1 Samuel 11 Study Notes


11:1 Nahash the Ammonite controlled Ammon east of Israel beyond the Jordan River. He later may have been on friendlier terms with David than he was with Saul (2Sm 10:1-2), although David controlled his territory (2Sm 8:11-12). Jabesh-gilead was located about twenty miles south of the Sea of Galilee and just east of the Jordan River. Thus, Nahash’s incursion went deep into Israelite territory. Nonetheless, the city’s citizens asked Nahash to offer terms of peace, which might include taxation or tribute paid at designated intervals.

11:2 Nahash’s proposal that he gouge out everyone’s right eye would allow Jabesh-gilead’s citizens to see to function for daily tasks; but with their depth perception ruined, they would be at a great disadvantage in combat.

11:3 Nahash, of course, had everything to lose and nothing to gain by granting the elders’ request for seven days to send messengers. Perhaps out of foolishness or arrogance, he did so.

11:4-5 Saul had been named king, but the monarchy may still have been in its formational period, so he was farming.

11:6 On the Spirit of God suddenly came powerfully on him, see note at 10:6. This was the second such experience for Israel’s new king (10:10).

11:7 Saul’s team of oxen became part of his stern admonition for the Israelites to rally behind their new king against the Ammonites (cp. note at Jdg 19:29-30). His strategy worked; the Israelites went out united because the terror of the Lord came upon them. The mention of Saul and Samuel together reflects Samuel’s continuing leadership role during the new monarchy.


Hebrew pronunciation [beh liy YAH al]
CSB translation worthless, wicked, destruction
Uses in 1 Samuel 6
Uses in the OT 27
Focus passage 1 Samuel 10:27

Beliyya‘al, a strongly derogatory noun, may be formed from beliy (not) and ya‘al (profit). It is sometimes used alone, meaning the wicked (2Sm 23:6). It later became the devil’s name Belial (2Co 6:15). Beliyya‘al modifies ben (“son,” 9x) and ’iysh (“man,” 5x), both phrases occurring synonymously in 1Kg 21:13. Beliyya‘al describes worthless (Jb 34:18), wicked (1Sm 2:12; Jdg 19:22) men. A “son/daughter of beliyya‘al” is a worthless fool (1Sm 25:17) or wicked woman (1Sm 1:16). Such people are like thorns (2Sm 23:6), rebellious (2Ch 13:7) false accusers (1Kg 21:10) who lie (Pr 6:12), encourage idolatry (Dt 13:13), and plot evil against God (Nah 1:11). Beliyya‘al with dabar (“word, thing”) implies wicked thought (Dt 15:9), anything worthless (Ps 101:3), or something awful (Ps 41:8).

11:8 Bezek was located in Manasseh west of the Jordan River, about ten miles west of Jabesh-gilead (Jdg 1:4). The distinction between Israelites and the men from Judah may reflect the existence of a separation between the two groups that would later become formalized after Solomon’s death (1Kg 12).

11:9 The phrase the time the sun is hot refers to noon.

11:10 The men of Jabesh now delivered false information to Nahash, promising to come out (surrender) to him the next day. The information may have given the Ammonite king and his army a false confidence; consequently, they were unprepared for Saul’s surprise attack (v. 11).

11:11 Three divisions allowed Saul to attack the Ammonite camp from three directions at once. The invasion occurred during the morning watch—just before sunrise, surprising and scattering the Ammonite forces.

11:12 In the aftermath of an incredible victory that confirmed Saul’s call as king, the people asked Samuel to help round up and execute those who had doubted God’s choice of Saul as king.

11:13 Saul’s order that no one . . . be executed refocused the people’s attention on the Lord’s victory rather than on the evil of Saul’s detractors.

11:14 Samuel instructed the people to go to Gilgal (see notes at 7:16 and 10:8) to reconfirm Saul as king, now that he had demonstrated God’s hand on him through the victory over Ammon. This time, no doubt remained—Saul was God’s choice.

11:15 The people confirmed Saul again as king. Fellowship offerings (sometimes translated “peace offerings”) were appropriate for occasions of thankfulness (Lv 7:11-15).