As the fire of God was burning in my belly, my flesh was quivering with fear, for the things God was revealing to me were repugnant to it, though glorious to the Spirit. Seeking comfort, I randomly flipped open my Bible to 1 Samuel 14 and began to read the account of Jonathan's exploit against the Philistines at Bozez. The story unfolded before me like a rose coming into bloom and braced my spirit. If we want the rose, we must deal with the thorns that come with it.
Jonathan was put in charge of a thousand men, and his father, King Saul, had two thousand men with him. Israelite men did not join the army until they were twenty, but Jonathan, being the crown prince, may have been younger than that. Some have conjectured that he was only fifteen, but I doubt it. If Jonathan had been full of faith and wisdom at such a young age as that, he probably would have been slaying giants like David when he was in his teens, but even David did not take on the giants, until after he had been anointed to be Israel's king. Jonathan was never anointed to be king.
That is not to say that Christians cannot take on giants, unless they have a special anointing. If they are genuinely born–again, even the youngest can, if they know what their authority is in Christ Jesus, for when we receive Him as our Lord and Saviour, the Holy Spirit comes into our spirit to reside. The power of God for slaying giants is there from the first moment of salvation, but we need to learn how to stir up the anointing and bring it out.
I would guess that the earliest age for Jonathan to command a thousand men, and be respected by them because of his boldness and natural intelligence and developed physique, would be eighteen. He could have been anywhere from eighteen to twenty-six, if his father married when he was only fifteen, for Saul was forty-two at this time. Is it likely, though, that Saul was married when he was only fifteen? It is possible, but is it likely?
Though unlikely, it is possible. We don't read of Saul having any brothers. The most prominent relative was his cousin Abner, who became his general. It may be that Saul's father wanted to make sure that Saul gave him grandsons. Saul was a respected warrior before he became a king; he probably showed promise to be a skilled warrior early in his teens, while he was being trained. Kish may have married Saul off at a very young age because he wanted to make sure that Saul had some sons before he went off to war.
It is apparent that, after the Israelites returned from defeating Nahash the Ammonite, who had laid siege to Jabesh–gilead, the Philistines moved on the Israelites to confiscate their weapons. They realized that the Israelites could be a formidable force against them, if they could defeat the marauding Ammonite. The Israelites surely returned with many weapons stripped from the defeated Ammonites.
One can imagine what a huge political upheaval was involved in the order to turn in their weapons, accompanied by spasms of violent protest. After the weapons were confiscated, only Saul and Jonathan were each allowed to retain a sword in grudging recognition by the Philistines of their roles as Israel's leaders. Zealous Israelis were reduced to guerilla fighting with slings and poles, and bows and arrows made on the sly, possibly with stone arrowheads.
Jonathan performed an exploit against the Philistines. It may have been at his father's command, or with his father's knowledge, but maybe not. If Saul put Jonathan in charge of a thousand men, then he probably trusted him to make good decisions on his own. In any case, Jonathan struck the Philistine garrison at Geba.
Geba was a Levitical city and is currently known as Jeba (Jaba), an Arab village. It was close to Gibeah, where Jonathan was stationed with his troops.
A school of the prophets was at Gibeah, and a Philistine garrison had been there, but if Jonathan lived in Gibeah with a thousand men under his charge, then the Philistine garrison had undoubtedly been ousted. It had probably had only a few Philistines looking after it, as, without swords and spears, the Israelites were considered to be disarmed. After the Philistines were removed, Saul moved on to occupy Michmash and left Jonathan in charge of the city.
Geba was two miles from Gibeah and it commanded the pass to Michmash. It was a Philistine garrison that had an officer who collected taxes from the Israelites. The area around Michmash was reknown for producing the best wheat in Israel.
Jonathan's exploit against Geba is mentioned in 1 Samuel 13:3. It does not say that Jonathan destroyed the garrison. Because the word for garrison can also mean an officer or a staff, it could be that Jonathan only assassinated the governor, or maybe all he did was strike down the Philistines' staff/flag/penant denoting their claim on the town.
I think, though, that he killed the governor and probably some of the soldiers, as well, for whatever it was that he did, it got the Philistines ferociously upset and they put together an army to take back Michmash. In the meantime, Saul put the seal of his approval on Jonathan's action and made known throughout all Israel what Jonathan had done. The people needed a sign of hope, and Saul needed them to have the courage to join his army.
The Philistines succeeded in retaking Michmash and Saul retreated to Gilgal to get direction from the Lord and His blessing. I gather that the Philistines also retook Gibeah, for the Bible says that all the people gathered with Saul at Gilgal, trembling. And then they started deserting, so that Saul was left with only six hundred warriors when he decided to take matters in his own hands, rather than wait for Samuel. Samuel had told him to wait there for seven days for him, but he did not show up on time.
Was Samuel being careless about showing up on time? Samuel doesn't give the impression that carelessness was part of his character. He was Israel's foremost religious leader, and he lived in Ramah, very close to Gibeah. It is possible that he had a hard time getting to Saul. The Philistines were openly at war with Israel, and they may have been on the lookout for Samuel, to hold him as a bargaining chip. They knew that Saul depended on Samuel for advice about crucial matters. Samuel may have been in hiding away from home and had to skirt bands of Philistines who were rampaging about the countryside.
