Shmuel 1-Chapter 14: The battle against the Philistines

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Chapter 14: The battle against the Philistines

1. Yonason prepares a lone attack on the Philistine guards

  • Yonason goes alone to fight the Philistines: On that day [that the Philistine guards went to Michmash[1]], Yonason the son of Shaul told his aid who would carry his weapons that they should go and approach the Philistine guards who are situated opposite the following area of two mountains. Yonason did not inform his father of his plans.
  • Shaul and his men: Shaul was settled at the end of the valley, under a pomegranate which was by Migron. He had around 600 men with him.
  • The Urim Vetumim: Achiyah the son of Achitov, the brother of Ichavod the son of Pinchas, the son of Eily the Kohen, was in Shiloh wearing the Eiphod [i.e. the Urim Vetumim[2]].
  • The people were unaware that Yonason traveled towards the Philistines.
  • The landscape that Yonason needed to pass: Between the area that Yonason needed to pass through to reach the guards of the Philistines were large stones shaped like a tooth which were by both sides. One stone was named Botzeiz while the other side was named Sneh. One of them was a cliff by the north opposite Michmash, and another was by the south, opposite Geva.
  • Yonason anticipates a miracle: Yonason told his aide who would carry his weapons that they should move forward towards the position of the uncircumcised guards, as perhaps G-d will do a miracle for them, as there is no impediment for G-d to bring salvation whether we are in the many or few. The aid told Yonason that he should do as his heart tells him, and that whatever he decides he will follow him.

2. The attack:

  • The Divine omen: Yehonason said that they will pass in front of the guards and appear before them, and if the guards will tell them to stay put, and they will come up to them, then they will remain stationary [and not attack them]. If, however, the guards will tell us that we should approach them, then [this is a sign that they are afraid to move from their place due to their fear of retribution from G-d[3], and that we will be victorious to conquer them[4], so] we will do so, and this will be a sign that G-d has handed them to our hands.
  • Yehonason makes himself visible to the guards: Both Yehonason and his aid made themselves visible to the Philistine guards. Upon seeing them the guards exclaimed that the Jews must have decided to come out of their holes in which they were hiding. They [mockingly[5]] told Yonason and his aid that they should approach them, as they have something to tell them. So, Yonason told his aid that they should approach them, as G-d has handed them to the hands of Israel.
  • Yonason wins the battle and strikes fear into the Philistines: Yonason crawled up on his hands and feet, and his aid followed behind him. The Philistine guards fell before Yonason and his aid killed the one behind him. In the first battle they smote twenty men. There was great fear in the camp of the Philistines [as a result of a miracle by G-d[6]], and the entire land feared G-d.
  • Shaul discovers a commission within the Philistine camp: The lookouts of Shaul in Givas Binyamon told Shaul that they see the nation of the Philistines dispersing and running towards their position [in fear and confusion[7]]. Shaul requested that they check from the nation if anyone is missing from amongst them [who went on their own to fight the Philistines], and upon them doing a roundup they discovered that Yonason and his aid were missing. Shaul turned to Achiyah and asked him to bring the ark of G-d [i.e. the Urim Vetumim[8]], as the ark was with the Jewish people on that day.
  • The battle: As Shaul was speaking with the Kohen, he saw that the multitude of the Philistine camp was approaching them, so he told the Kohen to cease what he is doing [and not ask the Urim Vitumim, as there is no time to lose[9]]. Shaul shouted for all the people who were with him to come and wage war. There was a great confusion amongst the Philistines, and they began attacking each other. The Jewish people [who due to fear were usually accomplices of the Philistines to help them overthrow rebellions[10], now] overcame the Philistines and joined Shaul and Yonason in the battle. All the Jewish people in the mountains of Efraim heard that the Philistines were fleeing, and they too left their hiding areas and joined the chase against the Philistines. Hashem saved the Jewish people on that day, and the battled moved to Beis Aven.

3. The pact to not eat bread and the breaking of the vow by an unknowing Yonason:

  • The Jewish people were brave to enter battle on that day[11] as Shaul entered the people into a pact and vow saying that cursed will be the man who will eat bread [or any other food[12]] on that day, until the evening, in order so they can take vengeance against the enemy.
  • Indeed, the entire nation avoided the eating of bread on that day.
  • Shaul eats the honey from the field: The entire nation[13] came to the forest and there was honey on the surface of the field [i.e. sugar cane[14]], although they did not eat any of it due to the oath they took upon themselves. However, Shaul did not hear of the oath that his father imposed, and thus when he came to the above-said honey field he dipped his staff in the honey and tasted it. When he tasted it, his eyes [which were weakened due to hunger[15]] were shown with light to be able to see. A man who observed Yonason tasting the honey informed him of the oath that they had accepted from his father that cursed will be the man who eats food today. The nation was very exhausted. Yonason replied that his father had ruined and confused the people [and hindered their salvation[16]], as “my eyes have become enlightened after I ate from a little bit of the honey. If you would have eaten from the spoils of the Philistines, you would have been able to smite the Philistines even more[17].”
  • The Jewish people had smitten the Philistines on that day in Michmash until Ayalon, and they were very exhausted.

