1 Samuel 14

Chapter 13 ends with Israel under very harsh bondage and servitude. Israel was at the complete mercy of her enemies, the Philistines. They had no weapons of war, nor means to produce weapons. Israel had been completely disarmed both physically and spiritually.

However, we see in chapter 14 that though Israel was under the heal of the enemy, God had not forgotten about his people. The Lord always has a remnant, and in this case, that remnant consisted of only one man who was willing to move in faith, and one man to follow him. One man on the Lord's side is enough to accomplish any task.

Vv. 1-15

MH points out that it was the goodness of God that restrained the Philistines from completely overrunning Israel when they had the chance in chapter 13. The Philistines could have easily swallowed up Israel, but the Lord kept them in check.

It is an invisible power that sets bounds to the malice of the church's enemies, and suffers them not to do that which we should think there is nothing to hinder them from. (MH)

Psalms 76:10 Surely the {g} wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.

(g) For the end will show that the enemy was able to bring nothing to pass: also you will bridle their rage that they will not accomplish their purpose. (Geneva)

(See Ps. 76:10 in Psalms file.)

God uses one man, Jonathan, and his armor bearer to show that victory does not lie in numbers nor in human strength, but in his sovereign grace. Courage and faith take pleasure in breaking through opposition.

FOR ME, August 4, 2000. Note that God used one faithful man, Jonathan, and one man who was willing to follow him to bring about a great victory. It is so easy for Christian leaders to get discouraged because it seems that no one wants to unite together to follow them into the heat of the battle. Thought the odds were overwhelming and God's army under a lazy king, Saul, was resting when they had not even been working, Jonathan did what was open for him to do, by himself. His armor bearer did not even have a sword at this point. I am sure he obtained one as soon as Jonathan killed the first enemy. THUS, though I am only one person and may seem like I am working alone, God is not restricted. Our prayers should be that God would raise up others to whom we can pass our knowledge.

God's blessing upon two men motivated the rest of God's army to take up the battle.

Vv. 1, 2, Saul and his men were sitting back taking it easy, while God's people were facing a big battle with no arms nor weapons and a lot of discouragement. (13:6, 22.)

V. 3, MH makes a good point here with vv. 3, 18:

Samuel, the Lord's prophet, had forsaken him, but he thinks he can make up that loss by commanding Ahiah, the Lord's priest, to attend him, and he will not make him stay for him nor reprove him, as Samuel had done, but will do just as he bids him, #1Sa 14:18,19. Many love to have such ministers as will be what they would have them to be, and prophesy smooth things to them; and their caressing them because they are priests, they hope, will atone for their enmity to those ministers that deal faithfully and plainly with them. He will also have the ark brought, perhaps to upbraid Samuel, who in the days of his government, for aught that appears, had not made any public use of it; or in hopes that this would make up the deficiency of his forces; one would have supposed that they would never bring the ark into the camp again, since, the last time, it not only did not save them, but did itself fall into the Philistines' hands. But it is common for those that have lost the substance of religion to be most fond of the shadows of it, as here is a deserted prince courting a deserted priest.

Vv. 4-6, JFB points out that Jonathan moved against the Philistines contrary to all established rules of military discipline, "which do not permit soldiers to fight or to undertake any enterprise that may involve important consequences without the order of the generals." However, we see that Jonathan took orders from the Captain of the Lord's Army, as he laid the plan out before the Lord. Thus Jonathan did not go against the enemy depending upon anything in himself. He went depending completely upon the Lord to give the victory.

Vv. 6-10.

One man (Jonathan) decided to go against the enemy and one man decided to follow him regardless of the odds. The one man believed God could and would deliver the enemy into his hands no matter what the odds. V. 6, a key statement – for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few.

It is easy to believe that the Lord can save by many or by few. But it is particularly difficult to believe that in a particular situation, the Lord can save by us, who are very few.

Let this strengthen the weak and encourage the timid: let it be pleaded with God for the enforcing of our petitions and with ourselves for the silencing of our fears... (MH)

V. 7, Do all that is in thine heart. And Jonathan had in his heart to go against the enemy. He went with one goal in mind. Notice he was looking for and expecting the Lord to give the victory, so he was unconcerned about:

1) his dad home loafing under a tree.
2) the rest of the army hiding in caves, rocks and pits.
3) the lack of weapons of war.
4) the vast multitude of the enemy, 13:5.
5) the mockery of the heathens.
6) the unconcern of God's people.

