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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
1 Samuel 10

 

 

Introduction

SECTION 1. The Birth, Rise, Prophetic Ministry And Judgeship of Samuel (1-12).

This first section of the book covers the life of Samuel from his birth to the setting up of Saul as king in response to the people’s request. The first three chapters deal with the birth and spiritual growth of Samuel. This is then followed in chapter 4 by the Philistine invasion in which the Ark of YHWH of hosts is lost to Israel, something which takes place while Samuel is still a youth. That loss indicates YHWH’s demonstration of the fact that He no longer sees Himself as king over an Israel that has forsaken Him. However, He then goes on to demonstrate His authority over the gods of the Philistines by bringing disaster on them, so that His Ark is restored to Israel by the Philistines, who also pay Him generous tribute. The Ark is then placed with due honour (after a previous unfortunate incident) in the house of Abinadab where it will remain for many years. It is a recognised symbol that YHWH is still present as King over His people, and will therefore, once they turn back to Him, act on their behalf through His appointed deliverers.

This will firstly be through Samuel in this section, then through Saul before he is finally rejected, in the next section, and then through the young David in the final section, until he is outlawed and then exiled as a result of Saul’s activities. As a result of his exile there will be a lull, and the Philistines triumph. But in the second part of the book David will become the Spirit inspired king, the Philistines will be defeated, and then the Ark will be restored for public worship, having been ‘purified’ by its period spent in the house of Abinadab. The Kingship of YHWH has triumphed.

C). The Judgeship of Samuel At The End Of Which The People Seek And Are Granted A Human King (7:15-12:25).

In this subsection from 7:15-12:25 the writer describes the desire of the people for a king and the way in which that king is appointed. Such an appointment would inevitably be a tricky one in Israel, for Israel was comprised of a number of semi-independent tribes, each of which was jealous for its own position, with Judah and Ephraim, the two largest, being especially protective about their rights. And yet someone had to be found who once appointed would have the support of them all. Furthermore, on top of this, Samuel would want to ensure that whoever was appointed was YHWH’s choice.

Samuel clearly recognised the dangers and therefore waited on YHWH’s guidance, and it is the reconciling of these different problems that explains the slow process towards the appointment of the king, a process which in fact went as follows:

1). Samuel waits and prays for YHWH to indicate the right man for the position. When YHWH brings that man to him he must have been relieved to discover that the man was a Benjaminite. They were only a small tribe (which would serve to prevent tribal jealousy among the larger tribes) and were famed for their warlike ability. So he first interviews him, and then secretly anoints him with oil as YHWH’s chosen appointee. The man’s name is Saul. This satisfies Samuel that he has found the right man (1 Samuel 9:1 to 1 Samuel 10:1).

2). He subsequently arranges for Saul to prophesy among the prophets indicating both to him and to others his suitability as a man of God, and that he is acceptable YHWH. This will serve to satisfy the righteous in Israel, and the prophets themselves, who seemingly had an important part to play in the running of affairs. They too are now satisfied that this is their man (1 Samuel 10:5-13).

3). The next step is to have him accepted in the eyes of popular opinion. So Samuel arranges for the assembly of the tribes of Israel to be called together and in view of the fact that there was no precedent for choosing a king, choice is then made by sacred lot in the sight of all. As expected by Samuel the lot falls on Saul. This method of choice by sacred lot was an accepted one in Israel and was seen as revealing the mind of YHWH. We can compare its use under different circumstances in Joshua 7:16-18. In view of the fact that the choice by sacred lot was seen as publicly revealing the mind of YHWH, was carried out before their eyes, and was accepted as a standard way of making such decisions in Israel, it would be enough to satisfy the people that Saul was their man. Thus this would satisfy the common people (1 Samuel 10:17-24).

However, there was inevitably some dissension, from some ‘worthless men’ who did not see how this upstart from a small tribe could ‘save Israel’. Nevertheless the vast majority were with Saul, and preparations would begin for having him officially enthroned and acclaimed in accordance with practise elsewhere.

4). Meanwhile an Ammonite invasion across the Jordan in Transjordan provides an opportunity for Saul to prove his suitability by gaining a victory over the invading Ammonites. This quells the dissension and makes him acceptable to all (1 Samuel 11:1-13).

5). Having been fully established as the right candidate Saul is then acclaimed as king at Gilgal before YHWH (1 Samuel 11:14-15).

6). Samuel resigns his judgeship and YHWH expresses His anger at the people’s decision with a storm at harvest time (1 Samuel 12:1-25).

By these means the acceptability of Saul as king was established, both among the prophets and throughout all the tribes. This would ensure that there would only be minimal dissension in the future, because Saul was now seen as ‘YHWH’s anointed’. All recognised that Samuel had selected him, that YHWH was pleased with him, that the lot had confirmed his acceptability to God, that he had proved himself a suitable war-leader (a most necessary qualification in those days), and that he had been finally and officially crowned and acclaimed.

The whole subsection may be analysed as follows:

a Samuel judges Israel faithfully and well (1 Samuel 7:15-17).

b Samuel’s sons prove unworthy and the people call for a King (1 Samuel 8:1-6).

c The manner of the King that they will receive (1 Samuel 8:7-22).

d Saul is brought to Samuel by God and is revealed and greeted by him as the new king (1 Samuel 9:1-21).

e Saul is feasted and then secretly anointed, and learns that the asses have been found (1 Samuel 9:22 to 1 Samuel 10:2).

f The signs of Saul’s acceptance and his coming enduing with the Spirit of YHWH (1 Samuel 10:3-7).

g Saul is to go to Gilgal and wait seven days for Samuel to come in order to offer offerings and sacrifices and to show him what he is to do (1 Samuel 10:8).

f The promised signs are fulfilled and the Spirit of YHWH comes on Saul (1 Samuel 10:9-13).

e Saul returns to his uncle and informs him that Samuel had told him that the asses had been found, but maintains the secret of the kingship (10:14-16).

d Saul is brought before the people, revealed as their king by lot and greeted by them as the king (1 Samuel 10:17-24).

c Samuel records ‘the manner of the kingship’ and writes it in a book (1 Samuel 10:25-27).

b YHWH delivers His people from the Ammonites through Saul and the kingship is finally confirmed at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:1-15).

a Samuel hands back the judgeship to the people and charges the people to be faithful to YHWH (1 Samuel 12:1-25).

