1-3and Saul was in Geba#14.1–3 Geba: Or “Gibeah”. In 13.16 and 14.5 the name “Geba” is used, while 14.2,16 have “Gibeah”. In ancient Hebrew writing there is only one letter different between the two words. with his six hundred men. Saul's own tent was set up under a fruit tree#14.1–3 fruit tree: Hebrew “pomegranate tree”. A pomegranate is a bright red fruit that looks like an apple. by the threshing place#14.1–3 threshing place: Or “in Migron”. at the edge of town. Ahijah was serving as priest, and one of his jobs was to get answers from the LORD for Saul. Ahijah's father was Ahitub, and his father's brother was Ichabod. Ahijah's grandfather was Phinehas, and his great-grandfather Eli had been the LORD's priest at Shiloh.
One day, Jonathan told the soldier who carried his weapons that he wanted to attack the Philistine camp on the other side of the valley. So they slipped out of the Israelite camp without anyone knowing it. Jonathan didn't even tell his father he was leaving.
4-5Jonathan decided to get to the Philistine camp by going through the pass that led between Shiny Cliff and Michmash to the north and Thorn Bush Cliff#14.4,5 Shiny Cliff … Thorn Bush Cliff: Or “Bozez Cliff … Seneh Cliff”. and Geba to the south.
6Jonathan and the soldier who carried his weapons talked as they went towards the Philistine camp. “It's just the two of us against all those godless men,” Jonathan said. “But the LORD can help a few soldiers win a battle just as easily as he can help a whole army. Perhaps the LORD will help us win this battle.”
7“Do whatever you want,” the soldier answered. “I'll be with you.”
8“This is what we will do,” Jonathan said. “We will go across and let them see us. 9If they agree to come down the hill and fight where we are, then we won't climb up to their camp. 10But we will go if they tell us to come up the hill and fight. That will mean the LORD is going to help us win.”
11-12Jonathan and the soldier stood at the bottom of the hill where the Philistines could see them. The Philistines said, “Look! Those worthless Israelites have crawled out of the holes where they've been hiding.” Then they yelled down to Jonathan and the soldier, “Come up here, and we will teach you a thing or two!”
Jonathan turned to the soldier and said, “Follow me! The LORD is going to let us win.”
13Jonathan crawled up the hillside with the soldier following him. When they got to the top, Jonathan killed the Philistines who attacked from the front, and the soldier killed those who attacked from behind.#14.13 Jonathan killed … from behind: Or “Jonathan attacked the Philistines with his sword, and the soldier killed those who fell to the ground wounded.” 14Before they had gone thirty metres,#14.14 thirty metres: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text. they had killed about twenty Philistines.
15The whole Philistine army panicked—those in camp, those on guard duty, those in the fields, and those on raiding patrols. All of them were afraid and confused. Then God sent an earthquake, and the ground began to tremble.#14.15 Then … tremble: Or “Then the ground began to tremble, and everyone was in a terrible panic.” Or “Then the ground began to tremble, and God made them all panic.”
Israel defeats the Philistines
16Saul's lookouts at Geba#14.16 Geba: See the note at 14.1–3. saw that the Philistine army was running in every direction, like melted wax. 17Saul told his officers, “Call the roll and find out who left our camp.” When they had finished, they found out that Jonathan and the soldier who carried his weapons were missing.
18At that time, Ahijah was serving as priest for the army of Israel, and Saul told him, “Come over here! Let's ask God what we should do.”#14.18 At that time … should do: One ancient translation; Hebrew “Saul told Ahijah, ‘Bring the sacred chest,’ because at that time it was with the army of Israel.” 19Just as Saul finished saying this, he could see that the Philistine army camp was getting more and more confused, and he said, “Ahijah, never mind!”
20Saul quickly called his army together, then led them to the Philistine camp. By this time the Philistines were so confused that they were killing each other.
21There were also some hired soldiers#14.21 hired soldiers: See the note at 13.7. in the Philistine camp, who now switched to Israel's side and fought for Saul and Jonathan.
22Many Israelites had been hiding in the hill country of Ephraim. And when they heard that the Philistines were running away, they came out of hiding and joined in chasing the Philistines.
23-24So the LORD helped Israel win the battle that day.
Saul's curse on anyone who eats
Saul had earlier told his soldiers, “I want to get even with those Philistines by sunset. If any of you eat before then, you will be under a curse!” So he made them swear not to eat.
By the time the fighting moved past Beth-Aven,#14.23,24 Beth-Aven: See the note at 13.5. the Israelite troops were weak from hunger. 25-26The army and the people who lived nearby had gone into a forest, and they came to a place where honey was dripping on the ground.#14.25,26 The army … ground: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text. But no one ate any of it, because they were afraid of being put under the curse.
