Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Tim. 2:15

King James AV1611


First Samuel

First Samuel was taught by Dr. James Modlish


Chapter Fourteen




"I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women." - (2 Sam. 1:26)

The life of Jonathan falls naturally into three separate time periods. But before we give a short summary of these, we must note the meaning of this young man's name. The name Jonathan means "Jehovah has given." Jonathan was the eldest son of Saul, first king of Israel.

Jonathan appears on the scene as the right hand and lieutenant of his father in his early struggles to ward off the hostile tribes around them. Initially the Israelites were divided into two small armies, Saul retaining 2,000 and making Michmash his headquarters, the rest being stationed at Gibeah under Jonathan, some five miles away. Here Saul does not seem to have felt himself strong enough to commence hostilities against the Philistines (for obvious numerical reasons) and took means to increase the forces at his disposal. In spite of the tremendous odds against the Israelites, Jonathan, accompanied only by his armor-bearer, comes against the Philistines at Gibeah. Jonathan and his armor-bearer are victorious and this precipitates a general engagement with the main body of the Philistines. The completeness of the victory was only hampered by the fact that Saul exacted a fast amongst the Israelites during the heat of the battle, which served to have some severely negative effects. As the order to fast is unwittingly broken by Jonathan, Saul wishes to have him executed; but this the people refused to allow, as they clearly recognized that the credit of the victory was due to the energetic action of Jonathan in striking before the enemy had time to concentrate.

The second period of history is that of the friendship between Jonathan and David. Jonathan's devotion to David was such that he not only took his part against his father, Saul, in chapters (18 and 19), but was willing to surrender to him his undoubted claim to become Saul's successor. Their last meeting took place in the desert of Ziph to the south of Hebron, some time after David had been driven to outlawry.

The third phase of Jonathan's life is that of the exile of David. During the conflict between his father, Saul I and his friend, David, Jonathan remained uncommitted to either of the men as far as the dispute was concerned, yet remained both a faithful son and loyal friend to these respective persons. We hear very little of Jonathan until the encroachments of the Philistines once more compelled Saul to leave the pursuit of the lesser enemy (David) in order to defend himself against the greater. Saul's last campaign was short and decisive; it ended in the defeat of Gilboa and the death of himself and his sons.

Jonathan appears to be one of the finest men that lived in biblical history. His character is, as far as our knowledge goes, nearly perfect. He was athletic and brave. He could keep his plans secret when secrecy was necessary in order to carry them to a successful issue, and could decide what course of action to follow and act upon it instantly.

Jonathan's independence and capacity for acting on his own responsibility were combined with devotion to his father. While holding his own opinion and taking his own course, he conformed as far as possible to his father's views and wishes. Filial duty could not have been more severely tested than it was in Jonathan's case but his conduct toward both his father and his friend is above criticism. Only on one occasion did his anger get the better of him (20:34), when under gross provocation, Saul impugned the honor of Jonathan's mother, and attempted to take his life.

But it is as the befriender of David that Jonathan will always be remembered. For all time, he is the type of the very perfect friend, as well as the chivalrous knight. His devotion to David was altogether human; had it been dictated by a superstitious belief in David's testing as the future ruler of his people, that belief would have been shared by Saul, which was not the case. In disinterestedness and willingness to efface his own claims and give up his own titles, the conduct of Jonathan is unsurpassed, and presents a pleasing contrast to some of the characters whom we meet in the Bible. Jonathan preferred to serve rather than command. Jonathan and David stand for the highest ideal of human friendship.

We may be sure that Jonathan won the affection of the people. His armor- bearer was ready to follow him anywhere. David's devotion to him seems to have been sincere, although it unfortunately coincided with his own self- interest.

Jonathan's sons were, in common with his brother's, killed in the wars. One alone, Meribbaal (Mephibosheth), survived. Jonathan's posterity through him lasted several generations. A table of them is given in (1 Chron. 8:33ff; 9:40ff) (ref. to 2 Sam. 9:12). They were famous soldiers and were, like their ancestors, distinguished in the use of the bow, (1 Chron. 8:40).




