1That 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.
2Saul was staying under the pomegranate tree in Migron on the outskirts of Gibeah. The troops with him numbered about six hundred. 3Ahijah, 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.
4There were sharp columns 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; 5one stood to the north in front of Michmash and the other to the south in front of Geba. 6Jonathan 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.”
7His armor-bearer responded, “Do what is in your heart. Go ahead! I’m completely with you.”
8“All right,” Jonathan replied, “we’ll cross over to the men and then let them see us. 9If they say, ‘Wait until we reach you,’ then we will stay where we are and not go up to them. 10But 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.”
11They 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!” 12The 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.” 13Jonathan 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. 14In that first assault Jonathan and his armor-bearer struck down about twenty men in a half-acre field.
A Defeat for the Philistines
15Terror 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. 16When Saul’s watchmen in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, they saw the panicking troops scattering in every direction. 17So 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.
18Saul told Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God,” for it was with the Israelites at that time. 19While 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.”
20Saul and all the troops with him assembled and marched to the battle, and there the Philistines were, fighting against each other in great confusion! 21There 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. 22When 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. 23So the Lord saved Israel that day.
Saul’s Rash Oath
The battle extended beyond Beth-aven, 24and the men of Israel were worn out that day, for Saul had 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.
25Everyone went into the forest, and there was honey on the ground. 26When the troops entered the forest, they saw the flow of honey, but none of them ate any of it because they feared the oath. 27However, 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, he had renewed energy. 28Then 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.”
29Jonathan replied, “My father has brought trouble to the land. Just look at how I have renewed energy because I tasted a little of this honey. 30How 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.”
31The Israelites struck down the Philistines that day from Michmash all the way to Aijalon. Since the Israelites were completely exhausted, 32they rushed to the plunder, took sheep, goats, cattle, and calves, slaughtered them on the ground, and ate meat with the blood still in it. 33Some 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.” 34He 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. 35Then Saul built an altar to the Lord; it was the first time he had built an altar to the Lord.
36Saul said, “Let’s go down after the Philistines tonight and plunder them until morning. Don’t let even one remain!”
“Do whatever you want,” the troops replied.
But the priest said, “Let’s approach God here.”
37So 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.
38Saul said, “All you leaders of the troops, come here. Let’s investigate how this sin has occurred today. 39As 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.
40So 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.”
41So 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.” Jonathan and Saul were selected, and the troops were cleared of the charge.
42Then Saul said, “Cast the lot between me and my son Jonathan,” and Jonathan was selected. 43Saul 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!”
44Saul declared to him, “May God punish me and do so severely if you do not die, Jonathan!”
45But the people said to Saul, “Must Jonathan die? He 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. 46Then Saul gave up the pursuit of the Philistines, and the Philistines returned to their own territory.
Summary of Saul’s Kingship
47When 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. 48He fought bravely, defeated the Amalekites, and rescued Israel from those who plundered them.
49Saul’s sons were Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malchishua. The names of his two daughters were Merab, his firstborn, and Michal, the younger. 50The 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. 51Saul’s father was Kish. Abner’s father was Ner son of Abiel.
52The conflict with the Philistines was fierce all of Saul’s days, so whenever Saul noticed any strong or valiant man, he enlisted him.