Samuel showed up right after Saul performed the sacrifice and reprimanded Saul for performing the duties of a priest, the privilege of which had been given to the sons of Aaron. Saul refused to take responsibility, laying the blame on Samuel for coming late, after the expected time. Please note, though, that Samuel was not very late. Saul did not even wait another day to see if Samuel would show up. It doesn't look like he was interested in knowing anything about Samuel's difficulties in getting there; there is no record that he asked Samuel why he was late.
Saul admitted that he had been in a panic, but he tried to get Samuel to believe that it had been hard for him to disobey God's prophet. Samuel was supposed to offer up this particular sacrifice and receive the directions for battle. Of all Israel's religious leaders, he had the best ability to hear clearly from God. I think that Saul's position had gone to his head and he resented taking orders from Samuel. As king, he wanted to reign supreme.
The fierceness of the prophet's countenance when Samuel discovered what he had done made him quail, though. Saul had been king for only two years, receiving the people's bows and seeing people compete for his favour. He may have known nothing about Samuel when he went looking for his father's donkeys, but by now, he knew that Samuel had been respected by Israel's leaders, and the religious folk, for decades. Through Samuel's influence, the people had accepted him as king. He realized it had been foolish to trifle with Samuel, especially at such an early stage in his reign.
Saul's assertion that he had to force himself to offer up the sacrifice is as ridiculous as saying that he had to force himself to grab onto a branch when falling down a cliff. If a person thinks it will save them, it is the most natural instinct to grab for it. Since Saul was out of God's order, his sacrifice could not save him in the battle to come.
The solution, when one is waiting for deliverance from a predicament, and the answer doesn't seem to be coming, is to continue to trust in the faithfulness of God, even if it kills us. "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." [Job 13:15]. Saul was not willing to leave things in God's care. He had let his position go to his head and he was now desperate to retain it. He had, therefore, become a controller who tended to take matters into his own hands.
Mercifully, for Israel's sake, God helped them win the battle they were facing, but Samuel told Saul that, because he had disobeyed the Lord in this vital matter, God was going to give the kingdom to a man who was after His own heart. In other words, a man who wanted to do things God's way and depended on Him for the grace to obey; a man who knew that, through God, he would triumph over his enemies, a man who would wait for God, instead of presumptuously moving out on his own.
How do we know what Samuel said to Saul when he rebuked him? Samuel probably told David about it at a later date, but did Jonathan know, at that time, that he would not be king after his father? He might not have. Samuel may have had this conversation with Saul out of earshot of anyone else, but it was outdoors, in the open.
I think it is likely that Jonathan followed his father and heard what Samuel said. As the crown prince, he probably always stood close to his father to observe, as it was important for him to know what was going on, but his reaction was different than Saul's. Saul became angry at the Lord's chastening, but Jonathan submitted to the word of the Lord, accepted it, and continued to love God and trust Him.
Saul rebelled against the word of the Lord and tried to cling onto the Kingdom after he should have given it over to David. Jonathan meekly bowed to the will of God, refusing to be bitter towards his father for costing him a kingdom through his disobedience, taking a lesson from it instead to be faithful to God, lest he also should pass on curses to his own children. Later, when he met David, he knew right away who that man was who had a heart after God, and he rejoiced to see him at last. Jonathan loved his people, as well as his God; he wanted Israel to have the best leader available.
It could be that Jonathan really had no personal desire to be the king of Israel. He might have accepted the position, if he had to, but there are fine people who are content to let others bear those great responsibilities and deal with the harsh temptations that leaders are subjected to, while, as assistants, they eagerly and faithfully perform in the areas in which they are gifted.
It would have been a different matter if Saul had not erred. Samuel said that God would have set up an everlasting dynasty for him, if he had been faithful. In that case, an anointing for kingship would have been conferred on Jonathan and changed his heart, so that he would have willingly embraced the role.
The delay at Gilgal was a test, not just for Saul to be patient and wait on the Lord, but also so that God could sift the warriors and retain only the finest, like Gideon's three hundred. Many of the people retreated across the Jordan, into the land of Gilead, to put the river between them and the Philistines. They were sitting there in refugee camps, ready to flee, if the Philistines ventured in their direction. They may have fought in desperation for their lives, but they weren't willing to do it for their land.
The story of Gideon seems to have been on Jonathan's mind, for he later tells his armour bearer that God is not limited to winning battles either by few or by many. He is watching what is going on and is not dismayed by the desertions, though his father is. Like David did at Ziklag, when his men threatened to mutiny, Jonathan had been encouraging himself in the Lord. It is so vital to recall the Word of God to mind in adversity, instead of being absorbed with how bad circumstances appear.
The world looks at problems; God looks at solutions. When something bad is going on, we need to approach it with the mind of Christ. This will prevent us from being dismayed and it will show us what to do about it. The Philistines were amassing their army, probably intending to wipe out Israel once and for all, for they had come to its coasts intending to take over its land, but Psalm 92:7 says, "When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed forever."
It is exciting to think of what was really going on here. It looked like they were headed for defeat, that Saul's reign was going to be crushed before it had barely even gotten started, but God was fixin' to set Saul and Jonathan up on high as Israel's leaders and give the nation a great victory. If Saul had trusted God, he would have been remembered throughout the ages in the same manner that David was, instead of becoming a cautionary tale.
