1 Samuel 11:1
Then Nahash the Ammonite came up, and encamped against Jabeshgilead: and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, Make a covenant with us, and we will serve you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) Nahash the Ammonite.—Nahash was king of the children of Ammon (see 1Samuel 12:12). This royal family was in some way related to David (see 2Samuel 17:25; 1Chronicles 2:16-17). At the time of David’s exile owing to the rebellion of Absalom, a son of Nahash the Ammonite is specially mentioned as showing kindness to the fugitive king. Jabesh-gilead was a city situated in Northern Gilead, in the territory assigned to Manasseh. Josephus states that it was the capital of the country of Gilead. The Ammonites were a kindred race to the Moabites, being descended from the same ancestor, the patriarch Lot. They asserted that a portion of their territory had been taken from them by Israel, and in the days of the judges sorely harassed the people. The Judge Jephthah attacked and defeated them with great slaughter.

It was, no doubt, to avenge the disgrace they had suffered at the hands of Jephthah that their warlike monarch, Nahash,—deeming the opportunity a favourable one, owing to the old age of the reigning judge, Samuel,—invaded the Israelitic country bordering upon his kingdom, and besieged the city of Jabesh-gilead.

Make a covenant with us.—The citizens of Jabesh-gilead, feeling their isolation and comparative remoteness from the chief centre of the people, were willing to pay a tribute to the Ammonite king, and made him overtures to this effect.

1 Samuel 11:1. Then — That is, about that time; for that this happened before, and was the occasion of their desire of a king, may seem from 1 Samuel 12:12; although it is possible that Nahash’s preparation might cause that desire, and that he did not actually come till their king was chosen. Will serve — The occasion of this offer was, that they saw no likelihood of relief from their brethren in Canaan.11:1-11 The first fruit of Saul's government was the rescue of Jabesh-gilead from the Ammonites. To save their lives, men will part with liberty, and even consent to have their eyes put out; is it then no wisdom to part with that sin which is as dear to us as our right eye, rather than to be cast into hell-fire? See the faith and confidence of Saul, and, grounded thereon, his courage and resolution. See also his activity in this business. When the Spirit of the Lord comes upon men, it will make them expert, even without experience. When zeal for the glory of God, and love for the brethren, urge men to earnest efforts, and when God is pleased to help, great effects may speedily be produced.Nahash was king of the children of Ammon, as appears from 1 Samuel 12:12. He seems to have been connected with the family of David, since Abigail, David's sister, was "the daughter (perhaps granddaughter) of Nahash" 2 Samuel 17:25; 1 Chronicles 2:16-17; and, perhaps, in consequence of this connection, he and his family were very friendly to David 2 Samuel 17:27.

Jabesh-Gilead must have been re-populated after its destruction (see marginal reference). The Ammonites and Moabites resented the possession of Gilead by the Israelites Judges 10:6-18; 11.

CHAPTER 11

1Sa 11:1-4. Nahash Offers Them of Jabesh-gilead a Reproachful Condition.

1. Then Nahash the Ammonite came up—Nahash ("serpent"); (see Jud 8:3). The Ammonites had long claimed the right of original possession in Gilead. Though repressed by Jephthah (Jud 11:33), they now, after ninety years, renew their pretensions; and it was the report of their threatened invasion that hastened the appointment of a king (1Sa 12:12).

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 themselves.Nahash besiegeth them of Jabesh-gilead; offereth them a reproachful condition; they have seven days granted them to consult and seek relief; they send messengers to Saul, 1 Samuel 11:1-5. He is provoked; sends messengers to all the Israelites to come in to their help; they come to the number of three hundred and thirty thousand men, 1 Samuel 11:6-8. He sends word to the besieged, who deceive Nahash; who with his army is slain, 1 Samuel 11:9-11. The people are ready to slay Saul’s enemies; in which he opposeth them: he is invested in the kingdom at Gilgal, 1 Samuel 11:12-15.

Then, i.e. about that time; this particle being used in some latitude, as is frequent; for that this happened before, and was the occasion of their desire of a king, may seem from 1 Samuel 12:12; although it is possible that Nahash’s preparation, and declared intention of warring against them, might cause that desire, and that Nahash did not actually come against them (which is here related) till their king was chosen.