II. MICHMASH - (19-23)



Jonathan is one of those unusually refreshing characters that we find in the word of God. He was an aggressive young man who did not wait around for things to happen. He made them happen.

Jonathan was also a man of faith. He could not help but see God's hand in the events surrounding him. "It may be that the Lord will work for us." Numerous times he put his life on the line, affording God the opportunity to prove presence and concern. He also built the same type of faith and trust in those with whom he chose to associate (vs. 7).

In (vs. 8), Jonathan "puts out a fleece," but it's not the kind of fleece that most people would use. In either of the two possible answers, Jonathan puts himself in the position of being killed' Most "Christian fleece" are used to ask God to show us something we already know we ought to do. In other words, many of these "fleeces" are nothing more than pious excuses for shirking responsibility.

Jonathan and the armor-bearer are not only outnumbered, but they fight at a strategic disadvantage; fighting uphill in hand to hand combat severely handicaps an aggressor.

Note that in (vs. 12), Jonathan is only assured that God has delivered the Philistines "into the hand of Israel." This was no assurance that he himself would survive the battle.

The Lord gave Jonathan and the armor-bearer the first twenty and then God intervened "...and the earth quaked." "It may be..." - yes He did!

The Israelite forward observers are shocked to see the battle rage and they have not as yet engaged the enemy! "...The multitude melted away, and they went on beating down one another..." This is where the colloquialism "Michmash" come from although the word "Michmash" means "hidden."

Saul does what comes naturally; he asks that the ark be brought to the front (maybe a little superstitious on his part). He then realizes that the battle is already going in their favor and they have not yet begun to fight! Apparently the ark is not needed (vs. 19), and Saul directs that it be returned by the priest.


II. MICHMASH - (19-23)

Someone once said in reference to this section, "God doesn't need any more generals, He needs more armor-bearers." God needs men and women who are willing to labor in obscurity. The armor-bearer is never named; this is reminiscent of those like the Shunammite woman of (2 Kings). God calls her a "great woman," but we don't know who she was.

The battle resembles that of (Judg. 7) when the famous Gideon's 300 defeated the Midianite army. See (2 Chron. 20:23).

The "fair-weather friends" begin to return. Note that the defectors of (vs. 21,22) decide that they are on the wrong side! See (Judg. 7:23). The vast majority of humanity is uncommitted to any cause. Most look selfishly for the best opportunity; loyalty, nationalism, patriotism, fidelity and commitment mean nothing to them.

Once again, we are reminded that God is not limited to human solutions. Men use weapons to settle their disagreements, but God is not restrained "to save by many or few." He has the whole realm of nature in His arsenal. The Lord uses bees, water, wind, fire, and earthquakes to accomplish his self-appointed tasks. "So the Lord saved Israel that day...."



Saul makes a very crucial mistake in the heat of the battle. He sees the battle as a personal attack upon himself. He loses sight of the overall plan of God in the nation-Israel. Although Saul calls them "mine enemies," they weren't his personal enemies. Leadership and authority have gone to Saul's head. As big as Saul's helmet was, it was now a tight fit.

Saul acts irrationally and calls a fast in the heat of the battle. This is no time to be short on energy. Good combat troops are well trained, well equipped, and well fed. A little food can go a long way in the combat infantryman's stomach. He imposes a contrived curse upon the people, and the troops suffer for the foolishness and conceit of their leader, (vs. 28,31).

Jonathan ignorantly violates his father's command. He tastes some honey from a honeycomb and "his eyes were enlightened" (vs. 27,29). The term is used in the sense of (Gen. 3:5,7); he knew he was guilty. It is worthy of note that while Saul was imposing rules and regulations, his son Jonathan was busy fighting the battle' Rules and regulations should be made only when necessary. Excessive legislation costs money and time in administration. Take a look at the federal government. The word of God is an ample guidebook for any human civilization to direct and protect itself. It is when man takes exception to God's law that he causes a new situation that requires one or two additional laws to control. The results are constant change, waste and inequity!

