I Samuel 11

 

 

CONFIRMATION OF SAUL IN THE KINGDOM

(Chapters 11 and 12)

 

 

THE DEFEAT OF THE AMMONITES (vs. 1-13).

 

1 “Then Nahash the Ammonite came up, and encamped against

Jabesh-gilead: and all the men of Jabesh said unto Nahash, Make a

covenant with us, and we will serve thee.  2 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.”

Nahash the Ammonite. The same name is found in II Samuel 10:2 as that of the

father of Hanun, who treated David’s ambassadors so shamefully, and probably

they mean the same person. He is there said to have shown kindness to David;

and as we read in ibid. ch.17:25 that Abigal (so the Hebrew, not Abigail as the

Authorized Version, who was David’s wife), Amasa’s mother, was the daughter of

Nahash, and as Abigal was the sister or half-sister of Zeruiah, David’s aunt, there

seems to have been some relationship between them. The Ammonites were old

enemies of the Israelites, alleging that Israel had taken possession of

territory east of the Jordan which rightfully belonged to them (Judges 11:13);

but after their defeat by Jephthah their power was so broken that

they allowed a century to elapse before they ventured again to assert their

claim. Nahash, apparently after other invasions (here, ch. 12:12), now

attacks Jabesh-Gilead, a city in the half-tribe of Manasseh, which had been

cruelly treated by the Israelites (Judges 21:10), but apparently had risen

again from its ruins. Its inhabitants were willing humbly to submit to

Ammonite rule; but Nahash will grant them no other terms than that they

should let him thrust out — Hebrew, bore through — all their right eyes,

not from any special spite against them, but as an insult to all Israel. No

better proof could be given of the disorganization of the nation than that a

petty despot should venture to show his contempt for it in so offensive a

way.

 

3 “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 who govern the town know nothing of a king having

been appointed, nor do they send to Samuel to ask him, as the judge, to

protect them; but they request a seven days’ respite, that they may send

messengers unto all the coasts of Israel, and Nahash, feeling sure that no

combined action would be the result, grants their request, that so Israel far

and wide might know of his triumph.

 

 

The Relative Power of Evil and Good (vs. 1-3)

 

The facts are:

 

1. The Ammonites, in pursuit of the enterprise previously arranged for (see

ch. 12:12; compare ch.8:5), threaten Jabesh-Gilead.

 

2. The inhabitants in terror seek to make a covenant with their enemy.

 

3. This being insolently refused, a respite of seven days is granted, during

which external aid is to be sought. The narrative is evidently designed to

trace the circumstances under which the discontent and base insinuations of

men of Belial” (ch. 10:27) were practically shown to be baseless. This was

a war of revenge undertaken by the strong against the weak, and the facts as

a whole set forth three important truths of general interest.

 

  • EVIL IS STRONG RELATIVELY TO THE FAITHFULNESS OR

UNFAITHFULNESS OF GOD’S PEOPLE. Ammon was Israel’s

ancestral foe (Deuteronomy 23:4; Judges 11:4). The prosperity of one

seemed incompatible with that of the other. When, under the inspiring

leadership of Jephthah, the Ammonites were utterly smitten, their strength

was brought down to its proper proportions. Had Israel continued faithful

in the improvement of privileges enjoyed as the chosen race, their moral

and political strength would have proportionately advanced in harmony

with the promises given through Moses (ibid. ch. 28:1-14). The

relative position of the representatives of good and evil had entirely

changed when Nahash in pride of strength threatened Jabesh-Gilead. Even

the partial reformation effected through Samuel had not yet placed Israel

beyond the fear of well-organized foes. God’s people are strong when holy,

true, and diligent in use of the advantages of their position. The truth thus

taught is exemplified:

 

        • in Church history,
        • in modern society, and
        • in private and domestic life.

 

Ø      Church history testifies that the energy of evil and its range have been

proportionate to the faithfulness of the Church to its lofty mission as

conserver of God’s truth and witness for Christ among men. The

Ammonites have multiplied, become insolent, and have awakened fear only

when the Christian Israel have lost their first love and failed to keep their

solemn vows.

 

Ø      Modern society feels that the growth of evil is another form of weakened

spiritual grace. There may be, in the unseen sphere of spiritual

principalities and powers” (Ephesians 6:12), seasons when energetic

spontaneous exertions are made to overcome the influence of the gospel.

But to speak of the portentous growth of spiritual ignorance, disregard of

religion, infidelity, and open vice, especially in large centers of population,

is but another way of saying that the professed followers of Christ have not

been as earnest and united in effort as He would have them to be. It is in

the nature of light to get rid of darkness, of salt to remove corruption. The

grave problem of the age may require many elements — social, sanitary,

educational, political — for its solution, but men feel that the chief

requirement is higher spiritual power in Christians.

 

Ø      In private and domestic life the power of evil depends on personal

fidelity to what God has given and imposed. The remnants of sin in our

nature lose force in so far as we faithfully seek cleansing by the indwelling

of the Spirit, and keep a strong hand on the first uprising of unholiness.

The force of external temptation diminishes in so far as our cultured

holiness of disposition furnishes it with no affinity within. And as domestic

life is but the first social form of the life cultured in private, its spiritual

evils become formidable or feeble in so far as the soul is true to its God.

 

  • DANGERS IMPENDING FROM THE GROWTH OF EVIL MAY

INDUCE RECOURSE TO THE TRUE SOURCE OF DELIVERANCE.