We get more concerned with 1-6 than with what the Lord can do.

Vv. 9, 10, if..., then. There is nothing wrong with putting a matter before the Lord to see if circumstances confirm that the Lord is in the situation. Jonathan was confident in Divine Providence who would not only give him direction, but would give him victory.

We should ask here, "Where is the dividing line between faith and presumption?" I would say that the If, then situation Jonathan put before the Philistines made the dividing line. The Lord showed his presence in the endeavor by causing the Philistines to answer as they did.

V. 11, the Philistines could not imagine only two men attacking them, and they probably considered them deserters. So they made no attempt to hinder their way. Rather, they mocked them.

Notice the bad reputation God's people in general get from a few "bad apples." The Philistines, to their own demise, considered Jonathan to be like the others they knew, when he was not.

We should not overlook the fact that the Lord could have just as easily placed fear in the hearts of the Philistines, so that they would have fled without Jonathan having to enter into battle with them. However, the Lord chose to use the courage of one man and his assistant to start to defeat the Philistines. It again comes down to this – God uses people.

V. 12, Jonathan had only one thing in mind – victory for the Lord and their cause. He did not say, The Lord has delivered them into our hands, but that the Lord had delivered them into the hands of Israel.

He went with one goal, one weapon and one follower. (We have only one weapon that is safe to go to battle with, Heb. 4:12.)

He had one dream, one heart's desire and one goal in a life.
He had one heart set on seeing a great deliverance by God.
He saw, by faith, what God could do.
He saw how God could show himself strong, not how weak they were nor how hopeless the cause, v. 6.

What do we see? How strong the Lord is or how weak we are?

God is not restricted by how many are on his side nor by how many are against him. There were only two here, and only one had a weapon, and the other a willing heart to follow. God gave the victory over 30 thousand chariots and 6,000 horsemen and soldiers as the sand of the sea. (13:5.)

The only thing that will restrict God is that one man's attitude – what is in his heart. God can save by few or by many, according to his own desire.

Commonly throughout the Old Testament, God saves by the few. The weaker the few are, the more confidence they must have in the Lord, and the greater the victory the Lord can give as he does show himself strong.

FOR ME: Does it seem like you are the only one who sees the truth? I know it is only because of what the Lord allowed me to go through. God can make a great deliverance through me if the right things are in my heart– to see a great victory for him.

Jonathan went against the enemy by himself armed with one of the only two swords in the nation (13:22), and his confidence that the Lord would work through him.

Vv. 13, 14, as Jonathan went, God worked, and delivered the enemy into his hands.

V. 14, first slaughter, and the second was when the Philistines killed each other, and the third was when the Israelites chased them. (Geneva)

Observe what one man's faith can accomplish in the face of all odds.

V. 15, the Philistines trembled with a supernatural trembling. There was no need for the Philistines to tremble in fear of just two men, but God placed this fear in their hearts:

The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion. (Pro. 28:1.)

Note the ease with which the Lord can place his fear in the heart of man, and here he does that for two bold men who took a stand in faith.

Moreover, all should tremble at the prospects of God's vengeance against his enemies.

August 4, 2000, would it not be good for the Lord to place his fear in the hearts of the unconverted in our area of influence?

Vv. 16-23

Seeing the wild disorder in the enemies' camp caused by the death of 20 men in such a small space, Saul sought to find a cause for it; maybe one of his men had taken the chance, and was causing the discomfort among the Philistines.

I. The Philistines were, by the power of God, set against one another. They melted away like snow before the sun, and went on beating down one another (#1Sa 14:16), for (#1Sa 14:20) every man's sword was against his fellow. When they fled for fear, instead of turning back upon those that chased them, they reckoned those only their enemies that stood in their way, and treated them accordingly. The Philistines were very secure, because all the swords and spears were in their hands. Israel had none except what Saul and Jonathan had. But now God showed them the folly of that confidence, by making their own swords and spears the instruments of their own destruction, and more fatal in their own hands than if they had been in the hands of Israel. See the like done, #Jud 7:22; #2Ch 20:23. (MH)

I must admit that it is sure more comforting to have the "swords and spears," but God does not save by might, nor by power of human endeavors, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. (Zechariah 4:6.)

