Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 14:1
Jonathan's heroic act. - With strong faith and confidence in the might of the Lord, that He could give the victory even through the hands of very few, Jonathan resolved to attack the outpost of the Philistines at the pass of Mukhmas, accompanied by his armour-bearer alone, and the Lord crowned his enterprise with a marvellous victory.
Jonathan said to his armour-bearer, "We will go over to the post of the Philistines, that is over there." To these words, which introduce the occurrences that followed, there are attached from וּלאביו to Sa1 14:5 a series of sentences introduced to explain the situation, and the thread of the narrative is resumed in Sa1 14:6 by a repetition of Jonathan's words. It is first of all observed that Jonathan did not disclose his intentions to his father, who would hardly have approved of so daring an enterprise. Then follows a description of the place where Saul was stationed with the six hundred men, viz., "at the end of Gibeah (i.e., the extreme northern end), under the pomegranate-tree (Rimmon) which is by Migron." Rimmon is not the rock Rimmon (Jdg 20:45), which was on the north-east of Michmash, but is an appellative noun, signifying a pomegranate-tree. Migron is a locality with which we are not acquainted, upon the north side of Gibeah, and a different place from the Migron which was on the north or north-west of Michmash (Isa 10:28). Gibeah (Tuleil el Phul) was an hour and a quarter from Geba, and from the pass which led across to Michmash. Consequently, when Saul was encamped with his six hundred men on the north of Gibeah, he may have been hardly an hour's journey from Geba.
Along with Saul and his six hundred men, there was also Ahiah, the son of Ahitub, the (elder) brother of Ichabod, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the priest at Shiloh, and therefore a great-grandson of Eli, wearing the ephod, i.e., in the high priest's robes. Ahiah is generally supposed to be the same person as Ahimelech, the son of Ahitub (Sa1 22:9.), in which case Ahiah (אחיּה, brother, i.e., friend of Jehovah) would be only another form of the name Ahimelech (i.e., brother or friend of the King, viz., Jehovah). This is very probable, although Ahimelech might have been Ahaiah's brother, who succeeded him in the office of high priest on account of his having died without sons, since there is an interval of at least ten years between the events related in this chapter and those referred to in 1 Samuel 22. Ahimelech was afterwards slain by Saul along with the priests of Nob (Sa1 22:9.); the only one who escaped being his son Abiathar, who fled to David and, according to Sa1 30:7, was invested with the ephod. It follows, therefore, that Ahiah (or Ahimelech) must have had a son at least ten years old at the time of the war referred to here, viz., the Abiathar mentioned in Sa1 30:7, and must have been thirty or thirty-five years old himself, since Saul had reigned at least twenty-two years, and Abiathar had become high priest a few years before the death of Saul. These assumptions may be very easily reconciled with the passage before us. As Eli was ninety-eight years old when he died, his son Phinehas, who had been killed in battle a short time before, might have been sixty or sixty-five years old, and have left a son of forty years of age, namely Ahitub. Forty years later, therefore, i.e., at the beginning of Saul's reign, Ahitub's son Ahiah (Ahimelech) might have been about fifty years old; and at the death of Ahimelech, which took place ten or twelve years after that, his son Abiathar might have been as much as thirty years of age, and have succeeded his father in the office of high priest. But Abiathar cannot have been older than this when his father died, since he was high priest during the whole of David's forty years' reign, until Solomon deposed him soon after he ascended the throne (Kg1 2:26.). Compare with this the remarks on Sa2 8:17. Jonathan had also refrained from telling the people anything about his intentions, so that they did not know that he had gone.
In Sa1 14:4, Sa1 14:5, the locality is more minutely described. Between the passes, through which Jonathan endeavoured to cross over to go up to the post of the Philistines, there was a sharp rock on this side, and also one upon the other. One of these was called Bozez, the other Seneh; one (formed) a pillar (מצוּק), i.e., a steep height towards the north opposite to Michmash, the other towards the south opposite to Geba. The expression "between the passes" may be explained from the remark of Robinson quoted above, viz., that at the point where he passed the Wady Suweinit, side wadys enter it from the south-west and north-west. These side wadys supply so many different crossings. Between them, however, on the north and south walls of the deep valley, were the jagged rocks Bozez and Seneh, which rose up like pillars to a great height. These were probably the "hills" which Robinson saw to the left of the pass by which he crossed: "Two hills of a conical or rather spherical form, having steep rocky sides, with small wadys running up behind so as almost to isolate them. One is on the side towards Jeba, and the other towards Mukhmas" (Pal. ii. p. 116).