The dangers threatening Jabesh-Gilead sprang from the action of a spiritual

law. Israel never had been in real peril during any seasons of obedience to

God. In the present instance the danger, which was brought on by a train

of sad defections in years gone by, was very real, and became so pressing

that, in utter desperation, the people turn their thoughts towards the king.

The miseries consequent on past sins aroused a cry for the lawful deliverer.

This was one of the results of the partial reformation. Much is gained when

men are impelled to have recourse to the agencies and sources of power

WHICH GOD HAS SPECIFICALLY ORDAINED FOR THEIR HELP!

There are illustrations of this in life.

 

Ø      The soul is often driven, in desperation, to Christ for help. Men do

awake to the fact that destruction awaits them. The jailor’s cry to the

Apostle Paul has been repeated by thousands. “What must I do to be

saved?”  (Acts 16:300).  Sin and judgment are terrible realities. But

often men, when oppressed with fear of coming doom, endeavor to find

relief by various expedients. At last, half in despair and half in hope,

they turn to Him who is the Anointed One to secure redemption to Israel.

 

Ø      In the spiritual conflict a sense of need impels to a use of Divine aids.

Some men, trusting too freely to merely human wisdom, find that disaster

comes in the Christian conflict. Principles become gradually weaker, and

there is a risk of a loss of place in the commonwealth of Israel; but after a

bitter experience they remember and recognize the means of defense and

freedom. Weary, sad, conscious of inability to cope with the foe, they seek

closer fellowship with Christ, and a more earnest use of the sword of the

Spirit.

 

Ø      The modern Church is driven by the sheer magnitude of social dangers

to have recourse more fully to the radical cure of all ills the gospel.

Thoughtful Christians see that no mere social reforms and sanitary

arrangements, or scientific discoveries, will avail to arrest the real dangers

of human nature. The evil is great, the risks desperate; the full gospel,

presented with all the energy and self-denial and love which the Christian

spirit can call forth, is the only means of spiritual deliverance. The material

and social will follow. Whatever others may do, the Church must betake

herself with apostolic zeal to the ancient lines of action.

 

  • EVENTS IN THE NATURAL ORDER OF PROVIDENCE

AFFORD OPPORTUNITY FOR THE VINDICATION OF GOD’S

SERVANTS. It is instructive to notice how long lines of intricate events,

and working out collateral purposes, converge in securing for the anointed

king an opportunity of answering by deeds the aspersions and insinuations

of disaffected men. The growth of Ammon’s power for evil consequent on

Israel’s religious defection, and the gradual reformation that had for some

years been progressing in Israel, — these with all their subsidiary events,

— created occasion for an appeal to Saul. He “held his peace” when “men

of Belial” reviled, but Providence was working in his behalf. There are

wheels within wheels.” The same order is ever going on. The Saviour’s

earthly life and subsequent resurrection is a case in point. Righteous men,

whose motives have been misinterpreted and characters maligned, have

committed themselves in silence to God, and He has brought forth their

righteousness as the light,” and their “judgment as the noonday”

(Psalm 37:6).  And, also, all events are converging to the vindication of

Christ’s claim to be KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS!

(Revelation 19:16)

 

4 “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.

5 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.” Among other places the messengers came to Gibeah of

Saul, where they make no appeal to him, but tell their sad tidings in the

ears of all the people. Powerless to help, they can only weep; but in the

midst of their lamentation Saul came after the herd (Hebrew, following

the oxen) out of the field. Saul was not driving a herd of cattle home, but had

been plowing, and, labor being over, was returning with the team of oxen.

 

6 “And the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his

anger was kindled greatly.” And the Spirit of God came upon Saul. Rather,

descended mightily upon Saul (see ch.10:6). No miraculous influence is

here meant; far more full of meaning and piety is the lesson so constantly

taught in the Book of Judges, that all mighty and noble acts are from God

(Judges 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6; 15:14, etc.). Even the heathen

saw in enthusiasm something Divine, for it means the having God within.

The energy with which Saul acted was strictly natural, but yet as truly

Divine; and it is a sign of the irreligion of modern days that it can see and

hear of great and heroic achievements and assign no part in them to God.

In the days of Samuel and the judges the whole glory of such acts was

ascribed to God. But equally now, whenever men are moved to noble acts,

it is “the breath of God” that descends upon them and inspires them.

 

7 “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.”

Acting then with Divine enthusiasm, Saul cut into pieces a yoke

of oxen, and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel by the hands

of messengers. For a similar act see Judges 19:29. Probably Saul cut

the oxen into twelve pieces, and sent one to each tribe, with the threat that

in case of disobedience their oxen would be similarly treated. The threat

was moderate in that it did not touch their persons, but severe as regards

their property, the laboring ox being man’s faithful friend and servant. It is

important also to notice that Saul speaks not only in his own name, but

also in that of Samuel. It was as the man chosen of Jehovah to be king by

the voice of His prophet that he acted, and so as one possessed of

legitimate authority; and it seems also that Samuel went with him in person

to the war (v. 12). And the result answered to the energy with which

Saul acted, for the fear of Jehovah — or, rather, “a terror from Jehovah”

fell on the people, and they came out with one consent, or, as it is

rendered far more correctly and forcibly in the margin, “as one man.”

United by the kingly power, it was a nation that rose to defend one of its

injured members.

