13 Saul was thirty years[a] old when he became king, and he reigned forty-two years[b] over Israel.[c] 2 He chose three thousand men from Israel for himself: two thousand were with Saul at Michmash and in Bethel’s hill country, and one thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin. He sent the rest of the troops away, each to his own tent.3 Jonathan attacked the Philistine garrison[d] that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. So Saul blew the ram’s horn throughout the land saying, “Let the Hebrews hear!” [e] 4 And all Israel heard the news, “Saul has attacked the Philistine garrison, and Israel is now repulsive to the Philistines.” Then the troops were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.5 The Philistines also gathered to fight against Israel: three thousand[f] chariots, six thousand horsemen, and troops as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Michmash, east of Beth-aven.[g]6 The men of Israel saw that they were in trouble because the troops were in a difficult situation. They hid in caves, in thickets, among rocks, and in holes and cisterns. 7 Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.Saul, however, was still at Gilgal, and all his troops were gripped with fear. 8 He waited seven days for the appointed time that Samuel had set, but Samuel didn’t come to Gilgal, and the troops were deserting him. 9 So Saul said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” Then he offered the burnt offering.10 Just as he finished offering the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. So Saul went out to greet him, 11 and Samuel asked, “What have you done?”Saul answered, “When I saw that the troops were deserting me and you didn’t come within the appointed days and the Philistines were gathering at Michmash, 12 I thought, ‘The Philistines will now descend on me at Gilgal, and I haven’t sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I forced myself to offer the burnt offering.”13 Samuel said to Saul, “You have been foolish. You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. It was at this time that the Lord would have permanently established your reign over Israel, 14 but now your reign will not endure. The Lord has found a man after his own heart,[h] and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over his people, because you have not done what the Lord commanded.” 15 Then Samuel went[i] from Gilgal to Gibeah in Benjamin. Saul registered the troops who were with him, about six hundred men.16 Saul, his son Jonathan, and the troops who were with them were staying in Geba of Benjamin, and the Philistines were camped at Michmash. 17 Raiding parties went out from the Philistine camp in three divisions. One division headed toward the Ophrah road leading to the land of Shual. 18 The next division headed toward the Beth-horon road, and the last division headed down the border road that looks out over the Zeboim Valley toward the wilderness.19 No blacksmith could be found in all the land of Israel because the Philistines had said, “Otherwise, the Hebrews will make swords or spears.” 20 So all the Israelites went to the Philistines to sharpen their plows, mattocks, axes, and sickles.[j] 21 The price was two-thirds of a shekel[k] for plows and mattocks, and one-third of a shekel for pitchforks and axes, and for putting a point on a cattle prod. 22 So on the day of battle not a sword or spear could be found in the hand of any of the troops who were with Saul and Jonathan; only Saul and his son Jonathan had weapons.
Jonathan’s Victory over the Philistines
23 Now a Philistine garrison took control of the pass at Michmash.14 That same day Saul’s son Jonathan said to the attendant who carried his weapons, “Come on, let’s cross over to the Philistine garrison on the other side.” However, he did not tell his father.2 Saul was staying under the pomegranate tree in Migron on the outskirts of Gibeah.[l] The troops with him numbered about six hundred. 3 Ahijah, who was wearing an ephod, was also there. He was the son of Ahitub, the brother of Ichabod son of Phinehas, son of Eli the Lord’s priest at Shiloh. But the troops did not know that Jonathan had left.4 There were sharp columns[m] of rock on both sides of the pass that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine garrison. One was named Bozez and the other Seneh; 5 one stood to the north in front of Michmash and the other to the south in front of Geba. 6 Jonathan said to the attendant who carried his weapons, “Come on, let’s cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will help us. Nothing can keep the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”7 His armor-bearer responded, “Do what is in your heart. You choose. I’m right here with you whatever you decide.”8 “All right,” Jonathan replied, “we’ll cross over to the men and then let them see us. 9 If they say, ‘Wait until we reach you,’ then we will stay where we are and not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come on up,’ then we’ll go up, because the Lord has handed them over to us—that will be our sign.”11 They let themselves be seen by the Philistine garrison, and the Philistines said, “Look, the Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they’ve been hiding!” 12 The men of the garrison called to Jonathan and his armor-bearer. “Come on up, and we’ll teach you a lesson!” they said.“Follow me,” Jonathan told his armor-bearer, “for the Lord has handed them over to Israel.” 13 Jonathan climbed up using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer behind him. Jonathan cut them down, and his armor-bearer followed and finished them off. 14 In that first assault Jonathan and his armor-bearer struck down about twenty men in a half-acre field.
A Defeat for the Philistines
15 Terror spread through the Philistine camp and the open fields to all the troops. Even the garrison and the raiding parties were terrified. The earth shook, and terror spread from God.[n] 16 When Saul’s watchmen in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, they saw the panicking troops scattering in every direction. 17 So Saul said to the troops with him, “Call the roll and determine who has left us.” They called the roll and saw that Jonathan and his armor-bearer were gone.18 Saul told Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God,” for it was with the Israelites[o] at that time. 19 While Saul spoke to the priest, the panic in the Philistine camp increased in intensity. So Saul said to the priest, “Stop what you’re doing.”[p]20 Saul and all the troops with him assembled and marched to the battle, and there the Philistines were, fighting against each other in great confusion! 21 There were Hebrews from the area who had gone earlier into the camp to join the Philistines, but even they joined the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. 22 When all the Israelite men who had been hiding in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were fleeing, they also joined Saul and Jonathan in the battle. 23 So the Lord saved Israel that day.
