1 Samuel 11


Saul Saves Jabesh-gilead from Destruction

          • The ESV Archaeology Study Bible notes the existence of some additional material for 1 Samuel 11 that was discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Remember, the DSS preserve a manuscript tradition that pre-dates the Masoretic text by about 1,000 years, therefore should be seriously considered:

          • One manuscript from the Dead Sea Scrolls preserves a longer version of 1 Sam. 11:1-3 introducing the following episode concerning Israel’s troubles with Nahash the Ammonite. The NAB, NEB, and NRSV, following the ancient Jewish historian Josephus (Jewish Antiquities 6.68-71), adopt the longer reading, inserting the additional text before 11:1: ‘Now Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had been grievously oppressing the Gadites and the Reubenites. He would gouge out the right eye of each of them and would not grant Israel a deliverer. No one was left of the Israelites across the Jordan whose right eye Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had not gouged out. But there were seven thousand men who had escaped from the Ammonites and had entered Jabesh-gilead’ (10:27b, NRSV)…the KJV, NASB, NIV, and ESV reflect the shorter reading preserved in the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint.”

          • NET Bible’s text critical notes provide this discussion of the potential authenticity of the material:

          • 4QSam and Josephus (Ant. 6.68-71) attest to a longer form of text at this point. The addition explains Nahash’s practice of enemy mutilation, and by so doing provides a smoother transition to the following paragraph than is found in the MT…The variations may be explained as scribal errors due to homoioteleuton, in which case the scribe jumps from one word to another word with a similar ending later in the text. If the reading in 4QSam is correct, then perhaps the scribe of the MT skipped from the phrase…(vayhi k makharish) at the end of 1 Sam 10:27, which should possibly be…(vayhi kmo kheresh), and picked up after the phrase…(vayhi kmo khodesh, ‘it happened about a month later…’). Interestingly 4QSam itself involves a case of homoioteleuton in this passage. The scribe first skipped from one case of…(Gilʿad, ‘Gilead’) to another, then inserted the missing 10 words between the lines of the 4QSam text. The fact that the scribe made a mistake of this sort and then corrected it supports the idea that he was copying from a source that had these verses in it. Also the 4QSam text first introduces Nahash with his full title, which is a better match to normal style… Though the external evidence for the additional material is limited, the internal evidence is strong.”

        • Nahash the Ammonite went up and laid seige to Jabesh-gilead, and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Make a treaty with us and we’ll serve you.”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “According to Gen. 19:30-38, the Ammonites were descendants of Abraham’s nephew, Lot. They settled in Transjordan and established their capital at Rabbah or Rabbath Ammon (modern Amman, Jordan). Excavations of Ammonite-era Rabbath Ammon reveal a massive defensive wall dating to the Iron Age and a palace from the seventh century BC. Remains of a plastered floor, delicately carved Phoenician ivories, glass jewelry, bits of lapis lazuli, and several carved heads of the goddess Hathor were found in the palace…Despite their common ancestry through Abraham, the Ammonites fought alongside the Amalekites and the Philistines in wars against Israel.”

        • But Nahash the Ammonite replied, “I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye of each one of you, therefore bringing disgrace on all Israel.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes, “…In the case before us, the Ammonite king’s intention was certainly to humiliate the Jabesh Gileadites, but also, it seems likely, to render the fighting men ineffectual in battle. As Josephus (who was a successful general before he became a historian) explains, ‘Since the left eye was covered by the buckler’ (i.e., the shield), blinding the right would render the warriors ‘utterly unserviceable’ (Antiquities 6.68-72). Right-handed warriors (the majority) would be able to see very little in battle, unless they were willing to lower their shields or literally stick their necks out. In any case, with only one eye, they would lack depth perception and thus be at a severe disadvantage in hand-to-hand combat. Sparing the left eye would leave them capable of agricultural work and menial tasks, but little else.”

        • The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days to send messengers throughout Israel. If no one comes to save us we will surrender to you.”

        • When the messengers came to Gibeah, where Saul lived, and reported these terms to the people they all wept loudly. Just then Saul returned from the field behind his oxen and he asked, “What is wrong with everyone? Why are they weeping?” Then they told him what the men of Jabesh had said.

          • Guzik says, “This is the humility of the king of Israel. Saul was already anointed and recognized as king, yet in a sense there was nothing for him to do. He really didn’t know where to begin when it came to setting up a royal court and a bureaucracy and Israel never had one before. So, he just went back home, went to work in the field and figured God would tell him what to do when the time was right…This also shows there was no established system of government in Israel. Otherwise, the king would be the first to know of the threat against Jabesh instead of hearing the news second or third hand.”

        • When Saul heard these words the Spirit of God rushed upon him and he burned with anger. He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent them throughout Israel by messengers who proclaimed, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who doesn’t come out after Saul and Samuel!” Then the fear of Yahweh fell upon all the people and they came out together as one.

          • ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “The act recalls the events of Judg. 19:29, where a deceased concubine is dismembered and the pieces sent out to the tribes of Israel as a call to arms…”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “The intent is to evoke a strong reaction, reinforced by the threat that those who do not respond may suffer similar treatment…”

        • When he mustered them together at Bezek, there were 300,000 men from Israel and 30,000 men from Judah.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Bezek was about fourteen miles west of Jabesh-gilead. The narrator’s use of the terms Israel and Judah anticipates the later division of the kingdom (1 Kgs 12).”

        • Again, we have a discrepancy with numbers which the HCSB discusses, “Did Saul’s fighting force in the battle against Nahash the Ammonite number a few thousand men, 330,000, or 670,000? Many recent scholars argue that Israel’s population at the time was too small to support an army of more than a few thousand men. The Septuagint…states that a total of 670,000 men were mustered for the conflict. The Hebrew text provides the number 330,000. This is about half the total of men counted in the military census Moses had taken 400 years earlier (see Nm 1:46), and probably represents the one supplied by the original writer.”

        • And they said to the messengers who had come, “Tell the men of Jabesh-gilead: You will be rescued by the time the sun is hot tomorrow.” When the messengers told the men of Jabesh, they were glad. So, the men of Jabesh told the Ammonites, “We will surrender to you tomorrow and you can do whatever you want to us.”

        • Guzik writes, “Here they deceived Nahash. They spoke as if they would surrender to Nahash, so that his army would be unprepared for battle.”

        • The next day Saul divided his men into three companies. They invaded the Ammonite camp during the morning watch and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were so scattered that no two of them were left together.

Saul Confirmed as King

        • Then the people said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Will Saul reign over us?’ Turn those men over to us so we can put them to death.” But Saul said, “No one will be put to death today because Yahweh has provided deliverance today in Israel.”

        • Guzik says, “In 1 Samuel 11:3, the men of Jabesh Gilead wondered if there was one to save us. Saul was the man the LORD raised up to bring the victory, yet Saul himself knew that the LORD has accomplished salvation in Israel. It was the LORD who did the saving and Saul was humble enough to know it. At this moment of victory, it was all the more tempting to take the credit for himself.”

        • Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let’s go to Gilgal and renew the kingship there.” So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of Yahweh. They sacrificed peace offerings before Yahweh there and Saul and all the Israelites rejoiced greatly.

        • Guzik writes, “It wasn’t that Saul was not king before this. He was anointed as king by Samuel (1 Samuel 10:1) and recognized by king by much of the nation of Israel (1 Samuel 10:24). Yet there was a sense in which Saul was not king until virtually all the nation recognized him as king, and here that recognition was given.”