 

8 “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 in Bezek. This place was in the tribe of

Issachar, and must be distinguished from that mentioned in Judges 1:3-4,

which was in Judah, and too remote from the scene of operations. And

here Saul appears as the commander-in-chief; for the numbering included

the forming of battalions, arranged in thousands, hundreds, and fifties, and

the setting officers over them. These, naturally, were the chief men in each

district. The result would be that, coming to Bezek, the appointed

rendezvous, a disorderly multitude, they would leave it as an army

arranged in order, and Saul, in the many difficulties that would arise, would

have his first opportunity of showing his powers of command. Children of

Israel,… men of Judah — the distinction which ended in the disruption of

the nation. Judah, too, with its 30,000 men, is but poorly represented, nor

is it a sufficient explanation of the small number who came that the tribe

had enough to do at home in making head against the Philistines. As a

matter of fact, Judah always stood apart until there was a king who

belonged to itself. Then, in David’s time, it first took an active interest in

the national welfare, and it was its vast power and numbers which made

him so powerful. Had it been so nearly overpowered by the Philistines, it

could not so suddenly have sprung forth with a might which made it well

nigh a match for all the rest.

 

9 “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.”  Tomorrow, by that time the

sun be hot. As Bezek is about twenty miles distant from Jabesh-Gilead,

Saul would probably march most of the way that evening, and then, halting

for food and sleep, would continue his advance early the next morning.

 

10 “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 we will come out unto you. This was apparently

intended to throw the Ammonites off their guard, as they would suppose

that the men of Jabesh-Gilead had given up all hopes of deliverance.

 

11 “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.”  They came.., in the morning watch.

By a forced march Saul came upon the unsuspecting Ammonites just before

daybreak, when sleep is deepest; and as his host was unwieldy, he arranged

it in three divisions, assigning to each a different route, that they might not

impede one another on the way, and might also cut off the retreat of the enemy.

As the fighting went on for five or six hours, until the heat of the day, the

Ammonites must at first have made some resistance; but when all three divisions

of Saul’s army had come up, they were so utterly routed that “no two of them

were left together.”

 

 

The Perfecting Gift (vs. 4-11)

 

The facts are:

 

1. The message brought to Gibeah throws the inhabitants into grief and

consternation.

2. Saul, on hearing the tidings, is aroused by the Spirit of God to summon

the nation to follow him and Samuel.

3. The people responding to the call, help is assured to the men of Jabesh.

4. The result is the utter defeat of the Ammonites. The effect of the appeal

of the men of Jabesh on the people of Gibeah, on Saul, and subsequently

on the conflict with the foe, brings out three truths of wider range than the

particular instance recorded.

 

  • AN IMPERFECT APPRECIATION OF THE RESOURCES PLACED

WITHIN THEIR REACH ACCOUNTS FOR SOME OF THE

TROUBLES OF MEN. “The people lifted up their voices and wept.” Their

hearts sank within them; the boding ruin of Jabesh was the precursor of

their own. This conduct was the effect of a non-appreciation of the

position they then held under the care of God. Had they duly considered

the significance of the return of the ark, the value of the reformation

already inaugurated, and the lessons of history (Judges 7:7), they must

have seen that an appeal to their God-approved king, in humble

dependence on God, would have in some way saved their brethren of

Jabesh. Men in all ages have lost much good and brought on much misery

by not adequately considering the resources put within their power.

 

Ø      The earth, air, and sea have been for ages full of God s hid treasures for

the use of man; there lie powers to heal, to accomplish work, to promote

the material and domestic good of all. Neglect or forgetfulness of their

presence for generations deprived men of physical blessings now enjoyed

by rich and poor. Doubtless other resources are close at hand, if only we

duly appreciated them, and sought them in the right way.

 

Ø      In the human constitution there are valuable powers which, in

numberless instances, are not duly considered and developed. Faculties lie

dormant which might contribute to the wealth, culture, and comfort of the

possessor and society. The material and intellectual loss to the world of

undeveloped powers is enormous. The occasional results of education only

reveal the extent of our deprivation of possible good.

 

Ø      In the Christian there are gifts of the Spirit not sufficiently stirred up. In

the ordinary gifts of the Spirit there is generally a reserve of power in

excess of the exertion put forth. In maintaining the conflict with sin and in

doing deeds of love more might be accomplished by a proper estimate and

use of what already dwells in the renewed soul.

 

Ø      In the reserved power of God, dependent for its exercise on the prayer

of faith, there is a vast store of blessing not often touched. The Divine

energy has not all been expended. Largely, in connection with the progress

of Christ’s kingdom, it is dependent for its outflow on the effectual fervent

prayers of His servants. We are to prove Him, whether He will not open the

windows of heaven and pour out a blessing.  (Malachi 3:10)

 

Ø      In the provision for the renewal and forgiveness of the most guilty there

is a resource not always appreciated. Many men continue to carry their

guilt and yield to the impulses of a depraved nature because they forget or

do not duly consider WHO stands by them mighty to save. Did they but

truly “know the gift of God, and who it is” that speaks to them of

salvation, they would not go hither and thither, sad, and weary, and tearful,

but would ask of Him, and He would give them “living water.” (John 4:10)

 

