Pastoral Commentary for 1 Samuel 14:24-52
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie
There's a saying that those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. Jephthah was a judge over Israel who made a foolish vow (Judges 11) that cost him dearly. Either Saul was unaware of this sad part of Israel's history or he simply didn't think before he made a rash vow of his own. King Saul was so determined to take complete vengeance against the Philistines that he would let none of his troops eat before the victory was complete. Foolishly he vowed, "Cursed be any man who eats food before evening comes." Saul's army was in the woods and there was honey on the ground. Jonathan, King Saul's son, dipped his staff and ate, before he was told of his father's vow. Jonathan knew the troops would win a greater victory if they were refreshed as he had been. Sadly, by the time the battle ended the troops were so famished that they ignored God's law by eating meat from the plunder with the blood still in it (Genesis 9:4). Suddenly, Saul seemed concerned about this ritual violation, despite his own previous violation by offering the sacrifice himself, rather than waiting for Samuel the prophet. He commanded his men to slaughter their own animals in a proper manner. Saul wanted to continue to plunder his enemies through the night, but the priest suggested that Saul should consult the LORD. Saul prayed, but when God didn't answer, Saul concluded that someone in the army must have violated his oath. Saul was more concerned about his own word that God's Word! Again, Saul made a rash vow, "even if it lies with my son Jonathan, he must die." Lots were cast and Jonathan was singled out, but Jonathan's men came to his defense and rescued Jonathan from his own father. Saul continued to have military success against numerous enemies, but his rule was marred by bitter warfare.