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Deeper Commentary

1Sa 14:1 One day Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who carried his armour, Come, let us go over to the Philistines’ garrison on the other side-
A fair case can be made for thinking that this young armourbearer was David. We marvel at Jonathan's initiative and spiritual ambition.

But he didn’t tell his father-
It seems Saul was deeply aware that he had not delivered Israel from the Philistines because he hadn't the faith to do so; and so he was deeply spiritually jealous of Jonathan and later David. It's worth remembering that at the point he was told that another person was to replace him (1 Sam. 13:15), Saul didn't know David. He may well have assumed that the person in view as a replacement was in fact his son Jonathan. This would explain the tensions between Saul and Jonathan, and why Jonathan didn't tell Saul of his plans. For Saul had taken credit for Jonathan's previous victory (see on 1 Sam. 13:4).

1Sa 14:2 Saul stayed on the outskirts of Gibeah under the pomegranate tree which is in Migron; the people who were with him were about six hundred men-
"Pomegranate tree" is "Rimmon" and could possibly refer to a place name. Saul no longer had two groups of 1000 under his direct control (1 Sam. 13:2).  


1Sa 14:3 Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the priest of Yahweh in Shiloh was there, wearing an ephod. The people didn’t know that Jonathan had gone-
Yet Eli's family had been cursed in 1 Sam. 2,3. It could be that this person in later life experienced the curses. But it would be far from the only time in Bible history where a curse is pronounced but not carried out. There is a gap between Yahweh's prophetic pronouncements, and their fulfillment. And in that gap there is the possibility for repentance. In 40 days, Nineveh was to be destroyed; but it didn't happen, because they repented. This is what gives intensity to our prayers and repentance, knowing we too live in such a gap. This Ahijah could be the Ahimelech of 1 Sam. 21:1. 


1Sa 14:4 On each side of the pass by which Jonathan intended to go over to the Philistines’ garrison there was a rocky crag; one was called Bozez and the other Seneh-
Literally, a tooth of rock. To climb it with enemies at the top would have seemed a mad idea.


1Sa 14:5 The one crag was on the north in front of Michmash and the other on the south in front of Geba-
Bozez was the northern crag, and Seneh the southern one. "Was on" is literally 'was set as a pillar'. We get the impression of needing to make an almost perpendicular, vertical assent of sheer rock.  


1Sa 14:6 Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armour, Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised people-
The implication was that because they were circumcised, they were in covenant with God; and therefore He was able to use them. Covenant relationship involves far more than circumcision, but clearly Jonathan felt in covenant with God, at a time when many in Israel were clearly not. He believed that for those in covenant, one man could make a thousand flee. And this is what indeed happened. 

Perhaps Yahweh will work for us, for nothing can hinder Yahweh from saving, by many or by few-
The idea of the Hebrew underlying "Perhaps..." is rather that surely, Yahweh will do so. We note that Jonathan's motivation was to save- to save others. There was no desire merely for personal glory nor settling perceived old scores.

1 Sam. 30:21 LXX says that in his fight with the Amalekites, David "had caused them [the 200 weaker of his soldiers] to remain by the brook of Bosor". This would mean that the decision to leave them was David's and not theirs. He had learned the lesson of Gideon, and knew he didn't need numbers for victory. It was the lesson of his friend Jonathan's victory, that the Lord could save by many or by few (1 Sam. 14:6). We may learn a lesson [and David may have been Jonathan's companion at that time], and then find our grasp of it tested again, decades later.


1Sa 14:7 His armour bearer said to him, Do all that you have in mind; I am with you according to your heart
-
This is a colloquial expression and is therefore hard to translate. We really are reading the actual words said by this brave young man in response to Jonathan's spiritual ambition. The idea is "On with you; I will follow".

