1 Samuel 14:36
And Saul said, Let us go down after the Philistines by night, and spoil them until the morning light, and let us not leave a man of them. And they said, Do whatever seems good to you. Then said the priest, Let us draw near here to God.
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(36) Let us go down after the Philistines by night.—In the depth of the night, when the rough feasting on the captured beasts was over, King Saul would have had the bloody work begun afresh, and would have hurried after the flying Philistines, and with a wild butchery have completed the great and signal victory. With the implicit obedience which his soldiers seem ever to have shown him—whether a vow of total abstinence, or a desperate charge, or a wild night attack, or a ruthless bloodshed, was enjoined on them by their stern and gloomy king—the army professed themselves at once ready again to fight. Only one man in that army flushed with victory dared, with the bravery which alone proceeds from righteousness, to withstand the imperious sovereign. The high priest, Ahiah, doubted whether such a wholesale bloodshed as would surely have resulted from the conquering troops of Saul pursuing a dispersed and vanquished enemy, was in accordance with the will of God. No command to exterminate these Philistines had ever been given, and that day, so glorious in the annals of Israel, was wholly due to the special interposition of the Eternal Friend of Israel. Ahiah said, “Let us first inquire of the oracles of God”—alluding, of course, to the jewels of Urim and Thummim on his high-priestly ephod.

1 Samuel 14:36-37. Let us go down after the Philistines by night — Having thus refreshed themselves in the evening, Saul proposes to them to renew the pursuit, hoping to cut off the whole army of the Philistines when they were asleep in the night. Then said the priest, Let us draw near hither unto God — To the ark, in order to inquire of God. It is probable he stood before the altar, and wished to remind them that it was dangerous to undertake any thing without God’s direction. He answered him not that day — Though the priest, it seems, often asked an answer, yet he received none.14:36-46 If God turns away our prayer, we have reason to suspect it is for some sin harboured in our hearts, which we should find out, that we may put it away, and put it to death. We should always first suspect and examine ourselves; but an unhumbled heart suspects every other person, and looks every where but at home for the sinful cause of calamity. Jonathan was discovered to be the offender. Those most indulgent to their own sins are most severe upon others; those who most disregard God's authority, are most impatient when their own commands are slighted. Such as cast abroad curses, endanger themselves and their families. What do we observe in the whole of Saul's behaviour on this occasion, but an impetuous, proud, malignant, impious disposition? And do we not in every instance perceive that man, left to himself, betrays the depravity of his nature, and is enslaved to the basest tempers.Then said the priest ... - Ahijah, with equal courage and faithfulness, worthy of his office as "the priest," when every one else yielded to Saul's humor, proposed that they should draw near to God to inquire of Him. (Compare 1 Kings 22:7.) 31-34. the people were very faint. And the people flew upon the spoil—at evening, when the time fixed by Saul had expired. Faint and famishing, the pursuers fell voraciously upon the cattle they had taken, and threw them on the ground to cut off their flesh and eat them raw, so that the army, by Saul's rashness, were defiled by eating blood, or living animals; probably, as the Abyssinians do, who cut a part of the animal's rump, but close the hide upon it, and nothing mortal follows from that wound. They were painfully conscientious in keeping the king's order for fear of the curse, but had no scruple in transgressing God's command. To prevent this violation of the law, Saul ordered a large stone to be rolled, and those that slaughtered the oxen to cut their throats on that stone. By laying the animal's head on the high stone, the blood oozed out on the ground, and sufficient evidence was afforded that the ox or sheep was dead before it was attempted to eat it. Remembering Saul’s contempt of God’s ordinance the last time, and the in consequence of it; and perceiving Saul ready to run into the same error again, even though he had not now the same pretence of the necessity of haste as before, and that the people were forward to comply with the motion; he gives them this pious and prudent advice.