So now the question in my mind is this: "What separates faith and presumption?" I would suppose Saul was "presumptuous," believing that the ark among them would give the victory with little or no effort on their part. One would think he has learned his lesson back in chapter 13 when the ark was lost. On the other hand, Jonathan had faith, believing that the two of them could accomplish great things despite the overwhelming odds, if they would do the best they could with what little they had.

FOR ME: August 4, 2000, we certainly have very little with which to go against the enemy of false doctrine. Is it presumption to make such a move, or is it faith? I suppose that the "fleece" before God is the finances. If we have the money, do it; if not, don't. Though it sure does not appear so, by faith I know the Lord is leading in my efforts for his kingdom work here on earth. I should find great encouragement in Jonathan's exploits here – God used one faithful man and one follower to overturn a far superior enemy.

The ark was with the army again, but Samuel was not. See MH's comment above at v. 3.

Saul's request for the priest to withdraw his hand, v. 19, leaves open several thoughts:

I. The reason he was going to enquire of the Lord was for fear of the Philistines. He was not enquiring out of faith, or he would have checked earlier rather than sitting under the tree. He was now checking to see if he should go against them or not. He sees the confusion among the Philistines, and his fear is now gone. So he does not need to check.

How much like human nature; we will make time to communicate with the Lord in difficult times, when the Philistines are breathing down our neck. But when things smooth out, and the pressure is off, we withdraw our hand.

14:19 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, {i} Withdraw thine hand.

(i) Leave the Ephod alone, for I have no time now to ask counsel from God, #Nu 27:21. (Geneva)

Saul saw an apparent wonderful opportunity to overcome the enemy, so he decided he did not have time to check with the Lord. Maybe he felt that since the victory appeared so close at hand, he did not need to check with the Lord. On the other hand, Joshua's engagement against a strong enemy was cause for Moses to continue even more in prayer. (Exo. 17.)

How like human nature. The first thing that gets crowded out is our time with the Lord. Because the Lord does not move speedily in answer to prayer or because he does not answer as we want it answered, our "prayer time" is the first thing that goes when our time gets squeezed.

III. However, on the other hand, Saul may have perceived,

that the opportunity was inviting, and that God appeared to have sufficiently declared in favor of His people, requested the priest to cease, that they might immediately join in the contest. The season for consultation was past—the time for prompt action was come. (JFB)

The time for prayer is over, and it is time to get to work – it is time to put feet to our prayers, or the opportunity will be lost.

But we must add that when things are "falling together," it is even more important to seek the Lord's face and direction:

A little thing will divert a vain and carnal mind from religious exercises. He that believeth will not make haste, such haste as this, nor reckon any business so urgent as not to allow time to take God along with him. (MH)

Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. (Isa. 28:16.)

It is a foolish thing to cut the Lord out of the battle when things are going "our way."

Vv. 20-22, evidently there were some Hebrews who, for fear of the Philistines, had joined with the enemy. Now seeing victory at hand, those who had fled from the Hebrews out of fear, reunite with their brethren.

Christians compromise their stand for fear of the enemies of God.

The best part:

V. 22, as those who were sitting around discouraged saw the victories and saw God moving through the only one (Jonathan) who decided to go anyway, they wanted to get involved in the battle.

If we will keep a positive attitude and expect God to move, he will. As he does and others see it, they will get involved also.

Now that they saw victory ahead and the work already done (for the Philistines were killing each other), Israel's army sallied forth with great boldness. However, notice that there is no record of Israel actually engaging the enemy, except for v. 22, followed hard after them in the battle.

Note that our Jonathan, the Lord Jesus Christ, has already won the victory over the enemy, and we should have the courage of Jonathan's armor bearer, who, though unarmed, followed Jonathan into the heat of the battle.

Our prayer should be that we would have the boldness of Jonathan's unnamed armor bearer to pursue the victory already set in motion by Christ on the Cross.

V. 21, apparently some Israelites had feared the enemy enough that they deserted to the Philistines and had fled to hiding in the mountains. Now that they see the Lord moving, they rejoin Israel.

