Jonathan's contrast #3
|That day, after the Israelites had struck down the Philistines from Micmash to Aijalon, they were exhausted. 32 They pounced on the plunder and, taking sheep, cattle and calves, they butchered them on the ground and ate them, together with the blood. 33 Then someone said to Saul, "Look, the men are sinning against the LORD by eating meat that has blood in it." |
"You have broken faith," he said. "Roll a large stone over here at once." 34 Then he said, "Go out among the men and tell them, 'Each of you bring me your cattle and sheep, and slaughter them here and eat them. Do not sin against the LORD by eating meat with blood still in it.' "
So everyone brought his ox that night and slaughtered it there. 35 Then Saul built an altar to the LORD; it was the first time he had done this.
36 Saul said, "Let us go down after the Philistines by night and plunder them till dawn, and let us not leave one of them alive."
"Do whatever seems best to you," they replied.
But the priest said, "Let us inquire of God here."
37 So Saul asked God, "Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will you give them into Israel's hand?" But God did not answer him that day. (1Samuel14:31-37)
Jonathan warned that his father's decision would "cause trouble" for the Israelites and the diminished victory was just the start...
At the end of the day the soldiers pounced on the cattle, butchering them and eating the meat before the blood had been drained, as the kosher laws required, and thus defiling themselves. It was so bad that Saul had to intervene and get them to do the right thing...
This is a very sad moment. The kosher laws were deeply embedded in the culture and lifestyle of the Israelites. It was "default behaviour" to drain the blood when animals were slaughtered. Saul's religious restrictions created a situation of such frustration and desperation that they abandoned default behaviour for defiling behaviour.
What's even more tragic is that Saul then "leads" the men in sacrificing to God at the altar - and we read that this is the first time that Saul has built his own altar and made his own sacrifice to the Lord! Here's a man who didn't have a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord previously who is now taking on Samuel's role as the high priest and making binding vows to the Lord!!
It's a clear case of saying "do as I say and not as I do"...
And then, because their victory hadn't been as complete as it could have been, Saul suggests that they pursue the Philistines through the night, but this scheme seems a little contrived. The soldiers are ambivalent and the priest wisely counsels Saul to hear from God.
The priest had an ephod - a garment with ornate stones that God would cause to glow in response to inquiries from the priest. But that day the Lord would not respond to Saul's question.
This is yet another consequence of Saul's foolish vow about not eating on the day of battle and we'll look at it tomorrow...