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Poole on 1 Samuel 14:8-12: Jonathan's Fleece

Verse 8:[1] Then said Jonathan, Behold, we will pass over unto these men, and we will discover ourselves unto them.

Verse 9:[2] If they say thus unto us, Tarry (Heb. be still[3]) until we come to you; then we will stand still in our place, and will not go up unto them.

[If they speak in such a manner, etc.] Although Jonathan was not altogether certain, whether that stirring of his soul was sent from heaven; he establishes a sign, and desires an omen, by which he might be made more certain of the divine motion (Menochius). Question: Did Jonathan sin in this? A twofold sin appears to have occurred, namely, of divination, and of the tempting of God: 1. Of divination, because those words proposed as a sign were signifying the future event, neither by the nature of the thing, nor by divine application: Therefore, only by the industry of the Devil. 2. Of the tempting of God, because to tempt God is to make danger, or an experiment of His power, wisdom, and will, by requiring a miracle, when no necessity urges (Mendoza). Response: Interpreters agree that Jonathan did not sin at all; thus Hugo, Cajetan, Salian, Suarez,[4] and others (Mendoza, thus Sanchez, Lapide, Menochius, Martyr). 1. That holy men asked for such signs, we learn from Genesis 24:13, etc.; Judges 6:37, 39 (Menochius). Jonathan was able to have been urged by their example (Sanchez). 2. This was done by divine instinct (Lapide, similarly Mendoza, Theodoret and Procopius in Sanchez); as it is evident from Jonathan’s so great boldness, divine rather than human, and from its so favorable outcome (Lapide). It is plausible that God, who had instilled a mind in him to ascend to the camp of the Philistines, suggested that he also establish a sign for learning the divine will (Menochius). Moreover, it is of the nature of divination or an omen, that the future event expected, not from God, but from the Devil, tacitly or expressly. But it is evident that Jonathan expected this only from God (Mendoza). Neither did Jonathan tempt God. In tempting God there is a twofold sin; 1. that faith is wanting: 2. that it is done curiously, without necessity or utility. Neither is applicable to Jonathan; neither faith nor utility was wanting, etc. He believed all things to be governed by divine power, and that even the tongues of wicked men are incited by Him to speak. Moreover, we ought not to imitate Jonathan or Gideon, unless with certainty we know ourselves to be moved by the same Spirit and instinct. If examples are agreeable to the common law, they are to be imitated; but if not, they are rather to be admired. This caution is to be added in the case of examples (Martyr). Moroever, to the omen of Jonathan was similar the omen of Pæonians,[5] concerning which thus Herodotus, at the beginning of book 5 of his Histories, The Pæonians, who are from the Strymon,[6] were admonished by a divine oracle, that they should make war on the inhabitants of Perinthus:[7] and if indeed they should be provoked by the inhabitants of Perinthus marching against them, challenging them by name, they should attack them: but it not, they should abstain from attacking. Thus they did and conquered (Malvenda). [Of course, the Devil is the ape of God, and the Heathen are pilferers of the Scriptures.] Some thus interpret this sign: if they had said, We will approach unto you, it was going to be a sign of a heart, brave and prepared to fight. But, on the other hand, if they had said, Approach ye to us, it was going to be a sign that they were already disheartened and incompacitated (Hebrews in Martyr, similarly Munster).

[Tarry ye, דֹּמּוּ] Be silent (Montanus), that is, be at rest. It is a καταχρηστικὴ/catachrestic[8] Synecdoche of species (Piscator). Halt (Syriac, similarly the Arabic, Junius and Tremellius). Stay (Jonathan); be at rest (Munster); wait (Pagnine, Drusius out of the Hebrews). See Joshua 10:12, 13[9] (Junius).

[Let us stand still in our place, תַחְתֵּינוּ] Underneath us (Mariana); in the same place (Vatablus). Awaiting and bravely sustaining their assault (Osiander).

Verse 10:[10] But if they say thus, Come up unto us; then we will go up: for (1 Mac. 4:30[11]) the LORD hath delivered them into our hand: and (see Gen. 24:14; Judg. 7:11) this shall be a sign unto us.

[For He hath delivered] This he says by the prophetic Spirit, or because his spirit was having a presentiment of this (Vatablus).

This shall be a sign unto us: Jonathan not being assured of the success of this present exploit, desires a sign; and by the instinct of God’s Spirit, as the success shows, pitched upon this. Divers such heroical motions and extraordinary impulses there were among great and good men in ancient times; as Genesis 24:13; Judges 6:37; which are not precedents to us.

Verse 11:[12] And both of them discovered themselves unto the garrison of the Philistines: and the Philistines said, Behold, the Hebrews come forth out of the holes where they had hid themselves.

[They come forth from their holes] It falls out to Jonathan’s advantage that he attempted that steep and unusual way, lest he should be thought by the Philistines to attack their camp; but rather to go forth from his caverns, compelled by necessity (Sanchez).

The Hebrews come forth out of the holes, etc.: Therefore Jonathan chose that rocky and unusual way, that the Philistines might suppose they did not come from Saul’s camp to fight with them, but rather out of the caves and holes of the rocks, from which their necessity had now driven them.

Verse 12:[13] And the men of the garrison answered Jonathan and his armourbearer, and said, Come up to us, and we will shew you a thing. And Jonathan said unto his armourbearer, Come up after me: for the LORD hath delivered them into the hand of Israel.

