Evening Bible Study
We’ve seen the
nation transition from the time of the judges, when God used men like Samuel to
guide the nation,
to the time of the kings.
anointed to be the first king during a time when the Ammonites threatened the
land of Gilead and had besieged Jabesh Gilead.
Saul was able
to raise an army of 330,000, and brought about a great victory for Israel. Now
it’s time for things to settle down a bit.
:1 Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel,
The Hebrew here is a bit unclear and some of your versions say different
things, but I think I like the New King James translation here the best.
Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he
reigned over Israel forty- two years.
Saul was thirty years old when he began to reign, and
he reigned forty two years over Israel.
And afterward they asked for a king; so God gave them Saul
the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.
:2 Saul chose for himself three thousand men of Israel. Two thousand
were with Saul in Michmash and in the mountains of Bethel, and a thousand were
with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin. The rest of the people he sent away, every
man to his tent.
:2 Saul chose for
When Saul conquered the Ammonites back in 1Samuel 11, Saul had gathered an army of 330,000 men.
From these men, he now chooses 3,000 to be in his standing army. He will
command 2,000 men, and give 1,000 men to be commanded by his son Jonathan.
– Yownathan – “Yahweh has given”
This is Saul’s eldest son, the “crown prince” of Israel.
:2 Michmash … Bethel … Gibeah
See map clip – Michmash
Gibeah Map. The Israeli armies are split between Michmash and Gibeah, while the
Philistines have expanded their territory up into the hills to a city called
:3 And Jonathan
attacked the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines
heard of it. Then Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying,
“Let the Hebrews hear!”
“When you go to war in your land against the enemy who
oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, and you will be
remembered before the Lord your
God, and you will be saved from your enemies.
:4 Now all Israel heard it said that Saul had attacked a garrison of
the Philistines, and that Israel had also become an abomination to the
Philistines. And the people were called together to Saul at Gilgal.
:5 called together to Saul at Gilgal
Play Gilgal map
We’ve seen that
Gilgal has become a sort of gathering place for the nation, a place where
Samuel would give guidance and blessing to Saul and the nation:
(1 Sa 10:8 NKJV) You shall go down before me to Gilgal; and surely I will come down
to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings.
Seven days you shall wait, till I come to you and show you what you should do.”
Saul had been given specific instructions to wait for Samuel at Gilgal, and
that Samuel would tell him what to do.
:5 Then the
Philistines gathered together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand
chariots and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on
the seashore in multitude. And they came up and encamped in Michmash, to the
east of Beth Aven.
:5 thirty thousand
The Philistines gather a HUGE army.
Perhaps they have been aware of how Saul had gathered an army of 330,000 to
fight the Ammonites. They don’t want to take chances.
For this day
and time, these are “advanced weapon systems”.
Israel does not have any chariots or horsemen.
Keep in mind, Israel no longer has 330,000 gathered, but instead Saul only
had 3,000 men with him.
:5 people as the
records that it was 300,000 men.
:5 they came up
(See map) The initial battle with Jonathan took place at Geba.
Now it seems that the Philistines
are responding with “shock and awe”, an overwhelming force to deal with this
move a huge army up into the hills while Israel is gathering down in Gilgal.
:6 When the men
of Israel saw that they were in danger (for the people were distressed), then
the people hid in caves, in thickets, in rocks, in holes, and in pits.
:6 then the people
Instead of the nation gathering together as they did against the Ammonites,
just the opposite happens. The people scatter and Saul will go from having an
army of three thousand to an army of only six hundred.
As the Lone Ranger
and Tonto were riding along towards the north, they spotted a war party of
about 50 Apaches coming at them. They turned south, but another war party appeared. They turned east and met
another party of 100 braves. They
turned west as their last remaining hope and saw a party of 500. The Lone Ranger turned to his
friend and said, “Well, faithful friend, this is the end, there’s not much we
can do.” Tonto
looked back at the Lone Ranger. “What you mean WE, white man?”
:7 And some of
the Hebrews crossed over the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As
for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him
:7 Gad and Gilead
(see map) As the Philistine army closes in, the people that have gathered in Gilgal keep going
until they cross the Jordan.
:8 Then he waited
seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to
Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him.
:9 So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.”
And he offered the burnt offering.