Nahash the Ammonite; either the same with him, 2 Samuel 10:2, or his father and predecessor.

Came up to war, probably to revenge and to recover their former great loss by Jephthah, Judges 11:33. Jabesh-gilead was beyond Jordan, and near the Ammonites, who dwelt in part of Arabia.

Make a covenant with us, to wit, upon good conditions, so as we shall enjoy our religion and properties.

We will serve thee; in other things we will be thy subjects and tributaries. The occasion of this offer was, that they saw no likelihood of relief from their brethren the Israelites in Canaan, who were remote from them, and then weak and divided, and scarce able to defend themselves from the Philistines.

Then Nahash the Ammonite came up, and encamped against Jabeshgilead,.... A month after, as in the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions, that is, a month after Saul was chosen king; so Josephus (p): this prince was preparing for war against Israel before, which they hearing of, requested they might have a king to go before them in battle, 1 Samuel 12:12 but now he actually marched from his own country, and besieged Jabeshgilead, a city in the land of Gilead, from whence it had its name, and lay in the half tribe of Manasseh, on the other side Jordan, see Judges 21:8. It lay near to the Ammonites, and was part of the country they laid claim to in the times of Jephthah, which they now renewed, and attempted to gain it by force. This Nahash was king of the Ammonites, as he is called in the Targum, and by Josephus (q), and so in the Arabic version, see 1 Samuel 12:12.

and all the men of Jabeshgilead said unto Nahash, make a covenant with us; they desired to be his allies and confederates, live in peace and friendship with him, and enjoy their religion and liberties on certain conditions they were willing to come into; and this was the sense of them all, or at least the greatest part, which showed a mean and abject spirit in them, to make no defence of themselves, but as soon as besieged to move for a capitulation. This doubtless arose from a sense of their weakness, not being able to hold it out long, and from an apprehension that their brethren the Israelites, on the other side Jordan, could give them no assistance, being in an unsettled condition, having chosen a king, and he scarcely on the throne, and the Philistines having great power over them:

and we will serve thee; not as slaves, but as tributaries; they were willing to pay a yearly tax to him.

(p) Antiqu. l. 6. c. 5. sect. 1.((q) Ibid.

Then Nahash the Ammonite {a} came up, and encamped against Jabeshgilead: and all the men of Jabesh said unto Nahash, Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee.

(a) After that Saul was chosen king: for fear of whom they asked a king, as in 1Sa 12:12.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Ch. 1 Samuel 11:1-11. Saul’s victory over the Ammonites

1. Then] Simply And. There is nothing in the Hebrew text to mark whether the interval was long or short. The Sept. however omits the words “But he held his peace” at the close of ch. 10, and begins this chapter “And it came to pass after about a month that Nahash, &c.” This rendering represents a very slight variation in the consonants of the Hebrew text, and possibly preserves the original reading. At any rate we may gather from ch. 1 Samuel 12:12 that an Ammonite attack was threatened before Saul’s election, and probably the actual invasion took place not long after.

Nahash] The king of the Ammonites (ch. 1 Samuel 12:12). This Nahash can hardly have been the Nahash who “shewed kindness to David” during his wanderings (2 Samuel 10:2), but probably his father or grandfather. According to Josephus he was slain in the battle.

the Ammonite] South and East of the Israelite settlements on the Eastern side of the Jordan dwelt the powerful tribes of the Ammonites and Moabites. The limits of their respective territories cannot be exactly defined, but the Ammonites appear to have lived north and the Moabites south of the Arnon. The Ammonites were a fierce marauding tribe: the Moabites a settled and civilised nation. United by the tie of common descent from Lot, they were generally in alliance against Israel. Twice during the period of the Judges they “oppressed Israel” (Jdg 3:12-14; Jdg 10:11), and even crossed the Jordan and occupied Jericho (1 Samuel 3:13, 1 Samuel 10:9). After their defeat by Jephthah, the Ammonites are not mentioned until the present occasion. During the early part of David’s reign they were on friendly terms with him, but the studied insult offered by Hanun to his ambassadors (2 Samuel 10:1 ff.) led to a war which resulted in the capture of their metropolis Rabbah (2 Samuel 12:26). In the reign of Jehoshaphat they once more invaded Judah in conjunction with the Moabites (2 Chronicles 20), but were signally defeated, and became tributary to Uzziah and Jotham (2 Chronicles 26:8; 2 Chronicles 27:5). Even after the Return their old hostility survived (Nehemiah 4:7-8). Judas Maccabaeus found them “a mighty power,” and “fought many battles with them until at length they were discomfited before him” (1Ma 5:6-7).

