Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
Day, while it was yet dark. (Josephus) --- This action would seem rash, and contrary to military discipline, which requires that the general should be apprised of any hazardous enterprise. (Calmet) --- But it is thought that Jonathan was directed by God, who granted him success. (Cornelius a Lapide) --- The Rabbins say, "every augury which is not like that of Eleazar and Jonathan, is null. If they had done ill,...God would not have heard them." (Kimchi)
Magron, a village between Gabaa and Machmas, Isaias x. 28. Hebrew reads "Remmon," which means "a pomegranate tree," and denotes a famous impregnable rock, with extensive caverns, where an equal number of men had formerly saved themselves, Judges xx. 47. (Calmet) (Tirinus) (Menochius)
Ephod; or was high priest, ver. 18. Achias is called Achimelech, chap. xxii. 9. (Calmet) --- He had succeeded his father, Achitob, in the beginning of Saul's reign, after the former had held the dignity twenty-two years. (Salien, the year of the world 2962.)
Uncircumcised. The Hebrews looked upon the Gentiles as unclean and they, in their turn, spoke of the Jews in the most contemptuous manner. (Calmet) --- It may. Literally, "if perchance." (Haydock) --- This does not express any doubt. The hero found himself impelled to undertake this work, but he knew not by what means God would crown it with success. He therefore prays to him in this manner, as Abraham's servant had done, Genesis xxiv. 12. He does not tempt God no more than Gedeon and Moses, who begged that the Lord would manifest his will by miracles. (Calmet) --- Few. These words are often repeated, (2 Paralipomenon xiv. 11., and 1 Machabees iii. 18,) and were verified, chap. xvii. 47., and Judges vii. 4. (Menochius)
This shall be a sign. It is likely Jonathan was instructed by divine inspiration, to make choice of this sign; otherwise, the observation of omens is superstitious and sinful. (Challoner) (Menochius) (Worthington)
Philistines, probably on the northern rock, as they afterwards climbed up that on the south, (Calmet) where they had not been discovered. (Salien)
A thing, making you pay dear for this temerity. Herodotus (v.) mentions, that the Peonians were commanded by the oracle not to attack the Perinthians, unless they were challenged. They did so, and gained a complete victory.
Day. Varro, &c., allow 120 feet, Columella only 70, for a day's work, so that these twenty men were slain in the space of 60 or 35 feet. Louis de Dieu rejects all the other versions, and would translate the Hebrew "in almost the half of the length of a furrow, and in the breadth which is between two furrows in a field," so that the enemy would be very close together. Literally, "almost in the half of a furrow of a yoke of the field," which seems rather to be understood of the length, (Calmet) if indeed it have any meaning. Protestants are forced to help out the text: "within as it were a half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plough." (Haydock) --- But a whole acre was the usual allowance. (Menochius) --- Hallet observes, "the Septuagint read the Hebrew in a different manner, and have rendered the verse thus, 'That first slaughter was....of about twenty men, with darts, and stones, and flints of the field:' I suppose the read, Betsim ubomauth." Kennicott adds, and ubgomri, as the Arabs still use gomer, to denote "a small flint." (Golius) (Haydock)
Miracle. Hebrew charada, "consternation or trembling," a panic fear, as the Philistines imagined that all the army of Israel had got into the camp. "In the terrors sent by demons, (or superior beings) even the sons of the gods flee away." (Pindar. Nem.) The earth quaked (Calmet) to increase the enemies' apprehensions, so that those who had gone out to plunder, hearing of the disaster, which report had greatly magnified, and all the people feeling this unusual and alarming motion of the earth, perceiving that God was fighting against them, and trembled. (Haydock)
Gabaa, where they were stationed to observe the enemies' motions, and to give notice of them to Saul, at Remmon, ver. 2. (Calmet) --- Overthrown. Hebrew, "melted down, (without courage) and they went crushing" one another is the narrow passes, (Haydock) and turning their arms against all they met. (Josephus)
Were not. Hebrew, "when they had numbered, behold Jonathan, &c., not" in the number. (Haydock)
Ark. Septuagint, "the ephod." (Kimchi, &c.) --- Spencer follows the sentiment of the Rabbins, and explains it of a little box, in which the ephod and pectoral were placed, when they were brought to the army. But what need of this explication? (Calmet) --- How the oracle was given is uncertain. (Menochius)
Hand. He prayed with his hands extended. Saul believed that God had sufficiently intimated his will, by affording such a favourable opportunity. "The best of omens is to revenge our country's wrongs." (Hector. Iliad.) (Menochius) --- Optimis auspiciis ea geri, quæ pro Reip. salute fierent, was the observation of Q. F. Maximus. Senect. (Calmet) --- Saul did not wait for God's answer, and therefore had nearly lost his son by a rash vow, and by too eager zeal. (Worthington)
Before; that is, for some time, as slaves. (Menochius) --- Having retired to their camp, to avoid the plunderers, (Calmet) they rose upon their oppressors, as Christian slaves have often done upon the Turks, when a galley has been engaged, and fallen into the hands of their friends. (Menochius) --- Camp. Hebrew adds, "round about," as if they guarded the baggage, (Piscator) or had retreated thither form the environs. (Calmet)
And there, &c. This is not found in Hebrew, &c., nor in many Latin copies. The Septuagint specify the number, (ver. 24) where it is not in the original. (Calmet)
Bethaven. They pursued the stragglers thither, as well as to Aialon, ver. 31. (Haydock)
Together. Which interpretation is more natural (Calmet) than the Protestants "where distressed,...for Saul had adjured," &c. (Haydock) --- Septuagint, "And all the people was with Saul, about 10,000, and the war was spread through all the city in Mount Ephraim, and Saul was guilty of great ignorance that day, and he adjures (Haydock; or cursed) the people," &c. He saw not that he was acting against his own interest. The sequel does not evince that God approved of his conduct. But the people were to be taught not to make light of oaths, nor to neglect the curses which their rulers should denounce. (Calmet) --- Food. Literally, "bread," which comprises all sorts of food, honey, &c., (ver. 25.; Haydock) but not drink, which might lawfully have been taken, as thirst is more difficult to bear. (Menochius) --- Salien (the year of the world 2964) defends the conduct of Saul, and condemns Jonathan.
