Study Notes

1Samuel 13:1-14:52

13:1 Saul's Years

Literally, this says in Hebrew, "Saul was one year old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years over Israel." That is obviously not correct. The verse has been pored over for centuries to figure out what the original writer wrote.

While the NAS translators said Saul was 40 and reigned 32 years, the NIV writes,

1Sam. 13:1 Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years.

My problem with these two translations, is that the apostle Paul said,

Acts 13:21 "And then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years."

Unless Paul was rounding off 32 or 42 to 40, neither of these can be right. The NRSV plays it safe and says,

1Sam. 13:1 Saul was. . . years old when he began to reign; and he reigned. . . and two years over Israel.

The King James takes the numbers we have literally and makes a different statement altogether:

1Sam. 13:1 Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel

There are big textual problems with this. What the numbers originally were, we may never know this side of heaven.

13:2 Three Thousand Chosen

Saul selected 3,000 men from the fighting men of Israel and sent the rest home. He took 2,000 of them to Mik-MAWSH in the hill country of Bayth-ALE, while his son Jonathan led 1,000 to Ghib-AW in Benjamin's territory.

13:3-4 Saul Takes Credit

Jonathan, leading his 1,000 men, attacks the Philistine garrison at GHEH-bah and defeats them. But Saul has the trumpet blown, announcing that Saul had led the victory. This would seem to me to be the first clearly sinful act of the king.

What this small victory had accomplished was about the same as throwing a rock at a hornets nest! Now the Philistines are hopping mad, and Israel has become a stink in their nostrils. A showdown is coming, and everyone is called to assemble with Saul at Ghil-GAWL.

13:5-7 Fear Of The Philistines

The Philistines gather thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen to Mik-MAWSH, east of Bayth AW-ven.

This was too numerous and powerful an army to even think that the Israelites could defeat them. Many of the Jews ran away and hid in caves, or even as far as the land of Gad and Ghil-AWD. Even the ones that followed Saul were scared out of their wits.

13:8-14 Saul's Sin

Samuel had told Saul when he first anointed him,

1Sam. 10:8 "And you shall go down before me to Ghil-GAWL; and behold, I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings. You shall wait seven days until I come to you and show you what you should do."

When the seventh day came and he hadn't shown up yet, and Saul saw that people were leaving the army camp in fear, he took matters into his own hands.

He offered the burnt offering, and was about to offer the peace offering (Leviticus 3:3-5; 6:12; 9:17-18), when up walks Samuel. Saul came up to greet him, but Samuel was very bent out of shape. He rebuked Saul and told him that he had acted foolishly, broken the commandment of God, and ruined the opportunity for his kingdom to last forever.

Boy, Samuel sure seems like a hothead, doesn't he? You know, at first, second, and even third readings, it would seem like this is an overreaction to Saul's simple act of sacrifice. Why was Samuel so intense in his rebuke of Saul?

Saul's sin was sevenfold.

#1 - Disobedience

Saul had disobeyed the command of Samuel. Although he was the king of Israel, Samuel spoke the Word of God to Israel. He should have submitted to the authority that God had given Samuel.

Hebr. 13:17 Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

Saul's failure to submit certainly proved to be unprofitable for him!

#2 - Fear Of Man

The root of Saul's failure to obey Samuel's command to wait was fear. He was afraid that the Philistines were gaining military advantage with every hour that passed - giving them time to organize and increase their numbers.

Prov. 29:25 The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.

Saul was ensnared in sin by his fear of man.

#3 - Walking By Sight

Another thing that brought Saul to this place was walking by sight. He saw the Philistine army, he saw that men were abandoning him, and he saw that Samuel was late.

2Cor. 5:7 ...we walk by faith, not by sight

We will always fall into sin if we look around instead of up. We will always be discouraged and dissuaded if we view things with an earthly perspective rather than a heavenly one.

#4 - Impatience

When Samuel failed to show up bright and early on the seventh day, Saul lost patience and took matters into his own hands. I don't know how long it takes to offer a burnt offering, but for argument's sake, let's say it takes an hour. If Saul would have waited just that short time longer, Samuel would have arrived and everything would have been okay.

How many blessings have we missed because of impatience? Daniel had been praying for three weeks before the angel Gabriel appeared to answer his prayer. He said,

Dan. 10:12 "...From the first day that you set your heart on understanding {this} and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words."

What would have happened if Daniel had stopped praying after only two weeks? How many times have we stopped waiting for the Lord and taken matters into our own hands?

