1 Samuel 14: The Faith of Saul and Jonathan


  • Genuine faith
  • Religious faith


These last few chapters have been summarising the reign of Saul. If we merely read the last verses of this chapter v47-52, you could imagine an historian speaking of the golden era of Saul’s reign, how he fought enemies on every side, how he fought valiantly and hard. But the purpose of the biblical narrative is not merely to report on political successes but to interpret the various actions in light of covenant faithfulness. The last event we looked at was chapter 13 where Jonathan again overcame a Philistine garrison but the great advantage was lost by Saul’s disobedience and lack of faith. As we look at another one of Saul’s ‘victories’ we will soon see that it was not due to him that there was success. This chapter shows God giving the victory but gives us two very different types of religion and faith. On the one hand we have the genuine faith of Jonathan which is full of action and confidence, but on the other we see Saul apathetic, indecisive and covered in a veneer of religion.

Our chapter begins with movers and sitters. V1-2, ‘One day Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who carried his armour, “Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison on the other side.” But he did not tell his father. 2 Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah in the pomegranate cave at Migron. The people who were with him were about six hundred men.’ The Philistines are in the dominant position, they have removed the blacksmiths of the land, the majority of Israel’s armies that had been assembled have returned home and only 600 are remaining with Saul in Gibeah. The king should have been busy about his business driving the seed of the serpent from the land, but instead he is found sitting. He is full of inactivity and indecisiveness, we know this because Jonathan the hero of the last story seeks to do the Lord’s will but has to hide this fact from his foot-dragging father. The first contrast we find is one of activity versus inactivity.

You will notice that Saul has the trappings of external religion. He does not have a prophet, for Samuel has walked away from him, but he ironically replaced him with the cursed line of Eli, Ahijah who had the ephod with the Urim and Thummim v3. But Jonathan’s active faith gives evidence of true faith while Saul’s inactivity in the face of duty while being surrounded by the trappings of religion feels official but is kidding no one.