Bible: What Does 1 Samuel 14-15 Teach Us About Jonathan and Saul?
Jonathan and Armorbearer
1 Samuel 14--God-Inspired Courage
Weary of waiting for his complacent father to make a move, Jonathan (with his armor-bearer) takes the responsibility upon himself to attack the Philistine garrison alone without telling Saul or any of the six hundred (vv. 1-3).
The young men spy on their enemies from between the passes where two sharp crags stood as sentinels (vv. 4-5).
Trusting in Yahweh for victory, Jonathan decides to show himself to the Philistines.
This act of faith encourages his servant to follow his lead; the young armor-bearer replies, in essence, "Go for it!" (vv. 6-8).
Jonathan's plan of attack appears as follows: once his enemies see them, he will stay put only if they say, "Wait for us."
However, if they invite the Israelites to the camp for some "fun," he will climb up to them (vv. 9-10).
[Perhaps God communicated this sign to Jonathan in his heart; he probably would not have arbitrarily chosen to climb the hill unless the LORD had told him to do so].
After the Philistines mock Israel for his cowardice, they invite Jonathan up to their "party."
Hearing that response, the pair valiantly ascend the hill and proceed to kill about twenty men (vv. 11-14).
The Ark of the Covenant
Sin for Tasting the Honey
Do you think Jonathan sinned by tasting the honey?
Then God causes an earthquake to stir up the Philistine garrison, so that many flee the area (vv. 15-16).
Meanwhile, back in Saul's camp, the king discovers through a roll call that Jonathan and his armor-bearer no longer reside among his other followers.
He, therefore, seeks guidance from the ark of God (vv. 17-18).
[Why does Saul want the roll call read?
What did he think was happening in the Philistine camp?
Why does he have the priest bring the ark to him?
Is this merely more procrastination, or is he truly indecisive?]
When he hears even greater commotion among his enemies, Saul finally assembles his little battalion and witnesses Philistines killing Philistines (vv. 19-20).
Deserters and other cowards return to Saul's side, and even pursue the fleeing enemy (vv. 21-23).
As Israel chases the Philistines, Saul rashly forbids his troops from eating the spoils of war until he had won a complete victory (v. 24).
The unexpected occurs, however.
While passing through a forest, the soldiers find honey on the ground.
Fearing the king's curse, however, they abstain from tasting any of the sweet treat, that is, everyone except Jonathan, who did not hear Saul's oath (vv. 25-27a).
After Jonathan enjoys a little taste of the honey, a soldier informs him about the curse (vv. 27b-28).
Yet again, instead of showing fear, Saul's son exercises superior judgment, flouting his father's foolish decision.
He concludes that Israel would have won a greater victory if they had not been so weary from fasting (vv. 29-30).
The Sin of Israel
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Israel drives the Philistines from certain lands, and confiscates their livestock (vv. 31-32a).
Famished, they slaughter the animals but neglect to drain the blood (vv. 32b).
When Saul learns about this sin, he commands that they kill the spoil on a large rock, and thus drain the blood properly (vv. 33-34).
Afterwards, the king makes his first altar to the LORD (v. 35).
Then Saul plans a nightly attack on the remaining Philistines (v. 36).
When he consults the LORD for direction, however, the latter does not answer him (v. 37).
Deducing that sin abides in the camp, Saul assembles the leaders and determines by their silence that either the people or he and Jonathan have transgressed (vv. 38-39).
Therefore, he sets up a drawing of lots to learn the truth, putting the people on one side and Jonathan and himself on the other (v. 40).
After the LORD chooses the latter, Saul casts a final lot, and it comes up "Jonathan" (vv. 41-42).
Confessing that he had tasted a little honey, the son nevertheless stands up to his father's authority (v. 43).
Saul declares adamantly that his beloved must die (v. 44), but the people defend Jonathan and dissuade the king from committing another royal blunder (v. 45).
Israel returns home and the Philistines likewise go to their land (v. 46).
[God seemed to consider Jonathan’s “transgression” as sin, even though it demonstrated wisdom.
Though he did the deed ignorantly, for he did not know Saul’s commandment, he still sinned.
Disobedience to the law of the king is tantamount to sin against God, for the king was God’s mediatorial ruler on earth].
As the years pass, Saul wins victories over various enemies (vv. 47-48).
For an undisclosed reason, the author then names the king's children (v. 49), his wife, his uncle (v. 50), his father, and his grandfather (v. 51).
[Verse 52 seems to summarize one of Saul's "ways" as a king "like all the nations": drafting strong men into military service].
The Destruction of Agag, the Amalekite
1 Samuel 15--Incomplete Obedience
According to Samuel, Saul (as the anointed king over Israel) is responsible to obey the LORD [who is the true King of Israel] (v. 1). By the word of God, the prophet commissions him to destroy Amalek completely, animals and king included (vv. 2-3).
Saul therefore assembles a sizeable army and waits for the right time to attack (vv. 4-5). Finding Kenites among the Amalekites, Saul shows them mercy and allows them to leave unharmed (v. 6).
On the other hand, Amalek he slaughters extensively yet does not annihilate him, as Samuel had commanded; both he and the people spare Agag the king and the best of the livestock (vv. 7-9). When Yahweh sees Saul's incomplete obedience (which amounts to disobedience in His eyes), He regretfully informs Samuel that He has rejected Saul from continuing as king (vv. 10-11).
Fresh from a night of bitter weeping, Samuel confronts a jubilant Saul who, believing that he has won a great victory, has erected a monument to honor himself (vv. 12-13). The prophet, disappointed by Saul’s leadership weakness, responds tongue-in cheek, drawing attention to the noises of the "very much alive" livestock (v. 14).
Saul maintains that the people kept the animals alive, implying that he had nothing to do with it (v. 15; cf. Aaron’s excuse in Exodus 32:21-24). Seeing right through this blame shifting, Samuel tells Saul the LORD's judgment on the matter (v. 16).
Asserting that Saul's kingly pride has wrested good judgment and humility away from him, the prophet pointedly charges him with disobedience to the LORD's command (vv. 17-19).Still on the defensive, the king continues to maintain his innocence and shift any responsibility for wrongdoing to the people (vv. 20-21).
However, Samuel does not back down. He proclaims that God cares far more that His people obey Him than that they offer sacrifices to Him.Saul's compromise of His word has caused the LORD to reject him as king (vv. 22-23).
At last, Saul acknowledges his transgression, naming the fear of man as the reason for his disobedience (v. 24; cf. Aaron's sin in Ex. 32). Somewhat flippantly, he then pleads with Samuel to forgive him and help him in his worship (v. 25).
As Samuel turns away, he again replies that God has rejected him (vv. 26-27a). In desperation, Saul grasps the prophet's robe, and it rips (v. 27b). Even at this point Samuel does not lose his cool, but delivers a message regarding this action: God has irrevocably torn the kingdom from Saul and given it to someone better (vv. 28-29).
Finally realizing that he has lost a great privilege, Saul humbly requests that Samuel not shame him before the elders.Graciously, the prophet returns with him to the sacrifice (vv. 30-31).
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Samuel still has some unfinished business to attend to before he moves on to other matters.
Guards bring King Agag to him, and the prophet quickly dashes that ruler’s hope of a reprieve, hacking the Amalekite king to death for his many atrocities (vv. 32-33).
Though Samuel separates himself from Saul for the rest of his life, the prophet privately mourns for him (vv. 34-35).
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