Saul was 30 years old when he became king, and he ruled over Israel forty-two years.
Saul selected three thousand men from Israel. Two thousand of those were with Saul at Michmash in the hills near Bethel, and one thousand were with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. He sent the remaining men home.
Jonathan attacked the Philistine fort at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. So Saul sounded the alarm throughout the land and said, "Hebrews! Listen up!"
When all Israel heard that Saul had attacked the Philistine fort and that Israel was hated by the Philistines, the troops were called to Saul's side at Gilgal.
The Philistines also were gathered to fight against Israel. They brought thirty thousand chariots with them, six thousand cavalry, and as many soldiers as there is sand on the seashore to fight Israel. They marched up and camped at Michmash, east of Beth-aven.
When the Israelites saw that they were in trouble and that their troops were threatened, they hid in caves, in thickets, among rocks, in tunnels, and in cisterns.
Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan River, going into the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul stayed at Gilgal, and the troops followed him anxiously.
He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel, but Samuel didn't come to Gilgal, and his troops began to desert.
So Saul ordered, "Bring me the entirely burned offering and the well-being sacrifices." Then he offered the entirely burned offering.
The very moment Saul finished offering up the entirely burned offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet him and welcome him.
But Samuel said, "What have you done?" "I saw that my troops were deserting," Saul replied. "You hadn't arrived by the appointed time, and the Philistines were gathering at Michmash.
I thought, The Philistines are about to march against me at Gilgal and I haven't yet sought the LORD's favor. So I took control of myself and offered the entirely burned offering."
"How stupid of you to have broken the commands the LORD your God gave you!" Samuel told Saul. "The LORD would have established your rule over Israel forever,
but now your rule won't last. The LORD will search for a man of his own choosing, and the LORD will commission him as leader over God's people, because you didn't keep the LORD's command."
Samuel got up and went on his way from Gilgal, but the rest of the people followed Saul to join the army, and they went from Gilgal to Gibeah in Benjamin. Saul counted about six hundred men still with him.
Saul, his son Jonathan, and the people who were with him were staying at Geba in Benjamin, while the Philistines camped at Michmash.
Three raiding parties left the Philistine camp. One took the road to Ophrah toward the territory of Shual.
Another took the road to Beth-horon, and the last took the border road that overlooks the Zeboim Valley toward the desert.
No metalworker was to be found anywhere in Israelite territory because the Philistines had said, "The Hebrews must not make swords and spears."
So every Israelite had to go down to the Philistines to sharpen their plowshares, mattocks, axes, and sickles.
The cost was two-thirds of a shekel for plowshares and mattocks, but one-third of a shekel for sharpening axes and for setting goads.
So on the day of the battle, no swords or spears were to be found in the possession of any of the troops with Saul and Jonathan, but Saul and his son Jonathan had them.
One day Jonathan, Saul's son, said to his young armor-bearer, "Come on! Let's go over to the Philistine fort on the opposite side." But he didn't tell his father.
Saul was sitting on the outskirts of Gibeah under the pomegranate tree at Migron. He had about six hundred men with him,
including Ahijah, the son of Ahitub, who was Ichabod's brother and the son of Phinehas the son of Eli, who was the LORD's priest at Shiloh. He was wearing a priestly vest. None of the troops knew that Jonathan had gone.
There were two stone outcroppings in the pass where Jonathan planned on crossing over to the Philistine fort—one on each side. One of these was named Bozez; the other was named Seneh.
One outcropping was on the north side, in front of Michmash, and the other was on the south side, in front of Geba.
Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, "Come on, let's go over to the fort of these uncircumcised men. Maybe the LORD will act on our behalf. After all, nothing can stop the LORD from saving, whether there are many soldiers or few."
"Go ahead with whatever you're planning," his armor-bearer replied. "I'm with you, whatever you decide."
"All right then," Jonathan said. "We'll go over to the men and show ourselves.
If they say to us, ‘Stay there until we get to you,' then we'll stay where we are and won't go up to them.
But if they say, ‘Come on up,' then we'll go up because that will be the sign that the LORD has handed them over to us."
So they showed themselves to the Philistine fort, and the Philistines said, "Look, the Hebrews are coming out of the holes they've been hiding in!"
Then the troops in the fort yelled to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, "Come on up! We'll teach you a lesson!" So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, "Follow me, because the LORD has handed them over to Israel!"
So Jonathan scrambled up on his hands and feet with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan. His armor-bearer, coming behind him, would then finish them off.
In the first attack, Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed about twenty men in an area of about half an acre.
Panic broke out in the camp, in the field, and among all the troops. Even those in the fort and the raiders shook with fear. The very ground shook! It was a terror from God.