Saul interrupted the sifting process. He was probably supposed to have less than 600 warriors with him when he returned to Gibeah, and those who remained would have been the cream of the crop, whose loyalty to the Lord would have been verified by their steadfastness. I wonder if Doeg the Edomite was with Saul at that time; if so, he was one who should have been shaken out of the group, instead of rewarded for his loyalty to Saul with the position of managing Saul's herds and protecting them.
Saul didn't get the blessing for battle that he wanted, but Samuel headed over to Gibeah, to retake it. Saul followed; if Samuel was going there, they would have success, and they did. Even without proper weapons, the Israelites managed to take Gibeah again, and Saul set up his base there. He camped on the escarpment named Migron that commanded a good view of the ravine.
Saul was feeling very insecure. He had returned from a victory over the Ammonites, only to be humiliated by the Philistines disarming all the Israelites, except for him and Jonathan, for if the Philistines had laid a hand on Israel's king and crown prince, they would have been going too far. As long as they allowed Saul to have that small measure of dignity, Saul stood by and let them take away the other weapons. He wasn't ready to take on the Philistines, at that moment; they had strong cities nearby.
He knew that he was going to have to take them on, but he wasn't sure when or how to start. He delayed while the Philistines gathered more and more forces, and his own drained away like water out of a sieve. It is likely that the Israelites thought that they had no chance against a large force because they had only farming tools for close combat, instead of swords and spears.
The same tactics are employed in modern times. Marauding, both by corrupt government forces and outlaws, follows gun control, because the law–abiding population has inadequate means to fight back.
Saul was living on the edge, but it wasn't the cutting edge of what God was doing. He wanted to command a good view of what the enemy was doing, but not be too far from the walls of Gibeah, should he need to run for cover. However, lack of commitment is a dangerous place. Spiritually, Saul was on a precipice called Compromise.
Samuel possibly left after Gibeah was retaken, as it was not Samuel whom Saul called on to inquire of the Lord for him, but Ahiah the high priest, Eli's grandson. Samuel probably went into seclusion to concentrate on interceding for Israel. The victory that Israel won was birthed through prayer. As Alfred Tennyson said, "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of." Don't underestimate what prayer to Jehovah can do. He holds the Universe in His hand.
Prayer can do things that guns can't. That is not to say that an army and weapons are not needed to protect a country, but consider the miracles that God did for Israel in ancient times, such as when meteorites rained on their enemies, and in modern times, how God has done miracles to protect Israel. There is an interesting documentary on YouTube called Against All Odds that shows re–enactments of a few of the those miracles, such as how a strong wind came along and blew the dust away from a minefield, to reveal all the mines, when a contingent of IDF soldiers had to cross it in a limited time.
God has Nature at His command, and He does supernatural things that defy Nature, as well, and He also brings resources together, such as orchestrating a meeting with someone who has helpful ideas or who has equipment that they are willing to provide. It is very helpful to have backup from Prayer Warriors. Little, old ladies and aged men and young teens and children with a pure faith in Jehovah that makes them mighty in prayer may not be able to throw grenades and or hit a target with a gun, and they might even abhor the idea of doing such things themselves, but they can help a nation with a righteous cause defend itself by interceding for it.
After the Philistines recovered Michmash, they set up camp near Gibeah to gather their troops and sent out three bands to raid the surrounding areas, while preparing to battle Saul. I surmise that the main army was camped near Gibeah, for it was close enough for Saul's scouts to see the confusion that ensued after Jonathan's attack on the Philistine garrison stationed on the rock Bozez, and quickly report back to Saul within minutes.
Jonathan was nicknamed "Gazelle." He had the hard–muscled, lithe physique, high energy, high intelligence, quick thinking, and outrageous daring that typifies the Israeli concept of the perfect warrior. He could run fast and he was reknown as an archer. Most importantly, he loved God. He may not have been as bold in faith as David, but he was bold in faith.
Please, read 1 Samuel 14 and consider the following points:
Jonathan felt the prompting of God to go see what the Philistines were up to at the pass, but he did not tell his father. This was wise, for he recognized his father's lack of commitment to the Lord and his uncertainty about what to do, because he wasn't very good at hearing God. It appears that the Ahiah, the priest, wasn't very good at it either, unless he consulted the oracle of the ephod. Another reason why I think that Samuel was not present is because, if he had been, under divine inspiration, he might have advised Saul to send Jonathan to scout the Philistine's garrison.
Jonathan possibly had been praying about their situation when he received an impression to venture forth. He knew that he was to say nothing to anyone but his armour bearer, a faithful and courageous young man who was tuned to Jonathan's views and needs., Though the Bible says in Proverbs that a multitude of counsellors helps plans to succeed, apparently, it isn't a hard and fast rule.
At this point, Jonathan really didn't have a plan. It was just an impression that he was to go to the cliff opposite the garrison and see what the Philistines were doing.
Did Jonathan try to pass off the responsibility for Israel's welfare to Saul? Did he say to himself, "Dad's the boss. It's up to him to give the order to move."? Satan probably tried to dissuade him with thoughts along these lines, but Jonathan did not receive them. He saw that Saul cared for himself a lot more than for the people he was supposed to looking after. Saul was worried about getting into a fight that he might lose, which could entail him being taken by the Philistines and subjected to humiliation, torture, and death – especially now that he had no confidence in the outcome of his battles, since Samuel had told him that God was going to take his kingdom away.
