Saul was 30 years old when he became king, and he reigned 42 years over Israel.
He chose 3,000 men from Israel for himself: 2,000 were with Saul at Michmash and in Bethel's hill country, and 1,000 were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin. He sent the rest of the troops away, each to his own tent.
Jonathan attacked the Philistine garrison that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. So Saul blew the ram's horn throughout the land saying, "Let the Hebrews hear!"
And all Israel heard the news, "Saul has attacked the Philistine garrison, and Israel is now repulsive to the Philistines." Then the troops were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.
The Philistines also gathered to fight against Israel: 3,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen, and troops as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Michmash, east of Beth-aven.
The men of Israel saw that they were in trouble because the troops were in a difficult situation. They hid in caves, thickets, among rocks, and in holes and cisterns.
Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul, however, was still at Gilgal, and all his troops were gripped with fear.
He waited seven days for the appointed time that Samuel had set, but Samuel didn't come to Gilgal, and the troops were deserting him.
So Saul said, "Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings." Then he offered the burnt offering.
Just as he finished offering the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. So Saul went out to greet him,
and Samuel asked, "What have you done?" Saul answered, "When I saw that the troops were deserting me and you didn't come within the appointed days and the Philistines were gathering at Michmash,
I thought: The Philistines will now descend on me at Gilgal, and I haven't sought the LORD's favor. So I forced myself to offer the burnt offering."
Samuel said to Saul, "You have been foolish. You have not kept the command which the LORD your God gave you. It was at this time that the LORD would have permanently established your reign over Israel,
but now your reign will not endure. The LORD has found a man loyal to Him,and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not done what the LORD commanded."
Then Samuel went from Gilgal to Gibeah in Benjamin. Saul registered the troops who were with him, about 600 men.
Saul, his son Jonathan, and the troops who were with them were staying in Geba of Benjamin, and the Philistines were camped at Michmash.
Raiding parties went out from the Philistine camp in three divisions. One division headed toward the Ophrah road leading to the land of Shual.
The next division headed toward the Beth-horon road, and the last division headed down the border road that looks out over the valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness.
No blacksmith could be found in all the land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, "Otherwise, the Hebrews will make swords or spears."
So all the Israelites went to the Philistines to sharpen their plowshares, mattocks, axes, and sickles.
The price was two-thirds of a shekel for plowshares and mattocks, and one-third [of a shekel] for pitchforks and axes, and for putting a point on an oxgoad.
So on the day of battle not a sword or spear could be found in the hand of any of the troops who were with Saul and Jonathan; only Saul and his son Jonathan had [weapons].
Now a Philistine garrison took control of the pass at Michmash.
That same day Saul's son Jonathan said to the attendant who carried his weapons, "Come on, let's cross over to the Philistine garrison on the other side." However, he did not tell his father.
Saul was staying under the pomegranate tree in Migron on the outskirts of Gibeah. The troops with him numbered about 600.
Ahijah, who was wearing an ephod, [was also there]. He was the son of Ahitub, the brother of Ichabod son of Phinehas, son of Eli the LORD's priest at Shiloh. But the troops did not know that Jonathan had left.
There were sharp columns of rock on both sides of the pass that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine garrison. One was named Bozez and the other Seneh;
one stood to the north in front of Michmash and the other to the south in front of Geba.
Jonathan said to the attendant who carried his weapons, "Come on, let's cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised men. Perhaps the LORD will help us. Nothing can keep the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few."
His armor-bearer responded, "Do what is in your heart. You choose. I'm right here with you whatever you decide."
"All right," Jonathan replied, "we'll cross over to the men and then let them see us.
If they say, 'Wait until we reach you,' then we will stay where we are and not go up to them.
But if they say, 'Come on up,' then we'll go up, because the LORD has handed them over to us-- that will be our sign."
They let themselves be seen by the Philistine garrison, and the Philistines said, "Look, the Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they've been hiding!"
The men of the garrison called to Jonathan and his armor-bearer. "Come on up, and we'll teach you a lesson!" they said. "Follow me," Jonathan told his armor-bearer, "for the LORD has handed them over to Israel."
Jonathan went up using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer behind him. Jonathan cut them down, and his armor-bearer followed and finished them off.