[Come up to us] Thus immediately, let us go up; while nevertheless a descent was necessary: For they would have already ascended those boulders; and the Philistines were encamped in flat and level places; for so many horses and chariots were not able to encamp in steep and narrow places, indeed, were not able to ascend into them. I think that this originated from an idiom of the Hebrews, to whom to ascend and to descend is the same thing as to come. Hence in 1 Samuel 29:4, let him not go down to battle; in the place of which, in verse 9, he shall not go up. And David came down into a rock, 1 Samuel 23:25. And in 1 Samuel 17:23, Goliath is said to come up, who nevertheless was coming down from the montains, as verse 3 teaches (Sanchez).

[And we will show you a thing, וְנוֹדִ֥יעָה אֶתְכֶ֖ם דָּבָ֑ר] And we will cause you to know a word[14] (Montanus, Septuagint). We will teach to you a word (Jonathan). We will show you a thing (Munster, Tigurinus, similarly the Syriac, Piscator, Junius and Tremellius, Vatablus). So that we might teach you what it is rashly to commit yourselves to danger: that is, so that we might kill you (Piscator); we will teach you what it is to provoke us (Castalio). We will teach you the condition of things (Arabic). We will teach you the military situation (Strigelius). Word in the place of thing/matter; that is to say, it is that we wish to communicate with you (Mariana). We will cause you to know a word; that is, we wish for you to say something (Vatablus). We will show that which ye seek with such zeal, namely, death (Lyra).

We will show you a thing; we having something of importance to communicate to you. A speech of contempt and derision.

[Let us go up] Answerably God gave this sign to Jonathan; because it is a sign of fortitude and victory, to anticipate and to attack the enemy, although more powerful, and thus to strike him with fear and put him to flight (Lapide).

[He hath delivered them into the hands of Israel] He does not say, into my hands or our hands: Note Jonathan’s modesty and humility. He reserved the whole danger for himself, the whole glory of the deed for the people. But he did not depart without reward. For God, who exalts the humble,[15] took care that the glory of the victory, which Jonathan attributed to others, be restored to him, especially by the people itself (Mendoza).

The Lord hath delivered them; he piously and modestly ascribes the success which he now foresees to God only.

[1] Hebrew: וַ֙יֹּאמֶר֙ יְה֣וֹנָתָ֔ן הִנֵּ֛ה אֲנַ֥חְנוּ עֹבְרִ֖ים אֶל־הָאֲנָשִׁ֑ים וְנִגְלִ֖ינוּ אֲלֵיהֶֽם׃ [2] Hebrew: אִם־כֹּ֤ה יֹֽאמְרוּ֙ אֵלֵ֔ינוּ דֹּ֕מּוּ עַד־הַגִּיעֵ֖נוּ אֲלֵיכֶ֑ם וְעָמַ֣דְנוּ תַחְתֵּ֔ינוּ וְלֹ֥א נַעֲלֶ֖ה אֲלֵיהֶֽם׃ [3] Hebrew: דֹּמּוּ. [4] Francisco Suárez (1548-1617) was a Spanish Jesuit, esteemed by some as the greatest scholastic philosopher-theologian since Thomas Aquinas. Suárez’s interests included international law, metaphysics, and theology. In the field of international law, he was a forerunner of Grotius, who speaks of him with the highest respect. [5] Pæonia was an ancient kingdom, just north of Macedonia. [6] The Strymon was a river on the border of Macedonia and Thrace. [7] Perinthus was a great town of Thrace. [8] That is, involving an improper use of words. [9] Joshua 10:12, 13: “Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still (דּוֹם) upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And stood still (וַיִּדֹּם) the sun, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.” [10] Hebrew: וְאִם־כֹּ֙ה יֹאמְר֜וּ עֲל֤וּ עָלֵ֙ינוּ֙ וְעָלִ֔ינוּ כִּֽי־נְתָנָ֥ם יְהוָ֖ה בְּיָדֵ֑נוּ וְזֶה־לָּ֖נוּ הָאֽוֹת׃ [11] 1 Maccabees 4:30: “And when he saw that mighty army, he prayed and said, Blessed art thou, O Saviour of Israel, who didst quell the violence of the mighty man by the hand of thy servant David, and gavest the host of strangers into the hands of Jonathan the son of Saul, and his armourbearer…” [12] Hebrew: וַיִּגָּל֣וּ שְׁנֵיהֶ֔ם אֶל־מַצַּ֖ב פְּלִשְׁתִּ֑ים וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ פְלִשְׁתִּ֔ים הִנֵּ֤ה עִבְרִים֙ יֹֽצְאִ֔ים מִן־הַחֹרִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר הִתְחַבְּאוּ־שָֽׁם׃ [13] Hebrew: וַיַּעֲנוּ֩ אַנְשֵׁ֙י הַמַּצָּבָ֜ה אֶת־יוֹנָתָ֣ן׀ וְאֶת־נֹשֵׂ֣א כֵלָ֗יו וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ֙ עֲל֣וּ אֵלֵ֔ינוּ וְנוֹדִ֥יעָה אֶתְכֶ֖ם דָּבָ֑ר פ וַיֹּ֙אמֶר יוֹנָתָ֜ן אֶל־נֹשֵׂ֤א כֵלָיו֙ עֲלֵ֣ה אַחֲרַ֔י כִּֽי־נְתָנָ֥ם יְהוָ֖ה בְּיַ֥ד יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ [14] A woodenly literalistic rendering. The Hiphil frequently conveys a causative sense. [15] See, for example, James 4:6, 10; 1 Peter 5:6.

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