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1 Samuel 11-13
Jabesh-Gilead (i.e. Jabesh in Gilead) was an Israelite town, of the half tribe of Manasseh, east of The Jordan River. The eastern tribal territories were in effect a buffer between the heartland of Israel, west of the Jordan, and the many eastern nations that often went to war with Israel. It was inevitable that the east of the Jordan Israelite tribal territory would be first up in any war because they were the frontier to the east. The territory of Ammon was in much of what is today the Kingdom of Jordan - their modern-day capital city even has the same name, Amman (i.e. Ammon).
"Then Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh-gilead; and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, "Make a treaty with us, and we will serve you." But Nahash the Ammonite said to them, "On this condition I will make a treaty with you, that I gouge out all your right eyes, and thus put disgrace upon all Israel."
The Ammonite demand that the Israelites gouge out one of their own eyes was an outrage, and the fact that some of the Israelites even considered doing it to themselves was even more outrageous. Saul, and The Holy Spirit, responded appropriately.
"And the Spirit of God came mightily upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled. He took a yoke of oxen, and cut them in pieces and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hand of messengers, saying, "Whoever does not come out after Saul and Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen!" Then the dread of The Lord fell upon the people, and they came out as one man. When he mustered them at Bezek, the men of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand. And they said to the messengers who had come, "Thus shall you say to the men of Jabesh-gilead: 'Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you shall have deliverance.'" When the messengers came and told the men of Jabesh, they were glad." (1 Samuel 11:6-9 RSV)
Saul led Israel to victory, for The Lord i.e. "for today The Lord has wrought deliverance in Israel." Saul also seemed to be capable of making wise decisions, occasionally - he refused to kill fellow Israelites because they didn't "vote" for him (see Royal Democracy).
"And on the morrow Saul put the people in three companies; and they came into the midst of the camp in the morning watch, and cut down the Ammonites until the heat of the day; and those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.
1 Samuel Chapter 12
Samuel's time of service was nearing an end. He had served The Lord well, but without making himself anything more than a servant to the actual Leader of Israel, The Lord. Samuel knew that a choosing a human king in place of The Lord was a mistake. All that Israel ever had to do was to obey the invincible King that they already had from the beginning.
"If you will fear The Lord and serve him and hearken to his voice and not rebel against the commandment of The Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow The Lord your God, it will be well; but if you will not hearken to the voice of The Lord, but rebel against the commandment of The Lord, then the hand of The Lord will be against you and your king. Now therefore stand still and see this great thing, which The Lord will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon The Lord, that he may send thunder and rain; and you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of The Lord, in asking for yourselves a king." (1 Samuel 12:14-17 RSV)
Samuel's last warning - only The Lord can save you.
"So Samuel called upon The Lord, and The Lord sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared The Lord and Samuel.
1 Samuel Chapter 13
Saul was a good warrior, but his wisdom was shallow. After his military success, The Lord's military success, against the Philistines, Saul began to view himself as the deliverer of Israel, rather than a mere servant of the Deliverer of Israel (the same sort of mistake that cost Moses entry into the physical promised land - see Why Did Christ Put Moses To Death?). When faced with a very large enemy force of armored cavalry (30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen and "troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude"), Saul lost his courage, rather than simply counting on The Lord to deal with them, as He had been already doing. Saul waited for Samuel, when he should have waited on The Lord, as The Lord told him to do.
"And the Philistines mustered to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude; they came up and encamped in Michmash, to the east of Beth-aven. When the men of Israel saw that they were in straits, for the people were hard pressed, the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns, or crossed the fords of the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, "Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings." And he offered the burnt offering. As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him and salute him." (1 Samuel 13:5-10 RSV)
When Samuel arrived, it was obvious what Saul had done. It was the first of a series of faithless blunders that Saul would make in the next few years.
"And Samuel said to Saul, "You have done foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of The Lord your God, which he commanded you; for now The Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel for ever. But now your kingdom shall not continue; The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart; and The Lord has appointed him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what The Lord commanded you." (1 Samuel 13:13-14 RSV)
Fact Finder: Who would eventually replace Saul as king of Israel? Did it take a civil war to finally settle the succession between Saul of Benjamin and David of Judah?