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1Sa 11:1 Then Nahash the Ammonite came up and encamped against Jabesh Gilead, and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, Make a treaty with us and we will serve you-
Nahash is the Hebrew word for serpent. Although God foreknew Saul's ultimate failure, he was set up as the potential Messianic seed who could crush the serpent; see on 1 Sam. 13:13. He failed to realize his potential, and was confirmed in that by the evil spirit from Yahweh which later afflicted him. For the significance of Jabesh, see on :9.

1Sa 11:2 Nahash the Ammonite said to them, On this condition I will make it with you, that each of you has his right eye put out, bringing disgrace on all Israel-
Saul's work was to remove the disgrace or "reproach" from Israel. When Goliath reproached Israel, it was Saul, Israel's tallest man, who was potentially empowered to fight him and remove the reproach. But he failed to do so, and when David did (1 Sam. 17:26 s.w.), Saul fell into a complex of spiritual jealousy. See another example of this in :13. To put out the right eye was a living shame; perhaps the right eye was chosen because it was perceived as the eye most used in one to one combat. The relevance to the exiles is that very often, the word for "reproach" is used of their situation. Yahweh was powerful to remove this from them- if they accepted His leadership and didn't hanker for the immediate restoration of the kingly line as a condition for their return.

There are clear similarities between the situations in 1 Sam. 11 and that in David's victory against Goliath in 1 Sam. 17. The difference is that in 1 Sam. 16 we learn that God's Spirit departed from Saul and came upon David. It has been observed: "First a challenge is issued by an alien (11:2; 17:23), followed by terror and fear in Israel (11:4; 17:24). After a search (11:3-4; 17:24), a deliverer appears for Israel (11:5-6; 17:25), and succeeds in delivering Israel from the foe (11:7-11; 17:50). The deliverer is recognized and made a leader for Israel (11:15; 17:55-8, 18:5)". The significance is that Saul could have been the heroic Israelite saviour against Goliath and the Philistines in 1 Sam. 17, just as he had been against Nahash and the Ammonites in 1 Sam. 11. His victory over Nahash was set up to encourage him that he could likewise defeat Goliath. But he failed to be taught, and just flunked out of the exercise.

1Sa 11:3 The elders of Jabesh said to him, Give us seven days so that we can send messengers to all the borders of Israel, and then, if there is no one to save us, we will come out to you-
We wonder why Nahash agreed to this. His pride was apparently such that he considered that even if this were to be done, he would still win. It was again a case of pride going before a fall. Given the size of the land, it would have taken seven days to inform all Israel and get a response. See on 1 Sam. 14:10. 

1Sa 11:4 Then the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and reported these words to the people, and they all wept aloud-
The messengers went throughout Israel, just as messengers had recently gone throughout Israel inviting them to the gathering at Mizpah regarding having a king. And there was apparently no response. They were all therefore psychologically set up to hope that the promised new king would actually bring the charismatic deliverance they expected of a king. This setting up of expectation was all from God. He really wanted to arrange things so that Saul had the support and respect of all Israel. Saul's ultimate failure was therefore all the more culpable, because he had been set up for success- as is everyone called by God.

 It's quite likely that Saul, being from Gibeah, had relatives in Jabesh. Because at the time of Jud. 19-21, a generation previously, the Benjamites from Gibeah had been almost wiped out by the other tribes of Israel. and those tribes had vowed not to give their daughters as wives to the Benjamites. Israel then lamented that the tribe if Benjamin would become extinct. But Jabesh was the only city that had not joined in the agreement, and so the tribes went there, massacred the people, and saved 400 virgins from there and gave them to the Benjamites to marry. The people of Jabesh were likely sceptical of the other Israelites, and would have looked to Saul as their only logical saviour. One reconstruction is that the people of Gibeah, who knew Saul had been anointed and who had exclaimed "Is Saul also among the prophets?", all the same assumed he couldn't save them. For they wept, rather than suggested Saul went and saved them. His earlier filling with the Spirit had dissipated and now he had to be filled again with the Spirit; indeed this is what the Spirit filled life is about, being refilled with the Spirit.

