Jabesh-gilead delivered. (1-11) Saul confirmed in his kingdom. (12-15)
Verses 1-11 The first fruit of Saul's government was the rescue of Jabesh-gilead from the Ammonites. To save their lives, men will part with liberty, and even consent to have their eyes put out; is it then no wisdom to part with that sin which is as dear to us as our right eye, rather than to be cast into hell-fire? See the faith and confidence of Saul, and, grounded thereon, his courage and resolution. See also his activity in this business. When the Spirit of the Lord comes upon men, it will make them expert, even without experience. When zeal for the glory of God, and love for the brethren, urge men to earnest efforts, and when God is pleased to help, great effects may speedily be produced.
Verses 12-15 They now honoured Saul whom they had despised; and if an enemy be made a friend, that is more to our advantage than to have him slain. The once despised Saviour will at length be acknowledged by all as the Lord's own anointed king. As yet, upon his mercy-seat, he receives the submission of rebels, and even pleads their cause; but shortly, from his righteous tribunal, he will condemn all who persist in opposing him.
1 Samuel 11:1-4 . NAHASH OFFERS THEM OF JABESH-GILEAD A REPROACHFUL CONDITION.
1. Then Nahash the Ammonite came up--Nahash ("serpent"); (see Judges 8:3 ). The Ammonites had long claimed the right of original possession in Gilead. Though repressed by Jephthah ( Judges 11:33 ), they now, after ninety years, renew their pretensions; and it was the report of their threatened invasion that hastened the appointment of a king ( 1 Samuel 12:12 ).
Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee--They saw no prospect of aid from the western Israelites, who were not only remote, but scarcely able to repel the incursions of the Philistines from themselves.
2. thrust out all your right eyes--literally, "scoop" or "hollow out" the ball. This barbarous mutilation is the usual punishment of usurpers in the East, inflicted on chiefs; sometimes, also, even in modern history, on the whole male population of a town. Nahash meant to keep the Jabeshites useful as tributaries, whence he did not wish to render them wholly blind, but only to deprive them of their right eye, which would disqualify them for war. Besides, his object was, through the people of Jabesh-gilead, to insult the Israelitish nation.
3, 4. send messengers unto all the coasts of Israel--a curious proof of the general dissatisfaction that prevailed as to the appointment of Saul. Those Gileadites deemed him capable neither of advising nor succoring them; and even in his own town the appeal was made to the people--not to the prince.
1 Samuel 11:5-11 . THEY SEND TO SAUL, AND ARE DELIVERED.
7. he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces--(see Judges 19:29 ). This particular form of war summons was suited to the character and habits of an agricultural and pastoral people. Solemn in itself, the denunciation that accompanied it carried a terrible threat to those that neglected to obey it. Saul conjoins the name of Samuel with his own, to lend the greater influence to the measure, and to strike greater terror unto all contemners of the order. The small contingent furnished by Judah suggests that the disaffection to Saul was strongest in that tribe.
8. Bezek--This place of general muster was not far from Shechem, on the road to Beth-shan, and nearly opposite the ford for crossing to Jabesh-gilead. The great number on the muster-roll showed the effect of Saul's wisdom and promptitude.
11. on the morrow, that Saul put the people in three companies--Crossing the Jordan in the evening, Saul marched his army all night, and came at daybreak on the camp of the Ammonites, who were surprised in three different parts, and totally routed. This happened before the seven days' truce expired.
1 Samuel 11:12-15 . SAUL CONFIRMED KING.
12-15. the people said . . ., Who is he that said, Shall Saul reign over us?--The enthusiastic admiration of the people, under the impulse of grateful and generous feelings, would have dealt summary vengeance on the minority who opposed Saul, had not he, either from principle or policy, shown himself as great in clemency as in valor. The call and sagacious counsel of Samuel directed the popular feelings into a right channel, by appointing a general assembly of the militia, the really effective force of the nation, at Gilgal, where, amid great pomp and religious solemnities, the victorious leader was confirmed in his kingdom ( 1 Samuel 11:15 ).