In Shmuel alef 14 a confusing scenario arises. First Yonasan (and his armor bearer) go out to the camp of the Plishtim. Then Shaul curses anyone who will eat bread that day until evening (pasuk 24). Everyone avoids all food, even honey, because they are afraid of the oath. Yonasan, who isn't there, ends up tasting honey from his staff. Later Shaul consults the urim v'tumim and is not answered. He then proceeds to make an actual oath(?) that whoever is at fault, even if it be his son, shall be put to death (39). Finally when he finds out it was Yonasan he says he must be put to death. The people defend Yonasan and his death is averted (45).

I am having difficulty understanding all of this

  1. Why would we assume Shaul's curse applied to Yonasan in the first place? Yonasan wasn't there. would it have applied to people in towns many miles away?
  2. Was it a curse or an oath? Why is it referred to as both?
  3. Whatever it was, it was clearly only directed at eating bread, why was Yonasan culpable for eating honey? (it is clear that Yonasan is culpable because they consult the urim v'tumim as to who has sinned and Yonasan is singled out)
  4. If Shaul makes an oath to kill Yonasan why doesn't he do so? Has Shaul sinned for not fulfilling his oath?
  • 2
    As for 3, the pasuk tells that the people didn't eat the honey because of the oath/curse, so they might have understood 'bread' to be a metonym for food.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 12, 2012 at 16:22

1 Answer 1


After doing some digging this is what I've found

1 & 2 - What was pronounced was a 'Cherem' which, especially when done by a king, applies to people who are not present (assumedly it applies to anyone that the pronouncer has in mind). The source for this is the Ramban on Vayikrah 27:29 3 - most Rishonim learn that bread means all food 4 - there are many answers to this including Shaul being matir neder (he may have made this oath 'al da'as rabim', the people may have redeem yonasan with gold.

Most of this material was taken from Dovid Hoffman

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