1 Samuel 11


Nahash, king of the Ammonites, besieges Jabesh-gilead; and

proposes to its inhabitants the most degrading conditions of

peace, 1, 2.

They apply to their brethren for help, 3, 4.

Saul hears of their distress; takes a yoke of oxen, hews them

in pieces, and sends them throughout the coasts of Israel, with

the threat that all who did not come to his standard should

have his cattle served in like manner; in consequence of which

he is soon at the head of an army of three hundred and thirty

thousand men, 5-8.

He sends to Jabesh-gilead, and promises help, 9, 10.

Saul attacks the Ammonites next morning, and gives them a total

overthrow, 11.

The people are greatly encouraged, and propose to put to death

those who are opposed to Saul's government: but this he

prevents, 12, 13.

Samuel leads the people to Gilgal: they offer sacrifices, and

renew the kingdom to Saul, 14, 15.


Verse 1. Nahash the Ammonite] In the Vulgate this chapter begins

thus: Et factum est quasi post mensem, "And it came to pass about

a month after." This addition appears also in the principal copies

of the Septuagint; though it is wanting in the Complutensian

edition, both in the Greek and Latin, and is not acknowledged by

any of the Oriental versions. But it is in Josephus, and probably

was inserted from him into some copies of the Septuagint, and

thence into the Vulgate. It appears to be of very little


We know little about Nahash; there was a king of this name among

the Ammonites in the time of David, 2Sa 10:2, but probably not

the same person. Nahash might have been a common name of the

Ammonitish kings.

Make a covenant with us] They found they were in no condition to

risk a war; and they wish to have peace, and desire to know his


Verse 2. I may thrust out all your right eves] This cruel

condition would serve at once as a badge of their slavery, and a

means of incapacitating them from being effective warriors.

Theodoret observes, "He who opposes his shield to the enemy with

his left hand, thereby hides his left eye, and looks at his enemy

with his right eye; he therefore who plucks out that right eye

makes men useless in war." Josephus gives the same reason.

Verse 3. Give us seven days respite] Such promises are

frequently made by besieged places: "We will surrender if not

relieved in so many days;" and such conditions are generally

received by the besiegers.

Verse 4. Then came the messengers to Gibeah] It does not appear

that the people of Jabesh-gilead knew any thing of Saul's

appointment to the kingdom, for the message is not directed to him

but to the people.

The people lifted up their voices and wept.] They saw no hope of

deliverance, and they expected that their reproach would be laid

on all Israel.

Verse 5. Saul came after the herd] He had been bred up to an

agricultural life, and after his consecration he returned to it,

waiting for a call of Divine providence, which he considered he

had now received in the message from Jabesh-gilead.

It has often been remarked, that mighty kings and accomplished

generals have been chosen from among those who were engaged in

agricultural concerns. In these observations one fact is lost

sight of, viz., that in ancient times agriculture was the only

employment. Trade and commerce were scarcely known; therefore all

descriptions of official dignities must be chosen out of this

class, there being no other to choose them from. We need not

wonder at these words of the poet:-

Jura dabat populis posito modo consul aratro;

Pascebatque suas ipse senator oves.

"The consul, having now laid aside his plough,

gives laws to the people;

And the senator himself feeds his own sheep."

OVID, Fast. lib. i., v. 204-207.

Verse 6. The Spirit of God came upon Saul] He felt himself

strongly excited to attempt the relief of his brethren.

And his anger was kindled greatly.] I believe this means no more

than that his courage was greatly excited-he felt himself strong

for fight, and confident of success.

Verse 7. He took a yoke of open] The sending the pieces of the

oxen was an act similar to that of the Levite, Jud 19:29, where

see the note. And both customs are similar to the sending about of

the bloody cross, to call the clans to battle, practised by the

ancient Highlanders of Scotland. See at the end of this chapter.

See Clarke on 1Sa 11:15

Verse 8. The children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and

the men of Judah thirty thousand.] This was a vast army, but the

Septuagint make it even more: "All the men of Israel were

εξακοσιαςχιλιαδας, SIX HUNDRED thousand; and the men of Judah

εβδομηκονταχιλιαδας, SEVENTY thousand." Josephus goes yet

higher with the number of the Israelites: "He found the number of

those whom he had gathered together to be εβδομηκονταμυριαδας

SEVEN HUNDRED thousand." Those of the tribe of Judah he makes

seventy thousand, with the Septuagint. These numbers are not all

right; and I suspect even the Hebrew text to be exaggerated, by

the mistake or design of some ancient scribe.

