In spite of Saul, the Israelites achieved victory, pursuing the Philistines a distance of some fifteen miles. Naturally, after this hard-fought victory, “they were exhausted” (1 Samuel 14:31). The battle was over, so the men could now eat.
Immediately the famished forces greedily “rushed to the plunder” (1 Samuel 14:32) and slaughtered ritually clean animals that were among the spoil. However, in their haste they butchered the animals “on the ground” rather than suspending them so as to permit the blood to drain properly. Saul, either did not know that eating blood was a sin (cf. Gen 9:4; Lev 3:17; 7:26; etc.) or was simply unaware. Saul was told by an unnamed person that “the men are sinning against the Lord.”
The king condemned the soldiers for their sinful conduct and took steps to end it. Saul provided a spiritual context for his commands, telling them that “eating meat with blood still in it” was a “sin against the Lord.” Saul’s efforts were effective; he provided a stone, an elevated surface upon which the animals could be butchered. Beginning that night the men brought their animals to the rock for slaughter.
Even then, Saul was drawing up plans for a predawn raid on the Philistines to take more plunder. But Ahijah suggested that Saul’s plan be approved by the Lord first. Saul agreed and inquired of God. However, “God did not answer him that day.” The absence of a definite answer from the Lord in response to Saul’s question suggests 4 outcomes were possible: yes, no, neither yes or no, or wait.
Saul concluded that the Lord was silent because he was displeased with someone’s actions. But whose? Without hesitation Saul began an investigation to uncover the sin (1 Samuel 14:38).
Following Saul’s prayer for divine guidance. A trial by lot was conducted to see if the sin lay with the royal family or the army of Israel (1 Samuel 14:41). Then a selection was made between the king and Jonathan, using the same method (1 Samuel 14:42).
Jonathan was the guilty person identified, it was now time to discover the nature of his offense. Jonathan’s sin was not that he had broken a vow, for he had never promised to fast that day. Instead he had placed himself under his father’s curse because he had “tasted a little honey” (v. 43).
Prior to Saul the Lord was Israel’s only king. Saul was now Israel’s king; and Saul, like the Lord, had the power to curse. But unlike the Lord, Saul did not have the power to enforce his curse. The word describing Jonathan is “redeemed.” “Redeemed” is a word filled with theological implications.