God Saves by Few or Many
1 Samuel 13:14–14:15
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #048
April 12, 2016
“Our Father, we are thankful that we can come together to focus on Your Word tonight. As we live through our days with all the uncertainties and vagaries of life, especially in this election year, when each day seems to bring more extreme statements and sayings from one side or the other. Father, we know that the only hope for real stability in our nation, in a culture, is to be grounded upon You and Your Word. It is only when a nation or a people are focused upon You that we can have any measure of happiness, any measure of joy.
Father, we have a great opportunity through the website, through missionaries that we have, through individuals in this congregation, who are constantly going out to communicate the truth, whether it is the Good News Clubs, Vacation Bible School coming up this summer, or whether it is through their individual witness to others, we pray that You would give them the wisdom, the skill, the opportunities to present the truth of Your Word.
Father, we continue to pray for Chafer Seminary. We pray for Jim Myers. We pray for Doug [Karn] and Jeff [Phipps] as they are ministering down in Brazil. We pray that you would give each of those individuals and organizations opportunities to make the truth clear, and that they would have responsive listeners. Father, we pray for us, that we would be responsive to Your Word tonight. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We continue our study of 1 Samuel. We are in 1 Samuel 13–14, where we stopped last time. We are working our way through what I think is one of the more interesting chapters that we run into in the Scripture. It is narrative. It is the turning point in Saul’s reign as king. In these chapters the writer of Samuel is helping us understand the failures of Saul’s heart.
Saul is not a man who is devoted to God. He is a man who is self-absorbed. He is a man who is arrogant, and has a superficial religious focus on God. He thinks if he says the right things, does the right things, engages in the right ritual, and acts religious, then somehow that is being spiritual and is having the right relationship with the Lord, but it is a complete failure.
What we see in this section starting in 1 Samuel 13:14 through 1 Samuel 14:15 is the contrast. The writer really wants to make this clear, this contrast between Saul and Jonathan. We saw the failure of Saul last time in his disobedience. He is impatient. He rushes instead of waiting all day for Samuel to show up and present the sacrifices. Saul jumps in and makes an excuse, rationalizes disobedience to God and performs the sacrifice himself.
This is a sign of Saul’s internal problem of rebellion, which will be really focused by Samuel when we get to 1 Samuel 15. Samuel will say that rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. There is a whole interesting and important doctrine that comes out of that, because what Samuel is focusing on is the original sin of Satan. The original sin of Satan is disobedience to the authority of God. This is why the Bible emphasizes authority so much.
What we have in Saul is a man who does not submit to the authority of God, but in contrast we have his son Jonathan who does submit to the authority of God. As we start I want to address your attention to 1 Samuel 14:6. This is the crux verse in this section. It tells us what this whole section is all about. Jonathan is getting ready to go into a battle against overwhelming odds. It is just Jonathan and his armor bearer going against a large number of Philistines.
Jonathan says to his armor bearer, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised.” The use of that word indicates that he is focused on divine viewpoint. By using the term “uncircumcised” Jonathan is recognizing that the Philistines have no right to the land. They are deep in the heart of the land that God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and by calling them “uncircumcised” Jonathan is focusing on the fact that they are not participants of the Abrahamic Covenant. The Philistines have no right to the land.
God did not give this land to the Philistines. Therefore, this is ultimately a spiritual issue. David will say the same thing when we get over to 1 Samuel 17 when he faces Goliath. It shows that the focal point is on spiritual truth and divine viewpoint. No matter how overwhelming, how large the problem may be, and the same thing is true for the rest of us, God is greater than any circumstance, any situation, any problem, any group of people, any political party, any political decision, any Supreme Court decision. God is greater than any of those things. We dare not let circumstances ever get us down.
Jonathan says, “Let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the Lord will work for us: for nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or few.”
In other words, there is nothing in human experience that can limit God’s ability to solve the problem. That is a great focal point. That no matter what our problem is, whether it is financial, health related, job, career, marriage, people, circumstances, whatever it might be, there is no problem that is too big for the grace of God.
There is no sin in your life or my life that is too big for the grace of God. The grace of God solved the greatest problem we will ever face at the Cross. The grace of God will solve every other problem we face. That does not mean it is going to be easy. That does not mean that everything is going to work out the way we think it ought to work out, but it does mean that God and God alone can solve our problems. We need to learn to trust Him—not trust in other related circumstances.
This tells us what the focal point is, God Saves by Few or Many. If you will notice in the introductory slide, what I have chosen as the basic theme of 1st & 2nd Samuel is what gets repeated through one episode after another throughout both of these books, originally one book in the Hebrew, is that The Battle is the Lord’s. We saw that in terms of the recovery of Israel under the priesthood and judgeship of Samuel.
In Samuel the Israelites were at the bottom of the barrel. They were just in total cultural collapse and chaos, and the degradation and apostasy of religion under the house of Eli and the priesthood of Eli. Yet God responds to the prayer of Hannah, one of the faithful few in Israel. God turns things around through His power working through an obscure little child who grew to adulthood.