Jabesh-Gilead] i.e. Jabesh in Gilead, the extensive district lying immediately E. of the Jordan between Bashan on the N. and Moab and Ammon on the S. and S. E. To the southern portion of this district the Ammonites laid claim (Jdg 11:13). A terrible vengeance had been executed on Jabesh for its neglect to join the levy of Israel in the war against Benjamin (Jdg 21:8 ff.), but from this blow it had recovered, and Nahash now attacked it as the capital of Gilead, and the key to the possession of the country. The name of Jabesh still survives in the Wady Yâbis, which runs down into the Jordan valley a few miles below Beth-shan. It is a lovely valley, full of straggling old olives, patches of barley, and rich pasture. Tristram’s Land of Israel, p. 556.Verses 1, 2. - Nahash the Ammonite. The same name is found in 2 Samuel 10:2 as that of the father of Hanun, who treated David's ambassadors so shamefully, and probably they mean the same person. He is there said to have shown kindness to David; and as we read in 2 Samuel 17:25 that Abigal (so the Hebrew, not Abigail as the A.V., who was David's wife), Amasa's mother, was the daughter of Nahash, and as Abigal was the sister or half-sister of Zeruiah, David's aunt, there seems to have been some relationship between them. The Ammonites were old enemies of the Israelites, alleging that Israel had taken possession of territory east of the Jordan which rightfully belonged to them (Judges 11:13); but after their defeat by Jephthah their power was so broken that they allowed a century to elapse before they ventured again to assert their claim. Nahash, apparently after other invasions (1 Samuel 12:12), now attacks Jabesh-Gilead, a city in the half-tribe of Manasseh, which had been cruelly treated by the Israelites (Judges 21:10), but apparently had risen again from its ruins. Its inhabitants were willing humbly to submit to Ammonite rule; but Nahash will grant them no other terms than that they should let him thrust out - Hebrew, bore through - all their right eyes, not from any special spite against them, but as an insult to all Israel. No better proof could be given of the disorganisation of the nation than that a petty despot should venture to show his contempt for it in so offensive a way. Then they inquired of Jehovah, "Is any one else come hither?" and Jehovah replied, "Behold, he (whom ye are seeking) is hidden among the things." The inquiry was made through the high priest, by means of the Urim and Thummim, for which בּיהוה שׁאל was the technical expression, according to Numbers 27:21 (see Judges 20:27-28; Judges 1:1, etc.). There can be no doubt, that in a gathering of the people for so important a purpose as the election of a king, the high priest would also be present, even though this is not expressly stated. Samuel presided over the meeting as the prophet of the Lord. The answer given by God, "Behold, he is hidden," etc., appears to have no relation to the question, "Is any one else come?" The Sept. and Vulg. have therefore altered the question into ει ̓ ἔτι ἔρχεται ὁ ἀνήρ, utrumnam venturus esset; and Thenius would adopt this as an emendation. But he is wrong in doing so; for there was no necessity to ask whether Saul would still come: they might at once have sent to fetch him. What they asked was rather, whether any one else had come besides those who were present, as Saul was not to be found among them, that they might know where they were to look for Saul, whether at home or anywhere else. And to this question God gave the answer, "He is present, only hidden among the things." By כּלים (the things or vessels, Eng. ver. the stuff) we are to understand the travelling baggage of the people who had assembled at Mizpeh. Saul could neither have wished to avoid accepting the monarchy, nor have imagined that the lot would not fall upon him if he hid himself. For he knew that God had chosen him; and Samuel had anointed him already. He did it therefore simply from humility and modesty. "In order that he might not appear to have either the hope or desire for anything of the kind, he preferred to be absent when the lots were cast" (Seb. Schmidt).
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