FOR ME, August 4, 2000. I wonder how many folks "deserted" my leadership because of fear of the enemy? PRAYER that the Lord will establish my leadership enough that people will want to unite with me.

Those that are remiss and faint-hearted indeed that will not act in the cause of God when they see it victorious, as well as righteous. Thus all hands were at work against the Philistines, and every Israelite slew as many as he could, without sword or spear; yet it is said (#1Sa 14:23), it was the Lord that saved Israel that day. He did it by them, for without him they could do nothing. Salvation is of the Lord. (MH)

Thus, according to MH and it will fit with the context, the Lord used Israel against the Philistines. However, Israel is not unarmed now, for they probably armed themselves with the Philistines arms.

I believe the victory over the church's enemies is ahead. The victory will be the Lord's doing, and I believe the Lord will even provide the enemies' arms to be used against them, e.g., the mass media, big business, &c. It was so in the past, that big business invested its prophets in farthing the Kingdom of God on earth:


V. 24 (Saul started the day under a tree.)

Though the people did not "take" the oath, they agreed to it by saying "amen" to what Saul said.

That I may be avenged on mine enemies, not the Lord's enemies. Thus Saul's oath was a result of zeal for himself and his own will and power – to protect his own position of power. It had nothing to do with the Kingdom of God.

Saul had told the people to fast that day. HOW SILLY. Fasting while sitting under a tree waiting. Fasting will not give the victory. Fasting must be combined with prayer, work and war. If he had been out fighting like Jonathan, that would have been a different story. But notice, Jonathan did not even know about the fasting, and he was the one out fighting, depending on the Lord. This is the very thing Christ said in his parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. Luke 18:12. I do all these things. Look how right I am with God.

Fasting is fine, and is encouraged in the Scripture, but fasting without war or work is a useless, formal missing of meals. God would much rather have someone eating, working and warring, than someone fasting, praying and loafing.

Sadder still is that Saul sought to credit the victory the Lord gave by the hand of Jonathan to his command to fast. There was nothing in Saul's policy that led to the victory; it was Jonathan's faith that led to the victory.

Saul's distressing law distressed the people, and thus hindered their ability to properly confront the Philistines.

Vv. 26-28, the people feared Saul's wrath if they violated Saul's oath, but Jonathan knew nothing about it, so he partook of some honey he found on the ground.

V. 29, Jonathan called his father's oath a cruel law.

Note: self-inflated, proud, arrogant leaders trouble the land with cruel laws they pass to suit their every whim. Like Saul, they sit in their padded chairs out of touch with reality, and pass laws that have nothing to do with increasing the strength or security of a people.

V. 30, as leaders, we need to let the people enjoy the ‘spoils' of a victory. When there is a big push or big day (vbs, &c.), the people need to be able to sit back and enjoy it, and rejoice in the victory.

V. 31, Saul caused the people to sin by passing some unreasonable ‘laws,' fasting in this case. The people then became so overcome by the natural desire that Saul had sought to control by passing a law, that they became more interested in eating than in pursuing the enemy.

Note that the people were "painfully conscientious in keeping the king's order for fear of the curse, but had no scruple in transgressing God's command" in eating the blood.

How like human nature: people will kill over a "civil" laws, but totally ignore God's laws.

V. 33, the sin was not in breaking the fast that Saul had laid upon the people. The sin was eating the meat with the blood. (Ye have transgressed.)

Roll a great stone unto me that the blood of the animals might be pressed out upon it. (Geneva)

V. 34, they brought the animals to him to kill. This was for the same reason that all animals were to be killed at the priest's door, so they could see that all the blood was drained.

V. 35, Saul built an alter to the Lord. This was the first one he build. Why did he wait so long?


A) he felt he was not ‘spiritual ‘enough,
B) that he did not need to seek the Lord's face – because he had been chosen king, he saw no need to seek the Lord.

*I know people who seem to feel that because they have been chosen to work for the Lord "full time," they are spiritual enough not to need to seek God's face.

Saul might not have realized he was so week until v. 33. Evidently he was in such a spiritual condition, he mistook fasting for the power of God, v. 28, when the power of God is based upon faith, v. 6.

