1 Samuel 11:2
And Nahash the Ammonite answered them, On this condition will I make a covenant with you, that I may thrust out all your right eyes, and lay it for a reproach upon all Israel.
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(2) On this condition.—The horrible cruelty of this scornful proposal gives us an insight into the barbarous customs of this imperfectly civilised age. Indeed, many of the crimes we read of in these books—crimes which, to modern ears, justly sound shocking and scarcely credible—are referable to the fact that civilisation and its humanizing influences had made but little way as yet among the nations of the world.

The object of Nahash’s cruelty was to incapacitate the inhabitants of Jabesh from ever further assisting his enemies in war; they would henceforth be blinded in the right eye, while the left eye would be concealed by the shield which fighting-men were in the habit of holding before them.

1 Samuel 11:2. And lay it for a reproach upon all Israel — That is, disgrace the whole Hebrew nation, by serving some of their people in this opprobrious manner; for it must necessarily have reflected great dishonour upon the whole state, that they should suffer any of their people to be served so. He probably meant also to disable them for war, in which the right eye was of most use, their shields, which they carried in their left hands, in a great measure covering their left eyes. He proposes, however, to leave them one eye, that they might be fit to serve in any mean and base office.

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.

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. That I may thrust out all your right eyes; partly for a reproach, as it here follows; and partly to disable them from managing offensive weapons in battle; for their left eye served only or chiefly for defence, being covered by those large shields which then they used, and held in their left hand. He leaves them one eye, that they might be fit to serve him in any mean and base office.

And Nahash the Ammonite answered them,.... In a very haughty and scornful manner:

on this condition will I make a covenant with you, that I may thrust out all your right eyes; some Jewish writers go into a mystical and allegorical sense of these words, as that Nahash ordered the book of the law to be brought, which was their right eye, that he might erase out of it these words:

an Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; others understand it of the sanhedrim, which were the eyes of Israel; and others, which come a little nearer to the sense, of the slingers and archers, the desire of the eyes of Israel; and who, by having their right eyes thrust out, would be in a great measure spoiled for taking aim; for the words are to be understood literally; the intention of Nahash was to disable them for war, and that they might become quite unfit for it, as Josephus observes (r); the left eye being under the shield, as it usually was in war, and the right eye plucked out, they would be as blind men: he did not choose to have both their eyes thrust out, for then they could have been of no use and service to him as slaves or tributaries:

and lay it for a reproach upon all Israel; that they did not come up to the relief of their brethren, and defend them, and signifying that they must all expect the same treatment from him.

(r) Antiqu. l. 6. c. 5. sect. 1.

And Nahash the Ammonite answered them, On this condition will I make a covenant with you, that I may thrust out all your {b} right eyes, and lay it for a reproach upon all Israel.

(b) This declares that the closer the tyrants are to their destruction, the more cruel they are.

2. that I may thrust out all your right eyes] Such barbarities are not unknown in the East even now. Vambéry describes the blinding of prisoners as a regular practice at Khiva. Travels in Central Asia, p. 138. The savage character of the Ammonites is attested by Amos 1:13. The loss of the right eye was intended to disable them for war, the left eye being covered by the shield, as the amputation of his thumbs and great toes (Jdg 1:7-8) was designed to incapacitate a man for the use of the bow and destroy his swiftness of foot.

1 Samuel 11:2But Nahash replied, "On this condition (בּזאת, lit. at this price, בּ pretii) will I make a covenant with you, that I may put out all your right eyes, and so bring a reproach upon all Israel." From the fact that the infinitive נקור is continued with ושׂמתּי, it is evident that the subject to נקור is Nahash, and not the Israelites, as the Syriac, Arabic, and others have rendered it. The suffix to שׂמתּיה is neuter, and refers to the previous clause: "it," i.e., the putting out of the right eye. This answer on the part of Nahash shows unmistakeably that he sought to avenge upon the people of Israel the shame of the defeat which Jephthah had inflicted upon the Ammonites.
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