Whether Saul is literally performing the sacrifice himself, or having a
Levitical priest do the sacrifice, the point is that he should have waited for
:10 Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt
offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet
:11 And Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul said, “When I saw that the
people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days
appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash,
:12 then I said, ‘The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I
have not made supplication to the Lord.’
Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.”
:11 you did not
We’re going to see that this is typical of Saul – he’s quick to give
Saul’s implication is that the guilt belonged to everyone else except
The people were scattering – it’s their fault.
You did not come – Samuel, it’s your fault.
The Philistines will now come – it’s the Philistine’s fault.
Are these things true?
Yes they are. They are all true.
But ultimately, Saul is the one who gave the order to perform the sacrifice
and he is the one who is responsible for things being done improperly.
He had all his reasons lined up, but he avoided the truth that he had made
an unwise choice.
Maturity as a Christian doesn’t come with learning better excuses.
Maturity comes as we learn to stop making excuses.
NKJV) but, speaking
the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—
Speaking the truth.
Sometimes we will say, “I was wrong … but …” and still
give an excuse.
We need to learn to say, “I was wrong”. No “buts”.
:13 And Samuel
said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of
the Lord your God, which He
commanded you. For now the Lord
would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.
:14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and
the Lord has commanded him to
be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”
:15 Then Samuel arose and went up from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin. And
Saul numbered the people present with him, about six hundred men.
:14 a man after His
God would be looking for someone who is concerned about what is on God’s
This will be David.
How can you tell if someone is concerned about what is on God’s heart?
NKJV) “If you
love Me, keep My commandments.
Saul is going to be known for the times that he disobeyed God.
He disobeys God here at Gilgal.
He will disobey God when it comes to dealing with the Amalekites (1Sam. 15)
He will disobey God in seeking counsel from a medium (1Sam. 28)
:16 Saul, Jonathan his son, and the people present with them remained in
Gibeah of Benjamin. But the Philistines encamped in Michmash.
:17 Then raiders came out of the camp of the Philistines in three
companies. One company turned onto the road to Ophrah, to the land of Shual,
:18 another company turned to the road to Beth Horon, and another
company turned to the road of the border that overlooks the Valley of
Zeboim toward the wilderness.
:17 Ophrah … Shual
… Beth Horon … Zeboim
It looks like the Philistines are trying to wipe out Israel. They’re attacking everywhere in the hills.
:19 Now there was
no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the
Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make swords or spears.”
:20 But all the Israelites would go down to the Philistines to sharpen each
man’s plowshare, his mattock, his ax, and his sickle;
:21 and the charge for a sharpening was a pim for the plowshares, the
mattocks, the forks, and the axes, and to set the points of the goads.
:19 Lest the
Hebrews make swords
This was the Philistine way of controlling the arms race. Gun control.
They didn’t allow the Israelites to have any sharp pieces of iron.
:22 So it came about,
on the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand
of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan. But they were
found with Saul and Jonathan his son.
:23 And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the pass of Michmash.
:22 neither sword
Not only has Saul’s army dwindled down from 3,000 to 600, those that are
left are very poorly armed.
They look like a bunch of farmers with pitchforks.
The upper hand
Too often our eyes are on the wrong things when it comes to facing our
We think in terms of the size of an army, or the kinds of weapons it
The real issue is, who is on the side of God?
(Dt 20:1 NKJV) “When you
go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and
people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God is with you, who
brought you up from the land of Egypt.
Some trust in
chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.
(Ro 8:31 NKJV) What then
shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be
Are you facing a battle?
Stop and think about where you are with God.
All that matters is that you are on God’s side.
:1 Now it happened one day that Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young
man who bore his armor, “Come, let us go over to the Philistines’ garrison that
is on the other side.” But he did not tell his father.
:2 And Saul was sitting in the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree
which is in Migron. The people who were with him were
about six hundred men.
:3 Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, the son of Phinehas, the
son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in
Shiloh, was wearing an ephod. But the people did not know that Jonathan had
:3 wearing an ephod
He had the ability to inquire of the Lord, to ask questions of God.
:4 Between the passes, by which Jonathan sought to go over to the
Philistines’ garrison, there was a sharp rock on one side and a sharp
rock on the other side. And the name of one was Bozez, and the name of
the other Seneh.
:5 The front of one faced northward opposite Michmash, and the other
southward opposite Gibeah.
Seneh map clip.
These are the names of two cliffs that face each other.
