Jonathan Defeats the Philistines
1 One day Saul’s son Jonathan said to his armorbearer, “Let’s go to the Philistine military post on the other side.” But Jonathan didn’t tell his father ⌊he was going⌋.
2 Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree at Migron. He had with him about 600 men 3 in addition to Ahijah, the son of Ichabod’s brother Ahitub, who was the son of Phinehas and the grandson of Eli, the Lord’s priest at Shiloh. Ahijah was wearing the priestly ephod.#Ephod is a technical term for a part of the priest’s clothes. Its exact usage and shape are unknown.
The troops didn’t know Jonathan had left. 4 There was a cliff on each side of the mountain pass where Jonathan searched for a way to cross over to attack the Philistine military post. The name of one ⌊cliff⌋ was Bozez, and the name of the other was Seneh. 5 One cliff stood like a pillar on the north facing Michmash, the other stood south facing Geba.
6 Jonathan said to his armorbearer, “Let’s go to the military post of these uncircumcised people. Maybe the Lord will act on our behalf. The Lord can win a victory with a few men as well as with many.”
7 His armorbearer answered him, “Do whatever you have in mind. Go ahead! I agree with you.”
8 Jonathan continued, “Listen, we’ll cross over to the Philistines and show ourselves to them. 9 If they say to us, ‘Stay where you are until we come to you,’ then we’ll stay where we are and not go up to them. 10 But if they say to us, ‘Come up here,’ then we’ll go up, because that will be our sign that the Lord has handed them over to us.”
11 So both of them showed themselves to the Philistine troops. The Philistines said, “Look, some Hebrews are coming out of the holes they were hiding in.”
12 “Come up here,” the men of the military post said to Jonathan and his armorbearer. “We have something to show you.”
Jonathan told his armorbearer, “Follow me up ⌊to the military post⌋ because the Lord has handed the troops over to Israel.”
13 Jonathan climbed up ⌊the cliff⌋, and his armorbearer followed him. Jonathan struck down the Philistines. His armorbearer, who was behind him, finished killing them. 14 In their first slaughter Jonathan and his armorbearer killed about twenty men within about a hundred yards. 15 There was panic among the army in the field and all the troops in the military post. The raiding party also trembled ⌊in fear⌋. The earth shook, and there was a panic sent from God.
16 Saul’s watchmen at Gibeah in Benjamin could see the crowd ⌊in the Philistine camp⌋ dispersing in all directions.
17 “Look around,” Saul told the troops who were with him, “and see who has left ⌊our camp⌋.” They looked and found that Jonathan and his armorbearer were not there.
18 Then Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the priestly ephod,” because Ahijah carried the ephod in front of Israel that day.#Greek; Masoretic Text problematic: “Bring the ark of God because the ark of God that day and the sons of Israel.”19 While Saul was talking to the priest, the confusion in the Philistine camp grew worse and worse. Then Saul said to the priest, “Remove your hand ⌊from the ephod⌋.” #Hebrew meaning uncertain.20 Saul and all the troops with him assembled and went into battle. They found Philistine soldiers killing their fellow soldiers in wild confusion. 21 The Hebrews who had been with the Philistines before this and had been stationed in the camp now joined the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. 22 When all the men of Israel who had been hiding in the mountains of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were fleeing, they also pursued the Philistines in battle. 23 So the Lord saved Israel that day.
Now, the battle moved beyond Beth Aven. 24 Israel’s soldiers were driven hard that day. Saul made the troops swear, “Cursed is anyone who eats food before the evening comes and before I’ve gotten revenge on my enemies.” So none of his troops tasted any food. 25 The entire land had honeycombs,#Or “The entire land came into the woods.” and there was honey on the ground. 26 When the troops entered the woods, the honey was flowing. But no one put his hand to his mouth, because the troops were afraid of violating their oath.