It seems that the armourbearer was David. He and Jonathan grew up only 10 miles away from each (Jonathan in Gibeah of Saul, David in Bethlehem). In the early Israel of those days, it is almost certain that they knew each other from their youth. So it is possible to speculate that David was in fact "the young man that bare (Jonathan's) armour" in the heroic conquest of the Philistine garrison in 1 Sam.14. Note how Saul also calls him "young man" in 1 Sam. 17:58.  There was evidently an intense  spiritual and physical rapport between Jonathan and his armour bearer which was similar to that described between Jonathan and David. "I am with thee according to thy heart" (14:7 AV) has firm connection with David and Jonathan being described as having their souls knit together in 1 Sam. 18:1. The record of David's battle with the Philistines in 2 Sam. 5:17-24 has certain similarities with the exploits of 1 Sam. 14:8-11; as if, years later, David replicated his early adventure of faith. David already had a reputation in Israel for being "a mighty valiant man, and a man of war... and the Lord is with him" (1 Sam. 16:18), even before the Goliath incident. This would be understandable if he had gone with Jonathan in chapter 14. His becoming Saul's  armourbearer (1 Sam. 16:21) would then be seen as a logical promotion from being Jonathan's armourbearer.


1Sa 14:8 Then Jonathan said, We will cross over to them and let them see us-
"See us" is the word for denuding, also translated "exile". The exiles were encouraged that what seemed impossible could be achieved.

1Sa 14:9 If they say ‘Wait until we come to you!’, then we will stay where we are and will not go up to them-
This seeking for a sign connects with Gideon's similar desire before going into battle. There are clear connections between Jonathan and Gideon; compare 1 Sam. 14:10-20 with Jud. 7:3,10,11,14,22. Jonathan's son was called Merib-baal (1 Chron. 9:40), meaning 'rebellion against Baal', an epithet for 'Gideon'. Gideon was Jonathan's hero; it's not wrong to have such Biblical heroes! Saul also imitated Gideon, but on a surface level; for Gideon refused to be king over Israel because Yahweh was their king. See on 1 Sam. 19:5.


1Sa 14:10 But if they say ‘Come up to us!’, then we will go up, for Yahweh has delivered them into our hand. This will be the sign to us
-
Such an invitation would be a sign of pride, laughing at the two young men who had no chance of climbing up and then fighting them. Again, as with Nahash (see on 1 Sam. 11:3), pride was to go before a fall. And Jonathan perceived this, hence his giving them an opportunity to mockingly and arrogantly invite them up to them.


1Sa 14:11 So they revealed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines, and the Philistines said, Look, the Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in!-
From their perspective so high above them, indeed the two men would have appeared as small animals emerging from their holes and crawling upwards to their destruction.


1Sa 14:12 The men of the garrison shouted to Jonathan and his armour bearer, Come up to us and we will show you something! Jonathan said to his armour bearer, Come up after me, for Yahweh has delivered them into the hand of Israel-
Jonathan's confidence was because he saw their extreme arrogance. He was utterly persuaded after the victory over Nahash because of his pride (see on 1 Sam. 11:3) that therefore God would surely give the victory.


1Sa 14:13 Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet and his armour bearer followed, and the Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armour bearer followed and killed behind him-
It has been observed that "a single stone rolled down upon them while thus clambering up the precipitous side of the cliff would have sent them to the bottom". The arrogance of the Philistines in not doing so was what brought about the victory; see on :10. If indeed David was the armour bearer, we have the impression that he who began inspired by Jonathan, following his example, moved ahead to in turn inspired Jonathan. And this is indeed what true spiritual fellowship and friendship is all about.


1Sa 14:14 That first slaughter by Jonathan and his armour bearer killed about twenty men in an area of about half an acre-
LXX "with darts and slings and stones of the field". I noted on 1 Sam. 13:22 that because of their lack of iron weapons, the Israelites became skilled in the use of slings and bows. It was this which resulted in David being an expert slinger and able to slay Goliath. If they had had access to swords, then the logical thing would have been to try to fight Goliath with sword and spear. But there was no expertise in the use of these weapons. And so we see how providence works out. Because of their oppressed situation, David became a skilled slinger- and slew Goliath. And Jonathan likewise. This was all a preparation for the victory against Goliath.

