There’s so much to unpack in this chapter, I hardly know where to start. First, we get a proper introduction to Jonathan, Saul’s son. I love the dedication of his armor bearer here, and it’s revealing of a quality Jonathan will one day display. His armor bearer was loyal, going where Jonathan went and doing whatever he asked. If you’re not familiar with an armor bearer’s job, it’s basically self-explanatory. He carried the armor for his “master.” Jonathan is a prince, essentially, and back in them days, princes didn’t carry their own stuff. They had a guy for that – the armor bearer. As we read on about Jonathan, try to keep in mind this relationship and the loyalty upon which it relies.
What else? Gosh. I underlined a peculiar verse. (Or I thought it was peculiar anyway.) Verse 21 says even the Hebrews who had gone over to the Philistines went back to defend the Israelite camp. Of course they did! But what struck me is that they had gone to the Phlistines in the first place. Wow. Israelite not only had thieves and murderers and rapists, but they had traitors, too! Dirty dudes. Wink. Wink. I’m bringing this up because, as we’ve discussed in the past, the Israelites were far from perfect people.
A theme I noticed in his long chapter was mercy. God shows great mercy by allowing the traitors back into the camp. Then he shows mercy to Jonathan by allowing the people to save him after tasting the honey, which was an accident in the first place. Well, tasting it wasn’t an accident, but breaking his father’s weird rule was. God also shows mercy to Saul for creating a law that did not benefit his army. And when they’re so hungry that they eat animals, blood and all, they also are shown mercy. Each of these merciful acts, though, is followed by an act of contrition, if you will. In other words, each time each person messes up here, they attempt to make it right with God. I think that’s an important take-away from this chapter: if our hearts are sincere in repentance, God is good to listen, understand and respond with awesome amounts of mercy.
Writing prompt: foolish oath
One of the subheadings in my Bible is “Saul’s Foolish Oath.” Remember way back when, when Jephthah in Judges 11 vowed to sacrifice the first thing that came out his front door if the Lord gave him victory over the Ammonites? Then his daughter came out. Ouch. And remember when the Lord poofed Aaron’s sons into thin air for burning the incense wrong? There are a few other stories like this, where God seemed to show no mercy, but these are the first two that came to mind. I had to wonder, why did God show such great mercy to Jonathan (and to Saul also by not making him kill his own son)? Write out your thoughts about this act of mercy compared to other incidents when God chose to “stick to His guns.”