The people (* above) seem to believe the more self-sacrifice they make, the closer they are to God, when that is not it at all – they see the results of those who are trying to walk close to God (maybe fasting might be part of that walk), and they believe if they accomplish the results, then they have the same personal and private relationship with God. (E.g., gain equals godliness.)

Of course, this goes into every area of the Christian's life. A person who is trying to have a close relationship, private time with God, will go soul-winning, tithe, be faithful in church, talk right, dress right (they will have the fruit of the Spirit, Gal. 5), maybe spend time in fasting, BUT THESE THINGS are not what makes the person right with God. These things are results of being right with God. (I was caught in this list of ‘dos' and ‘don'ts' for years.)

Then on the other hand, we have those watching who do not see the hours alone the other person is spending with the Lord, and they get the idea that it is neglecting of the body (Col. 2:23) that gets hold of the Lord's ear. So they believe it is soul-winning, tithing, faithfulness, right talk, right dress (Fruit of the Spirit, Gal. 5), fasting, &c., that make the person right with God, when in reality, those things are only the result, not the cause. As Paul says here in Col. 2:23, will worship – because a man can control his fleshly appetite, he is right with God, and nothing could be further from the truth. A person right with God will control his fleshly appetite, but doing these things does not make him right.

Ex. I know a person right with God will smoke, but because a person doesn't smoke doesn't mean he is right with God. I think you would rather have a smoking, faithful Child of God than a strong self-willed child who does not smoke.

Did Saul here feel that fasting under the tree would make him right with God? Jonathan was the one right with the Lord, and he was not fasting; he was working, going to do battle with the enemy.

It is very easy for a person to think he is saved who is able to control his fleshly appetite by mistaking the two – by mistaking the results for the cause. I did this for years. Because I was able to go on a 3 day fast, I felt I was saved, though I was not depending on that to save me (so I thought).

The devil will give us self-control if that will keep us from being honest. The flesh will gladly yield to the will of a man if that will keep the man from yielding to the Spirit of God.

Saul did not do anything under the tree that most of us have not tried. Neglecting of the body and its desires, and then mistaking that neglect for our spiritual relationship.

Vv. 37, 38, even in Saul's condition, he knew what to do when the Lord did not answer (28:6). Saul tried this again 38 years latter, only that time went to witchcraft. Here he was still tender enough to search for sin when he could not get hold of the Lord.

Note that many seem to treat the Lord as "witchcraft." Rather than sincerely seeking him so they can turn from sin and to righteousness, they see "prayer" as a means to satisfy curiosity.

If we feel like God is not answering our prayers, we need to look for sin.

V. 39, Saul (at this point in his life, 2 years into his reign) was willing enough to face his sin that he himself would face death, or his children.

If we really want sin exposed and the victory over the enemy, this is the attitude we must have: "God, show me the sin that is between you and me," and with an attitude that goes deep enough that we would even deal with it in the life of our favorite child.

V. 40, the people knew where the sin was, but would not tell him. Saul did not know. That is the way it usually is: others know, be out of fear will not tell us. Usually it must be the Lord that exposes sin before we will deal with it anyway. BLIND SPOTS.

V. 41, Saul was so convinced that sin was not in his family (so blind to facts) that he put all the people on one side and his family on the other. Can we imagine Saul's surprise when he was the one chosen and exposed.

The people knew, but let Saul go ahead and ‘do his thing.'

Note that Saul does not consider the foolishness of his oath, but lays the blame upon the people for not obeying his useless and foolish oath.

V. 44, Saul was so harsh with his self-made, hard rules that he was willing to kill his own son. How many fundamental Christians do I know just like this? They set rules long before they ask counsel of God (1] rules sen v. 24, 2] counsel sought, v. 37). Then they are willing to sacrifice their own family for the sake of rules that do not have their foundations in the law of God. They then sacrifice their families, and wonder what happened to the family. We need and must have rules and guidelines to live by, and they need to be strict and straight, but they had better be a result of seeking God's face and based upon the word of God, or we will kill our families.

V. 45, Saul was ready to put his own son to death in order to enforce his foolish and useless law, but the people rescued Jonathan, who, not knowing about his father's law, violated it.

