1 Samuel 14:1-35: Jonathan's Victory
Some of you have a picture of the rough gorge between Michmash and Geba. Can you see the brook in the bottom, running down to the Jordan? On this side of the valley were Gibeah and Geba, where Saul and Jonathan and their army were. On the other side of the gorge were Michmash and the large army of the Philistines. There was at this place a sharp crag of rock on each side of the valley. The rock on the north side lay all day in the sunshine and was called Bozez, which means "shining." The crag of rock on the southern side was called Seneh, the name of the thorny bushes growing among the rocks.
Jonathan, Saul's son, and the young man who was his armor-bearer were where we stand, on this side of the valley, and Saul was some distance away under a pomegranate tree. They could see the great army of the Philistines with its chariots on the hills across the valley. Jonathan said to the young man, "Come and let us go over. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few." The armor-bearer was ready to go with him. Could they have some sign whether the Lord would be with them and give them power against the Philistines? We will go over, Jonathan said, and when they see us, if they say, "Tarry until we come to you," we will stand still in our place and will not go up unto them. But if they say, "Come up unto us," we will go up, for this will be a sign that the Lord is with us and will give us victory. It was so; when the Philistines saw the two men in the valley, they said, "Come up to us, and we will show you a thing." They climbed up the steep rocks to the Philistine camp on their hands and feet. (Some of you have a picture of them climbing.) Jonathan went first and his armor-bearer after him. The Philistine soldiers fell before them. A terror came upon the host and in their confusion they killed one another.
The watchmen of Saul, looking from across the gorge, saw the multitude melting away. What was the reason? Who had gone from Saul's camp? They numbered and found that Jonathan and his armor-bearer were not there. Saul and his men all joined in the pursuit. Some Hebrews who had been in the Philistine camp came back to their own people, some came out of hiding-places, and they chased the Philistines down into their own country.
You will all want to know the story as I have told it to the little children. Then read the chapter in the Bible, I Sam. 14:1-35, and notice several interesting things. With the map and pictures, get as well acquainted as you can with the rough gorge among the hills of Benjamin.
Note (verse 3) that there was a priest with Saul, descended from Eli, the old priest at Shiloh when Samuel was there as a child. The ephod was a priestly garment, a sort of vest on the front of which was worn the breastplate set with precious stones. When the priest asked questions of the Lord, answers were given by the flashing of light in the stones of the breastplate, and by a voice if they did not understand the flashes. It is probably the ephod and breastplate that are meant in verse 18 and not the ark, when Saul wished to inquire of the Lord. (Where was the ark at this time?)
Who was Jonathan? We begin to love him in this chapter and we shall love him more when he becomes the generous and faithful friend of David. We shall do well to remember as a motto Jonathan's words, "There is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few."
Look again at the map as you read of the pursuit from Michmash to Beth-aven, halfway between Michmash and Bethel, and then down the pass of Beth-horon to Aijalon. One of Joshua's battles was in this same country (Joshua 10:1-12), and there have been greater battles there in later history.
There was one thing to disturb the rejoicing of the people, something which threatened to bring the punishment of death upon the brave Jonathan. What charge had Saul given to the people, and with an oath which made it binding, like Jephthah's vow? How had Jonathan innocently disobeyed the charge? How was he saved from the punishment of death?
1. Draw me a picture, and show me how the land lay between the camp of Saul in Gibeah and the camp of the Philistines in Michmash. What were the two crags called? On which side was Bozez, the "shining" rock?
2. What brave thing did Jonathan do? Why was he not afraid?
3. Who fled, and who pursued?
4. What did Jonathan eat? Why was it wrong?
The grand lesson of this story is in Jonathan's words, "There is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few." Read in H. 229 and 230 of the incredible power which angels have from the Lord: "If anything there resists which is to be removed because contrary to Divine order, they cast it down and overturn it merely by an effort of the will and a look. Thus I have seen mountains which were occupied by the evil cast down and overthrown. . . Numbers are of no avail against them, nor arts, cunning, and leagues, for they see all and disperse them in a moment. . . . It is to be known, however, that angels have no power at all from themselves, but that all their power is from the Lord; and that they are only so far powers as they acknowledge this. Whoever of them believes that he has power from himself becomes instantly so weak that he cannot even resist one evil spirit." Repeating often Jonathan's words will help us to remember the power of the Lord which is with angels and with us in our temptations.
"Hebrews" is a name for the Israelites applied often to them as servants. In 1 Sam. 13:3 and 14:21 the Greek version gives the word "slaves." The name in verse 21 seems to mean people of Israel who had been pressed into their service by the Philistines. This is interesting in connection with the interpretation of the name in A. 1702, 1703.
There is much that is fine and lovely about Jonathan in this chapter and those that follow. Read David's lament for Jonathan. (2 Sam. 1:17-27) The kingly power in the soul is the Lord's truth. Saul stands for this truth understood in a natural and external way, as it is found in the letter of the Word. David, who was king after Saul, stands for the Lord's truth understood in a deeper spiritual way, as when we see beneath the letter of the Word its spiritual meaning. Jonathan comes as it were between Saul and David. He was Saul's son, but David's faithful friend. He represents those parts of the letter of the Lord's Word which are in full agreement with the spirit. From such passages doctrine must be drawn, and by them it must be confirmed. These passages teach plainly the things needful for salvation; like the face and hands, they are bare, while the rest of the Word is clothed. Read S. 55.
Jonathan tasted honey and his eyes were enlightened. Honey suggests pleasantness and sweetness. It is laid up by a humble creature, a little insect, and it represents the sweetness of simple thoughts of industry and usefulness, which are gained from the letter of the Word. The honey which John the Baptist ate represents sweetness of this heavenly but external kind. "The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. . . . Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." (Ps. 19:8, 10)
Canaan was called a land flowing with milk and honey, representing the goodness and sweetness of a heavenly life. "That in the land of Canaan there was also much honey at that time on account of the church of the Lord being there, appears from the first book of Samuel," --the chapter which we are studying. "The reason of Jonathan's eyes being enlightened by his tasting the honey was that honey corresponds to natural good and its delight, and this gives intelligence and enlightens. Whence Jonathan knew that he had done evil." (E. 619)
Food which the people ate at evening represents external pleasures, as of rest and recreation when duty is done. But the honey represents an unexpected sweetness in the doing of the duty. Compare the food given in the desert, in the morning manna with taste like honey, and in the evening the flesh of quails. (Exod. 16:12, 31; A. 8431)
Recognizing the flesh eaten in the evening as representing external pleasure granted by the Lord, we can see why this must not be eaten with the blood, which represents the higher spiritual life. This was the commandment in Gen. 9:4 and Deut. 12:16, 23-24. It meant that external pleasure must not be allowed to dominate the spiritual life and so destroy it. The spiritual must rule. (A. 971, 972, 1001)