Then one day Jonathan son of Saul said to his armour bearer, “Come on, let’s go over to the Philistine garrison that is opposite us.” But he did not let his father know.
Now Saul was sitting under a pomegranate tree in Migron, on the outskirts of Gibeah. The army that was with him numbered about six hundred men. Now Ahijah was carrying an ephod. He was the son of Ahitub, who was the brother of Ichabod and a son of Phineas, son of Eli, the priest of the Lord in Shiloh. The army was unaware that Jonathan had left.
Now there was a steep cliff on each side of the pass through which Jonathan intended to go to reach the Philistine garrison. One cliff was named Bozez, the other Seneh. The cliff to the north was closer to Micmash, the one to the south closer to Geba.
Jonathan said to his armour bearer, “Come on, let’s go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will intervene for us. Nothing can prevent the Lord from delivering, whether by many or by a few.” His armour bearer said to him, “Do everything that is on your mind. Do as you’re inclined. I’m with you all the way!”
Jonathan replied, “All right! We’ll go over to these men and fight them. If they say to us, ‘Stay put until we approach you,’ we will stay right there and not go up to them. But if they say, ‘Come up against us,’ we will go up. For in that case the Lord has given them into our hand – it will be a sign to us.”
When they made themselves known to the Philistine garrison, the Philistines said, “Look! The Hebrews are coming out of the holes in which they hid themselves.” Then the men of the garrison said to Jonathan and his armour bearer, “Come on up to us so we can teach you a thing or two!” Then Jonathan said to his armour bearer, “Come up behind me, for the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel!”
Jonathan crawled up on his hands and feet, with his armour bearer following behind him. Jonathan struck down the Philistines, while his armour bearer came along behind him and killed them. In this initial skirmish Jonathan and his armour bearer struck down about twenty men in an area that measured half an acre.
Then fear overwhelmed those who were in the camp, those who were in the field, all the army in the garrison, and the raiding bands. They trembled and the ground shook. This fear was caused by God.
Saul’s watchmen at Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin looked on as the crowd of soldiers seemed to melt away first in one direction and then in another. So Saul said to the army that was with him, “Muster the troops and see who is no longer with us.” When they mustered the troops, Jonathan and his armour bearer were not there. So Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring near the ephod,” for he was at that time wearing the ephod. While Saul spoke to the priest, the panic in the Philistines’ camp was becoming greater and greater. So Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand!”
Saul and all the army that was with him assembled and marched into battle, where they found the Philistines in total panic killing one another with their swords. The Hebrews who had earlier gone over to the Philistine side joined the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. When all the Israelites who had hidden themselves in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines had fled, they too pursued them in battle. So the Lord delivered Israel that day, and the battle shifted over to Beth Aven.
Jonathan Violates Saul’s Oath
Now the men of Israel were hard pressed that day, for Saul had made the army agree to this oath: “Cursed be the man who eats food before evening! I will get my vengeance on my enemies!” So no one in the army ate anything.
Now the whole army entered the forest and there was honey on the ground. When the army entered the forest, they saw the honey flowing, but no one ate any of it, for the army was afraid of the oath. But Jonathan had not heard about the oath his father had made the army take. He extended the end of his staff that was in his hand and dipped it in the honeycomb. When he ate it, his eyes gleamed. Then someone from the army informed him, “Your father put the army under a strict oath saying, ‘Cursed be the man who eats food today!’ That is why the army is tired.” Then Jonathan said, “My father has caused trouble for the land. See how my eyes gleamed when I tasted just a little of this honey. Certainly if the army had eaten some of the enemies’ provisions that they came across today, would not the slaughter of the Philistines have been even greater?”
On that day the army struck down the Philistines from Micmash to Aijalon, and they became very tired. So the army rushed greedily on the plunder, confiscating sheep, cattle, and calves. They slaughtered them right on the ground, and the army ate them blood and all.
Now it was reported to Saul, “Look, the army is sinning against the Lord by eating even the blood.” He said, “All of you have broken the covenant! Roll a large stone over here to me.” Then Saul said, “Scatter out among the army and say to them, ‘Each of you bring to me your ox and sheep and slaughter them in this spot and eat. But don’t sin against the Lord by eating the blood.” So that night each one brought his ox and slaughtered it there. Then Saul built an altar for the Lord; it was the first time he had built an altar for the Lord.
Saul said, “Let’s go down after the Philistines at night; we will rout them until the break of day. We won’t leave any of them alive!” They replied, “Do whatever seems best to you.” But the priest said, “Let’s approach God here.” So Saul asked God, “Should I go down after the Philistines? Will you deliver them into the hand of Israel?” But he did not answer him that day.
Then Saul said, “All you leaders of the army come here. Find out how this sin occurred today. For as surely as the Lord, the deliverer of Israel, lives, even if it turns out to be my own son Jonathan, he will certainly die!” But no one from the army said anything.
Then he said to all Israel, “You will be on one side, and I and my son Jonathan will be on the other side.” The army replied to Saul, “Do whatever you think is best.”
Then Saul said, “O Lord God of Israel! If this sin has been committed by me or by my son Jonathan, then, O Lord God of Israel, respond with Urim. But if this sin has been committed by your people Israel, respond with Thummim.” Then Jonathan and Saul were indicated by lot, while the army was exonerated. Then Saul said, “Cast the lot between me and my son Jonathan!” Jonathan was indicated by lot.
So Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.” Jonathan told him, “I used the end of the staff that was in my hand to taste a little honey. I must die!” Saul said, “God will punish me severely if Jonathan doesn’t die!”
But the army said to Saul, “Should Jonathan, who won this great victory in Israel, die? May it never be! As surely as the Lord lives, not a single hair of his head will fall to the ground! For it is with the help of God that he has acted today.” So the army rescued Jonathan from death.
Then Saul stopped chasing the Philistines, and the Philistines went back home. After Saul had secured his royal position over Israel, he fought against all their enemies on all sides – the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines. In every direction that he turned he was victorious. He fought bravely, striking down the Amalekites and delivering Israel from the hand of its enemies.
Members of Saul’s Family
The sons of Saul were Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malki-Shua. He had two daughters; the older one was named Merab and the younger Michal. The name of Saul’s wife was Ahinoam, the daughter of Ahimaaz. The name of the general in command of his army was Abner son of Ner, Saul’s uncle. Kish was the father of Saul, and Ner the father of Abner was the son of Abiel.
There was fierce war with the Philistines all the days of Saul. So whenever Saul saw anyone who was a warrior or a brave individual, he would conscript him.