Opening Prayer

Lord, free me from over-familiarity with the Scriptures. Open my eyes to see truths that I might overlook.

Read 1 Samuel 13:23 – 14:23

Jonathan Attacks the Philistines

23 Now a detachment of Philistines had gone out to the pass at Mikmash. 14 One day Jonathan son of Saul said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.” But he did not tell his father.

Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree in Migron. With him were about six hundred men, among whom was Ahijah, who was wearing an ephod. He was a son of Ichabod’s brother Ahitub son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh. No one was aware that Jonathan had left.

On each side of the pass that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine outpost was a cliff; one was called Bozez and the other Seneh. One cliff stood to the north toward Mikmash, the other to the south toward Geba.

Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”

“Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”

Jonathan said, “Come on, then; we will cross over toward them and let them see us. If they say to us, ‘Wait there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are and not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the Lord has given them into our hands.”

11 So both of them showed themselves to the Philistine outpost. “Look!” said the Philistines. “The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in.” 12 The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, “Come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson.”

So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Climb up after me; the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.”

13 Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him. 14 In that first attack Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre.

Israel Routs the Philistines

15 Then panic struck the whole army—those in the camp and field, and those in the outposts and raiding parties—and the ground shook. It was a panic sent by God.[a]

16 Saul’s lookouts at Gibeah in Benjamin saw the army melting away in all directions. 17 Then Saul said to the men who were with him, “Muster the forces and see who has left us.” When they did, it was Jonathan and his armor-bearer who were not there.

18 Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God.” (At that time it was with the Israelites.)[b] 19 While Saul was talking to the priest, the tumult in the Philistine camp increased more and more. So Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.”

20 Then Saul and all his men assembled and went to the battle. They found the Philistines in total confusion, striking each other with their swords. 21 Those Hebrews who had previously been with the Philistines and had gone up with them to their camp went over to the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. 22 When all the Israelites who had hidden in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were on the run, they joined the battle in hot pursuit. 23 So on that day the Lord saved Israel, and the battle moved on beyond Beth Aven.


  1. 1 Samuel 14:15 Or a terrible panic
  2. 1 Samuel 14:18 Hebrew; Septuagint “Bring the ephod.” (At that time he wore the ephod before the Israelites.)

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


‘When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.’1 Make this your prayer.

Think Further

Is being impulsive always a bad thing? Jonathan is even more impulsive than his father, but here it’s different. Jonathan knew what God’s will was regarding the Philistines; and if the enemy was to be defeated, someone needed to take the initiative. He saw that Saul was dithering, spending time counting his army and sitting under a tree instead of getting on with the job.2 He also realized that if the Philistines were to be dealt with it needed to be in small doses – one outpost after another. So he got on with it, avoiding the need to ask permission! Jonathan’s confidence was in the Lord; climbing a hill on hands and feet was risky, as the Philistines at the top could easily have seen them and dispatched them, but they made it. When Saul saw the resulting commotion, instead of promptly taking advantage of the Philistine confusion, he stayed under his tree, asked the priest to perform some ritual and ordered a full parade of his soldiers to work out who was not there!

Evans’ title for this section of her commentary reads: ‘One small act of obedience + a great God = dramatic results.’3 It’s worth pondering in our own contexts. In our day-to-day encounters with a fallen world, God uses each of us in small ways to bring in his kingdom – but each step needs our obedience to God. Evans points out that Jonathan’s actions were inspired by a conviction of God’s power to save Israel: if he didn’t try, he would never know what might have happened through him.4

Sometimes it’s easy to procrastinate, as Saul did, making pious excuses (in his case, consulting the priest to seek guidance), but when God has already given us his blueprint for mission, we must get on with it!


Are you putting off taking some action in response to what you know God is asking of you?

Closing prayer

Lord, I acknowledge that I naturally follow the easy way. Call me to new challenges and adventures for you beyond my comfort zone.

1 Ps 56:3 2 1 Sam 13:15; 14:2 3 Mary Evans, The Message of Samuel, IVP, 2004, p92 Evans, 2004, p91

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Last Updated on September 13, 2022 by kingstar

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