Now Saul's lookouts at Gibeah in Benjamin saw the Philistine camp running all over the place.
Saul said to the troops with him, "Take a count and see who is missing." So they counted, and Jonathan and his armor-bearer were gone.
Saul said to Ahijah, "Bring the priestly vest!" because at that time, Ahijah wore the priestly vest in Israel's presence.
As Saul was talking to the priest, the confusion in the Philistine camp continued to grow. Saul said to the priest, "Withdraw your hand."
Then Saul called all his troops together, and they went into battle. The Philistines were completely confused; every soldier's sword was turned against his fellow soldier.
Even those Hebrews who had earlier joined up with the Philistines and moved into their camp changed sides to be with the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan.
Similarly, when all the Israelites who had been hiding in the highlands of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were on the run, they also joined the battle in hot pursuit of the Philistines.
The LORD saved Israel that day, and the fighting carried on beyond Beth-aven.
Now the Israelite soldiers were in a difficult situation that day because Saul had bound the troops by a solemn pledge: "Anyone who eats anything before evening when I have taken revenge on my enemies is doomed." So none of the army ate anything.
The troops came across a honeycomb with honey on the ground.
But even when they came across the honeycomb with the honey still flowing, no one ate any of it because the troops were afraid of the solemn pledge.
But Jonathan hadn't heard his father make the people swear the pledge, so he dipped the end of the staff he was carrying into the honeycomb. When he ate some his eyes lit up.
Then one of the soldiers spoke up: "Your father bound the troops by a solemn pledge: ‘Anyone who eats food today is doomed.' That's why the troops are exhausted."
Jonathan said, "My father has brought trouble to the land. Look how my eyes lit up when I tasted just a bit of that honey!
It would have been even better if the troops had eaten some of their enemies' plunder today when they found it! But now the Philistine defeat isn't as thorough as it might have been."
That day, after they had fought the Philistines from Michmash to Aijalon, the troops were completely exhausted.
So the troops tore into the plunder, taking sheep, cattle, and calves. They slaughtered them right on the ground and devoured them with the blood still in them.
When it was reported to Saul, "The troops are sinning against the LORD by eating meat with blood in it," Saul said, "All of you are traitors! Roll a large stone over here right now.
Go among the troops and say to them, ‘Everyone must bring their ox or sheep, and slaughter them here with me. Don't sin against the LORD by eating meat with blood still in it.'" So everyone brought whatever they had and slaughtered it there.
And Saul built an altar to the LORD. It was the first altar he had built to the LORD.
"Let's go after the Philistines tonight and plunder them until morning," Saul said. "We won't leave them a single survivor!" "Do whatever you think is best," the troops replied. But the priest said, "Let's ask God first."
So Saul questioned God: "Should I go after the Philistines? Will you hand them over to Israel?" But God did not answer him that day.
Then Saul said, "All you officers in the army, come forward! Let's find out what sin was committed today.
As surely as the LORD lives—the one who has saved Israel—even if it's my own son Jonathan, that person will be executed." Not one of the soldiers answered him.
So Saul said to all Israel, "You be on one side, and my son Jonathan and I will be on the other." "Do whatever you think is best," the troops said.
Then Saul asked the LORD God of Israel, "Why haven't you answered your servant today? If the wrongdoing is mine or my son Jonathan's, respond with Urim, but if the wrongdoing belongs to your people Israel, respond with Thummim." Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, and the troops were cleared.
Then Saul said, "Decide between me and my son Jonathan." And Jonathan was selected.
"Tell me what you've done," Saul said to Jonathan. So Jonathan told him. "I only took a very small taste of honey on the end of my staff," he said. "And now I'm supposed to die?"
"May God deal harshly with me and worse still if you don't die today!" Saul swore.
But the troops said to Saul, "Why should Jonathan die when he has won this great victory for Israel? No way! As surely as the LORD lives, not one hair off his head will fall to the ground, because he did this today with God's help." So the troops rescued Jonathan, and he wasn't executed.
Then Saul stopped chasing the Philistines, and the Philistines went back to their own country.
Saul secured his kingship over Israel. He fought against his enemies on every side: against Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, the king of Zobah, and the Philistines. Wherever he turned, he was victorious.
He acted heroically, defeating the Amalekites and rescuing Israel from the power of any who had plundered them.
Saul's sons were Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malchishua. The names of his two daughters were Merab, the oldest, and Michal, the younger daughter.
The name of Saul's wife was Ahinoam, Ahimaaz's daughter. The name of his general was Abner, Ner's son, Saul's uncle.
Kish, Saul's father, and Ner, Abner's father, were Abiel's sons.
There was fierce warfare against the Philistines throughout Saul's lifetime. So whenever Saul saw any strong or heroic man, he would add him to his troops.