1 Kings xiv.
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Day, while it was yet dark. (Josephus) — This action would seem rash, and contrary to military discipline, which requires that the general should be apprised of any hazardous enterprise. (Calmet) — But it is thought that Jonathan was directed by God, who granted him success. (Cornelius a Lapide) — The Rabbins say, “every augury which is not like that of Eleazar and Jonathan, is null. If they had done ill,…God would not have heard them.” (Kimchi)
Ver. 2. Magron, a village between Gabaa and Machmas, Isaias x. 28. Hebrew reads “Remmon,” which means “a pomegranate tree,” and denotes a famous impregnable rock, with extensive caverns, where an equal number of men had formerly saved themselves, Judges xx. 47. (Calmet) (Tirinus) (Menochius)
Ver. 3. Ephod; or was high priest, ver. 18. Achias is called Achimelech, chap. xxii. 9. (Calmet) — He had succeeded his father, Achitob, in the beginning of Saul’s reign, after the former had held the dignity twenty-two years. (Salien, the year of the world 2962.)
Ver. 6. Uncircumcised. The Hebrews looked upon the Gentiles as unclean and they, in their turn, spoke of the Jews in the most contemptuous manner. (Calmet) — It may. Literally, “if perchance.” (Haydock) — This does not express any doubt. The hero found himself impelled to undertake this work, but he knew not by what means God would crown it with success. He therefore prays to him in this manner, as Abraham’s servant had done, Genesis xxiv. 12. He does not tempt God no more than Gedeon and Moses, who begged that the Lord would manifest his will by miracles. (Calmet) — Few. These words are often repeated, (2 Paralipomenon xiv. 11., and 1 Machabees iii. 18,) and were verified, chap. xvii. 47., and Judges vii. 4. (Menochius)
Ver. 10. This shall be a sign. It is likely Jonathan was instructed by divine inspiration, to make choice of this sign; otherwise, the observation of omens is superstitious and sinful. (Challoner) (Menochius) (Worthington)
Ver. 11. Philistines, probably on the northern rock, as they afterwards climbed up that on the south, (Calmet) where they had not been discovered. (Salien)
Ver. 12. A thing, making you pay dear for this temerity. Herodotus (v.) mentions, that the Peonians were commanded by the oracle not to attack the Perinthians, unless they were challenged. They did so, and gained a complete victory.
Ver. 14. Day. Varro, &c., allow 120 feet, Columella only 70, for a day’s work, so that these twenty men were slain in the space of 60 or 35 feet. Louis de Dieu rejects all the other versions, and would translate the Hebrew “in almost the half of the length of a furrow, and in the breadth which is between two furrows in a field,” so that the enemy would be very close together. Literally, “almost in the half of a furrow of a yoke of the field,” which seems rather to be understood of the length, (Calmet) if indeed it have any meaning. Protestants are forced to help out the text: “within as it were a half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plough.” (Haydock) — But a whole acre was the usual allowance. (Menochius) — Hallet observes, “the Septuagint read the Hebrew in a different manner, and have rendered the verse thus, ‘That first slaughter was….of about twenty men, with darts, and stones, and flints of the field:’ I suppose the read, Bétsim ubomáuth.” Kennicott adds, and ubgomri, as the Arabs still use gomor, to denote “a small flint.” (Golius) (Haydock)
Ver. 15. Miracle. Hebrew charada, “consternation or trembling,” a panic fear, as the Philistines imagined that all the army of Israel had got into the camp. “In the terrors sent by demons, (or superior beings) even the sons of the gods flee away.” (Pindar. Nem.) The earth quaked (Calmet) to increase the enemies’ apprehensions, so that those who had gone out to plunder, hearing of the disaster, which report had greatly magnified, and all the people feeling this unusual and alarming motion of the earth, perceived that God was fighting against them, and trembled. (Haydock)