1Sa 14:15 Then panic struck the whole Philistine army, those in the camp, in the field, and among all the outposts and raiding parties, and the ground shook. There was panic-
Unaware that there were only two attackers, the Philistines would have run in confusion to the narrow tongue of land where the exit was, which served as a bottleneck. It seems that Yahweh then sent an earth tremour, which would have added to their sense of panic. This was also the Divine element in it all, lest it appear totally a victory for human strength and bravery. God likewise works in human life today, lest any man should boast. The Philistines out in the field on raiding parties would have been panicked by the sight of the garrison rushing down the pass at great speed.


1Sa 14:16 Saul’s watchmen in Gibeah of Benjamin saw that the army had melted away and scattered-
They would have had a wonderful view across the pass of two men causing an army to flee. It was a powerful visual fulfilment of how one man in covenant relationship with God could cause a thousand to flee before him. The Philistines would have fled down steep descent of Aijalon toward Bethel (:23)—the same pass where Joshua had won his first great victory. The idea is that there was a reconquest of the land, in God's strength. The tables had turned; the people had followed Saul trembling and melted away (1 Sam. 13:7,8), but now the Philistines were doing just this (Heb.). "Melted away" is the same word used of how the inhabitants of Canaan were to melt at the conquest by Joshua. The impression is of a reconquest of the land.


1Sa 14:17 Then Saul said to the men with him, Count now and see who is missing from us. When they had counted, Jonathan and his armour bearer were not there-
Saul was so proud that he was most concerned as to who was going to get the personal glory for this victory which he himself should have gotten; for he was Divinely set up as Israel's military saviour.


1Sa 14:18 Saul said to Ahijah, Bring the ark of God here. For the ark of God was with the Israelites at that time-
LXX "the ephod". The word "bring hither" is usually used of the ephod. "Withdraw your hand!" (:19) is more appropriate to getting a yes / no decision from the urim and thummim within the ephod, which was required in order to eliminate options and decide who was missing. The presence of the priest logically suggests the ephod with Urim and Thummim was present rather than the ark.


1Sa 14:19 While Saul was talking to the priest the tumult in the camp of the Philistines went on and increased, and Saul said to the priest, Withdraw your hand!-
This again reveals Saul's impatience to put spiritual things first. He failed to learn the lesson he failed to learn in 1 Sam. 13:10. Circumstances repeated to give him another chance, but he fails again. He considered religious / spiritual things as a mere formality, and wanted to get on with the work in his own strength without waiting for God's word to him.


1Sa 14:20 Saul and all the men with him were gathered together and came to the battle, and found that every man’s sword was against his fellow; a very great confusion-
"Confusion" is the word used of how an Israel faithful to the covenant would destroy the inhabitants of Canaan with "confusion" (Dt. 7:23 ). Jonathan shows himself very aware of the covenant and word of Moses, presumably as a result of Samuel instructing him. 

1Sa 14:21 Now the Hebrews who had been with the Philistines previously and had gone with them into the camp, turned to join the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan-
One letter different would turn "Hebrews" into "servants". This reading would make better sense here, and the idea would be that the servants were freed. 


1Sa 14:22 Also all the men of Israel who had hidden themselves in the hill country of Ephraim, when they heard that the Philistines had fled, followed hard after them in the battle-
This again supports the impression that they were chasing their enemies as promised for obedience to the covenant. And yet by grace, the righteousness and blessing of Jonathan was really being extended to them.


1Sa 14:23 So Yahweh saved Israel that day, and the battle moved beyond Beth Aven-
The reference is to Bethel. See on :16. The judges had been Israel's saviours on Yahweh's behalf, and the idea seems to be that although they now had a human king, God saved them just as He had done under the judges.