  • THERE IS A PERFECTING GIFT FROM GOD REQUISITE TO

DEVELOP AND TURN TO BEST ACCOUNT MUCH ELSE

BESTOWED BY GOD. Saul was already a powerful man, chosen by the

nation, and recognized by God as king. He was endowed with prerogative

and latent capabilities. The tidings which caused wailing among the men of

Gibeah because of their non-appreciation of their true position were the

occasion of a remarkable display of courage and energy on the part of

Saul, and that because “the Spirit of God” came upon him. Whatever the

precise nature of this higher gift, its practical effect was to draw out all that

was in the man and the king, and to enable the powers already bestowed to

act for the benefit of Israel. It perfected all else done for Saul. There is a

relation of dependence in the blessings God bestows on us. Some come to

full development only when allied with another, which, therefore, may be

called a higher good. The physical energy for defeat of Ammon lay in

Israel. The gift of Saul turned it all into victory. The same relation is seen

amongst us; e.g. material wealth is a boon not to be despised, often the gift

of God; but for its full development and enjoyment it needs another gift —

health of body and generosity of spirit. Great mental abilities are of God;

the additional gift of a devout, lowly spirit insures their most perfect use.

Home adorned and enriched by all that wealth, art, and domestic affection

can contribute is a precious blessing; yet its joys are more full and varied,

its affections more pure, and its sorrows more endurable, when the higher

blessing of personal religion is supreme there. The external privileges of

religion, free use of the word of God, instruction and care of pious parents,

associations of the sanctuary, entreaties of pastors and friends, are among

the greatest mercies enjoyed by men; yet even these are raised to their

highest value ONLY when the Holy Spirit comes down, like “upper and

nether springs” to water the “south land.”  (Joshua 15:19)

 

  • GOD SOMETIMES EFFECTS HIS PURPOSES AMONG MEN BY

INDIRECT ACTION UPON THEM. In the accomplishment of Divine

purposes, in the physical, mental, or spiritual spheres, a variety of

combinations are often requisite. To the deliverance of Jabesh-Gilead it

was needful to arouse the people as well as the king. It was by the

tremendous energy of the king, aroused by the direct action of the Spirit of

God, that their instant cooperation was secured. The law of indirect action

widely prevails. That the Eternal is in direct, constant, energetic contact

with each being is certain. He “upholds all things by the word of His

power.”  (Hebrews 1:3)  Yet, if language may be so used to indicate a mystery,

the import of His energy on men is not always immediate. The energy of one

spirit acting on another is, so to speak, a refraction of a force originally in

God, and colored by the character of the medium through which it passes.

There are many illustrations of the general truth of indirect action.

 

Ø      In the sphere of mind much is accomplished by powerful intellects

affecting a few with their ideas and feelings, who, being more in contact

with the masses, give forth the truth or the emotion tinged by their own

peculiarities.

 

Ø      In the sphere of spirit, religiously considered, a large proportion of what

we call influence is of this character. Not only do superior Christians act

on a wide area by means of the few who come under their personal

attention, but much of the action of God on the world is THROUGH

HIS PEOPLE.  His light is not seen by many except mediately in the

beautiful lives of the holy. His love acts on the hard heart of man through

the compassion He directly produces in the followers of Christ. Men see

by holy deeds and spiritual achievements that “God is with” His people,

and are thus influenced by God to submit to His blessed sway.

 

  • GENERAL LESSONS:

 

Ø      It should be a matter of serious inquiry how much of our wailing and

fear are the result of a guilty forgetfulness or distrust of God’s readiness

to bless our endeavors.

 

Ø      The Church and the Christian have need to inquire how much of the

non-success of endeavor is due to lack of receptivity for the highest gift

of all, the rich outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

 

12 “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.

13 “And Saul said, There shall not a man be put to death this day: for

to day the LORD hath wrought salvation in Israel.”

The people said unto Samuel. Even after this glorious

victory the people turn to Samuel, and doubtless his presence and influence

had had great weight in gaining obedience to Saul’s command (v. 7).

They now, with the old tumultuous violence, demand’ that those who had

opposed Saul’s election should be put to death. Probably the ringleaders of

Saul’s opponents were some of the elders disappointed at not being chosen

themselves (see on ch. 10:27). But Saul displays, first, the kingly

virtue of clemency, saying, There shall not a man be put to death this

day — a decision politic as well as generous, for bloodshed would have

led only to future feuds; and, secondly, piety, in so humbly ascribing to

Jehovah the salvation that had been wrought in Israel.

 

 

Saul at His Best (vs. 11-13)

 

Self-control, promptitude, courage, capacity, ascription of praise to God,

forbearance towards men, these are all exhibited by the young king. Alas,

that from such heights he fell!

 

  • SELF-CONTROL. Though hailed as king at Mizpah, Saul was in no

haste to assume regal state. He resumed his country life at Gibeah, waiting

till the Lord should call him forth in some emergency to take command of

the army of Israel. In this he followed the example of the judges, who, so

to speak, won their spurs before they wore them — first wrought some

deliverance for their country, and then assumed the government.

 

  • PROMPTITUDE. News of the doom which threatened the town of

Jabesh reached Saul as he returned home from the field, following his oxen

with a farmer’s slow and heavy step. In a moment he was another man, no

more a seeker of asses, or a follower of oxen; but a leader of men, prompt

and resolute. And such energy did he show that in a few days he had rallied

a large army to his standard.

 

  • COURAGE AND CAPACITY. Saul had no time to train or discipline

his forces, but he managed to gain an advantage for them. He lulled the

enemy to security, and then, surprising their camp by night, fell on them

with impetuous fury. So completely were they dispersed that, as the

graphic historian says, “two of them were not left together.”

