• Ammonites’ Threat — 1 Samuel 11:1-2
• Jabesh’s Cry for Help — 1 Samuel 11:3-4
• Saul’s Deliverance — 1 Samuel 11:5-11
• Saul’s Compassion — 1 Samuel 11:12-13
• Saul’s Establishment as King — 1 Samuel 11:14-15
• Samuel’s Exhortation to Obey God — 1 Samuel 12:1-25
1 Samuel 11:1-15
11:1 Nahash [a warlord (king) whose name likely means “snake”] the Ammonite [nomadic people who lived east of the Jordan River] went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead [small and vulnerable city located east of the Jordan River]. And all the men [believed surrender was their best option] of Jabesh said to him, “Make a treaty [actually an agreement made under duress] with us, and we will be subject to you.”
11:2 But Nahash the Ammonite replied [his response demonstrated his cruelty], “I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye [history indicates he had done this before] of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel [and on Israel’s God].”
11:3 The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days [perhaps Nahash allowed the grace period so that he could assemble more forces] so we can send men throughout Israel [Jabesh Gilead had not enjoyed cooperative relations with the other Israelites (cf. Judg. 11:4-11; 21:8-14)]; if no one rescues us [Nahash felt confident no one would rescue them] we will surrender to you [giving Nahash a victory without a battle].”
11:4 When the messengers [from Jabesh Gilead] came to Gibeah [in territory of Benjamin] of Saul and reported these terms [cf. 11:2] to the people, they all wept aloud [the people of Gibeah probably had friends and relatives in Jabesh Gilead (cf. Judg, 21:14)].
11:5 Just then Saul [about to face his first great test as Israel’s new king] was returning from the fields [at this time Saul had no palace or advisors], behind his oxen, and he asked, “What is wrong with the people? Why are they weeping?” Then they repeated to him what the men of Jabesh had said.
11:6 When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came upon him [just as the Spirit was on the judges before him (cf. Judg. 3:10; 6:34; 11:29)] in power [“Divine work can only be done in dependence upon divine power.” (W. Nee)], and he burned with anger [moral indignation against the Ammonites].
11:7 He [acted with courage and determination; took strong and decisive action] took a pair of oxen [perhaps the oxen he had used for plowing (v. 5)], cut them into pieces [if these were his own oxen, Saul burned a bridge to his farming past by killing his oxen], and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, “This is what will be done to the oxen [Saul did not threaten any of his people with death, only the oxen of those who refused to help rescue their fellow Israelites] of anyone who does not follow Saul [Israel’s king] and Samuel [Saul recognized Samuel’s continuing authority].” Then the terror [alarm, dread, paralyzing fear – perhaps fear of consequences of failing to follow God’s appointed king] of the Lord fell on the people, and they turned out as one man [concerted action].
11:8 When Saul mustered them at Bezek [located on western side of Jordan River about 13 miles southwest of Jabesh Gilead], the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and [note mention of two regions: Israel and Judah; the nation would later split along these lines after Solomon’s death] the men of Judah thirty thousand [these numbers indicate overwhelming response to God’s call].
11:9 Inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead received Saul’s assurance of deliverance.
11:10 Jabesh Gilead convinced Ammonites they would surrender.
11:11 The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during his last watch of the night [from 2:00 am to 6:00 am] they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them [utterly defeated and humiliated] were left together.
11:12-13 Israel wanted to put skeptics (cf. 10:27) to death.
11:14 Then Samuel [seized opportunity to reaffirm Saul as king] said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal [located on border between Judah and Israel; served as religious and administrative center for Israel] and there reaffirm the kingship.”
11:15 So all the people went to Gilgal and confirmed Saul as king in the presence of the Lord [ceremony had spiritual as well as political meaning]. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings [part burned on altar to God, part consumed in celebratory meal] before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.