Saul’s Rash Oath
The battle extended beyond Beth-aven, 24 and the men of Israel were worn out that day, for Saul had[q] placed the troops under an oath: “The man who eats food before evening, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies is cursed.” So none of the troops tasted any food.25 Everyone[r] went into the forest, and there was honey on the ground. 26 When the troops entered the forest, they saw the flow of honey, but none of them ate any of it[s] because they feared the oath. 27 However, Jonathan had not heard his father make the troops swear the oath. He reached out with the end of the staff he was carrying and dipped it into the honeycomb. When he ate the honey,[t] he had renewed energy.[u] 28 Then one of the troops said, “Your father made the troops solemnly swear, ‘The man who eats food today is cursed,’ and the troops are exhausted.”29 Jonathan replied, “My father has brought trouble to the land. Just look at how I have renewed energy[v] because I tasted a little of this honey. 30 How much better if the troops had eaten freely today from the plunder they took from their enemies! Then the slaughter of the Philistines would have been much greater.”31 The Israelites struck down the Philistines that day from Michmash all the way to Aijalon. Since the Israelites were completely exhausted, 32 they rushed to the plunder, took sheep, goats, cattle, and calves, slaughtered them on the ground, and ate meat with the blood still in it. 33 Some reported to Saul: “Look, the troops are sinning against the Lord by eating meat with the blood still in it.”Saul said, “You have been unfaithful. Roll a large stone over here at once.” 34 He then said, “Go among the troops and say to them, ‘Let each man bring me his ox or his sheep. Do the slaughtering here and then you can eat. Don’t sin against the Lord by eating meat with the blood in it.’” So every one of the troops brought his ox that night and slaughtered it there. 35 Then Saul built an altar to the Lord; it was the first time he had built an altar to the Lord.36 Saul said, “Let’s go down after the Philistines tonight and plunder them until morning. Don’t let even one remain!”“Do whatever you want,”[w] the troops replied.But the priest said, “Let’s approach God here.”37 So Saul inquired of God, “Should I go after the Philistines? Will you hand them over to Israel?” But God did not answer him that day.38 Saul said, “All you leaders of the troops, come here. Let us investigate[x] how this sin has occurred today. 39 As surely as the Lord lives who saves Israel, even if it is because of my son Jonathan, he must die!” Not one of the troops answered him.40 So he said to all Israel, “You will be on one side, and I and my son Jonathan will be on the other side.”And the troops replied, “Do whatever you want.”41 So Saul said to the Lord, “God of Israel, why have you not answered your servant today? If the unrighteousness is in me or in my son Jonathan, Lord God of Israel, give Urim; but if the fault is in your people Israel, give Thummim.”[y] Jonathan and Saul were selected, and the troops were cleared of the charge.42 Then Saul said, “Cast the lot between me and my son Jonathan,” and Jonathan was selected. 43 Saul commanded him, “Tell me what you did.”Jonathan told him, “I tasted a little honey with the end of the staff I was carrying. I am ready to die!”44 Saul declared to him, “May God punish me and do so severely if you do not die, Jonathan!”45 But the people said to Saul, “Must Jonathan die, who accomplished such a great deliverance for Israel? No, as the Lord lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he worked with God’s help today.” So the people redeemed Jonathan, and he did not die. 46 Then Saul gave up the pursuit of the Philistines, and the Philistines returned to their own territory.
Summary of Saul’s Kingship
47 When Saul assumed the kingship over Israel, he fought against all his enemies in every direction: against Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines. Wherever he turned, he caused havoc.[z] 48 He fought bravely, defeated the Amalekites, and rescued Israel from those who plundered them.49 Saul’s sons were Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malchishua. The names of his two daughters were Merab, his firstborn, and Michal, the younger. 50 The name of Saul’s wife was Ahinoam daughter of Ahimaaz. The name of the commander of his army was Abner son of Saul’s uncle Ner. 51 Saul’s father was Kish. Abner’s father was Ner son of Abiel.52 The conflict with the Philistines was fierce all of Saul’s days, so whenever Saul noticed any strong or valiant man, he enlisted him.
Being on several mission trips and being around missionaries, you hear a common phrase: “The most dangerous place to be is outside the will of God” when danger or obstacles come up. It’s a very true saying.
Saul didn’t know this phrase. He didn’t obey his first assignment in battle and saw his men leaving, so he went ahead and rushed sacrifices to try and scrounge his army together for the next fight.
The sacrifices were meant to be a time to seek direction from God and to see what His will was. Saul is more concerned about going and doing what he felt was right, rather than what God wanted him to do. For this, Saul’s crown over Israel will come to an end with him. What are you more concerned with? Safety, security, and your own reason? Or doing what God would have you do?