Hither unto God, to wit, to the ark, as above, 1 Samuel 14:18. And Saul said,.... To his son Jonathan, or to some of the principal officers of his army:

let us go down after the Philistines by night; or tonight, that same night; which is another hardship he laid his troops under; as he had restrained them from eating all that day until evening, now he proposed they shall take no sleep that night, but proceed on in their pursuit of the Philistines, having eaten, and drank, and refreshed themselves. The Arabic version is, "let us go down to the Philistines"; and so Noldius (e) chooses to render the words; which I pretty much wonder at, and especially at what he observes in favour of it, and against the common rendering; that at this time the Philistines had not turned their backs, so that the Israelites could not be said to go after them, but were in a camp opposite to them; but that they had fled, and were pursued, is most certain from 1 Samuel 14:22,

and spoil them until the morning light; or kill of them, as the Targum, and so the Arabic version; for spoiling must be meant of killing; for as for the spoil of their provisions, riches, &c. that had already fallen into their hands, 1 Samuel 14:30, and this is confirmed by what follows:

and let us not leave a man of them; great numbers had been slain already, partly by their falling upon one another, and partly by the swords of Jonathan and his armourbearer at the first onset, and by Saul and his men in the pursuit of them; and so intent was Saul in the utter destruction of them, that he was for following and cutting them off, that none of their prodigious army might return home:

and they said, do whatsoever seemeth good unto thee; they had religiously observed his oath, in refraining from food all the day, and now they were as willing to be obedient to his command in denying themselves refreshing rest in sleep:

then said the priest, let us draw near hither unto God; Ahiah the priest, Josephus (f) calls him Ahitob, who was present with the ark, agreed to the proposal of Saul, only moved, that before they set forward they would seek the Lord; perhaps reflecting upon the abrupt manner in which Saul departed from Gibeah, just as he was consulting the Lord, and not staying for an answer from him; which the priest might fear would be resented by him, and therefore proposes first to draw nigh to God; not to the altar Saul had built, or had just begun to build, but to the ark, with which the high priest was, and was a symbol of the divine Presence: the Targum is,"let us draw near hither, and inquire by the word of the Lord.''

(e) Ebr. Concord. Part. p. 15. No. 92. (f) Antiqu. l. 6. c. 6. sect. 4.

And Saul said, Let us go down after the Philistines by night, and spoil them until the morning light, and let us not leave a man of them. And they said, Do whatsoever seemeth good unto thee. Then said the priest, Let us {q} draw near hither unto God.

(q) To ask counsel from him.

36–46. The consequence of Jonathan’s transgression

36. Let us draw near hither unto God] Ahijah checks Saul’s impulse, reminding him that it was necessary first to ascertain the will of God. Perhaps he felt that Saul’s neglect to wait for God’s answer in the morning (1 Samuel 14:19) had already borne evil fruit.Verse 36. - Let us go down after the Philistines by night. Saul, conscious that he had prevented the victory from being so decisive as it would otherwise have been, proposes to repair his fault, now that the people have taken food, by continuing the pursuit during the night. The people render the same unquestioning obedience as before, but Ahiah gives counsel that they should first ask the approval of God. Let us draw near hither. I.e. to the altar which Saul had just set up. Ahiah may have done this because he disapproved of Saul's project, or because generally God ought to be consulted before undertaking anything of importance. Already the neglect of this had led to no good results (see ver. 19). When one of the people told him thereupon of his father's oath, in consequence of which the people were exhausted (העם ויּעף belongs to the man's words; and ויּעף is the same as in Judges 4:21), Jonathan condemned the prohibition. "My father has brought the land (i.e., the people of the land, as in 1 Samuel 14:25) into trouble (עכר, see at Genesis 34:30): see how bright mine eyes have become because I tasted a little of this honey. How much more if the people had eaten to-day of the booty of its enemies, would not the overthrow among the Philistines truly have then become great?" כּי אף, lit. to this (there comes) also that equals not to mention how much more; and עתּה כּי is an emphatic introduction of the apodosis, as in Genesis 31:42; Genesis 43:10, and other passages, and the apodosis itself is to be taken as a question.
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