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Saul and Jonathan defeat the Philistines despite Israel’s lack of fighting men and weapons: 1 Chronicles 9:35–39; 1 Samuel 13–14

It’s so easy now to criticise Saul, the first king of Israel. But in his second major battle, he was facing a massive army:

1 Samuel 13:5 The Philistines mustered a mighty army of 3000 chariots, 6000 charioteers, and as many warriors as the grains of sand on the seashore! They camped at Micmash east of Beth-aven.

And he wasn’t afraid.

Against this force, Saul led a tiny force of 600 poorly armed men. Of his 3000 elite troops, almost all had slipped away in fear, some had defected, and the 600 he had left had inadequate weapons as the Israelites had no blacksmiths of their own to make weapons. Many other Israelite men were so afraid they were hiding in caves. Everyone was afraid of the Philistines, but not Saul.

Saul’s worries started when he realised he had only 600 men left. What king in his right mind wouldn’t be concerned?

Saul was worried enough to offer a sacrifice himself (instead of waiting for Samuel to do it), and he made a a foolish vow that was completely unnecessary and almost compelled him to kill his son Jonathan.

God won the battle against the Philistines that day, and then He was with Saul to win a string of other battles. Indeed:

1 Samuel 14:52 The Israelites fought constantly with the Philistines throughout Saul’s lifetime. So whenever Saul observed a young man who was brave and strong, he drafted him into his army.

As I said, it’s easy to criticise Saul for his eventual fall, and the signs were there from the outset, but which of us would have had more faith and fought better (with God onside) in a battle with the odds so stacked against us? Which of us could have united Israel to fight an enemy as strong as the Philistines?