We saw the problems with Israel’s defeat and the apparent defeat of God. In 1 Samuel 4, at the Battle of Aphek, when the Israelites were defeated, the ark of God was captured by the uncircumcised Philistines. God showed that He does not need the Israelites to win the battle. He was very capable all by Himself of defeating the Philistines. We have the whole episode with:
- the ark of God being put in the temple of Dagon.
- Dagon bowing down before the ark the first night.
- The second night Dagon bows down, its hands and feet had been cut off.
- God disarmed the false god.
Then we saw the other episodes with the rats, the bubonic plague and tumors or hemorrhoids. There is a lot of earthy humor. The Hebrew text is extremely earthy in Samuel. God is really poking fun at those who are not biblically correct.
We live in an age today where everybody wants to become politically correct and succumb to political correctness. If you are not politically correct you are going to scare the pants off of these weenie college kids who are so self-absorbed that they think the college campus is a safe space that is going to reconfirm all their hideous little ideas.
But when we know the truth we can stand on the truth. That is what we see with Samuel. We will see it with Jonathan. We see it with David. Jonathan is going to take a stand. He is going to turn the tide of battle here because he understands the principle that the battle is the Lord’s. Let’s go back and review a little bit of what is going on here.
Here is our map. This is one of those sections where you have to know the geography and the terrain. Fortunately we live in a day when we are not left without these visual aids. This is one of those great couple of chapters for teaching using the visuals to come to a much better understanding of what was happening on the ground.
Here is the basic set-up. We have the Mediterranean to the west. We have the Jordan River to the east flowing into the Dead Sea. Gilgal is located to the north [of the Dead Sea], where Saul was crowned king. Previously it was significant because when the Israelites crossed over into the Promised Land they recommitted to the Mosaic Law at Gilgal.
Gilgal is where the men of Israel, who had grown to maturity during the wilderness wanderings and had not been circumcised, a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, were all circumcised in one very large group circumcision. We know from Numbers that that would have involved approximately 650,000 plus men. In Numbers all the men over the age of twenty were numbered.
All the men who were over the age of 20 years were old enough to fight. These were the ones who would have been circumcised. This was quite an event. I will leave the rest of that to your imagination.
This is Gilgal. Directly to the west you have Ramah, which is the city of Samuel. Just a couple of miles below that is Gibeah. Then in the area to the north east of Gibeah you have Geba and Michmash, the focal point of these particular events.
As we looked at this previously, at the beginning of 1 Samuel 13, there has been an incursion by the Philistines into this highland country, the high hill country, and mountainous country of Samaria. They brought in 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen.
There is a lot of debate about how to translate this. Probably the 30,000 does not work. That would have been an exceptionally large number of chariots. When you compare it with other things, for example, the 900 chariots of Sisera in Judges 5, 30,000 seems out of order.
One thing I did point out last time is that 30,000 chariots with the interpretation “charioteers,” which could conceivably be the translation, and then it would make sense if there were 3,000 chariots and 6,000 charioteers that would be two per chariot. Although I was doing some additional study and some think that this could even mean horses opposed to horsemen.
Some translations have cavalry there, which is probably what this would imply to a lot of people. The trouble is that you do not have evidence of any armies at that time in the Middle East using cavalry. That would not work. But it could be horses, and it could mean those who are in the chariots.
The problem with charioteers is that there are examples of using two men, the Greeks used two charioteers, and these are Philistines, who are related to the Greeks, but there are also Syrians who use three charioteers, and others who use three or four per chariot. It most likely is talking about 3,000 chariots with those who ran the chariots. Those were the warriors who were involved.
We are introduced to the locations at Michmash and Beth Aven. The result of this is that:
- The men of Israel panicked.
- They are overwhelmed by technology.
- They are overwhelmed by numbers.
I remind you of what happened at Kadesh Barnea, when ten of the twelve spies came back and said, “We cannot do it. We cannot conquer these people. They have giants in the land. There are too many people. They have fortified cities.”
The focal point that God is always trying to get across to Israel is that it is by His power and His might.
It is not based upon technology or numbers or skill. It is not based upon how many West Point and Annapolis graduates you have. It is not based upon how may computers you have. It is based on your spiritual relationship with the Lord. If Israel is obedient, then God is going to give them the victory.
The people are scared to death. They scatter. They hide everywhere. Many of them even fled east across the Jordan into the land of Gad and Gilead.
Saul is left at Gilgal. All the people following him are trembling, scared to death, 1 Samuel 13:6–7.
After Saul has violated his role and responsibility as king (the role of the priest is to offer sacrifices, not the king), Samuel then tells him what the real problem is:
1 Samuel 13:13, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.”
This is one of those interesting situations that has come up in Scripture that shows something about the omniscience of God. Just remember, God knows all of the knowable. This is one of the significant aspects in understanding God’s omniscience. He not only knows everything that will happen. He knows everything that could happen.
