Now the men of Israel were hard-pressed on that day, for Saul had put the people under oath, saying, “Cursed be the man who eats food before evening, and until I have avenged myself on my enemies.” So none of the people tasted food. All the people of the land entered the forest, and there was honey on the ground. When the people entered the forest, behold, there was a flow of honey; but no man put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath. But Jonathan had not heard when his father put the people under oath; therefore, he put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it in the honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth, and his eyes brightened. Then one of the people said, “Your father strictly put the people under oath, saying, ‘Cursed be the man who eats food today.’” And the people were weary. Then Jonathan said, “ My father has troubled the land. See now, how my eyes have brightened because I tasted a little of this honey. How much more, if only the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies which they found! For now the slaughter among the Philistines has not been great.” They struck among the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon. And the people were very weary. The people rushed greedily upon the spoil, and took sheep and oxen and calves, and slew them on the ground; and the people ate them with the blood. Then they told Saul, saying, “Behold, the people are sinning against the Lord by eating with the blood.” And he said, “You have acted treacherously; roll a great stone to me today.” Saul said, “Disperse yourselves among the people and say to them, ‘Each one of you bring me his ox or his sheep, and slaughter it here and eat; and do not sin against the Lord by eating with the blood.’” So all the people that night brought each one his ox with him and slaughtered it there. And Saul built an altar to the Lord; it was the first altar that he built to the Lord . Then Saul said, “Let us go down after the Philistines by night and take spoil among them until the morning light, and let us not leave a man of them.” And they said, “Do whatever seems good to you.” So the priest said, “Let us draw near to God here.” Saul inquired of God, “Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will You give them into the hand of Israel?” But He did not answer him on that day. Saul said, “ Draw near here, all you chiefs of the people, and investigate and see how this sin has happened today. For as the Lord lives, who delivers Israel, though it is in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die.” But not one of all the people answered him. Then he said to all Israel, “You shall be on one side and I and Jonathan my son will be on the other side.” And the people said to Saul, “Do what seems good to you.” Therefore, Saul said to the Lord, the God of Israel, “ Give a perfect lot .” And Jonathan and Saul were taken, but the people escaped. Saul said, “Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son.” And Jonathan was taken. Then Saul said to Jonathan, “ Tell me what you have done.” So Jonathan told him and said, “ I indeed tasted a little honey with the end of the staff that was in my hand. Here I am, I must die!” Saul said, “ May God do this to me and more also, for you shall surely die, Jonathan.” But the people said to Saul, “Must Jonathan die, who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Far from it! As the Lord lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” So the people rescued Jonathan and he did not die. Then Saul went up from pursuing the Philistines, and the Philistines went to their own place.
1 Samuel 14:24-46
Dear God, Saul’s relationship with Jonathan will come up several times in the rest of 1 Samuel. I will admit to you that I’ve always had a little bit of a soft spot for Saul. I know he grieved you by doing a pre-battle sacrifice and ceremony before Samuel had arrived, but at least he was trying to keep worshipping you. In this case, he was just stupid to make this curse in the first place. As the text says, everyone was weak from hunger. That’s not a great way to fight an enemy. And then Jonathan’s sin was revealed so Saul felt compelled to fulfill his oath. I’m still not sure where you stood on that whole thing. Did you want him to kill Jonathan? I don’t think you did, but this story intimates that you were upset about the broken oath and expected some sort of punishment.
Is there room for stupid people in your kingdom? Does the new covenant allow for a well-intentioned idiot? When the people asked Samuel for a king, did you really just pick Saul as a placeholder until David was old enough to be king. And what about Jonathan? Why take the kingdom away from him? He seemed to be pretty good and faithful. He was certainly faithful to David.
In the next stories, we will see Jonathan trying to deal with his dad as a tyrant, and Saul getting exasperated with Jonathan. It’s one of the more complicated set of stories for me, and I’m not sure I’ll know any more about what to make of them after talk with you about them than I do now.
Father, speak to me as a dad. Help me to, first and foremost, love you well. Help me to give you all of the glory for every good thing, and to point people to you when they are both celebrating and afraid. To paraphrase a Rich Mullins song, “If I Stand,” if I am in a good place, let me be there knowing that you brought me there. If I am in a bad place, let me fall on the grace that brought me to you in the first place. If I celebrate, let me celebrate all that you do for me and this world. And if I ever weep, let it be simply as someone that longs to be with you.
In Jesus’s name I pray,