1Sa 14:24 The men of Israel were in distress that day-
The same word used of how they had been distressed by the Philistines in 1 Sam. 13:6. The idea was that Saul was effectively oppressing them as the Philistines were.

Because Saul had bound the people with an oath saying-
He had called out to them the words of the curse, and made them shout back their consent. Again, a surface level imitation of Moses without any spirit to it, just as he imitated Gideon in the same way.

Cursed is the man who eats any food before evening, and I have been avenged of my enemies. So none of the people ate any food-
See on 1 Sam. 11:11 and on 1 Sam. 14:27,31. This was a surface level imitation of Gideon winning a great victory when desperately hungry. But he failed to follow Gideon's example of refusing to be Israel's human king when asked to be, because Gideon unlike Saul believed that Yahweh alone was to be Israel's king. Such surface level imitation of others' spirituality is something which can be fallen into so easily. Saul's desire for personal vengeance upon his enemies is sadly deficient in any desire to see God's glory. God patiently tried to correct him by then asking him to work for Him, as His agent, in executing His vengeance or punishment upon His enemies (1 Sam. 15:2).


1Sa 14:25 All the army came into the forest, and there was honey on the ground-
The promised land was to flow with milk and honey to those who kept covenant. And yet Saul was precluding the people from experiencing the blessings of the covenant by petty legalism and a desire for personal control. The people were obedient to his word, but then totally disobeyed Yahweh's command about not eating blood as a result of it (1 Sam. 14:25,33).


1Sa 14:26 When they had come to the forest the honey was oozing out, but no-one tasted any because the people feared the oath-
As noted on :25, the idea is that the land was literally flowing with honey; and they were precluded from experiencing that blessing because they feared Saul and had made a covenant with him, rather than glorying in the fulfilment of Yahweh's covenant with them. "Oozing" is literally 'flowing like a river'. And likewise, obedience to narcissistic leaders precludes so many from experiencing the blessing of true covenant relationship with Yahweh on a personal level.


1Sa 14:27 But Jonathan hadn’t heard when his father commanded the people with the oath, so he dipped the end of his rod into the honeycomb and ate some, and his eyes brightened-
The allusion is to Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit and having their eyes enlightened. But everything is inverted. Jonathan had done the right thing, and Saul's attempt to play God had gone totally wrong and brought curse instead of blessing. The allusion to the events of Eden is to demonstrate how Saul had everything so spiritually inverted, because he was just trying to follow spiritual precedent on a surface level without any spirit to it.

Paul may have had Jonathan in mind as typical of the church when he spoke of our eyes being enlightened (Eph. 1:18), using the very words of 1 Sam. 14:27 concerning Jonathan. He was a type of us, devoted to David-Jesus. Saul saw Gideon as his spiritual hero, and this was a senseless, surface level imitation of Gideon devoid of spirit: 1 Sam. 11:11 = Jud. 7:16; 13:5 = Jud. 7:12; 13:6 = Gideon offering before fighting Midian; 14:5,20 = Jud. 7:22; 14:24 = imitating Gideon and his men going without food; 14:28,31 = Jud. 8:4,5; 11:7 = Gideon killing his father's oxen. But he failed to follow Gideon's example of refusing to be Israel's human king when asked to be, because Gideon unlike Saul believed that Yahweh alone was to be Israel's king.


1Sa 14:28 Then one of the people said, Your father bound the people with an oath saying, ‘Cursed is the man who eats food this day’. The people were exhausted-
"Cursed is the man..." reflects the Mosaic making of covenant with Israel. Again we see Saul attempting to mimic spiritual precedent, as he did the example of Gideon and God forbidding Adam to eat the fruit in Eden, but with no spirit to it. He was all about surface level spirituality and appearances, and he came therefore to such a tragic end. A true warning for us all.


1Sa 14:29 Then Jonathan said, My father has troubled the land-
Unlike Saul, Jonathan's Biblical allusions are appropriate. Here he refers to how Simeon and Levi provoked problems amongst the inhabitants of the land (Gen. 34:30), and how Achan stopped Israel from victory against those inhabitants by his own pride and narcissism (Josh. 7:25). A far greater victory could have been one against those inhabitants, but Saul had precluded it by his arrogant legalism. 

