Then Nahash the Ammonite came up, and encamped against Jabeshgilead: and all the men of Jabesh said unto Nahash, Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee.Nahash was king of the children of Ammon, as appears from 1 Samuel 12:12. He seems to have been connected with the family of David, since Abigail, David's sister, was "the daughter (perhaps granddaughter) of Nahash" 2 Samuel 17:25; 1 Chronicles 2:16-17; and, perhaps, in consequence of this connection, he and his family were very friendly to David 2 Samuel 17:27.
Jabesh-Gilead must have been re-populated after its destruction (see marginal reference). The Ammonites and Moabites resented the possession of Gilead by the Israelites Judges 10:6-18; 11.
And Nahash the Ammonite answered them, On this condition will I make a covenant with you, that I may thrust out all your right eyes, and lay it for a reproach upon all Israel.
And the elders of Jabesh said unto him, Give us seven days' respite, that we may send messengers unto all the coasts of Israel: and then, if there be no man to save us, we will come out to thee.The elders - Observe the universal form of civil government among the Israelites, by elders (Judges 8:14, Judges 8:16, etc.).
Then came the messengers to Gibeah of Saul, and told the tidings in the ears of the people: and all the people lifted up their voices, and wept.They came to Gibeah on account of the connection between the Benjamites and the people of Jabesh Judges 21.
In the ears of the people - They did not even inquire for Saul, so little was he looked upon as king. 1 Samuel 11:5 shows how completely he was still in a private and humble station.
And, behold, Saul came after the herd out of the field; and Saul said, What aileth the people that they weep? And they told him the tidings of the men of Jabesh.
And the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly.This time the Spirit of God came upon him, as upon the Judges before him, as a Spirit of supernatural energy and power.
And he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen. And the fear of the LORD fell on the people, and they came out with one consent.Though not expressly stated, it is doubtless implied that he sent the portions by the messengers to the twelve tribes, after the analogy, and probably in imitation, of Judges 19:29. He made use of the revered name of Samuel to strengthen his own weak authority. Samuel accompanied Saul in the expedition 1 Samuel 11:12.
And when he numbered them in Bezek, the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand.He numbered them - This was done to see who was absent (compare Judges 21:9).
Bezek has been conjectured to be the name of a district rather than of a town. Two villages retained the name in the time of Eusebius 17 miles from Nablous, on the way to Beth-shean.
The children of Israel and the men of Judah - This looks like the language of later times, times perhaps subsequent to the establishment of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Israel here (including Benjamin) is as ten to one compared with Judah. This is about the true proportion.
And they said unto the messengers that came, Thus shall ye say unto the men of Jabeshgilead, To morrow, by that time the sun be hot, ye shall have help. And the messengers came and shewed it to the men of Jabesh; and they were glad.The distance from Bezek to Jabesh-Gilead would perhaps be about twenty miles.
Therefore the men of Jabesh said, To morrow we will come out unto you, and ye shall do with us all that seemeth good unto you.Tomorrow - Probably the last of the "seven days' respite" 1 Samuel 11:3. Their words were spoken in guile, to throw the Ammonites off their guard.
And it was so on the morrow, that Saul put the people in three companies; and they came into the midst of the host in the morning watch, and slew the Ammonites until the heat of the day: and it came to pass, that they which remained were scattered, so that two of them were not left together.The march from Bezek may have begun the night before. This disposition of the forces "in three companies" (imitating Gideon's strategy, compare the marginal reference.) would not have been made until the morning when they were very near the Ammonitish forces. "The morning watch" was the last of the three watches, of four hours each, into which the night was anciently divided by the Hebrews. (See Judges 7:19 note.) The time thus indicated would be between two and six in the morning.
And the people said unto Samuel, Who is he that 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 to day the LORD hath wrought salvation in Israel.There shall not a man ... - An instance of great moderation, as well as good policy, on the part of Saul. Compare David's conduct (marginal reference).
Then said Samuel to the people, Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there.Let us go to Gilgal - i. e., to Gilgal by Jericho, where was a famous sanctuary, in the tribe of Benjamin.
And all the people went to Gilgal; and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal; and there they sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before the LORD; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.Made Saul king - The Septuagint has another reading, "and Samuel anointed Saul king there." The example of David, who, besides his original anointing by Samuel 1 Samuel 16:12-13, was twice anointed, first as king of Judah 2 Samuel 2:4, and again as king over all Israel 2 Samuel 5:3, makes it probable that Saul was anointed a second time; but this may be included in the word "made king" (see 1 Samuel 12:3, 1 Samuel 12:5).