 

  • ASCRIPTION OF PRAISE TO GOD. After the victory Saul showed

no disposition to vain boasting. Nothing could be better than his Te Deum

laudamus (God we praise you) “Today Jehovah hath wrought salvation

in Israel.”

 

  • FORBEARANCE TOWARDS MEN. Saul was urged by the exultant

people to put to death those who had opposed his elevation; but he would

not have the luster of his victory darkened by such a deed of vengeance,

and, not only ruling his own spirit well, but checking the intolerance of

others, he said, “There shall not a man be put to death this day.”

Yet from this moral elevation Saul miserably fell. He who seemed to be the

rising hope of Israel became one of the most hapless and tragical

personages in all his nation’s history. He who showed at first patience and

self-control became a restless, jealous king. His great fault was willfulness,

leading to the most foolish impatience, and wretched envy. He who

executed his first military exploit so skillfully, and with such complete

success, became notorious for his failures. And, at last, he who had shown

such fearless readiness to set upon the Ammonites was afraid to encounter

the Philistines (ch. 28:5). Not that his natural courage had died

out of him, but the sustaining faith in God WAS GONE!   “God is departed

from me, and answereth me no more.” (ibid. v. 15)  He who was so averse

to shed the blood of disaffected subjects shed the blood of many faithful men,

as of the priests of the Lord, and hurled the javelin from his own hand again

and again at David, the worthiest of all his subjects, hating him without a cause.

 

Ø      The true character of a man will show itself. No veil will cover it; no

prudential consideration can bind it. Sooner or later it will have its way.

 

Ø      The higher the promise of virtue, the greater the momentum of him who

falls from his integrity, the farther he goes into evil.

 

Ø      The path of the willful and proud is one of waning light and thickening

darkness; but “the path of the just is as the shining light, which shines

more and more until the perfect day.”  (Proverbs 4:18)

 

 

Generosity Toward Enemies (vs. 12-13)

 

Some men are subject to noble impulses, under which they rise to a higher

level of thought and feeling than that which they ordinarily occupy. The

difference is sometimes so great that they do not seem to be the same

persons. But the change is transient, and they speedily relapse into their

former state. Their character is one of varying, wayward, and uncertain

moods rather than high, steadfast, and consistent principle. Such a man was

Saul. The impulse under which he spared his enemies after his victory over

the Ammonites (probably due, as other impulses were, to the influence of

Samuel, who may have accompanied him to the battle — vs. 7, 12)

displayed extraordinary magnanimity. The act is the noblest recorded of

him, and stands out in strong relief against the dark background of his

subsequent career. “Saul herein showeth his piety, humanity, wisdom.

Hitherto he declareth himself an innocent man and a good prince; but

afterward he forgot his own rule, when he would have killed Jonathan

(ch. 14:45). This mutability in Saul and changeable nature, in

falling from clemency to cruelty, from piety to profanity, from a good

governor to become a tyrant, doth show that these virtues were not

thoroughly grounded in him, but only superficially infused” (Wallet). Let us

regard him as a pattern of a principle which ought always to be exhibited.

His generosity toward his enemies was shown:

 

  • UNDER STRONG PROVOCATION, arising from:

 

Ø      The recollection of their past conduct towards himself (ch. 10:27). He

could not altogether forget it, and when he was disposed to put

it away from his thoughts, he was reminded of it by others. Nothing is

more provocative of wrath than brooding over the wrongs that have been

received. On the other hand, the surest way to forgive is to forget.

 

Ø      The feeling of natural resentment toward them. “Revenge is sweet,” say

men who are not restrained by Divine wisdom and grace; and they are

especially apt to say it when they have the power to avenge themselves,

and when they persuade themselves that justice and prudence require that

the wrong should not go unpunished. They do require it, doubtless, in

some eases; but how large a place does the desire of gratifying personal

animosity hold in most instances in which men seek to inflict punishment

on others. “Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render

to the man according to his work” (Proverbs 24:29; 20:22).

 

Ø      The urgency of others. Men are only too prone to indulge wrath without

such an incitement, but they are often led by it to go beyond their own

judgment and feeling, and he who, like Saul, overcomes it gains a double

victory. “Thereby he gained another victory;

 

o        over himself — he restrains himself in the exercise of a right;

o        over the anger of those who demanded that justice be executed;

o        over his former opponents, who now clearly see that which, under the

influence of haughty contempt, they had doubted; and

o        over the whole people, who must have been carried along by him in

the path of noble moral conduct, and lifted above themselves to the

height on which he stood” (Erdmann).

 

  • IN A ROYAL MANNER. “There shall not a man be put to death this day.”

 

Ø      Promptly. If he had waited till the morrow his purpose might have

changed. When a generous emotion fills the heart it should be at once

translated into word and deed. First thoughts in things moral, unlike first

thoughts in things intellectual, are always best. Hesitation and delay dim

their brightness and weaken their power.

 

Ø      Decisively. Saul spoke like a king. He refused to stain his laurels with

blood. And whilst he resolved not to punish his enemies, he declared his

determination that none other should punish them. “Where the word of a

king is there is power.”  (Ecclesiastes 8:4)

 

Ø      Completely. “Not a man.” Not a single example was to be made, but his

clemency was to extend to all. In the same royal manner we may and ought

to show mercy. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

                   (Matthew 5:7)

 

  • FROM A PROPER MOTIVE. “For today the Lord hath wrought

salvation in Israel.” “Not only signifying that the public rejoicing should

not be interrupted, but reminding them of the clemency of God, and urging

that since Jehovah had shown such clemency upon that day, that he had

overlooked their sins and given them a glorious victory, it was only right

that they should follow His example and forgive their neighbors’ sins

without bloodshed” (Seb. Schmid). Saul showed:

 

Ø      Regard for the transcendent excellence of mercy. Nothing is more

beautiful or more pleasing to God, and its exercise is necessary that we

may obtain mercy (Matthew 6:15). He is “merciful and gracious.”

“Mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (Proverbs 25:21; Romans

12:19-20; James 2:13.)

 

“It becomes

The throned monarch better than his crown;

His sceptre shows the force of temporal power

The attribute to awe and majesty,

Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;

But mercy is above this sceptred sway;

It is enthroned in the heart of kings,

It is an attribute to God Himself,

And earthly power doth then show likest God’s

When mercy seasons justice”

 (‘Merchant of Venice).

 

To return good for good and evil for evil is natural, to return evil for

good is devilish, but to return good for evil is Divine.

 

Ø      Gratitude for the abounding goodness of God. His hand was fully

recognized in recent victory and deliverance. His kindness to us should

constrain us to be kind to others, and His forgiveness is shown to have

been experienced only when it leads us to forgive (Matthew 18:35).

 

Ø      Desire for the welfare of men. “The Lord hath wrought salvation in

Israel,” to whom these “worthless men” belonged. Even such men are

objects of His forbearance and benevolence. “He maketh His sun to rise

on the evil and on the good” (Matthew 5:45). He does them good, and

thereby seeks to subdue their hostility toward Himself (Ezekiel 33:11).

We ought to exhibit the same spirit, and by doing so we shall promote

the general peace and happiness. “Be ye therefore merciful, even as

 your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

 

 

 

SAUL SOLEMNLY CONSECRATED AS KING (vs. 14-15).

 

14 “Then said Samuel to the people, Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and

renew the kingdom there.” Let us go to Gilgal. The famous sanctuary

(ch. 7:16) of that name, situated lower down, in the Jordan valley, near Jericho.

It was not far from Jabesh-Gilead, and naturally the victorious host would

move from the field of battle to the nearest religious spot to consecrate their king.

 

15 “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.” They made Saul king. This is not to be interpreted,

with the Septuagint, of a second anointing of Saul, but of his confirmation in the

kingdom by the unanimous voice of the nation, whereas the first election of

him at Mizpah had met with opposition. Before Jehovah. I.e. with

religious ceremonies conducted by Samuel and the high priest. The

difference between Saul’s election at Mizpah and the confirmation of it at

Gilgal is much the same as between the first proclamation or’ a king and

his coronation. The latter is the nation’s acknowledgment of his

sovereignty, and the solemn consecration of him to his high office. Peace

offerings were tokens of joy and gratitude, and were followed by a feast.

At this there was great rejoicing, because the king whom they had desired

had so quickly proved himself worthy to be their head.

 

 

The Concurrence of Human and Divine Action (vs. 12-15)

 

The facts are”

 

1. On the completion of the victory over the Ammonites, the supporters of

Saul desire the punishment by death of the “men of Belial” who had reviled him.

 

2. Saul, recognizing the merciful help of God, refuses to mar the joy of

victory by personal retaliation.

 

3. At the invitation of Samuel the people assembled in Gilgal for the

recognition of Saul as victorious king, coupled with thanksgiving to God.

 

To an ordinary observer looking on the conflict between Israel and

Ammon, it would seem to be simply a struggle of men with men. The

preceding vs. (6-11) show that an element more than human entered

into the conflict, and Saul gratefully refers to this in saying’, “Today the

Lord hath wrought salvation in Israel.” The subsequent celebration of

worship by Samuel was a recognition of the same fact.

 

  • IT IS THE CONCURRENCE OF GOD’S ACTION WITH THAT OF

MAN WHICH BRINGS ABOUT RESULTS OF A JOYOUS

CHARACTER. The personal will and muscular and mental energy of Saul,

aided by the cooperating powers of the people, led to the defeat of the

Ammonites. That was the visible human element. But these powers were

set at work and sustained by the action directly on the nature of Saul by

the Spirit of God (v. 6), and indirectly through the awe inspired thereby

on the minds and bodies of the people. The issue, therefore, is to be

ascribed to concurrent action of the human and Divine, the latter partly

direct and partly indirect. In a general way it may be said that all effects

realized by man are by this concurrence of action. For even when they

exercise their power of willing and devising in a wrong direction, it is only

possible in consequence of the energy of God sustaining those powers of

volition and thought. But the more specific sense in which the concurrence

is true may be seen by taking instances.

 

Ø      In the realization of Messianic purposes. The appearance of Christ on

earth was the result of a long double line of action. The descendants of

Abraham freely cherished the hope of Messiah, and by effort of their own

will they contributed, as described in the Old Testament, the human line of

action towards this issue. But all this time, and along with all these acts,

the Spirit of God was at work, making them willing to be a separate

people, controlling events to secure their isolation, inspiring their prophets

with rapt vision of the future, and at last coming on the one honored

among women for the perfecting of all that had been hoped and labored

for (Luke 1:27-35).

 

Ø      In the production of the Bible. In revelation, as a whole, we have a long

train of human events intertwined with a successive manifestation of the

Divine will. The Bible is the record of the combination. This holy Book

itself is what it is, in its historical portions, because human hands gathered

out the selected facts in pursuance of a principle given of God. Moreover,

the devout exercises of human spirits in such portions as the Psalms were

free, yet concurrent with a Divine influence in their initiation; and as also in

the selection of them subsequently for the benefit of mankind.

