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Oaths and Honey

Read 1 Samuel 14:24-46

“I vow by the name of the Lord who rescued Israel that the sinner will surely die, even if it is my own son Jonathan!” But no one would tell him what the trouble was.

Then Saul said, “Jonathan and I will stand over here, and all of you stand over there.” And the people responded to Saul, “Whatever you think is best.”

Then Saul prayed, “O Lord, God of Israel, please show us who is guilty and who is innocent.” Then they cast sacred lots, and Jonathan and Saul were chosen as the guilty ones, and the people were declared innocent.

Then Saul said, “Now cast lots again and choose between me and Jonathan.” And Jonathan was shown to be the guilty one.

“Tell me what you have done,” Saul demanded of Jonathan. “I tasted a little honey,” Jonathan admitted. “It was only a little bit on the end of my stick. Does that deserve death?”
(1 Samuel 14:39-43)


This is the second of Saul’s foolish curses. Saul made the first of his two oaths because he was overly anxious to defeat the Philistines and wanted to give his soldiers an incentive to finish the battle quickly. In the Bible, God never asked people to make oaths or vows, but if they did, he expected them to keep them.

Saul’s curse was not something God would have condoned, but still it was an oath. And Jonathan, although he didn’t know about Saul’s oath, was nevertheless guilty of breaking it. Saul made an oath that risked the life of his own child. Fortunately, the people intervened and spared Jonathan’s life.

Saul had issued a ridiculous command and had driven his men to sin, but still he wouldn’t back down even if he had to kill his son.

Jonathan’s spiritual character was in striking contrast to Saul’s. Jonathan admitted what he had done; he did not try to make excuses. Even though he was unaware of Saul’s oath, Jonathan was willing to accept the consequences of his actions. When you do wrong, even unintentionally, respond like Jonathan, not like Saul.


Be careful about making extreme promises to God. For example, “If you get me out of this mess, I’ll never sin again!” Learn to live one day at a time, confessing sin as it happens and trusting God for the next step.

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