And Jonathan said to his armour-bearer, "Come, we will go over to the post of these uncircumcised; it may be that Jehovah will work for us; for (there is) no hindrance for Jehovah to work salvation by many or few." Jonathan's resolution arose from the strong conviction that Israel was the nation of God, and possessed in Jehovah an omnipotent God, who would not refuse His help to His people in their conflict with the foes of His kingdom, if they would only put their whole trust in Him.
As the armour-bearer approved of Jonathan's resolution (לך נטה, turn hither), and was ready to follow him, Jonathan fixed upon a sign by which he would ascertain whether the Lord would prosper his undertaking.
"Behold, we go over to the people and show ourselves to them. If they say to us, Wait (דּמּוּ, keep quiet) till we come to you, we will stand still in our place, and not go up to them; but if they say thus, Come up unto us, then we will go up, for Jehovah hath (in that case) delivered them into our hand." The sign was well chosen. If the Philistines said, "Wait till we come," they would show some courage; but if they said, "Come up to us," it would be a sign that they were cowardly, and had not courage enough to leave their position and attack the Hebrews. It was not tempting God for Jonathan to fix upon such a sign by which to determine the success of his enterprise; for he did it in the exercise of his calling, when fighting not for personal objects, but for the kingdom of God, which the uncircumcised were threatening to annihilate, and in the most confident belief that the Lord would deliver and preserve His people. Such faith as this God would not put to shame.
When the two showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines, they said, "Behold, Hebrews come forth out of the holes in which they have hidden themselves." And the men of the garrison cried out to Jonathan and his armour-bearer, "Come up to us, and we will tell you a word," i.e., we will communicate something to you. This was ridicule at the daring of the two men, whilst for all that they had not courage enough to meet them bravely and drive them back. In this Jonathan received the desired sign that the Lord had given the Philistines into the hand of the Israelites: he therefore clambered up the rock on his hands and feet, and his armour-bearer after him; and "they (the Philistines) fell before Jonathan," i.e., were smitten down by him, "and his armour-bearer was slaying behind him."
The first stroke that Jonathan and his armour-bearer struck was (amounted to) about twenty men "on about half a furrow of an acre of field." מענה, a furrow, as in Psa 129:3, is in the absolute state instead of the construct, because several nouns follow in the construct state (cf. Ewald, 291, a.). צמד, lit. things bound together, then a pair; here it signifies a pair or yoke of oxen, but in the transferred sense of a piece of land that could be ploughed in one morning with a yoke of oxen, like the Latin jugum, jugerum. It is called the furrow of an acre of land, because the length only of half an acre of land was to be given, and not the breadth or the entire circumference. The Philistines, that is to say, took to flight in alarm as soon as the brave heroes really ascended, so that the twenty men were smitten one after another in the distance of half a rood of land. Their terror and flight are perfectly conceivable, if we consider that the outpost of the Philistines was so stationed upon the top of the ridge of the steep mountain wall, that they would not see how many were following, and the Philistines could not imagine it possible that two Hebrews would have ventured to climb the rock alone and make an attack upon them. Sallust relates a similar occurrence in connection with the scaling of a castle in the Numidian war (Bell. Jugurth. c. 89, 90).
And there arose a terror in the camp upon the field (i.e., in the principal camp) as well as among all the people (of the advanced outpost of the Philistines); the garrison (i.e., the army that was encamped at Michmash), and the spoilers, they also trembled, and the earth quaked, sc., with the noise and tumult of the frightened foe; "and it grew into a trembling of God," i.e., a supernatural terror miraculously infused by God into the Philistines. The subject to the last ותּהי is either חרדה, the alarm in the camp, or all that has been mentioned before, i.e., the alarm with the noise and tumult that sprang out of it.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 14:16
Flight and defeat of the Philistines. - Sa1 14:16. The spies of Saul at Gibeah saw how the multitude (in the camp of the Philistines) melted away and was beaten more and more. The words והלם ויּלך are obscure. The Rabbins are unanimous in adopting the explanation magis magisque frangebatur, and have therefore probably taken הלם as an inf. absol. הלום, and interpreted הלם according to Jdg 5:26. This was also the case with the Chaldee; and Gesenius (Thes. p. 383) has adopted the same rendering, except that he has taken הלם in the sense of dissolutus, dissipatus est. Others take הלום as adverbial ("and thither"), and supply the correlate הלם (hither), so as to bring out the meaning "hither and thither." Thus the lxx render it ἔνθεν καὶ ἔνθεν, but they have not translated ויּלך at all.