In this case Saul's legislation invited the people to violate God's legislation "...and the people did eat them with the blood." Of course, this is the natural result of tampering with God's order - eventual contradiction.



Everyone makes mistakes; surely this is one of the marks of human nature. Yet, the fool is the man who makes the same mistake twice, (1 Sam. 13:8-14). Saul not only takes it upon himself to offer the sacrifice for the gross sin of the people, but he also changes the appointed place of worship according to Deuteronomy 12:13,14. Man has an uncanny ability to overlook and justify his own sin, while going out of his way to condemn or cover for another's transgressions. "Don't do as I do, do as I say."



"And Saul asked counsel of God ... But he answered him not that day." Saul is reminded by the priest that he needs to consult the Lord (vs. 36). Saul goes to the Lord and draws a blank. Why should God respond to Saul who has already disregarded His counsel? People are funny. They think they can pick and choose God's counsel as they would sort through junk at a garage sale. They take only what fits and is priced right! God will not allow a man to "shop" His commandments! No answer comes; Saul must know that he has stepped from the tepid to the hot water. God does not stand as a servant at our beck and call ... when He calls we are to answer!

"For as the Lord liveth..." and he does (vs. 39). These are strong words. Saul brings a curse to bear on the guilty party, even if it is Jonathan, his beloved son, "he shall surely die." The scripture says that we shall give an account for every idle word. The Lord's name should not be used lightly in relationship to vows and promises. Let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay.

"But there was not a man among all the people that answered him." There are certainly times when anything one would say would be out of place. Nothing can help the situation. Saul has temporarily lost the respect of his people and communications have broken down. When communication is cut off with God in the Christian's life, it begins to affect every other personal relationship.

The LXX (Septuagint) changes the reading of our A.V. 1611 in (vs. 41). "And Saul said, 0 Jehovah, God of Israel, why hast thou not answered thy servant this day? If the iniquity be in me or in Jonathan my son, Jehovah, God of Israel, give Urim; but if thou shouldest say that the iniquity is in thy people Israel, give Thummim. And Saul and Jonathan were taken by lot, and the people escaped."

This rendering is full of foolishness. In the first place, the expression "taken by lot" indicates that a lot has been cast or drawn. This had nothing to do with the ephod. The ephod was for a man to "inquire at" See (2 Sam. 21:1; 1 Sam. 23:2,4,6,9; Ex. 28:30). It had nothing to do with casting lots. "Lots" were stones cast into the lap (Prov. 1:14; 16:33).

The people were generally aware of the foolishness of Saul, yet no one dared to be openly critical. They could see that Saul had knowledgeably violated a God-made law while Jonathan had ignorantly violated a man-made law. Justice would not be served in the execution of Jonathan. Saul is willing to follow through with the judgment, but the flow of public opinion rescues Jonathan from the consequences of his deed.



Often, after a ruler or nation has been rejected by the Lord, he or it still continues to go on to have victories for a time. There seems to be a period of overlap. Just because the Lord is using you does not necessarily mean that all is right between God and you. Some people think that service is spirituality. Service is a result of spirituality.

Names are important to God. At this time he stops and lists the names of the sons of Saul along with other members of his family. Sometimes we think that God has forgotten us. But God in his omniscience has not lost consciousness of any one of us even for a second. He knows our names; He knows us better than we know ourselves. Two important characters are introduced that will play an important part in (1 and 2 Samuel): Michael, (1 Sam. 18:20,27); and Abner, (2 Sam. 2:8; 1 Sam. 17:55; 20:25; 26:5,7, etc.).

Verse (52) "...when Saul saw any strong man, or any valiant man, he took him unto him...." Remember the warning of Samuel in (1 Sam. 8:11)?

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