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.1 Samuel 11:1. Then — That is, about that time; for that this happened before, and was the occasion of their desire of a king, may seem from 1 Samuel 12:12; although it is possible that Nahash’s preparation might cause that desire, and that he did not actually come till their king was chosen. Will serve — The occasion of this offer was, that they saw no likelihood of relief from their brethren in Canaan.
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.1 Samuel 11:2. And lay it for a reproach upon all Israel — That is, disgrace the whole Hebrew nation, by serving some of their people in this opprobrious manner; for it must necessarily have reflected great dishonour upon the whole state, that they should suffer any of their people to be served so. He probably meant also to disable them for war, in which the right eye was of most use, their shields, which they carried in their left hands, in a great measure covering their left eyes. He proposes, however, to leave them one eye, that they might be fit to serve in any mean and base office.
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.1 Samuel 11:3. Give us seven days respite — It may seem strange, either that they should propose to submit so soon to such base conditions, if they did not receive help, or that Nahash should grant them so much respite when he saw them so abject and inclined to yield to him. But the reason of both is evident; for the elders of Jabesh thought Saul was not able to help them, having not yet taken upon him the government, but living privately, 1 Samuel 11:5; and Nahash, it is probable, was loath to drive them to desperation by denying them this short space wherein to expect relief, which he thought they could not possibly obtain in the time, even if Saul should endeavour to levy an army and come to their aid, for that, he would naturally suppose, could not be done in so few days.
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.1 Samuel 11:4-5. To Gibeah of Saul — So called, because it was the place where Saul was born and brought up, and where he had hitherto dwelt. Behold Saul came after the herd — For, being only anointed king, and not publicly inaugurated, nor having yet had opportunity of doing any thing worthy of his place, he thought fit to forbear all royal state, and to retire to his former private life, which, howsoever despised in these latter ages, was anciently in great esteem. Saul said, What aileth the people that they weep? — Let me know, that if it be a grievance that can be redressed, I may endeavour to help them. “Good magistrates,” says Henry, “are in pain if their subjects be in tears.”
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.
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.1 Samuel 11:7. Sent them throughout all the coasts — Wisely considering that the sight of men’s eyes does much more affect their hearts than what they only hear with their ears. After Saul and after Samuel — He joins Samuel with himself, both because he was present with him, and that hereby he might gain the more authority. The fear of the Lord fell on the people — A fear was sent upon them by God, so that they did not dare to deny their help. The fear of God will make men good subjects, good soldiers and good friends to their country. They that fear God will make conscience of their duty to all men, particularly to their rulers. They will honour the king, and all that are in authority under him. They came out with one consent — God, who put courage into Saul, and now induced him to assert his royal authority over the people, influenced them with a fear of offending him, so that they readily came and joined him at his call.
And when he numbered them in Bezek, the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand.1 Samuel 11:8. The men of Judah thirty thousand — They were numbered apart to their honour, to show how readily they, to whom the kingdom was promised, (Genesis 49:10,) submitted to their king, though of another tribe, and how willing they were to hazard themselves for their brethren, although they might have excused themselves from the necessity of defending their own country from their dangerous neighbours the Philistines.
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.
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.1 Samuel 11:10. Tomorrow we will come out unto you — They spoke this by way of stratagem, to make the Ammonites easy and secure.
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.
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.1 Samuel 11:12-13. The people said unto Samuel — Who, it appears from hence, accompanied Saul in this expedition, to encourage him with hopes of good success. Saul said, There shall not a man be put to death this day — Saul had prudently dissembled his knowledge of their despising him before the kingdom was confirmed to him. But the moderation which he now manifested, after he had been so wonderfully victorious, argued still greater nobleness of mind, and benevolence, and mildness of disposition. For nothing is more glorious than to be humble and meek in the height of power.
And Saul said, There shall not a man be put to death this day: for to day the LORD hath wrought salvation in Israel.
Then said Samuel to the people, Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there.1 Samuel 11:14. Then said Samuel — While the people were together by Jabesh- gilead. Come, and let us renew the kingdom — That is, confirm our former choice, and more solemnly and unanimously inaugurate Saul for our king. Herein Samuel’s great prudence and fidelity to Saul appeared. He suspended the confirmation of Saul at first, while the generality of the people were disaffected, and now, when he had given such eminent proof of his princely virtues, and when the people’s hearts were eagerly set upon him, he takes this as the fittest season for that work.
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.1 Samuel 11:15. There they made Saul king — Owned and accepted him for their king. Saul had been anointed in Ramah, and chosen by lot in Mizpeh; but still some disdained to acknowledge him for their king, which made him content himself for a time with a private life. But now, after this signal token of God’s presence with him, in the late victory, he was, by common consent, received by all the people for their king. Before the Lord — Not before the ark, the symbol of God’s presence, as the expression sometimes means; for the ark was now at Kirjath-jearim, and not at Gilgal; but in a solemn manner, as in God’s presence, appealing to him as a witness of their sincerity in this transaction, and with solemn sacrifices and prayers for his blessing upon it.