Samuel Secretly Anoints Saul With Oil And As A Result Of Three Signs And The Coming Of The Spirit Of YHWH On Him Saul Becomes A New Man, But Keeps What It All Means In His Heart (1 Samuel 9:27 to 1 Samuel 10:16).

On being anointed by Samuel and leaving him Saul is given three signs which will reveal the truth of what Samuel has done, the first that he will learn that the asses have been found, the second that he and his servant will be provided with bread by pilgrims, and the third that he will meet a company of prophets, and that when he does so the Spirit of YHWH will come on him. But when he arrives home he keeps his anointing secret.

At the same time Samuel gives him clear instructions as to how in the future he is to know the mind of God. It will be by going to Gilgal and waiting there seven days before YHWH, until Samuel comes to him and offers up burnt offerings and sacrifices, at which point he will receive the mind of YHWH and learn what he has to do (1 Samuel 10:8). The purpose of this was clearly in order that Saul might constantly remember that his future success must wholly depend on YHWH.

Analysis.

a As they were going down at the end of the city, Samuel said to Saul, “Bid the servant pass on before us (and he passed on), but you stand still first, that I may cause you to hear the word of God.” Then Samuel took the vial of oil, and poured it on his head, and kissed him, and said, “Is it not that YHWH has anointed you to be war-leader over his inheritance?” (1 Samuel 9:27 to 1 Samuel 10:1).

b “When you have departed from me today, then you will come across two men by Rachel’s sepulchre, in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah, and they will say to you, ‘The asses which you went to look for are found, and, lo, your father has ceased caring for the asses, and is anxious for you, saying, “What shall I do for my son?” ’

c “Then shall you go on forward from there, and you will come to the oak of Tabor, and there will meet you there three men going up to God to Beth-el, one carrying three kids, and another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine, and they will salute you, and give you two loaves of bread, which you will receive from their hand” (1 Samuel 10:3-4).

d After that you will come to the hill of God, where the garrison of the Philistines is, and it will come about that when you are come there, to the city, that you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a timbrel, and a pipe, and a harp, before them, and they will be prophesying” (1 Samuel 10:5).

e “And the Spirit of YHWH will come mightily on you, and you will prophesy with them, and will be turned into another man” (1 Samuel 10:6)

f “And let it be, when these signs are come to you, that you do as occasion shall serve you, for God is with.” (1 Samuel 10:7).

g “And you shall go down before me to Gilgal, and, behold, I will come down unto you, to offer burnt-offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace-offerings. Seven days shall you tarry, till I come to you, and show you what you will do” (1 Samuel 10:8)

f And it was so, that, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart, and all those signs came about that day (1 Samuel 10:9).

e And when they came there to the hill, behold, a band of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God came mightily on him, and he prophesied among them (1 Samuel 10:10).

d And it came about that, when all who knew him previously saw that, “behold, he prophesies with the prophets”, then the people said one to another, “What is this that is come to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” ’And one of the same place answered and said, “And who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Samuel 10:11-12).

c And when he had made an end of prophesying, he came to the high place (1 Samuel 10:13).

b And Saul’s uncle said to him and to his servant, “Where did you go?” And he said, “To look for the asses, and when we saw that they were not found, we came to Samuel.” And Saul’s uncle said, “Tell me, I pray you, what Samuel said to you.” And Saul said to his uncle, “He told us plainly that the asses were found” (1 Samuel 10:14-16 a).

a But concerning the matter of the kingship, of which Samuel spoke, he did not tell him (1 Samuel 10:16 b).

Note that in ‘a’ Saul is secretly anointed as ‘war-leader’ over YHWH’s inheritance and in the parallel he says nothing about the kingship. In ‘b’ he will learn that the asses were found, and in the parallel Samuel had told him that the asses were found. In ‘c’ he meet pilgrims going to a high place and partakes of their food, and in the parallel he himself comes to a high place. In ‘d’ they are to meet a band of prophets who will be prophesying, and in the parallel all know that Saul has been prophesying among the prophets. In ‘e’ it is promised that the Spirit of YHWH will come mightily on him, and in the parallel the Spirit of YHWH comes mightily on him. In ‘f’ these signs are to come to him, and in the parallel the signs have come to him. Centrally in ‘g’ he is given the key to his future understanding of the mind of YHWH.


Verses 2-8

Samuel Indicates Certain Signs That Saul Will Receive That Will Demonstrate That It Is As He Has Said (1 Samuel 10:2-8).

Matters were not just to be left there. A deliberately private anointing having taken place it was now necessary for Saul to be assured that God was with him and that Samuel’s assurances could be accepted as being from Him. Samuel was aware of how huge a step this was for the young man Saul. It was one thing to have come of military stock. It was another to be appointed commander-in-chief over all the hosts of Israel, especially at so early an age, and to be able to call on them at need.

Thus prior to his appointment being confirmed before all Israel, it was necessary that Saul himself have his confidence boosted. And even then he would be overwhelmed at the thought of what was to happen to him (1 Samuel 10:22). He was still only a young man.

The assurances given to him are briefly as follows:

1). He will learn that Samuel’s supernatural knowledge about the finding of the lost asses was true (1 Samuel 9:20), and this is backed up by a further supernatural revelation of where he will meet his informants (1 Samuel 10:2).

2). He will be met by men who are going to a high place who will provide him and his servant with necessary provisions, demonstrating that God is able to meet his needs at all times, and to feed His people, and that he must therefore look always to YHWH’s provision (1 Samuel 10:3-4).

3). He will meet up with the band of prophets and will at that stage become another man because the Spirit of YHWH will come mightily on him. And he will himself prophesy revealing to all that the Spirit of YHWH is with him, thereby demonstrating to the spiritual in Israel that he is truly God’s man (1 Samuel 10:5-6).

1 Samuel 10:2

When you have departed from me today, then you will come across two men by Rachel’s sepulchre, in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah, and they will say to you, ‘The asses which you went to look for are found, and, lo, your father has ceased caring for the asses, and is anxious for you, saying, “What shall I do for my son?” ’

The first sign that is given to Saul in order to confirm what Samuel has told him, will be that he will learn about the recovery of the lost asses, (a recovery which Samuel has already miraculously told him about - 1 Samuel 9:20), from two men whom he will find by Rachel’s sepulchre in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah. The site of Zelzah is unknown. Rachel’s sepulchre was somewhere on the road from Bethel to Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19) which passed through Benjamin’s territory. They will also inform him that his father has now become worried about him. ‘Two men’ represent a true witness.

