On that day, Israel’s men had fought successfully against a much larger army from Philistia (called the Philistines). After the battle, Israel’s men felt weak, but a good meal soon made them stronger again.
So, Saul proposed that, during the night, they should carry out one final attack against the Philistines. Many of the Philistines had scattered and Israel’s men would not catch them. However, a large group remained near Bethel (called Beth Aven in 1 Samuel 14:23).
Israel’s men were too excited to sleep that night; they were ready to follow Saul into battle again. However Ahijah, Israel’s chief priest, urged them first to ask God about their plan.
The chief priest had with him the sacred objects called the URIM and THUMMIM, which he used to inquire of God (Exodus 28:30). URIM and THUMMIM mean ‘perfect lights’; they were probably precious stones.
We do not know how the chief priest used them. Probably, they were some kind of lots. Lots are usually a method to make a decision by chance. However, Israel’s people did not believe that they were making these decisions by chance. They prayed first and they trusted God to guide the lots. They accepted the result as a decision from God (Proverbs 16:33).
Lots usually give a simple answer, for example ‘yes’ or ‘no’. However, in 1 Samuel 10:22, there was a complex answer; and in 1 Samuel 14:37 there was no answer. These could be the result of a series of questions. Or there may be some other explanation.
In 1 Samuel 14:37, Saul expected God to support his decision. However, God refused to answer him. That was a shock both for Saul, and for his army. They must not go into battle without God’s support. It seemed clear that someone in Israel’s army had offended God by his actions earlier that day. However, Saul did not know who was responsible for that wrong deed.
Next part: Jonathan is guilty (1 Samuel 14:38-42)
Please use the links at the top of the page to find our other articles in this series. You can download all our articles if you go to the download page for our free 450 page course book.
© 2014, Keith Simons.