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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

1 Samuel 14

 

 

Verse 1

JONATHAN’S ADVENTURE, AND THE ROUT OF THE PHILISTINES, 1 Samuel 14:1-23.

1. The young man that bare his armour — An officer much like the aid-de-camp in modern service, and usually a favourite of the commander.

1 Samuel 16:21.

He told not his father — For probably his father would have opposed such a daring enterprise.


Verse 2

2. The uttermost part of Gibeah — The outskirts of the city, or, as Keil supposes; the extreme northern end.

Migron — This place must have been in the immediate vicinity of Gibeah, but its exact position is unknown. The Migron of Isaiah 10:28 seems to have been north of the Wady es-Suweinit, and, if so, must have been a different place from this.


Verse 3

3. Ahiah — Here we meet again with the descendants of Eli. See note on

1 Samuel 2:33. It is generally supposed, and quite probable, that Ahiah is only a different name for Ahimelech, mentioned 1 Samuel 22:9; still, it is possible that Ahimelech may have been his brother, and successor in the office of high priest. The presence of the priest with Saul is here mentioned in anticipation of what is to be stated in 1 Samuel 14:18-19; 1 Samuel 14:36-37.


Verse 4

4. Bozez and… Seneh — These rocks were in the valley that lay between Geba and Michmash. The statements of this verse and the next are well explained by Robinson, (Bib. Res., vol. i, p. 441:) “In the valley, just at the left of where we crossed, are two hills of a conical, or, rather, a 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 Jeba, and the other towards Mukhmas. These would seem to be the two rocks mentioned in connexion with 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 this vicinity. The northern one is connected towards the west with an eminence still more distinctly isolated.”


Verse 5

5. Gibeah — Rather, Geba. See note on 1 Samuel 13:16.


Verse 6

6. No restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few — Jonathan was confident in the arm of Jehovah. He seems to have made this adventure a subject of prayer, as Abraham’s servant did the matter about which his master had sent him. Genesis 24:12.


Verse 9

9. Then we will stand still — For if they come to us they will discover our hostile intentions.


Verse 10

10. Come up unto us — This invitation from the men of the Philistine garrison they would regard as a sign from Jehovah — a prophecy of success. “It was not tempting God for Jonathan to fix upon such a sign by which to determine the success of his enterprise, for he did it in the exercise of his calling, when fighting not for personal objects, but for the kingdom of God, which the uncircumcised were threatening to annihilate. He did it in the most confident belief that the Lord would deliver and preserve his people; and such faith as this God would not put to shame.” — Keil.


Verse 12

12. We will show you a thing — We will make known something of importance to you. These words, like Ehud’s to the king of Moab, (Judges 3:20,) were spoken in irony, and concealed a deadly intention.


Verse 14

14. A half acre of land — Literally, Within about half a furrow of a yoke of land; that is, half a furrow’s length. A yoke of land is what a yoke of oxen would plough in a day. So the Latin word for acre is jugerum, from jugum, a yoke. This first slaughter made by Jonathan and his companion was, therefore, within a comparatively small space of ground.


Verse 15

15. Trembling — Fear, consternation, and horror.

The earth quaked — Because of the vast multitude rushing to and fro, and beating one another down. Perhaps, also, an earthquake.

A very great trembling — Rather, as the margin, a trembling of God; a supernatural terror infused by God into the hearts of the Philistines.


Verse 16

16. The watchmen of Saul — Who were stationed where they could observe all the movements of the Philistine army.

In Gibeah — We are not to suppose that all the watchmen here referred to were stationed in one spot, but that they were placed on different heights north and northeast of Gibeah; and, being sent out from Saul’s headquarters, they there made their reports. So we need not alter the reading Gibeah.

The multitude melted away — Dissolved, and perished by killing one another. Their swords were turned against each other, (1 Samuel 14:20,) for Jehovah interposed as in the days of Gideon, (Judges 7:22,) and set his seal to the faith of the youthful hero Jonathan.

They went on beating down one another — This, probably, gives the best sense of the Hebrew, וילךְ והלם, and it (that is, the multitude) went and smote. Gesenius renders: “They went on and were scattered, that is, dispersed themselves more and more.” Others, with the Septuagint, take הלם as an adverb, hither, and, supplying its correlate, render, went hither and thither.


Verse 18

18. Bring hither the ark of God — In his excitement and alarm on finding Jonathan and his armourbearer gone, Saul is about to commit as grievous a blunder as did the elders of Israel in a former war with the Philistines. 1 Samuel 4:3.

