Bible Notes Online - 1-Samuel 14 - ESV

v1-3: Jonathan had left with his armour-bearer, to attack a Philistine outpost. Saul was clearly growing more concerned. He had with him Ahijah, of the priestly line. He had an ephod; even so, Saul was essentially out of touch with God.

v4-7: Jonathan had to cross a steep valley to reach the Philistines. He had confidence in God, that He could save by many or by few. Jonathan described the Philistines as "uncircumcised" (see also 17.26, 36); recognising the wider spiritual issue at stake. Saul's lack of faith contrasts sharply with his son here. Jonathan had his armour-bearer with him, to encourage him.

v8-10: Jonathan looked to God to give an indication of the success of his attack.

v11: The Philistines knew that many Jews had hidden (13.6), and expected them to desert the battle.

v12-14: Jonathan saw the Lord's approval, in the Philistine's words, "Come up to us" (See v10). He advanced steeply uphill to the outpost with his armour-bearer. In this little attack, only 20 men were killed, compared to the massive army (13.5), but the impact upon the whole army was great.

v15-16: The initial victory, although small in numbers, had a great impact upon the whole Philistine army. Many fled.

v17: Saul had to count his tiny army to discover that his son and armour-bearer were missing.

v18: Saul had access also to the ark of God, but not to God Himself.

v19-23: As Saul was with the priest, seeking to find out God's will, the panic grew amongst the Philistines. Some Hebrews who had joined the Philistines now returned; some who claim to believe in God only show any commitment when it is safe and convenient to do so.

It is clear that the Lord God saved Israel from certain defeat.

v24: Saul's oath was unwise; it discouraged the people, esp. as they saw that food was available.

Saul's oath was selfish; "before I have avenged myself on my enemies", he treated the battle as personal, not national, let alone spiritual.

And Saul's oath was unnecessary, as the battle was turning to Israel. His soldiers were “faint” (v28) as a result of honouring the oath.

v25-30: Jonathan had already departed when Saul had given his oath, so Jonathan did not know about it. Jonathan, quite genuinely, took a little honey, and was refreshed. Presumably any soldier would normally have done this.

Since Jonathan was refreshed, we see the folly of Saul's oath. We also see that Saul and Jonathan's opinions differed. For Saul, victory required abstinence from food; for Jonathan, victory required some refreshment.

v31-32: Probably as a consequence of Saul's oath, the soldiers, now exhausted after a day's fighting, ate meat with the blood; they were tired and hungry.

v33-35: Saul showed his indignation at the soldiers' actions. Yet the real problem was his oath. His concern was not that the people had disobeyed God, but that they had disobeyed his oath. Yet Saul then built an altar to the Lord.

It may have been that the stone was there for Saul to stand on; he was already the tallest of all (10.23), and would have gained extra height from which to speak to the men.

It is not easy to identify Saul's motives perfectly; he had sought the Lord, through the priest, the ephod, and the ark, and now built an altar; he had made an oath, which led to unfortunate consequences. As with many people, there was an apparent keen faith, but a clear lack of wisdom.

v36-38: Saul sought to enquire of God, but he received no answer. His presumption was that there was sin in the camp.

v39-43: Saul wanted to resolve the situation, even at the cost of his son. The people all knew that Jonathan had eaten food that day. The casting of lots led to Jonathan as the guilty man.

v44-46: Again there was disunity, as Saul and Jonathan disagreed, The people sided with Jonathan, as he had brought about the victory. Saul's authority was evidently weakened by such events.

v47-48: Saul won other military victories; compare David's victories in 2 Sam 8.

v49-51: Saul's sons; Jonathan, Ishvi (Jishui), Malki-Shua; and his daughters; Michal and Merab.

v52: See 8.11-12, 16.