Jesus says the same kind of thing when He says to Capernaum and Bethsaida that if the works that had been done there had been done in Sodom and Gomorrah, then Sodom and Gomorrah would have repented in sackcloth and ashes long ago, Matthew 11:20–21.
Jesus knows the “what ifs.” That is important because you have a whole school of theology called Calvinism that emphasizes the idea that God only knows what He has decreed to be true.
God does not know all of the knowable—He can only know what He has decreed to be true.
Therefore, God decrees what will take place, and everything that takes place is what He has decreed.
What this shows again, from an Old Testament example, is God knows what would happen “if” somebody had exercised their volition in another direction. “If” Saul had been obedient, God says He would have established Saul’s house forever. How that would have worked out we do not know, but Samuel clearly states that there would have been a distinction there.
Then Samuel says, 1 Samuel 13:14, “ ‘But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.’ ”
The way this is translated in the perfect tense in the Hebrew is to indicate that it is seen as a past-completed action. But it is really what they call a futuristic perfect, which is stating that this is something that is “so certain” of its future fulfillment that it is stated as if it has already been completed.
The issue here is what does this phrase “a man after His own heart” mean?
There are basically two views:
- One is often stated in commentaries. It states that this should be translated “a man after God’s own choosing.”
The only example I ran across of this particular confirmation of this translation is an excerpt that is quoted from the Babylonian Chronicle during the early years of Nebuchadnezzar. In that it says:
“In the seventh year, in the month of Kislev, the king of Akkad mustered his troops, marched to the Hatti-land, and encamped against the City of Judah. And on the ninth day of the month of Adar he seized the city and captured the king. He appointed there a king of his own choice and taking heavy tribute brought it back to Babylon.”
In the Akkadian, that is literally a king according to his heart. That is translated in that text quote, “a king of his own choice.” But that is an interpretive statement.
- Other views, and the view that I take, is that “according to His own heart” is a term that basically must be understood within the framework of two verses in 1 Samuel. We always look to meaning within the biblical text. If we can find parallel meanings or parallel context within the book that we are studying, so much the better.
In 1 Samuel 2:35, God is speaking about Samuel. He says, “Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind.”
That is a slightly different phrase, but it is the same preposition, which in the Hebrew is the preposition ke, according to. It is “according to My heart.” That is the same idea. It is the fact that the person who has a heart after God is a person who has a focus on the Lord, a commitment to the Lord, and who desires to do that which pleases the Lord even if they fail, as David did on a number of occasions, and he failed pretty seriously.
In 1 Samuel 16:7 the Lord speaks to Samuel when he is looking at all of David’s brothers. Some of them looked like a king. Some of them looked a whole lot more authoritative than the one that was eventually brought in.
David was out with the sheep. Even Jesse his father remembered David as an afterthought. David apparently was not real impressive as a teenager. At least he did not impress his family.
At that time, Samuel had looked all these brothers over thinking that these look like kings, but God is not indicating one of them. The Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
He has said in 1 Samuel 13:14 that He is going to choose a man after or according to His own heart. This is, in my view, choosing someone who is focused exclusively on God, who is really devoted to God in contrast to Saul who is not. I think that an argument against interpreting this as a man after God’s own choosing is in contradiction to the text because we have already seen that God chose Saul.
Did He not choose Saul? He chose Saul to be king. Whatever the reasons were are not important in terms of that particular choice, but God did choose Saul. The idea of choosing someone else who is according to His heart is not choosing someone who is according to His choice. This would be a contradiction with what we have seen already.
After Saul has been duly confronted and rebuked by Samuel, we then read in 1 Samuel 13:15, “Then Samuel arose ...” He left. We are not told that he performed the sacrifices. Saul has already done that. Samuel stands up, after he has rebuked Saul and told him that he is not going to have a dynasty. Samuel got up and went from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin.
Then we are told that Saul numbered the people present with him. How many have I got left? There were six hundred men.
This is reminiscent of what happened with Gideon in Judges 6–8, but in that instance God narrowed the number that Gideon had from 32,000 down to 300 men.
Here the men have all fled because they are panicky and afraid of the Philistines. But we have two geographical locations, Gilgal and Gibeah of Benjamin. We have some textual problems here that I am not going to go into a lot of detail on. I think that it reads well. The best reading is in the Masoretic Text, “Samuel arose.”
Samuel goes from Gilgal. This map is a good topographical rendition. You can see Jericho and Herodian Jericho going into the Plain of the Jordan. Just off to the east of the map would be the location of Gilgal. What we see in terms of the movement is Samuel is going to leave and head west and south to Gibeah of Saul, which makes sense because what has happened already is that the Philistines moved into this territory.
The Philistines had taken up their position at Michmash. Going a northern route to get back to Ramah would have put Samuel in danger of the Philistines. It makes more sense. It makes good sense that he headed toward Gibeah of Benjamin.