 

Ø      In the victories achieved by Christianity. The victories of Christianity

have come about by the free effort of individual minds combining under

forms of Church organization. Men have spoken, written, entreated,

sympathized, prayed. Some critics ascribe all success in heathen lands to

sheer force of superior intelligence and moral influence; and in civilized

lands to what of moral excellence there may be in connection with a great

superstition, enforced as this is by a zeal that takes captive the uncritical.

But the solution is that God is a coworker with the Church. The human

and Divine action are concurrent, the one being the vehicle through which

the other operates.

 

4. In the sanctification of the soul. The work to be done before the human

soul can rise to the highest form of life is enormous. Few men consider

what is involved in “entering into the kingdom of heaven” even on earth.

To rise to the life of the “kingdom” means work, conflict, suppression,

elevation, excision, nurture, self-denial, aspiration, ambition, persistence

within a sphere into which only the eye of God can penetrate. Yet all the

expenditure of energy the greatest mind can command is of itself

inadequate. We are conquerors and “more than conquerors through

Christ,” who helpeth us. (Romans 8:37) He worketh within us to will and

to do.” (Philippians 2:13)  In this subtle concurrence of the Divine and human

the highest form of life is realized for the “whole body, soul, and spirit.”

                        (I Thessalonians 5:23)

 

  • IT IS BEFITTING TO SEIZE OCCASION FOR RECOGNISING

GOD’S CONCURRENT ACTION WITH US IN BRINGING GOOD

ISSUES TO PASS. It was fit that Saul should publicly recognize the hand

of God in his first victory. The spontaneity of the act, and the

magnanimous spirit that would not mar the joy of the victory by personal

retaliation on his despisers, indicate that at this period of his history he

possessed some excellent moral qualities, which certainly were

strengthened by this public expression of them. Samuel’s participation in

the common joy was also proof of the good feelings of Saul.

 

Ø      It is good to pause in life’s struggles and consider gratefully our

personal indebtedness to GOD’S POWER working with us. There are

dangers in activity. Absorption in the outgoing of our own energy may

unconsciously induce the belief that by “our own arm” have we gotten the

victory. Occasional reflection of the need and fact of the Power that

worketh all in all”  (I Corinthians 121:6), with deeper dependence on God,

awaken gratitude, give tone to our own exertions, and sustain hope of final

triumph.

 

Ø      It is good in families to seize opportunities for recognizing GOD’S HELP.

The parent whose business has prospered, whose children are being happily

settled in life, whose home has been kept free from great calamities, or

who has come out of severe trials with honor, will do well to remember

who giveth power to be rich, ordereth right paths, sheltereth from “the

destruction that wasteth at noonday” (Psalm 91:6), and raiseth the needy

from the dust, and not be ashamed to let his household know how much

he owes to God.  Such conduct will bear blessed fruit.

 

Ø      It is good for nations to recognize God in signal deliverances. (This we

have historically done, but secularism would that it be not now!  CY – 2016)

God works with and for every nation that loves and seeks righteousness.

National homage is as proper as individual worship. Thanksgiving services

are of Scriptural authority. The precedents are numerous in the Old

Testament. It is no doubt owing solely to the fact that Christianity had not

permeated nations as a whole, when the New Testament was written, that

no precedents are found in its records. Yet the Church as such held special

services for prayer and thanksgiving (Acts 4:23-33). Those who

contend that vigorous human action is the true and only form of homage to

God overlook the fact that there is in good results more than human

action, and that positive acts of worship, in recognition of dependence and

in expression of gratitude, not only pay honor to whom honor is due, but

exercise a beneficial reflex influence on the worshippers. Such acts:

 

o        quicken the public conscience,

o        raise thought to a higher level,

o        nourish the religious feeling,

o        offer excellent occasions and topics for instruction,

o        strengthen the national sentiment,

o        awaken the kindly interest of class for class,

o        call forth the more generous and

o        restrain the harsher impulses of life.

 

It should be a question with individuals and nations as to whether they in

their aims and spirit fulfill the conditions on which alone the concurrent

action of God can proceed.

 

 

Saul’s First Victory (vs. 1-15)

 

Although Saul had been privately anointed and publicly chosen king, he did

not immediately assume royal state. Guided, doubtless, by the counsel of

Samuel, and perceiving from the disaffection of certain men (ch. 10:27)

that the nation was not yet quite prepared for the change, he did not

deem it prudent to do so. Returning to his former mode of life at Gibeah

(v. 5), he awaited some further indication of his call to be “captain over

the Lord’s inheritance.” “Nothing but true, royal action for the welfare of

the state, alike bravely undertaken and firmly carried out at the right

moment, could win for him that real deference, that joyful, voluntary

cooperation for state purposes from all his subjects, without which his

sovereignty must ever remain most feeble and equivocal” (Ewald). It was

not long (“a month,” Septuagint) before the opportunity for such action

occurred. He proved himself equal to the occasion, and his patience was

justified and rewarded. His position as a military leader was fully

vindicated by the result, and his sovereignty was heartily recognized by all

the people. This is the chief historical significance of his warlike enterprise

or campaign against the Ammonites for the relief of Jabesh-Gilead.