4. The Jewish people eat sacrifices from the booty on that day:

  • The nation took the booty from the Philistines and took sheep, cattle, and calves, and they slaughtered them over the ground and ate over the blood. Shaul was informed that the nation was sinning to G-d and eating over blood [i.e. they were slaughtering the mother and child on the same day, and ate the meat before the blood of the sacrifice was offered[18]]. He said that they had betrayed [G-d], and they should bring to him today a great stone. Shaul said that they should announce to a nation and have them each bring him their ox and sheep, and they should eat and not sin to G-d. So, the entire nation brought forth their ox that night and slaughtered it.
  • Shaul built an altar for G-d using that stone, and they began to build altars for G-d from that day.
  • Shaul told the nation that they should descend to the area of the Philistines at night and take their booty until morning. No man should remain. They replied to Shaul that whatever is good in one’s eyes he should do.

5. Shaul asks the Urim Vetumum whether they should continue to battle the Philistines:

  • The priest said that they should bring the matter to G-d. So, Shaul asked G-d [through the Urfim Vetumim] as to whether he should continue giving chase after the Philistines, and whether they would be handed to the hands of Israel if they were to do so.
  • Hashem does not answer Shaul’s question: However, Hashem did not answer him on that day.

6. Shaul looks to discover who sinned amongst Israel and to put him to death:

  • Shaul asked for all the leaders of the nation to come forward so they can discover as due to what sin it is that Hashem refuses to answer them on that day. Shaul said “The living G-d has been for us a salvation on this day. [I swear that even[19]] if the sin is by my son Yonason he will be put to death.” No one from amongst the nation replied to Shaul. Shaul then asked for all the people of Israel to be placed on one side, while he and his son Yonason will be placed on the other side [in order to make a lottery between them[20]]. The nation replied to Shaul that he should do as he sees fit.
  • The lottery falls on Yonason as the sinner: Shaul said to Hashem, the G-d of Israel: Bring us a pure and true lottery.[21] And so it was that the lottery fell on the side of Yonason and his son, and the remainder of the nation left [clean from being chosen by the lottery[22]]. Shaul then requested for the lottery to be done between him and his son Yonason, and so it was that the lottery fell on Yonason. Shaul turned to his son Yonason and asked him: Tell me, what [sin] did you do. So Yonason told his father that he had tasted from a small amount of honey from the tip of his staff, and that he is ready to die [for his sin].[23] So Shaul replied that so did G-d and so He should add[24], and that his son Yonason will be put to death.
  • The nation saves Yonason from death: The nation said to Shaul: How can Yonason, through whom the great salvation of Israel took place, be put to death. Heaven Forefend by the life of G-d, if even one hair may fall from his head, as [he has done a great favor[25]] with G-d on this day [by putting his life in jeopardy to help save the Jewish people[26]]. The nation had redeemed Yonason [by revoking his vow using Hataras Nedarim[27]], and so he did not die.

7. Shaul continues the battle against the Philistines and other nations:

  • Shaul chased after the Philistines, and so the Philistines returned to their land. Shaul had established his monarchy over the Jewish people. He battled against all of his enemies, including Moav, Amon, Edom, Tzova and the Philistines. All the nations that he fought against he won. He was successful in his battles and smote Amaleik, and saved the Jewish people from all their instigators.

8. Shaul’s family and general:

  • Sons: The sons of Shaul were Yonason, Yishvi [i.e. Avinadav[28]], Malki and Shua.
  • Daughters: He had two daughters named Meirav and Michal.
  • Wife: The name of the wife of Shaul was Achonoam the daughter of Achimatz.
  • General: The name of his general was Aviner [i.e. Avneir[29]] Ben Ner, who [i.e. Ner[30]] was the uncle of Shaul. His father’s name was Ner, the son of Aviel.
  • Father: Kish was the father of Shaul.

9. The battle against the Philistines:

  • The battle against the Philistines was strong throughout all the reign of Shaul. Shaul gathered all the warriors and fighters to his army.


[1] Malbim 14:1

[2] Rashi 14:3

[3] Rashi 14:10

[4] Metzudos David 14:10

[5] Metzudos David 14:10

[6] Ralbag 14:15; Radak 14:15

[7] See Ralbag 14:16

[8] Rashi 14:18; Radak ibid

[9] Metzudos David 14:19

[10] Rashi 14:21; Metzudos David 14:21

[11] Rashi 14:24; See Ralbag 14:24

[12] Rashi 14:24

[13] See Metzudos David 14:25

[14] Rashi 14:25; Metzudos David 14:25

[15] Metzudos David 14:27; See Malbim ibid

[16] See Rashi 14:29

[17] See Malbim 14:30

[18] Rashi 14:32

[19] Metzudos David 14:39

[20] Rashi 14:40

[21] See Rashi 14:41; Radak 14:41

[22] Rashi 14:41Mahariy Karo 14:41

[23] See Metzudos David 14:43; However, see Mahariy Karo ibid that this is Lashon Timyah

[24] See Metzudos David 14:44

[25] Metzudos David 14:45; Radak ibid

[26] Metzudos David 14:45; Radak ibid

[27] Rashi 14:45

[28] Radak 14:48

[29] Mahariy Karo 14:50

[30] Rashi 14:50

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