Saul Defeats the Ammonites
11 Then Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh-gilead, and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Make a treaty with us, and we will serve you.” But Nahash the Ammonite said to them, “On this condition I will make a treaty with you, that I gouge out all your right eyes, and thus bring disgrace on all Israel.” The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days’ respite that we may send messengers through all the territory of Israel. Then, if there is no one to save us, we will give ourselves up to you.” When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul, they reported the matter in the ears of the people, and all the people wept aloud.
Now, behold, Saul was coming from the field behind the oxen. And Saul said, “What is wrong with the people, that they are weeping?” So they told him the news of the men of Jabesh. And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled. He took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hand of the messengers, saying, “Whoever does not come out after Saul and Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen!” Then the dread of the LORD fell upon the people, and they came out as one man. When he mustered them at Bezek, the people of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand. And they said to the messengers who had come, “Thus shall you say to the men of Jabesh-gilead: ‘Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you shall have salvation.’” When the messengers came and told the men of Jabesh, they were glad. Therefore the men of Jabesh said, “Tomorrow we will give ourselves up to you, and you may do to us whatever seems good to you.” And the next day Saul put the people in three companies. And they came into the midst of the camp in the morning watch and struck down the Ammonites until the heat of the day. And those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.
The Kingdom Is Renewed
Then the people said to Samuel, “Who is it that said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring the men, that we may put them to death.” But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has worked salvation in Israel.” Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingdom.” So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal. There they sacrificed peace offerings before the LORD, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.
1 Samuel 11 Commentary
by Hank Workman
We see the making of Saul as a leader within this chapter as when taking the role of king, crisis hits. Isn’t that the way it goes? So much of the time it’s not long after when one steps into a position of sorts, something goes horribly awry where ‘decision time’ is required. We see this among presidents, kings, managers, directors and on and on the list could go. They take their position and something happens that not only cuts their teeth as a leader, it establishes them in how they will rule.
In the spiritual sense, the Lord allows these things with exactly the same purpose.
Crisis or conflict always shows the true make up of a leader and how they will handle it.
For Saul, the conflict is an age-old one for the Israelite’s – devastating threats from a neighboring people group that hates them. But within the storyline, we see very significant things. The first could easily be overlooked and is simply found at the beginning of verse 5, “Saul was coming from the field behind the oxen…” Say what? How is that anything?
Although Saul was anointed king, nothing was below him (at least at this point). He went and carried on the business of his own flocks while finding his way in governing the flock of Israel itself. Humility is such a key component to a great leader. It’s one who gets in the trenches, works alongside the people. I used to work for someone who rarely left their office to engage and work. They attempted to ‘govern’ from behind the desk, rather than be out there serving and modeling that servanthood.
Everything rises and falls on leadership. If a leader – in particular a spiritual leader – is not serving beside his people – it will fall. It always does. Genuine servanthood must be modeled and lived from the top down.
The second aspect to Saul is found in verse 6 where the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him when he heard of the crisis. He would respond and react the way he did because God’s Spirit rested and drove him. Not much to add to this thought except without the Spirit of God’s counsel and direction, we are toast as an effective leader.
But the third and final thought is after the victory in reference to those who were opposed to Saul from the get-go. The previous chapter made a statement about those who refused to honor him as king. It is advised to call them out and have them killed. Saul’s immediate dismissal of such an idea and granting clemency is to be admired.
It would probably be a very good case study to make of Saul as a leader. For as we know, it goes terribly for him in the end where he is fighting the very One who called and established him. But he starts off so well. Would such a thing be said of us when the history of our lives has played out?
1 Samuel 11 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Nahash meant business. He threatened to humiliate and poke out the right eye of every man in Jabesh. The point of this strange act was intimidation, and eventually, to bring reproach to all of Israel. These men would be seen as weak and helpless, and the true champion would be Nahash the Ammonite, who could claim victory over these men with evidence.
It’s a common tactic we see used and even justified today by so-called Christians.
In many ways, Nahash represents everything that our enemy Satan wants to do to us. He wants to intimidate and force us to surrender. He wants to take our lives, but he will take us piece by piece (eye-by-eye) if permitted.
Interestingly, Nahash permits for the messengers of Jabesh to go and see if they can find help. This was a mistake on his part, but he was so cocky and power-hungry that he didn’t care. In his arrogance, he figured his name would get spread and built up from these messengers going around asking for help.
Eventually, word gets back to Saul, an army is assembled, and Nahash and the Ammonites are wiped out.
However, I believe this story, again, represents a powerful illustration of how the enemy comes knocking at our door. He camps next to us, intimidates us, and even negotiates with us to try and crush our faith. The picture of Satan as a red devil in horns opposing the people of God really does not capture the essence of his deception.
The men of Jabesh were not afraid. They knew they were overpowered, but they also knew there was a greater help available. We must believe the same. Do not fear.