THE BRAVE YOUNG PRINCE
I Samuel xiii: 1, to xiv: 46.
HE people had hoped that when they should have a king to
lead them in war they might break the power of the
Philistines, who were still rulers over a large part of
the land. But after Saul had been king two years the
Philistines seemed to be stronger than ever. They held
many walled towns on the hills, and from these their
warriors went out robbing the villages and taking away
the crops from the farmers, so that the men of Israel
were kept very poor and in great fear.
The Philistines would not allow the Israelites to do
any work in iron, in order to keep them from making
swords, and spears for themselves. When a man wished to
have his iron plowshare sharpened or to have a new one
made, he must go to the Philistines for the work. So
when Saul gathered an army, scarcely any of the men
could find swords or spears, and Saul and his son
Jonathan were the only ones who wore suits of armor to
protect them from the darts of the enemy.
Saul gathered together a little army, of which a part
was with him at Michmash, and another part with his son
Jonathan at Gibeah, five miles to the south. Jonathan,
who was a very brave young man, led his band against
the Philistines at Geba, halfway between Gibeah and
Michmash, and took that place from them. The news of
this fight went through the land, and the Philistines
came up the mountains with a great army, having
chariots and horsemen. Saul blew a trumpet and called
the Israelites to the old camp at Gilgal, down in the
valley of the Jordan; and many came, but they came
trembling with fear of the Philistines.
Samuel had told him not to march from Gilgal until he
should come to offer a sacrifice and to call upon God.
But Samuel delayed coming, and Saul grew impatient, for
he saw his men scattering.
 At last Saul could wait no longer. He offered a
sacrifice himself, though he was no priest. But while the
offering was still burning on the altar Samuel came. He
said to Saul, "What is this that you have done?"
And Saul answered, "I saw that my men were scattering,
and I feared that the enemy might come down upon me, so
I offered the sacrifice myself, since you were not
"You have done wrong," said Samuel. "You have not kept
God's commands. If you had obeyed and trusted the Lord,
he would have kept you in safety. But now God will find
some other man who will do his will, a man after his
own heart, and God will in his own time take the
kingdom from you and give it to him."
"YOU HAVE NOT KEPT GOD'S COMMAND"
And Samuel left camp and went away, leaving Saul. Saul
led his men, only six hundred, up the mountains to
Geba, the place which Jonathan had taken. Across the
valley near Michmash was the host of the Philistines in
plain sight. One morning Jonathan
 and the young man who waited on him went down the hill
toward the camp of the Philistines. This servant of
Jonathan was called his armor-bearer, because he
carried Jonathan's shield, and sword, and spear, to
have them ready when needed.
Jonathan could see the Philistines just across the
valley. He said, "If the Philistines say to us, 'Come
over,' we will go and fight them, even though we two
are alone, for we will take it as a sign that God will
The Philistines saw the two Israelites standing on a
rock across the valley, and they called to them, "Come
over here, and we will show you something."
Then Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, "Come on, for
the Lord has given them into our hand."
Then they crossed the valley and came suddenly up to
the Philistines, and struck them down right and left,
without giving them a moment. Some fell down, but
others ran away, and soon, as their fellow-soldiers saw
them running, they, too, became frightened, and
everybody began to run to and fro. Some fought the men
who were running away, and before many minutes the
Israelites on the hill across the valley could see the
Philistines fighting and killing each other, the men
running in every direction and their army melting away.
Then Saul and his men came across the valley and joined
in the fight; and other Israelites who were in the camp
of the Philistines, and under their control, rose
against them; and the tribes near at hand came forth
and pursued them as they fled. So on that day a great
victory was won over the Philistines.
But a great mistake was made by King Saul on the day of
the victory. He feared that his men would turn aside
from following the Philistines to seize the spoil in
their camp, and when the battle began King Saul said,
"Let the curse of God light on any man who takes food
until the evening. Whoever takes any food before the
sun goes down shall die, so that there may be no delay
in destroying our enemies."
So on that day no man ate any food until it was
evening, and they were faint and feeble from hunger.
They were so worn out that they could not chase the
Philistines further, and many of the Philistines
escaped. That afternoon, as they were driving the
Philistines through a forest, they found honey on the
trees; but no
 man tasted it, because of Saul's oath before the Lord,
that whoever took a mouthful of food should be put to
But Jonathan had not heard of his father's command. He
took some honey and was made stronger by it. They said
to Jonathan, "Your father commanded all the people not
to take any food until the sun goes down, saying 'May
the curse of God come upon any one who eats anything
until the evening.' " When Jonathan heard of his
father's word, he said, "My father has given us all
great trouble; for if the men could have taken some
food they would have been stronger to fight and to kill
On that night Saul found that Jonathan had broken his
command, though he knew it not at the time. He said, "I
have taken an oath before the Lord, and now, Jonathan,
you must die, though you are my own son."
But the people would not allow Jonathan to be put to
death, even to keep Saul's oath. They said, "Shall
Jonathan die, after he has done such a great deed, and
won the victory, and saved the people? Not a hair of
his head shall fall, for he has done God's work this
And they rescued Jonathan from the hand of the king and
set him free. A great victory had been won, but Saul
had already shown that he was not fit to rule, because
he was too hasty in his acts and his words, and because
he was not careful to obey God's command.
The Philistines after this battle stayed for a time in
their own land beside the Great Sea, and did not
trouble the Israelites upon the mountains.