Saul conjectured at once that the excitement in the camp of the Philistines was occasioned by an attack made by Israelitish warriors, and therefore commanded the people: פּקדוּ־נא, "Muster (number) now, and see who has gone away from us;" and "Jonathan and his armour-bearer were not there," i.e., they were missing.
Saul therefore resolved to ask God, through the priest Ahiah, what he should do; whether he should go out with his army against the Philistines or no. But whilst he was talking with the priest, the tumult in the camp of the Philistines became greater and greater, so that he saw from that what ought to be done under the circumstances, and stopped the priest's inquiring of God, and set out with his people without delay. We are struck, however, with the expression in Sa1 14:18, "Bring hither the ark of God," and the explanation which follows, "for the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel," inasmuch as the ark was then deposited at Kirjath-jearim, and it is a very improbable thing that it should have been in the little camp of Saul. Moreover, in other cases where the high priest is spoken of as inquiring the will of God, there is no mention made of the ark, but only of the ephod, the high priest's shoulder-dress, upon which there were fastened the Urim and Thummim, through which inquiry was made of God. And in addition to this, the verb הגּישׁה is not really applicable to the ark, which was not an object that could be carried about at will; whereas this verb is the current expression used to signify the fetching of the ephod (vid., Sa1 23:9; Sa1 30:7). All these circumstances render the correctness of the Masoretic text extremely doubtful, notwithstanding the fact that the Chaldee, the Syriac, and Arabic, and the Vulgate support it, and recommend rather the reading adopted by the lxx, προσάγαγε τὸ Ἐφούδ· ὅτι αὐτὸς ἦρεν τὸ Ἐφοὺδ ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ ἐνώπιον Ἰσραήλ, which would give as the Hebrew text, ישׂראל לפני ההוּא בּיּום האפוד נשׂא הוּא כּי האפוד הגּישׁה. In any case, וב'ני ישׂראל@ at the end of the verse should be read ישׂ לבני or לפני, since וּ gives no sense at all.
"It increased more and more;" lit. increasing and becoming greater. The subject וגו וההמון is placed absolutely at the head, so that the verb ויּלך brev eh is appended in the form of an apodosis. ידך אסף, "draw thy hand in" (back); i.e., leave off now.
"And (i.e., in consequence of the increasing tumult in the enemy's camp) Saul had himself, and all the people with him, called," i.e., called together for battle; and when they came to the war, i.e., to the place of conflict, "behold, there was the sword of the one against the other, a very great confusion," in consequence partly of terror, and partly of the circumstance alluded to in Sa1 14:21.
"And the Hebrews were with the Philistines as before (yesterday and the day before yesterday), who had come along with them in the camp round about; they also came over to Israel, which was with Saul and Jonathan." סביב means distributed round about among the Philistines. Those Israelites whom the Philistines had incorporated into their army are called Hebrews, according to the name which was current among foreigners, whilst those who were with Saul are called Israel, according to the sacred name of the nation. The difficulty which many expositors have found in the word להיות has been very correctly solved, so far as the sense is concerned, by the earlier translators, by the interpolation of "they returned:" תבוּ (Chald.), ἐπεστράφησαν (lxx), reversi sunt (Vulg.), and similarly the Syriac and Arabic. We are not at liberty, however, to amend the Hebrew text in this manner, as nothing more is omitted than the finite verb היוּ before the infinitive להיות (for this construction, see Gesenius, Gramm. 132, 3, Anm. 1), and this might easily be left out here, since it stands at the beginning of the verse in the main clause. The literal rendering would be, they were to be with Israel, i.e., they came over to Israel. The fact that the Hebrews who were serving in the army of the Philistines came over to Saul and his host, and turned their weapons against their oppressors, naturally heightened the confusion in the camp of the Philistines, and accelerated their defeat; and this was still further increased by the fact that the Israelites who had concealed themselves on the mountains of Ephraim also joined the Israelitish army, as soon as they heard of the flight of the Philistines (Sa1 14:22).
