Defeat of the Ammonites. 1* About a month later, Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh-gilead. All the people of Jabesh begged Nahash, “Make a treaty with us, and we will serve you.”a 2But Nahash the Ammonite replied, “This is my condition for making a treaty with you: I will gouge out the right eye of every man,* and thus bring shame on all Israel.” 3The elders of Jabesh said to him: “Give us seven days to send messengers throughout the territory of Israel. If there is no one to save us, we will surrender to you.” 4When the messengers arrived at Gibeah of Saul and reported the news in the people’s hearing, they all wept aloud. 5Just then Saul came in from the field, behind his oxen. “Why are the people weeping?” he asked. They repeated the message of the inhabitants of Jabesh for him. 6As he listened to this report, the spirit of God rushed upon him and he became very angry.b 7Taking a yoke of oxen, he cut them into pieces and sent them throughout the territory of Israel* by messengers saying, “If anyone does not come out to follow Saul and Samuel, the same thing will be done to his oxen!” The dread of the LORD came upon the people and they went forth as one.c 8When Saul reviewed them in Bezek,* there were three hundred thousand Israelites and seventy thousand Judahites.
9To the messengers who had come he said, “Tell the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead that tomorrow, when the sun grows hot, they will be saved.” The messengers went and reported this to the inhabitants of Jabesh, and they rejoiced. 10The men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you may do with us whatever you want.” 11The next day, Saul arranged his troops in three companies and invaded the camp during the dawn watch. They slaughtered Ammonites until the day had gotten hot; by then the survivors were so scattered that no two of them were left together.
Saul Accepted as King. 12* The people then said to Samuel: “Who questioned whether Saul should rule over us? Hand them over and we will put them to death.”d 13But Saul objected, “No one will be put to death this day, for today the LORD has rescued Israel.”e 14Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal to renew the kingship there.” 15So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king in the LORD’s presence. They also sacrificed communion offerings there before the LORD, and Saul and all the Israelites rejoiced greatly.
* [11:1] A text from Qumran (1QSama) introduces this chapter with the report that Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had attacked the Gadites and the Reubenites, gouging out their right eyes. Seven thousand of them had fled to Jabesh-gilead. This additional information would explain why Nahash besieged Jabesh-gilead. There is no consensus among scholars whether the Qumran text represents an original reading or a secondary expansion.
* [11:2] Right eye of every man: thus rendering them incapable of military action.
* [11:7] Throughout the territory of Israel: Saul’s gesture summons the Israelite confederacy to a coordinated response against Nahash; cf. Jgs 19:29 for a similar action. Dread of the LORD: often a panic that immobilizes Israel’s enemies; here, however, it has the opposite effect and incites the Israelites to battle.
* [11:8] Bezek: probably modern Khirbet Ibziq, northeast of Shechem, on the west slope of the Jordan valley, opposite Jabesh-gilead.
* [11:12–14] With the defeat of the Ammonites, Saul demonstrates his ability to command Israel’s army and defend the land. At Gilgal, Saul’s kingship is ratified; ironically, he loses his kingship at the same place (13:7).
a. [11:1] 1 Sm 12:12; 31:11; 2 Sm 10:2.
b. [11:6] 1 Sm 16:13; Jgs 14:6, 19; 15:14.
c. [11:7] 1 Kgs 11:30; 2 Kgs 13:18.
d. [11:12] 1 Sm 10:27.
e. [11:13] 2 Sm 19:23.