27 Jonathan hadn’t heard that his father forced the troops to take an oath. So he stretched out the tip of the staff he had in his hand and dipped it in the honeycomb. When he put it to his mouth, his eyes lit up. 28 Then one of the soldiers told him, “Your father forced the troops to take a solemn oath: ‘Cursed is anyone who eats food today.’”
Now, the army was exhausted. 29 Jonathan answered, “My father has brought trouble to the country. See how my eyes lit up when I tasted a little of this honey? 30 If only the troops had eaten some of the enemies’ food, which they found today. We would have killed more Philistines.”
31 That day they struck down the Philistines from Michmash to Aijalon, but the troops were thoroughly exhausted. 32 So the troops seized the Philistines’ belongings. They took sheep, cows, and calves, and butchered them on the ground. The troops ate the meat with blood still in it. 33 Some ⌊soldiers⌋ told Saul, “The troops are sinning against the Lord by eating meat with blood in it.”
Saul replied, “You have been unfaithful. Roll a large rock over to me now.” 34 Then Saul said, “Spread out through the troops, and tell them, ‘Each of you, bring me your ox or your sheep, and butcher it here, and eat. But don’t sin against the Lord by eating meat with blood in it.’”
So each of the soldiers brought his ox with him that night and butchered it there.
35 Then Saul built an altar to the Lord; it was the first time he had built an altar to the Lord.
36 Saul said ⌊to his men⌋, “Let’s attack the Philistines tonight and take their possessions until the light of dawn. And let’s not leave any of them ⌊alive⌋.”
“Do whatever you think is best,” they responded.
But the priest said, “Let’s consult God first.”
37 Then Saul asked God, “Should I attack the Philistines? Will you hand them over to Israel?” But he received no answer that day.
38 So Saul ordered all the leaders of the troops, “Come here! Find out what sin was committed today. 39 I solemnly swear, as the Lord and Savior of Israel lives, even if it is my son Jonathan ⌊who did it⌋, he must die.” But not one of the soldiers replied.
40 Saul told all Israel, “You stand on one side, and my son Jonathan and I will stand on the other side.”
“Do whatever you think is best,” the troops responded to Saul.
41 Then Saul said to the Lord, “O God of Israel, why didn’t you answer me today? If this sin is mine or my son Jonathan’s, Lord God of Israel, ⌊let the priest⌋ draw Urim. But if it is in your people Israel,#“Why didn’t you. . . your people Israel” Greek, Latin; Masoretic Text omits these words. ⌊let him⌋ draw Thummim.” Jonathan and Saul were chosen, and the people were freed ⌊from guilt⌋.
42 “Choose between me and my son Jonathan,” Saul said. Then Jonathan was chosen.
43 “Tell me,” Saul asked Jonathan. “What did you do?”
So Jonathan told him, “I tasted a little honey on the tip of the staff I had in my hand. And for that I am to die?”
44 Saul said, “May God do worse things to me than are in this curse if you do not die, Jonathan!”
45 The troops asked Saul, “Should Jonathan die after he has won this great victory in Israel? That would be unthinkable! We solemnly swear, as the Lord lives, not a single hair of his head will fall to the ground, because he has done this with God’s help today.” So the troops rescued Jonathan from death. 46 Then Saul stopped pursuing the Philistines. So the Philistines returned to their own land.
Summary of Saul’s Reign
47 When Saul had taken over the kingdom of Israel, he fought against his enemies on every side—against Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines. Wherever he turned, he was victorious. 48 He acted forcefully and defeated Amalek. He rescued Israel from the enemies who looted their possessions.
49 Saul’s sons were Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malchishua. The names of his two daughters were Merab (the firstborn daughter) and Michal (the younger daughter). 50 The name of Saul’s wife was Ahinoam, the daughter of Ahimaaz. The name of the commander of his army was Abner, the son of Saul’s uncle Ner. 51 Kish (Saul’s father) and Ner (Abner’s father) were the sons of Abiel.
52 There was intense warfare with the Philistines as long as Saul lived. Whenever any warrior or any skilled fighting man came to Saul’s attention, Saul would enlist him in the army.