"Thus the Lord helped Israel that day, and the conflict went out beyond Bethaven." Bethaven was on the east of Michmash, and, according to Sa1 14:31, the Philistines fled westwards from Michmash to Ajalon. But if we bear in mind that the camp of the Philistines was on the eastern side of Michmash before Bethaven, according to Sa1 13:5, and that the Israelites forced their way into it from the south, we shall see that the battle might easily have spread out beyond Bethaven, and that eventually the main body of the enemy might have fled as far as Ajalon, and have been pursued to that point by the victorious Israelites.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 14:24
Saul's precipitate haste. - Sa1 14:24. The men of Israel were pressed (i.e., fatigued) on that day, sc., through the military service and fighting. Then Saul adjured the people, saying, "Cursed be the man that eateth bread until the evening, and (till) I have avenged myself upon mine enemies." יאל, fut. apoc. of יאלה for יאלה, from אלה, to swear, Hiphil to adjure or require an oath of a person. The people took the oath by saying "amen" to what Saul had uttered. This command of Saul did not proceed from a proper attitude towards the Lord, but was an act of false zeal, in which Saul had more regard to himself and his own kingly power than to the cause of the kingdom of Jehovah, as we may see at once from the expression וגו נקּמתּי, "till I have avenged myself upon mine enemies." It was a despotic measure which not only failed to accomplish its object (see Sa1 14:30, Sa1 14:31), but brought Saul into the unfortunate position of being unable to carry out the oath (see Sa1 14:45). All the people kept the command. "They tasted no bread." ולא־טעם is not to be connected with ונקּמתּי as an apodosis.
"And all the land (i.e., all the people of the land who had gathered round Saul: vid., Sa1 14:29) came into the woody country; there was honey upon the field." יער signifies here a woody district, in which forests alternated with tracts of arable land and meadows.
When the people came into the wood and saw a stream of honey (or wild or wood bees), "no one put his hand to his mouth (sc., to eat of the honey), because they feared the oath."
But Jonathan, who had not heard his father's oath, dipped (in the heat of pursuit, that he might not have to stop) the point of his staff in the new honey, and put it to his mouth, "and his eyes became bright;" his lost strength, which is reflected in the eye, having been brought back by this invigorating taste. The Chethibh תראנה is probably to be read תּראנה, the eyes became seeing, received their power of vision again. The Masoretes have substituted as the Keri תּארנה, from אור, to become bright, according to Sa1 14:29; and this is probably the correct reading, as the letters might easily be transposed.
When one of the people told him thereupon of his father's oath, in consequence of which the people were exhausted (העם ויּעף belongs to the man's words; and ויּעף is the same as in Jdg 4:21), Jonathan condemned the prohibition. "My father has brought the land (i.e., the people of the land, as in Sa1 14:25) into trouble (עכר, see at Gen 34:30): see how bright mine eyes have become because I tasted a little of this honey. How much more if the people had eaten to-day of the booty of its enemies, would not the overthrow among the Philistines truly have then become great?" כּי אף, lit. to this (there comes) also that = not to mention how much more; and עתּה כּי is an emphatic introduction of the apodosis, as in Gen 31:42; Gen 43:10, and other passages, and the apodosis itself is to be taken as a question.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 14:31
Result of the battle, and consequences of Saul's rashness. - Sa1 14:31. "On that day they smote the Philistines from Michmash to Ajalon," which has been preserved in the village of Ylo (see at Jos 19:42), and was about three geographical miles to the south-west of Michmash; "and the people were very faint," because Saul had forbidden them to eat before the evening (Sa1 14:24).
They therefore "fell voraciously upon the booty" - (the Chethibh ויּעשׂ is no doubt merely an error in writing for ויּעט, imperf. Kal of עיט with Dagesh forte implic. instead of ויּעט, as we may see from Sa1 15:19, since the meaning required by the context, viz., to fall upon a thing, cannot be established in the case of עשׂה with על. On the other hand, there does not appear to be any necessity to supply the article before שׁלל, and this Keri seems only to have been taken from the parallel passage in Sa1 15:19), - "and took sheep, and oxen, and calves, and slew them on the ground (ארצה, lit. to the earth, so that when they were slaughtered the animal fell upon the ground, and remained lying in its blood, and was cut in pieces), and ate upon the blood" (הדּם על, with which הדּם אל, "lying to the blood," is interchanged in Sa1 14:34), i.e., the flesh along with the blood which adhered to it, by doing which they sinned against the law in Lev 19:26. This sin had been occasioned by Saul himself through the prohibition which he issued.
