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 following the Lord's own heart, 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.
Now a group of Philistine soldiers had marched out to the pass at Michmash.