Did Jonathan say, "I need more men to come with me, but they take orders only from Dad."? No. He knew that all he needed was for God to be with him. He said to his armour–bearer, "Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of the uncircumcised: it may be that the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few." The comment about the Philistines being uncircumcised indicates that he understood his covenant relationship with God and that the enemy didn't stand a chance, if God led him into battle against them, because they didn't have the Almighty God on their side.
God did not give us a record of the name of Jonathan's armour bearer. Perhaps it is to make a point that a faithful assistant does not seek glory for themselves, but simply to serve and to serve well. They are oriented to the Kingdom of God, rather than ego–centred. There is, no doubt, a memorial in Heaven to his young man and his valiant deeds on this occasion.
Jonathan did not tell his father what he was going to do, because he knew that Saul would only dissuade him from his purpose. It is a good idea to work quietly, until God is ready to reveal the plan to others, lest the chill winds of incumbent leaders' skepticism, limited vision, their fear of losing the control, fear of resulting conflict, fear of failure, narrow–minded disapproval, or petty jealousy cause the blossoms to wither on the tree or to nip the fruit in the bud. If the tree doesn't blossom first and then produce a bud, there will never be any fruit to gather. Later, when the results are clearly seen, the fruit that is gathered can be handed over the leader that God has put in charge, in spite of their flaws.
Very little would get done in the Body of Christ, if leaders had to know every detail of what God tells the people under them to do. It is too big of a job for one man to keep tabs on, and sometimes he would just get in the way, if he knew. Rather, leaders should just pray for the people under them that God will help them know what their tasks are and enable them to do them, instead of trying to figure it all out for themselves.
It would give them more time to spend with their family, which is a very important responsibility, if they didn't feel that they had to know so much and approve of everything that goes forth. Sometimes the approval process is ridiculous, because underlings have not been given enough authority to make a simple decision on their own.
Pastors aren't always essential for approval and success even when important decisions are involved. Some of the mightiest missions have been accomplished by people who didn't have the backing of a church or a mission board, such as Gladys Aylward (China), Bruce Olson (Colombia), and Jackie Pullinger (Hong Kong) who just went forth by faith on their own. They were considered too uneducated or too young to be of any use in the mission field.
When the Bible says that there is safety in the multitude of counsellors, it means that it is prudent to get advice and have support, but there is also a place for not being prudent. Yeshua thanked God for revealing His will to babes and sucklings who trust Him, rather than to the faith–withering wise and prudent folks who would counsel against taking any kind of action that entails hardship and would invite persecution, or incite their jealousy if the venture succeeded. Sometimes "the spirit of the older prophet" comes into play, such as we read about in 1 Kings 13, where a formerly mighty man or woman of God has had their day and isn't willing to do what is necessary to get back on track with God.
Jonathan did not ask his father for feedback on the idea that came to him. He knew his father well enough to know what he would say and he would have been disobeying an order, if he hadn't stayed in camp, after his father told him to not leave. It would be easier to get forgiveness than permission, especially if his venture produced good results.
Many see great virtue in the lives of various heroes in the Bible, but Jonathan is often overlooked. In over forty years as a Christian, I don't think that I've heard even one sermon about this exploit of his. Maybe it is because he did something without getting permission from the boss. That doesn't fit in very well with the idea of chain of command in the Church, if there is too much of an emphasis on the principle of "obeying those who have the watch over your soul."
I have heard Jonathan being derided as a coward and a compromiser because he stayed with Saul, rather than joining David's camp, but he wasn't a coward at all, and when he compromised, he did it the right way for the right reasons. He was eyes and ears to David within his father's ranks to warn David when there was danger to his life. 1 Samuel 23:16 tells us of when Jonathan met secretly with David to encourage him in the Lord. If he warned David of troop movements, it was because he could trust David to avoid those places, rather than to stage an ambush.
Also, Jonathan honoured authority in the way that it should be honoured; not slavishly against the purposes of God, but with keen insight into the character of those with whom he had to deal, obeying the king as much as possible, without disobeying God. It would have shamed his father, if he had openly gone over to David. He very capably walked a tightrope between honouring an unreasonable father and being loyal to a righteous friend. It certainly wasn't comfortable for him to maintain his place in Saul's court. How comfortable can a son be around a father who has come close to killing him a few times? It took courage and a sense of honour to remain.
What Jonathan did at Gibeah was not self–willed. Jonathan simply obeyed God to do something for His people, because the leader obviously was not willing to obey, nor even inquire from the Lord about what to do.
Saul preferred to just sit there in his tent under a pomegranate tree and look like he was shrewd, as he filtered through various options. This conveyed the idea to his followers that God had chosen him because he had more wisdom than any of them. He was playing games, while people's lives were being destroyed by rampaging bandits.
Saul did not attempt to inquire of the Lord until later when Jonathan's initiative brought so much release in the spiritual realm, that Saul had to do something about the effects it had on the physical world. If he had inquired of the Lord prior to this, he would have known to send out Jonathan and his armour–bearer to Bozez, and the rest of them would have been ready for the shaking.
Jonathan and his friend probably slipped out of the camp at night, under cover of darkness. They approached the ravine that runs down to Jericho, until they came to the rock Seneh, which means "thorn," so named because there were many acacia thorn bushes in the area at that time. In modern times, this ravine is known as Wadi Suwenit. The ravine is hard to travel through, but there is a broad place in the canyon where it is easier to walk; it is known as "the pass."