The reference to Rachel’s sepulchre may have in mind a tradition that Rachel wept for her people when they were in trouble (see Jeremiah 31:15). They were certainly in trouble now with a Philistine invasion in progress (1 Samuel 9:16). To learn near Rachel’s sepulchre that the lost asses had been found would be an encouragement concerning the greater problem.

(If the city they had visited was Ramah, and if the sepulchre of Rachel was the one pointed out by us to today, this would have involved Saul and his servant in going a long way out of their way. However neither of the above facts are certain. There is in fact no indication that the city was Ramah).

1 Samuel 10:3-4

Then shall you go on forward from there, and you will come to the oak of Tabor, and there will meet you there three men going up to God to Beth-el, one carrying three kids, and another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine, and they will salute you, and give you two loaves of bread, which you will receive from their hand.”

The second sign will be that at the oak of Tabor he will be met by three men going up to God to Beth-el (or ‘to the house of God’), one carrying three kids (presumably for sacrifice), and another carrying three loaves of bread. The third will be carrying wine. These men will greet Saul and his servant and will give them two loaves of bread, presumably after chatting with them and discovering that they are short of food, which they are to accept. To ‘salute’ a man on the way meant to stop and talk together, and often share food together. Compare how Jesus told his disciples to salute no one on the way because they were in a hurry (Luke 10:4). He was not saying in that case do not even acknowledge them.

This reception of necessary provisions in this way would be an indication for Saul in the future that God could provide all that he needed, and that his eyes must therefore be continually on YHWH.

1 Samuel 10:5

After that you will come to the hill of God, where the garrison of the Philistines is, and it will come about that when you are come there, to the city, that you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a timbrel, and a pipe, and a harp, before them, and they will be prophesying,”

After that they would come to the hill (gib‘eah) of God ‘where the garrison of the Philistines is’. This need not mean that the Philistine soldiers were still there. It may simply have been a local landmark called ‘the garrison of the Philistines’ because they had once had a garrison there. But see 1 Chronicles 11:16 where the Philistines did have an actual garrison in that vicinity. That could, however, simply indicate that they had by then reoccupied it. On the other hand we do in fact know from 1 Samuel 9:16 that there had recently been a Philistine incursion so that it is possible that there was an actual occupied garrison there. The point to bear in mind is that a peaceful gathering of Israel at Mizpah (1 Samuel 10:17) would have been very unlikely if the Philistines had been in the vicinity in any force. In that situation Gilgal would have been a better choice. Thus the question is an open one.

On arrival at the neighbouring city (possibly the Gibeah of Benjamin (Judges 19; Judges 20; 1 Samuel 13:2) which was Saul’s home and headquarters - 1 Samuel 10:26; 1 Samuel 11:4) they will be met by a band of prophets coming down from the high place, playing music, singing and prophesying (praising God under inspiration, compare 1 Chronicles 11:16). This would suggest that they had been taking part in festal activities.

The psaltery and harp were stringed instruments, the pipes a kind of flute, and the timbrel possibly a hand drum or tambourine.

1 Samuel 10:6

And the Spirit of YHWH will come mightily on you, and you will prophesy with them, and will be turned into another man.”

And then the Spirit of YHWH would come mightily on Saul, and he too would prophesy and would be turned into another man. The purpose of the Spirit of YHWH coming mightily on a man has been especially brought out in the book of Judges 15:14; compare Judges 3:10; Judges 6:34; Judges 11:29. It was in order that he might ‘judge’ and deliver God’s people. Thus this indicates that Saul was to become the instrument of the Spirit of YHWH in deliverance, and had he remained faithful to God, or had he learned to repent like David did, he would have been wholly successful.

“And will be turned into another man.” That is one who is given the power to accomplish the purpose that YHWH has for him, an inspired leader of men.

1 Samuel 10:7

And let it be, when these signs are come to you, that you do as occasion shall serve you, for God is with you.”

Then once all these signs have come to him he has to hold himself in readiness for doing whatever God requires of him. ‘Do as occasion shall serve you’ (literally ‘do what your hand shall find’) signifies seizing the opportunities that God offers when they come.

1 Samuel 10:8

And you shall go down before me to Gilgal, and, behold, I will come down unto you, to offer burnt-offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace-offerings. Seven days shall you tarry, till I come to you, and show you what you will do.”

Once the signs had been fulfilled Saul was to go down before Samuel to Gilgal. Gilgal was one of Samuel’s three main venues (1 Samuel 7:16) and furthest from the Philistine menace, being in the Jordan rift valley (the Arabah). Samuel seems regularly to have offered sacrifices there. Saul was to go down to the Sanctuary there and wait before God for seven days, possibly partaking in a seven day festival of worship and praise following the pattern of the regular feasts (compare 1 Samuel 9:13). This suggests that Gilgal was seen as the equivalent in those times of the old Tabernacle, as the place where Israel were to meet for their regular feasts. Then at the end Samuel would come to him and show him what he had to do.

There is nothing here to suggest that Samuel sees this as something to be delayed. It is totally out of place if it is seen as directly referring to 1 Samuel 13:18 for too much intervenes. The impression that we are given here was that Saul was to do it fairly promptly. It is not unusual in Scripture for a command to be given and the assumption then made that it has been fulfilled without mentioning it in detail. Thus when we learn that ‘he came to the high place’ in 1 Samuel 10:13 that may be intended to indicate his immediate fulfilment of this command. Note how this is then followed by the casting of lots at Mizpah, which is followed by the deliverance from the Ammonites, which is followed by a visit to Gilgal for the renewal of the kingship. It would therefore appear strange if this clear command had not been fulfilled before then.

It seems very probable therefore that the writer, knowing what he is going to say in 13:18, introduces this statement knowing that it was fulfilled earlier, while wanting readers also to connect it with 1 Samuel 13:18, and to recognise that this was to be Saul’s regular approach when seeking the mind of YHWH about his planned actions. It may well be therefore that 1 Samuel 10:13 is to be intended as indicating that that was when it was initially fulfilled without over-emphasising the fact.