Verse 10. To-morrow we will come out unto you] They concealed

the information they had received of Saul's promised assistance.

They did come out unto them; but it was in a different manner to

what the Ammonites expected.

Verse 11. Put the people in three companies] Intending to

attack the Ammonites in three different points, and to give his

own men more room to act.

In the morning watch] He probably began his march in the

evening, passed Jordan in the night, and reached the camp of the

Ammonites by daybreak.

That two of them were not left together.] This proves that the

rout was complete.

Verse 12. Who is he that said, Shall Saul reign] Now, flushed

with victory and proud of their leader, they wished to give him a

proof of their attachment by slaying, even in cool blood, the

persons who were at first averse from his being intrusted with the

supreme power! The common soldier is scarcely ever inspired by his

victory to acts of magnanimity; he has shed blood-he wishes to

shed more!

Verse 13. There shall not a man be put to death] This was as

much to Saul's credit as the lately proposed measure was to the

discredit of his soldiers.

Verse 14. Renew the kingdom] The unction of Saul, in the first

instance, was a very private act; and his being appointed to be

king was not known to the people in general. He had now shown

himself worthy to command the people; and Samuel takes advantage

of this circumstance to gain the general consent in his favour.

Josephus says that Saul was anointed a second time at this


Verse 15. There they made Saul king] It is likely, from these

words, that Saul was anointed a second time; he was now publicly

acknowledged, and there was no gainsayer. Thus far Saul acted

well, and the kingdom seemed to be confirmed in his hand; but soon

through imprudence he lost it.

ON the custom referred to in 1Sa 11:7 I am favoured with the

following observations by a learned correspondent:-

"It is considered that the authenticity of records respecting a

peculiar people cannot be better illustrated, or the fidelity of

the historian more clearly ascertained, than by proving that the

manners and customs recorded are in unison with, or bear a

resemblance to, the manners and customs of other nations of the

same antiquity; or, what may be more correct, in a similar state

of improvement; and the records of such rites and customs may

possibly acquire an additional mark of authenticity, when the

similarity is not so exact as to admit a presumption that the

customs of one nation were merely copied from the other.

"Sir Walter Scott, in the third canto of the Lady of the Lake,

describes the rites, incantations, and imprecations, used prior to

the fiery cross being circulated, to summon the rough warriors of

ancient times to the service of their chief; and in the first note

of this canto he alludes to this ancient custom which, in

comparatively modern times, has been used in Scotland, and proves

that a similar punishment of death or destruction of the houses

for disobeying the summons was inflicted by the ancient

Scandinavians, as recorded by Olaus Magnus, in his history of the

Goths. A custom still more in point than the one cited may be

found to have existed in a more ancient nation, whose history is

supposed the most, if not the only authentic narrative of deeds of

ancient times, and which also records the sanguinary manners of

uncultivated nations; see the preceding chapter, first eight

verses. 1Sa 10:1-8 The similarity of the custom is to be found

in the seventh verse; with the Highlanders a goat was slain; with

the Israelites, an ox. The exhibition of a cross stained with the

blood of the sacrificed animal was the summons of the former,

while part of the animal was the mandate of the latter.

Disobedience in the one nation was punished with the death of the

parties, and burning of their dwellings; in the other, the

punishment was more simple, and more allusive to the sacrificed

emblem, the forfeiture or destruction of their oxen. It is not

difficult to judge whether the comparison be correct.

"The first verses record the sanguinary practices of ancient

times, which to many appear merely as the gratification of

revenge, or as proofs of victory; yet when it is considered that

the right eye must chiefly aid the warrior in aiming at his

adversary, whether the weapon be of ancient or modern warfare,

here arises a military reason, corroborative of the truth of

history, for the deprivation, and in some degree lessening the

cruelty of the mutilation, which would be increased if it were

caused by revenge or wantonness; though Nahash declares it to be a

reproach upon all Israel."

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