Sunday, November 25, 2012

XCI - l Samuel 11 - Saul and the Ammonites

In the last post we saw where Saul kept silent when he could have taken to task his critics.  He decided to wait on a situation more solidifying to both his kingship and the nation Israel.  In this chapter 11, he gets just the right opportunity.

{I don't often do this, but I will write the words prior to verse 1 that are from the Masoretic Text: Dead Sea Scrolls .....}  "Now Nahash king of the Ammonites oppressed the Gadites and Reubenites severely.  He gouged out all their right eyes and struck terror and dread in Israel.  Not a man remained among the Israelites beyond the Jordan whose right eye was not gouged out by Nahash king of the Ammonites, except that seven thousand men fled from the Ammonites and entered Jabesh Gilead.  About a month later"........ (then verse 1 from NIV begins).....Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead.  And all the men of Jabesh said to him, "Make a treaty with us, and we will be subject to you."  {Get the picture?  The Gadites and Ruebenites on the east side of the Jordan had come under subjection and servitude to this cruel tyrant.  As Israel weakened itself by rejecting God's statutes, Gad and Reuben were especially vulnerable to outside aggression due to them being isolated on the east side of the Jordan River in an increasingly hostile territory.  Their cousins on the west side of the Jordan at least had the proximity of each other for protection.  Also, the Masoratic Text tells us of the level of cruelty and barbarianism that was not uncommon among the pagans of that day.  The Gadites and Ruebenites must have lived under fear constantly.  No wonder the Philistines took the attitude toward war that they had adopted and perfected.  We must realize that the Canaanites fought with each other mostly for territory or displays of military might.  But remember, the Israelites were considered the invaders, squaters, and occupiers of territories that were settled by the Canaanites generations earlier.   Sound familiar?  This made them the primary targets of aggression.}  In verse 2 it shows how Nahash would not be satisfied with making that city subject to him.  He wanted to totaly humiliate the Israelites by gouging the right eyes out of those eyes out of rest of those in the east part of the Jordan River.  The elders of Jabesh Gilead begged for seven days, saying that they would submit to Nahash on his terms if noone came to their rescue.  Evidently Nahash was so confident of his might that he was certain that no Israelites would dare cross the river to engage battle with him and his well trained and experienced  army.  He even allowed messengers to be sent out to solicit help.  He wasn't worried a bit.

But in verse 4 the word of this reached Saul.  {Bear in mind that Saul had not even established any kind of government or anything else one would expect a king to do.  I believe we must assume that Saul was waiting on God to guide his next move.}  Nahash could not imagine what he was dealing with.  This was Saul's opportunity for several things:  To show his authority as the newly crowned king; to show his ability to gather forces to rally around him; to show that he cares beyond his own family, clan, and tribe; to show that he has the ability to be a military leader, to show that he intends to rid Israel of ALL oppressors.  This situation was perfect for Saul.  Now was his time.

Vss 6-->  When Saul learned of the situation at Jabesh-Gilead, the Spirit of God came upon him and he burned with anger.  {There are times when anger is a good thing.  We should always try to "tame and suppress" our anger, but we need to forgive ourselves when a situation just won't allow us to rid ourselves of anger just because we want to.}  God's Spirit is an energizing force.  It allows one to accomplish extraordinary feats.  In Saul's case, it had the added effect of provoking intense anger.  Saul knew he had very little time, so he immediately came up with and implemented a plan.  He cut up two oxen and sent the pieces all around Israel, with the message that he wanted soldiers to go to battle with him, and if anyone did not respond he would do to their oxen and livestock what he did to these.  The response was overwhelming.  Over three hundred thousand men, ready for war, came from Israel and another thirty thousand from the tribe of Judah.  {Note:  This is the first mention in the Scripture where Judah and the rest of Israel are mentioned separately.  It sounds like they are two different nations.  We'll see later in our study that this will become the norm after the reign of Soloman.}  Then Saul sent the messengers from Jabesh-Gilead back with the message that they would be rescued "by the time the sun is hot tomorrow".  {I think this is the sixth day.  It's not easy moving 330,000 men across the Jordan River to Jabesh-Gilead in such a short time.  That's why he traveled all night.}  He also told the messengers to tell the city elders to tell Nahash that they would surrender to him tomorrow.  Saul wanted Nahash to relax and concern himself no further of the possibility of any help coming.  In verse 11 Saul divided his army into three groups.  It does not tell what the three groups did individually.  They probably attacked from three directions.  Anyway, they attacked the Ammonites during the last watch.  {The last watch was between 2:00 am and sunrise.}  Saul and his army slaughtered the Ammonites on into the heat of the afternoon.  It was a total annihilation, to the point that no two men were left together as they scattered for their lives.

Vss 12-15  -  The word of this spread quickly through all of Israel.  Nothing like this had happened during this generation.  Suddenly there was hope in Israel.  Their loyalty to Saul as their new king was without comprimise.  Remember those men who would not accept Saul as king and made snide remarks?  The Israelites remembered them.  In vs 12 we see that the citizens of Israel wanted to put these men to death, but we see another one of Saul's leadership abilities in verse 13 when he said, "No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel".  Saul just keeps getting stronger.

Samuel realized the advantages associated with the victory over the Ammonites.  He saw that the time was right for enlisting the people's total support for Saul.  He instructed the people to gather at Gilgal and "renew the kingdom there".  So all the leaders and other representatives went to Gilgal and unanimously recognized Saul as their new king.  The occassion was celibrated with sacrifices and a great feast.  A new era in the nation of Israel has begun.

Next post  -  Samuel's Farewell

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