Dave Burnette's Commentary

1 Samuel Chapter 14

Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: Samuel, Nathan, & Gad 
Date Penned: (931-975 BC)
Overview: Samuel, Israel's Last Judge (c 1-31)
Theme: Samuel and Saul (c 8-15)
Message: Jonathan's Brave Plan (v 1-52)

1 Samuel 14 Commentary

(14:1) Saul is a Poor Leader - In this chapter we read about the miserable job Saul did as leader: He had no communication with Jonathan (14:1, 17); he spoke a foolish curse (14:24); and he ignored the well-being of his own soldiers (14:31). Saul's poor leadership was a result not of bad personality traits but of decaying spiritual character. What we do is often a direct result of our spiritual condition. We cannot ignore the importance of spiritual character in effective leadership.

(14:1-5) Jonathan Trusts God - Why would Jonathan go alone to attack the Philistines? He may have been weary of the long, hopeless standoff in the battle; he trusted God to give his people victory and wanted to act on that trust. Perhaps he was frustrated with Saul's inaction staying in camp. He also knew that the number of Philistines was no problem for God. Perhaps Jonathan didn't tell his father about his mission because he thought Saul wouldn't let him go.

(14:6) The Lord Gives Jonathan Victory - Jonathan and his armour bearer weren't much of a force to attack the huge Philistine army. But while everyone else was afraid, they trusted God, knowing that the size of the enemy army would not restrict God's ability to help them. God honored the faith and brave action of these two men with a tremendous victory. Have you ever felt surrounded by the "enemy" or faced overwhelming odds? God is never intimidated by the size of the enemy or the complexity of a problem. With him, there are always enough resources to resist the pressures and win the battle. If God has called you to action, then bravely commit what resources you have to him and rely on him to lead you to victory.

(14:12-15) Jonathan Serves Where He Can - Jonathan did not have the authority to lead all the troops into battle, but he could start a small skirmish in one corner of the enemy camp. When he did, panic broke out among the Philistines. The Hebrews who had been drafted into the Philistine army revolted, and the men who were hiding in the hills regained their courage and returned to fight (14:21-22). When you are facing a difficult situation that is beyond your control, ask yourself, What steps can I take now to work toward a solution? A few small steps may be just what you need to begin the chain of events leading to eventual victory.

(14:19) Saul Hurries Into Battle -  "Withdraw thine hand" refers to the use of the Urim and Thummim. These small objects were kept in the linen ephod (vest) worn by the priest and used as a way to determine God's Will (See 10:20). Saul was rushing the formalities of getting an answer from God so he could hurry and get into battle to take advantage of the confusion of the Philistines.

(14:24) Saul Makes a Foolish Oath - Saul made an oath without thinking through the implications. The results? (1) His men were too tired to fight; (2) they were so hungry that they ate meat that still contained blood, which was against God's law (14:32); and (3) Saul almost killed his own son (14:42-45). Saul's impulsive oath sounded heroic, but it had disastrous side effects. If you are in the middle of a conflict, guard against impulsive promises that you may be forced to honor.

(14:32-34) Life in the Blood - One of the oldest and strongest Hebrew food laws was the prohibition against eating meat containing the animal's blood (Leviticus 7:26-27). This law began in Noah's day (Genesis 9:4) and was still observed by the early Christians (Acts 15127-29). Eating meat with blood was wrong because blood represented life, and life belonged to God. (For a further explanation, see

Leviticus 17:10-14.)

(14:35-36) Saul Builds an Alter - After being king for several years, Saul finally built his first altar to God, but only as a last resort. Throughout Saul's reign he consistently approached God only after he had tried everything else. This was in sharp contrast to the priest, who suggested that God be consulted first. How much better if Saul had gone to God first, building an altar as his first official act as king. God is too great to be an afterthought. When we turn to him first, we will never have to turn to him as a last resort.

(14:39) Saul Makes Another Foolish Vow - This is the second of Saul's foolish vows. Saul made the first of these two oaths (14:24-26) because he was overly anxious to defeat the Philistines and wanted to give his soldiers an incentive to finish the battle quickly. Like Jephthah (Judges 11), Saul made an oath that risked the life of his own child and then was too proud to admit his folly. Fortunately, the people intervened and spared Jonathan's life. In the Bible, God never asked people to make oaths or vows, but if they did, he expected them to keep them (Leviticus 5:4; Numbers 30). Saul's vow was not something God would have condoned, but still it was an oath. And Jonathan, although he didn't know about Saul's oath, was nevertheless guilty of breaking it. God did make provision for cases like this, in which a vow turned out to be foolish and fulfilling it would mean breaking other laws (Leviticus 5:4-13). In such cases, those who made a foolish vow were to admit their guilt and bring a sin offering to the Lord.

