Story Two

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 8
THE BRAVE YOUNG PRINCE
1 Samuel 13: 1, to 14:46
THE people had hoped that when they should have a king to lead them in war they might break the power of the Phĭ˗lĭś tĭnes̝, who were still rulers over a large part of the land. But after Saul had been king two years the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ seemed to be stronger than ever.
They held many walled towns on the hills, and from these their warriors went out robbing the villages and taking away the crops from the farmers, so that the men of Ĭś̝ ra-el were kept very poor and in great fear.
The Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ would not allow the Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes to do any work in iron, in order to keep them from making swords and spears for themselves. When a man wished to have his iron plowshare sharpened or to have a new one made, he must go to the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes for the work. So when Sa̤ul gathered an army, scarcely any of the men could find swords or spears, and Sa̤ul and his son Jŏń a-than were the only ones who wore suits of armor to protect them from the darts of the enemy.
Sa̤ul gathered together a little army, of which a part was with him at Mĭch́ mash, and another part with his son Jŏń a-than at Ḡĭb́ e-ah, five miles to the south. Jŏń a-than, who was a very brave young man, led his band against the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ at Ḡḗ bȧ, halfway between Ḡĭb́ e-ah and Mĭch́ mash, and took that place from them. The news of this fight went through the land, and the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ came up the mountains with a great army, having chariots and horsemen. Sa̤ul blew a trumpet and called the Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes to the old camp at Ḡĭĺ gal, down in the valley of the Jôŕ dan; and many came, but they came trembling with fear of the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝. Săḿ u-el had told him not to march from Ḡĭĺ găl until he should come to offer a sacrifice and to call upon God. But Săḿ u-el delayed coming, and Saul grew impatient, for he saw his men scattering. At last Sa̤ul could wait no longer. He offered a sacrifice himself, though he was no priest. But while the offering was still burning on the altar Săḿ u-el came. He said to Sa̤ul, "What is this that you have done?”
And Sa̤ul answered, "I saw that my men were scattering, and I feared that the enemy might come down upon me, so I offered the sacrifice myself, since you were not here.”
"You have done wrong," said Săḿ u-el. "You have not kept God's commands. If you had obeyed and trusted the Lord, he would have kept you in safety. But now God will find some other man who will do his will, a man after his own heart, and God will in his own time take the kingdom from you and give it to him.”
And Săḿ u-el left the camp and went away, leaving Sa̤ul. Sa̤ul led his men, only six hundred, up the mountains to Ḡḗ bȧ, the place which Jŏń a-than had taken. Across the valley near Mĭch́˗mash was the host of the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ in plain sight. One morning Jŏń a-than and the young man who waited on him went down the hill toward the camp of the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝. This servant of Jŏń a-than was called his armor-bearer, because he carried Jŏń a-than's shield, and sword, and spear, to have them ready when needed.
Jŏń a-than could see the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ just across the valley. He said, "If the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ say to us, 'Come over,' we will go and fight them, even though we two are alone, for we will take it as a sign that God will help us.”
The Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes saw the two Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes standing on a rock across the valley, and they called to them, "Come over here, and we will show you something.”
Then Jŏń a-than said to his armor-bearer, "Come on, for the Lord has given them into our hand.”
Then they crossed the valley and came suddenly up to the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝, and struck them down right and left, without giving them a moment. Some fell down, but others ran away, and soon, as their fellow-soldiers saw them running, they, too, became frightened, and everybody began to run to and fro. Some fought the men who were running away, and before many minutes the Ĭś̝ ra-el˗ītes on the hill across the valley could see the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ fighting and killing each other, the men running in every direction and their army melting away.
Then Sa̤ul and his men came across the valley and joined in' the fight; and other Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes who were in the camp of the Phĭ˗lĭś tĭnes̝, and under their control, rose against them; and the tribes near at hand came forth and pursued them as they fled. So on that day a great victory was won over the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝.
But a great mistake was made by King Saul on the day of the victory. He feared that his men would turn aside from following the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ to seize the spoil in their camp, and when the battle began King Sa̤ul said, "Let the curse of God light on any man who takes food until the evening. Whoever takes any food before the sun goes down shall die, so that there may be no delay in destroying our enemies.”
So on that day no man ate any food until it was evening, and they were faint and feeble from hunger. They were so worn out that they could not chase the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ further, and many of the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ escaped. That afternoon, as they were driving the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ through a forest, they found honey on the trees; but no man tasted it, because of Sa̤ul's oath before the Lord, that whoever took a mouthful of food should be put to death.
But Jŏń a-than had not heard of his father's command. He took some honey and was made stronger by it. They said to Jŏń a-than, "Your father commanded all the people not to take any food until the sun goes down, saying, 'May the curse of God come upon any one who eats anything until the evening. ' When Jŏń a-than heard of his father's word, he said, "My father has given us all great trouble; for if the men could have taken some food they would have been stronger to fight and to kill their enemies.”
On that night Saul found that Jŏń a-than had broken his command, though he knew it not at the time. He said, "I have taken an oath before the Lord, and now, Jŏń a-than, you must die, though you are my own son.”
But the people would not allow Jŏń a-than to be put to death, even to keep Sa̤ul's oath. They said, "Shall Jŏń a-than die, after he has done such a great deed, and won the victory, and saved the people? Not a hair of his head shall fall, for he has done God's work this day!”
And they rescued Jŏń a-than from the hand of the king and set him free. A great victory had been won, but Sa̤ul had already shown that he was not fit to rule, because he was too hasty in his acts and his words, and because he was not careful to obey God's command.
The Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝ after this battle stayed for a time in their own land beside the Great Sea, and did not trouble the Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes upon the mountains.