Jonathan surprised the Philistines by going around the pass, instead of through it. He came to the cliff named Seneh, which was on the south side of the ravine, facing north. On the opposite side of the ravine was a chalky cliff named Bozez, which means "shining." It probably reflected glare from the sun. Jonathan and his friend likely peered at the Philistines on Bozez from behind the cover of bushes, to assess the situation.
If they slipped out of camp under cover of darkness, by now it was dawn and they could see the Philistines who were standing on guard. The two Israelis could see that they were far outnumbered by the Philistines in the garrison.
So it is with us. In our own strength, we cannot take on the challenges that lie before us. The good and evil in this world is orchestrated by a fallen angel whose ingenuity and power has no equal upon this planet. He is jealous of humanity, as even the lowliest of human beings has the potential, if they receive Jesus as their Redeemer, to rule over all the angels. The fact that we can be redeemed, and he can't, stirs his jealousy. He wants to take as many human beings as possible with him to the Lake of Fire. Hence, he lays many traps to ensnare souls. What satan means for evil, however, God permits so that He can overturn it for good.
We need to keep this in mind when praying for our government, in accordance with 1 Timothy 2:1 – 4. The hearts of kings are in God's hands, turning them like a river, so that, whatever they do, the final result will irritate the wicked with their own bile and irrigate the righteous with God's blessings. The "good" that the wicked enjoys destroys them and when things don't go their way, it vexes them. The evil deeds done against the righteous purifies them and the good things that they are appointed blesses them, adding no sorrow to it. Knowing this gives courage to the faithful heart that holds onto their visions from God, in spite of obstacles lying between them and their goals.
Jonathan knew it was going to be hard to climb up that slippery chalk cliff to the Philistine's garrison, but he was willing to do it, if God gave him the signal. He told his armour–bearer that the signal would be that the Philistines would invite them to come over to them. If this happened, God would prevent them from being killed as they went through the pass and up the cliff, and He would give the Philistines into their hands.
They stood up and made their presence known to the Philistines. Just as anyone is when they let the world know where they stand with God, Jonathan and his companion were subjected to ridicule and threats. Greeted with mocking jeers, they were derided as cowards for having remained hidden for a while, waiting for the appropriate time, instead of just charging ahead without sufficient preparation. Enemies of righteousness like to set the agenda to their advantage.
Jonathan knew that the way up that cliff would be difficult. He had faith that, even if he spent all his strength climbing Bozez, when he got to the top, God would energize him and his armourbearer for the battle.
God ordered everything about these events to teach His children how to handle persecution, which was represented by Jonathan's climb up the shining rock. In a valley of thorns, there was a rose to pick. In order to obtain the treasure, we have to humble ourselves, taking a lower position, such as when we offer ourselves to God in service, rather than barging ahead with our own agenda. We have to let God take care of defending our reputation, and learn to be content, whether we have abundance or suffer lack, whether we are honoured or reviled. We have to accept the fact that our walk with God will bring adversity, though it will render great prizes, as well.
I loved how blissful the phrase sounded – "Enoch walked with God and was not, for God took him." I suppose I was somewhat lulled by the way I had heard it explained that God and Enoch were taking a leisurely walk one evening and God said, "Enoch, you're so much closer to my Home than to yours. Why don't you just stay with Me tonight?" I am sure there is some value in that comparison, but it puts a picture in the mind of uninterrupted bliss.
Blissful rest certainly is what Enoch experienced by being in constant fellowship with God, but his life was by no means easy. He lived in a world that was rapidly declining into perversion and violence.
When God took Enoch, he might have been in prison or snatched away from a bed of torture or from an execution stake. When a person is willing to follow God beyond where other people are willing to go, it costs plenty.
No man or woman has the means within their own human nature to pay that price. Only God can pay the price. This is what the parable about counting the cost means. Before we embark on building something for the Kingdom of God or making war on satan to rescue souls, we have to think deeply about what it is going to cost us. The bigger the venture, the higher the price. We have to assess all our resources and, if we think we can handle it, we are in trouble! Pride goes before a fall.
The whole point of the parable is that we can't handle it. We have to humble ourselves and admit this. But if God tells us to do something, then we must obey, for we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Since His strength is available, we have no excuse for not going forward when He gives the signal.
Bozez represents persecution. Jonathan and his armour–bearer got plenty of it. The Philistines were not nice people. They did not allow the Israelites to have weapons because they did not want them to have the means to take vengeance on them for their pillaging, raping, and murders among the Israeli population. They also were idol–worshippers, and the nature of their ceremonies involved gross lewdness and human sacrifice, including the callous murder of innocent, little babies.
Jonathan was champing at the bit for a chance to strike a blow at the Philistines to end the heartbreak that they were bringing to his people, whereas Saul, though he knew he ought to do something about it because he had been chosen to be the Israelites' king, wanted to hedge his bets by sticking close to a place where he could run for cover, if the battle got too hot.
Jonathan and his armour–bearer climbed down from Seneh and picked their way through the ravine, with the laughter and jeers of the Philistines ringing in their ears. Then they clamped onto the rock with their hands and feet and started to climb upward to a miraculous victory.
