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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 11

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-15

The first test of Saul's prowess is made by Nahash, the Ammonite. His name means "serpent" and Ammon means "peoplish." This expression "peoplish" reminds us of humanism, which makes everything of man and leaves God out. The "serpent" is its king, so that Ammon stands for those today who are characterizes by gross Satanic doctrine. They encamp against Jabesh-Gilead, meaning "dry heap of witness," for when the witness of believers begins to dry up, Satan finds them susceptible to attack. The men of Jabesh-Gilead, in their alarm, show themselves so weak as to offer compromise by a covenant.

But what will a compromise with Satan involve? Nahash lays down the cruel condition that he should be allowed to tear out their right eyes. If we consider this to apply to every man of Jabesh-Gilead, the prospect would indeed by dreadful. But the literal losing of one eye is small compared to the spiritual significance of such a loss.

Nahash's demand that the eyes of the men of Israel should be torn out may remind us of Matthew 6:22: "The lamp of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." Only one eye is mentioned here in spite of the fact that we have two eyes. The eye lets in the light, which is typical of understanding. By what means do we discern and understand? One means is by reasoning, which is the only one that the unbeliever uses. But the positive right eye symbolizes the principle of FAITH, by which the believer understands what the unbeliever misses entirely. Compare Hebrews 11:3 and 1 Corinthians 2:14-15.

To accept Satanic doctrine one must virtually have his right eye torn out. If we want to make a league with the Ammonite world they will require us to do away with faith as a means of learning the truth. As Satan well knows, this amounts to rejecting God Himself, though the followers of this evil may speak glibly of God, all the while meaning something else than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. What a reproach indeed it would be upon Israel if a number of Israelites would agree to renounce faith in the living God!

The elders of Jabesh-Gilead ask for three days respite from hostilities with the object of finding someone in Israel who will come to their rescue. It appears that Nahash was so confident of himself that he allowed this just to expose the pathetic condition of all Israel. He did not consider the evident fact that if evil is to gain an advantage it must strike quickly. The Pharisees knew this when they demanded the immediate crucifixion of the Lord Jesus (Mark 15:11-14). Ahithophel knew it when he counselled Absalom to pursue and kill David immediately (2 Samuel 17:1-2). Hushai knew it too when he counselled Absalom to the contrary (v.7-13); but Absalom's own pride blinded him to this fact. When he accepted Hushai's counsel, Ahithophel knew that their evil cause was doomed, and he committed suicide (v.23).

Messengers bring the appeal to Gibeah, which was in the proximity of Jerusalem, causing the people to weep. Saul, though anointed king, was still engaged in his normal work, caring for the herd. The news had immediate effect upon him, through the power of the Spirit of God, who stirred him greatly in anger against the cruelty of the Ammonites. Hewing in pieces a yoke of oxen, he sent the pieces throughout Israel by swift messengers, telling the men that if they did not come out to follow Saul and Samuel, their oxen would be cut up too. He recognized the necessity of having the power of Samuel's name to back him up, for Samuel was held in high regard by the people.

God used this, however, as the fear of the Lord fell on the people, so that they responded well. This was of course working by fear, the usual method that man in the flesh uses in such cases. How much higher is the character of Christianity: "faith -- worketh by love" (Galations 5:6). However, the people came out "with one consent." In Acts we read similar expressions a number of times, "with one accord" etc., but the saints of God then were moved by the powerful energy of love toward the name of the Lord Jesus.

In very short time a formidable army of three hundred and thirty thousand is raised, and word is sent to Jabesh-Gilead that they will have help on the third day. Considering a distance of over fifty miles, this was remarkably quick work. The army must have left before evening and marched overnight to arrive there by the time of the morning watch. The men of Jabesh-Gilead, however, gave no indication to the Ammonites that they were going to have help, but rather told them that they would surrender the next day. Evidently the Ammonites were so self-confident that they did not consider secret intelligence necessary in case of an Israelite attack.

As the Israelite army approached in the morning, Saul divided them into three companies, no doubt each coming from a different direction so as to confuse the Ammonites. Their sudden attack totally routed their enemies, slaughtering large numbers and scattering the rest. The victory was complete by the heat of the day. It is important to remember that it was God who had moved Saul and sustained him, enabling him to gain this victory, thus showing His willingness to back Saul up fully if Saul would obey Him.

Let us consider the present significance of Saul's victory over the Ammonites. A man who accepts orthodox doctrine, though he is not born again, may even be a strong leader against deceptive Satanic doctrines, decisively defeating this dreadful scourge of evil. Of course God backs up the fight against such things, and Saul realized that the victory was really God's. Jehu could be most zealous in destroying Ahab's house because of its gross corruption of the truth of God, and God commended him for it (2 Kings 10:30); but the next verse tells us that "Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart" (v.31).

Samuel was not carried away by the people's enthusiasm for Saul. He rather encouraged the people to go to Gilgal to renew the kingdom there. We shall remember that in Israel's coming to the land they first stopped at Gilgal, where the men were circumcised, and when they had gained victories later, they were instructed to return to Gilgal. This reminds us that, no matter what victory is gained, the flesh must be judged as actually having no part in it, and therefore not allowed to exalt itself. How often we must be reminded of this cutting off of the flesh! Saul is officially made king there, a subduing lesson for anyone who is given a place of prominence. This is accompanied by the sacrifice of peace offerings which symbolize the fact that, as well as God having His part in the value of the sacrifice of Christ, the people also are blessed in communion with that sacrifice. Its object is here to express unity between God, the king, and the people, based upon the value of the sacrifice of Christ. With Saul this did not last: the full significance of it can only be found when the Lord Jesus takes His place as King. Yet at the time Saul and all Israel rejoiced greatly. Samuel is not mentioned in this rejoicing.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 11". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/1-samuel-11.html. 1897-1910.
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