To get to the Philistines, Jonathan and his armor bearer will have to go
down one cliff and climb the other.
:6 Then Jonathan
said to the young man who bore his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison
of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord
will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord
from saving by many or by few.”
:7 So his armorbearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart. Go then;
here I am with you, according to your heart.”
:6 saving by many
or by few
The heart of faith
Jonathan is a great example of what faith is all about.
To Jonathan, all that matters is that he’s fighting with God on his side.
We think that “bigger” is “better”.
Gideon learned that he only needed an army of 300 to face 135,000, if God
was on his side.
The more important issue is, “Am
I following God’s lead?”
:7 Do all that is
in your heart
Support or run?
I wonder what happened to the other 2,400 men who had been following Saul
earlier? How come there’s only six hundred left?
When the chips were down, people had left.
Not only was Jonathan brave, but his armor bearer was too.
I’d like to not only be like the six hundred that stayed with Saul, but I’d
like to be like Jonathan’s armor-bearer, who was willing to be the only guy to
support what God was doing.
We can’t all be Jonathans. Sometimes
we just need to be the guy who supports Jonathan.
When Moses sent
Joshua out to fight with the Amalekites, he realized as he was watching from
the hill that as long as he (Moses) had his arms raised in prayer, that Joshua
was able to prevail.
But Moses’ arms got tired.
Aaron and Hur came alongside Moses to hold up his arms.
A successful work of God requires Joshuas leading in battle, soldiers
fighting, Moses praying, and people to support Moses.
There’s a place for all of us.
:8 Then Jonathan
said, “Very well, let us cross over to these men, and we will show
ourselves to them.
:9 If they say thus to us, ‘Wait until we come to you,’ then we will stand
still in our place and not go up to them.
:10 But if they say thus, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up. For the Lord has delivered them into our hand,
and this will be a sign to us.”
:9 If they say
This is how they are going to determine what God wants them to do.
They are concerned that they are doing what God wants.
Is this God?
They lay out a “fleece”. Jonathan wants to make sure that this is really a
“God-thing” and not just his own crazy idea.
The idea is this: If the Philistine guards ask them to come up to their
side, then they’ll take it that this is exactly what they should do and they’ll
go up and fight. If the Philistines tell them to stay put, then they’ll run.
Don’t just be a person who likes to live life dangerously for the sake of
living dangerously. Be sure God is speaking.
:11 So both of them
showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. And the Philistines said,
“Look, the Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden.”
:12 Then the men of the garrison called to Jonathan and his armorbearer,
and said, “Come up to us, and we will show you something.” Jonathan said to his
armorbearer, “Come up after me, for the Lord
has delivered them into the hand of Israel.”
:12 Come up after me
Jonathan knows now that God has been leading them. And he gets moving.
:13 And Jonathan climbed up on his hands and knees with his armorbearer
after him; and they fell before Jonathan. And as he came after him, his
armorbearer killed them.
They had to scale the cliffs, but when they get to the top, they start
Jonathan knocks them down, the armorbearer finishes them off.
:14 That first slaughter which Jonathan and his armorbearer made was about
twenty men within about half an acre of land.
They cover about ½ the length of a football field and have killed twenty
:15 And there was trembling in the camp, in the field, and among all the
people. The garrison and the raiders also trembled; and the earth quaked, so
that it was a very great trembling.
Not only are the Philistines shocked to see so many of their comrades fall,
but God pitches in and causes an earthquake, causing a panic among the
:16 Now the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, and there
was the multitude, melting away; and they went here and there.
:17 Then Saul said to the people who were with him, “Now call the
roll and see who has gone from us.” And when they had called the roll,
surprisingly, Jonathan and his armorbearer were not there.
Saul wants to know who is out there fighting the Philistines.
:18 And Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God here” (for at that time
the ark of God was with the children of Israel).
:18 the ark of God
Even though the more permanent location of the Ark was at Kiriath Jeaream (1Sam. 7:1), it has apparently
been with the army for this battle.
:19 Now it happened,
while Saul talked to the priest, that the noise which was in the camp of
the Philistines continued to increase; so Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw
:19 Withdraw your
The priest is using his “ephod” to somehow figure out what God wants them
But as Saul sees how things are going across the way with the Philistines,
he is afraid that if he doesn’t get his troops on the move, they are going to
miss their opportunity.