Then we are told in 1 Samuel 13:16, “Saul, Jonathan his son, and the people present with them remained in Gibeah of Benjamin. But the Philistines encamped in Michmash.”
One of the things we ought to note here is that there is again a bit of discrepancy. Here we have the word Gibeah of Benjamin, and in the Masoretic Text it reads Geba, not Gibeah. There is debate over this. For example, in the New King James and a couple of other translations, the translation is “Gibeah,” because in their thinking that makes a little more sense.
But what we are told here in 1 Samuel 13:15 is that Samuel went to Gibeah of Benjamin. Then he would have circled around to the south and gone up to his home in Ramah.
But in 1 Samuel 13:16 we have Saul and Jonathan moving. Where are Saul and Jonathan going to go?
They are going to go to Geba. That is what is in the Masoretic Text—not to Gibeah. This makes sense because in the early part of 1 Samuel 13, Jonathan had already attacked the Philistines in Geba. The Philistines retreated from Geba.
See the line that runs from northwest to the southeast?
If you cannot read the text there, it says Wadi Sheban to the northwest and Wadi Suwenit to the southeast. This is really important for what we are going to study in this battle, because on the northeast side you have Michmash. There is a huge chasm between Michmash and Geba. Saul and Jonathan are on one side, and there is the chasm between them and Michmash.
The Philistines are on the other side. That is going to set us up for the battle that begins to take place in the first half of 1 Samuel 14. From this position I want you to notice these three towns:
- Gibeah of Saul to the southwest
- then Geba to the northeast
- and Michmash to the northeast of Geba
I am going to add this line. They are going from southwest to northeast. They are almost in a straight line in those three points. If you are standing to the southwest of Gibeah, this is what you are going to see today.
Slides 12 & 13
You see Gibeah in the foreground, then you see Geba in the mid-distance, then you see Michmash in the far distance. The interesting thing is, when you are looking at this terrain, it is dry and rugged. You do not see the fact that when you get about halfway between Geba and Michmash it is going to drop away into this huge chasm.
It is like when you are driving across either northern Arizona or you are driving across the panhandle of Texas. In the panhandle of Texas all of a sudden the ground splits open and you have the Palo Dura Canyon. In Arizona it splits open, and you have the Grand Canyon. But until you are right up on it, you do not see it. That is what we see here. This is where we get to look at these topographical features.
This is an aerial photograph looking at this area.
Adding the labels, you see Geba on the west. We are really looking to the northwest. To the right would be north. We are looking from the southeast to the northwest. You see Geba, then the Michmash pass, which is going to come up in the text. Then there is the pass that is mentioned. The Philistines are going to send one of their troops out to guard the pass.
Over to the right you have Michmash. You see how Geba is on one side of the chasm, which runs northwest to southeast. Michmash is to the northeast. When you look from Mishmash southward toward the chasm, you can see that that looks pretty rugged. The text mentions the names of these cliffs. They are located on each side of the chasm.
In 1 Samuel 13:17–18 we read, “Then raiders came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies. One company turned onto the road to Ophrah, to the land of Shual, another [second] company turned to the road to Beth Horon, and another company turned to the road of the border that overlooks the Valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness.”
How anybody can read this without a good map in front of them I do not know. This is what tells you what is going on. This is a dynamic battlefield. What happens is that the Philistines are going to cut off all aid and succor to the Israelites.
Remember, the Israelites are down to six hundred. The Philistines have 3,000 chariots and 6,000 charioteers, and we are not told how many infantry accompanied them. The Israelites are definitely outnumbered in an extremely rugged terrain. You have the Philistines who are now bivouacked and have set up their garrison at Michmash.
Here is Michmash right here (#4, center of map). The Philistines are going to send their troops north to the land of Shual. By the way, above Ophrah, at the bottom of the ‘I’ on EPHRAIM, that is where Shiloh was located. Shechem is even further north. The Philistines are right on the backbone of the hill country of Samaria. It is very rugged. This is going to cut off any aid that is going to come in from the north.
Then the Philistines are going to send another troop east. This goes down the Zeboim Valley, and is going to prevent any aid that comes up from any troops that are going to come across in the Transjordan and would come in from the east—they would be cut off there.
Then the Philistines are going to send a third group to Beth Horon, which is off due west of Michmash. Those black long lines on the map represent the troop movements of the Philistines.
In 1 Samuel 13:19 we read, “Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel.”
Here you have a transition. There is a dynamic explanation of what is going on on the battlefield, and all of a sudden the author stops. We have to understand what the situation is here.
This is a bad situation. Not only are the Israelites being trapped. I do not know if you have ever been in any circumstances in life where you feel trapped, like you do not have any options, but that is exactly how Saul felt.
In fact, Saul’s response is: I am trapped. I am just going to sit back here and do religious things and hope something is going to happen. It is a faith in fate. It is not a faith in God. In contrast, you have Jonathan who is going to put his faith in God. He is going to execute a maneuver to see if God is going to open the door to victory. That is what we are going to get to here.