#5 - Out Of Office

The burnt offering and the peace offering were to be offered only by the priests. Only the sons of Aaron were to offer up the blood and burn the pieces (Leviticus 1; 4-9; 14-16; etc.).

God has always been very specific about keeping the offices of king and priest separate from everyone (with only the order of Melchizedek being the exception). King Ooz-zee-YAW was a faithful king over Judah. He did right in the sight of the Lord. But then,

2Chr. 26:16-21 ...He was unfaithful to the LORD his God, for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. Then Az-ar-YAW the priest entered after him and with him eighty priests of the LORD, valiant men. And they opposed Ooz-zee-YAW the king and said to him, "It is not for you, Ooz-zee-YAW, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful, and will have no honor from the LORD God." But Ooz-zee-YAW, with a censer in his hand for burning incense, was enraged; and while he was enraged with the priests, the leprosy broke out on his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the altar of incense. And Az-ar-YAW the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous on his forehead; and they hurried him out of there, and he himself also hastened to get out because the LORD had smitten him. And King Ooz-zee-YAW was a leper to the day of his death; and he lived in a separate house, being a leper, for he was cut off from the house of the LORD...

Like Ooz-zee-YAH would later, King Saul had violated the priestly office.

#6 - Broken Commandment

Samuel told Saul twice,

1Sam. 13:13 ..."you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you"...

1Sam. 13:14 " have not kept what the LORD commanded you."

It is possible Samuel means that since he was speaking for God, and therefore disobedience to him was disobeying the commandment of God. But I have counted this as a separate sin, because it may be something else. What did God specifically command Saul? Long before Saul was born, the Lord said of the king of Israel,

Deut. 17:18-20 "Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left; in order that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.

It is possible that this is the commandment Samuel is rebuking him for breaking.

#7 - No Heart After God

Ultimately, Saul's greatest sin as the king of Israel was that he had no heart after God. Although God had changed Saul's heart (1Samuel 10:9), Saul had quickly let it be hardened by unrepentant sin. David, who would be anointed king next, also had struggles with sin, but would turn to God and repent. This is what it is to have a heart after God. Not completely free from sin, but completely given to confession and repentance.

13:15-18 Invading Raiders

Of the Israelites who came to fight, only 600 were left with Saul. The Philistines sent out three companies of raiders (the word means "destroyers"), into Of-RAW in the land of Shoo-AWL, Bayth Kho-RONE, and the Israeli border overlooking the valley of Tseb-o-EEM. Things looked very bleak.

13:19-23 No Blacksmiths In Israel

The Philistines' oppression of the Israelites had included keeping them from processing iron into tools and weapons. They had either killed are taken away all of the Israeli blacksmiths.

This was a common tactic in war. For example, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon,

2Kgs. 24:14 ...led away into exile all Jerusalem and all the captains and all the mighty men of valor, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths.

With no blacksmiths in Israel, the Hebrews had to go to the Philistines even to get their tools sharpened.

(The King James has a terrible translation here of the word "pets-ee-RAW," meaning "price or charge." It translates it as "file," saying,

1Sam. 13:21 Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads.

This is not the case. They did not have a file, else they would not have needed to go to the Philistines for sharpening.)

Their weapons were the bow and arrow, and the sling. The only swords or spears that any of them had were with Saul and Jonathan.

14:1 Jonathan Crosses Over

Jonathan decides to venture towards the Philistine garrison, the main camp that has sent out these companies of raiders.

14:2-3 A Serious Lack Of Glory

Jonathan has gone by faith right into the heart of the Philistines. In contrast, here is Saul, staying put under the pomegranate tree, which is in Mig-RONE. He had only 600 men left with him, plus a priest.

Akh-ee-YAW was the son of Akh-ee-TOOB, Ichabod's brother. So he is the nephew of Ichabod. In case you don't remember, at the beginning of the book of 1Samuel, we were introduced to Eli, the high priest, and his corrupt sons, Khof-NEE and Pee-nekh-AWS. When they were killed by the Philistines and the ark of the covenant was taken, Pee-nekh-AWS' wife went into labor, and as she died, named her newborn son "Ichabod," "no glory," saying, "the glory has departed from Israel." How'd you like to be a priest stuck with that name?

But God had also cursed the line of Eli, taking the priesthood away from them. So here is the situation: we've got a king whose been all but fired, and a priest, the nephew of "no glory," who shouldn't even be in the priesthood.

