Bible Commentary

1 Samuel 14

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of 1 Samuel 14)

Verse 2

[2] 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;

Tarried — In the outworks of the city where he had entrenched himself to observe the motion of the Philistines.

In — Or, towards Migron, which was near Gibeah.

Verse 3

[3] 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.

Ahiah — The same who is called Abimelech, chap. 22:9,11,20, the high-priest, who was here to attend upon the ark which was brought thither, verse 18.

Ephod — The high-priest's ephod, wherein the Urim and Thummim was.

Verse 4

[4] 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.

Passages — Two passages, both which Jonathan must cross, to go to the Philistines, between which the following rocks lay, but the words may be rendered, in the middle of the passage, the plural number being put for the singular.

Rock — Which is not to be understood, as if in this passage one rock was on the right hand, and the other on the left; for so he might have gone between both: and there was no need of climbing up to them. But the meaning is, that the tooth (or prominency) of one rock, (as it is in the Hebrew) was on the side; that is northward, looking towards Michmash (the garrison of the Philistines) and the tooth of the other rock was on the other side; that is, southward, looking towards Gibeah, (where Saul's camp lay): and Jonathan was forced to climb over these two rocks, because the common ways from one town to the other were obstructed.

Verse 6

[6] 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.

Uncircumcised — So he calls them, to strengthen his faith by this consideration, that his enemies were enemies to God; whereas he was circumcised, and therefore in covenant with God, who was both able, and engaged to assist his people.

It way be — He speaks doubtfully: for tho' he felt himself stirred up by God to this exploit, and was assured that God would deliver his people; yet he was not certain that he would do it at this time, and in this way.

Work — Great and wonderful things.

Verse 10

[10] 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.

A sign — Jonathan not being assured of the success of this exploit, desires a sign; and by the instinct of God's Spirit, pitches upon this. Divers such motions and extraordinary impulses there were among great and good men in ancient times. Observe; God has the governing of the hearts and tongues of all men, even of those that know him not, and serves his own purposes by them, tho' they mean not so, neither does their hearts think so.

Verse 12

[12] 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.

Come up, … — A speech of contempt and derision.

The Lord — He piously and modestly ascribes the success which he now foresees, to God only. And he does not say, into our hand, but into the hand of Israel; for he fought not his own glory, but the public good. His faith being thus strengthened, nothing can stand against him: he climbs the rock upon all four, though he had nothing to cover him, none to second him, but his servant, nor any probability of any thing but death before him.

Verse 13

[13] 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.

They fell — For being endowed with extraordinary strength and courage, and having with incredible boldness killed the first they met with, it is not strange if the Philistines were both astonished and intimidated; God also struck them with a panic; and withal, infatuated their minds, and possibly, put an evil spirit among them, which in this universal confusion made them conceive that there was treachery among themselves, and therefore caused them to sheathe their swords in one anothers bowels.

Verse 15

[15] 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.

Field — That is, in the whole host which was in the field.

All — That is, among all the rest of their forces, as well as those in the garrison at Michmash, as the spoilers, mentioned chap. 13:17, the report of this prodigy, and with it the terror of God speedily passing from one to another.

Trembling — The Hebrew is, a trembling of God, signifying not only a very great trembling, but such as was supernatural, and came immediately from the hand of God. He that made the heart knows how to make it tremble. To complete their confusion, even the earth quaked; it shook under them, and made them fear it was just going to swallow them up. Those who will not fear the eternal God, he can make afraid of a shadow.

Verse 19

[19] 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 — Trouble not thyself to enquire; for I now plainly discern the matter.

Verse 21

[21] 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.

Which went — Either by constraint, as servants; or in policy, to gain their favour and protection.

Verse 23

[23] So the LORD saved Israel that day: and the battle passed over unto Bethaven.

The battle — That is, the warriors who were engaged in the battle, and were pursuing the Philistines. Yet it is said, the Lord saved Israel that day: he did it by them: for without him they could do nothing. Salvation is of the Lord.

Verse 24

[24] 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.

Distressed — With hunger, and weakness, and faintness, and all by reason of the following oath.

Avenged — As Saul's intention was good, so the matter of the obligation was not simply unlawful, if it had not been so rigorous in excluding all food, and in obliging the people to it under pain of an accursed death, which was a punishment far exceeding the fault.

Verse 26

[26] 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.

Honey — Bees often make their hives in the trunks of trees, or clefts of rocks, or holes of the earth; and this in divers countries, but eminently in Canaan.

Verse 27

[27] 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.

Enlightened — He was refreshed, and recovered his lost spirits. This cleared his sight, which was grown dim by hunger and faintness.

Verse 28

[28] 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.

People — They that came with Saul, whose forces were now united with Jonathan's.

Verse 32

[32] 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.

Slew — At evening, when the time prefixed by Saul was expired.

With blood — Not having patience to tarry 'till the blood was perfectly gone out of them, as they should have done. So they who made conscience of the king's commandment for fear of the curse, make no scruple of transgressing God's command.

Verse 33

[33] 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.

Transgressed — He sees their fault, but not his own, in giving the occasion of it.

Verse 36

[36] 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.

Draw near — To the ark, in order to enquire of God.

Verse 39

[39] 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.

Answered — None of those who saw Jonathan eating, informed against him; because they were satisfied that his ignorance excused him; and from their great love to Jonathan, whom they would not expose to death for so small an offence.

Verse 41

[41] Therefore Saul said unto the LORD God of Israel, Give a perfect lot. And Saul and Jonathan were taken: but the people escaped.

Perfect lot — Or, declare the perfect, or guiltless person. That is, O Lord, so guide the lot, that it may discover who is guilty in his matter, and who innocent.

Escaped — They were pronounced guiltless.

Verse 42

[42] And Saul said, Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son. And Jonathan was taken.

Jonathan — God so ordered the lot; not that he approved Saul's execration, verse 24, or his oath that the transgressor should die, verse 39, nor that he would expose Jonathan to death; but that Saul's folly might be chastised, when he saw what danger it had brought upon his eldest and excellent son; and that Jonathan's innocency might be cleared.

Verse 44

[44] And Saul answered, God do so and more also: for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan.

For thou, … — We have no proof, that Saul did not act in this whole affair from a real fear of God.

Verse 45

[45] 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.

With God — In concurrence with God, he hath wrought this salvation. God is so far from being offended with Jonathan, that he hath graciously owned him in the great service of this day.

Verse 47

[47] 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.

Took the kingdom — That is, resumed the administration of it, after he had in a manner lost it by the Philistines, who had almost turned him out of it.

Verse 49

[49] 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:

Ishui — Called also Abinadab. chap. 31:2. Ishbosheth, Saul's other son is here omitted, because he intended to mention only those of his sons who went with him into the battles here mentioned, and who were afterwards slain with him.

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