For the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel — That is, it was at Kirjath-jearim, (1 Samuel 7:1,) and in the possession of the Israelites, from whom it had not been taken since its return from the land of the Philistines. The Hebrew text ובני ישׂראל, and the children of Israel, gives no sense, and must be an error of the copyist for לבני or בבני, to or among the children of Israel. This need not be understood as meaning that the ark was with Saul’s six hundred at Gibeah, but, as explained above, in the possession of the Israelites. This seems to us the most satisfactory way of explaining this verse as it stands in the present Hebrew text. But there are grave reasons for doubting the integrity of this text, and for adopting the reading of the Septuagint, which has ephod instead of ark. The ephod, not the ark, was used for inquiring of God, and the expression, bring hither the ark, is strange in this connexion, but bring hither the ephod is common. See 1 Samuel 23:9; 1 Samuel 30:7. The Septuagint reads: Bring hither the ephod, for he (Ahiah) bore the ephod in that day before Israel.


Verse 19

19. While Saul talked unto the priest — The increasing noise and consternation of the enemy led Saul to countermand his order to Ahiah, and hasten on to the battle.

Withdraw thine hand — Desist from doing what I have told thee. The people must not linger now to inquire of Jehovah.


Verse 21

21. The Hebrews that were with the Philistines — Those who had deserted Saul’s army and gone over to them, and those whom they had taken captive during this last invasion. Instead of Hebrews, the Septuagint reads slaves; and it is altogether probable that in their wars and conquests the Philistines had captured and made slaves of many of the Hebrews. These, seeing the confusion of the Philistines, turned against them and made the confusion worse confounded.

Before that time — Before the time of this assault of Jonathan. Literally the Hebrew is, yesterday and the third day. Compare Joshua 3:4, note.


Verse 23

23. The battle passed over unto Beth-aven — Rather, passed beyond Beth-aven. Assuming that Beth-aven lay west of Michmash, (see on 1 Samuel 13:5,) we suppose the Philistines were chased beyond this place on their way to Aijalon. 1 Samuel 14:31.


Verse 24

24. Were distressed — Fatigued; tired out by the arduous fighting. For

Saul had adjured the people — This rendering implies that Saul had made his adjuration before the battle; but in the Hebrew the letter translated for is the conjunction and, ( ו ) and indicates that Saul made the adjuration after he saw the distress of the people. He perceived that his men were faint, but feared that any delay might turn the tide of battle.


Verses 24-46

SAUL’S HASTY ADJURATION, 1 Samuel 14:24-46.

Here again we meet with a display of the rash and impetuous spirit of Saul. He wished to make the most of his opportunity, and inflict the greatest possible disasters on his enemy; but his oath not only failed to accomplish this object, but even led to his own confusion when the people interfered and rescued Jonathan from his curse. Had the victors been permitted to eat freely of the spoil, they would in all probability have been able to have made the defeat of these dreaded enemies tenfold more deadly and disastrous.


Verse 26

26. The honey dropped — Kitto quotes Mr. Roberts as saying: “Bees in the East are not, as in England, kept in hives; they are all in a wild state. The forests literally flow with honey; large combs may be seen hanging in the trees as you pass along, full of honey.” Dr. Thomson says: “I have explored densely wooded gorges in Hermon and in southern Lebanon where wild bees are still found both in trees and in the clefts of the rocks.”


Verse 27

27. His eyes were enlightened — Languor and faintness of the body show themselves in the eye, and this was the case with Jonathan and the people. But this refreshing taste of wild honey reinvigorated Jonathan, and caused his eyes to sparkle with returning strength. There is some confusion here in the pointed Hebrew text. The Keri, after the analogy of ארו in 1 Samuel 14:29, and with many codices, and the Syriac, Arabic, Chaldee, and Vulgate, read תארנה, from אור, to become bright. But if we adhere to the Kethib we should change the pointing thus — תראנה . In either case the meaning is substantially the same.


Verse 29

29. My father hath troubled the land — Jonathan is quick to see the rashness and folly of his father’s oath, and to point out its injury to the Hebrews’ cause.


Verse 31

31. From Michmash to Aijalon — A distance of fifteen miles or more. Aijalon, the modern Yalo, was situated on the south side of a beautiful valley, a little to the southwest of the two Beth-horons, and is famous for its association with Joshua’s great battle at Gibeon and Beth-horon. Joshua 10:12.


Verse 32

32. The people flew upon the spoil, and… did eat… with the blood — This was another unfortunate result of Saul’s hasty oath. So voracious did the people become by the evening time that, in their haste to satisfy their hunger, they waited not for proper dressing and cooking, but ate the sheep and oxen with the blood, thus violating an oft-repeated commandment of the law. See marginal references. The reading of the Keri ויעשׂ, from עושׂ, or עישׂ, to fly upon, after the analogy of 1 Samuel 15:19, is to be preferred before ויעשׂ of the Kethib, for עשׂה gives in this connexion, no good sense.


Verse 33

33. Roll a great stone unto me — For the purpose of building an altar, whereon the peace offerings of sheep and oxen might be properly slain.


Verse 35

35. The same was the first altar that he built — Literally, It he began to build an altar to Jehovah. Compare margin. This, means, according to Grotius, that Saul commenced the building of the altar by laying the first stone himself. Hervey thinks he began to build an altar, but, in his haste to pursue the Philistines, did not finish it. But the previous sentence states that he did build the altar, and the previous verse implies that sacrifices were offered on it. The more probable meaning is the one conveyed by our version — this was the first altar, or the beginning of Saul’s altar building. The altar of the burnt offerings at Gilgal (1 Samuel 13:9) had been erected by others. It is very supposable and probable that Saul built many other altars to Jehovah.


