Early in the days of Saul’s kingship, the Philistines gathered a large army to come against Israel. One contingent of this force camped upon a rocky plateau called Michmash, which provided a strategic advantage for the Philistines. Upon seeing how powerful and well equipped this army was, the Israelites trembled in fear and hid themselves.
Wanting to prove himself worthy of leading Israel, Saul offered a burnt offering to the Lord. Unfortunately, he was disobedient in this. Samuel had told him to wait for him to come. Because of his impatience, Saul didn’t wait the full seven days, “forced” himself to make the offering and received both Samuel’s and Yahweh’s condemnation for his foolish disobedience (1 Samuel 13:12-14).
Perhaps to prove God and Samuel wrong in their judgment of him, Saul brought his men to Michmash to fight the Philistines. In those days, the Israelites had no swords because they had no blacksmiths under decree by Philistine. Presumably Saul’s men had slingshots as some type of weapon! Only Saul and his son Jonathan had swords.
Jonathan had to be quite young; the text doesn’t tell us, but he was likely 13-16 years old, and quite brash. Along with his armor-bearer, he took a response to his challenge to the Philistines as a Word from God, and ascended the cliff to the Philistine encampment. In 1 Samuel 14:12 we see how this played out:
And the men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor-bearer and said, “Come up to us, and we will show you a thing.” And Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Come up after me, for the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.”
Up Jonathan went with an astounding result as recounted in 1 Samuel 14:15:
And there was a panic in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and even the raiders trembled, the earth quaked, and it became a very great panic.
This panic led to Saul bringing his forces against the Philistines and routing the enemy. Now, there is more regarding Saul, his lack of wisdom in decreeing a foolish vow, and what subsequently occurred with Jonathan, but let’s move to later times.
During World War II, British forces in Israel (called Palestine at the time) were fighting Arab armies. A Turkish regiment had strategic control over the region by having encamped on the heights of Michmash. The circumstances were dire for the British, and the next day’s battle was crucial. The night before that engagement, a British major was studying his Bible and ***coincidentally*** came across the account of Jonathan taking on the Philistines.
The major realized that their military situation was strategically exactly the same as what Scripture recounted with what Jonathan faced. The enemy had the high ground and was positioned to destroy the opposing army. The major consulted with his commanding officer and relayed how the Biblical narrative could provide the means for victory when there was seemingly no way for it to happen. That night, the British forces climbed that same cliff that Jonathan had with his armor-bearer and surprised the Turkish garrison. Against all odds they routed the Turks as they became confused and went into a great panic. This became a turning point in the war for the British to defeat the Arab armies, ultimately leading to the formation of Israel as a nation on May 14, 1948. This true event is recounted in the DVD series Against All Odds that describes this incident plus many others that show God’s protective hand upon His people Israel (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HC26L4M/).
The Bible tells us that Israel is God’s Promised Land and the Israelites His Chosen People. His hand has been on Israel to accomplish His purposes ever since He called Abram out of Ur to be His special heritage. God has intervened on behalf of Israel in the past, and He will do so in the future. We do well to watch all that happens In Israel. It is the key to God’s divine time clock, and how He will bring all His prophetic promises to fulfillment.