Ver. 16. Gabaa, where they were stationed to observe the enemies’ motions, and to give notice of them to Saul, at Remmon, ver. 2. (Calmet) — Overthrown. Hebrew, “melted down, (without courage) and they went crushing” one another is the narrow passes, (Haydock) and turning their arms against all they met. (Josephus)
Ver. 17. Were not. Hebrew, “when they had numbered, behold Jonathan, &c., not” in the number. (Haydock)
Ver. 18. Ark. Septuagint, “the ephod.” (Kimchi, &c.) — Spencer follows the sentiment of the Rabbins, and explains it of a little box, in which the ephod and pectoral were placed, when they were brought to the army. But what need of this explication? (Calmet) — How the oracle was given is uncertain. (Menochius)
Ver. 19. Hand. He prayed with his hands extended. Saul believed that God had sufficiently intimated his will, by affording such a favourable opportunity. “The best of omens is to revenge our country’s wrongs.” (Hector. Iliad.) (Menochius) — Optimis auspiciis ea geri, quĉ pro Reip. salute fierent, was the observation of Q. F. Maximus. Senect. (Calmet) — Saul did not wait for God’s answer, and therefore had nearly lost his son by a rash vow, and by too eager zeal. (Worthington)
Ver. 21. Before; that is, for some time, as slaves. (Menochius) — Having retired to their camp, to avoid the plunderers, (Calmet) they rose upon their oppressors, as Christian slaves have often done upon the Turks, when a galley has been engaged, and fallen into the hands of their friends. (Menochius) — Camp. Hebrew adds, “round about,” as if they guarded the baggage, (Piscator) or had retreated thither form the environs. (Calmet)
Ver. 22. And there, &c. This is not found in Hebrew, &c., nor in many Latin copies. The Septuagint specify the number, (ver. 24) where it is not in the original. (Calmet)
Ver. 23. Bethaven. They pursued the stragglers thither, as well as to Aialon, ver. 31. (Haydock)
Ver. 24. Together. Which interpretation is more natural (Calmet) than the Protestants “where distressed,…for Saul had adjured,” &c. (Haydock) — Septuagint, “And all the people was with Saul, about 10,000, and the war was spread through all the city in Mount Ephraim, and Saul was guilty of great ignorance that day, and he adjures (Haydock; or cursed) the people,” &c. He saw not that he was acting against his own interest. The sequel does not evince that God approved of his conduct. But the people were to be taught not to make light of oaths, nor to neglect the curses which their rulers should denounce. (Calmet) — Food. Literally, “bread,” which comprises all sorts of food, honey, &c., (ver. 25.; Haydock) but not drink, which might lawfully have been taken, as thirst is more difficult to bear. (Menochius) — Salien (the year of the world 2964) defends the conduct of Saul, and condemns Jonathan.
Ver. 25. Ground. Even still travellers perceive the smell of honey very frequently in that country. (Maundrell) — The people use honey almost in every sauce and in every repast. Virgin assures us, that “bees dwell in holes under ground, in hollow stones, and trees.” (Georg. iv.) The Scripture frequently mentions honey flowing, Exodus ii. 8., Psalm lxx. 17., and Job xx. 17.
Mella fluant illi, ferat & rubus asper amomum. (Virgil, Ec. iii.)
Sanctius says, that in Spain, streams of honey may be seen on the ground; and Maldonet observes, that the countrymen get a livelihood by gathering it from the trees in Betica, or Andalusia.
Ver. 27. Enlightened. Extreme hunger and fatigue hurt the eyes, Jeremias xiv. 6. Sanctius saw a man who through fasting lost his sight, and recovered it again as soon as he had eaten. This is conformable to the observations of Hippocrates, and to nature. (Calmet) — Tenebrĉ oboriuntur, genua inediâ succedunt. Perii, prospicio parum. “Through hunger….I see but little.” (Plautus.) (Haydock)
Ver. 29. Land. Chaldean, “the people of the land.” (Menochius) — He speaks his sentiments freely. But we ought not to find fault, in public, with the conduct of the prince. (Calmet) — The people might have eaten a little without stopping the pursuit, as they generally carried provisions with them, or might find some easily on the road, so as to run with fresh vigour, (See Josue x.) and make ample amends for the time that they had delayed. (Haydock)
Ver. 31. Aialon, in the tribe of Dan. It might be about ten miles from Machmas.
