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1 Samuel 14:24–30

And the men of Israel were distressed that day, for Saul had placed the people under oath, saying, “Cursed is the man who eats any food until evening, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies.” So none of the people tasted food. Now all the people of the land came to a forest; and there was honey on the ground. And when the people had come into the woods, there was the honey, dripping; but no one put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath. But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath; therefore he stretched out the end of the rod that was in his hand and dipped it in a honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his countenance brightened. Then one of the people said, “Your father strictly charged the people with an oath, saying, ‘Cursed is the man who eats food this day.’” And the people were faint.

But Jonathan said, “My father has troubled the land. Look now, how my countenance has brightened because I tasted a little of this honey. How much better if the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies which they found! For now would there not have been a much greater slaughter among the Philistines?”

Saul’s oath carries weight because he’s the king, but that’s all. It isn’t from God nor from a prophet. Saul makes this oath to curry favor with the LORD, but it’s impulsive and clumsy. It isn’t a prayer. It doesn’t involve a sacrifice (though Saul should be a bit gun shy about sacrifices after blowing the last one).

Jonathan, fresh off his heroic triumph over a fearsome enemy, doesn’t know about the oath. That’s interesting. If the oath was all that important, someone should have made a point of informing Jonathan. Instead, they only mention it after they see him eat the honey.

But we can see from their reaction that they’re treating it as just some rule the king made up.

Saul’s slipping. Feeding troops is one of the essential tasks of a military. It is literally why canning was invented. Saul’s oath is dumb. It feels like he’s just trying to look kingly, and he’s lost the touch. But the main problem with the oath is how it was generated. It has no roots in the LORD. It has no connection to Samuel. Saul just did it on his own initiative.

Sound familiar? That’s how he got in trouble with his sacrifice in 1 Samuel 13:8–10. He thinks he’s a big shot, and he’s trying to look like a big shot, but he ends up looking like he’s wearing the wrong shoes.

Don’t laugh; we do this all the time. We think we can solve anything, especially with modern technology.

The great danger we have, living in such an affluent society, is the evil of self-reliance. How tempted we are to think that we are in control, that we are gifted enough, hardworking enough, and rich enough to tackle any problem. But the reality is that God can frustrate the best laid plans of mice and Americans. — Kevin DeYoung

Modern technology is great, and praise God for that, but it can’t cure sin.

These DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend ones are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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