Foolishness makes life more difficult for everyone

1 Samuel 14:24-35 SCC 1/4/15


A fool is someone who lives in perpetual chaos. His life is constantly in flux and unable to get clear direction. The chaos produces death-dealing consequences in the form of personal, circumstantial, relational, financial, physical, and spiritual baggage. Even if the fool determines to manage his chaos, he now must also include managing the damage control his chaos has produced increasing the difficulty of getting out of the chaos toward order. What a fool needs is order. He needs to control the chaos and do so with whatever means possible. So management comes in the form of control, rules, regimen, and regularity. Order must be established at all costs. This may be all a fool will be able to do. Pursue order. If not, his foolishness will make life more difficult for everyone else too.



Armed with trust in God and courage Jonathan ventured out to destroy Israelís enemy in obedience to Godís command to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan v 1. He would have made a good king of Israel. NB: Why didnít God wait to make Jonathan king? We often ask this question about our situations. Why am I not in charge? How is it that he or she has that responsibility? Why do I have to labor under these conditions? God is in charge of our advancement or lack of it. For Jonathan it was more significant for his subordinate role to allow his character to shine in such an unjust or unfair position. For Saul it was an opportunity for him to learn to lean on the Lord and deal with his personal stuff. God gave them both their positions to benefit them both. Unfortunately, we are more interested in the temporal and God the eternal. Everything he does is with our eternal welfare in mind. Apparently, it was more eternally advantageous for Jonathan to have to take charge and do the godly thing when he was not the king who was responsible for such action. Saul, too, could take this opportunity to deal with his reticence to obey God and prove himself as well. In any case, God is in charge of elevating or subordinating. In all cases you have the opportunity to increase your eternal value. To now do something with the everlasting life God has now given to you.

Saul remained in Gibeah, evidently on the defensive. His comfortable position under a fruit tree in secure Gibeah, surrounded by his soldiers, contrasts with Jonathanís vulnerable and difficult position with only the support of his armor bearer v 2. Jonathan was launching out in faith to obey God, but Saul was resting comfortably and failing to do Godís will.


Ahijah, a member of the rejected priestly house of Eli, accompanies Saul v 3. Ichabod is Ahijahís uncle reminding the reader that Ďthe glory has departed.í His own royal glory gone, where else would we expect Saul to be than with a relative of ĎGlory goneí? Bozez v 4 was the south-facing cliff near the Philistine camp at Michmash and Seneh faced north and was closer to Geba v 5. Jonathanís route was an extremely difficult one. This fact accounts for his being able to surprise the Philistines.


In contrast to Saul, Jonathan had a true perception of Godís role as the leader and deliverer of His people v 6. He viewed the Philistines as unbelievers under divine judgment whom God wanted exterminated (Gen 17). He believed that God would work for His people in response to faith, as He had done repeatedly in Israelís history. He also had learned that superior numbers were not necessary for God to give victory in battle. Eventually he determines the Lord is with him and attacks v 7-13.


Half a furrow of land v 14 was half a parcel of land that a yolk of oxen could plow in one day. Evidently God assisted Jonathan by sending a mild earthquake to unnerve the Philistines further v 15. The Philistines are disabled and terrified by the earthquake. In sheer panic, they turn on one another and kill each other with their swords v 16 and 20. All these casualties are the result of in fighting among the Philistines, before the Israelites engage them in battle.


When Saul should have been acting, he was waiting, and when he should have been waiting, he was acting v 18-19. First, he numbers the troops v 17. Then he views the ark as a talisman that he planned to use to secure Godís help v 18. As Saul watched, the multitude of Philistine soldiers that covered the area began to dissipate. He evidently concluded that he did not need to seek the Lordís guidance or blessing. God caused the Philistines to fight one another v 20. Some Israelite deserters or mercenaries who were fighting for the Philistines even changed their allegiance and took sides with Jonathan v 21. The tide of battle had turned. It was the Lord who delivered Israel that day v 23.



Jonathan, a man of faith, initiated a great victory, but in this section we see that Saul, a man of pride, limited the extent of that victory while trying to extend it. Saulís failure to submit to the Lordís authority resulted in his behaving foolishly more than wickedly (at this time).


We selfishly restrict the outcome of Gods work 24-35

Saul puts his men under an oath. No one is to eat until evening v 24. The men are to fight on an empty stomach. Since Saul has not really planned this battle, neither he nor his men are really prepared for the dayís events. Saulís improper view of his role as Israelís king comes through clearly here. The Philistines were not Saulís enemies as much as Godís enemies. This was holy war but Saul viewed the battle too personally. His selfish desire to win for his own glory led him to issue a foolish command.



