Misguided Promises

Read: 1 Samuel 14:36-46

Then the people said to Saul, “Shall Jonathan die, who has worked this great salvation in Israel?” (v. 45)

Finish your broccoli, or you can’t go to the sleepover,” says the irritated parent. It’s an empty threat, a rash promise that the child knows cannot be true. King Saul made a rash promise when he swore, “Cursed be anyone who eats food before it is evening . . .” (v. 24 NRSV). The issue is that a king’s oath is binding. It must be carried out.

Kings made a handful of drastic promises throughout Scripture. In the book of Esther, King Ahasuerus, influenced by Haman, decreed that he would destroy all of the Jews (Esther 3). And the vow King Herod made to Herodias’ daughter after her dance performance, offering her whatever she wished, was violently fulfilled by the beheading of John the Baptist (Mark 6:17-28). So with Saul’s rash words, Jonathan unwittingly put his life at risk with a mouthful of honey (1 Sam. 14:27), and even King Saul couldn’t take his words back. The people ransomed Jonathan from his father’s mistake.

Words matter, particularly those of a king, but also for us in our daily living. In the heat of an argument, when you’re anxious or afraid, or even just distracted, are you saying what you mean? One solution: have people you trust—family, friends, close colleagues—who will add discernment to your declarations.

As you pray, give thanks for the people who hear and help your words be meaningful and good.

About the Author

Katy Sundararajan is a specialized minister in the Reformed Church in America. She has garnered her pastoral perspectives from posts as a college chaplain, a missionary, an international student advisor, and a higher education and leadership ministries program coordinator.

This entry is part 15 of 31 in the series 1 Samuel: Trusting God through Big Transitions