Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 11

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 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.

Then Nahash the Ammonite came up - Nahash, serpent (see the note at Judges 8:3).

And encamped against Jabesh-gilead - on the east of the Jordan; now ed-Deir, on the south bank of Wady Yabes, not far to the north of Helaweh, near the ancient road that leads to Beisan. 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. In the then scattered and separated state of the nation 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.

Verse 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.

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. Nabash 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 Israelite nation.

Verse 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.

The elders of Jabesh said unto him, Give us seven days' respite. It may appear surprising that this barbarian chief allowed them such an interval. But Josephus informs us ('Antiquities,' b. 6:, ch. 5:, sec. 2) that it arose from the contempt he entertained for them.

That we may send messengers unto all the coasts of Israel. The usual way for a people besieged to implore assistance was by raising a dense smoke during the day, and kindling a fire on a conspicuous height at night, or by waving lighted torches (Jeremiah 6:1). At other times they sent messengers to inform their friends and allies (see the note at Joshua 10:6). But the Gileadites did not send to Saul-a curious proof of the general dissatisfaction that prevailed as to his appointment as king. Those Gileadites deemed him capable neither of advising nor succouring them; and even in his own town the appeal was made to the people, not to the prince.

Verse 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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

Saul came after the herd out of the field., [The Septuagint, mistaking baaqaar (H1241), an ox, for boqer (H1242), morning, has: Saoul eercheto meta to prooi ex agrou]

Verse 6

And the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

He took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces - (see the note at Judges 19:1-30.) 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 these that neglected to obey it. Saul conjoins the name of Samuel with his own, to lend the greater influence to the measure, and strike greater terror into all contemners of the order. The small contingent furnished by Judah suggests that the disaffection to Saul was strongest in that tribe.

Verse 8

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

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.

Verses 9-10

And they said unto the messengers that came, Thus shall ye say unto the men of Jabesh-gilead, To morrow, by that time the sun be hot, ye shall have help. And the messengers came and shewed it to the men of Jabesh; and they were glad.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 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.

On the morrow ... Saul put the people in three companies - and marched them down the same pass by which Joshua had penetrated into the interior of the country. Crossing the Jordan-probably by the upper ford opposite Wady Yabes, which comes down from the east into the Jordan opposite Beisan (Beth-shan) - in the evening, Saul marched his army all night, according to Josephus ('Antiquities,' b. 6:, ch. 5:, sec. 3), 30 furlongs, and came by 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. Josephus adds that they made a great slaughter-Nahash, the Ammonite sheikh, being among the number of the slain-and pursued the fugitives in a complete rout across the desert.

Verse 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. The people said ... Who ... 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 valour. The calm 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.

Verses 13-14

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

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 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.

All the people went to Gilgal ... and there they sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before the Lord.

Peace offerings could be offered only at the sanctuary (see the note at 1 Samuel 13:9; 2 Samuel 24:25). On the occasion of the election of a king, there was a general convention of the nation through its representatives. It was a solemn festival of the people, and it is probable that the tabernacle was at hand; because, since it was moveable, and in point of fact had many temporary stations (Joshua 18:1; Joshua 24:25-26; 1 Samuel 1:9; 1 Samuel 7:2; 1 Samuel 15:24; 1 Samuel 21:1-15; 1 Chronicles 21:29); and, moreover, as David in his disastrous flight was accompanied by the ark (see the note at Joshua 24:1; 2 Samuel 15:24), it is probable that the tabernacle had its place in later times at the official abode of the chief magistrate; and consequently that Gilgal was in all probability chosen as the scene of Saul's inauguration, and the place of peace (i:e., federal) offerings, in consequence of the tabernacle being there (see 'Israel after the Flesh,' p. 147). 'The late period at which the regal form of government was established in Israel is an evidence of the divine origin of the law, which in a certain degree provides for it, yet disapproves of and restrains it. It was not unproductive of advantage to the permanent interests of religion that this great change was delayed by Providence until the Mosaic law had subsisted long enough to prove that its first establishment had not originated in any human policy, and that its subsequent support was independent of any human power' (Graves, 2:, pp. 161, 162).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 11". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.