1 Samuel 14:1-45 – Jonathan’s Victory and Saul’s Curse


1 Samuel 14:1-45


After Jonathan wins a stunning victory over the Philistines, Saul places a curse that, unbeknownst to him, sentences his own son to death. All of Israel pressures Saul to undo his hasty curse. 


Jonathan, Saul’s son, secretly moved off with his armor-bearer to fight against the Philistines. Jonathan expressed faith that God could deliver “by many or by few,” and so he and his associate climbed a sheer rock wall and then killed 10 times more men than they had with them. To compound their shocking victory, an earthquake struck the Philistine camp as well. The ensuing chaos in the Philistine camp was visible from the Israelite lines. Saul decided to press his advantage and attack. 

As a part of his orders, Saul cursed anyone who stopped to eat instead of pursuing the fleeing Philistines. Unbeknownst to Saul, Jonathan ate some wild honey that he found while fighting in the forest. The natural sugars “brightened Jonathan’s eyes” after a long day of fighting. No one else would eat of the honey though, having heard of Saul’s curse. Jonathan rightly perceived (his eyes had been enlightened, after all) that Saul’s curse was harmful. If only the people had been allowed to eat, they could have been nourished to fight more effectively. 

Not only did Saul hamper his troops with hunger, however, he also threatened to kill his own son. When Saul inquired of the LORD, and an answer was not immediately forthcoming, he reasoned that someone must have eaten, and invoked his curse. After casting lots to see who the culprit was, the lot fell to Jonathan. As Saul prepared to kill his son for eating food, even when he did not know his father had forbidden it, all the Israelites rose up to save Jonathan – the hero of the day – from Saul, his own father. 

This episode is meant to show Saul’s failure as a warrior king. Instead of acting wisely to protect his people and fight against his enemies, Saul sought to kill his own son, and prevented his people from being prepared to fight their enemies. Just as the previous section described Saul’s religious failures, and the next section will portray his personal faults, this section showcases that Saul was no longer worthy to be king.