I like to visualize Jonathan climbing up the cliff. He was probably twenty to twenty–two years old. His physique was trim and wiry, his skin browned by the sun. I see him as having been handsome, with dark, gleaming, curly hair, sidelocks dangling below a small helmet. Was he wearing a shirt of mail? Under the sun and making a difficult climb, that would have been hot! In any case, he would have worn a short tunic, probably off–white and getting grubbier by the moment. His nails and skin were torn on the rocks, while sweat streamed off his dusty face and trickled down his back and sides. His eyes were probably brown, and undoubtedly gleaming with the fiery determination that was in his soul, fueled by anger at what the Philistines had been doing to his people, and because of what they were doing as he climbed up to their garrison.
The Philistines didn't make it easy for him. Those brutes would have thrown rocks at him to amuse themselves, spat gobs of phlegm, maybe thrown a few dead rats or dogs at the Israeli warriors, and probably urinated over the edge of the crag, as well.
Jonathan's faithful companion followed in his wake, sharing the abuses. The Philistines had said they would show them a thing or two and likely competed with each other on this theme about how they were going to torture those stubborn Israelis when they got to the top, confident that the pair would be too worn out to fight. I imagine that Jonathan, with fire in his belly, thought fiercely within himself, "You can laugh now, but you won't be laughing when we get a hold of you. We are not alone and you are no match for God!"
Jonathan was setting us an example in 1 Samuel 14 of what would come later when Yeshua, "for the joy that was set before Him" (redeeming His Bride) endured the cross and despised the shame. That is exactly what was going on in this incident. The joy that Jonathan was anticipating was when he would fall upon the Philistines' and break off some of their hold on his fellow Israelites. Their freedom was his treasure.
What exceptional warriors they must be to have made it that far. Most parties of two men would have scuttled away near the bottom of the cliff, if, simply on their own iniative, they had thought to take on ten times as many enemies who were raining rocks and garbage down on them.
When they finally got up there, the Philistines must have smirked while standing back to let them climb over the ledge, get to their feet, and for the leader to draw his weapon; they thought that the Israelite would present no contest and it would be amusing to cross swords with him for a few minutes. It was a fatal mistake.
Jonathan and his armour–bearer possibly wobbled with weariness as they took their first steps forward, but suddenly the hand of God came on them. Jonathan charged and cut down the first contender and kicked his fallen blade over to his friend; now his armour–bearer had a sword. Together like a yoke of oxen, they ploughed into the Philistines, cutting them down like ripe grain. Between the two of them, they slew twenty, with Jonathan incapacitating the attackers, and his armourbearer finishing them off.
When the Philistines saw that they were getting slaughtered, I don't doubt that some of them ran to get help, but the Israelis carried slings, bows, and arrows. They probably used them to take down the runners.
Their unity brought forth revival. There was no competition, no striving for control and personal glory; just teamwork that was in tune with God's Spirit, with the aim of winning freedom for their people.
Suddenly there was a great trembling of the earth. The battle on Bozez had been preparation for victory. God had ordained Jonathan and his companion's obedience and now the earth danced to celebrate it. It quaked in the Philistines' camp, terrifying them, because they didn't have a God who could keep them steady.
In their confusion, they began to kill anyone who got in their way as they ran for their lives. Saul learned of the debacle and knew right away that someone had done something significant in order for the Philistines to be in such turmoil. He sent to find out who was missing from the camp. Jonathan and his armour–bearer were gone.
Great opportunities happen when people leave their comfort zones. We have to stop camping in the shade of what we know and press in to God, then launch out towards the treasure, not letting anything stand in our way.
Saul wondered if they should take advantage of this situation and called for a priest to inquire of the Lord. It was obvious that God had delivered the Philistines into their hands, but Saul should have waited until he received direction from God. By not doing this, he brought his people into distress and diluted the victory.
The Philistines and their mercenaries kept killing each other. They thought they had gathered for war, but God had brought them together so that they could be mowed down all at once. The Israelis swept down on them, swinging their scythes. The Israelites finally had weapons of war, as they picked up the discarded swords and spears and pursued their enemies.
Sometimes pastors are narcissistic and, under the control of a Philistine spirit, they work to build their own personal kingdom, making merchandise of the people they are supposed to nurture and protect. Satan helps people like that to gain the office of a pastor to hold back the people in their church. They press them down under rigorous control, instead of encouraging them to utilize the gifts that God has given them, which is one of the marks of a genuine leader.
But however much a controlling spirit might oppress a church and limit ministry opportunities within it, there are plenty of ways to do God's work in the course of daily activities outside of church buildings. Muscles that are exercised in ploughing and sowing will be strong for reaping. Whatever God gives into our hand to do, we need to do it with all our might, and then we will always be ready for the fight.
The Hebrews who were collaborating with the Philistines suddenly turned and joined with their brothers in the harvest. Whether they had joined with the Philistines out of cowardice or for gain, they are designated as Hebrews in the record, as their countrymen considered them traitors. They acknowledged their ethnic origin, but did not consider them genuine Israelites anymore. The earthquake and the confusion that followed gave them the opportunity to cast off their shame.
It is interesting to note that, in His mercy, God did not let confusion overtake the Hebrews who were among the Philistines, but allowed them to clearly see what was happening and make a choice to return to Him. Maybe some did it because they could see where the victory and spoils were going to be, and some because they were afraid for their lives, but I like to think that some returned to Israel because they were weary of the degradation of siding with their enemies.
Saul summoned Ahiah the priest to inquire of God if he was supposed to lead his men into battle, and possibly get a word about strategy, but again he is tripped up by impatience and impetuosity. Because he did not wait to hear from God, Saul made a foolish vow that hindered Israel from achieving a complete victory over the Philistines that day.
