And the elders of Jabesh said to him, Give us seven days' respite, that we may send messengers to all the coasts of Israel: and then, if there be no man to save us, we will come out to you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Give us seven days’ respite.—This kind of proposal has always in time of war been a common one; such a request from a beleaguered fortress we meet with constantly, especially in mediæval chronicles. It was, no doubt, made by the citizens in the hope that Saul the Benjamite, in whose election as king they had recently taken a part, would devise some means for their rescue. Between Benjamin and the city of Jabesh-gilead there had long existed the closest ties of friendship. How far back this strange link between the southern tribe and the distant frontier town dated, we know not. When Israel was summoned “as one man” (Judges 21), probably under the direction of Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, to avenge on Benjamin the crime committed by the men of Gibeah, Jabesh-gilead alone, among the cities of Israel—no doubt, out of its friendship for the sinning tribe—declined to obey the imperious summons, and for this act of disobedience was rased to the ground, and its inhabitants put to the sword. The tribes, however, subsequently regretted their remorseless cruelty in their punishment of Benjamin, and feared lest their brother’s name might perish out of the land; mindful, then, of the old loving feeling which existed between the city of Jabesh-gilead and the tribe of Benjamin, they gave the maidens of the ruined city spared in the judicial massacre perpetrated on the citizens, to the fighting remnant of Benjamin, still defending themselves on the impregnable Rock of the Pomegranate, “Rimmon,” and did what was in their power to restore the ruined and broken tribe. Jabesh-gilead seems to have risen again from its ashes, and Benjamin once more held up its head among the tribes of Israel, and just now had given the first king to the people. No wonder, then, that the city in the hour of its sore need and deadly peril should send for succour to Gibeah in Benjamin, and to Saul, the Benjamite king. Neither the tribe nor the king failed them in their distress.1 Samuel 11:3. Give us seven days respite — It may seem strange, either that they should propose to submit so soon to such base conditions, if they did not receive help, or that Nahash should grant them so much respite when he saw them so abject and inclined to yield to him. But the reason of both is evident; for the elders of Jabesh thought Saul was not able to help them, having not yet taken upon him the government, but living privately, 1 Samuel 11:5; and Nahash, it is probable, was loath to drive them to desperation by denying them this short space wherein to expect relief, which he thought they could not possibly obtain in the time, even if Saul should endeavour to levy an army and come to their aid, for that, he would naturally suppose, could not be done in so few days.Judges 8:14, Judges 8:16, etc.). Give us seven days’ respite; which it is very probable, and Josephus and others affirm, that Nahash granted, out of a foolish self-confidence, and contempt of the broken condition of the Israelites, which he thought utterly unable to give them any relief; at least, in so short a time.
give us seven days' respite, that we may send messengers to all the coasts of Israel; that is, cease from besieging them, from throwing in darts into the city, or any other missive weapons, and from attempting to break open the gates, or break down the walls of it, and storm it; such a space of time they desire, which was as little as could be granted, to go and return in, and without this it would not be a reproach to all Israel, if they were ill used by them, since they had no knowledge of their case, nor time to come up for their assistance:
and then, if there be no man to save us, we will come out to thee; and submit to be used at thy pleasure. And it seems that this was granted by Nahash out of a bravado, and to reproach and insult all Israel, and bid them defiance; with whom he sought to quarrel, having a design upon their land, and knowing very well their condition, being awed by the Philistines; and having just chosen a king, and he an inexperienced man in the affairs of war, and had no army; nor was it likely that one could be assembled in so short a time, and come to the relief of this people, and therefore he thought himself safe enough in granting their request.And the elders of Jabesh said unto him, Give us seven days' respite, that we may send messengers unto all the coasts of Israel: and then, if there be no man to save us, we will come out to thee.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)3. the elders of Jabesh] See note on ch. 1 Samuel 8:4, and cp. Jdg 11:5 ff.Verse 3. - The elders who govern the town know nothing of a king having been appointed, nor do they send to Samuel to ask him, as the judge, to protect them; but they request a seven days' respite, that they may send messengers unto all the coasts of Israel, and Nahash, feeling sure that no combined action would be the result, grants their request, that so Israel far and wide might know of his triumph. 1 Samuel 9:2). And Samuel said to all the people, "Behold ye whom the Lord hath chosen! for there is none like him in all the nation." Then all the people shouted aloud, and cried, "Let the king live!" Saul's bodily stature won the favour of the people (see the remarks on 1 Samuel 9:2).
Samuel then communicated to the people the right of the monarchy, and laid it down before Jehovah. "The right of the monarchy" (meluchah) is not to be identified with the right of the king (melech), which is described in 1 Samuel 8:11 and sets forth the right or prerogative which a despotic king would assume over the people; but it is the right which regulated the attitude of the earthly monarchy in the theocracy, and determined the duties and rights of the human king in relation to Jehovah the divine King on the one hand, and to the nation on the other. This right could only be laid down by a prophet like Samuel, to raise a wholesome barrier at the very outset against all excesses on the part of the king. Samuel therefore wrote it in a document which was laid down before Jehovah, i.e., in the sanctuary of Jehovah; though certainly not in the sanctuary at Bamah in Gibeah, as Thenius supposes, for nothing is known respecting any such sanctuary. It was no doubt placed in the tabernacle, where the law of Moses was also deposited, by the side of the fundamental law of the divine state in Israel. When the business was all completed, Samuel sent the people away to their own home.
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