Those in authority who are taken with their own persons will kill even their own families in order to defend their authority, but seldom lift a finger to defend the law of the Lord.

Vv. 36-45, Saul made the oath, an oath not according to God's laws. Jonathan knew nothing about the oath, and he violated it. When Saul sought to pursue the Philistines, the priest, not Saul, suggested they check with the Lord. When they did, they found that the Lord would not answer them. They then sought to discover why the Lord would not answer, and this they did by casting lots. Thus though he knew nothing about the rash oath, Jonathan was taken as the "law-breaker." He is held accountable by God to obey something he knew nothing about.

This gives us several implications:

Probably the most important oath is the oath our founding fathers took to serve the Lord God only as revealed in Christ Jesus. This oath has been violated terribly.

Then we get into families, and oaths made by fathers; churches and oaths made by pastors, and the list goes on.

Keil points out that because Saul's oath was not according to God's law, Jonathan was able to avoid the death promised by Saul.

V. 37, Sin here was the violation of a rash oath. God will hold us accountable for rash vows. (See my note on vows.) Ecc. 5:4-6. Moreover, more people than we can imagine are affected by our words, oaths and vows.

V. 46, we see that the Philistines escaped whereas they could have been destroyed had Saul been reasonable and sought Gods' face and let the Lord lead him. (v. 36.)

How many times do we let the enemies of God escape because we were so busy enforcing rules that we made which we did not even check with him on in the first place that we did not have time to pursue the enemy (vv. 31, 33)?

"Who cares if the world goes to hell, as long as we obey the traditions of the elders." Not: God holds us responsible for rash vows and words.

Vv. 47, 48, and delivered Israel out of the hands of them that spoiled them. Saul prospered in his battles because he was willing to deal with sin here, even to the point of killing Jonathan.

Either the enemy will vex us or we will vex him.

Who will control us? It all depends on our attitude toward that sin – willing to deal with it to the point of death, or turn to other means to accomplish the same end as Saul did 38 years latter (28:6)? I think this is the last time Saul is willing to face up to his sin, and even this time, it was over some silly rule, oath, he made while sitting under a tree (24, v. 2).

From here on (ch. 15), he tries to blame others for his sins and failures.

If Saul had only kept this humble attitude about sin (v. 44), even though sin was over some silly, unthought out oath, he would have had a reign like David; in fact, there would have been no need for David to be raised up. (15:17. Of course, the rule had to go to the tribe of Judah, according to God's word.)

If we do not do the job, God will find someone who will. How much better for us and our families, generations to come, if we will keep the right attitude about sin. God can and will put up with even our foolish oaths and vows, and use us to vex his enemies, if we will keep the right attitude about sin, even foolish sins. He knows and remembers we are but dust (Ps. 103:14), and that we will fail to clear things with him, but if we will only keep the right attitude about sin (humble), he can use us. Only like Saul though, when we start blaming others for our sin, we are done for, even though we will give a superficial confession of sin (15:24).

Why can we not learn from Saul and others? Look at what they had to go through to leave us an example.

How I thank the Lord he does remember that I am but dust. I will do a book full of things foolishly without checking with him, but God help me to keep the right attitude about those foolish sins.

Like Saul, might God see fit to use me to vex his enemies and deliver some of his people from the enemies. I am much more like Saul than like David. But if I can keep 14:44 in my heart and attitude, God can use me to deliver his people out of the hands of the spoilers. (Pro 28:13, 14 fits here.)

I could probably never be like David because of my background of chasing "assess in the wilderness (9:3)," but I can be like Saul in the first couple years when God worked through him.

We have some kids who can be like David. As they grow up shut off from the world in Christian Schools, learning about God and tending sheep, they can go on to do great things that Saul could never do.

One man
One weapon
One goal
One follower. Kept his eyes on the power of the Lord, and not on the weakness of the men hiding in caves, bushes and under a tree.
Lord use one man to deliver.

Saul dealt with sin, and God used him to vex his enemies. If we will deal with sin, we also can vex God's enemies.

Saul made a rash oath, but God held him accountable for it.

V. 52, Samuel has forewarned (8:11) that there would be continual war under a king. If they had continued under the Lord as their king, there would have been no need for a "standing" army.