Ver. 32. Blood, contrary to a two-fold law, Genesis ix. 4., and Leviticus xvii. 14. The blood ought to have been carefully extracted and buried. (Calmet) — This was another bad effect of Saul’s rash oath. (Worthington)
Ver. 34. With the blood, as you have done. (Menochius)
Ver. 35. First. Saul begins to exercise himself in acts of religion, which only belonged to a prophet, &c. He thought he might do so in quality of king, thus consecrating a monument of his victory to the God of armies. It was perhaps the very stone on which the oxen had been just before killed for the people. (Calmet)
Ver. 36. God, to consult him, whether the enterprise met with his approbation. Saul is too eager to follow his own prudence. (Haydock) — He would not before wait for God’s answer; (ver. 19) now he can get none. (Worthington)
Ver. 38. Corners, to the very last; or all the princes, Judges xviii. 9.
Ver. 39. Gainsayed him, out of respect. Saul gives another proof of his precipitation, in swearing; and the people, by this silence, acquiesce, not suspecting that Jonathan could have offended in what he had done. (Calmet) — One of them, at least, knew that he had transgressed the order of his father, ver. 28. But extreme necessity might plead his excuse. (Haydock) — They might be silent through fear, or reverence, without giving their consent. (Salien)
Ver. 41. A sign, (judicium;) “pass sentence;” declare why, &c. (Haydock) — Hebrew, “give purity.” Shew who is innocent. (Calmet) — Septuagint, “give the proofs” by the Thummim, which they seem to have read. (Calmet)
Ver. 42. Jonathan was taken. Though Jonathan was excused from sin, through ignorance of the prohibition, yet God was pleased on this occasion to let the lot fall upon him, to shew to all, the great obligation of obedience to princes and parents, (Challoner) the sacred nature of an oath, and at the same time to give Saul a warning not to swear rashly. (Calmet) — How must he have been afflicted, when he saw that he had brought his beloved son into such danger! (Menochius)
Ver. 44. Die. We may here admire the respect which the ancients had for an oath, without seeking for any modification; and the blindness of Saul, who condemns his son with as much haste as he had pronounced the curse, thinking thus to honour God. The thing surely required some deliberation, and he ought to have consulted the Lord about it. The action of Jonathan was not criminal, and the former silence of God did not prove that he deserved death. (Calmet) — If it had, the people would never have been able to have rescued him, no more than the unhappy Achan, Josue vii. (Haydock) — If Saul had been more enlightened, and more humble, he would have concluded that God was displeased at him, and not at Jonathan. (Calmet) — Yet Cajetan and Serarius find fault with the latter. (Menochius)
Ver. 45. The people, directed probably by the high priest, who pronounced the oath null. (Salien) — Ground. He shall not be hurt. (Menochius) — With God. He has been visibly “the minister of God’s mercy.” (Septuagint) — Die. They obtained his pardon. They ought not to have permitted the king’s oath to be put in execution, as it was so horribly unjust. (Grotius, Jur. ii. 13, 6.) (Calmet)
Ver. 47. Soba, in the north. (Menochius) — Rohob was the capital of another part of Cœlosyria, 1 Paralipomenon xviii. 3., and 2 Kings x. 6. — Overcame. We are not to judge of the virtue of a man from his success in the world. (Calmet) — Under the reign of Saul, the tribe of Ruben overcame the Agarites, 1 Paralipomenon v. 10, 18. (Salien, the year of the world 2965.)
