Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
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.7. Jonathan’s Heroic Deed of Faith
1. Jonathan’s victory (1Samuel 14:1-23)
2. Saul’s adjuration and Jonathan’s deed (1Samuel 14:24-32)
3. Saul’s first altar and unanswered inquiry (1Samuel 14:33-37)
4. Jonathan condemned and saved (1Samuel 14:38-45)
5. Saul’s battle and success (1Samuel 14:46-48)
6. Saul’s family (1Samuel 14:49-52)
Jonathan, one of the most beautiful characters of the Bible, with a kindred spirit, his armour bearer, goes forward to attack once more the outpost of the Philistines. Saul knew nothing of it. The King is surrounded by a small company, among them the relations of Eli. They had an ephod, needed for inquiry from Jehovah, but we do not read of its use. Jonathan and his armour bearer and their conversation are blessed illustrations of true faith. What simplicity it reveals! Jonathan knew the Lord and knew that He loves His people and therefore would overthrow their enemies. He tells the armour bearer “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.” And the armour bearer, whose name we do not know, but known to God, answered him: “Do all that is in thine heart; turn thee; behold I am with thee according to thy heart.” They were in blessed unity. They cast themselves upon the Lord and let Him decide what they were to do. And the Lord, as He always does, answers to their faith. In spite of the difficulties, the sharp rocks, which they had to ascend, difficulties which are always connected with true faith, they overcome the foe. The Lord was there, for it was His battle and the earth quaked. But twenty men were slain by the two. A great confusion followed. The multitude melted away as they beat each other, and the Hebrews which had been with the Philistines turned against them. It was the Lord who saved Israel that day (verse 23).
Then Jonathan and his armour bearer were missed. Saul made an attempt in consulting the Lord, which did not succeed. Saul’s adjuration was unnecessary and made in self-will. His oath is but the working of the natural man. In his blindness he thinks he can help along the complete defeat of the enemy by his legal injunction. On account of this foolish oath the people were in distress; legalism always puts burdens and distress upon the people of God. His own son Jonathan, ignorant of his father’s commandment, takes a little honey on the end of the rod and receives refreshment by it. Honey is the type of natural things and their sweetness. Their use in the right way is not forbidden. Like Jonathan we must touch them only with the end of the rod and take a little. If Jonathan had gone down on his knees and filled himself with all the honey he could eat, it would not have refreshed, but incapacitated him for the conflict. Jonathan was revived by the little honey he had taken, while the people fainted. But a worse result of Saul’s commandment happened. The famished people ate meat with the blood. Thus Saul’s restriction of a lawful thing led to the breaking of a divine commandment.
Saul erects his first altar, for he feels the need; perhaps less than that, he only fears the judgment of God. There is no answer from God when he inquired “Shall I go down after the Philistines?” What follows shows us again the impetuous and stubborn heart of Saul. Self-righteous and self-willed he is ready to slay his own son; the people rescued him from his own hands. What humiliation for King Saul!