It would seem from this verse that Samuel regularly required Saul to experience a similar seven days of waiting on God before he gave him God’s instructions, having the aim in mind of keeping Saul’s heart set firmly on YHWH. The point is that Saul is not to see himself as his own master but very much as the appointed servant of YHWH. Thus 1 Samuel 13:18 gives us one instance of when he does this. In other words Samuel wanted Saul continually to recognise that he must wait before God prior to the coming to him of the prophetic word which would give him final instructions. In order to receive that word his heart must be in readiness to receive it. Samuel was doing his best to keep Saul on the right track. Israel had two annual seven day feasts, the feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles. But no mention is made of those feasts in connection with this command to Saul, and Samuel would have been present at those from the beginning. Thus Samuel’s point may have been that whenever the tribes were assembled for battle the same procedures had to be followed as at the feasts, seven days of sacrificing and waiting on God, after which he would always come to them to reveal the mind of YHWH. That is why when Saul did not wait it was so unforgivable. He had over-ridden YHWH.

We may certainly see that the regular feasts did provide Saul with a pattern as to what he should do during the seven days of waiting. But this seven day wait was to be a time of preparation of heart. Naturally to a war-leader such waiting could be a bit of a trial. But to Samuel it was important, because it ensured that the war-leader recognised his responsibility to look in faith to YHWH and that in the end the glory was to go to YHWH.


Verses 9-13

All The Signs That Samuel Gave Him Are Fulfilled (1 Samuel 10:9-13).

We now learn that all the signs promised were fulfilled. The only detail given is of the last one, bringing out how important it was.

1 Samuel 10:9

And it was so, that, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart, and all those signs came about that day.’

What God had promised came about. Each sign was fulfilled ‘that very day’, and God gave Saul ‘another heart’. To Israelites the heart was the centre of a man’s will, mind and emotions. To be given another heart meant that he was given new resolution and inner strength for the task that lay before him.

1 Samuel 10:10

And when they came there to the hill, behold, a band of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God came mightily on him, and he prophesied among them.’

As Samuel had told him, when he came to the hill (or ‘to Gibeah’?) the band of prophets met him and ‘the Spirit of God came mightily on him and he prophesied.’ Note that where Samuel had spoken of the Spirit of YHWH the writer uses the term Spirit of God. He was emphasising that he was to go forward in heavenly power. The importance of this experience is demonstrated by the fact that the fulfilment is given in more detail and not just included with the other signs.

1 Samuel 10:11

And it came about that, when all who knew him previously saw that, “behold, he prophesies with the prophets”, then the people said one to another, “What is this that is come to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” ’

We know from what would one day happen to Jesus at Nazareth how important it was that ‘those who knew him previously’ should be made aware that Saul had now become important in the purposes of God. And once they had seen him prophesying with the prophets they knew that something unusual had happened to him, and that it was connected with God. This made them ask themselves what it meant. Was Saul now also a Spirit-inspired man?

1 Samuel 10:12 a

‘And one of the same place answered and said, “And who is their father?”

One of the wise among them supplied the answer. ‘Consider,’ he said, ‘who the father of the prophets is.’ He was probably here referring to Samuel. In other words he was saying, ‘this is the doing of the prophet Samuel. Samuel has incorporated Saul among the prophets for some special purpose.’ Later events would illuminate them as to what that purpose was. Alternately ‘their father’ may refer to God in which case he is saying, ‘This surely means that God has some special purpose for him’. Either way it was marking Saul out as a man of the Spirit. They could not see the enduement of power that had come on him, but they could see its manifestation in prophecy, and thus they now knew that he was set apart from among them.

1 Samuel 10:12 b

‘Therefore it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” ’

As these things will this eventually produced a proverb. In this case it was ‘ is Saul also among the prophets?’ Presumably it came to be used whenever anyone was seen to be acting outside his usual way of life. It is used in a slightly different way in 1 Samuel 19:24.

And it is here that we expect to find some reference to Saul’s visit to Gilgal as Samuel had instructed.

1 Samuel 10:13

And when he had made an end of prophesying, he came to the high place.’

Once Saul had finished prophesying he came to ‘the high place’ (bamah). A high place in Samuel’s time was one of the sites used as a Sanctuary. Thus this may be intended to indicate Saul’s fulfilment of Samuel’s requirement that he go to the Sanctuary at Gilgal once the signs have been fulfilled. Alternately it may simply mean that he continued on to the high place from which the prophets had descended (1 Samuel 10:5). Possibly in view of the vagueness of the statement (why is he seen as going to the high place without explanation?) we are to see both, the idea being that having prophesied he carried his dedication through to the end, both by a visit to the local high place, and then a visit to Gilgal as Samuel had said. For as the signs have been fulfilled we would actually at this stage have expected some reference to his visit to Gilgal to meet Samuel, possibly at one of the regular feasts.


Verses 14-16

Saul’s Uncle Asks Him About His Search, But As Samuel Had Clearly Wanted, He Says Nothing About What He Has Been Told About The Kingship (1 Samuel 10:14-16).

This incident could have taken place either at Gibeah, or it could have taken place at a regular feast where all the male members of the family would be present. Its point is to bring out the fact that Saul kept all that he knew to himself.

1 Samuel 10:14

And Saul’s uncle said to him and to his servant, “Where did you go?” And he said, “To look for the asses, and when we saw that they were not found, we came to Samuel.” ’

Saul’s uncle seems simply to be asking a casual question. ‘I had noticed your absence, where have you been?’ For Saul explains that he had been out looking for lost asses, and that this had brought them in contact with Samuel.

1 Samuel 10:15

And Saul’s uncle said, “Tell me, I pray you, what Samuel said to you.” ’

Being aware of the rumours of what had happened to Samuel among the prophets this appears to have aroused his uncle’s interest, and he enquires as to what Samuel had said to him.

1 Samuel 10:16

And Saul said to his uncle, “He told us plainly that the asses were found.” But concerning the matter of the kingship, of which Samuel spoke, he did not tell him.’

But Saul was keeping matters to himself, especially in view of the fact that that was how Samuel seemed to have wanted it, and he simply informed him that Samuel had told them that the asses had been found. He said nothing about the matter of the kingship. That was a private matter between him and Samuel.


Verses 17-25

Samuel Publicly Demonstrates Whom YHWH Has Chosen To Be Their King by Using The Sacred Lot, And Saul Is Acclaimed As King (1 Samuel 10:17-25).

The private preparation of the young man Saul for his role as war-leader and king of Israel has now taken place. Samuel is now sure that Saul is God’s choice, and the rather diffident Saul has been given a number of signs which have demonstrated the same to him, and has received a secret anointing, followed by an empowering for the task. It was now felt that it was time for Israel also to become convinced of this fact.