1Sa 11:5 Just then Saul came, following the oxen out of the field, and he said, What is wrong with the people that they weep? They told him what the men of Jabesh had said-
I pondered on 1 Sam. 10:16 why he didn't immediately tell others of his calling to be king, especially given the amazing signs and wonders he had experienced in the wake of the statement about him becoming king. Indeed, he had been anointed to be king. His silence could have been bashful humility, or it could have been a lack of faith in running with the possibilities now opened up to him. The fact Saul does nothing until he is now called by the Ammonite crisis could indicate his passivity to his calling. See on 1 Sam. 10:21. 

The Lord Jesus called men, arresting them with His radical call in the very midst of daily life, just when they were throwing a net into the sea, at the most utterly inconvenient moment, even the most humanly inappropriate moment- such as being on the way to your father’s funeral. The Son of God was actually acting as His Father had done. Gideon was called whilst in the middle of threshing wheat in a time of famine (Jud. 6:1), Saul whilst he was out looking for lost cattle (1 Sam. 9:10) and again now whilst he was coming home from ploughing [following the oxen] one evening; David whilst he was looking after the sheep; Samuel whilst he was asleep; Amos whilst he was leading the flocks to water (Am. 7:14); and see too 1 Kings 11:29; 19:16; 2 Kings 9:1-13,18. In other words, the call of God comes to us right in the midst of ordinary, mundane life. Of this there can be no doubt. And the Lord Jesus called men in just the same way.

1Sa 11:6 The Spirit of God came mightily on Saul when he heard those words, and his anger was kindled greatly-
This seems another example of the Spirit of God touching his heart, giving him feelings, initiatives and ideas; all part of the Spirit of God touching his heart or mind (see on 1 Sam. 10:6,9,26). And the Spirit can work likewise today if we are open to receive it. The idea may be that when Saul heard those words, he became very angry in his spirit / mind, and the Holy Spirit then engaged with his spirit. His anger became God's anger, his flame of zeal to do something about the situation, to save... became taken over by God's Spiit and used by God. So far in the Biblical record, the phrase "his anger was kindled greatly" has only been used [twice] of God's anger being greatly kindled (Num. 11:10,33). And in that context, Yahweh's anger was greatly kindled when He "heard" (s.w. "heard those words") Israel's words of complaint (Num. 11:1). So as Saul could hear words and have his anger greatly kindled, so could God. God's Spirit and Saul's spirit intertwined. This is expressed as God's Spirit coming mightily on Saul. And we now better understand why Saul is condemned because he did not execute [literally "do"] Yahweh's wrath with Amalek (1 Sam. 28:18). In 1 Sam. 11:6, Saul's wrath had been Yahweh's wrath, Saul's spirit was Yahweh's Spirit, they both heard the words about Jabesh and the threat of Nahash, and were filled with kindled wrath. When Saul sought to express that against Nahash, God's Spirit was with him. But with Amalek, Saul had fallen out of sync with God's Spirit. And so that Spirit departed from him. His will was no longer that of his heavenly Father. This was the struggle of the Lord, "not My will but Yours", the subjugation of the human spirit and will to that of God.        

1Sa 11:7 He took a yoke of oxen, cut them in pieces and sent them throughout all Israel by the hand of messengers, saying, Whoever doesn’t come forth after Saul and after Samuel, this is what shall be done to his oxen-
See on 1 Sam. 14:28,31. This is similar to what was done to call Israel to action against Gibeah and Benjamin (Jud. 19:29,30), and Jabesh were the ones who singularly refused to participate and respond. I suggest on :9 that Saul was seeking to show grace to them. Samuel was clearly identified with Saul and was effectively the joint leader at this point. He fades from view as Saul becomes more confident, and pride took over within him. Saul was a Benjamite, from Gibeah, sometimes called "Gibeah of Saul". Jabesh had been the only town to show grace to his tribe and city. Clearly this recent history is in Saul's mind because he cuts up the oxen and sends out the pieces just as the Levite did in the drama that led to the battles of Gibeah. His anger was that they were to be shamed, when he considered them the best of the best. And as discussed on :6, these feelings were God's. He feels of all His people that we are the best of the best, simply because He loves us.  

The dread of Yahweh fell on the people, and they came out as one man-
This continues the theme of the Spirit of God being at work on human hearts, giving not only individuals but a whole people the required psychological attitudes and dispositions. The falling of the Spirit of God upon Saul is perhaps reflected in how an awareness of Yahweh "falls" on the people. And it is the common experience of the Spirit which leads to unity, "the unity of the Spirit", "as one man".