When this was told to Saul, he said, "Ye act faithlessly towards Jehovah" by transgressing the laws of the covenant; "roll me now (lit. this day) a large stone. Scatter yourselves among the people, and say to them, Let every one bring his ox and his sheep to me, and slay here" (upon the stone that has been rolled up), viz., so that the blood could run off properly upon the ground, and the flesh be separated from the blood. This the people also did.
As a thanksgiving for this victory, Saul built an altar to the Lord. לבנות החל אתו, "he began to build it," i.e., he built this altar at the beginning, or as the first altar. This altar was probably not intended to serve as a place of sacrifice, but simply to be a memorial of the presence of God, or the revelation of God which Saul had received in the marvellous victory.
After the people had strengthened themselves in the evening with food, Saul wanted to pursue the Philistines still farther during the night, and to plunder among them until the light (i.e., till break of day), and utterly destroy them. The people assented to this proposal, but the priest (Ahiah) wished first of all to obtain the decision of God upon the matter. "We will draw near to God here" (before the altar which has just been built).
But when Saul inquired of God (through the Urim and Thummim of the high priest), "Shall I go down after the Philistines? wilt Thou deliver them into the hand of Israel?" God did not answer him. Saul was to perceive from this, that the guilt of some sin was resting upon the people, on account of which the Lord had turned away His countenance, and was withdrawing His help.
When Saul perceived, this, he directed all the heads of the people (pinnoth, as in Jdg 20:2) to draw near to learn whereby (wherein) the sin had occurred that day, and declared, "As truly as Jehovah liveth, who has brought salvation to Israel, even if it were upon Jonathan my son, he shall die." The first כּי in Sa1 14:39 is explanatory; the second and third serve to introduce the words, like ὅτι, quod; and the repetition serves to give emphasis, lit., "that even if it were upon my son, that he shall die." "And of all the people no one answered him," from terror at the king's word.
In order to find out the guilt, or rather the culprit, Saul proceeded to the lot; and for this purpose he made all the people stand on one side, whilst he and his son Jonathan went to the other, and then solemnly addressed Jehovah thus: "God of Israel, give innocence (of mind, i.e., truth). And the lot fell upon Saul and Jonathan (ילּכד, as in Sa1 10:20-21); and the people went out," sc., without the lot falling upon them, i.e., they went out free.
When they proceeded still further to cast lots between Saul and his son (הפּילוּ, sc., גּורל; cf. Ch1 26:14; Neh 11:11, etc.), Jonathan was taken.
(Note: In the Alex. version, vv. 41 and 42 are lengthened out with long paraphrases upon the course pursued in casting the lots: καὶ εἶπε Σαούλ, Κύριε ὁ θεὸς Ἰσραήλ τί ὅτι οὐκ ἀπεκρίθης τῷ δούλῳ σου σήμερον; ει ̓ ἐν ἐμοὶ ἢ ἐν Ἰωνάθαν τῷ υἱῷ μου ἡ ἀδικία; κύριε ὁ θεὸς Ἰσραήλ δὸς δήλους· καὶ ἐἀν τάδε εἴπῃ δὸς δὴ τῷ λαῷ σου Ἰσραήλ, δός δὴ ὁσιότηατ, καὶ κληροῦται Ἰωνάθαν καὶ Σαούλ καὶ ὁ λαὸς ἐξῆλθε. V. 42: Καὶ εἶπε Σαοὑλ, βάλλετε ἀνὰ μέσον ἐμοῦ καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον Ἰωνάθαν τοῦ υἱοῦ μου· ὃν ἂν κατακληρώσηται Κύριος ἀποθανέτω. Καὶ εἶπεν ὁ λαὸς πρὸς Σαούλ, οὐκ ἔστι τὸ ῥῆμα τοῦτο. Καὶ κατεκράτησε Σαοὺλ τοῦ λαοῦ, καὶ βάλλουσιν ἀνὰ μέσον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον Ἰωνάθαν τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ, καὶ κατακληροῦται Ἰωναθαν. One portion of these additions is also found in the text of our present Vulgate, and reads as follows: Et dixit Saul ad Dominum Deum Israel: Domine Deus Israel, da indicium! quid est quod non responderis servo tuo hodie? Si in me aut in Jonathan filio meo est iniquitas, da ostensionem; aut si haec iniquitas est in populo tuo, da sanctitatem. Et deprehensus est Jonathas et Saul, populus autem exivit. The beginning and end of this verse, as well as v. 42, agree here most accurately with the Hebrew text. But the words from quid est quod to da sanctitatem are interpolated, so that תמים הבה are translated twice; first in the words da indicium, and then in the interpolation da ostensionem. This repetition of the same words, and that in different renderings, when taken in connection with the agreement of the Vulgate with the Hebrew text at the beginning and end of the verse, shows clearly enough, that the interpolated clauses did not originate with Jerome, but are simply inserted in his translation from