So has Saul not kept the commandment of his God. He chose the way of disobedience, thus of death and ultimate destruction. In punishment of his sin, his kingdom will not be established. No son of his will succeed him on the throne. As to Samuel, having pronounced over the king the sentence of God, he was silent though he had come to the king with divine instructions for the war with the Philistines that is pending. What these instructions were is not revealed; but it is certain that the execution had called for implicit faith in God in that terrible crisis. This, doubtless, explains the seer’s reticence, his having refrained from telling the king what he should do. The king could not have heard, as he is devoid of faith. He believes not in wonders. And as it is only by the hand of one who believes in wonders that Israel can be saved from this dreadful hour, Samuel, having pronounced sentence, arose and gat him up from Gilgal and so out of Saul’s presence unto Gibeah of Benjamin, here to pray for the people. For that, according to his own words, he may not cease to do. And the Lord answers his intercessions. He sends deliverance.
As to Saul, left to himself to determine what he should do, he chose to do nothing at all. He can make no other choice. For the plight of Israel is hopeless and the king, though a brave man, has no faith. So, in company with Jonathan and with the men that are still with him—he has counted them and found their number to be about six hundred—Saul takes up his position in Gibeah, Benjamin, the place where Jonathan broke up that Philistine garrison a short while ago, And there in the uttermost parts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree in Migron () Saul again sits still, afraid to bestir himself, while the Philistines, operating from their base in Michmash, every day are overrunning the land and plundering the people of Israel. So the narrative tells us at . The spoilers went out in three companies, it is related. “One company turned to the way that leadeth to Ophrah, unto the land of Shual; and another company turned to the way of Bethhoron; and another company turned toward the way of the border that looked to the valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness,” As all these places lie in the territory of Benjamin and Judah, it is the allotments of these tribes that form the theatre of the marauding expeditions of the enemy. So are the Philistines doing much as they please in God’s house, their purpose being also to demonstrate to the world how they have God’s people at their mercy with God standing by unable to come to the rescue of His own devotees. Such are their vain imaginings. And Saul does nothing about it, not because he is a coward but because he has no faith; he believes not in wonders. (He makes not God his expectation, but trusts in the arm of flesh. And that arm has now failed him. The people have deserted him inmost to a man. And there is neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that are with him. And the military might of the Philistines is terrific. So what can Saul do but sit still? His army numbers but six hundred unarmed men. Yet, this only means that it still is double the size of that Gideon band, also unarmed, by which the Midianite hordes had been routed. But that was a wonder of God’s grace; and Saul believes not in wonders.
And the people, too, have no faith. For they seek safety in flight; and the rest of them—the six hundred —follow Saul tremblingly, the text tells us. Yet, it must not be overlooked that they do not flee as did the others but hold their ground, despite the fact that Israel’s plight is hopeless. The conjecture is warranted, therefore, that they belong to the faithful in Israel, are men who, despite their trembling—and who would not tremble in this dreadful hour—stand firm in the faith that for Has name’s sake, the Lord will deliver His people, however ill-deserving that people may be. And the expectation of these faithful ones is not put to shame. The Lord again works through Jonathan his chosen instrument and workmanship. For, as was said, what Saul lacks, Jonathan possesses as a gift of God—he possesses a living faith in Christ and is thus meet for the Master’s use. Jonathan believes in wonders.
So on a day Jonathan proposes to the young man that bears his armor that the two of them pass over to the detachment of enemy troops that forms the outpost of the Philistine camp in Michmash and whose task it is to protect against surprise attacks of the Hebrews. The young man is ready for anything that Jonathan may be planning, as is plain from his reply. “Do all that thy heart turn thee; behold, I am with thee, according to thy heart,” said he to Jonathan. This young man is the only one in whom Jonathan confides. He tells no one else, not even Saul, his own father. Doubtless he fears that the unbelieving Saul will forbid the venture. Jonathan has smitten a Philistine garrison once before, the one stationed in Gibeah, the place of Saul’s present encampment. That, indeed, was a remarkable accomplishment. But what good came out of it? No good whatever, only evil. The incensed Philistines came upon the land in their full military might and, in retaliation of that blow, are now spoiling the Lord’s heritage as they choose. And now Jonathan wants to attack that enemy outpost in Michmash. Should that be allowed? All that Jonathan can hope to accomplish is the slaying of another handful of Philistines. And that will be suicidal for Israel. The Philistines will arouse themselves to the practicing of even greater atrocities on God’s country and people. This time their wrath will know no bounds. Let Jonathan then forbear. The crisis will pass. Those Philistines are family men, aren’t they? Sooner or later they will want to return, each to his own hearth, with the understanding, of course, that the people of Israel desist from any further attempt to throw off their yoke. Life in Canaan will again at least be bearable.
