And Saul said
To his son Jonathan, or to some of the principal officers of his army:
let us go down after the Philistines by night;
or tonight, that same night; which is another hardship he laid his troops under; as he had restrained them from eating all that day until evening, now he proposed they shall take no sleep that night, but proceed on in their pursuit of the Philistines, having eaten, and drank, and refreshed themselves. The Arabic version is, "let us go down to the Philistines"; and so Noldius
F5 chooses to render the words; which I pretty much wonder at, and especially at what he observes in favour of it, and against the common rendering; that at this time the Philistines had not turned their backs, so that the Israelites could not be said to go after them, but were in a camp opposite to them; but that they had fled, and were pursued, is most certain from ( 1 Samuel 14:22 1 Samuel 14:23 1 Samuel 14:31 ) ,
and spoil them until the morning light;
or kill of them, as the Targum, and so the Arabic version; for spoiling must be meant of killing; for as for the spoil of their provisions, riches that had already fallen into their hands, ( 1 Samuel 14:30 ) , and this is confirmed by what follows:
and let us not leave a man of them;
great numbers had been slain already, partly by their falling upon one another, and partly by the swords of Jonathan and his armourbearer at the first onset, and by Saul and his men in the pursuit of them; and so intent was Saul in the utter destruction of them, that he was for following and cutting them off, that none of their prodigious army might return home:
and they said, do whatsoever seemeth good unto thee;
they had religiously observed his oath, in refraining from food all the day, and now they were as willing to be obedient to his command in denying themselves refreshing rest in sleep:
then said the priest, let us draw near hither unto God;
Ahiah the priest, Josephus F6 calls him Ahitob, who was present with the ark, agreed to the proposal of Saul, only moved, that before they set forward they would seek the Lord; perhaps reflecting upon the abrupt manner in which Saul departed from Gibeah, just as he was consulting the Lord, and not staying for an answer from him; which the priest might fear would be resented by him, and therefore proposes first to draw nigh to God; not to the altar Saul had built, or had just begun to build, but to the ark, with which the high priest was, and was a symbol of the divine Presence: the Targum is,
``let us draw near hither, and inquire by the word of the Lord.''
F5 Ebr. Concord. Part. p. 15. No. 92.
F6 Antiqu. l. 6. c. 6. sect. 4.