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Saul Makes His First Mistake

13 Saul was 30[a] years old when he became king. He ruled over Israel 42 years.[b] Saul chose 3000 men from Israel. There were 2000 men who stayed with him at Micmash in the hill country of Bethel. There were 1000 men who stayed with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. Saul sent the other men in the army back home.

Jonathan defeated the Philistines at their camp in Geba. The Philistines heard about this. They said, “The Hebrews have rebelled.”[c]

Saul said, “Let the Hebrew people hear what happened.” So Saul told the men to blow trumpets through all the land of Israel. All the Israelites heard this news: “Saul has killed the Philistine leader. Now the Philistines will really hate the Israelites!”

The Israelites were called to join Saul at Gilgal. The Philistines gathered to fight Israel. The Philistines camped at Micmash, east of Beth Aven. They had 3000[d] chariots and 6000 horse soldiers. There were so many Philistines that they were like sand on the seashore.

The Israelites saw that they were in trouble. They felt trapped. They ran away to hide in caves and cracks in the rock. They hid among the rocks, in wells, and in other holes in the ground. Some Hebrews even went across the Jordan River to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal. All the men in his army were shaking with fear.

Samuel said he would meet Saul at Gilgal. Saul waited there seven days. But Samuel had not yet come to Gilgal, and the soldiers began to leave Saul. So Saul said, “Bring me the burnt offerings and the fellowship offerings.” Then Saul offered the burnt offering. 10 As soon as Saul finished offering that sacrifice, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet him.

11 Samuel asked, “What have you done?”

Saul answered, “I saw the soldiers leaving me. You were not here on time, and the Philistines were gathering at Micmash. 12 I thought to myself, ‘The Philistines will come here and attack me at Gilgal, and I haven’t asked the Lord to help us yet.’ So I forced myself to offer the burnt offering.”

13 Samuel said, “You did a foolish thing. You did not obey the Lord your God. If you had done what he commanded, the Lord would have let your family rule Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom won’t continue. The Lord was looking for a man who wants to obey him.[e] He has found that man—and the Lord has chosen him to be the new leader of his people, because you didn’t obey his command.” 15 Then Samuel got up and left Gilgal.

The Battle at Micmash

Saul and the rest of his army left Gilgal[f] and went to Gibeah in Benjamin. Saul counted the men who were still with him. There were about 600. 16 Saul, his son Jonathan, and the soldiers went to Geba in Benjamin.

The Philistines were camped at Micmash. 17 So their best soldiers began the attack. The Philistine army split into three groups. One group went north on the road to Ophrah, near Shual. 18 The second group went southeast on the road to Beth Horon, and the third group went east on the road to the border. That road looks over the Valley of Zeboim toward the desert.

19 There were no blacksmiths in Israel. The Philistines would not allow them because they were afraid the Israelites would make iron swords and spears. 20 Only the Philistines could sharpen iron tools. So if the Israelites needed to sharpen their plows, hoes, axes, or sickles, they had to go to the Philistines. 21 The Philistine blacksmiths charged 1/3 ounce[g] of silver for sharpening plows and hoes and 1/6 ounce[h] of silver for sharpening picks, axes, and the iron tip on ox goads. 22 So on the day of battle, none of the Israelite soldiers with Saul had iron swords or spears. Only Saul and his son Jonathan had such weapons.

23 A group of Philistine soldiers guarded the mountain pass at Micmash.

Jonathan Attacks the Philistines

14 That day, Saul’s son Jonathan was talking with the young man who carried his weapons. Jonathan said, “Let’s go to the Philistine camp on the other side of the valley.” But Jonathan did not tell his father.

Saul was sitting under a pomegranate tree at the threshing floor[i] at the edge of the hill.[j] Saul had about 600 men with him. One of the men was named Ahijah. Ahijah was a son of Ichabod’s brother Ahitub. Ahitub was the son of Phinehas. Phinehas was the son of Eli. Eli had been the Lord’s priest at Shiloh. Now Ahijah was the priest who wore the ephod.

These men did not know that Jonathan had left. Jonathan was planning to go through a pass to get to the Philistine camp. There was a large rock on each side of the pass. The large rock on one side was named Bozez. The large rock on the other side was named Seneh. One of the rocks faced north toward Micmash, and the other faced south toward Geba.

Jonathan said to his young helper who carried his weapons, “Come on, let’s go to the camp of those foreigners.[k] Maybe the Lord will use us to defeat them. Nothing can stop the Lord—it doesn’t matter if we have many soldiers or just a few soldiers.”

