Saul Makes His First Mistake
Saul was 30*
years old when he became king. He ruled over Israel 42 years.† 2
Saul chose 3000 men from Israel. There were 2000 men who stayed with him at Micmash in the hill country of Bethel. There were 1000 men who stayed with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. Saul sent the other men in the army back home.
Jonathan defeated the Philistines at their camp in Geba. The Philistines heard about this. They said, “The Hebrews have rebelled.”‡
Saul said, “Let the Hebrew people hear what happened.” So Saul told the men to blow trumpets through all the land of Israel. 4 All the Israelites heard this news: “Saul has killed the Philistine leader. Now the Philistines will really hate the Israelites!”
The Israelites were called to join Saul at Gilgal. 5
The Philistines gathered to fight Israel. The Philistines camped at Micmash, east of Beth Aven. They had 3000§
chariots and 6000 horse soldiers. There were so many Philistines that they were like sand on the seashore.
6 The Israelites saw that they were in trouble. They felt trapped. They ran away to hide in caves and cracks in the rock. They hid among the rocks, in wells, and in other holes in the ground. 7 Some Hebrews even went across the Jordan River to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal. All the men in his army were shaking with fear.
8 Samuel said he would meet Saul at Gilgal. Saul waited there seven days. But Samuel had not yet come to Gilgal, and the soldiers began to leave Saul. 9 So Saul said, “Bring me the burnt offerings and the fellowship offerings.” Then Saul offered the burnt offering. 10 As soon as Saul finished offering that sacrifice, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet him.
11 Samuel asked, “What have you done?”
Saul answered, “I saw the soldiers leaving me. You were not here on time, and the Philistines were gathering at Micmash. 12 I thought to myself, ‘The Philistines will come here and attack me at Gilgal, and I haven’t asked the LORD to help us yet. So I forced myself to offer the burnt offering.’ ”
Samuel said, “You did a foolish thing. You did not obey the LORD your God. If you had done what he commanded, the LORD would have let your family rule Israel forever. 14
But now your kingdom won’t continue. The LORD was looking for a man who wants to obey him.*
He has found that man—and the LORD has chosen him to be the new leader of his people, because you didn’t obey his command.” 15
Then Samuel got up and left Gilgal.
The Battle at Micmash
Saul and the rest of his army left Gilgal†
and went to Gibeah in Benjamin. Saul counted the men who were still with him. There were about 600. 16
Saul, his son Jonathan, and the soldiers went to Geba in Benjamin.
The Philistines were camped at Micmash. 17 So their best soldiers began the attack. The Philistine army split into three groups. One group went north on the road to Ophrah, near Shual. 18 The second group went southeast on the road to Beth Horon, and the third group went east on the road to the border. That road looks over the Valley of Zeboim toward the desert.
There were no blacksmiths in Israel. The Philistines would not allow them because they were afraid the Israelites would make iron swords and spears. 20
Only the Philistines could sharpen iron tools. So if the Israelites needed to sharpen their plows, hoes, axes, or sickles, they had to go to the Philistines. 21
The Philistine blacksmiths charged 1/3 ounce‡
of silver for sharpening plows and hoes and 1/6 ounce§
of silver for sharpening picks, axes, and the iron tip on ox goads. 22
So on the day of battle, none of the Israelite soldiers with Saul had iron swords or spears. Only Saul and his son Jonathan had such weapons.
23 A group of Philistine soldiers guarded the mountain pass at Micmash.