Please look how my eyes have been brightened because I tasted a little of this honey-
Jonathan is aware of how his father has alluded to God's command in Eden about not eating the fruit. He now acts like Eve, justifying what he has done and encouraging others to do so as she did to Adam. But he does so to demonstrate how Saul has got it all the wrong way around.


1Sa 14:30 How much better it would have been if the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies? Would not the slaughter among the Philistines have been greater?-
This reflects Jonathan's humility. He had won a great victory against the Philistines, slaying many of them. But he considers it a small victory compared to the potential possible, which his father had precluded.


1Sa 14:31 They struck down the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon. The people were exhausted-
Their exhaustion is now stressed again (:28). They still refused to follow Jonathan's example and eat. They so feared the oath to Saul, far more than seeing beyond that to the obviously correct spiritual argument of Jonathan. This reveals the fear of Saul in which they lived.


1Sa 14:32 and they pounced on the spoil, and took sheep, cattle and calves and killed them on the ground and ate them with the blood-
The essence of this has been seen so many times in church history. An insistence upon petty legalism leads people to commit major sin. They are more obedient to the party line and the barked orders of their leadership, than to God. And the legalistic demands of their elders lead them to make utter shipwreck of their faith, breaking the most elemental principles of their covenant with God. Now that sundown had come and they were free from the oath to Saul, the people were totally disobedient to the covenant. They ate blood, and also killed calves and mothers on the same day (disobeying Lev. 22:28). For all this, they were to have God against them and be cut off from God's people; their behaviour in 1 Sam. 14:32 is portrayed as breaking every principle of the commands about eating blood in Lev. 17:10-14. 


1Sa 14:33 Then they told Saul, Look, the people are sinning against Yahweh, eating meat with the blood-
The people were obedient to his word, but then totally disobeyed Yahweh's command about not eating blood as a result of it (1 Sam. 14:25,33).

He said, You have broken faith-
He means, broken the covenant. But he has it all the wrong way around. For a land flowing with honey was a blessing for keeping the covenant, and he was precluding them from receiving that blessing by his arrogant legalism.

Roll a large stone here at once!-
This could represent the rolling away of their sin through repentance. But it may simply be that he was telling them to kill the animals and put their heads on a large stone to allow the blood to drain out. See on :35.

1Sa 14:34 Saul said, Go out among the people and tell them, ‘Each man bring to me here his ox and sheep; kill them here and eat; don’t sin against Yahweh by eating meat with the blood’. So each of them brought his ox with him that night, and killed them there-
But the commands of Lev. 17:10-14 were clear that doing this just once would lead to having God against them and being cut off from God's people. But Saul thinks that can just be disregarded if they get it right in future. He plays God, just as he did when framing his commandment in terms of the Mosaic covenant, and the command of God in Eden.


1Sa 14:35 Saul built an altar to Yahweh. This was the first altar that he built to Yahweh-
Saul had commanded them to roll a stone so as to prop up the slain beasts upon it and let the blood drain out (:33). It seems he now capitalizes on what had been done and declares this to be an altar to Yahweh, in surface level imitation of how the patriarchs had set up altars in thankfulness to Yahweh. But Saul is just declaring this an altar in an opportunistic sense; and unlike the patriarchs, he had never made an altar to Yahweh before. We get the impression that he just called it an altar and imagined the slain animals left to drain upon it as some kind of sacrifices. But typical of Saul, he didn't have the patience to do as David did, who built an altar and sacrificed burnt and peace offerings upon it (2 Sam. 24:25). Literally “it he began to build as an altar to Yahweh”, implying he didn't bother to finish it. Saul's impatience and subsequent lack of spiritual depth is what cost him the Kingdom.  