There’s a time to move
Saul is certainly going to make some mistakes on this day, but I’m not sure
this is one of them.
There are times when God is working that we need to get busy as well.
When Moses and the people were pinned against the Red Sea, and Pharoah’s
chariots were closing in, God said to Moses,
(Ex 14:15 NLT) Then the Lord said to
Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!
Don’t get me wrong – praying is good.
But sometimes we are praying when God wants us to be moving.
Learning to follow the Lord is walking that fine line between waiting and
Saul got into trouble because he didn’t wait for Samuel.
Saul did the right thing by not waiting and getting into the battle.
:20 Then Saul
and all the people who were with him assembled, and they went to the
battle; and indeed every man’s sword was against his neighbor, and there was
very great confusion.
The Philistines are so confused they’re even fighting each other.
:21 Moreover the Hebrews who were with the Philistines before that
time, who went up with them into the camp from the surrounding country,
they also joined the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan.
Apparently some of the Israelites had been living in the camp of the
Philistines, either pretending to be Philistines, or trying to be nice to the
Philistines. When the battle heats up, they join in the battle with Saul and
:22 Likewise all the men of Israel who had hidden in the mountains of
Ephraim, when they heard that the Philistines fled, they also followed
hard after them in the battle.
All the people that had been hiding in caves came out to fight.
Josephus records (Antiquities of the Jews, 6:6:116) that by this
time, Saul’s army had grown from 600 men to 10,000.
:23 So the Lord saved Israel
that day, and the battle shifted to Beth Aven.
:23 Beth Aven
See map. Two
miles northwest of Michmash
:24 And the men of Israel were distressed that day, for Saul had placed the
people under oath, saying, “Cursed is the man who eats any food
until evening, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies.” So none of the
people tasted food.
:24 none of the
people tasted food
guys come up with some pretty stupid ideas. (Stupid guy pics)
Saul makes the
people promise not to stop and eat anything until evening.
Fasting can be a good thing when you’re seeking the Lord, but it’s not a
good idea if you’re going to expect your warriors to keep up their strength.
Saul has done some brilliant things as king. This is NOT one of them.
:25 Now all the
people of the land came to a forest; and there was honey on the
There were bee hives in the forest, the hives were dripping with honey.
:26 And when the people had come into the woods, there was the honey,
dripping; but no one put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath.
:27 But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath;
therefore he stretched out the end of the rod that was in his hand and
dipped it in a honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his countenance
:27 his countenance
an energy boost from the honey. It was
the smart thing to do. Do you want the
entire Israeli army fighting like Betty White or Abe Vigoda?
:28 Then one of the
people said, “Your father strictly charged the people with an oath, saying,
‘Cursed is the man who eats food this day.’ ” And the people were faint.
:29 But Jonathan said, “My father has troubled the land. Look now, how my
countenance has brightened because I tasted a little of this honey.
Jonathan realizes that his father has made a bad choice. Jonathan seems to
not just be a man of faith, but also of common sense.
:30 How much better if the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of
their enemies which they found! For now would there not have been a much
greater slaughter among the Philistines?”
:31 Now they had driven back the Philistines that day from Michmash to
Aijalon. So the people were very faint.
:31 Michmash to
See map. Fifteen miles from Michmash
to Aijalon. It’s the last stop out of
Josephus records (Antiquities of the Jews, 6:6:120) that they had
killed “many tens of thousands of Philistines”
:32 And the people
rushed on the spoil, and took sheep, oxen, and calves, and slaughtered them
on the ground; and the people ate them with the blood.
:32 ate them
with the blood
It’s now evening, and the people can now take time to eat.
The Philistine army would have lots of animals with them because that’s
their provisions. As the Israelites are wiping out the Philistines, there are
lots of animals around as “spoil”.
strictly prohibited His people to eat meat with the blood in it. (Lev. 17:11)
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have
given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is
the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’
The blood was to be something special, something to remind the Jew of the
life that was in the animal. Because of that, whenever a Jew was to slaughter
an animal, the blood had to be drained first. It’s a much more time-consuming
way of slaughtering animals.
:33 Then they told
Saul, saying, “Look, the people are sinning against the Lord by eating with the blood!” So he said, “You have dealt
treacherously; roll a large stone to me this day.”
It’s interesting to note that the people were concerned about not
disobeying Saul’s command to not eat until evening, but they didn’t have any
scruples about disobeying God’s command of not eating meat with the blood.