(14:39) Saul Makes a Foolish Statement - Saul had issued a ridiculous command and had driven his men to sin, but still he wouldn't back down--even if he had to kill his son. When we make ridiculous statements, it is difficult to admit we are wrong. But sticking to the story, just to save face, only compounds the problem. It takes more courage to admit a mistake than to hold resolutely to an error.

(14:43) Jonathan Takes Responsibility - Jonathan's spiritual character was in striking contrast to Saul's. Jonathan admitted what he had done; he did not make excuses. Even though he was unaware of Saul's oath, Jonathan was willing to accept the consequences of his actions. When you do wrong, even unintentionally, do you respond like Jonathan or like Saul?

(14:44-45) Saul's Tries to Save Face - Saul made another foolish statement, this time because he was more concerned about saving face than doing what was right. Sparing Jonathan's life would require him admitting he had acted foolishly, an embarrassment for a king. Saul was really more interested in protecting his image than in enforcing his vow. Fortunately, the people came to Jonathan's rescue. Don't be like Saul. Admit your mistakes, and show that you are more interested in doing what is right than in looking good.

(14:47) God Acts According to His Will - Why was Saul so successful right after he had disobeyed God and been told that his reign would end (13:13-14)? Sometimes ungodly people win battles. Victory is neither guaranteed nor limited to the righteous. God provides according to his will. God might have given Saul success for the sake of the people, not for Saul. He may have left Saul on the throne for a while to utilize his military talents so that David, Israel's next king, could spend more time focusing on the nation's spiritual battles. Regardless of God's reasons for delaying Saul's demise, his reign ended exactly the way God had foretold. Only God knows the timing of his plans and the fulfillment of his promises. Our task is to commit our ways to him and then trust him for the outcome.


Dave Burnette's Life Application

Foolish Vows


Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter, making application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Today we continue in the book of 1st Samuel with Chapter 14. In our text, we see Jonathan's brave new plan, Saul's foolish vow, and Saul's military successes. What catches my eye today is another negative trait of Saul - His foolish vow - this promise he engaged in affected his men and his army, causing them to sin. Saul made a promise spontaneously without any thought and, as a result, placed others in place of failure. In applying, we see the responsibility of making vows or commitments in our own lives. As adults and parents, our decisions affect our children and families. I have seen this in so many lives being in the Ministry. Children suffer at the hands of a parent making wrong choices. The truth is that any of our bad decisions affect others somehow. How about you? Have you made decisions that affect your family, resulting in a negative outcome? Let us learn from our text today and the mistakes of Saul to not make foolish vows or decisions that affect others we love.


1 Samuel 14

1 Samuel 14

 1Now it came to pass upon a day, that Jonathan the son of Saul said unto the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over to the Philistines' garrison, that is on the other side. But he told not his father.

 2And Saul tarried in the uttermost part of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree which is in Migron: and the people that were with him were about six hundred men;

 3And Ahiah, the son of Ahitub, Ichabod's brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the LORD's priest in Shiloh, wearing an ephod. And the people knew not that Jonathan was gone.

 4And between the passages, by which Jonathan sought to go over unto the Philistines' garrison, there was a sharp rock on the one side, and a sharp rock on the other side: and the name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh.

 5The forefront of the one was situate northward over against Michmash, and the other southward over against Gibeah.

 6And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: 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.

 7And his armourbearer said unto him, Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart.

 8Then said Jonathan, Behold, we will pass over unto these men, and we will discover ourselves unto them.

 9If they say thus unto us, Tarry until we come to you; then we will stand still in our place, and will not go up unto them.

 10But if they say thus, Come up unto us; then we will go up: for the LORD hath delivered them into our hand: and this shall be a sign unto us.

 11And both of them discovered themselves unto the garrison of the Philistines: and the Philistines said, Behold, the Hebrews come forth out of the holes where they had hid themselves.

 12And the men of the garrison answered Jonathan and his armourbearer, and said, Come up to us, and we will shew you a thing. And Jonathan said unto his armourbearer, Come up after me: for the LORD hath delivered them into the hand of Israel.

 13And Jonathan climbed up upon his hands and upon his feet, and his armourbearer after him: and they fell before Jonathan; and his armourbearer slew after him.

 14And that first slaughter, which Jonathan and his armourbearer made, was about twenty men, within as it were an half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plow.

