished to have specific directions from the Lord.

Verse 37. He answered him not that day.] Why was this answer

delayed? Surely Jonathan's eating the honey was no sin. This could

not have excited God's displeasure. And yet the lot found out

Jonathan! But did this argue that he had incurred guilt in the

sight of God? I answer: It did not; for Jonathan was delivered, by

the authority of the people, from his father's rash curse; no

propitiation is offered for his supposed transgression to induce

God to pardon it; nor do we find any displeasure of God manifested

on the occasion. See below.

Verse 41. Lord God of Israel, Give a perfect lot.] Both the

Vulgate and Septuagint add much to this verse: And Saul said to

the Lord God of Israel, Lord God of Israel, give judgment. Why is

it that thou hast not answered thy servant to-day? If the iniquity

be in me, or Jonathan my son, make it manifest. Or if this

iniquity be in thy people, give sanctification.

Verse 42. And Jonathan was taken.] The object of the inquiry

most evidently was, "Who has gone contrary to the king's

adjuration today?" The answer to that must be JONATHAN. But was

this a proof of the Divine displeasure against the man? By no

means: the holy oracle told the truth, but neither that oracle nor

the God who gave it fixed any blame upon Jonathan, and his own

conscience acquits him. He seeks not pardon from God, because he

is conscious he had not transgressed. But why did not God answer

the priest that day? Because he did not think it proper to send

the people by night in pursuit of the vanquished Philistines.

Saul's motive was perfectly vindictive: Let us go down after the

Philistines by night, and spoil them unto the morning light, and

let us not leave a man of them; that is, Let us burn, waste,

destroy, and slay all before us! Was it right to indulge a

disposition of this kind, which would have led to the destruction

of many innocent country people, and of many Israelites who

resided among the Philistines? Besides, was there not a most

manifest reason in the people why God could not be among them?

Multitudes of them were defiled in a very solemn manner; they had

eaten the flesh with the blood; and however sacrifices might be

offered to atone for this transgression of the law, they must

continue unclean till the evening. Here were reasons enough why

God would not go on with the people for that night.

Verse 44. And Saul answered-thou shalt surely die, Jonathan.] To

save thy rash oath! So must John Baptist's head be taken off at

the desire of an impure woman, because a Herod had sworn to give

her whatever she might request! Unfeeling brute! However, the king

was JUDGE. But what said the people, who were the JURY?

Verse 45. And the people said] "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."

Here was a righteous and impartial jury, who brought in a verdict

according to the evidence: No man should die but for a breach of

the law of God; but Jonathan hath not broken any law of God;

therefore Jonathan should not die. And because he should not,

therefore he shall not.

He hath wrought with God this day.] God has been

commander-in-chief; Jonathan has acted under his directions.

So the people rescued Jonathan] And God testified no

displeasure; and perhaps he permitted all this that he might

correct Saul's propensity to rashness and precipitancy.

Verse 47. So Saul took the kingdom] The Targum appears to give

the meaning of this expression: "Saul prospered in his government

over Israel." And the proofs of his prosperity are immediately


Fought against all his enemies] Of the wars which are mentioned

here we have no particulars; they must have endured a long time,

and have been, at least in general, successful.

Verse 48. Smote the Amalekites.] This war is mentioned in the

following chapter.

Verse 49. Now the sons of Saul] We do not find Ishbosheth here.

Calmet says it was "because he was too young, and did not go

with him to the war, for he mentions only those who were with

him." Why then mention his daughters and his wife? Did they go

with him to the war?

Verse 52. When Saul saw any strong man] This was very politic.

He thus continued to recruit his army with strong and effective


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