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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

1 Samuel 11

Verses 1-15

Saul’s Opportunity: The Relief of Jabesh-Gilead (11:1-15)

Saul’s opportunity for leadership came first of all against Nahash and his Ammonites, who were laying siege to Jabeshgilead. This group of Semitic people appear also in the Book of Judges, where they are seen to be Bedouins, living on the fringe of the desert and continually raiding the more civilized area (Judges 3:13; Judges 11:4). Nahash’s object appears to have been to offer a contemptuous insult to Israel, probably prompted by overweening confidence. The messenger sent out from Jabesh arrived at Gibeah just as Saul returned from work in the fields. This is hardly consonant with what had happened at Mizpah, and the story fits in much better with the earlier story of 1 Samuel 10:1-16. Indeed, this was the opportunity which Samuel had assured Saul would come to him. Saul met the messenger by chance, and there is no hint that the men of Gibeah knew that he had been chosen king or that they looked to him for leadership. Nahash’s confident challenge was met by Saul, fresh from the experience at Gibeah and its transforming influence. Once more the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he was filled with a flaming fury, both against Nahash and against any defaulting Israelites. He took symbolic action by cutting up a yoke of oxen, sending the dismembered pieces throughout Israel, and declaring that he would do likewise to the oxen of any craven fellow countrymen. A strong host assembled, and the Ammonites were utterly routed.

The result of Saul’s triumph was a public confirmation of Samuel’s secret anointing. Verses 12-14 appear to be an editorial effort to reconcile the two traditions. They refer to Saul’s opponents, the "worthless fellows" of 1 Samuel 10:25-27, and also to the ceremony at Mizpah which is now to be renewed. As we have seen, it is difficult to reconcile the latter with the story just recounted. In verse 15 we return to this story. Here Samuel does not appear, but Saul is publicly made king at Gilgal with a sacrificial feast of peace offerings and amid general rejoicing. Yet even here we have an indication that the kingship was the desire of the people as well as a divine appointment through the prophet, showing that the two traditions give different facets of the one truth.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Samuel 11". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/1-samuel-11.html.