1Sa 14:36 Saul said, Let us go down after the Philistines by night and plunder them until the morning, and let us not leave any of them alive. They said, Do whatever seems good to you-
David may be referring to this when he condemns Saul in Ps. 119:150: "They draw near who follow after wickedness, they are far from Your law". "Draw near" is a common idiom for offering sacrifice and worshipping God. But that sacrifice must be from men who are near to God's law, and not offering just as mere tokenistic ritualism. He may be alluding to Saul's insincere sacrifices and religious rituals which led to his rejection and David's choice as the next king (1 Sam. 14:36,38; 15:22).

But the priest said, Let us enquire of God-
Saul was not bothered about enquiring of God and having His blessing. It was all a question of external surface level religion.


1Sa 14:37 Saul asked counsel of God, Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will You deliver them into the hand of Israel? But He didn’t answer him that day-
Saul ultimately was judged as not enquiring of God (1 Chron. 10:14). Yet on a surface level he did (1 Sam. 14:36,37) and did so desperately at the end of his life. We have here a powerful challenge to our prayer life. For we can enquire of God on a surface level, as a kind of formality, to soothe the religious conscience which is somewhere in every man. But this is not to really enquire of Him.

Just before his final fight with the Philistines, "Saul enquired of the Lord (but) the Lord answered him not" (1 Sam. 28:6), and therefore he went to a witch. But in God's final analysis of Saul, Yahweh says that He smote Saul because Saul sinned against God's word by not enquiring of God, but of a witch (1 Chron. 10:13,14). But Saul did enquire of God (see 1 Sam. 14:37 s.w. 28:6), but God didn't answer him (note how often in the records it is stated that David enquired successfully of Yahweh). The point is that although Saul prayed to God and enquired of His word on the surface, in his heart, he did nothing of the sort; and therefore his prayer and enquiry was reckoned never to have happened. And we must ask how much of our prayer and Bible study is seen by God as being only spoken and read on a surface level. This was exactly the problem of natural Israel. "They have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled (in prayer) upon their beds" (Hos. 7:14). "Though they called them to the Most High, none at all would exalt him" (Hos. 11:7).

1Sa 14:38 Saul said, Come here, all you chiefs of the people and let us find out which of us has sinned today-
See on :36. Saul thinks that God's lack of answer by Urim and Thummim is because someone amongst the people has sinned. But Saul's awful hypocrisy here was rebuked at the end of his life. God refused to give Saul an answer from Urim and Thummim because of his sin in not sincerely enquiring of the Lord (1 Sam. 28:6).  


1Sa 14:39 For as Yahweh lives, Who saves Israel, even if it is Jonathan my son, he must die. But there was not a man among all the people who answered him-
Clearly Saul wanted to kill Jonathan. Saul was potentially enabled to free Israel from the Philistines, but he failed to have the personal faith required. The main victories against them were by Jonathan (1 Sam. 13,14) and David. And this explains his great jealousy against them both, even planning to slay Jonathan at least twice (1 Sam. 14:39; 20:33).  See on 1 Sam. 20:30,31.


1Sa 14:40 Then he said to all Israel, You stand on one side, and I and Jonathan my son will be on the other side. The people said to Saul, Do what seems good to you-
The whole situation was contrived, so that Jonathan would stand publically before the people and be openly condemned. I suggest that Saul wanted to kill Jonathan because he was jealous of him, and he tried to do so again when he threw a javelin at him. 


1Sa 14:41 Therefore Saul said to Yahweh, the God of Israel, Show me the right answer-
Or "show the innocent". Surely the armour bearer also ate the honey. Yet Saul intentionally sets up this kangaroo court to find Jonathan alone guilty. 