Ver. 48. Amalec. The particulars of this war will be given [in] chap. xv., as it explains the cause of Saul’s rejection, and David’s advancement to the throne. (Salien)
Ver. 49. Sons, who accompanied Saul in his wars. Isboseth was too young. — Jessui is called Abinadab, 1 Paralipomenon viii. 33. (Calmet)
Ver. 50. Achinoam. After he came to the throne, he had Respha, 2 Kings iii. 7. (Menochius)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Jonathan attacketh the Philistines. A miraculous victory. Saul’s unadvised oath, by which Jonathan is put in danger of his life, but is delivered by the people.
1 Now it came to pass one day that Jonathan, the son of Saul, said to the young man that bore his armour: Come, and let us go over to the garrison of the Philistines, which is on the other side of yonder place. But he told not this to his father.
2 And Saul abode in the uttermost part of Gabaa, under the pomegranate-tree, which was in Magron: and the people with him were about six hundred men.
3 And Achias, the son of Achitob, brother to Ichabod, the son of Phinees, *the son of Heli, the priest of the Lord in Silo, wore the ephod. And the people knew not whither Jonathan was gone.
4 Now there were between the ascents, by which Jonathan sought to go over to the garrison of the Philistines, rocks standing up on both sides, and steep cliffs like teeth on the one side, and on the other, the name of the one was Boses, and the name of the other was Sene:
5 One rock stood out toward the north, over-against Machmas, and the other to the south, over-against Gabaa.
6 And Jonathan said to the young man that bore his armour: Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised, it may be the Lord will do for us: because it is easy for the Lord to save either by many, or by few.
7 And his armour-bearer said to him: Do all that pleaseth thy mind: go whither thou wilt, and I will be with thee wheresoever thou hast a mind.
8 And Jonathan said: Behold we will go over to these men. And when we shall be seen by them,
9 If they shall speak thus to us: Stay till we come to you: let us stand still in our place, and not go up to them.
10 But if they shall say: Come up to us: let us go up, because the Lord hath delivered them into our hands, this shall be a sign unto us.
11 So both of them discovered themselves to the garrison of the Philistines: and the Philistines said: Behold the Hebrews come forth out of the holes wherein they were hid.
12 And the men of the garrison spoke to Jonathan, and to his armour-bearer, and said: Come up to us, and we will shew you a thing. And Jonathan said to his armour-bearer: Let us go up, follow me: *for the Lord hath delivered them into the hands of Israel.
13 And Jonathan went up creeping on his hands and feet, and his armour-bearer after him. And some fell before Jonathan, others his armour-bearer slew as he followed him.
14 And the first slaughter which Jonathan and his armour-bearer made, was of about twenty men, within half an acre of land, which a yoke of oxen is wont to plough in a day.
15 And there was a miracle in the camp, in the fields: and all the people of their garrison, who had gone out to plunder, were amazed, and the earth trembled: and it happened as a miracle from God.
16 And the watchmen of Saul, who were in Gabaa of Benjamin looked, and behold a multitude overthrown, and fleeing this way and that.
17 And Saul said to the people that were with him: Look, and see who is gone from us. And when they had sought, it was found that Jonathan and his armour-bearer were not there.
18 And Saul said to Achias: Bring the ark of the Lord. (For the ark of God was there that day with the children of Israel.)
19 And while Saul spoke to the priest, there arose a great uproar in the camp of the Philistines: and it increased by degrees, and was heard more clearly. And Saul said to the priest: Draw in thy hand.
20 Then Saul, and all the people that were with him, shouted together, and they came to the place of the fight: and behold every man’s sword was turned upon his neighbour, and there was a very great slaughter.
21 Moreover, the Hebrews that had been with the Philistines yesterday and the day before, and went up with them into the camp, returned to be with the Israelites, who were with Saul and Jonathan.
22 And all the Israelites that had hid themselves in Mount Ephraim, hearing that the Philistines fled, joined themselves with their countrymen in the fight. And there were with Saul about ten thousand men.
23 And the Lord saved Israel that day. And the fight went on as far as Bethaven.
24 And the men of Israel were joined together that day: and Saul adjured the people, saying: Cursed be the man that shall eat food till evening, till I be revenged of my enemies. So none of the people tasted any food.
