The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The First Book of Kings
And one day, Saul’s son Jonathan proposed to the lad who carried his armour for him, Let us attack the Philistine detachment over yonder; but he said no word of it to Saul.
Saul was encamped on the outskirts of Gabaa, under the pomegranate tree at Magron, with some six hundred men under him;
he had a priest with him, bearing the sacred mantle, Achias son of Achitob. (This Achitob was brother to Ichabod, and son of that Phinees whose father Heli was once the Lord’s priest at Silo.) The men in the ranks, too, knew nothing of Jonathan’s errand.
Just where he planned his attack on the Philistines, between the paths that climbed the hill, a rock jutted out on either hand like a single tooth, sheer on every side. One was called Boses and the other Sene;
one faced northwards towards Machmas, and the other southwards towards Gabaa.
Here, then, Jonathan said to his squire, Let us attack the post these uncircumcised Philistines have set on guard, and see if the Lord will speed us. Many or few, if the Lord means to grant us victory, who shall prevent him?
As thou wilt, his squire answered; lead on, I will follow where thou biddest.
We approach them, then, said Jonathan, and shew ourselves.
And now, if they bid us wait till they come down to fetch us, let us keep our ground, and abandon all thought of the ascent.
But if they bid us come up to their side, then go up we will; it is a sign that the Lord means to give us the mastery.
So both shewed themselves to the Philistine detachment; Why, said the Philistines, here are the Hebrews coming out of the pits where they lay in hiding!
And they cried out from their post to Jonathan and his squire, Come up to our side; we have something to disclose to you. And at that, Jonathan said to his squire, Up, then, go we; follow me close; the Lord is giving Israel the mastery.
So, crawling upon hands and knees, Jonathan climbed up, and his squire after him; and of the enemy, some fell to Jonathan himself, some to the squire as he came up behind him.
This first slaughter that befell, when Jonathan and his squire assailed them, was but of twenty men, on a piece of ground that measured half an acre, a day’s ploughing for a pair of oxen.
But all through the camp, all through the countryside, came a sudden terror; the rest of the detachment, that were returning from a foray, stood there open-mouthed; the earth, too, shook, and it seemed as if a divine terror were abroad.
Looking out from Gabaa, the watchmen of Saul’s army wondered at the sight; so many men that lay slain, so many more in flight this way and that.
And now Saul bade his men find out who it was that had left the ranks, and learned that Jonathan was not there, nor his squire.
So he bade Achias consult the ark of God✻ (it was there that day, God’s ark, among the ranks of Israel);
but even as he was talking with the priest, a great clamour arose in the Philistine camp, that gained force and grew louder with every moment. Stay thy hand, he said to the priest,
and so, with his whole army, raised the war-cry and went to the attack. They found that the Philistines had come to blows, friend turning his sword against friend, and the slaughter raged beyond all bounds.
Those Hebrews who, till now, had taken part with the Philistines, and were fighting at their side, now went over to the camp of Israel, the camp of Saul and Jonathan;
and all those others who were in hiding among the hills of Ephraim, when they heard of the Philistine rout, came out to aid their fellow-countrymen, till Saul found himself at the head of some ten thousand men.
Thus the Lord gave Israel the victory that day, and the field of battle spread wider till it reached Bethaven.
The Israelites were fighting, that day, in a close body, and Saul put a ban on them, Cursed be the man that touches food before evening comes; I must take full vengeance on my enemies! So none of them took any food;
even when the whole army passed through a glade where there was honey lying on the ground,
and they saw the honey oozing from its combs as they entered the glade, not one in the ranks put his hand to his mouth, such was their terror of the ban.
Jonathan had not heard his father bind the people so; and he, reaching forward and dipping the end of his staff into a honeycomb, took a mouthful from his hand; whereupon his eyesight grew clearer at once.
And what of the ban thy father laid on us, one of the men said to him, calling down a curse on anyone who should touch food to-day? But the Israelites were faint on their march,
and Jonathan said, It is an ill turn my father has done to his country; why, could you not see for yourselves how my eyes grew brighter for a mouthful of yonder honey?
Think what a blow we might have struck, if the men had eaten their fill when we came upon the plunder the enemy had left behind them!
That day’s pursuit took the army all the way from Machmas to Aialon, and they were weary men indeed;
falling on the plunder they had recovered, they carried off sheep and ox and calf and slaughtered them there on the ground, eating them blood and all.
When complaint was made that his men had disobeyed the Lord’s command by eating meat with the blood in it, Saul told them, You have broken the law; find a great stone, and roll it up to where I stand.
Then he said, Go round and bid the folk bring ox and ram to me here, to slaughter their meat on this stone; sin no more by eating it with the blood in it. So, till late at night, each man brought his ox with him and slaughtered it there.
And Saul built an altar to the Lord there, the first he ever raised to him.
And now, cried Saul, let us attack the Philistines in the darkness, and harry them till day dawns, so that none is left alive. Do as thou seest best, the people answered; but the priest said, God is present with us, let us have recourse to him.
Saul, then, asked the Lord whether he should pursue the Philistines, whether Israel would be granted the victory; but that day no answer came.
Summon all the chieftains, cried Saul; we must have clear proof who it is has brought guilt on us this day.
As the Lord, Israel’s protector, is a living God, though it were Jonathan, my own son, that is answerable for it, he shall die without hope of reprieve. And no voice among them all said him nay.
Do you stand on one side, he told the men of Israel, I and my son Jonathan on the other. Do as thou seest best, the people answered.
And Saul prayed to the Lord God of Israel, Lord God of Israel, send us right guidance; tell us why it is thou wilt give me, thy servant, no answer this day. If the guilt lies with me, or with my son Jonathan, let the sign be Revelation; if with thy people, let the sign be Holiness. Thereupon Jonathan and Saul were convicted, and the people went clear.✻
Then Saul bade them cast lots between himself and Jonathan, and the lot fell on Jonathan.
Tell me, said Saul to Jonathan, what it is thou hast done. So Jonathan told him; Touch food I did, but what food? A little honey picked up on the end of the staff I carried, and for that I must die.
And Saul answered, Due punishment the Lord give me, Jonathan, and more than due, if thy life is not forfeited!
But the people cried out to Saul, What, shall he die, Jonathan, who has won such a victory for Israel? As the Lord is a living God, that were great wrong. Never a hair shall fall from his head; this day he has done good service, God speeding him. So it was that the people, that day, saved Jonathan’s life.
And Saul halted, not continuing his pursuit of the Philistines, who now went back to their own country.
Once he was firmly established on the throne of Israel, Saul carried war into the territory of his enemies, Moab, Ammon, Edom, the kings of Soba, and the Philistines; and everywhere he won victories.
He, too, it was that mustered an army and defeated Amalec, putting an end to their forays against Israel.
Saul had three sons, Jonathan, Jessui and Melchisua, and two daughters, the elder called Merob and the younger Michol.
His wife’s name was Achinoam, daughter to Achimaas. And he put his army under the command of his cousin Abner, son of Ner;
like Cis, Saul’s father, Ner was son of Abiel.
As long as Saul lived, there was bitter war against the Philistines, and wherever he found a brave man or a skilful fighter, Saul would attach him to his own person.
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