XIV Jonathan proposes to his armour-bearer the attacking of the Philistine's army, ver. 1-10. They make the attack; the Philistines are terrified, ver. 11-15. They slay one another, and are pursued by the Israelites, ver. 16-23. Saul adjures the people to eat nothing 'till night; Jonathan eats honey, ver. 24-30. The people smite the Philistines, and eat the spoil with the blood, ver. 31, 32. Saul remedies this, ver. 33-35. Dooms Jonathan to death, who is rescued by the people, ver. 36-46. A general account of Saul's exploits and family, ver. 47-52.
Verse 2. Tarried - In the outworks of the city where he had entrenched himself to observe the motion of the Philistines. In - Or, towards Migron, which was near Gibeah.
Verse 3. Ahiah - The same who is called Abimelech, chap. xxii, 9, 11, 20, the high-priest, who was here to attend upon the ark which was brought thither, ver. 18. Ephod - The high-priest's ephod, wherein the Urim and Thummim was.
Verse 4. Passages - Two passages, both which Jonathan must cross, to go to the Philistines, between which the following rocks lay, but the words may be rendered, in the middle of the passage, the plural number being put for the singular. Rock - Which is not to be understood, as if in this passage one rock was on the right hand, and the other on the left; for so he might have gone between both: and there was no need of climbing up to them. But the meaning is, that the tooth (or prominency) of one rock, (as it is in the Hebrew) was on the side; that is northward, looking towards Michmash (the garrison of the Philistines) and the tooth of the other rock was on the other side; that is, southward, looking towards Gibeah, (where Saul's camp lay): and Jonathan was forced to climb over these two rocks, because the common ways from one town to the other were obstructed.
Verse 6. Uncircumcised - So he calls them, to strengthen his faith by this consideration, that his enemies were enemies to God; whereas he was circumcised, and therefore in covenant with God, who was both able, and engaged to assist his people. It way be - He speaks doubtfully: for tho' he felt himself stirred up by God to this exploit, and was assured that God would deliver his people; yet he was not certain that he would do it at this time, and in this way. Work - Great and wonderful things.
Verse 10. A sign - Jonathan not being assured of the success of this exploit, desires a sign; and by the instinct of God's Spirit, pitches upon this. Divers such motions and extraordinary impulses there were among great and good men in ancient times. Observe; God has the governing of the hearts and tongues of all men, even of those that know him not, and serves his own purposes by them, tho' they mean not so, neither does their hearts think so.
Verse 12. Come up, &c. - A speech of contempt and derision. The Lord - He piously and modestly ascribes the success which he now foresees, to God only. And he does not say, into our hand, but into the hand of Israel; for he fought not his own glory, but the public good. His faith being thus strengthened, nothing can stand against him: he climbs the rock upon all four, though he had nothing to cover him, none to second him, but his servant, nor any probability of any thing but death before him.
Verse 13. They fell - For being endowed with extraordinary strength and courage, and having with incredible boldness killed the first they met with, it is not strange if the Philistines were both astonished and intimidated; God also struck them with a panic; and withal, infatuated their minds, and possibly, put an evil spirit among them, which in this universal confusion made them conceive that there was treachery among themselves, and therefore caused them to sheathe their swords in one anothers bowels.
Verse 15. Field - That is, in the whole host which was in the field. All - That is, among all the rest of their forces, as well as those in the garrison at Michmash, as the spoilers, mentioned chap. xiii, 17, the report of this prodigy, and with it the terror of God speedily passing from one to another. Trembling - The Hebrew is, a trembling of God, signifying not only a very great trembling, but such as was supernatural, and came immediately from the hand of God. He that made the heart knows how to make it tremble. To complete their confusion, even the earth quaked; it shook under them, and made them fear it was just going to swallow them up. Those who will not fear the eternal God, he can make afraid of a shadow.
Verse 19. Withdraw - Trouble not thyself to inquire; for I now plainly discern the matter.
Verse 21. Which went - Either by constraint, as servants; or in policy, to gain their favour and protection.
Verse 23. The battle - That is, the warriors who were engaged in the battle, and were pursuing the Philistines. Yet it is said, the Lord saved Israel that day: he did it by them: for without him they could do nothing. Salvation is of the Lord.
Verse 24. Distressed - With hunger, and weakness, and faintness, and all by reason of the following oath. Avenged - As Saul's intention was good, so the matter of the obligation was not simply unlawful, if it had not been so rigorous in excluding all food, and in obliging the people to it under pain of an accursed death, which was a punishment far exceeding the fault.
Verse 26. Honey - Bees often make their hives in the trunks of trees, or clefts of rocks, or holes of the earth; and this in divers countries, but eminently in Canaan.
Verse 27. Enlightened - He was refreshed, and recovered his lost spirits. This cleared his sight, which was grown dim by hunger and faintness.
Verse 28. People - They that came with Saul, whose forces were now united with Jonathan's.
Verse 32. Slew - At evening, when the time prefixed by Saul was expired. With blood - Not having patience to tarry 'till the blood was perfectly gone out of them, as they should have done. So they who made conscience of the king's commandment for fear of the curse, make no scruple of transgressing God's command.
Verse 33. Transgressed - He sees their fault, but not his own, in giving the occasion of it.
Verse 36. Draw near - To the ark, in order to inquire of God.
Verse 39. Answered - None of those who saw Jonathan eating, informed against him; because they were satisfied that his ignorance excused him; and from their great love to Jonathan, whom they would not expose to death for so small an offense.
Verse 41. Perfect lot - Or, declare the perfect, or guiltless person. That is, O Lord, so guide the lot, that it may discover who is guilty in his matter, and who innocent. Escaped - They were pronounced guiltless.
Verse 42. Jonathan - God so ordered the lot; not that he approved Saul's execration, ver. 24, or his oath that the transgressor should die, ver. 39, nor that he would expose Jonathan to death; but that Saul's folly might be chastised, when he saw what danger it had brought upon his eldest and excellent son; and that Jonathan's innocency might be cleared.
Verse 44. For thou,&c. - We have no proof, that Saul did not act in this whole affair from a real fear of God.
Verse 45. With God - In concurrence with God, he hath wrought this salvation. God is so far from being offended with Jonathan, that he hath graciously owned him in the great service of this day.
Verse 47. Took the kingdom - That is, resumed the administration of it, after he had in a manner lost it by the Philistines, who had almost turned him out of it.
Verse 49. Ishui - Called also Abinadab. chap. xxxi, 2. Ishbosheth, Saul's other son is here omitted, because he intended to mention only those of his sons who went with him into the battles here mentioned, and who were afterwards slain with him.