14:4-10 Jonathan's Plan

Jonathan finds a narrow passageway between two sharp crags to the north and south named Bo-TSATES and Seh-NEH. He gets the idea that such a narrow entry could be a tactical advantage. The two of them might very well be able to fight the Philistines a few at a time. If God is with them, they would very well be victorious. I love what Jonathan says,

1Sam. 14:6 "...The LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few."

God often doesn't want to save by many. When He does that, the men get the credit rather than the Lord. Remember that the Lord pared down Gideon's army of 32,000 down to just 300 men (Judges 7) so all would know the victory was the Lord's doing.

It doesn't matter how small, how few, how weak, how unimpressive you are. As Paul wrote,

Rom. 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God {is} for us, who {is} against us?

So Jonathan formulates a plan: "We'll show ourselves and see what the Philistines' response is. If the Lord is with us, He'll have them say, 'Come up here.' But if not, they'll say, 'Wait until we come to you.'"

14:11-14 Jonathan Fights The Philistines

The Philistines had no fear of or respect for the Israelites, who had proven themselves to be cowards of late. Thinking that these two men had just come out of hiding and were either ready to defect or just to beg for food, the Philistine guards say, "Come up here."

When Jonathan heard this, he knew that God was giving them the victory. They climbed up and killed about twenty of the Philistines.

14:15-17 Trembling And Confusion

The Lord brought an earthquake and great confusion to the Philistines. They were actually killing each other in their vexation. Many of them were running away in different directions.

When Saul saw what was happening, he commanded that they take attendance to see who from their camp had caused this uproar in the Philistine camp. It was soon discovered that Jonathan and his armor bearer were missing.

14:18-20 Saul's Shortened Devotions

Saul knew that he must consult the Lord's counsel before going to war. He had Akh-ee-YAW the priest bring the ark of God and begin to inquire of him what the Lord's will would be. But when the noise in the Philistine camp got even louder, he essentially told the priest, "Never mind. I've got my answer." Then, he led his 600 men into the battle.

14:21-23 Returning Warriors

Those Jews that had defected to the Philistine side or who had been enslaved by the Philistines turned against them. Those that had hidden themselves also joined in the battle. The victory that the Lord had brought was uniting the Hebrews again, and the battle spread beyond Bayth AW-ven.

14:24-26 Saul's Foolish Oath

Saul, in rashness and pride, had announced, "Cursed be the man who eats food before evening, and until I have avenged myself on my enemies." A forced fast is not the best prescription for an army chasing their enemy.

The poor Israelites were forbidden to take food from the Philistines that fell before them, or from eating honey that they saw in the forest. Saul is quickly proving that he's not the best leader or the quickest thinker around.

14:27-31 Jonathan Eats Honey

Jonathan was not there when Saul had announced his curse. So when he saw the honey and ate it, someone told him what Saul had said. Jonathan had a few words to say about his father's ignorance, troubling the army as he had.

Though the army was weary, they continued fighting the Philistines from Mik-MAWSH to Ah-yaw-LONE.

14:32-35 With The Blood

Saul had brought them to the point of desperate hunger. So when evening finally came and they found the Philistines livestock, they didn't wait to build a fire, drain the blood, and cook the meat. They simply killed them and ate the meat raw, with the blood.

Saul knew enough to know that this was against the law of God. God had told Noah,

Gen. 9:4 "Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, {that is,} its blood.

It was also in the Law.

Lev. 7:26-27 "And you are not to eat any blood, either of bird or animal, in any of your dwellings. Any person who eats any blood, even that person shall be cut off from his people."

So Saul commanded that people slaughter their animals on a large stone and drain the blood.

14:36-45 Jonathan Discovered And Delivered

Because God refused to answer Saul's inquiry regarding the battle, Saul assumed that there was sin in the camp. Far be it from him to understand that it was him!

But when lots were cast, and the lot fell on Jonathan, he confessed that he had eaten some of the honey.

At this point, it was time for Saul to repent of his ignorant curse that he had spoken. But to save face, he would rather put his son to death. The people of Israel, however, stood up to Saul and told him that Jonathan was not going to be put to death.

14:46-51 Saul's Family

Saul's sons were Jonathan, Yish-VEE, and Mal-kee-SHOO-ah, and his daughters were May-RAWB and Me-KAWL. His wife was Akh-ee-NO-am, the daughter of Akh-ee-MAH-ats.

14:52 Saul Gathers Mighty Men

As the contentions with the Philistines continued throughout Saul's kingship, he began surrounding himself with the most powerful of the men of Israel.

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