The young man who carried Jonathan’s weapons said to him, “Do what you think is best. Whatever you decide, I am with you all the way.”

Jonathan said, “Let’s go! We’ll cross the valley and go to the Philistine guards. We’ll let them see us. If they say to us, ‘Stay there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are. We won’t go up to them. 10 But if the Philistine men say, ‘Come up here,’ then we will climb up to them. That will be a sign from God. That will mean that the Lord will allow us to defeat them.”

11 So Jonathan and his helper let the Philistines see them. The Philistine guards said, “Look! The Hebrews are coming out of the holes they were hiding in.” 12 The Philistines in the fort shouted to Jonathan and his helper, “Come up here. We’ll teach you a lesson.”

Jonathan said to his helper, “Follow me up the hill. The Lord is letting Israel defeat the Philistines.”

13-14 So Jonathan climbed up the hill with his hands and feet, and his helper was right behind him. Jonathan and his helper attacked them. In the first attack, they killed 20 Philistines in an area about one-half acre in size. Jonathan fought the men who attacked from the front. His helper came behind him and killed the men who were only wounded.

15 Great fear spread among the Philistine soldiers—those in the field, in the camp, and at the fort. Even the bravest soldiers were afraid. The ground began to shake, and they were completely overcome with fear.

16 Saul’s guards at Gibeah in the land of Benjamin saw the Philistine soldiers running away in different ways. 17 Saul said to the army with him, “Count the men. I want to know who left camp.”

They counted the men. Jonathan and his helper were gone.

18 Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring God’s Holy Box!” (At that time God’s Holy Box was there with the Israelites.)[l] 19 Saul was talking to Ahijah the priest waiting for advice from God. But the noise and confusion in the Philistine camp was growing and growing. Saul was becoming impatient. Finally, he said to Ahijah the priest, “That’s enough. Put your hand down and stop praying.”

20 Saul gathered his army together and went to the battle. The Philistine soldiers were very confused. They were even fighting each other with their swords. 21 There were Hebrews who served the Philistines in the past and who stayed in the Philistine camp. But now these Hebrews joined the Israelites with Saul and Jonathan. 22 All the Israelites who had hidden in the hill country of Ephraim heard the Philistine soldiers were running away. So these Israelites also joined in the battle and began chasing the Philistines.

23 So the Lord saved the Israelites that day. The battle moved on past Beth Aven. The whole army was with Saul—he now had about 10,000 men. The battle spread to every city in the hill country of Ephraim.[m]

Saul Makes Another Mistake

24 But Saul made a big mistake that day.[n] He made this oath: “If any man eats food before evening comes, before I finish defeating my enemies, he will be under a curse.” He made the soldiers promise not to eat. So none of them ate anything.

25-26 Because of the fighting, the people went into some woods. Then they saw a honeycomb on the ground. The Israelites went up to the honeycomb, but they didn’t eat any of it. They were afraid to break the promise. 27 But Jonathan didn’t know about the oath. He didn’t hear his father make the soldiers promise not to eat. Jonathan had a stick in his hand, so he dipped the end of the stick into the honeycomb and pulled out some honey. He ate the honey and began to feel much better.

28 One of the soldiers told Jonathan, “Your father forced the soldiers to make a special promise. He said that any man who eats today will be under a curse. So the men have not eaten anything. That’s why they are weak.”

29 Jonathan said, “My father has brought a lot of trouble to the land. See how much better I feel after tasting just a little of this honey. 30 It would have been much better for the men to eat the food that they took from their enemies today. We could have killed more Philistines.”

31 That day the Israelites defeated the Philistines. They fought them all the way from Micmash to Aijalon. So the people were very tired and hungry. 32 They had taken sheep, cattle, and calves from the Philistines. Now they were so hungry that they killed the animals on the ground and ate them. And the blood was still in the animals.

33 Someone said to Saul, “Look, the men are sinning against the Lord. They’re eating meat that still has blood in it!”

Saul said, “You have sinned. Roll a large stone over here now!” 34 Then Saul said, “Go to the men and tell them that each one must bring his bull and sheep to me. Then the men must kill their bulls and sheep here. Don’t sin against the Lord! Don’t eat meat that still has blood in it.”

That night everyone brought their animals and killed them there. 35 Then Saul built an altar for the Lord. Saul himself began building that altar for the Lord.

36 Saul said, “Let’s go after the Philistines tonight. We will take everything from them. We will kill them all!”

The army answered, “Do whatever you think is best.”