In 1 Samuel 13:19 we are reminded that it is not only a geographical problem. It is not only a problem in terms of the fact that they are vastly outnumbered, but it is also a problem of technology. This is one of the greatest examples in Scripture that I have found as to why individual citizens need to have access to the latest and greatest technology, just like the government.
I know some people are going to get upset with that, because the government has atomic bombs, all kinds of different missile systems, and everything else, but the whole idea of the Second Amendment is to give the citizens the ability to protect themselves against tyranny. We cannot do that anymore. It is silly to think that we can. A bunch of Texans with 30-06s and a few AR15s can hold off a mechanized unit today? That is insane, but the principle is still true.
This was practiced many times in the ancient world. The Philistines did this. We are told that they removed all blacksmiths from Israel. This is not quite at the beginning of the Iron Age, but there were definitely many cultures that already had access to iron and the smelting of iron before the Iron Age really came into full bloom.
The Philistines removed all the blacksmiths so that the “Hebrews” (a term of derision—it was not politically correct. They called them “Hebrews” to run them down), “lest the Hebrews make swords or spears.” So the Israelites did not even have blacksmiths who could help them with bronze weapons.
Then the Israelites were forced to have to go down to the Philistines, down along the coast, “to sharpen each man’s plowshare, his mattock, his ax, and his sickle.” This shows that they were tyrannizing the Israelites. It also forced the destruction of their economy. This is their livelihood. In order to farm, the Israelites had to go get all their tools sharpened by the enemy. They were completely under the control of the Philistines.
Here we have the remnants of a forge that was found down along the coast of what was Philistia. These kinds of things in that time period are not found archeologically in Israel. That is something of an argument for silence, but it shows and confirms what the Scripture says in that time period.
Then there is the economic level to this in 1 Samuel 13:21, “and the charge for a sharpening was a pim for the plowshares.” How many people know what a “pim” is?
Nobody. You need a good Bible dictionary. These are a couple of weights that had the Hebrew word “pim” inscribed on them. What we discover from these weights is that a “pim” was two-thirds of a shekel. Right now it runs about four shekels to the dollar, but a shekel at that time was about what a common laborer made in a month.
Think about that. One shekel was what a common laborer made in a month. This meant that he had to give two thirds of his monthly income in order to get one thing sharpened, not everything. If he had a couple of plowshares, and he had axes, each one was going to cost him two-thirds of what he made in a month. That is an economic catastrophe for the Israelites. They had no money left over. They are completely under control of the Philistines.
This is arms control. Arms control was practiced in different ways by the pagans in the ancient world. We have one example at the beginning of Judges with Adoni-Bezek.
Adoni-Bezek is one of the Canaanite kings. Adoni-Bezek fled before the tribes of Israel, and they pursued him. When they caught him, they cut off his thumbs and big toes. This is a sign that the Israelites were all being affected by paganism.
Dismemberment was not part of the Mosaic Law on how you treated your enemies.
Why did they do that? That is what the pagans did. They cut off their thumbs so they could not hold a spear. It is awfully hard to hold a spear, even to shoot an arrow, and it is terribly difficult to wield a sword if you do not have a thumb. You cannot grip anything. It is hard to run into battle and to maintain your balance if you do not have big toes.
Adoni-Bezek said that there were 70 kings that he had defeated with their thumbs and big toes cutoff that used to gather scraps under his table. This was a bit of revenge that was executed by the Israelites. They just gave Adoni-Bezek what he had always done, what he had a reputation for doing.
And this is what the Philistines are doing. They are controlling the Israelites by controlling their access to weapons to defend themselves.
So not only do you have an army that is outnumbered, an army that has a weakened position, but you have an army where the only two people in the army that have a sword are Saul and Jonathan.
You think you are in trouble? Everybody else just has wooden weapons and maybe the odd bronze weapon, but they do not have anything to really carry into battle except for the few odd tools that they could gather together. As a result of this, there was not much available. They may have had slings, javelins, clubs, and knives, and that was about it. They were certainly inferior to the metal weapons of the Philistines.
1 Samuel 13:23, which is the last verse in chapter 13 says: “And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the pass of Michmash.”
What we saw earlier was that the Philistines sent out three companies: one went north; one went east; and one went west. And they are going to send out a fourth one to guard the pass.
This is going to prevent any maneuverability on the part of Saul and the Israelites. They cannot maneuver. They are trapped down in Geba now. Remember, they have this huge chasm in front of them. They cannot go up the road through the pass. They cannot go east. They cannot go west. They cannot have any troops to come in to save them.
This gives you a little of an idea of what this terrain looks like. It is extremely rugged.
Here is another look at the pass from another aerial view. This is a modern photograph. It may look a little different, but roughly the terrain is the same.
Here is another look at it from the north. This was a main east-to-west transition.