In that first assault Jonathan and his armor-bearer struck down about 20 men in a half-acre field.
Terror spread through the [Philistine] camp and the open fields to all the troops. Even the garrison and the raiding parties were terrified. The earth shook, and terror from God spread.
When Saul's watchmen in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, they saw the panicking troops scattering in every direction.
So Saul said to the troops with him, "Call the roll and determine who has left us." They called the roll and saw that Jonathan and his armor-bearer were gone.
Saul told Ahijah, "Bring the ark of God," for it was with the Israelites at that time.
While Saul spoke to the priest, the panic in the Philistine camp increased in intensity. So Saul said to the priest, "Stop what you're doing."
Saul and all the troops with him assembled and marched to the battle, and there, the Philistines were fighting against each other in great confusion!
There were Hebrews from the area who had gone earlier into the camp to join the Philistines, but even they joined the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan.
When all the Israelite men who had been hiding in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were fleeing, they also joined Saul and Jonathan in the battle.
So the LORD saved Israel that day. The battle extended beyond Beth-aven,
and the men of Israel were worn out that day, for Saul had placed the troops under an oath: "Cursed is the man who eats food before evening, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies." So none of the troops tasted [any] food.
Everyone went into the forest, and there was honey on the ground.
When the troops entered the forest, they saw the flow of honey, but none of them ate any of it because they feared the oath.
However, Jonathan had not heard his father make the troops swear the oath. He reached out with the end of the staff he was carrying and dipped it into the honeycomb. When he ate the honey, he had renewed energy.
Then, one of the troops said, "Your father made the troops solemnly swear, 'Cursed is the man who eats food today,' and the troops are exhausted."
Jonathan replied, "My father has brought trouble to the land. Just look at how I have renewed energy because I tasted a little honey.
How much better if the troops had eaten freely today from the plunder they took from their enemies! Then the slaughter of the Philistines would have been much greater."
The Israelites struck down the Philistines that day from Michmash all the way to Aijalon. Since the Israelites were completely exhausted,
they rushed to the plunder, took sheep, cattle, and calves, slaughtered them on the ground, and ate [meat] with the blood [still in it.]
Some reported to Saul: "Look, the troops are sinning against the LORD by eating [meat] with the blood [still in it.]" Saul said, "You have been unfaithful. Roll a large stone over here at once."
He then said, "Go among the troops and say to them, 'Each man must bring me his ox or his sheep. Do the slaughtering here and then you can eat. Don't sin against the LORD by eating [meat] with the blood [in it.]' " So every one of the troops brought his ox that night and slaughtered it there.
Then Saul built an altar to the LORD; it was the first time he had built an altar to the LORD.
Saul said, "Let's go down after the Philistines tonight and plunder them until morning. Don't let even one remain!" "Do whatever you want," the troops replied. But the priest said, "We must consult God here."
So Saul inquired of God, "Should I go after the Philistines? Will You hand them over to Israel?" But God did not answer him that day.
Saul said, "All you leaders of the troops, come here. Let us investigate how this sin has occurred today.
As surely as the LORD lives who saves Israel, even if it is because of my son Jonathan, he must die!" Not one of the troops answered him.
So he said to all Israel, "You will be on one side, and I and my son Jonathan will be on the other side." And the troops replied, "Do whatever you want."
So Saul said to the LORD, "God of Israel, give us the right [decision]." Jonathan and Saul were selected, and the troops were cleared [of the charge].
Then Saul said, "Cast [the lot] between me and my son Jonathan," and Jonathan was selected.
Saul commanded him, "Tell me what you did." Jonathan told him, "I tasted a little honey with the end of the staff I was carrying. I am ready to die!"
Saul declared to him, "May God punish me severely if you do not die, Jonathan!"
But the people said to Saul, "Must Jonathan die, who accomplished such a great deliverance for Israel? No, as the LORD lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he worked with God's help today." So the people rescued Jonathan, and he did not die.
Then Saul gave up the pursuit of the Philistines, and the Philistines returned to their own territory.
When Saul assumed the kingship over Israel, he fought against all his enemies in every direction: against Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines. Wherever he turned, he caused havoc.