When he saw that the balances were weighted in his favour, Saul adjured his men to not stop to eat until every last Philistine was dead, otherwise he would have him killed. This is comparable to a head of a ministry who drives his staff members like galley slaves, in order to make himself look successful, uncaring as to whether they have time to refresh themselves in the Lord's Presence or adequate time with their families to attend to their needs and enjoy leisure activities with them. It's all go, go, go. It looks like zeal for God, but really it is egotism.
In fact, Saul refers to the Philistines as "my" enemies. His focus self–centredly narrowed in on how the Philistines mocked him as Israel's king, how their tolerance for his position was tainted with contempt, and that they intended to eventually humiliate him even further. Right enough, it would be galling that, in spite of being king, to have to put up with interlopers in the land, these traders who had come from Greece and had set up cities for themselves on soil that God had given to Jacob's seed, and to have to endure their insults and bullying, but the general population had suffered far worse from them. The Israelites would have vigorously fought them because the Philistines were their enemies.
Jonathan left his comfort zone, humbled himself to endure persecution, and obtained not only a great victory, but also refreshing sweetness and saving mercy. God knew Jonathan would need to have something to eat, in order to continue to lead, so He timed it that Jonathan didn't know about Saul's foolish vow. He had not yet made it back to Gibeah when Saul gave that order. When we are in the right place, at the right time, doing the right things, we are in a glory zone where we can gain strength from God.
As he led some of his men through a wood, Jonathan came across honey on the ground. He was holding a rod in his hand, probably with special decoration on it to indicate that it was his. With this rod, he directed the warriors which way to go. It represented his authority and he used it to tap into strengthening nourishment. He dipped the tip of it into the honey and took some to re–energize himself. His eyes that had been dull with fatigue brightened instantly.
Jonathan's men were horrified that he had eaten food. One of them told him about Saul's vow. Jonathan became irritated and pointed out how they would have fought better, if they had been allowed to refresh themselves with food taken from among the spoils.
The people were able to pursue the Philistines all the way to Michmash and beyond to Ajalon, but they had to stop because they were weak with hunger. They ferociously fell on the Philistines' livestock and devoured the slain animals with the blood, which was against God's Law.
Jonathan did not succumb to the temptation to do this, because he'd had the sense to eat something earlier. Saul's unreasonable expectations and presumptuous order (he hadn't got it from the Lord that this was how to proceed) drove the people into a frenzy of disobedience.
Verse 35 tells us that the altar that Saul built to the Lord when he called every man to bring his ox or sheep to it to slay it there, was the very first one that he had ever made. That tells us where his heart was in regards to God, for all his show of religious zeal. He had never made an altar to the Lord before he was king, nor for two years after he was crowned, in spite of the fantastic signs that had accompanied his call to the throne, the wonderful prophecies, and his difficulties with the Philistines that he obviously needed God's help to overcome
It kind of gets me that Saul told his men to roll a stone to him. A stone large enough for the blood of the animals to run down it would have to be quite big. Couldn't Saul walk over to the stone? Why did the stone have to be brought to him? Was this another act of egotism?
Did he give the order to his men to demonstrate that he was in charge and could hand out inefficient orders, to suit his whims, especially because he was feeling unspoken criticism about having put his men in a difficult situation where they became tempted to eat raw, bloody meat? Some bosses like to give inane orders now and then, just for the sake of showing off that they are in charge. That's not being a leader, though; it is being a pest. Real leaders keep their eye on the goal and find the fastest, easiest, cheapest way to get there, without compromising their integrity.
After everyone had something to eat, Saul intended to send them after the Philistines to pursue them down to the last man, but he inquired of the Lord first to see if they ought to go that route. Finally, Saul was willing to do the job the way he was supposed to, seeing as it was now convenient for him to take a few extra moments to wait on the Lord.
God didn't answer. Saul realized that this was because there was sin in the camp. He vowed that whoever was responsible would die. The lots were cast and pointed to Jonathan. He asked him what he had done. Jonathan told him that he had eaten a little honey and asked, "And now I must die?" Self–righteously, Saul insisted it was so. He would show these Israelites how devout he was, regardless of what Samuel had said about him not honouring the Lord. Like Abraham, he would even offer up his own son for the sake of honouring God. Perhaps he was thinking that God would be so impressed that He would change his mind about not taking the kingdom away from him.
Is it possible that Saul, not willing to bear the blame of his actions, in the back of his mind thought that God would not give him a dynasty because there was something weak about Jonathan, something that would show up later on, in spite of how valiant a warrior he was as a youth? Did he think that, if he got Jonathan out of the way, God would favour another son of his to be king when Saul passed on?
It never occurred to him, as usual, that he was to blame for the problems, because he had again done something presumptuous by making a vow out of his own heart, rather than seeking to find out God's will. No, he was ready to kill his own son in order to retain control, but the people wouldn't let him do it. They could easily see the injustice of killing the very man who had led them into glorious victory that day.
It is possible that this was part of the reason why Saul was inclined to want to kill Jonathan. Jonathan had led the assault on Giba, but Saul was given the credit for it. He probably wanted to take the credit for this victory, too. With Jonathan out of the way, it would be easier to claim it. Who would stand up to contradict a man who did not falter at the notion of killing his own son? A spirit of control can do horrible things to a person's conscience and thinking, if it isn't checked and turned back.
