1 Samuel 14
Barnes' Notes
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.
Now ... - Rather "and," since this verse is in immediate dependence upon the preceding. When Jonathan saw the garrison come out again and again, in defiance "of the armies of the living God," at length "upon a day" he determined to attack them.

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;
Under a pomegranate - Compare 1 Samuel 22:6; Judges 4:5. Saul was at the northern extremity of Gibeah, about an hour's march from Geba, where Jonathan was.

Migron, if the reading is correct, must be a different place from the Migron of Isaiah 10:28.

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.
Whether "Ahiah" or "Ahijah" is the same person as "Ahimelech the son of Ahitub" (see the marginal reference), or whether Ahimelech was the brother or son of Ahijah, and his successor in the priesthood, it is impossible to say certainly. Most probably "Ahijah" and "Ahimilech" are variations of the same name; the latter element in each alone being different, מלך melek (king) being substituted for the divine name יה yâhh. Compare "Eliakim" and "Jehoiakim" 2 Kings 23:34, "Eliab" and "Eliel" 1 Chronicles 6:27, 1 Chronicles 6:34.

This fragment of a genealogy is a very valuable help to the chronology. The grandson of Phinehas, the son of Eli, was now High Priest; and Samuel, who was probably a few years older than Ahitub the son of Phinehas, was now an old man. All this indicates a period of about 50 years or upward from the taking of the ark by the Philistines.

The Lord's priest in Shiloh - But as Eli was so emphatically known and described in 1 Samuel 1-4, as God's Priest at Shiloh, and as there is every reason to believe that Shiloh was no longer the seat of the ark in Saul's time (see 1 Samuel 22; 1 Chronicles 13:3-5), it is better to refer these words to Eli, and not to Ahijah, to whom the next words, "wearing an ephod," apply. (See 1 Samuel 2:28; Judges 1:1 note.)

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.
(The southern cliff was called "Seneh," or "the acacia," and the same name still applies to the modern valley, dotted by acacias. The northern cliff was named "Bozez" or "Shining." The valley runs nearly due east, and the northern cliff is of ruddy and tawny tint, crowned with gleaming white chalk, and in the full glare of the sun almost all the day. (Conder.))

The forefront of the one was situate northward over against Michmash, and the other southward over against Gibeah.
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.
It is remarkable that the epithet "uncircumcised," used as a term of reproach, is confined almost exclusively to the Philistines. (Compare 1 Samuel 17:26, 1 Samuel 17:36; Judges 14:3; Judges 15:18, etc.) This is probably an indication of the long oppression of the Israelites by the Philistines and of their frequent wars.

And his armourbearer said unto him, Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart.
Then said Jonathan, Behold, we will pass over unto these men, and we will discover ourselves unto them.
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.
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.
Though it is not expressly said, as in the case of Gideon Judges 6:34, Othniel Judges 3:10, and others, that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, yet the whole course of the narrative, especially 1 Samuel 14:13-16, indicates an extraordinary divine interposition.

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.
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.
We will show you a thing - Said mockingly.

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.
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.
Within as it were an half acre ... - The Hebrew text is extremely obscure. Hence, there is some probability that the true reading is preserved by the Septuagint which translates the clause "with darts and stones and flints of the field." Others take the words to mean: "in about half the time that a yoke of oxen draw a furrow in the field."

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.
The earth quaked - This naturally increased the panic to the utmost. Compare 1 Samuel 7:10; Joshua 10:11; Psalm 114:4.

And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked; and, behold, the multitude melted away, and they went on beating down one another.
Multitude - The word is in 1 Samuel 14:19 (margin) rendered tumult. It must have the same meaning here. The sentence is obscure and probably corrupt; perhaps it means, "and behold the tumult! and it went on" (increased) "melting away and beating down."

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.
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.
For "the ark," some read "the ephod," owing to the improbability of the ark being with Saul at this time, and from the verb "Bring hither" being never applied to the ark, but regularly to the ephod 1 Samuel 23:9; 1 Samuel 30:7. Moreover, not the ark, but the ephod with Urim and Thummim, was the proper instrument for inquiring of the Lord. If, however, the Hebrew text is correct, they must have brought the ark into Saul's camp from Kirjath-jearim 1 Samuel 7, possibly to be safe from the Philistines.

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.
Withdraw thine hand - i. e., "Desist from what thou art about." Saul in his impatience to join the battle would not wait for the answer from God, which he had desired Ahijah to inquire for; just as later 1 Samuel 14:35 he would not wait to finish the altar which he had begun to build. Had he now waited he would doubtless have avoided the error into which he fell.

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.
Assembled themselves - See marg. Many versions give the sense "shouted," which is far preferable, and only requires a different punctuation.

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.
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.
So the LORD saved Israel that day: and the battle passed over unto Bethaven.
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.
And all they of the land came to a wood; and there was honey upon the ground.
All they of the land - literally, all the land, probably meaning all those named in 1 Samuel 14:21-22, who now flocked to the wood as a rendezvous.

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.
The honey dropped - Rather, "Behold a stream of honey." The same thing may be seen in Spain, where in woody and rocky ground copious streams of honey are often found.

