1 Samuel Chapter 11: Nahash the Ammonite, Saul’s Call to War and Made King Again

Feb 12th, 2010 | By | Category: 1 & 2 Samuel, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

1 Samuel Chapter 11: Nahash the Ammonite, Saul’s Call to War and Made King Again

1 Sam. 11:1 Then Nahash the Ammonite came up, and encamped against Jabesh-gilead: and all the men of Jabesh said unto Nahash, Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee.

1 Sam. 11:2 And Nahash the Ammonite answered them, On this condition will I make a covenant with you, that I may thrust out all your right eyes, and lay it for a reproach upon all Israel.

1 Sam. 11:3 And the elders of Jabesh said unto him, Give us seven days’ respite, that we may send messengers unto all the coasts of Israel: and then, if there be no man to save us, we will come out to thee.

What a dreadful reply—Nahash, the Ammonite, agreed to make a covenant with the Israelites of Jabesh-gilead on the condition that he could thrust out all their right eyes and “lay it for a reproach upon all Israel”! Ammon and Moab were the two sons of Lot, so the Ammonites and the Moabites were derived from them.

Gilead, on the far side of the Jordan River, was adjacent to Ammon and was thus on a frontier post, as it were. (Two and a half tribes of Israel were east of Jordan, and the other 9 1/2 were west of Jordan.) For those of Jabesh-gilead to want to serve Nahash indicates that the Ammonites were not a small faction. The elders of Jabesh-gilead stalled for time, saying, “Give us seven days’ respite, that we may send messengers unto all the coasts of Israel: and then, if there be no man to save us, we will come out to thee.”

1 Sam. 11:4 Then came the messengers to Gibeah of Saul, and told the tidings in the ears of the people: and all the people lifted up their voices, and wept.

1 Sam. 11:5 And, behold, Saul came after the herd out of the field; and Saul said, What aileth the people that they weep? And they told him the tidings of the men of Jabesh.

1 Sam. 11:6 And the spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly.

1 Sam. 11:7 And he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen. And the fear of the LORD fell on the people, and they came out with one consent.

1 Sam. 11:8 And when he numbered them in Bezek, the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand.

An army of 330,000 was raised by Saul when he hewed a yoke of oxen in pieces and sent the pieces throughout Israel posthaste. This action was based on a precedent; namely, when the concubine of a Levite was abused unto death by men of the tribe of Benjamin, he cut her body into 12 pieces and sent a piece to each of the 12 tribes (Judges 19). Subsequently men from the other tribes fought against Benjamin and almost wiped out that tribe.

Comment: Apparently, the Lord permitted this incident with the Ammonites to show the ability that Saul had.

Reply: Yes, this incident solidified Saul as a real leader, which is what the people wanted. Of course the power came from God, for “the spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly.” In a much earlier time period according to tradition, Shem did the same thing when he slew Nimrod in connection with false worship in Egypt. To make sure Nimrod had no sympathizers, Shem sent out pieces of the body of this man, whom the people reverenced even more than God because of his physical prowess. By this method, Shem was saying, “Here is your idol, and this is the fate of those whose sentiments are in that direction.” Thus Shem was a stabilizing force. To shield his identity as Melchizedek, not much was written about him in the Old Testament (Gen. 14:18-20; Psa. 110:4; Heb. 5:6,10; 6:20; 7:1,15,17).

Comment: We are reminded of the instruction to love righteousness and hate iniquity. Saul showed righteous indignation by sending pieces of the two oxen to the tribes and saying, “Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen.”

Reply: He distributed the pieces as a symbolic lesson to instill in the Israelites the desire to get revenge on the Ammonites for the condition they had attached to the covenant offered by the men of Jabesh-gilead.

1 Sam. 11:9 And they said unto the messengers that came, Thus shall ye say unto the men of Jabesh-gilead, Tomorrow, by that time the sun be hot, ye shall have help. And the messengers came and showed it to the men of Jabesh; and they were glad.

1 Sam. 11:10 Therefore the men of Jabesh said, Tomorrow we will come out unto you, and ye shall do with us all that seemeth good unto you.

1 Sam. 11:11 And it was so on the morrow, that Saul put the people in three companies; and they came into the midst of the host in the morning watch, and slew the Ammonites until the heat of the day: and it came to pass, that they which remained were scattered, so that two of them were not left together.

The men of Jabesh-gilead were pleased that the army of Israelites was coming and again stalled for time. Originally those of Jabesh-gilead had wanted to make a peaceful covenant with the Ammonites, but when they found out the terms of the covenant and saw the character of Nahash, they sent out messengers to the rest of Israel for help. Saul properly came to their rescue—and so much so that the ranks of the Ammonites were so thoroughly decimated that the survivors were few and far between.

Comment: Saul’s dividing the Israelite army into three companies for the attack on the Ammonites reminds us of the three groups of 100 each with Gideon.

Reply: Yes, Gideon made the division under the Lord’s instruction. Under this circumstance with Jabesh-gilead, we can be sure that God’s blessing attended the Israelites in the battle because His spirit had entered Saul (verse 6). The king had been out in the field with a herd of oxen—a manifestation of his humble origin—when the messenger arrived from Jabesh-gilead with news about the Ammonite threat. The oxen Saul slew were probably his own.

1 Sam. 11:12 And the people said unto Samuel, Who is he that said, Shall Saul reign over us? bring the men, that we may put them to death.

1 Sam. 11:13 And Saul said, There shall not a man be put to death this day: for today the LORD hath wrought salvation in Israel.

Again, Saul showed a favorable attitude, even though the opposers were “the children of Belial” (1 Sam. 10:27). Because the Lord had wrought such a great victory, an amnesty was declared. Under other circumstances, the enemies of Israel could be killed, but to have done so right then and there would have marred the victory of that day. The opposers could be dealt with on a subsequent day, however.

1 Sam. 11:14 Then said Samuel to the people, Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there.

1 Sam. 11:15 And all the people went to Gilgal; and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal; and there they sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before the LORD; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.

The people went to Gilgal for this particular celebration because it was centrally located on the border of Israel and thus was convenient to Israelites on both sides of the Jordan River. There were altars for sacrifice in Ramah, Samuel’s hometown, and also in Beth-el, Gilgal, and Mizpeh, which the prophet visited on his yearly circuit. Incidentally, Ammon is the present-day Amman, the capital of Jordan.

The people made Saul king before Jehovah in Gilgal and offered sacrifices of peace offerings. Saul and those of Israel rejoiced greatly.

(1985-1987 Study)

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