!! A. The Philistine threat.
!!! 1. Saul Assembles Israel’s First Standing Army (v.1-2).
!!!! a) Saul chose for himself three thousand men of Israel (v.2).
!!!!! (1) This was the first “regular” army for Israel.
Previously, Israel only had a militia that assembled in times of national threat.
Now, for the first time, Israel has a professional army.
!!!!! (2) Those who chose for themselves:
!!!!!! (a) Lot (Genesis 13:11).
!!!!!! (b) Saul (1 Sam.13:2).
!!!!!! (c) David (1 Sam17:40):
!!!! b) A thousand were with Jonathan (v.2).
!!!!! (1) This is the first mention of Saul’s son Jonathan.
He will be become a prominent, and wonderful, part of this book of 1 Samuel.
!!!!! (2) “This is the first place in which this brave and excellent man appears; a man who bears one of the most amiable characters in the Bible.”
!!! 2. Jonathan Initiates Conflict With the Philistines (v.3-4).
!!!! a) Jonathan attacked the garrison of the Philistines (v.3).
!!!!! (1) Jonathan was a remarkable military leader.
He repeatedly demonstrated the ability to lead a successful attack.
Yet this attack merely wakened the Philistines.
Israel had enjoyed the “peace” of subjected people: everything will be fine as long as you take your place of subjugation.
Through this attack, Jonathan proclaimed, “We won’t take our place any longer.”
!!!!! (2) It clearly says, Israel had become an abomination to the Philistines.
As long as the Israelites stayed in their weak, defeated “place,” the Philistines thought they were great guys.
But as soon as the Israelites show some boldness in the LORD, and are willing to battle against the LORD’s enemies, the Philistines consider the Israelites an abomination!
!!!!! (3) The same principle is true spiritually in our lives.
We don’t war against armies of Philistines; our enemies are principalities . . .
powers . . . the rulers of the darkness of this age . . .
spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).
But our spiritual enemies have the same attitude as the Philistines.
As long as we are weak and subjected to our spiritual enemies, they don’t mind us at all.
They may even kind of like us.
But as soon as we show some boldness in the LORD, and are willing to battle against the LORD’s enemies, our spiritual foes consider us an abomination!
If peace with devil is more important to you than victory in the LORD, you will often be defeated and subjected.
!!!! b) In Geba (v.3).
!!!!! (1) Archaeologists have found this Philistine fortress at Geba (also known as /Gibeah/).
The archaeological evidence shows that it was destroyed but then later rebuilt by Saul, and then became his palace and fortress.
!!!! c) All Israel heard it said that Saul had attacked a garrison of the Philistines (v.4).
!!!!! (1) Plainly, Saul is taking the credit for Jonathan’s bold attack on the garrison of the Philistines.
This is a bad sign in the heart and character of Saul.
His own sense of insecurity will not allow any of his associates (even his own son!) receive credit.
He needs to drink in the praise like a thirsty man drinks water.
!!!! d) And the people were called together to Saul at Gilgal (v.4).
!!!!! (1) King Saul gathers the nation together at Gilgal to prepare for battle against the Philistines.
!!! 3. The Philistines Prepare Their Army (v.5-7).
!!!! a) The Philistines Army (v.5).
!!!!! (1) The Philistines, angered by the Israelites, gather a huge army to crush their rebellious servants.
!!!!! (2) *Thirty thousand chariots *is a huge number, and many people have doubted the accuracy of this number.
“This number seems incredible to infidels; to whom it may be sufficient to reply, that it is far more rational to acknowledged a mistake in him that copied out the sacred text in such numeral or historical passages, wherein the doctrine of faith and good life in not directly concerned, than upon such a pretense to question the truth and divinity of the Holy Scriptures, which are so fully attested, and evidently demonstrated.
And the mistake is not great in the Hebrew, /schalosh /for /shelishim/; and so indeed those two ancient translators, the Syriac and Arabic, translate it, and are supposed to have read in their Hebrew copies, /three thousand/.”
!!!! b) When the men of Israel saw that they were in danger (v.6)
!!!!! (1) Jonathan had been bold enough to launch the initial attack against the Philistines.
But the men of Israel are not bold enough to now stand strong against their enemy.
In great fear (*the people were distressed*) they hide anywhere they can (*in caves, in thickets, in rocks, in holes, and in pits*) or they flee across the Jordan River (*to the land of Gad and Gilead*).
This is a low point for Israel!
!!!!! (2) Probably, many of them had thought “What we really need is a king.
A king would solve our problems.”
Now they have a king and the problems are still there.
We often think things will “fix” problems when they won’t at all.
“And hereby God intended to teach them the vanity of all carnal confidence in men; and that they did not one jot less need the help and favour of God now than they did before, when they had no king.”
!!!! c) As for Saul, he was still in Gilgal (v.7).
!!!!! (1) Saul’s position as king had been confirmed at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:15).
He is still there, many months later (1 Samuel 13:1).
It may be that Saul wanted to keep living the glorious day when Samuel recognized and confirmed him as king before the entire nation.
But now, since he is king, the men of Israel are expecting greater things from him.
!!!! d) The people followed him trembling (v.7).
!!!!! (1) They still honored Saul as king, but they are really frightened!
It must be better to have *trembling *followers than no followers at all, but how much better if Israel would have really trusted the LORD here!
!! B. Saul’s unlawful sacrifice.
!!! 1. Saul Offers The Burnt Offering (v.8-9).
!!!! a) He waited seven days (v.8a).
!!!!! (1) Saul had been in Gilgal for many months.
In the press of the current crisis, every day now took on much more importance.
He knew the Philistines were assembling a huge army against him, and that once they were organized they would be much harder to beat.
Saul probably felt that a quick response gave them the best chance to win the battle.
!!!! b) According to the time set by Samuel (v.8b).
!!!!! (1) Samuel had told Saul to wait for him at Gilgal.
Then Samuel would preside over sacrifices, and Israel would be spiritually prepared for battle.
!!!! c) But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him (v.8c).
!!!!! (1) This added to Saul’s anxiety.
First, the waiting for Samuel was stressful, because he felt time was his enemy.
Second, *the people were scattered from him*, feeling that the battle wouldn’t be fought and that the plan wasn’t working out.
!!!!! (2) We might just imagine that in the early part of the week, Saul explained his thinking in a pep talk to the troops: “Men, we’re going into battle against the Philistines.
They have more men, more chariots, more horses, and better swords and spears than we have.”
So we have to trust God and make a quick attack before they can get organized.
Soon Samuel will come and lead us in sacrifice before God.
Then we’ll go out and whip the Philistines!”
But it didn’t happen like that.
The days dragged on, and Samuel hadn’t come yet.
The troops were losing confidence in Saul as a leader, and beginning to scatter.
Saul felt he was in a lot of trouble!
!!!! d) And he offered the burnt offering (v.9b).
!!!!! (1) This was plainly sinful.
First, Saul plainly disobeyed Samuel.
Second, Saul was a king, not a priest, and only priests were to offer sacrifices.
Saul had no business doing what only a priest should do.
!!!!! (2) History shows how dangerous it is to combine religious and civic authority and God would not allow the kings of Israel to be priests and the priests to be kings.