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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
1 Samuel 11

 

 

Verses 1-15

1 Samuel 11:1. Then Nahash. Septuagint: “Then within about a month Nahash, &c.”

1 Samuel 11:2. That I may thrust out all your right eyes. This was a cruel reply to men who solicited a covenant. Josephus remarks, that this would disqualify them for every thing, except taking care of their flocks and agriculture, because in war they almost veiled the left eye with their shields; and the right eye being lost, they could not keep their guard against a foe. This is much the same as the cutting off the right thumbs. Such is man, devoid of revelation, religion, and the grace of God.

1 Samuel 11:6. The Spirit of God came upon Saul. Sacraments and ordinances are not in vain; the Lord had given the Spirit with the anointing oil.

1 Samuel 11:8. Bezek, a town in Judah, where the tyrant Adoni-bezek had reigned. And here we ask, where was there a nation on earth that could raise 330,000 men in three days, except among the Hebrews? Their civil polity was mild and good.

1 Samuel 11:11. Three companies. This was wise, for immense armies obstruct their own movements; they are also soon dispersed by the want of water and food, and by their irregular supplies. A handful of Greeks at the pass of Thermopylæ stopped half a million of Persians.

1 Samuel 11:15. There they made Saul king. This was equivalent to a coronation: it was done with very solemn religious services.

REFLECTIONS.

The oppression of Philistia in the west, and the menaces of Ammon in the east, had very much contributed to make the Israelites solicitous for a king. And Saul, it presently appeared, was most opportunely inaugurated to the throne for the relief of Jabesh, and the salvation of his country. Truly God was good to Israel; and though displeased with their distrust in asking a king, yet he was not wanting to exercise towards them the richest tokens of his protecting love.

In the terms dictated by Nahash to Jabesh, we are awfully struck with the barbarity and wanton cruelty of ancient tyrants. Adoni-bezek had cut off the right thumbs and right toes of seventy kings, and was compelled to glorify God when his cruelty was requited in kind: here the loss of the right eye and slavery were required of a suppliant people. Surely God permitted those men to live as the scourge of humankind. Alas, to what horrors do crimes degrade the nature and character of man! But strange as it may appear, all this cruelty was combined with a brutal courage. He waited the seven days, and allowed the Israelites time to assemble; for he dared and invited a general battle.

Saul, on hearing of the invasion, discovered dispositions becoming the anointed of God. The spirit of wisdom, energy and courage, descended on his soul. Unfettered by the contempt of many at home, and unawed by the force of Ammon, he declared that every Israelite who followed him not, should be cut in pieces, as having forfeited all claim to the national compact. Dividing his army into three divisions he crossed the Jordan and defeated the enemy before the time appointed. Raw, and totally inexperienced as a soldier, he discovered all at once the consummate courage and skill of a veteran in war. Hence he silenced all his rivals with the lustre of his name; and secured the throne amidst the acclamations of all the army. So it shall always be, when God arises for the salvation of his people.

His clemency moreover was not eclipsed by his courage. When his hasty friends, intoxicated with victory, called for the lives of those who had refused their homage to the king, he restrained them by an oath. He would not becloud the glories of the day by the rigours of justice. How God-like is the exercise of mercy to vanquished and misguided men. How preferable to severity, wherever it can be exercised with any prospect of safety! The opponents of Saul, if either honour or virtue remained in their hearts, would now become his fastest friends. They would revere him on the throne as the Lord’s anointed, and as inspired with the spirit of prophecy, courage, and compassion, above the elders of his country, and above the humankind. It is happy and prosperous with a nation when every heart reveres its sovereign as the minister of heaven, and divinely directed in all his measures.

Samuel, having done his duty as prophet and judge of Israel in the inauguration and anointing of Saul, next took the people from Jabesh to Gilgal, which was the direct road home for many of the army; and not far out of the road for any of them. He deemed the recent change in the government a necessary occasion for the renewal of the covenant with God; and he wished to do it on the very spot where Joshua had made their fathers swear fidelity to the Lord. After the first renewal of the covenant in this place, victory attended the arms of Israel, and Samuel was desirous that the like victories should now attend them under their king.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 11:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/1-samuel-11.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 15th, 2019
the Third Week of Advent
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