Verse 36

36. Let us draw near hither unto God — Ahiah, the priest, doubted the propriety of the thing proposed by Saul, and would therefore seek counsel of God. Hither unto God does not imply that the ark was there among them, but has reference to the altar on which the sacrifices had been offered, and also to the urim and thummin on the breastplate of the priest.


Verse 37

37. Saul asked counsel of God — By urim and thummin.

He answered him not — Thereby indicating that he or the people had in some way incurred the Divine displeasure.


Verse 38

38. Draw ye near hither — For the purpose of casting lots.

Chief of the people פנות, corners, applied to princes and chief men as corner-stones or pillars of the state. Saul supposed that the blame must lie on some prominent man of his army, and he vowed his death, even should it be Jonathan.


Verse 42

42. Jonathan was taken — But Jonathan had not knowingly transgressed, and by the victory God had set his approving seal to the young hero’s Gideon-like faith, and Saul’s oath was rash, unwise, and without divine counsel; why, then, should the cloud of divine indignation rest upon the people, and why should the Lord God of Israel designate Jonathan as the offender? We answer, This taking of Jonathan by lot was not a designation of him as the special object of the Divine anger, nor did the people so understand it, as we see from their action in rescuing him from death. But though it convicted him of no guilt before God, it did show him to be the violator of the king’s oath; and a solemn oath, made by the anointed king of God’s chosen people, though it be hasty and unwise, must be vindicated in the eye of the nation as a thing not to be treated lightly. The taking of Jonathan led to an investigation of the whole matter of the oath, and resulted in showing that he who violated this oath was not so guilty before God as he who made it. And this result would further show that the sin of the people in eating with the blood (1 Samuel 14:33) was a consequence of Saul’s rash adjuration. The king himself, then, had been the cause of the trouble, and of Jehovah’s refusal to answer him that day, and with a fallen countenance and a saddened heart he returned from the pursuit of the Philistines. They who hold high positions of authority among men should be exceedingly careful how they deal with solemn oaths. In Israelitish history Saul’s rash adjuration was the last relic of the age of vows.


Verse 47

47. Against Moab — These enemies had sought to injure Israel in the days of Moses. Numbers 22.

Against the children of Ammon — As described in chap. 11.

Against Edom — The descendants of Esau, who had refused the Israelites a passage through their country. Numbers 20:14-21.

The kings of Zobah — Zobah seems to have lain somewhere between Damascus and the Euphrates, but its exact position has not been determined. In the days of David it was ruled by a single king, named Hadadezer. 2 Samuel 8:3.

Against the Philistines — Against these inveterate foes he carried on war, at intervals, all his days, (1 Samuel 14:52,) and at last was conquered by them. Chap. 31.

He vexed them — The Hebrew word thus rendered here is the Hiphil form of the verb רשׁע, and has been rendered variously. Septuagint, He saved himself. Vulgate, He was victorious. So Gesenius and Furst. Luther, He executed punishment. This last is best supported by the usage of the language.


Verses 47-52

BRIEF SUMMARY OF SAUL’S WARS AND GENEALOGY, 1 Samuel 14:47-52.

Several things occurred during this last Philistine invasion to weaken the people’s confidence in Saul. Nevertheless he was now established in the kingdom, and other successful battles served to strengthen his regal authority and power.


Verse 48

48. He gathered a host — Rather, he waxed mighty. He acquired mighty influence and power by his many successful battles.

Smote the Amalekites — As we read in the next chapter. But as we have detailed descriptions of the wars with Amalek, and Ammon, and the Philistines, how are we to account for the fact that the wars with Moab, Edom, and Zobah are only mentioned with a passing notice? We answer, The sacred writers seek to show us the divine as well as the human side in the history of the chosen people, and therefore they select those facts which serve this purpose best. Saul’s battles with Moab, Edom, and Zobah probably furnished no marked displays of Divine interposition, and for this reason our author paused not to describe them fully.


Verse 49

49. Ishui — Supposed to be the same as Abinadab, mentioned 1 Samuel 31:2; 1 Chronicles 8:33; 1 Chronicles 9:39.

Malchi-shua — This name is sometimes spelled Melchi-shua.

His two daughters — Of whom we read again in chapter 1 Samuel 18:17-28.


Verse 51

51. Ner the father of Abner was the son of Abiel — From 1 Chronicles 8:33, we learn that Ner was the father of Kish; so Abner and Kish were brothers, and Abiel, represented as the father of Kish in 1 Samuel 9:1,must be understood as a more remote ancestor.


Verse 52

52. Sore war… all the days of Saul — This statement is given as a reason why Saul pressed into his service every strong man of mark. In this he acted the part of a prudent general.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 14:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-samuel-14.html. 1874-1909.

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