All the tribes of Israel would now also have to be persuaded as to who should be king, and given the jealousy between the tribes and the determination of the prominent ones that their rights should not be overlooked, and that their rivals should not gain any advantage over them, it was not going to be easy.

It would certainly be made easier by the fact that Saul was impressive, and came from a small tribe of minor significance politically, but it was still necessary for all to be convinced and come to agreement. And this was now to be done by using the age-old method of casting lots (compare Joshua 7:16-19; Joshua 14:2). For all believed, in the words of Proverbs, that ‘the lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing of it is of YHWH’ (Proverbs 16:33).

Analysis.

a And Samuel called the people together to YHWH to Mizpah (1 Samuel 10:17).

b And he said to the children of Israel, “Thus says YHWH, the God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all the kingdoms that oppressed you, but you have this day rejected your God, who himself saves you out of all your calamities and your distresses” (1 Samuel 10:18-19 a).

c “And you have said to him, “No, but set a king over us.” Now therefore present yourselves before YHWH by your tribes, and by your families (thousands)” (1 Samuel 10:19 b).

d So Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken. And he brought the tribe of Benjamin near by their families, and the family of the Matrites was taken, and Saul the son of Kish was taken, but when they sought him, he could not be found (1 Samuel 10:20-21).

e Therefore they asked of YHWH further, “Is there yet a man to come here?” And YHWH answered, “Behold, he has hid himself among the baggage wagons” (1 Samuel 10:22).

d And they ran and fetched him there, and when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward. And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom YHWH has chosen, that there is none like him along all the people?” (1 Samuel 10:23-24 a).

c And all the people shouted, and said, “Long live the king” (1 Samuel 10:24 b).

b Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingship, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before YHWH (1 Samuel 10:25 a).

a And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house (1 Samuel 10:25 b).

Note than in ‘a’ Samuel gathers the people together, and in the parallel he sends them back home. In ‘b’ he describes the manner of the old Kingship, and in the parallel he describes the manner of the new kingship. In ‘c’ the people ask for a king, and in the parallel they cry ‘long live the king’. In ‘d’ Saul is chosen but cannot be found, and in the parallel he is found and declared to be the chosen one. Centrally in ‘e’ YHWH declares that the chosen king is to be found among the baggage.

1 Samuel 10:17

And Samuel called the people together to YHWH to Mizpah.’

In order to carry out the process of choosing by lot Samuel gathered the tribes at Mizpah. It is clear from the fact that he was able to do so that the Philistines were not in the vicinity in any force. Had they been so they would unquestionably have intervened, especially in view of the purpose of the gathering. Mizpah was one of the high places were sacrifices could be offered, and was the place where Samuel had gathered the people together in his younger days when they had defeated the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:5-11). But it was vulnerable to Philistine attack (whereas Gilgal was much safer). Indeed’ the fact that Samuel gathered them there in order to determine the kingship must be seen as indicating that he had no fear of Philistine suspicion and intervention, simply because the Philistines were still to be seen as contained (1 Samuel 7:13-14).

1 Samuel 10:18-19

And he said to the children of Israel, “Thus says YHWH, the God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all the kingdoms that oppressed you, but you have this day rejected your God, who himself saves you out of all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, “No, but set a king over us.” Now therefore present yourselves before YHWH by your tribes, and by your families (thousands).’

Samuel began by making it clear that he did not approve of what was happening. He pointed out how YHWH had delivered them in the past from both Egypt and all those who had oppressed them. He had been their King. But now they had rejected this saving God and had said, ‘No, set a king over us.’ So it was not so much the desire for a king, but the kind of king that they desired which was in question. Had they been willing to accept simply a war-leader appointed by YHWH, which was what he had been trying to persuade them to accept, it might have been acceptable. But they kept on insisting on a full-blown king.

That being so he called on them now to present themselves before YHWH by their tribes and by their wider families. Here we have a clear case where the word for ‘thousands’ means ‘wider families’. The idea was that choice would then be made by lot. We do not know exactly what method was used.

1 Samuel 10:20-21

So Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken. And he brought the tribe of Benjamin near by their families, and the family of the Matrites was taken, and Saul the son of Kish was taken, but when they sought him, he could not be found.’

The first lot cast determined which tribe had been chosen. This might have been by means of tossing down twelve sticks, or some similar method, and determining the lot by how they fell. And the lot fell on Benjamin. The next lot determined which wider family should be chosen which was the Matrites. The process is then abbreviated because the next lot (or the next but one), which is not mentioned, would be concerning households. Finally the lot would be cast over individuals. And by that lot Saul, the son of Kish was chosen as both Samuel and Saul knew would happen. But when they looked around for Saul he could not be found. Like the asses in 1 Samuel 9:3 he had wandered off and would have to be sought.

1 Samuel 10:22

Therefore they asked of YHWH further, “Is there yet a man to come here?” And YHWH answered, “Behold, he has hid himself among the baggage wagons.”

Puzzled by the fact that no one was there who answered to Saul’s name the question was then put to YHWH as to whether there should have been someone else there. And YHWH replied that the person in question had hidden himself, either by standing among the piles of baggage which would have been fairly large considering the numbers present, or among the baggage wagons holding the baggage. The fact that the idea is central in the chiasmus suggests that this is to be seen as significant. Note also that these are the only words that YHWH actually ‘speaks’. They had wanted a king like all the nations, had they? Well, he was to be found among the baggage. He was not like YHWH Who walked amidst the camp (Deuteronomy 23:14). He was an accessory.

Again we do not know the method used to obtain the answer (unless the question was put through Samuel who would receive a prophetic illumination), although it may have been by a process of elimination, either by receiving ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers by lot, or by dividing up the camp per lot and discovering which lot was revealed.

His purpose in hiding could not have been in order to avoid being chosen because he was well aware that Samuel had already determined that he was to be the new war-leader. It would seem therefore that it was due to modesty, because he did not wish to give the impression of actually seeking the position. Alternately it might have been his hope that if he was out of sight and not among the congregation he might be excluded from the results of the lot. It is strange how often people think that they can hide from God. But like Saul they will discover that they cannot.

1 Samuel 10:23

And they ran and fetched him there, and when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward.’

