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Jonathan Attacks the Philistine Outpost

I Samuel 14:1-13

“Jonathan the son of Saul said . . .” (v. 1). Bible readers briefly encounter the person of Jonathan in the chapter 13. The text before us provides a record of Jonathan’s words and actions by which we may view his relationship with the Lord God. This account has been preserved as scripture such that believers may know God and be fruitful doers of His will.

In the opening verse, Jonathan stated his intent to go over to the Philistine garrison which was camped at Michmash. Verse 13 states that which took place when he and his armor bearer arrived at their destination — the Philistines fell before him and were slain by his armor bearer after him.

When Jonathan left Gibeah to go over to Michmash, he departed from his father’s presence. The human author of I Samuel was moved by the Holy Spirit to make note of that which took place at Gibeah in Jonathan’s absence (v. 2-3). Saul tarried under a pomegranate tree which was in the uttermost part of Gibeah in Migron. The Hebrew word which is translated as Migron means precipice. It would appear that Saul, the six hundred men with him, and the priest Ahiah were all gathered in an area that afforded limited the directions from which the Philistines could attack. This picture of defense contrasts sharply with Jonathan’s plan to go to the enemy garrison.

The path by which Jonathan approached the Philistine garrison was not a path that an attacking party would normally choose. Gibeah and Michmash were separated by a deep ravine (see v. 4-5). Jonathan would approach the enemy from the depth of the ravine.

The words which Jonathan spoke in verse 6, while similar to that which he said in verse 1, are notably different. In verse 6, he states the reason that he and his armor bearer should go up to the Philistines. His reason: “. . . it may be that the Lord will work for us.” Jonathan made it known to his armor bearer that the fact that their force of two was not a reason to refrain from attack. The Lord can save with a few just as well as He can save with many. Jonathan’s words reveal his belief and confidence in that which God would do.

His armor bearer’s reply was: “Do all that is in thine heart . . . I am with thee according to thy heart.” What was in Jonathan’s heart? Returning to verse 1 — Jonathan’s secretive departure would suggest that it was in his heart to engage the Philistines in combat, even if it were contrary to his father’s wishes. Verses 8-10 reveal something a bit different. It may have been in Jonathan’s heart to fight but he did not want to fight unless the Lord would be with him. In these verses, Jonathan proposed a test by which he and his armor bearer might know that the Lord would work for them.

The two were in close proximity to the garrison. There were Philistines on the ridge top above them, well within shouting distance. Jonathan proposed purposely making their presence known to the Philistines and, then, act according to their response. If the Philistines told the two to wait while they came down to them, Jonathan and his armor bearer would stay in place. If the Philistines invited the two to come up, Jonathan and his armor bearer would go up knowing that God would work for them.

The Philistine response would determine Jonathan’s course of action. How can an answer from God be the Philistine response? It cannot be unless God is the director of that response. Proverbs 21:1 states that the Lord turns the king’s heart in whatever manner He chooses. If Proverbs 21:1 is true (and it is), the Lord would turn the Philistines’ heart to respond in the manner of His choosing.

What God chose is recorded in verses 11 and 12. The scripture does not state that which Jonathan and his armor bearer did to make their presence known. Jonathan may have issued a challenge to the Philistines to come down and fight. The Philistines, perhaps believing that Jonathan and his armor bearer would return to their hiding places, taunted, “Come up to us, and we will show you a thing.” Their taunt was God’s assurance to Jonathan. He would fight for them.

It is apparent from verse 13 that the Philistines were not waiting and ready when Jonathan and his armor bearer arrived at the top of the steep embankment. In the ensuing battle, Jonathan and his armor bearer fought from the high ground and slew 20 Philistines in the space of a half acre (v. 14) and the earth quaked and the entire garrison fled (v. 16).

We know that God worked for Jonathan because of that which is recorded in scripture. God gives the desires of the heart to them who delight in Him (see Ps. 37:4). It was Jonathan’s desire to defeat the Philistines in such manner that God should receive the glory. God gave Jonathan the desires of his heart because he placed God’s will before his own.

May we do likewise.

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