1Sa 11:8 Saul numbered them in Bezek and there were three hundred thousand men of Israel and thirty thousand of Judah-
As often noted, "thousand" doesn't mean necessarily a literal 1000, but can refer to families or military regiments. The size of Judah, a tenth of the entire community, is roughly appropriate to the twelve tribe nation. Bezek is about 20 miles from Jabesh.

1Sa 11:9 They said to the messengers who came, Thus you shall tell the men of Jabesh Gilead: ‘Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you shall have deliverance’. The messengers came and told the men of Jabesh, and they were glad-
Jabesh was the town who had refused to help the rest of Israel in the war against Gibeah and Benjamin in Judges 19-21. That Saul should now help them was therefore an act of grace; although it could be read as him rewarding them for not turning against his tribe, the Benjamites (1 Sam. 9:1). But the fact the other tribes came to support Saul in saving Jabesh would indicate that he was spearheading a movement of grace. He did indeed begin well. See on :7. "You shall have deliverance / you shall be saved" is a clear statement of faith. Saul was confident he would win and save Jabesh. In fact this is the ultimate statement of faith- that we will be saved by grace.

1Sa 11:10 Therefore the men of Jabesh said to the Ammonites, Tomorrow we will come out to you and you can do to us what seems good to you-
The implication was that they had not had any offer of help and therefore the Ammonites in the pride were off guard (see on :3).  

1Sa 11:11 The next day Saul put the people into three companies, and they came into the midst of the camp in the morning watch and slaughtered the Ammonites until the heat of the day. Those who remained were scattered, so that no two of them were left together-
They had marched 20 miles overnight from Bezek, and were exhausted- and then entered battle at dawn. The victory was clearly a case of God empowering the weak. By splitting the people into three groups, Saul was trying to imitate Gideon (see too 1 Sam. 13:2), and likewise when he prohibited the men to eat anything while they were pursuing the Philistines (1 Sam. 11:11 = Jud. 7:16; 1 Sam. 13:5 = Jud. 7:12; 1 Sam. 14:24,28,31 = Jud. 8:4,5). And yet it was Gideon who refused the request of Israel to make him king; Saul's modelling upon Gideon was only superficial. Likewise we see many similarities between Saul's victory against the Ammonites and that of Jephthah in Jud. 10. Possibly Jephtah's foolish oath, that cost him the life of his daughter, was behind Saul's later oath to slay even his own son Jonathan if he had eaten during the campaign of 1 Sam. 14. Perhaps that oath was because of his desire to be a cardboard imitation of Jephtah- but as with his imitation of Gideon, it was without spirit and purely superficial. 

1Sa 11:12 The people said to Samuel, Who was it who said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’. Bring those men out so that we can put them to death!-
Saul was set up by God to fulfil all the hopes and expectations of Israel about a human king. See on :4. The desire to kill fellow Israelites reflects the degree of cult following which Israel felt towards Saul. They failed to perceive that it was Samuel and God who had effectively challenged whether Saul should reign over them

1Sa 11:13 But Saul said, No-one is to be put to death today, for today Yahweh has worked deliverance in Israel-
And the principle holds true. If we are in awe at the great deliverance Yahweh has worked in His Son, there should be maximum forgiveness and no judgment of our brethren. See on 1 Sam. 14:45. As noted on :2, there is another connection with the conflict with Goliath. Yahweh again "worked deliverance in Israel" (s.w. 1 Sam. 19:5); but it was through David. It could have been through Saul, through whom He worked such deliverance at the start of his reign (s.w. 1 Sam. 11:13). It was because David had the faith and humility to do what Saul potentially could have done, that Saul fell into a complex of spiritual jealousy against David.   

David many years later copies Saul's spirit here in 1 Sam. 30:23 ["But all the wicked men and troublemakers among David’s followers said, Because they didn’t go with us we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, just each man’s wife and children; then he can take them away and depart.
David said, You must not do that, my brothers, with what Yahweh has given us. He has preserved us and delivered the forces that came against us into our hand"]; and we see his humility in being willing to credit Saul with something good, and even being willing to learn from a man who hated him and later went wrong before God.