An oath was an extremely serious matter v 26. One did not violate a kingís oath without suffering severe consequences. Jonathan saw the folly of Saulís oath v 29-30. The word troubled is the same one from which Achan comes. Saul, not Jonathan, had troubled Israel, as Achan had, by Saulís foolish command. Aijalon v 31 stood about 17 miles west of Michmash. The outcome is confusion that resulted from Saulís misguided oath v 32. None of the people tasted food v 24 and by this time the people were very weary v 31 and vulnerable. The Mosaic Law forbade eating meat with the blood not drained from it Lev 17. The great stone v 33 served as a slaughtering table where the priests carefully prepared the meat for eating. The writerís note that this was the first altar that Saul built reflects the kingís general lack of commitment to the Lord and His ways v 35.


Attempting to control Godís work causes confusion 36-46

Evidently Saul would not have inquired of God if Ahijah had not suggested that he do so v 36. God did not answer his prayer immediately v 37. Saul thought God did not answer him because someone had violated his rule in v 24 which he confused with Godís Law, calling violation of it sin v 38. The king boldly vowed that anyone who had sinned, which was only breaking his rule, even Jonathan, would die v 39. God identified Jonathan rather than Saul as the guilty party. Jonathan had violated the kingís command though he had not violated Godís command. Actually, Jonathan was executing Godís will.


Jonathan would have had to die if he had broken the Lordís command, as Achan did. However, Saulís oath was not on that high a level of authority, though Saul thought it was, insisting that Jonathan die v 44. The soldiers who had gone along with Saulís requests thus far v 36, 40, refused to follow his orders when he called for Jonathanís execution v 45. They correctly saw that even though Jonathan had violated Saulís rule he had obeyed Godís order to drive Israelís enemies out of the land. Saulís failure to see his role under God and the difference between the Word of God and his own commands resulted in confusion and disunity.


Essentially Saul refused to put the will of God above his own personal desires: (1) Saul showed great concern about the observance of religious rituals, but he failed to appreciate the indispensable importance of submitting his will to the Lord. (2) He sought to use God rather than allowing God to use him. (3) He thought he was above the Mosaic Law rather than under it. (4) He put himself in the position that God alone rightfully occupied. Saul never submitted to divine authority unless he felt it was to his advantage to do so. He always wanted to maintain control over his own life. Saulís pride led him to make foolish decisions that limited his effectiveness. Many believers experience unnecessary confusion and complications in their lives because they will not relinquish control to God.



Saul was an active warrior and was effective to an extent due to his native abilities and Godís limited blessing. He punished the enemies of Israel v 47-48, which was Godís will. Yet he did not subdue and defeat them all as David did v 52. God brought valiant warriors to David and previously to Saul 10:26 but Saul now had to recruit these as he observed them v 52. This is another indication of Godís limited blessing on Saul. In contrast, hundreds of soldiers volunteered to serve with David. Saul established a standing army in Israel for the first time.


The battle is over, but the war is not. The Philistines suffer a great loss, but not a total defeat v 46. Each army Ė the Israelites and the Philistines Ė goes its own way. For the rest of Saulís reign, these two nations continue at war with each other. The battle between Israel and the Philistines, depicted in chapters 13 and 14, is typical of the whole of Saulís life and reign as king of Israel. Saul does fight with the Philistines, and the Israelites win. But victory is never decisive. The battle is fought under Saulís leadership. But the victory was not what it could have been due to Saulís foolishness. And the battle is not the result of Saulís faith and initiative, but of Jonathanís.



1. Christians can and do act in ways that apparently hinder the full or complete success of the work of God. In the ultimate sense, men cannot thwart that which God has purposed and promised to do. God uses menís faith and obedience to accomplish His purposes, but He is not limited to this means. Godís sovereignty enables Him to also employ manís unbelief and disobedience to achieve His purposes. He even employs Satan to achieve His purposes. But having affirmed Godís sovereignty over all things, it must also be said that God sometimes allows the actions (or inactions) of men to hinder what could have been. God is sovereign over history, but in His sovereign control of all things, God has ordained that actions have consequences, and manís disobedience and lack of faith may result in less than what could and should have been, had we acted in a godly way.

2. The contrast between Saul and Jonathan is significant in this sense. Jonathan is what Saul is not. Jonathan is Saulís son. It is not Saulís ďgood parentingĒ which makes Jonathan what he is. Jonathanís godliness is in spite of Saul, not because of him. Let those who would like to take credit for the way their children have turned out take note. And let us note also that many godly parents have borne ungodly children.