Recognising that YHWH had revealed the man who was to be their king the people ran to the baggage area and discovered Saul there, and when he came out among them they saw his great stature, and that he was taller than anyone else..

1 Samuel 10:24

And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom YHWH has chosen, that there is none like him along all the people?” And all the people shouted, and said, “Long live the king.” ’

Samuel then pointed him out as the chosen of YHWH and drew attention to his magnificent bearing, stressing that there was none other like him. Enthusiastically the people gathered round and cried ‘May the king live’, or as we would say it, ‘long live the king’. Saul was thus now made king by popular acclamation. God had previously appointed him in secret through Samuel, something which had been necessary to prepare Saul for this moment, and now men had appointed him under God’s direction by public acclamation. Both were necessary, firstly so that he would be deeply aware of his need to serve God only, and then secondly so that he might be acceptable to all the tribes, and the people who were connected with them.

1 Samuel 10:25

Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingship, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before YHWH. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house.’

Samuel then told the people what manner of kingship this would be. Saul would be their war-leader but it would be under God and subject to the advice of His prophet. He may well have patterned the detailed requirements on Deuteronomy 17:12-20. This was then written in a book and ‘laid up before YHWH’, that is, it was placed in the Sanctuary. The ‘laying up of the book before YHWH’ would suggest that this took place in Gilgal where the main Sanctuary seems to have been (1 Samuel 11:14; 1 Samuel 13:4). This is to be seen to be fulfilling the promise and command made in 1 Samuel 10:8, a fulfilment also hinted at in 1 Samuel 10:13. Having provided the detail the writer would see no reason to repeat it.


Verse 26-27

Saul Returns Home And Bides His Time, Finally Proving Himself By Defeating The Ammonites And As A Result Being ‘Made King Before YHWH’ (1 Samuel 10:26 to 1 Samuel 11:15).

Saul now returned home accompanied by those who would be his faithful supporters, and when others questioned his appointment he said nothing but bided his time. It was not to be long in coming, for the king of the Ammonites was determined to bring shame on Israel because of what he saw as past insults (see Judges 11:12-28), and saw in this period of turmoil the opportunity of attacking them in Transjordan.

The Ammonites, and their Moabite allies (they usually acted together led by whichever had the strongest king at the time) recognised that Israel were in turmoil and being kept busy by the Philistines, and that Samuel was now ageing, with the result that Israel had no strong military leader. They therefore took advantage of the opportunity to invade the territory of Reuben and Gad in Transjordan.

This feud between the Ammonite-Moabite alliance and Transjordanian Israel was of longstanding. It had been there ever since they had made it difficult when Israel were passing through their territory and Moab had called on Balaam to curse Israel. It had also burst out twice in Judges, first in the time of Ehud when the threat had been very serious, even reaching over the Jordan into the western side of the Jordan rift valley and possibly beyond (Judges 3:12-30), and then in the time of Jephthah when it had threatened the whole of Transjordan, including Gilead (Judges 11:4-33). In both cases Israel had finally triumphed after initial periods of misery. Thus to the people of Ammon/Moab Israel’s present turmoil now seemed a good time to take revenge, by both shaming Israel and gaining spoils and tribute.

The Ammonites were a fierce tribal people, and only semi-sophisticated. (See Amos 1:13. They can be placed somewhere between the more sophisticated Moabites and the even wilder Amalekites). They had quite probably been driven out of the land that was now occupied by Reuben and Gad, by Sihon and his Amorites, for they always saw that land as theirs by right (Judges 11:13), and considered that it should have been given back to them. Thus whenever the opportunity arose they sought to take it back.

Analysis.

a And Saul also went to his house, to Gibeah, and there went with him the host, whose hearts God had touched (1 Samuel 10:26).

b But certain worthless fellows said, “How will this man save us?” And they despised him, and brought him no present. But he held his peace (1 Samuel 10:27).

c Then Nahash the Ammonite came up, and encamped against Jabesh-gilead, and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Make a covenant with us, and we will serve you.” ’

d And Nahash the Ammonite said to them, “I make it with you on this condition, that all your right eyes be put out, and I will lay it for a reproach on all Israel” (1 Samuel 11:2).

e And the elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days’ respite, that we may send messengers to all the borders of Israel. And then, if there be none to save us, we will come out to you” (1 Samuel 11:3).

f Then the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul, and spoke these words in the ears of the people, and all the people lifted up their voice, and wept (1 Samuel 11:4).

g And, behold, Saul came following the oxen out of the field, and Saul said, “What troubles the people that they weep?” And they told him the words of the men of Jabesh (1 Samuel 11:5).

h And the Spirit of God came mightily on Saul when he heard those words, and his anger was greatly stirred up (kindled) (1 Samuel 11:6).

g And he took a yoke of oxen, and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the borders of Israel by the hand of messengers, saying, “Whoever does not come forth after Saul and after Samuel, so will it be done to his oxen” (1 Samuel 11:7 a).

f And the dread of YHWH fell on the people, and they came out as one man, and he numbered them in Bezek, and the children of Israel were three hundred military units, and the men of Judah thirty military units’ (1 Samuel 11:7-8).

e And they said to the messengers who came, “Thus shall you say to the men of Jabesh-gilead, Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you will have deliverance.” And the messengers came and told the men of Jabesh, and they were delighted. Therefore the men of Jabesh said, “Tomorrow we will come out to you, and you shall do with us all that seems good to you” (1 Samuel 11:9-10).

d And it was so on the morrow, that Saul put the people in three companies; and they came into the midst of the camp in the morning watch, and smote the Ammonites until the heat of the day (1 Samuel 11:11 a).

c And it came about that those who remained were scattered, so that not two of them were left together’ (1 Samuel 11:11 b).

b And the people said to Samuel, “Who is he who said, Shall Saul reign over us? Bring the men, that we may put them to death”. And Saul said, “There shall not a man be put to death this day, for today YHWH has wrought deliverance in Israel” (1 Samuel 11:12-13).

Then said Samuel to the people, “Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingship there.” And all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before YHWH in Gilgal, and there they offered sacrifices of peace-offerings before YHWH, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly (1 Samuel 11:14-15).