27Jonathan did not know about Saul's warning to the soldiers. So he dipped the end of his walking stick in the honey and ate some with his fingers. He felt stronger and more alert. 28Then a soldier told him, “Your father swore that anyone who ate food today would be put under a curse, and we agreed not to eat. That's why we're so weak.”
29Jonathan said, “My father has caused you a lot of trouble. Look at me! I had only a little of this honey, but already I feel strong and alert. 30I wish you had eaten some of the food the Philistines left behind. We would have been able to kill a lot more of them.”
31By evening the Israelite army was exhausted from killing Philistines all the way from Michmash to Aijalon.#14.31 Aijalon: About 30 kilometres west of Michmash. 32They grabbed the food they had captured from the Philistines and started eating. They even killed sheep and cows and calves right on the ground and ate the meat without draining the blood.#14.32 blood: The Israelites were supposed to drain the blood from a butchered animal before the meat was cooked and eaten (see Genesis 9.4; Leviticus 17.11; Deuteronomy 12.23). 33#Gen 9.4; Lev 7.26,27; 17.10–14; 19.26; Deut 12.16,23; 15.23.Someone told Saul, “Look! The army is disobeying the LORD by eating meat before the blood drains out.”
“You're right,” Saul answered. “They are being unfaithful to the LORD! Hurry! Roll a big rock over here.#14.33 over here: One ancient translation; Hebrew “today”. 34Then tell everyone in camp to bring their cattle and lambs to me. They can kill the animals on this rock,#14.34 kill … rock: That is, up off the ground so the blood could drain out. then eat the meat. That way no one will disobey the LORD by eating meat with blood still in it.”
That night the soldiers brought their cattle over to the big rock and killed them there. 35It was the first altar Saul had built for offering sacrifices to the LORD.#14.35 offering sacrifices to the LORD: Even when animals were killed for food, it was often done as a sacrifice to the LORD.
The army rescues Jonathan
36Saul said, “Let's attack the Philistines again while it's still dark. We can fight them all night. Let's kill them and take everything they own!”
The people answered, “We will do whatever you want.”
“Wait!” Ahijah the priest said. “Let's ask God what we should do.”
37Saul asked God, “Should I attack the Philistines? Will you help us win?”
This time God did not answer. 38Saul called his army officers together and said, “We have to find out what sin has kept God from answering. 39I swear by the living LORD that whoever sinned must die, even if it turns out to be my own son Jonathan.”
No one said a word.
40Saul told his army, “You stand on that side of the priest, and Jonathan and I will stand on the other side.”
41 # Num 27.21; 1 Sam 28.6. Then Saul prayed, “Our LORD, God of Israel, why haven't you answered me today? Please show us who sinned. Was it my son Jonathan and I, or was it your people Israel?”#14.41 why … Israel: One ancient translation; Hebrew “give me an answer.”
The answer came back that Jonathan or Saul had sinned, not the army. 42Saul told Ahijah, “Now ask the LORD to decide between Jonathan and me.”
The answer came back that Jonathan had sinned. 43“Jonathan,” Saul exclaimed, “tell me what you did!”
“I dipped the end of my walking stick in some honey and ate a little. Now you say I have to die!”
44“Yes, Jonathan. I swear to God that you must die.”
45“No!” the soldiers shouted. “God helped Jonathan win the battle for us. We won't let you kill him. We swear to the LORD that we won't let you kill him or even lay a hand on him!” So the army kept Saul from killing Jonathan.
46Saul stopped hunting down the Philistines, and they went home.
Saul fights his enemies
47-48When Saul became king, the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Edomites, the kings of Zobah, the Philistines, and the Amalekites had all been robbing the Israelites. Saul fought back against these enemies and stopped them from robbing Israel. He was a brave commander and always won his battles.#14.47,48 won his battles: One ancient translation; Hebrew “hurt them”.
49-51Saul's wife was Ahinoam, the daughter of Ahimaaz. They had three sons: Jonathan, Ishvi,#14.49–51 Ishvi: Also known as Eshbaal (see 1 Chronicles 8.33; 9.39) and Ishbosheth (see 2 Samuel 2.8–13; 3.8–15; 4.5–12). and Malchishua. They also had two daughters: the elder one was Merab, and the younger one was Michal.
Abner, Saul's cousin, was the commander of the army. Saul's father Kish and Abner's father Ner were sons of Abiel.
War with the Philistines
52Saul was at war with the Philistines for as long as he lived. Whenever he found a good warrior or a brave man, Saul made him join his army.