Ground. Even still travellers perceived the smell of honey very frequently in that country. (Maundrell) --- The people use honey almost in every sauce and in every repast. Virgin assures us, that "bees dwell in holes under ground, in hollow stones, and trees." (Georg. iv.) The Scripture frequently mentions honey flowing, Exodus ii. 8., Psalm lxx. 17., and Job xx. 17.Mella fluant illi, ferat & rubus asper amomum. (Virgil, Eclogues iii.)
Sanctius says, that in Spain, streams of honey may be seen on the ground; and Maldonet[Maldonat?] observes, that the countrymen get a livelihood by gathering it from the trees in Betica, or Andalusia.
Enlightened. Extreme hunger and fatigue hurt the eyes, Jeremias xiv. 6. Sanctius saw a man who through fasting lost his sight, and recovered it again as soon as he had eaten. This is conformable to the observations of Hippocrates, and to nature. (Calmet) --- Tenebræ oboriuntur, genua inedia succedunt. Perii, prospicio parum. "Through hunger....I see but little." (Plautus.) (Haydock)
Land. Chaldean, "the people of the land." (Menochius) --- He speaks his sentiments freely. But we ought not to find fault, in public, with the conduct of the prince. (Calmet) --- The people might have eaten a little without stopping the pursuit, as they generally carried provisions with them, or might find some easily on the road, so as to run with fresh vigour, (See Josue x.) and make ample amends for the time that they were delayed. (Haydock)
Aialon, in the tribe of Dan. It might be about ten miles from Machmas.
Blood, contrary to a two-fold law, Genesis ix. 4., and Leviticus xvii. 14. The blood ought to have been carefully extracted and buried. (Calmet) --- This was another bad effect of Saul's rash oath. (Worthington)
With the blood, as you have done. (Menochius)
First. Saul begins to exercise himself in acts of religion, which only belonged to a prophet, &c. He thought he might do so in quality of king, thus consecrating a monument of his victory to the God of armies. It was perhaps the very stone on which the oxen had been just before killed for the people. (Calmet)
God, to consult him, whether the enterprise met with his approbation. Saul is too eager to follow his own prudence. (Haydock) --- He would not before wait for God's answer; (ver. 19) now he can get none. (Worthington)
Corners, to the very last; or all the princes, Judges xviii. 9.
Gainsayed him, out of respect. Saul gives another proof of his precipitation, in swearing; and the people, by this silence, acquiesce, not suspecting that Jonathan could have offended in what he had done. (Calmet) --- One of them, at least, knew that he had transgressed the order of his father, ver. 28. But extreme necessity might plead his excuse. (Haydock) --- They might be silent through fear, or reverence, without giving their consent. (Salien)
A sign, (judicium;) "pass sentence;" declare why, &c. (Haydock) --- Hebrew, "give purity." Shew who is innocent. (Calmet) --- Septuagint, "give the proofs" by the Thummim, which they seem to have read. (Calmet)
Jonathan was taken. Though Jonathan was excused from sin, through ignorance of the prohibition, yet God was pleased on this occasion to let the lot fall upon him, to shew to all, the great obligation of obedience to princes and parents, (Challoner) the sacred nature of an oath, and at the same time to give Saul a warning not to swear rashly. (Calmet) --- How must he have been afflicted, when he saw that he had brought his beloved son into such danger! (Menochius)
Die. We may here admire the respect which the ancients had for an oath, without seeking for any modification; and the blindness of Saul, who condemns his son with as much haste as he had pronounced the curse, thinking thus to honour God. The thing surely required some deliberation, and he ought to have consulted the Lord about it. The action of Jonathan was not criminal, and the former silence of God did not prove that he deserved death. (Calmet) --- If it had, the people would never have been able to have rescued him, no more than the unhappy Achan, Josue vii. (Haydock) --- If Saul had been more enlightened, and more humble, he would have concluded that God was displeased at him, and not at Jonathan. (Calmet) --- Yet Cajetan and Serarius find fault with the latter. (Menochius)
The people, directed probably by the high priest, who pronounced the oath null. (Salien) --- Ground. He shall not be hurt. (Menochius) --- With God. He has been visibly "the minister of God's mercy." (Septuagint) --- Die. They obtained his pardon. They ought not to have permitted the king's oath to be put in execution, as it was so horribly unjust. (Grotius, Jur. ii. 13, 6.) (Calmet)
Soba, in the north. (Menochius) --- Rohab was the capital of another part of Cœlosyria, 1 Paralipomenon xviii. 3., and 2 Kings x. 6. --- Overcame. We are not to judge of the virtue of a man from his success in the world. (Calmet) --- Under the reign of Saul, the tribe of Ruben overcame the Agarites, 1 Paralipomenon v. 10, 18. (Salien, the year of the world 2965.)
Amalec. The particulars of this war will be given [in] chap. xv., as it explains the cause of Saul's rejection, and David's advancement to the throne. (Salien)
Sons, who accompanied Saul in his wars. Isboseth was too young. --- Jessui is called Abinadab, 1 Paralipomenon viii. 33. (Calmet)
Achinoam. After he came to the throne, he had Respha, 2 Kings iii. 7. (Menochius)