Note that in ‘a’ Saul returns to his home having been hailed as king, accompanied by ‘the host’ whose hearts God had touched, and in the parallel he is ‘made king’ to the delight of all Israel. In ‘b’ certain churlish people despised him, but Saul holds his peace, and in the parallel the people want to put the dissenters to death, but Saul will not allow it. In ‘c’ Nahash encamped with his people against Jabesh Gilead, and in the parallel all the camp were scattered so that not even two were left together. In ‘d’ Nahash’s aim was to lay a reproach on Israel, and in the parallel the opposite occurs. In ‘e’ the people of Jabesh Gilead said that they would come out to Nahash if they received no assistance, and in the parallel they say that they would come out to him on the morrow. In ‘f’ all the people of Gibeah wept at the news from the messengers, and in the parallel all the people of Israel gather in response to the appeal of messengers. In ‘g’ Saul is following oxen out of the field, and in the parallel he slaughters oxen and sends portions among the tribes. Centrally in ‘h’ the Spirit of YHWH comes mightily on Saul. This was central to what happened.

1 Samuel 10:26

And Saul also went to his house, to Gibeah, and there went with him the host, whose hearts God had touched.’

The people having been sent home Saul returned to his house at Gibeah, along with a large crowd of supporters who acted as a guard of honour to honour his new status. These were men whose heart God had touched so that they might be Saul’s mainstay among the people. Some may even have remained with him, for he probably lived in a large household.

1 Samuel 10:27

But certain worthless fellows said, “How will this man save us?” And they despised him, and brought him no present. But he held his peace.’

But there were also some dissenters who were not happy with the selection, and who muttered, ‘How shall this man save us?’. They despised him and refused to give him the gifts that a newly appointed king could expect from his subjects, a sign that they rejected his authority. They wanted it to be quite clear what their position was. Perhaps they had partly been put off by the way that he had remained out sight and among the baggage carts during the selection process. Or perhaps they did not like Benjaminities. This does serve to bring out why the process was being so long-winded. Not only was Saul himself having to be assured and given confidence that it really was YHWH Who was calling him to this huge responsibility, but a people of divided loyalties also had to be convinced that the man chosen was indeed the right choice, both YHWH’s choice and one that they could support. Until there was a widespread feeling of general satisfaction about things a coronation could not take place. As it happened that was not to be long in coming.

We should, however, note that these steps in Saul’s acceptance were not all that different from the steps usually required by kings in those days, even when they were following in their father’s footsteps, for there would often be rival claimants to the throne. First there would be a proposal that he be king which would come from people of authority acting privately among his own supporters, then there would often be the need to demonstrate his credentials by military action (often against a rival claimant), then there would be the presentation of the king for more general acceptance with the hope of having him acclaimed, and then, once that had been accomplished there would be the coronation.

“But he held his peace.” He was not particularly seeking the throne, and he no doubt felt that if YHWH was really behind it matters would get sorted out. He was not going to begin his stint with a show of aggression, and he probably recognised that a huge change like this took time to be fully accepted..

1 Samuel 11:1

Then Nahash the Ammonite came up, and encamped against Jabesh-gilead, and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Make a covenant with us, and we will serve you.” ’

Nahash, King of Ammon (1 Samuel 12:12) took the opportunity presented by Israel’s supposed present state of weakness to invade Israel in Transjordan, and in the process besieged Jabesh-Gilead, one of the leading cities of the area. Jabesh-Gilead has been identified as Tell abu-Kharaz, which is to the west of, and slightly lower (more southerly) than, Ramoth Gilead. It is clear from this that Nahash had occupied a good swathe of the tribal region in that area. We must not confuse him with the Nahash who was a friend of David’s, who was probably his son or his grandson (2 Samuel 10:2).

The inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead were probably still recovering from the mauling that they had received when they broke their covenant with the tribal league (Judges 21:8-12). So not wanting to experience a similar situation again (conquerors were always harder on cities that did not surrender immediately, compare Deuteronomy 20:10-15) they were prepared to surrender and pay tribute. They therefore offered to enter into a treaty with Nahash whereby they submitted to him as their overlord immediately in return for clemency.

1 Samuel 11:2

And Nahash the Ammonite said to them, “I make it with you on this condition, that all your right eyes be put out, and I will lay it for a reproach on all Israel.” ’

Nahash replied that he would make such a treaty on one condition, and that was that it included a stipulation that all the men of Jabesh Gilead should have their right eyes gouged out. His main aim in doing this was as a reprisal against Israel’s past shaming of Ammon, with the aim of in return bringing shame on them. For a man to be so disabled in those days was seen as rendering him unsatisfactory to the gods, and therefore a thing of shame. In Israel it would prevent entry into the court of the Tabernacle. Thus if Israel did not prevent this happening all Israel would be shamed.

The other reason behind the blinding of men in the right eye was in order to hinder their ability to make war, whether with sword or bow. Thus it would ensure (as far as it was possible to do so) that in future they did not rebel against Nahash. It was not therefore as unusual a stipulation as it sounds to us (compare Judges 1:6-7).

1 Samuel 11:3

And the elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days’ respite, that we may send messengers to all the borders of Israel. And then, if there be none to save us, we will come out to you.” ’

The elders of Jabesh recognised Nahash’s motives and thought processes and replied by seeking a seven day respite period for consideration of the terms. During this period they would send out messengers to the whole of Israel seeking assistance. If they were refused help, or no one came to help them, then they would submit to the terms laid down. As long as Nahash agreed they would not thereby be looked on as having ‘resisted’.

We may wonder why Nahash would accept such terms. But we must remember that it was in his interests to know what kind of retaliation Israel could make if he did enforce his terms and ‘shame’ Israel, and he would know that it would add to the shame being piled on Israel if they made no response (which was his expectation). As his aim was to humiliate an Israel that he considered was in no position to resist him, at least in Transjordan, this might well have been seen by him as a way of adding to their humiliation. After all if his plan succeeded he both shamed Israel for being unwilling to fight, and gained Jabesh without any further fighting, while if he refused he could not be sure that Jabesh would not decide to hold out longer and thus hinder the progress of his invasion. And they could then be depended on to get messengers through the siege-lines calling for help anyway, because they would keep on trying until one did, and it was always impossible to totally prevent it. Thus he had little to lose.

1 Samuel 11:4

Then the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul, and spoke these words in the ears of the people, and all the people lifted up their voice, and wept.’

The messengers arrived at Gibeah of Saul. They may have known about Saul’s appointment, but in view of the fact that they did not ask for him it seems unlikely, or they may have been directed there, or it may just have been that they approached Gibeah as they made their rounds of the leading cities of Israel. And when they informed the people of Gibeah why they had come, the people of Gibeah responded by going into public (and loud) mourning. Not to have done so would have been a grave insult, especially as Benjaminites had close ties with the people of Jabesh-Gilead (Judges 21:6-12).

