|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
14:1-15 Saul seems to have been quite at a loss, and unable to help himself. Those can never think themselves safe who see themselves out of God's protection. Now he sent for a priest and the ark. He hopes to make up matters with the Almighty by a partial reformation, as many do whose hearts are unhumbled and unchanged. Many love to have ministers who prophesy smooth things to them. Jonathan felt a Divine impulse and impression, putting him upon this bold adventure. God will direct the steps of those that acknowledge him in all their ways, and seek to him for direction, with full purpose of heart to follow his guidance. Sometimes we find most comfort in that which is least our own doing, and into which we have been led by the unexpected but well-observed turns of Divine providence. There was trembling in the host. It is called a trembling of God, signifying, not only a great trembling they could not resist, nor reason themselves out of, but that it came at once from the hand of God. He that made the heart, knows how to make it tremble.
Verse 4. - Between the passages. I.e. the passes. A sharp rock. Literally, "a tooth of rock." Conder ('Tent Work,' 2:112) says, "The site of the Philistine camp at Michmash, which Jonathan and his armour bearer attacked, is very minutely described by Josephus. It was, he says, a precipice with three tops, ending in a long, sharp tongue, and protected by surrounding cliffs. Exactly such a natural fortress exists immediately east of the village of Michmash, and is still called 'the fort' by the peasantry. It is a ridge rising in three rounded knolls above a perpendicular crag, ending in a narrow tongue to the east, with cliffs below, and having an open valley behind it, and a saddle towards the west, on which Michmash itself is situate. Opposite this fortress, on the south, there is a crag of equal height, and seemingly impassable. Thus the description of the Old Testament is fully borne out - 'a sharp rock on one side, and a sharp rock on the other.' The southern cliff was called Seneh, or 'the acacia,' and the same name still applies to the modern valley, due to the acacia trees which dot its course. The northern cliff was called Bozez, or 'shining,' and the true explanation of the name only presents itself on the spot." Conder then describes how, "treading perhaps almost in the steps of Jonathan, after arriving on the brink of the chasm, or defile of Michmash, they were able to descend Seneh, even with horses and mules. "I noticed," he says, "that the dip of the strata down eastward gave hopes that by one of the long ledges we might be able to slide, as it were, towards the bottom. It is not likely that horses had ever before been led along this ledge, or will perhaps ever again cross the pathless chasm, but it was just possible, and by jumping them down one or two steps some three feet high, we succeeded in making the passage.... Though we got down Seneh, we did not attempt to climb up Bozez .... Horses could scarcely find a footing anywhere on the sides of the northern precipice; but judging from the descent, it seems possible that Jonathan, with immense labour, could have 'climbed up upon his hands and upon his feet, and his armour bearer after him' (ver. 13). That a man exhausted by such an effort could have fought successfully on arriving at the top can only be accounted for on the supposition of a sudden panic among the Philistines, when they found the enemy actually within their apparently impregnable fortress."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And between the passages by which Jonathan sought to go over unto the Philistines' garrison,.... One of which is called the passage of Michmash, 1 Samuel 13:23 and was that by which they went from Gibeah to Michmash; the other, which might be called the passage of Gibeah, was that by which they went from Michmash to Gibeah, and in effect was but one; and this was seized by the garrison of the Philistines, on that part of it which was towards Michmash; so that there was no way of access to the camp of the Philistines, which Jonathan therefore proposed to go over to and destroy, but his difficulties were very great:
there was a sharp rock on the one side, and a sharp rock on the other side; not that there was on each side of the passage or passages to the right and left a cragged rock, between which men passed as they went from place to place; for the position of them in the next verse shows the contrary; but there was "the tooth of a rock" (l), as it is in the original text; or a promontory or prominence on the one side towards Michmash, which stood out like a tooth; and another promontory or prominence on that towards Gibeah; so that both must be gone over to get to the camp, the only passage being guarded by the garrison; and indeed it seems to me there was but one rock, and two precipices at the opposite parts of it, and which stood between the passages, which precipices must be climbed over:
and the name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh; which, according to the Targum, the one signifies "lubrication", being smooth and slippery, and the other "treading", being more trodden and beaten: but Hillerus (m) derives both from clay, which seems not so agreeable to a rock; though in another place (n) he makes the former to have its name from whiteness, which is the colour of some rocks and clifts; and one should think the latter rather has its name from bushes, brambles, and thorns, that might grow upon it.
(l) "dens petrae", Pagninus, Montanus; "scopulus", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (m) Onomastic. Sacr. p. 73, 82. (n) Ibid. p. 43.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4. between the passages—that is, the deep and great ravine of Suweinit.
Jonathan sought to go over unto the Philistines' garrison—a distance of about three miles running between two jagged points; Hebrew, "teeth of the cliff."
there was a sharp rock on the one side, and a sharp rock on the other side … Bozez—("shining") from the aspect of the chalky rock.
Seneh—("the thorn") probably from a solitary acacia on its top. They are the only rocks of the kind in this vicinity; and the top of the crag towards Michmash was occupied as the post of the Philistines. The two camps were in sight of each other; and it was up the steep rocky sides of this isolated eminence that Jonathan and his armorbearer (1Sa 14:6) made their adventurous approach. This enterprise is one of the most gallant that history or romance records. The action, viewed in itself, was rash and contrary to all established rules of military discipline, which do not permit soldiers to fight or to undertake any enterprise that may involve important consequences without the order of the generals.
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