the Itala. The additions of the lxx, in which τάδε εἶπῃ is evidently only a distortion of ἡ ἀδικία, are regarded by Ewald (Gesch. iii. p. 48) and Thenius as an original portion of the text which has dropped out from the Masoretic text. They therefore infer, that instead of תמים we ought to read תּמּים (Thummim), and that we have here the full formula used in connection with the use of the Urim and Thummim, from which it may be seen, that this mode of divine revelation consisted simply in a sacred lot, or in the use of two dice, the one of which was fixed upon at the outset as meaning no, and the other as meaning yes. So much at any rate is indisputable, that the Septuagint translator took תמים in the sense of thummim, and so assumed that Saul had the guilty person discovered by resorting to the Urim and Thummim. But this assumption is also decidedly erroneous, together with all the inferences based upon it. For, in the first place, the verbs הפּיל and ילּכד can be proved to be never used throughout the whole of the Old Testament to signify the use of the Urim and Thummim, and to be nothing more than technical expressions used to denote the casting of a simple lot (see the passages cited above in the text). Moreover, such passages as Sa1 10:22, and Sa1 2:5, Sa1 2:23, show most unmistakeably that the divine oracle of the Urim and Thummim did not consist merely in a sacred lot with yes and no, but that God gave such answers through it as could never have been given through the lots. The Septuagint expansions of the text are nothing more, therefore, than a subjective and really erroneous interpretation on the part of the translators, which arose simply from the mistaken idea that תמים was thummim, and which is therefore utterly worthless.)
When Saul asked him what he had done, Jonathan confessed that he had tasted a little honey (see Sa1 14:27), and resigned himself to the punishment suspended over him, saying, "Behold, I shall die;" and Saul pronounced sentence of death upon him, accompanying it with an oath ("God do so," etc.: vid., Rut 1:17).
But the people interposed, "Shall Jonathan die, who has achieved this great salvation (victory) in Israel? God forbid! As truly as Jehovah liveth, not a hair shall fall from his head upon the ground; for he hath wrought (the victory) with God to-day." Thus the people delivered Jonathan from death. The objection raised by the people was so conclusive, that Saul was obliged to yield.
What Jonathan had done was not wrong in itself, but became so simply on account of the oath with which Saul had forbidden it. But Jonathan did not hear the oath, and therefore had not even consciously transgressed. Nevertheless a curse lay upon Israel, which was to be brought to light as a warning for the culprit. Therefore Jehovah had given no reply to Saul. But when the lot, which had the force of a divine verdict, fell upon Jonathan, sentence of death was not thereby pronounced upon him by God; but is was simply made manifest, that through his transgression of his father's oath, with which he was not acquainted, guilt had been brought upon Israel. The breach of a command issued with a solemn oath, even when it took place unconsciously, excited the wrath of God, as being a profanation of the divine name. But such a sin could only rest as guilt upon the man who had committed, or the man who occasioned it. Now where the command in question was one of God himself, there could be no question, that even in the case of unconscious transgression the sin fell upon the transgressor, and it was necessary that it should either be expiated by him or forgiven him. But where the command of a man had been unconsciously transgressed, the guilt might also fall upon the man who issued the command, that is to say, if he did it without being authorized or empowered by God. In the present instance, Saul had issued the prohibition without divine authority, and had made it obligatory upon the people by a solemn oath. The people had conscientiously obeyed the command, but Jonathan had transgressed it without being aware of it. For this Saul was about to punish him with death, in order to keep his oath. But the people opposed it. They not only pronounced Jonathan innocent, because he had broken the king's command unconsciously, but they also exclaimed that he had gained the victory for Israel "with God." In this fact (Jonathan's victory) there was a divine verdict. And Saul could not fail to recognise now, that it was not Jonathan, but he himself, who had sinned, and through his arbitrary and despotic command had brought guilt upon Israel, on account of which God had given him no reply.