Observe that it was:

 

  • UNDERTAKEN IN A RIGHTEOUS CAUSE (vs. 1-4). If ever war is

justifiable (and it seems impossible that it should be altogether avoided), it

is when undertaken, as in this case:

 

Ø      To repel hostile aggression. The Ammonites were old enemies

(Deuteronomy 2:19; 23:3-4; Judges 3:13; 10:7; 11:5). They were

a nomadic, predatory, cruel, and idolatrous people. For some time Nahash,

animated by the desire of war and conquest, “the malady of princes,” had

assumed a threatening attitude (ch.12:12), and now laid siege to

the capital of Gilead, a part of the Israelitish territory belonging to the

half-tribe of Manasseh, beyond the Jordan. His aggression was:

 

o        Without adequate ground. He probably revived a claim previously

asserted and refuted (Judges 11:12-15). But men readily find pretexts

for a course to which they are disposed. “From whence come wars?”

(James 4:1).

o        Revengeful. He wished to avenge the defeat long before inflicted by

Jephthah. Hatred between nations tends to perpetuate itself, and to

become intensified; and successes in war often sow “dragon’s teeth”

that produce a subsequent harvest of strife and misery.

o       Proud, boastful, and cruel (v. 2).

 

Ø      To aid imperiled brethren. Between the people of Jabesh and the

Benjamites, especially, there was an intimate connection (Judges 21:12-

14). Their condition was now degraded, fearful, wretched; and although it

was due to their want of patriotism, faith, and courage, yet it did not

deprive them of a claim upon the sympathy of their brethren, but was a

powerful appeal to their compassion. The appeal of the poor, the

oppressed, the slave cannot be unheeded without sin (Proverbs 24:11-12).

 

Ø      To avert a common danger. The siege of Jabesh was evidently intended

as the first step in an attack upon all Israel. The distress of the people of

Gibeah arose not merely from sympathy with their brethren, but also from

fear for themselves, and a sense of helplessness against so powerful an

adversary. Saul’s enterprise was thus one of self-defense.

 

Ø      To maintain the Divine honor. The Ammonites worshipped Moloch

(Molech, or Milcom), “the abomination of the children of Ammon

(I Kings 11:7), and sought his honor in opposition to that of Jehovah. It was

a part of the calling of Israel to extirpate idolatry, and it was commanded

them concerning the Ammonites, “Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their

prosperity all thy days forever” (Deuteronomy 23:6). In their wars with

the heathen they acted under a Divine commission. The religious wars

which have been waged under the Christian dispensation have sometimes

been undertaken from lofty motives, but they have not had the same

justification, and the honor of God ought to be sought by other and more

effectual means.

 

  • WAGED WITH HOLY ENTHUSIASM (vs. 5-11). Enthusiasm:

God in us. It was:

 

Ø      Inspired by the Divine Spirit. On returning from the field, and learning

the cause of the people’s distress, “the Spirit of God came upon Saul,

and.his anger was kindled greatly.” There is an anger which is not sinful

(Mark 3:5; Ephesians 4:26). The feeling of resentment is a weapon put into

our hands by God against injury, injustice, and cruelty of every kind.

 

o        The anger of Saul was incited by the same spirit as previously

constrained him to utter Divine praises.

o        It was a feeling of wrath and burning zeal against wrong.

o        It was directed towards the welfare of his people and the honor of

God.

o        It qualified him for a great enterprise; led him to assume the leadership

of the nation to which he had been appointed, and to summon the

tribes to rally around him. The gifts of the Spirit of God are various,

and adapted to the requirements of the age.

 

Ø      Shared in by all the people.

 

o        “The fear of Jehovah fell on the people,” i.e. a fear inspired by Him.

“In Saul’s energetic appeal the people discerned the power of Jehovah,

which inspired them with fear and impelled them to immediate

obedience” (Keil).  That power is able to fill a whole nation, as well

as an individual, with new emotions and impulses.

o        Under its influence “they came out as one man” (with one consent).

o        Mustered under the leadership of Saul in Bezek, near to Bethshan.

A common danger often draws men into closer union and cooperation

than peace and prosperity.

 

Ø      Expressed in a confident assurance of help. “Tomorrow, by the time the

sun be hot, ye shall have help” (v. 9). Faith looks upon that which is

believed as if it were already an accomplished fact.

 

Ø      Manifested in energetic action. His promise was not in words merely,

but was followed up by deeds (v. 11). “It was night when Saul and the

armed multitude which followed him broke up from Bezek. Little did he

know how well the brave men of Jabesh would requite the service

(ch. 31:8-13). Strange that Saul’s first march should have been by night

from Bethshan to Jabesh, the same route by which at the last they carried

his dead body at night” (Edersheim).

 

  • ATTENDED WITH EXTRAORDINARY SUCCESS.

 

Ø      The defeat of the enemy — sudden, unexpected, and complete. “Two of

them were not left together,” and their king, Nahash, was slain (Josephus).

“Those that walk in pride He is able to abase” (Daniel 4:37).

 

Ø      The deliverance of the oppressed, who were not afterwards wanting in

gratitude or courage.

 

Ø      The cessation of disaffection (vs. 12-13).

 

Ø      The united and joyful devotion of all Israel (vs. 14-15).

 

  • Observe:

 

1. We have other enemies to encounter than those of flesh and blood

    (Ephesians 6:12).

2. We must contend against them not simply for our own safety, but for the

    good of our fellow men.

3. It is only by the help of the Lord that we can prevail.

 

 

 

 

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