SynopsisThis passage begins with the Ammonites beseiging an Israelite city, Jabesh Gilead. The Israelites tell the Ammonites that they will surrender to them, and become subject to them, but the Ammonite ruler, Nahash, adds a rather unattractive condition to the offer: He tells the Israelites that he’ll accept their surrender, but only on the condition that he will gouge out the right eye of every single person in the city, thus bringing disgrace on Israel.
This isn’t exactly acceptable to the Israelites, but they know that they can’t beat the Ammonites. So they ask for seven days, to send messengers to the rest of Israel asking for help. If nobody responds in that time, they’ll accept Nahash’s terms. Strangely enough, although the passage doesn’t say that Nahash agrees to this, the messengers are sent out. I guess he’s confident enough in his army that he’s not worried about more Israelites showing up.
When the messengers get to Gibeah, where Saul lives, and report the situation in Jabesh Gilead, the people burst into tears. But when Saul himself hears it, the Spirit of God comes on him, and he burns with anger (verse 6). He takes a pair of oxen, cuts them into pieces, and sends the pieces to the rest of Israel, with the message that anyone who doesn’t follow him and Samuel will also be cut into pieces. The “terror of the LORD” (verse 7) falls on the Israelites, and they all turn out for battle. The army they raise is three hundred thousand Israelites, plus thirty thousand men from Judah.
They send the messengers back to Jabesh Gilead, and tell them that by tomorrow afternoon, they’ll be saved from the Ammonites. So the messengers return with this word, and the people of Jabesh Gilead are “elated” (verse 9). Interestingly, though, they now seem to toy with the Ammonites—or maybe they’re just trying to buy time.
They said to the Ammonites, “Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you can do to us whatever seems good to you.” (verse 10)
The next day (or that night, I’m not completely sure), Saul and his men attack the Ammonites, and slaughter them. There are few survivors left, and those who do survive are so scattered that no two of them are left together (verse 11).
ThoughtsI don’t know why the Israelite troops are broken down into Israelites and Judahites. (Is that the right term for the people of Judah?) At this time, the nation is still just one nation, Israel, not two nations of Israel and Judah.
But other than that, I don’t have much in the way of thoughts on this passage. Which is strange, since it’s so action-packed.