Such, Jonathan knows, will be Saul’s reasoning. And therefore he tells not his father. For Jonathan is differently disposed, as is evident even from his characterization of the Philistines. In communicating his plan of action to his armor bearer, he calls them uncircumcised, meaning to say that in his mind they stand out as a wicked race of God-defying men, who will to imagine that they can harass God’s people to their heart’s content with the Lord unable to do anything about it. Indeed, such are their evil imaginings; and therefore as spoilers of God’s people, they are consciously blaspheming God. On this account alone the presence of the Philistines in Canaan is intolerable to Jonathan and to every true Israelite. Jonathan is grieved in his soul. “Come,” said he to the young man, “and let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. . . .” And he does not first seek the consent of Saul for his venture. For he knows that Saul will forbid it. And that will only oblige him openly to disobey his father and king. For Jonathan’s calling is clear to him. He must unsheath his sword against those uncircumcised. For the Philistines are defying the Lord God of Israel, and killing His people all the day long.
But there are only the two of them, Jonathan and his armor bearer, two against thousands. But Jonathan is unafraid; for he has convictions. “It may be,” says he to the young man,” that the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few.” There is nothing that can hinder the Lord from choosing to do either.” Such is the obvious meaning of the second of the two clauses. And the thought underlying it is, that the Lord, being what He is—God—is His own horses and chariots; that His people fight the good fight as His workmanship, created unto good works that they should walk in them, thus fight this fight as the sheep of His pasture, raised up and prepared by Him for His warfare; that therefore the victory can be solely His, and, as such, His gift to His people; that, on this account, numbers can mean nothing to Him, and that likewise it should mean nothing to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, so far as the success of their venture is concerned, that they are but the two of them. The victory will be theirs as truly as it would be, were they many.
“And it may be,” says Jonathan, “that the Lord will work for us”, for Jonathan and his armor bearer and the Israel to whom they belong. “It may be. . .
These words, as Jonathan’s own, form not an expression of doubt but of the humbleness of spirit and the contrition of heart of a true Israelite. They are words by which Jonathan is saying that he is a man unclean and that the people to whom he belongs and in whose midst he dwells is a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity/ least deserving of salvation and life and most deserving of the bondage and death in which they are now being held. Only recently they asked for a king because they did not want the Lord to reign over them; and they had to be terrified by the Lord’s thunderings into confessing that great sin. And the king that was set over them is an unbeliever, who already has indicated that he is determined to rule without God and His directing word. Such is the people for whom the Lord will now again work. For He is God and that people He possesses in Christ.
Jonathan’s withdrawal from the camp goes unnoticed by Saul. For “Saul tarried in the uttermost parts of Gibeah,” that is, at some distance from the place of encampment of Jonathan, so the narrator means to explain. The people, too, are ignorant of Jonathan’s leaving. So he wants it. His reliance on God for the success of his undertaking does not make him careless. He is taking no unnecessary risks.
Mention is also made of two rocks that go by the name of Bozez and Senah respectively. As the narrative contains a detailed description of their position, they must be important, though what this importance may be the text does not reveal. They lie between the passages that lead to Michmash. The former of the two has a tooth-like projection situated northward over against Michmash and the latter fronts Gibeah. In all likelihood the rock Senah is occupied by the enemy garrison to be attacked by Jonathan, while the other, Bozez, is the outlook of Saul’s watchmen; and herein perhaps lies their significance. As the enemy outpost is surrounded by forest (), which stretch all the way towards Bethel ( ), Jonathan and his armor bearer can pursue their way without being observed by the men of the garrison; and therefore the tactic that Jonathan fixes upon is to surprise the men of the enemy outpost by the both of them suddenly disclosing themselves to them at the base of their stronghold.
How Jonathan leans on the Lord for the success of an undertaking that from the point of view of nature can end only in disaster for the Hebrews, is also plain from his fixing upon the sign of the Lord’s willingness to work for them. Arriving at the base of the enemy outpost, the both of them, Jonathan and his armor- bearer, will discover themselves to the men of the garrison. If the enemy say to them, “Be still till we come to you,” they will stand still in their place and will not go to them. On the other hand, should the answer of the enemy be, “Come up unto us,” then, in this case,” said Jonathan to his armor-bearer, “we will go up: for the Lord hath delivered them into our hand; and this shall be a sign unto us,” this, the reply of the enemy, “come up unto us.”
As Jonathan has planned, so it is done. Catching sight of them, the Philistines, the men of the garrison, say, “Behold, the Hebrews come out of the holes where they had hid themselves.” This is the speech of men that mock and jeer; and apparently with reason. For they are the many, and a couple of Hebrews defy them. But though they mock, they are surprised and troubled nevertheless. For they dare not leave their position to venture into the wooded regions below, fearing that Jonathan and his armor-bearer are not alone. Say they not, “the Hebrews come out of their holes. . . ,” as though there were many of them? So, when Jonathan presents to those mockers the opportunity for choosing between the two courses that he previously fixed upon, they reply, “Come up unto us,” Tome, the two of thee and all that may be with thee/ “and we will show thee a thing.” Verily, they are afraid. Yet, how they do boast! But Jonathan is persuaded. “Come up after me,” says he to his armor- bearer,” for the Lord hath delivered them into the hands of Israel,”—delivered them: the entire Philistine host as including all its horses and chariots, and thus not merely that small detachment of mocking, jeering, but sorely troubled Philistines directly overhead—delivered them into the hands of Israel, of Christ—Israel is Christ—and of the people in Christ. The Lord hath delivered them into the hands of Israel, so that the victory is already theirs in Christ in whom they are more than conquerors. For this is the sign. And Jonathan climbs up on his hands and on his feet and his armor-bearer after him. There is not the trace of a doubt in his soul that the challenge of the enemy is the sign that they have been delivered into Israel’s hands.