With the feeling of this guilt, Saul gave up any further pursuit of the Philistines: he "went up" (sc., to Gibeah) "from behind the Philistines," i.e., desisting from any further pursuit. But the Philistines went to their place, i.e., back into their own land.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 14:47
General Summary of Saul's other Wars, and Account of his Family. - Sa1 14:47. "But Saul had taken the sovereignty." As Saul had first of all secured a recognition of himself as king on the part of all the tribes of Israel, through his victory over the Ammonites at Jabesh (Sa1 11:12.), so it was through the victory which he had gained over the Philistines, and by which these obstinate foes of Israel were driven back into their own land, that he first acquired the kingship over Israel, i.e., first really secured the regal authority over the Israelites. This is the meaning of המּלוּכה לכד; and this statement is not at variance either with the election of Saul by lot (Sa1 10:17.), or with his confirmation at Gilgal (Sa1 11:14-15). But as Saul had to fight for the sovereignty, and could only secure it by successful warfare, his other wars are placed in the foreground in the summary account of his reign which follows (Sa1 14:47, Sa1 14:48), whilst the notices concerning his family, which stand at the very beginning in the case of other kings, are not mentioned till afterwards (Sa1 14:49-51). Saul fought successfully against all the enemies of Israel round about; against Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, the kings of Zobah, a district of Syria on this side the Euphrates (see at Sa2 8:3), and against the Philistines. The war against the Ammonites is described in Sa1 11:1-15; but with the Philistines Saul had to wage repeated war all the days of his life (Sa1 14:52). The other wars are none of them more fully described, simply because they were of no importance to the history of the kingdom of God, having neither furnished occasion for any miraculous displays of divine omnipotence, nor brought about the subjection of hostile nations to the power of Israel. "Whithersoever he turned, he inflicted punishment." This is the rendering which Luther has very aptly given to ירשׁיא; for הרשׁיע signifies to declare wrong, hence to condemn, more especially as applied to judges: here it denotes sentence or condemnation by deeds. Saul chastised these nations for their attacks upon Israel.
"And he acquired power;" חיל עשׂה (as in Num 24:18) does not merely signify he proved himself brave, or he formed an army, but denotes the development and unfolding of power in various respects. Here it relates more particularly to the development of strength in the war against Amalek, by virtue of which Saul smote this arch-enemy of Israel, and put an end to their depredations. This war is described more fully in 1 Samuel 15, on account of its consequences in relation to Saul's own sovereignty.
Saul's family. - Sa1 14:49. Only three of his sons are mentioned, namely those who fell with him, according to Sa1 31:2, in the war with the Philistines. Jisvi is only another name for Abinadab (Sa1 31:2; Ch1 8:33; Ch1 9:39). In these passages in the Chronicles there is a fourth mentioned, Esh-baal, i.e., the one who is called Ish-bosheth in Sa2 2:8, etc., and who was set up by Abner as the antagonist of David. The reason why he is not mentioned here it is impossible to determine. It may be that the name has fallen out simply through some mistake in copying: the daughters Michal and Merab are mentioned, with special reference to the occurrence described in Sa1 18:17.
Abner the general was also Saul's cousin. For "son of Abiel" (ben Abiel) we must read "sons of Abiel" (bne Abiel: see Sa1 9:1).
The statement, "and the war was hard (severe) against the Philistines as long as Saul lived," merely serves to explain the notice which follows, namely, that Saul took or drew to himself every strong man and every brave man that he saw. If we observe this, which is the true relation between the two clauses in this verse, the appearance of abruptness which we find in the first notice completely vanishes, and the verse follows very suitably upon the allusion to the general. The meaning might be expressed in this manner: And as Saul had to carry on a severe war against the Philistines his whole life long, he drew to himself every powerful man and every brave man that he met with.