The people forfeited the rest of their victory for Jonathan's sake. I am sure that God was more pleased with their attitude of mercy than Saul's religious show of devotion, though their decision entailed more suffering for Israel because it took longer to subdue the Philistines. However, it is not likely that God would bless a people who permitted such injustice, as Saul proposed, when they could prevent it, so, in the long term, things worked out better.
What a contrast there was between Jonathan and his father. It shows that a person can choose what they want to be, regardless of their parentage or bad influences in their upbringing. God's power is available to all of us to break free from the plan satan has for each one of us, and we can fulfill our destiny in God instead.
Jonathan is one of my favourite Bible heroes. He had a great deal of common sense, as well as devotion to God. Standing up to his father when he was wrong and doing some things contrary to his father's wishes did not mean that he was disloyal or disrespectful of authority. Jonathan respected his father's authority so much that he followed him even to death in the last battle they had with the Philistines.
David respected Saul's authority, too. Though he had been anointed to succeed him, he never tried to wrest the throne from him. He preferred to flee for his life than fight Saul, and when he fought against Saul's forces, it was only to defend his life and his followers. Jonathan and David were birds of a feather – eagles.
I think that God took Jonathan home to Heaven before David ascended the throne to spare him from being tempted by anger more than he could bear. It probably was hard enough for him to take a backseat to David's battle glory, seeing as how he had been such a famous warrior himself, but it did not push him beyond his ability to keep faith with God. After David came to the throne, Jonathan might have become rankled at seeing foolish mistakes and outraged beyond endurance when David had Uriah the Hittite murdered. He might have thought, "And for this, I gave up a throne?" God never lets anyone get pushed beyond their ability to have faith in His goodness, if they truly love Him in the depths of their heart.
Upon the Earth, David is given higher praise, but Jonathan likely sits upon a special throne in Heaven as his reward for giving up one on Earth for the greater good of God's people. 1 Samuel 14 is God's accolade to the character of Jonathan.
I think it no coincidence that God raised up from Jonathan's tribe a Queen and a Counsellor who saved the whole nation of the Jews during the Persian Empire, and that it was to honour Jonathan also that He chose Saul of Tarsus, of the tribe of Benjamin, to be a key instrument in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ across the Earth.
Jonathan and Paul are two prime examples of humility and perserverance. Jonathan could have been a king, but it would have destroyed him. He chose to serve and has been greatly overlooked and misunderstood for centuries. Paul could have become a famous rabbi among the Jews, but he gave that up and became despised among them. Even some of his fellow Christians despised him and people were told to avoid him. He was considered eccentric and presumptuous. Both of them endured a lot for the Lord's sake and were faithful to the end.
If Paul showed up today in modern clothes, no matter how much lip service is given to his writings by Christians now, he would probably be kicked out of a lot of churches. People would wonder who that little, balding man with the fuzzy hair and the big nose, and the squeaky voice, thought he was, coming in and telling them that they needed to repent of things that they consider okay, and to turn their back on the world. They would probably sanctimoniously tell him that he shouldn't be so extreme, that we need to be "balanced." What they really mean by that word is that Christians should compromise with the world, so that they can avoid being persecuted.
For that matter, a lot of churches probably wouldn't let Jesus stand in their pulpits either. Churches have become so compromised with the world that there isn't hardly any difference between them and the people outside, except in the words of the songs that they play.
Things are heating up in the world. This is a dangerous place to be, if one is not hidden with God in Christ. The enemy's agenda is stepping up its pace, because he knows his time is short. He is working all kinds of deceit; it is absolutely essential to be in tune with the Spirit of God and able to hear Him give direction, because we really cannot believe what our ears and eyes take in, without first filtering it through God to hear what He has to say about it.
The Bible says that God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love and power and of a sound mind. The love of God is the only thing that can banish fear from our heart and give us the ability to love our enemies and be compassionate to them in their bondage to sin. The power of God comes with His love, and when there is no fear (for perfect love casts out all fear), then our minds will be able to assimilate and adjust to the various methods that are being used to deceive souls and destroy them, enabling us to deal in God's way with the weird, weird workings of satan.
Nations shout and kingdoms roar, but in God's ears they are just tiny squeaks coming off of a little spinning ball hanging from a string that dangles from His hand. It is only when we are seated in heavenly places with Christ that we see things from God's perspective and can keep from succumbing to the dizzy sickness that comes from resisting His will. In Him, we find rest. The giants upon the Earth with their massive spears look like little grasshoppers waving toothpicks, when viewed from being seated beside God in heavenly places. Perseverance fueled by God is like a range of missiles against spears of persecution.
So don't fear the spear. God is always very near.
When God's will you embrace, you get God's grace.
Don't take your eyes off your high calling, because then you will be falling.
God bless you in Yeshua's Name. In Him, victory we can claim.
In more modern times, a great victory was won against the Turks, by implementing an attack on them based on the story of Prince Jonathan's exploits at Bozez. Here is a link to AGAINST ALL ODDS, a video that tells of miraculous military victories on the behalf of Israel in recent times and shows the area where this story took place, and how this story was applied to the difficulty of expelling the Turks from Israel.
Copyright © 2012, Lanny Townsend
Page modified by Lanny Townsend on July 31, 2014
Scripture references on this website are closely paraphrased from e–Sword's King James Bible.