1Sa 11:14 Then Samuel said to the people, Come, let us go to Gilgal and reaffirm the kingship there-
We may well ask why this was necessary, seeing God had publically chosen Saul by lot in 1 Sam. 10. And why do this exactly at this time, after rather than before the victory? Perhaps this was all part of God psychologically setting up Saul to be a successful king. The introduction of him to Israel as their king was at a time when God had made him fulfil all their secular desires for a king. He was riding a surge of mass support. His failure was thereby the more culpable.

"Reaffirm" can mean to "renew" [as AV], and the word is elsewhere translated "rebuild". Renewal of the covenant did happen several times in Israel's history, and always it was after Israel had broken the covenant. There seems an intentional ambiguity as to what "kingship" was renewed- was it Yahweh's kingship, or that of Saul? It could be argued that it was Yahweh's kingship and not Saul's that needed "renewal" or rebuilding. But perhaps the ambiguity was intentional. The people were being given the chance at Gilgal to "renew" their acceptance of Yahweh as their king. But the next verse shows that they there reaffirmed Saul as their king. And then right away follows the wrath of God upon Israel through the hailstorm and Samuel's speech in 1 Sam. 12,  where he basically condemns Israel for having chosen Saul. This would explain Hosea's comment that "all their wickedness was in Gilgal" (Hos. 9:15). We look in vain for evidence of some particular Israelite wickedness in Gilgal- until we accept that their refusal to accept Yahweh as king in Gilgal was the epitome of their wickedness. But this appeal to renew the kingship, to reaffirm Yahweh as their king, happened right after Saul had won a great victory and shot to rock star status with the people. By choosing a human king, they were making their loyalty to Yahweh as their king so much more difficult.   

Israel had been given a chance to reject the kingship of Saul. But they had insisted upon it, and so they were reaffirmed in their choice. Despite setting Saul up for success, God gave them a king in His wrath (Hos. 13:11) knowing how things would turn out and their motives in asking for a king, and this seems to be the reference of Hos 9:15: "All their wickedness is in Gilgal; for there I hated them". The mention of Gilgal is difficult because we are unaware that there was any more idolatry there than elsewhere. But probably the reference is to the way that Israel's demand for a human king at Gilgal was the epitome of their unfaithfulness to Yahweh; they thereby rejected Him as their king, master and husband; see on Hos. 10:3. Here we see God split- on one hand giving them their desired king and setting him up for success, on the other, knowing how things would turn out, doing so in anger. They of course claimed to still have Him as their king, just as Gomer protested she was still Hosea's wife whilst having affairs with others. As Hosea went through flashes of hatred against Gomer, so did God. But His hatred was for a moment, because Hosea's prophecies go on to declare His undying love for His people. We see here how answered prayer isn't necessarily an indication that we are pleasing to God, just as unanswered prayer is no indication of His displeasure. For He answered their prayer, giving them exactly the kind of king they desired- "in His wrath".

1Sa 11:15 All the people went to Gilgal and there they made Saul king before Yahweh in Gilgal, and there they offered sacrifices of peace offerings before Yahweh, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly

The fact we have peace with God must inevitably produce joy, not necessarily arms round the neck and grinning from ear to ear, but the real spiritual joy of being at one with God. 1 Sam. 11:13- 15 recounts the offering of the peace offering to commemorate God's salvation of Israel, and their renewal of their covenant with Him. We should be able to say, at any given point in time, that we are confident that if Christ comes now, we will be saved. And in our times the breaking of bread meeting is an equivalent for the peace offering.

We note however that they offered peace offerings and rejoiced- despite having rejected Yahweh as their king, and His giving them a king in His anger (Hos. 10:13). This was not necessarily to say that they didn't have peace and fellowship with God. It simply reflects the complex standing of sinful, weak man before God when He has made major concessions to human weakness, and they have been made use of. But we note that the usual sequence is of sin offering, burnt offering [dedication after receiving forgiveness] and only then peace offering, celebrating peace with God. Here they claimed to celebrate peace with God, without recognition of sin and consequently vowing devotion to Him. For that alone is the way to actual peace with God. We may sing hymns and "Amen" words which glorify peace with God, just as they did, without first passing through the prerequisite experience of repentance, forgiveness and dedication to Him. And we can claim peace with God, as they did, when God is in fact angry, as He was with them at this time.