This gives a wide-angle view of the area. You can get an idea of how rugged the topography is. You can see Michmash is over on the far north ridgeline.
Here is one more aerial look at Michmash. This is looking from the north to the south. You see the ravine, the wadi that comes through here, and the rugged terrain. At the time, in the ancient world the Philistines had their outpost on the northeast, on top of the rugged cliff face.
Here is what happens next. One day Saul and his army are trapped. Jonathan decided, “We have to do something to shake things up.” You cannot win a battle, football game, anything on the defense. You have to engage the enemy. You have to defeat the enemy.
That is what happens in the Christian life. We have to engage and defeat the enemy in two areas.
- We have to put to death the deeds of the flesh, Romans 8.
- We have to take every thought captive for Christ, not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, Romans 12.
That deals with the sin nature. It deals with worldliness. That is when we are on the offensive. We are on defense when it comes to Satan and the demons.
We are told in 1 Samuel 14:1–2 that Jonathan the son of Saul says to his armor bearer, “Let’s go over to the Philistine’s garrison that is on the other side.” Basically what he said was, let’s go stir up a little trouble. Let’s go see if we can start something. There is a lesson here in terms of discovering God’s will for your life.
This is not like Gideon. Gideon put out the fleece, but he did not put out the fleece to determine whether God really wanted him to attack the Midianites or not. He put out the fleece to see if he could come up with something so difficult for God to do that he could end up avoiding what God had clearly told him to do.
Earlier in Judges 6, God had said, “I have chosen you to go and raise up an army and go defeat the Midianites.” It is very clear what God’s will was for Gideon. Gideon said, “I am going to put the fleece out, God. Hopefully it is going to be so difficult that You cannot do it. Then I will not have to go fight the Midianites.”
When God did what Gideon requested, he said let’s twist things up a bit. Last time I wanted You to have the dew fall on the fleece and not on the surrounding area. This time I want You to have the dew fall on the surrounding area, but not on the fleece. God did it both ways. Gideon could not get out of it. He had to go through with it.
God then reduced his force from 32,000 to 300 to show that the battle was the Lord’s. It was not Gideon’s. It is not up to technology. Whoever heard of a battle where you take a bunch of soldiers at night and you surround the enemy camp. Each soldier has a torch that is enclosed in a clay pot. Then on the signal the clay pot is broken and the torches all of a sudden become seen by the enemy.
Usually there was a torch for every 30 or 40 men. If you’ve got 300 men and 300 torches were seen, one would think that there was about 30 times that number of people that were attacking you. That was what the deception was with Gideon.
There once was a young British man who was exceptionally eccentric. He was reared in a Plymouth Brethren home. He had a great love for the Jewish people, even though as an adult he became somewhat cynical. He was not as convinced about the truth of Scripture as he was when he was younger. His name was Orde Wingate.
Orde Wingate was detached by the British military to the Jewish army, the Haganah, prior to WWII. This was in the late 30s in the middle of the Arab rebellion. At that time the Jews in the kibbutzim would not attach the Arab night raiders. They went into a defensive position. The Arab night raiders would come and attack the kibbutzim, and the next day the Jews would have to clean up whatever mess the Arabs had made. But the Jews never took it to the enemy.
Orde Wingate came along and said that they needed to take a lesson out of Gideon’s book. Wingate did exactly this. He tried Gideon’s tactic. They surrounded an Arab village. They attacked it at night suddenly with torches, suddenly appearing and breaking the clay pots. Just as Gideon did, they defeated the Arabs.
Wingate was responsible for training the Haganah member, Moshe Dayan and numerous others who were the great heroes in the war for independences some ten years later. Wingate trained them in night attack strategy and tactics. He basically laid the foundation for the later IDF in the way he trained the Israelis. That is the kind of thing that makes a leader. That is the kind of thing that initiates.
What Jonathan is doing here is—he is not “if God is going to deliver them,” but he thought through the situation. He said, “I have a strategy. I have a tactic in mind for attacking these Philistines. We can defeat them. But it is going to depend on a couple of factors. If God is with us we are going to be able to get up on top of the cliffs. Then we can take out the Philistines because they will not expect it.”
Jonathan says that if he and his armor bearer get up on top of the cliffs, the Philistines will think we are worn out. The Philistines will be thinking they are in a position of strength. If God lets us get in that position we can wipe them out. But if we have to stay down below, where they have the high ground, then God is not with us. We are not going to win the battle. Jonathan thought this through.
Jonathan is not just coming up with some random test—that if they call us up to the top of the cliff we will get into the battle. If we stay at the bottom we will not. He has really thought through the implications of where he is going to be. He sets this up. Jonathan is going to leave and go after the Philistines.
We are told something about Saul here. In 1 Samuel 14:2 we are told, “And Saul was sitting in the outskirts of Gibeah.”
This again should be Geba. He is probably along the cliffs there. The Hebrew word here translated “Gibeah” means hill. It very likely should be translated “on top of a hill” or “along the edge of the cliff.”
