Here’s another example of an oath that appears to have been made without giving much thought to reality. Most people would think that nourishment would help with stamina for a successful battle. What do you think Saul was thinking when he had his troops make such an oath?
Was it so in weakness his men could more easily see God’s victory? Was it to take away any sort of distraction that a full stomach may leave behind (like the desire to take a nap)? To me, this proclamation from Saul sounds more self-centered. “Let a curse fall on anyone who eats before evening—before I have full revenge on my enemies.” Whose revenge is it?
You can imagine how hungry these men were. Out of fear they had obeyed the oath. Then they see the king’s own son feasting on some honey. I can almost picture them looking on with longing eyes, mouths watering. Jonathan was not in on the oath that had been made. He was chowing down in ignorance. In this case, it appears “ignorance is bliss.”
When Jonathan was apprised of the situation, he declared, “If the men had been allowed to eat freely from the food they found among our enemies, think how many more Philistines we could have killed!” Jonathan seems to totally discount the oath and had no remorse for having satisfied himself.
When nightfall came, the men were so hungry they ate the plundered animals, blood and all. This was certainly problematic, for in their culture the blood was to be removed before eating. (See Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:10-14; Leviticus 19:26; Acts 15:19-21.) These men had clearly sinned. I had to wonder if it was “that” sin that actually angered God and not that Jonathan had blindly eaten some honey.
However, lots were cast finding Jonathan guilty. As I understand the Hebrew culture, the result of casting lots was synonymous with being God’s will. In that case, Jonathan was the guilty one. Yet the people intervened. They knew that God had used Jonathan that day in a grand way. How could God want to kill him after that?
Surprisingly, Saul was ready to kill his son for breaking an oath he didn’t even know about. Thankfully, the people intervened on Jonathan’s behalf. They were in awe of how he had already sacrificed so much to bring them to this moment. Could it be that Saul was more jealous than proud of his son?
Today’s reading was just a snapshot into a day in the life of King Saul. This victory would be helpful in securing his “grasp” on Israel’s throne. Many victories would follow against foes in every direction. What spoke to you in this text?
Take some time to just rest in God’s presence. Take heed of how easy it is to make an oath to God that may be not in your best interest. I think our true devotion to God will be a lot more pleasing to him that an “oath” that suggests a binding contract. I’d rather give my love to God freely.
Let’s pray …
Lord, may I be mindful of your presence. May you feel my love and devotion flowing toward you, God. You are so mighty my mind can hard comprehend your magnificence. May I never lose sight of your glorious mercy and power. In Jesus’ name. Amen.