Jonathan and Saul were chosen, but the people escaped-
LXX adds: “And Saul said, O Lord God of Israel, why hast thou not answered thy servant to day? If the iniquity be in me or in Jonathan my son, O Lord God of Israel, give Urim: and if it be in thy people Israel, give Thummim”. Saul sees the lack of immediate answer as being because Jonathan has sinned. And yet lack of immediate visible answer to prayer is not necessarily because of sin. We see here Saul's huge problem with impatience. He wanted everything immediately and before his eyes. When it didn't happen, he starts the blame game. We see this today in so many, who cannot wait for God because they demand He always acts in what they consider to be "real time", immediately and just as they envisage His response.


1Sa 14:42 Saul said, Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son. Jonathan was selected-
As suggested above, I think this was all orchestrated by Saul to lead up the a public condemnation of Jonathan, whom he wished to kill- so deep was his jealousy that great victories were won without him and by another. LXX adds: "And Saul said, Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son: whomsoever the Lord taketh by lot, let him die. And the people said unto Saul, This thing shall not be. And Saul prevailed over the people, and they cast lots between him and Jonathan his son, and Jonathan was taken".


1Sa 14:43 Then Saul said to Jonathan, Tell me what you have done!-
This is the same question which Samuel rhetorically asked Saul when he condemned him to lose the kingship (1 Sam. 13:11). Yet Saul now assumes the authority of Samuel in asking the question. It is a psychological classic; the man condemned by a question then asks that question of another, seeking to condemn him too. Things like this are powerful internal evidence that the Biblical record is true, and these words were actually said and these situations really happened.

Saul is also seeking to emulate the question of faithful Joshua to wicked Achan (Josh. 7:19). But he has it all the wrong way around, yet again. For Saul was like Achan, precluding the people from the victory which could have been theirs.

Jonathan told him, I only tasted a little honey with the end of the rod that was in my hand, and now must I die?-
The Hebrew can also be read as him expressing willingness to die. But I suggest he phrases it like this, standing before all Israel, to elicit their sympathy and mass protest against his father's decision.


1Sa 14:44 Saul said, God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan-
This indicates Saul's insincerity. He calls God as a witness that Jonathan must die; when clearly, he has orchestrated the whole situation because he wanted to slay Jonathan from jealousy.


1Sa 14:45 But the people said to Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who has worked this great salvation in Israel? Far from it!-
They are alluding to the words of Saul himself, who had put a stop to the call to slay those who resisted his kingship (1 Sam. 11:13). And the principle holds true. If we are in awe at the great deliverance Yahweh has worked in His Son, there should be maximum forgiveness and no judgment of our weak brethren. Jonathan had expressed absolute faith that God would work with him (:6), and He did.

As Jonathan wrought great salvation in Israel in 1 Sam. 14:45, so did David (the same phrase occurs in 1 Sam. 19:5). As Saul tried to kill an innocent Jonathan out of jealousy of his victory, so he did David- thus Jonathan shared the sufferings of David, as we do of Christ. Another example of this will be found in 1 Sam. 20:33, where Saul tries to kill Jonathan with a javelin, as he did to David. Yet wonderfully, David seems to have counted Jonathan as if  he actually had been the champion against Goliath; he describes him as "the mighty" (2 Sam. 1:27), using the same Hebrew word translated "champion" in 1 Sam. 17:51 concerning Goliath. Likewise the Lord Jesus Christ shares his victory with us to the extent that he counts us as if we were the victors on Calvary. 

As Yahweh lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day! So the people rescued Jonathan so that he didn’t die- This is alluded to in Mt. 10:30; Lk. 21:18. See on 2 Sam. 1:23.
Paul speaks of the church as workers together with God (2 Cor. 6:1), probably alluding to Jonathan having "worked with God" here. Jonathan is seen as representative of us all. Our Lord too seems to have seen in Jonathan a type of ourselves. In the context of warning us that loyalty to Him would mean confessing him before men and conflict between fathers and sons, he encourages us that not a hair of our head will perish (Mt. 10:30 cp. Lk. 21:18). This is picking up the application of this phrase to Jonathan in 1 Sam. 14:45.