Then it says “under a pomegranate tree which is in Migron.” It does not say “tree.” It says “under a pomegranate.”
There is one man who has done some interesting speculation here. He thinks that just as you have names that are given to the cliffs, these caves were very large, and there were places where a large number of soldiers could hide. These places had names. This man speculates that one of these caves, because it had a lot of holes in it, was called the “pomegranate.” I think that very well may be true, that Saul is sitting in a cave with a number of his men waiting in a defensive position. He is not looking to engage the enemy. Saul had 600 men with him.
We are told another note in 1 Samuel 14:3, that “Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh, was wearing an ephod.”
The ephod is the emblem of the high priest, but the ephod would have also had the Urim and Thummim on it. The high priestly garment with the Urim and Thummim was the means of seeking divine guidance. What we have is Saul, and for good luck he has the high priest with him. But there is an irony here.
Saul is the man whose dynasty has been taken away from him. And Ahitub is the high priest whose dynasty has been taken away from him.
Remember, Ahitub is a descendant of Eli. In 1 Samuel 4 when Israel was defeated the Ark of the Covenant is captured. When the messenger gets back to Eli he tells him that the Ark of the Covenant is captured. Corpulent Eli falls over, breaks his neck and dies.
Eli’s daughter-in-law, who is the wife of Phinehas, is pregnant. She goes into labor and gives birth to a son. She names him Ichabod, meaning, “the glory has departed.” It literally means “no glory.” The glory has departed.
What we are told in 1 Samuel 14:3 is that Ichabod had a brother Ahitub. Ahitub had a son named Ahijah. Ahijah is the last high priest in the family of Eli. He is a man whose family lineage is going nowhere, just as Saul’s lineage is going nowhere.
And the only place we have this mentioned is in this one verse. Why is it there? It is here to tell us that Saul is seeking cover through religious observance.
In 1 Samuel 14:4 we get into what Jonathan does. “Between the passes, by which Jonathan sought to go to the Philistines’ garrison, there was a sharp rock on one side and a sharp rock on the other side. And the name of one was Bozez (slippery), and the name of the other Seneh (thorny).”
Jonathan is going to be the first person in the Bible to do any serious rock climbing here. He has got to scale the one that is on the north side, which is Seneh, so he can engage the Philistine troops.
We have seen this slide already. This is Bozez and Seneh. We are told in the next verse that Seneh faces the south and Bozez faces the north. Seneh is on the north side of this huge chasm that runs between Geba and Michmash. We are going to start off looking at this from the southeast. Each of the photos we will see will allow us to go around to the south and come around to the southwest. That is going to give us a pretty good aerial view of what this terrain is like.
Here we have Michmash and the other cliffs. These are the cliffs that Jonathan would be scaling to the center north. Here is Michmash up on the center ridgeline. The Philistines were up in that area somewhere.
This is another shot. We still see Michmash up here. It gives us another look at the terrain and the height of all of these cliffs Jonathan has to scale.
Moving to the south, we are looking due north. Michmash is to the north of where Jonathan has to scale the cliffs. We can look down and get a different shot of the cliffs that Jonathan is going to have to scale.
We are to the southwest and looking back toward the direction we were coming from to get an idea of what Jonathan has to climb up.
This is another view of the cliffs near Michmash and Geba from the southwest. We have a pretty good idea of what Jonathan has to do.
This is another shot of the Wadi Suwenit near the cliffs of Michmash. It looks even steeper in this particular shot.
Here are the cliffs near Michmash and Geba. This is a rugged perspective.
This is the view of the cliffs near Michmash and Geba from the west and looking at Jonathan’s rock climbing ability.
1 Samuel 14:6, “Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, ‘Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised.”
This is where I started. We have seen what led up to this. Jonathan has divine viewpoint because he understands the enemy has no right to the land. God did not make a covenant with the Philistines to give them this land. God made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Philistines have no right to the land. Jonathan identifies the enemy correctly. He recognizes that nothing can beat them if the Lord is with him—that the Lord can give them the battle.
When we talk about the term “uncircumcised,” the Jews were not the only ones that practiced circumcision in the ancient world. They were the only ones whose circumcision was connected to a covenant with God. This tells us that there was a definite theological dimension to this.
Later on in Jeremiah 9:25–26 we see an interesting passage where God warns that He is going to punish even Israel. “I am going to punish all who are circumcised.” That would be Israel and maybe a few others. The Egyptians practiced it, but it was more of a coming-of-age thing, where you would have large group rituals. It was entering into manhood. Everybody had to be tough and man-up and not wimp-out. It was a rite of passage, but it had nothing to do with anything spiritual. Other nations around did not practice it: Edom, Ammonites, and Moabites.
Notice in Jeremiah 9:26, all “who dwell in the wilderness. For all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.” The issue was not the physical external circumcision. It was whether they were set apart to God spiritually internally. Paul is going to use that terminology to apply it to the baptism of the Spirit in Colossians 2:9ff.