He fought bravely, defeated the Amalekites, and delivered Israel from the hand of those who plundered them.
Saul's sons were Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malchishua. The names of his two daughters were: Merab, his firstborn, and Michal, the younger.
The name of Saul's wife was Ahinoam daughter of Ahimaaz. The name of the commander of his army was Abner son of Saul's uncle Ner.
Saul's father was Kish. Abner's father was Ner son of Abiel.
The conflict with the Philistines was fierce all of Saul's days, so whenever Saul noticed any strong or brave man, he enlisted him.
Samuel told Saul, "The LORD sent me to anoint you as king over His people Israel. Now, listen to the words of the LORD.
This is what the LORD of Hosts says: 'I witnessed what the Amalekites did to the Israelites when they opposed them along the way as they were coming out of Egypt.
Now go and attack the Amalekites and completely destroy everything they have. Do not spare them. Kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys.'"
Then Saul summoned the troops and counted them at Telaim: 200,000 foot soldiers and 10,000 men from Judah.
Saul came to the city of Amalek and set up an ambush in the wadi.
He warned the Kenites, "Since you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came out of Egypt, go on and leave! Get away from the Amalekites, or I'll sweep you away with them." So the Kenites withdrew from the Amalekites.
Then Saul struck down the Amalekites from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is next to Egypt.
He captured Agag king of Amalek alive, but he completely destroyed all the rest of the people with the sword.
Saul and the troops spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, cattle, and fatlings, as well as the young rams and the best of everything else. They were not willing to destroy them, but they did destroy all the worthless and unwanted things.
Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel:
"I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned away from following Me and has not carried out My instructions." So Samuel became angry and cried out to the LORD [all] night.
Early in the morning Samuel got up to confront Saul, but it was reported to Samuel, "Saul went to Carmel where he set up a monument for himself. Then he turned around and went down to Gilgal."
When Samuel came to him, Saul said, "May the LORD bless you. I have carried out the LORD's instructions."
Samuel replied, "Then what is this sound of sheep and cattle I hear?"
Saul answered, "The troops brought them from the Amalekites and spared the best sheep and cattle in order to offer a sacrifice to the LORD your God, but the rest we destroyed."
"Stop!" exclaimed Samuel. "Let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night." "Tell me," he replied.
Samuel continued, "Although you once considered yourself unimportant, have you not become the leader of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel
and then sent you on a mission and said: 'Go and completely destroy the sinful Amalekites. Fight against them until you have annihilated them.'
So why didn't you obey the LORD? Why did you rush on the plunder and do what was evil in the LORD's sight?"
"But I did obey the LORD!" Saul answered. "I went on the mission the LORD gave me: I brought back Agag, king of Amalek, and I completely destroyed the Amalekites.
The troops took sheep and cattle from the plunder-- the best of what was set apart for destruction-- to sacrifice to the LORD your God at Gilgal."
Then Samuel said: Does the LORD take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention [is better] than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and defiance is like wickedness and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has rejected you as king.
Saul answered Samuel, "I have sinned. I have transgressed the LORD's command and your words. Because I was afraid of the people, I obeyed them.
Now therefore, please forgive my sin and return with me so I can worship the LORD."
Samuel replied to Saul, "I will not return with you. Because you rejected the word of the LORD, the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel."
When Samuel turned to go, Saul grabbed the hem of his robe, and it tore.
Samuel said to him, "The LORD has torn the kingship of Israel away from you today and has given it to your neighbor who is better than you.
Furthermore, the Eternal One of Israel does not lie or change His mind, for He is not man who changes his mind."
Saul said, "I have sinned. Please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel. Come back with me so I can bow and worship the LORD your God."
Then Samuel went back, following Saul, and Saul bowed down to the LORD.
Samuel said, "Bring me Agag king of Amalek." Agag came to him trembling, for he thought, "Certainly the bitterness of death has come."
Samuel declared: As your sword has made women childless, so your mother will be childless among women. Then he hacked Agag to pieces before the LORD at Gilgal.
Samuel went to Ramah, and Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul.
Even to the day of his death, Samuel never again visited Saul. Samuel mourned for Saul, and the LORD regretted He had made Saul king over Israel.