:34 Then Saul said, “Disperse yourselves among the people, and say to them,
‘Bring me here every man’s ox and every man’s sheep, slaughter them
here, and eat; and do not sin against the Lord
by eating with the blood.’ ” So every one of the people brought his ox with him
that night, and slaughtered it there.
:35 Then Saul built an altar to the Lord.
This was the first altar that he built to the Lord.
Not sure if this is a good thing or not.
He doesn’t receive an open rebuke for it. He does stop the eating of blood. Maybe okay.
:36 Now Saul said, “Let us go down after the Philistines by night, and
plunder them until the morning light; and let us not leave a man of them.” And
they said, “Do whatever seems good to you.” Then the priest said, “Let us draw
near to God here.”
:37 So Saul asked counsel of God, “Shall I go down after the Philistines?
Will You deliver them into the hand of Israel?” But He did not answer him that
:37 He did not
Saul wants to know if they should continue their battle with the
Philistines and so he asks God, but God doesn’t answer.
There’s a communication problem. The
phone lines are down. There’s no cell
It could be because of sin. It could
just be because of Saul’s stupid oath, and God wants the army to stop.
But your iniquities
have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face
from you, So that He will not hear.
:38 And Saul said,
“Come over here, all you chiefs of the people, and know and see what this sin
:39 For as the Lord
lives, who saves Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die.”
But not a man among all the people answered him.
:40 Then he said to all Israel, “You be on one side, and my son Jonathan
and I will be on the other side.” And the people said to Saul, “Do what seems
good to you.”
:41 Therefore Saul said to the Lord
God of Israel, “Give a perfect lot.” So Saul and Jonathan were taken,
but the people escaped.
:42 And Saul said, “Cast lots between my son Jonathan and me.” So
Jonathan was taken.
:43 Then Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.” And Jonathan
told him, and said, “I only tasted a little honey with the end of the rod that was
in my hand. So now I must die!”
Jonathan is willing to submit to his father’s wishes. He’s willing to die
for eating some honey. Amazing.
:44 Saul answered, “God do so and more also; for you shall surely die,
Saul intends to have his son put to death.
:45 But the people said to Saul, “Shall Jonathan die, who has accomplished
this great deliverance in Israel? Certainly not! As the Lord lives, not one hair of his head
shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” So the people
rescued Jonathan, and he did not die.
:45 worked with God
The people realized what had happened that day. They realized that God had
been at work. And they realized that Jonathan had been working hand-in-hand
– padah – to ransom, redeem, rescue,
I wonder if this is after the law in Lev. 27, where you can buy a person out of a vow?
Rescue people from foolishness
Jephthah too had made a foolish vow. He promised to sacrifice the first
thing that came out of his house if God would give him victory. And he
apparently sacrificed his daughter to keep his vow.
I don’t think God wants us to keep foolish promises. I think sometimes we
need to open our eyes to some of the silly things we do.
:46 Then Saul
returned from pursuing the Philistines, and the Philistines went to their own
:47 So Saul established his sovereignty over Israel, and fought against all
his enemies on every side, against Moab, against the people of Ammon, against
Edom, against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines. Wherever he
turned, he harassed them.
:47 fought against all his enemies
This victory over the Philistines then seemed to turn the tide for Israel.
Though they had a great victory over Nahash the Ammonite, it was this victory
over the Philistines that put the world on notice that they couldn’t hassle
And the victory came because one man said, “I wonder what God can do?”
:48 And he gathered an army and attacked the Amalekites, and delivered
Israel from the hands of those who plundered them.
:49 The sons of Saul were Jonathan, Jishui, and Malchishua. And the names
of his two daughters were these: the name of the firstborn Merab, and
the name of the younger Michal.
:50 The name of Saul’s wife was Ahinoam the daughter of Ahimaaz. And
the name of the commander of his army was Abner the son of Ner, Saul’s
:51 Kish was the father of Saul, and Ner the father of Abner was
the son of Abiel.
:52 Now there was fierce war with the Philistines all the days of Saul. And
when Saul saw any strong man or any valiant man, he took him for himself.
:52 any strong man
Josephus records (Antiquities of the Jews, 6:6:130):
“he made such of the young men as were remarkable for tallness and
comeliness the guards of his body.”
He picked tall, handsome men, like himself.