1 Samuel 14:7, “So his armorbearer said to him, ‘Do all that is in your heart. Go then; here I am with you, according to your heart.’ ”
1 Samuel 14:8, “Then Jonathan said, ‘Very well, let us cross over to these men, and we will show ourselves to them.” Let’s see if we can do something that is going to propel some action. Let us see if we can stop this stalemate.
1 Samuel 14:9, “If they say to us, ‘Wait until we come to you ...’—if they are up on top and they spot Jonathan and his armorbearer down below and say wait, stay there, until we come down to you
Jonathan says, “… then we will stand still in our place and will not go up to them ...”— we will not be engaging in the battle.
Jonathan understands the terrain, that they would have the advantage.
1 Samuel 14:10, Jonathan said, “But if they say thus, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up. For the Lord has delivered them into our hand [or given them over to us], and this will be a sign to us.” Jonathan is not arbitrarily picking this. He has thought it through. Jonathan says if God gives us this, it will be a tactical advantage. If God gives us the opportunity to scale the cliffs, then we can take them.
That is what happened. Both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. The Philistines are taunting them. They are making fun of them.
1 Samuel 4:11, “Look, these Hebrews are coming out of their holes in the ground! They have hidden away.” The minute that the garrison called to Jonathan and his armorbearer and said to come on up and we will show you something, they are treating it lightly. That shows that they are not treating this as a serious assault.
1 Samuel 14:12, “Jonathan said to his armorbearer, ‘Come up after me, for the Lord has delivered them into the hand of Israel.’ ” Jonathan has confidence because God is his shield and his fortress. He knows the battle is the Lord’s. He is going to win the battle.
1 Samuel 14:13, what happens is that “Jonathan climbed up on his hands and knees with his armorbearer after him.” Jonathan begins to assault the Philistines. His armorbearer is coming behind him and kills them. Jonathan is knocking them down. The armorbearer comes along behind to make sure they are dead.
We are told in 1 Samuel 14:14 that within the first half an acre they killed about twenty men. It reminds me of the Rangers going up on Pointe du Hoc on D-Day when they were making their assault there.
1 Samuel 14:15, this is where God intervenes. “And there was trembling in the camp ...” The people are afraid. They are being taken by surprise. The Philistines are beginning to act in fear. “There was trembling in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and the raiders also trembled; and the earth quaked ...”
I read that and the first thing I did was texted Steve Austin. I said, “Have you done any work on this?” He said, “A little bit.” He said that it is very likely that this location was probably an epicenter of a small earthquake. He said that this is very likely a phenomenon called an earthquake swarm where you have a bunch of small earthquakes in one location within a few minutes of each other.
At the epicenter of a small quake like that it would sound like a cannon battle, like an artillery battle going off with all of these explosions taking place. Remember, he talked about the earthquakes in the Bible when he was here at the Chafer Conference. He mentioned that the earthquake at the Cross is that the Cross is the epicenter. It would not shake as much at the epicenter, but it would sound like an explosion going off.
If you have a bunch of explosive sounds going off, this would scare the Philistines to death. That is exactly what is depicted in the text. The Philistines are afraid. They begin to run and to panic. This is what we will pick up next time.
By the way, Steve Austin also pointed out, if you remember from his lectures at the Chafer Conference, he showed a slide of this mud core that he took at the Dead Sea. That core showed at certain key levels a disturbance in the strata that would indicate an earthquake. He said that there was definitely a disturbed layer in the Dead Sea mud at approximately 1050–1040 BC in this area, which would be this particular earthquake. I thought that was quite fascinating.
What we see again is that the battle is the Lord’s. Next time we are going to come back, and we are going to see what happens. When religious Saul gets a hold of this, he is really going to mess it up. He is going to almost turn victory into defeat because he takes over, because he fails to trust the Lord to win the battle.
That is what happens in all of our lives. Sometimes we start off great, trusting the Lord. The battle is the Lord’s. The next thing you know the battle is mine, then it all falls apart. We have to stay the course. Remember that. Next time we will come back and look at the conclusion of the battle of Michmash.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things and to look at the details of what has been recorded so that we can understand it better, and we can get a very clear idea of the fact that You work and intervene in the lives of men. You solve our problems. You overwhelm our enemies. You are the One who protects us. You are the One who puts fear into the heart of those who oppose us.
Father, we face much opposition in this nation. We face many people who seek to destroy the influence of the Bible and Christianity on the laws and the institutions of this nation. The only way that we are going to see this reverse is if You intervene. We pray that You would intervene. We pray that You would do whatever is necessary in order to bring these people back to an orientation to truth and to understand the truth of Your Word that this nation may continue to be a bulwark for the teaching of Your Word, the proclamation of the gospel, sending out missionaries, and supporting Israel. We pray all these things in Christ’s name. Amen.”