« 上一页继续 »
which his scouts reported to him, that he caused a general muster of his own army immediately, to see whether any of the Israelites were concerned in this signal overthrow; when he discovered, for the first time, that his eldest son Jonathan and his armour bearer were missing.
Saul immediately called for the Ark of the Lord; and while he talked with Abiah the priest, the noise in the camp of the Philistines increased so much, that Saul with his small band of forces ventured to draw near, and reconnoitre them; and perceived that throughout the enemies' host, every man's hand was against his fellow, and that there was a very great discomfiture; not a little increased by the Hebrew slaves in their camp, who took advantage of the consternation to rise against their masters and oppressors, and unite with Jonathan and his armour bearer, who by this time had been joined by his father and the Israelites, as well as those who had hid themselves in Mount Ephraim. So the Lord saved Israel in that day, and the battle passed over unto Beth-Aven.
Such an exploit as this, if related by a heathen writer, or a modern historian, would have become the theme of general eulogy and warm admiration. And, in point of fact, a very similar occurrence, by an English sailor, at the taking of Fort Omoa, in the Bay of Honduras, in the year 1779, has actually produced such an effect. But this exploit of Jonathan, the son of Saul, is related in the Bible; and therefore, like many other most interesting and important transactions, is but little heeded, perhaps hardly known by thousands, who would be ashamed to appear ignorant of the minutest occurrences in English or even general history.
The blessing of God was withdrawn from Saul, so that this victory was not so complete as it most likely would have been, if he had remained in Gibeah. Probably without any bad intent, but very injudiciously, he had issued a proclamation ; “ cursed be the man that eateth any food until the evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies.” This was strictly observed by all except Jonathan, who, not having heard the injunction, eat a little honey which he found in the wood; and when some of the fainting people informed him of his father's orders, he hesitated not to say, “ my father hath troubled the land.” “If haply the people had eaten freely to day of the spoil of their enemies, there would have been a much greater slaughter amongst the Philistines.”
But the evil did not end here, for the Israelites having pursued the enemy from Michmash to Ajalon, and become inordinately faint and hungry; when the evening at length came, they flew upon the spoil, and slew the sheep, oxen, and calves on the ground, and eat them in their blood, without taking time to perform those rites and observances which the ceremonial law, given by God to Moses, had so strictly enjoined.
This was actual sin against God, and Saul was so sensible of it, and apprehensive of the consequences, that he caused a great stone to be rolled towards him, and every man to bring bis ox and sheep, and slay them there, and not to sin against the Lord in eating with blood.
Saul was desirous to pursue, after the Philistines, but Ahiah the priest restrained him, and said, “let us draw near hither unto God:” upon which Saul asked counsel of God, “ shall I go down after the Philistines ? wilt thou deliver them into the hand of Israel ? But God answered him not that day.”
Upon this Saul began to suspect that some secret sin had been committed amongst the people, like many others not choosing to imagine that the displeasure of his God was chiefly directed towards himself; and rashly swearing, that if it lay even with his son Jonathan he should surely die ; proceeded to cast lots, and called upon the Lord to sanction the proceeding.
The lot having fallen upon Jonathan, he confessed, “I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in my hand, and lo, I must die.” It does not appear that Saul relented from his purpose, for he immediately answered, “ God do so, and more also: for thou shalt surely die." The people, however, cried out, “ shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel ? God forbid: as the Lord liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground: for he hath wrought with God this day. So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not."*
This affair put an end to the punishment of the Philistines, who returned to their own territories; and Saul was established in the throne of Israel, and made repeated attacks upon the neighbouring nations of Moab, Ammon, Edom, Zobah, and the Philistines, so that whithersoever he turned himself he vexed them : and gathering an host, be smote the Amalekites, and delivered Israel out of the hands of them that spoiled them.
The next trial of the faith and obedience of Saul, was in an expedition against the Amalekites. Samuel said unto Saul, the Lord sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel : now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of Jehovab. This preface, we may suppose, was by way of warning and admonition to Saul, that his precise and especial obedience was required to the message which the prophet was about to deliver. “ Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way,t when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not : but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”*
* 1 Sam. xiv. 45. 2 Sam. xxiv. 14. + This was in Rephidim, where Joshua fought with Amalek a whole day, and when Moses' hands being tired, he was supported by Aaron and Har. Exod. xvii. 8—14. And hence we may know what those have to expect who do any injury to the saints of God;
Saul having assembled an army of 210,000 men, proceeded against Amalek, and lay wait in the valley, having first sent messengers to the Kenites, to separate themselves from that people,t lest he should destroy both together. The Kenites obeyed the admonition, and Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah, until thou comest to Shur, over against Egypt, and destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword: but spared Agag alive, and the best of the sheep and oxen, and all that was good; and destroyed only what was vile and without value,
Here again Saul was guilty of another express act of disobedience; and appears to have been so conscious of it, as to wish to have avoided Samuel; for on coming to Mount Carmel, he went about, and passed on down to Gilgal. Still however upon Samuel coming to him, he had the effrontery, and must we not say, the hypocrisy, to exclaim, “ blessed be thou of Jehovah, I have performed the commandment of Jehovah. But Samuel said, what meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?" How pitiful was the excuse of the deluded monarch?
and how unceasingly he watches over their interests, and revenges their wrongs.-Deut. xxv. 17, 18, 19, Rom. xii. 19.
* I Sam. xv. 2, 3. + This affords another strong encouragement to assist and relieve the people of God; for the reason which Saul, speaking as from God, gives for sending them this friendly intimation was “ for ye shewed kindness to all the Children of Israel.”—Exodus xviij. 10. 19. Numb. x, 29. 32. The Kenites were the descendants of Hobab or Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses.—1 Bp. Hall, 304. Matt. x. 42 So God could not punish Sodom till Lot was removed to a place of safety Gen. xviii. 25. xix. 22.
“ The people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto Jehovah thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.” Surely this, if true, made the sin the greater; for was it of the cattle of the Amalekite that sacrifices were to be offered unto God-he to whom nothing was to be offered that was unholy ** But it was not true; for the real object was either to increase or to spare their own herds and flocks; and therefore, at bottom, not only avarice, but avarice of the worst kind; viz. defrauding Jehovah of the prescribed amount of sacrifice. Besides, why spare Agag? Was he to be spared for a sacrifice ? Surely rather for a ransom.
For this serious offence the prophet pronounces the judgment of God, “Hath Jehovah as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of Jehovah ? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice; and to hearken, than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry : because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” Upon this Saul expressed contrition, and laid hold on the skirt of Samuel's mantle, who, in breaking away from him, rent it, when the prophet said, Jehovah hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and given it to a neighbour of thine that is better than thou. At the earnest intreaty however of Saul, that Samuel would continue to honour him before the people, the prophet turned again after him, and it is said that Saul worshipped Jehovah. Samuel, however, to fulfil the judgment of God, ordered Agag to be brought before him, and whilst hewing him in pieces before Jehovah in Gilgal, we find the prophet declaring one at least of the causes which justified the proceedings of God respecting him.-—“As thy sword hath made
* Numb. xviii, 9, 10.