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.
Were enlightened - i. e., he was refreshed, when he was faint.

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.
And the people were faint - Read, "are faint," the words are part of the man's complaint.

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.
Hath troubled - The same word as was applied to Achan Joshua 7:25, and gave its name to the valley of Achor. This additional reference to Joshua is remarkable (compare 1 Samuel 14:24).

How much more, if haply the people had eaten freely to day of the spoil of their enemies which they found? for had there not been now a much greater slaughter among the Philistines?
And they smote the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon: and the people were very faint.
Aijalon. - The modern Yalo. It lies upon the side of a hill to the south of a fine valley which opens from between the two Bethhorons right down to the western plain of the Philistines, exactly on the route which the Philistines, when expelled from the high country about Michmash and Bethel, would take to regain their own country. Aijalon would be 15 or 20 miles from Michmash.

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.
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.
Sin against the Lord - See the marginal reference "u." But the prohibition was older than the Law of Moses Genesis 9:4. Compare Acts 15:20, Acts 15:29.

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.
And Saul built an altar unto the LORD: the same was the first altar that he built unto the LORD.
And Saul built ... - i. e., of the great stone which they had rolled to kill the oxen and sheep upon, he began to build an altar to Yahweh (see the margin); but he did not finish it (compare 1 Chronicles 27:24), in his haste to pursue the Philistines that night.

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.
Then said the priest ... - Ahijah, with equal courage and faithfulness, worthy of his office as "the priest," when every one else yielded to Saul's humor, proposed that they should draw near to God to inquire of Him. (Compare 1 Kings 22:7.)

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.
Asked counsel - The technical phrase for inquiring of God by Urim and Thummim, and applied also to inquiry of other oracles.

And Saul said, Draw ye near hither, all the chief of the people: and know and see wherein this sin hath been this day.
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.
Saul's rashness becomes more and more apparent. He now adds an additional oath, to bring down yet further guilt in "taking God's name in vain" The expressions in 1 Samuel 14:36, 1 Samuel 14:40, indicate the fear in which the people stood of Saul. None dared to resist his will.

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.
Therefore Saul said unto the LORD God of Israel, Give a perfect lot. And Saul and Jonathan were taken: but the people escaped.
Give a perfect lot - The phrase is obscure, but the meaning is probably as in the margin.

And Saul said, Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son. And Jonathan was taken.
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.
And Saul answered, God do so and more also: for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan.
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.
Then Saul went up from following the Philistines: and the Philistines went to their own place.
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.
Compare 2 Samuel 8:15. The preceding narrative shows that before this time Saul had been king in name only, since his country was occupied by the Philistines, and he could only muster 600 men, and those but half armed and pent up in a narrow stronghold. Now, however, on the expulsion of the Philistines from his country, and the return of the Israelites from their vassalage and from their hiding places 1 Samuel 14:21-22, Saul became king in deed as well as in name, and acted the part of a king through the rest of his reign in defending his people against their enemies round about. A comprehensive list of these enemies, including the Ammonite war which had already been described 1 Samuel 11:1-15, and the Amalekite war which follows in 1 Samuel 15, is given in 1 Samuel 14:47-48. There is not the slightest indication from the words whether this "taking the kingdom" occurred soon or really years after Saul's anointing at Gilgal. Hence, some would place the clause 1 Samuel 14:47-52 immediately after 1 Samuel 11:1-15, or 1 Samuel 12, as a summary of Saul's reign. The details of the reign, namely, of the Philistine war in 1 Samuel 13; 14, of the Amalekite war in 1 Samuel 15, and the other events down to the end of 1 Samuel 31:1-13, preceded by the formulary, 1 Samuel 13:1, would then follow according to the common method of Hebrew historical narrative.

Zobah - This was one of the petty Ara-roman kingdoms flourishing at this time (Psalm 60:1-12 title). It seems to have been situated between Damascus and the Euphrates.

And he gathered an host, and smote the Amalekites, and delivered Israel out of the hands of them that spoiled them.
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:
This enumeration of Saul's children and chief officers is according to the analogy of the subsequent annals of David and Solomen's reign. But the one here called Ishui, is elsewhere (marginal references) called Abi-nadab; and a fourth son, Esh-baal or Ish-bosheth, is here omitted.

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.
The only other "Ahimaaz" mentioned in Scripture was the son of Zadok the priest. The word "Ahi" (brother) is frequently found in composition in names in the High Priest's family, e. g. in Ahijah, Ahimelech. It is not improbable that Ahimaaz may have been of this family, as marriages between the reval and priestly houses were not unusual 2 Kings 11:2; 2 Chronicles 22:11, and perhaps it may have been owing to such a connection that Ahijah was brought into prominence by Saul. If there be any truth in the above supposition, it would be an indication that Saul was not married until after his election to the throne.

And Kish was the father of Saul; and Ner the father of Abner was the son of Abiel.
Read, "And Kish the father of Saul, and Ner the father of Abner, were the sons of Abiel." Ner was Saul's uncle.

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.
Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes [1834].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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