1 Samuel 11:5

And, behold, Saul came following the oxen out of the field, and Saul said, “What troubles the people that they weep?” And they told him the words of the men of Jabesh.’

The fact that Saul was following the oxen from the field need not mean that Saul was doing the actual manual labour. He may well have been overseeing the ploughing. But it is quite probable that as a young man he took his part in it, and either way it illustrates the rustic nature of his kingship. He had not set up a court and tried to exalt himself with grandiose ideas. Rather he had remained satisfied with his lot. And even later, when he became more established, his ‘palace’ at Gibeah was very unsophisticated, and more in the nature of a fortress, as archaeology has revealed. He had made no attempt to set himself up as king in the grand manner. he had seemingly accepted Samuel’s view that he was primarily a war-leader.

Hearing the cries of mourning he was obviously interested in what troubles had caused it, and the townsfolk informed him of the message that had come from Jabesh.

1 Samuel 11:6

And the Spirit of God came mightily on Saul when he heard those words, and his anger was greatly stirred up (kindled).’

Immediately Saul recognised that it was now his responsibility to do something, and ‘the Spirit of God came mightily on Saul --- and his anger was greatly stirred up (literally kindled like a flame)’. No outward sign would have been visible. The work of the Spirit is revealed in what followed (as was always the case with the Judges). The Holy Spirit’s enabling and power was given at time of need.

1 Samuel 11:7

And he took a yoke of oxen, and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the borders of Israel by the hand of messengers, saying, “Whoever does not come forth after Saul and after Samuel, so will it be done to his oxen.” And the dread of YHWH fell on the people, and they came out as one man.’

He then followed what was probably the regular procedure when the tribes had to be called on to fulfil their responsibility under the covenant to provide warriors for the defence of one of the tribes. He took a yoke of oxen (possibly his own), cut them in pieces (a task farmers were quite used to), and sent them throughout all Israel to their very borders. The messengers would explain what the need was, and at the same time give the warning that was probably always given in similar words, although personalised for the occasion.

“Whoever does not come forth after Saul and after Samuel, so will it be done to his oxen.” The threat was that if they refused the call of Saul and Samuel (note how Saul does not do it just on his own authority. At this stage some might have refused. But all recognised Samuel’s authority) then they would be punished by having all their own most valuable possessions taken from them, symbolised in terms of their oxen being slain. Tribal vengeance would be taken on them. (Ironically we can compare this punishment with that on Jabesh-gilead in Judges 21:9-11). We can also compare with the method used here the grisly method used by the Levite in order to gain vengeance for his concubine (Judges 19:29). The sending out of some symbol to call treaty-members to fight has been a regular method through the ages (see also 1 Kings 11:29-31). We can compare how the Scottish highlanders used to send out the fiery cross to all the clans for the same purpose.

The response was immediate and in some cases must have been by forced march. The ‘dread of YHWH’ fell on them. This may well have been a technical term for the adrenalin that this symbol always pumped up when it was received. It was a sacred symbol. Few would question it. And the result was that Israel gathered as one man.

1 Samuel 11:8

And he numbered them in Bezek, and the children of Israel were three hundred military units, and the men of Judah thirty military units.’

Once the tribes had gathered they were organised and counted. From the children of Israel had come three hundred military units, each unit probably representing a clan or larger family (the same Hebrew word is used for ‘thousand’, ‘military unit’, or ‘clan’). From the men of Judah came thirty such military units, again made up of sub-tribal units. This distinction of Judah from Israel is carefully worded. It is ‘the men of Judah’ not ‘the children of Judah’. They were thus distinct, and yet still part of the children of Israel. Judah always saw themselves as being distinctive among the tribes. They were a large tribe and had settled the south (along with Simeon). It will be noted that they had not been called on by Deborah, and that no blame had been placed on them for not responding, possibly because it was recognised that with the Philistines pressing they could not spare men for northern battles. Thus they had developed their independence. But the main reason for the differentiation here was probably that the northern tribes assembled together as they arrived and formed up in their units, while the men of Judah arrived separately from the south.

“Bezek.” Possibly modern Ibzik, half way between Shechem and Bethshan, and seven miles west of the Jordan.

1 Samuel 11:9 a

‘And they said to the messengers who came, “Thus shall you say to the men of Jabesh-gilead, Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you will have deliverance.” ’

The army being amassed messages were sent to Jabesh-gilead in order to inform them that help was on the way. The message was simple. ‘Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you will have deliverance.’ In other words they would be attacking early next morning.

1 Samuel 11:9 b

‘And the messengers came and told the men of Jabesh, and they were delighted.’

Perhaps not surprisingly when the messengers arrived with the good news the men of Jabesh were delighted. They must have been awaiting the messenger with some dread. Who could be sure that the tribes would respond?

1 Samuel 11:10

Therefore the men of Jabesh said, “Tomorrow we will come out to you, and you shall do with us all that seems good to you.” ’

The men of Jabesh then attempted to make the attack on the morrow a total surprise for Nahash. It would make things easier for Israel if their forces arrived unexpectedly and took the Ammonites by surprise. So they sent Nahash a message to say that at some time on the morrow they would come out and surrender without fighting, and that Nahash could then do what seemed good to him.

Their hope was that this would keep the focus of Nahash and his men firmly fixed on the besieged city. Indeed they might have hoped that the Ammonites would also feel able to indulge in a little celebration beforehand, and might even relax their guards and call in their scouts, all of which would be of benefit to the approaching Israelites.

There was, of course, a double entendre behind their words. They would indeed come out to him. But the consequences would not be pleasant for him.

1 Samuel 11:11

And it was so on the morrow, that Saul put the people in three companies; and they came into the midst of the camp in the morning watch, and smote the Ammonites until the heat of the day. And it came about that those who remained were scattered, so that not two of them were left together.’

True to his word Saul arrived during ‘the morning watch’ (roughly the equivalent of 2:00 am to 6:00 am) as daylight was approaching, and dividing his forces into three companies, he attacked the Ammonite camp from three sides just before dawn, seemingly taking them completely by surprise. The battle continued all morning, and resulted in the Ammonites who did escape fleeing in ones and twos. They were totally routed.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 10:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/1-samuel-10.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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