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1 Samuel 14-16

Supplemental notes for the Daily Bible Study Bible Reading Plan

by Wayne Blank

1 Samuel Chapter 14

Saul's son Jonathan was a brave young man who would later become a close friend of David. Jonathan was no "palace prince," or "figurehead commander." Jonathan personally took the battle to the enemies of Israel, as in this example when he and his armor bearer alone attacked a Philistine garrison.


"And the men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor-bearer, and said, "Come up to us, and we will show you a thing." And Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, "Come up after me; for The Lord has given them into the hand of Israel." Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, and his armor-bearer after him. And they fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer killed them after him; and that first slaughter, which Jonathan and his armor-bearer made, was of about twenty men within as it were half a furrow's length in an acre of land." (1 Samuel 14:12-14 RSV)

Saul, although usually a battlefield winner, nevertheless continued to make serious errors of judgment, more and more often. In this example, he ordered his army to fast until they achieved a battle victory, thereby weakening his own army at a time when they needed all of the strength that they could muster.

"And the men of Israel were distressed that day; for Saul laid an oath on the people, saying, "Cursed be the man who eats food until it is evening and I am avenged on my enemies." So none of the people tasted food." (1 Samuel 14:24 RSV)

Saul's troops nevertheless won the battle, in their weakened state, but afterwards were so famished that they plundered whatever they could, in any way that they could get it.

"They struck down the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon. And the people were very faint; the people flew upon the spoil, and took sheep and oxen and calves, and slew them on the ground; and the people ate them with the blood."

And Saul said, "Disperse yourselves among the people, and say to them, 'Let every man bring his ox or his sheep, and slay them here, and eat; and do not sin against The Lord by eating with the blood.'" (1 Samuel 14:31-32,34 RSV)

Saul was correct that his men were sinning by eating meat with the blood in it, but it was Saul's fault, for letting his troops starve, that they behaved that way. He seemed to have started to correct his mistake, but then made another one by ordering the killing of his own loyal son Jonathan for trying to get food for the famished troops. Jonathan was not executed however because the troops refused the foolish order - in effect, they rebuked their commander in chief's deadly incompetence with a mutiny.

"Then the people said to Saul, "Shall Jonathan die, who has wrought this great victory in Israel? Far from it! As The Lord lives, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he has wrought with God this day." So the people ransomed Jonathan, that he did not die." (1 Samuel 14:45 RSV)

1 Samuel Chapter 15

Saul's poor judgment continued, this time far more seriously, by his disobeying The Lord's direct order to destroy everything in a battle against the enemy Amalekites.


"Thus says The Lord of hosts, 'I will punish what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way, when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.'" (1 Samuel 15:2-3 RSV)

Saul obeyed The Lord's order to destroy everything, except for what Saul decided that he didn't want to destroy.

"And Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.

But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them; all that was despised and worthless they utterly destroyed." (1 Samuel 15:7-9 RSV)

Saul's excuse was that he was going to sacrifice what he kept to The Lord. Along with a rebuke, Samuel delivered The Lord's message to disobedient King Saul, in effect, you're fired. It was the last time that Samuel and Saul saw each other (with one possible exception i.e. 1 Samuel 28:11-20).

"And Saul said to Samuel, "I have obeyed the voice of The Lord, I have gone on the mission on which The Lord sent me, I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to The Lord your God in Gilgal."

And Samuel said, "Has The Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of The Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of The Lord, he has also rejected you from being king." (1 Samuel 15:20-23 RSV)

1 Samuel Chapter 16

Saul was still king, but his coming replacement was chosen - David, a young shepherd from Bethlehem.


"The Lord said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons." (1 Samuel 16:1 RSV)

"And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, "The Lord has not chosen these." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all your sons here?"

And he said, "There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep."

And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he comes here."

And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. And The Lord said, "Arise, anoint him; for this is he."

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of The Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah." (1 Samuel 16:10-13 RSV)

With the removal of the royal anointing, The Lord's Holy Spirit also left Saul. Ironically, the still-young David entered Saul's service as an armor-bearer, and sometimes David played the harp for Saul, "so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him." Saul might not have been as comforted if he had then realized that his harp player was going to be his replacement as king.

"Now the Spirit of The Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from The Lord tormented him." (1 Samuel 16:14 RSV)

"And David came to Saul, and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer. And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, "Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight." And whenever the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand; so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him." (1 Samuel 16:21-23 RSV)

Fact Finder: What sort of "harp" did David play?
See Lyre

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