1Sa 14:46 Then Saul stopped pursuing the Philistines, and the Philistines went to their own land-
It could be argued that the extent of the victory over the Philistines was again hindered by Saul. For we get the impression that after his loss of face regarding Jonathan, he stopped pursuing the Philistines. And so instead of wiping them out, they escaped to "their own land". Which of itself is a tacit recognition that the land of Israel was not free of the Philistines.  


1Sa 14:47 After Saul had taken the kingship over Israel, he fought against all his enemies on every side: Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, the kings of Zobah and the Philistines; wherever he turned he defeated them-
However by David's time, he had to fight these same powers, and the situation at the time of Goliath indicates the abiding strength of the Philistines. Perhaps the record here reflects how Saul liked to see things; hence :52 reminds us that he failed to rid Israel of the Philistines throughout his reign.


1Sa 14:48 He fought valiantly and defeated the Amalekites, and delivered Israel out of the hands of those who plundered them-
Here we have an example, common in the Hebrew Bible, of a summary statement being made and then an explanation is given of how the stated situation came about. And so here we have the explanation concerning the Amalekites in the next chapter.

1Sa 14:49 Now the sons of Saul were Jonathan, Ishvi and Malchishua, and the names of his two daughters were Merab the firstborn and Michal the younger-
1 Sam. 31:2; 1 Chron. 10:2 read "Jonathan, Abinadab and Malchishua", whereas 1 Sam. 14:49 has "Jonathan, Ishvi and Malchishua". "Ishvi" may be another name for Abinadab; or we may note that the word means "and the second...", which would make sense in 1 Sam. 14:49. The genealogies of 1 Chron. 8:33; 9:39 also mention Esh-Baal or Ishbosheth; perhaps his name mentioning the "Baal" compound was the reason for its exclusion. Having such a name reflects upon Saul's lack of total devotion to Yahweh.


1Sa 14:50 and the name of Saul’s wife was Ahinoam the daughter of Ahimaaz. The captain of his army was Abner the son of Ner, Saul’s uncle-
God gave Saul’s wives to David (2 Sam. 12:8), which would’ve involved David being married to both a mother and daughter- for he had married Saul’s daughters. And this giving of Saul’s wives to David may not have occurred simply after Saul’s death. For David’s eldest son, Amnon, was borne by Ahinoam (2 Sam. 3:2), who was initially Saul’s wife (1 Sam. 14:50). Now this is not to justify sin. Adultery, taking another’s wife or husband, is all wrong. Let there be no mistake. But God at times sees the bigger, or longer, perspective, and tolerates things which we may quite rightly find intolerable. And if He loves us despite of our sin and failure- are we surprised that we are invited to show love to others in the face of their sin and failure toward us? A black and white insistence upon God’s standards being upheld in the lives of others, demanding their repentance for having hurt us, is what has caused so much division between believers. Whilst God alone will apportion the guilt for this, in the final, unalterable, ultimately just algorithm of Divine judgment, it’s worth observing that the fault for division isn’t always with the sinners, the wider thinkers, the freewheelers; but with the inflexible intolerance of those in power. We must recognize that there will be anomalies in the lives of our brethren- just as there are in the lives of us all (if only we would examine ourselves ruthlessly enough to see them). And in some ways at some times, God goes along with them. 

"Grammatically, “Saul’s uncle” might refer either to Abner or to Ner, but it is almost certain that it must refer to the latter, so that Saul and Abner were first cousins". See on :51.


1Sa 14:51 Kish was the father of Saul and Ner the father of Abner was the son of Abiel-
See on :50. Josephus reads this as: “And Kish the father of Saul and Ner the father of Abner were sons of Abiel”.


1Sa 14:52 There was severe war against the Philistines all the days of Saul, and when Saul saw any mighty man or any valiant man, he took him into his service-
This was in fulfilment of Samuel's inspired warnings of how Saul would pressgang men into his service. See on :47. He failed to rid Israel of the Philistines throughout his reign, even though he had been Divinely set up to do so.