But the priest said, “Let’s ask God.”

37 So Saul asked God, “Should I go chase the Philistines? Will you let us defeat the Philistines?” But God did not answer Saul that day.

38 So Saul said, “Bring all the leaders to me! Let’s find who committed the sin today. 39 I swear by the Lord who saves Israel, that even if my own son Jonathan sinned, he must die.” None of the people said a word.

40 Then Saul said to all the Israelites, “You stand on this side. I and my son Jonathan will stand on the other side.”

The soldiers answered, “As you wish, sir.”

41 Then Saul prayed, “Lord, God of Israel, why haven’t you answered me today? Show us who sinned. If it was I or my son Jonathan, give Urim. But if it was your people Israel who sinned, give Thummim.”[o]

Saul and Jonathan were shown to be the ones who sinned, and the people went free. 42 Saul said, “Throw them again to show the guilty one—me or my son Jonathan.” Jonathan was shown to be the one.

43 Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.”

Jonathan told Saul, “I only tasted a little honey from the end of my stick. Should I die for doing that?”

44 Saul said, “I made an oath and asked God to punish me if I didn’t keep it. Jonathan, you must die.”

45 But the soldiers said to Saul, “Jonathan led Israel to a great victory today. Must Jonathan die? Never! As surely as the Lord lives, not one hair of Jonathan’s head will fall to the ground! God helped Jonathan fight against the Philistines today.” So the people saved Jonathan from death.

46 Saul did not chase the Philistines. The Philistines went back to their place.

Saul Fights Israel’s Enemies

47 Saul took full control of Israel and fought all the enemies who lived around Israel. Saul fought Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, the king of Zobah, and the Philistines. He defeated Israel’s enemies wherever he went. 48 Saul was very brave. He saved Israel from all the enemies who tried to take things from the Israelites. He even defeated the Amalekites.

49 Saul’s sons were Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malki Shua. Saul’s older daughter was named Merab. Saul’s younger daughter was named Michal. 50 Saul’s wife was named Ahinoam. Ahinoam was the daughter of Ahimaaz.

The commander of Saul’s army was named Abner son of Ner. Ner was Saul’s uncle. 51 Saul’s father Kish and Abner’s father Ner were sons of Abiel.

52 Saul was brave all his life. He fought hard against the Philistines. Any time Saul saw a man who was strong or brave, he took that man and put him into the group of soldiers who stayed near the king and protected him.


  1. 1 Samuel 13:1 30 This first number and part of the second number in this verse are missing in the Hebrew text. The whole verse is missing from most copies of the ancient Greek version, but a few late Greek copies have the numbers 30 and 42. Acts 13:21 says that Saul was king for 40 years.
  2. 1 Samuel 13:1 He ruled … 42 years Or “After he had ruled over Israel for 2 years, ….”
  3. 1 Samuel 13:3 They said … rebelled This is from the ancient Greek version.
  4. 1 Samuel 13:5 3000 This is found in some copies of the ancient Greek version and the Syriac version. The standard Hebrew text has “30,000.”
  5. 1 Samuel 13:14 a man who wants to obey him Literally, “a man according to his heart.” This could also mean “a man of his own choosing.”
  6. 1 Samuel 13:15 Saul and the rest of his army left Gilgal This is found in the ancient Greek version but not in the standard Hebrew text.
  7. 1 Samuel 13:21 1/3 ounce Literally, “1 pim” (7.8 g).
  8. 1 Samuel 13:21 1/6 ounce Literally, “1/3 shekel” (3.8 g).
  9. 1 Samuel 14:2 at the threshing floor Or “in Migron.”
  10. 1 Samuel 14:2 edge of the hill Or “the edge of Gibeah.”
  11. 1 Samuel 14:6 foreigners Literally, “uncircumcised.” This means people who did not share in the agreement God made with Israel. See “circumcise, circumcision” in the Word List.
  12. 1 Samuel 14:18 The ancient Greek and Latin versions have “Saul said to Ahijah, ‘Bring the ephod!’ (At that time Ahijah was wearing the ephod.)”
  13. 1 Samuel 14:23 The whole army … Ephraim This is from the ancient Greek version.
  14. 1 Samuel 14:24 But Saul … that day This is from the ancient Greek version. The standard Hebrew text has “The Israelites were very tired and hungry that day.”
  15. 1 Samuel 14:41 Then Saul prayed … give Thummim This is found in the ancient Greek version. The standard Hebrew text has, “Then Samuel prayed to the Lord, God of Israel, ‘Give the right answer.’”

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