 15And there was trembling in the host, in the field, and among all the people: the garrison, and the spoilers, they also trembled, and the earth quaked: so it was a very great trembling.

 16And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked; and, behold, the multitude melted away, and they went on beating down one another.

 17Then said Saul unto the people that were with him, Number now, and see who is gone from us. And when they had numbered, behold, Jonathan and his armourbearer were not there.

 18And Saul said unto Ahiah, Bring hither the ark of God. For the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel.

 19And it came to pass, while Saul talked unto the priest, that the noise that was in the host of the Philistines went on and increased: and Saul said unto the priest, Withdraw thine hand.

 20And Saul and all the people that were with him assembled themselves, and they came to the battle: and, behold, every man's sword was against his fellow, and there was a very great discomfiture.

 21Moreover the Hebrews that were with the Philistines before that time, which went up with them into the camp from the country round about, even they also turned to be with the Israelites that were with Saul and Jonathan.

 22Likewise all the men of Israel which had hid themselves in mount Ephraim, when they heard that the Philistines fled, even they also followed hard after them in the battle.

 23So the LORD saved Israel that day: and the battle passed over unto Bethaven.

 24And the men of Israel were distressed that day: for Saul had adjured the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies. So none of the people tasted any food.

 25And all they of the land came to a wood; and there was honey upon the ground.

 26And when the people were come into the wood, behold, the honey dropped; but no man put his hand to his mouth: for the people feared the oath.

 27But Jonathan heard not when his father charged the people with the oath: wherefore he put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened.

 28Then answered one of the people, and said, Thy father straitly charged the people with an oath, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food this day. And the people were faint.

 29Then said Jonathan, My father hath troubled the land: see, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey.

 30How much more, if haply the people had eaten freely to day of the spoil of their enemies which they found? for had there not been now a much greater slaughter among the Philistines?

 31And they smote the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon: and the people were very faint.

 32And the people flew upon the spoil, and took sheep, and oxen, and calves, and slew them on the ground: and the people did eat them with the blood.

 33Then they told Saul, saying, Behold, the people sin against the LORD, in that they eat with the blood. And he said, Ye have transgressed: roll a great stone unto me this day.

 34And Saul said, Disperse yourselves among the people, and say unto them, Bring me hither every man his ox, and every man his sheep, and slay them here, and eat; and sin not against the LORD in eating with the blood. And all the people brought every man his ox with him that night, and slew them there.

 35And Saul built an altar unto the LORD: the same was the first altar that he built unto the LORD.

 36And Saul said, Let us go down after the Philistines by night, and spoil them until the morning light, and let us not leave a man of them. And they said, Do whatsoever seemeth good unto thee. Then said the priest, Let us draw near hither unto God.

 37And Saul asked counsel of God, Shall I go down after the Philistines? wilt thou deliver them into the hand of Israel? But he answered him not that day.

 38And Saul said, Draw ye near hither, all the chief of the people: and know and see wherein this sin hath been this day.

 39For, as the LORD liveth, which saveth Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die. But there was not a man among all the people that answered him.

 40Then said he unto all Israel, Be ye on one side, and I and Jonathan my son will be on the other side. And the people said unto Saul, Do what seemeth good unto thee.

 41Therefore Saul said unto the LORD God of Israel, Give a perfect lot. And Saul and Jonathan were taken: but the people escaped.

 42And Saul said, Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son. And Jonathan was taken.

 43Then Saul said to Jonathan, Tell me what thou hast done. And Jonathan told him, and said, I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in mine hand, and, lo, I must die.

 44And Saul answered, God do so and more also: for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan.

 45And the people said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? God forbid: as the LORD liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day. So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not.

 46Then Saul went up from following the Philistines: and the Philistines went to their own place.

 47So Saul took the kingdom over Israel, and fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, and against the children of Ammon, and against Edom, and against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines: and whithersoever he turned himself, he vexed them.

 48And he gathered an host, and smote the Amalekites, and delivered Israel out of the hands of them that spoiled them.

 49Now the sons of Saul were Jonathan, and Ishui, and Melchishua: and the names of his two daughters were these; the name of the firstborn Merab, and the name of the younger Michal:

 50And the name of Saul's wife was Ahinoam, the daughter of Ahimaaz: and the name of the captain of his host was Abner, the son of Ner, Saul's uncle.

 51And Kish was the father of Saul; and Ner the father of Abner was the son of Abiel.

 52And there was sore war against the Philistines all the days of Saul: and when Saul saw any strong man, or any valiant man, he took him unto him.