But how does he know? There is but one answer: The Lord tells him in his heart so that he is assured-— tells him, however, by what the challenge reveals of the men that uttered it, which is that they are afraid. Hence that sign—the challenge—is not by itself a meaningless thing, so that Jonathan could just as well have said to his armor-bearer, “If they say unto us, tarry until ye come unto you, then we will go up. . . .” The sign, that challenge, has meaning indeed. As a sign, it is the Word of God, beseaking the fear of the Philistines and on this account the readiness of God to deliver (His people for Christ’s sake. And with this word in his heart, as put there by the Lord, Jonathan is assured; the sign pledges him God’s help and salvation.
In the final instance, then, the sign is the fear of the adversary as reflected in their challenge. The Philistines already are in the grip of the terror of God; and beholding, Israel knows, as taught by the Lord, that the salvation of the Lord is pending. So it always had been in the past. Joshua told the people, who murmured at the hearing of the evil report of the spies, that they must not rebel against the Lord in their fear of the people of the land: “for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them (on account of the Lord’s laying His terror upon their hearts. Such is the implication): for the Lord is with us: fear them not.” And the testimony of Rahab the harlot was to the same effect. Said she to the two spies whom she was concealing in her house, “I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.” That fainting of the Canaanites—a fainting worked by the Lord—was to Rahab the sign, the certain indication, that the Lord had given the land of her people to Israel. And the crafty Gibeonites, who beguiled Joshua into making a league with them, were of an identical conviction. Said they to Joshua, “Because it was certainly told thy servants, how the Lord God had commanded His servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land before you, therefore we were sore afraid of our lives because of you, and have done this thing.”
And so, too, the Philistines of our narrative. They are afraid. The terror of God is upon them. The very tactic that Jonathan employs—his suddenly appearing with his companion at the base of the Philistine outpost—has been fixed upon by him in the confidence that the Lord would use it to terrify the enemy. And the Lord does so. He works for His servants. Jonathan and his armor-bearer disclose themselves and the men of the garrison conclude that the Hebrews come out of their holes; while the sad fact is that the Hebrews are still in their holes. The men of the garrison are afraid; that is their trouble. But they mock and jeer and boast nevertheless, little realizing that the words they utter form the very sign of their being in Israel’s hands. This, too, is the Lord’s doing. He worketh for His servants. It is He who moved the Philistines to utter just those words. As encouraged by the sign, Jonathan goes up, he and his armor bearer, as unobserved by the men of the garrison overhead, who have no idea that their challenge has been accepted. As unobserved by these men, the Lord’s servants go up. For the narrative states that they climb upon their hands and their feet. Thus also their appearance on the top of the elevation is again sudden and unexpected.
And the men of the garrison are gripped by a paralyzing fear. Jonathan falls upon the foremost of his opponents and his armor bearer slays after him; and presently there lie dead on the ground twenty men of the garrison in “as it were an half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plow.” The tidings of this first killing spread with lightning rapidity. At the same time, the Lord sends an earthquake; and the terror of the Philistines multiplies a thousand fold and spreads throughout the enemy camp. For by the quaking of the earth, they are made to perceive that the Lord is present amongst them in His great wrath and power and that He fighteth for His people. To quote the text, “There was trembling in the host in the field, and among the people: the garrison and the spoilers, they also trembled, and the earth quaked: thus it was a great trembling.”
The entire host of the Philistines is now seized by a wild tumult. For the fear of the Philistines translates itself into action. The Philistines flee at top speed, as driven by one purpose, which is that they save themselves out of the hands of God and His people. And as they go, each beats down the other in his mad effort to clear the way for himself. “Every man’s sword was against his fellow,” reads the text. Verily, the Philistine camp has become a veritable house of slaughter and death with the Philistines both the slayers and the victims. To the watchmen of Saul, who look, the entire enemy host takes on the appearance of a mass of humans that literally melts away. And the clash of arms, the sound of chariots that crash, the shouts and yells of the fleeing, and the shrieks and groans of wounded and dying men and beasts fill the air and blend so as to make a great noise that rises from the camp and can be heard for miles around. It is all the Lord’s doing. He worketh for His people. The prayers of all saints has again been answered, “Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God. But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God; yea, let them exceedingly rejoice.”.