25 And all the common people came into a forest, in which there was honey upon the ground.
26 And when the people came into the forest, behold the honey dropped, but no man put his hand to his mouth. For the people feared the oath.
27 But Jonathan had not heard when his father adjured the people: and he put forth the end of the rod, which he had in his hand, and dipt it in a honey-comb: and he carried his hand to his mouth, and his eyes were enlightened.
28 And one of the people answering, said: Thy father hath bound the people with an oath, saying: Cursed be the man that shall eat any food this day. (And the people were faint.)
29 And Jonathan said: My father hath troubled the land: you have seen yourselves that my eyes are enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey:
30 How much more if the people had eaten of the prey of their enemies, which they found? had there not been made a greater slaughter among the Philistines?
31 So they smote that day the Philistines from Machmas to Aialon. And the people were wearied exceedingly.
32 And falling upon the spoils, they took sheep, and oxen, and calves, and slew them on the ground: and the people ate them with the blood.
33 And they told Saul that the people had sinned against the Lord, eating with the blood. And he said: You have transgressed: roll here to me now a great stone.
34 And Saul said: Disperse yourselves among the people, and tell them to bring me every man his ox and his ram, and slay them upon this stone, and eat, and you shall not sin against the Lord, in eating with the blood. So all the people brought every man his ox with him till the night: and slew them there.
35 And Saul built an altar to the Lord: and he then first began to build an altar to the Lord.
36 And Saul said: Let us fall upon the Philistines by night, and destroy them till the morning light, and let us not leave a man of them. And the people said: Do all that seemeth good in thy eyes. And the priest said: Let us draw near hither unto God.
37 And Saul consulted the Lord: Shall I pursue after the Philistines? wilt thou deliver them into the hands of Israel? And he answered him not that day.
38 And Saul said: Bring hither all the corners of the people: and know, and see by whom this sin hath happened to-day.
39 As the Lord liveth, who is the Saviour of Israel, if it was done by Jonathan, my son, he shall surely die. In this none of the people gainsayed him.
40 And he said to all Israel: Be you on one side and I, with Jonathan, my son, will be on the other side. And the people answered Saul: Do what seemeth good in thy eyes.
41 And Saul said to the Lord: O Lord God of Israel, give a sign, by which we may know, what the meaning is, that thou answerest not thy servant to-day: If this iniquity be in me, or in my son Jonathan, give a proof: or if this iniquity be in thy people, give holiness. And Jonathan and Saul were taken, and the people escaped.
42 And Saul said: Cast lots between me, and Jonathan, my son. And Jonathan was taken.
43 And 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, which was in my hand, and behold I must die.
44 And Saul said: May God do so and so to me, and add still more: for dying thou shalt die, O Jonathan.
45 And the people said to Saul: Shall Jonathan then die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? this must not be: 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 delivered Jonathan, that he should not die.
46 And Saul went back, and did not pursue after the Philistines: and the Philistines went to their own places.
47 And Saul having his kingdom established over Israel, fought against all his enemies round about, against Moab, and against the children of Ammon, and Edom, and the kings of Soba, and the Philistines: and whithersoever he turned himself, he overcame.
48 And gathering together an army, he defeated Amalec, and delivered Israel from the hand of them that spoiled them.
49 And the sons of Saul, were Jonathan, and Jessui, and Melchisua: and the names of his two daughters, the name of the first-born was Merob, and the name of the younger Michol.
50 And the name of Saul’s wife, was Achinoam, the daughter of Achimaas; and the name of the captain of his army was Abner, the son of Ner, the cousin-german of Saul.
51 For Cis was the father of Saul, and Ner, the father of Abner, was son of Abiel.
52 And there was a great war against the Philistines all the days of Saul. For whomsoever Saul saw to be a valiant man, and fit for war, he took him to himself.
3: 1 Kings iv. 21.
12: 1 Machabees iv. 30.