Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Then Nahash the Ammonite came up--Nahash ("serpent"); (see
The Ammonites had long claimed the right of original possession in
Gilead. Though repressed by Jephthah
they now, after ninety years, renew their pretensions; and it was the
report of their threatened invasion that hastened the appointment of a
Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee--They saw no prospect
of aid from the western Israelites, who were not only remote, but
scarcely able to repel the incursions of the Philistines from
2. thrust out all your right eyes--literally, "scoop" or "hollow out"
the ball. This barbarous mutilation is the usual punishment of usurpers
in the East, inflicted on chiefs; sometimes, also, even in modern
history, on the whole male population of a town. Nahash meant to keep
the Jabeshites useful as tributaries, whence he did not wish to render
them wholly blind, but only to deprive them of their right eye, which
would disqualify them for war. Besides, his object was, through the
people of Jabesh-gilead, to insult the Israelitish nation.
3, 4. send messengers unto all the coasts of Israel--a curious proof
of the general dissatisfaction that prevailed as to the appointment of
Saul. Those Gileadites deemed him capable neither of advising nor
succoring them; and even in his own town the appeal was made to the
people--not to the prince.
7. he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces--(see
This particular form of war-summons was suited to the character and
habits of an agricultural and pastoral people. Solemn in itself, the
denunciation that accompanied it carried a terrible threat to those
that neglected to obey it. Saul conjoins the name of Samuel with his
own, to lend the greater influence to the measure, and to strike
greater terror unto all contemners of the order. The small contingent
furnished by Judah suggests that the disaffection to Saul was strongest
in that tribe.
8. Bezek--This place of general muster was not far from Shechem, on
the road to Beth-shan, and nearly opposite the ford for crossing to
Jabesh-gilead. The great number on the muster-roll showed the effect of
Saul's wisdom and promptitude.
11. on the morrow, that Saul put the people in three
companies--Crossing the Jordan in the evening, Saul marched his
army all night, and came at daybreak on the camp of the Ammonites, who
were surprised in three different parts, and totally routed. This
happened before the seven days' truce expired.
12-15. the people said . . ., Who is he that said, Shall Saul reign
over us?--The enthusiastic admiration of the people, under the
impulse of grateful and generous feelings, would have dealt summary
vengeance on the minority who opposed Saul, had not he, either from
principle or policy, shown himself as great in clemency as in valor.
The calm and sagacious counsel of Samuel directed the popular feelings
into a right channel, by appointing a general assembly of the militia,
the really effective force of the nation, at Gilgal, where, amid great
pomp and religious solemnities, the victorious leader was confirmed in