1 Samuel 11:7
And he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, Whoever comes not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen. And the fear of the LORD fell on the people, and they came out with one consent.
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(7) A yoke of oxen.—In a moment all the great powers of Saul, hitherto dormant, woke up, and he issued his swift commands in a way which at once showed Israel that they had got a hero-king who would brook no trifling. In that self-same hour, striking dead the oxen standing before his plough, he hews them in pieces, and handing a bloody strip to certain of the men standing around him, weeping for grief and shame and the wrong done to Israel, bade them swiftly bear these terrible war-signals throughout the length and breadth of the land, and by these means to rouse the nation to prompt action.

On this strange war-signal of king Saul, Ewald, in his History of Israel, Book II., section iii. 1 (note), remarks, “how in like manner it was formerly the custom in Norway to send on the war-arrow; and in Scotland a fire-brand, with both ends dipped in blood, was dispatched as a war-token.”

Not improbably Saul cut the oxen into eleven pieces, and sent one to each of the other tribes.

And the fear of the Lord fell on the people.—It was some such mighty awakening under the influence of the Spirit of the Eternal, as is here related of King Saul, which suggested to the poet Asaph the bold but splendid image of the seventy-eighth Psalm, when, after describing in moving language the degradation and bitter woe of fallen Israel, the singer, struck with a new inspiration, bursts forth with “Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine. And he smote his enemies,” &c. (Psalm 78:65). “The people rose as one man” (see margin) against the enemies of their national freedom. It was the same Spirit of the Lord which inspired Saul to put himself at the head of the children of Israel which now laid hold of all the people, lifting them up, and giving them new strength and resistless courage, and the mighty feeling that God was with them.

It was owing to some influence of a similar nature that with scanty numbers, ill-armed and ill-trained, the Swiss won for their land centuries of freedom on memorable fields like Laupen and Morat, though the proudest chivalry of Europe was arrayed against them. it was the same Spirit which impelled the peace-loving traders of the marshes of Holland to rise as one man, and to drive out for ever from their loved strip of fen land the hitherto invincible armies of Spain. No oppressor, though backed by the wealth and power of an empire, has ever been able to resist the smallest people in whose heart has burned the flame of the Divine fire of the “fear of the Lord.”

1 Samuel 11:7. Sent them throughout all the coasts — Wisely considering that the sight of men’s eyes does much more affect their hearts than what they only hear with their ears. After Saul and after Samuel — He joins Samuel with himself, both because he was present with him, and that hereby he might gain the more authority. The fear of the Lord fell on the people — A fear was sent upon them by God, so that they did not dare to deny their help. The fear of God will make men good subjects, good soldiers and good friends to their country. They that fear God will make conscience of their duty to all men, particularly to their rulers. They will honour the king, and all that are in authority under him. They came out with one consent — God, who put courage into Saul, and now induced him to assert his royal authority over the people, influenced them with a fear of offending him, so that they readily came and joined him at his call.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.Though not expressly stated, it is doubtless implied that he sent the portions by the messengers to the twelve tribes, after the analogy, and probably in imitation, of Judges 19:29. He made use of the revered name of Samuel to strengthen his own weak authority. Samuel accompanied Saul in the expedition 1 Samuel 11:12. 7. he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces—(see Jud 19:29). 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. Sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel; wisely considering, that the sight of men’s eyes do much more affect their hearts than what they only hear with their ears. He joins Samuel with himself, both because he was present with him, as appears from 1 Samuel 11:12, and that hereby he might gain the more authority to his command, and strike the greater terror into all despisers of it.

The fear of the Lord; either,

1. A great fear; great things being oft thus expressed; as cedars of God, mountains of God, &c. Or,

2. A fear sent upon them by God, as Genesis 35:5, that they should not dare to deny their help. And he took a yoke of oxen,.... Of his own or his father's, which he had just followed out of the field, and for which chiefly that circumstance is mentioned:

and hewed them in pieces; as the Levite did his concubine, Judges 19:29

and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel by the hands of messengers; some carrying a piece one way, and some another, throughout all the tribes; for to them all the government of Saul extended, and which by this he let them know it did:

saying, whosoever cometh not after Saul and after Samuel; he names both, because he himself, though chosen king, was not inaugurated into his office, nor was Samuel put out of his; and because he knew he was despised by some, who would not object to and refuse the authority of Samuel, and therefore if they would not follow him, they would follow Samuel; and he mentions himself first, because of his superior dignity:

so shall it be done unto his oxen; be cut to pieces as these were; he does not threaten to cut them in pieces, but their oxen, lest he should seem to exercise too much severity at his first coming to the throne:

and the fear of the Lord fell on the people; they feared, should they be disobedient, the Lord would cut them to pieces, or in some way destroy them, as well as Saul would cut their oxen to pieces; for their minds were impressed with a sense of this affair being of the Lord:

and they came out with one consent; or "as one man" (t), as if they had consulted together; being under a divine impulse, they set out from different parts about much the same time, and met at a place of rendezvous next mentioned.

(t) "tanquam vir unus", Pagninus, Montanus, &c.

And he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after {d} Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen. And the fear of the LORD fell on the people, and they came out with one consent.

(d) He adds Samuel because Saul was not yet approved by all.

7. he took a yoke of oxen] Those doubtless with which he had just been ploughing (1 Samuel 11:5).

and sent them] ‘Them,’ i.e. the pieces, is rightly supplied. Symbolical acts are often more eloquent than any words. Cp. Jdg 19:29; 1 Kings 11:30; 1 Kings 22:11; 2 Kings 13:18. We may compare the Fiery Cross which used to be sent round as the signal for the gathering of the Highland clans in Scotland. It was “scathed with flame,” and “quenched in blood” as an emblem of the fire and sword awaiting all who should neglect its summons. See The Lady of the Lake, Canto III., Stanzas 8–11.

by the hands of messengers] By the hand of the Messengers, viz. those who had come from Jabesh.

after Saul and after Samuel] Saul strengthens himself in his new office by an appeal to the time-honoured name and prophetic authority of Samuel.

the fear of the Lord &c.] Awe inspired by Jehovah supported the authority of His King and His Prophet; the people left their homes and came out to the rendezvous as one man.Verse 7. - Acting then with Divine enthusiasm, Saul cut into pieces a yoke of oxen, and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel by the hands of messengers. For a similar act see Judges 19:29. Probably Saul cut the oxen into twelve pieces, and sent one to each tribe, with the threat that in case of disobedience their oxen would be similarly treated. The threat was moderate in that it did not touch their persons, but severe as regards their property, the labouring ox being man's faithful friend and servant. It is important also to notice that Saul speaks not only in his own name, but also in that of Samuel. It was as the man chosen of Jehovah to be king by the voice of his prophet that he acted, and so as one possessed of legitimate authority; and it seems also that Samuel went with him in person to the war (ver. 12). And the result answered to the energy with which Saul acted, for the fear of Jehovah - or, rather, "a terror from Jehovah" - fell on the people, and they came out with one consent, or, as it is rendered far more correctly and forcibly in the margin, "as one man." United by the kingly power, it was a nation that rose to defend one of its injured members. Nahash, the king of the Ammonites (cf. 1 Samuel 12:12; 2 Samuel 10:2), attacked the tribes on the east of the Jordan, no doubt with the intention of enforcing the claim to part of Gilead asserted by his ancestor in the time of Jephthah (Judges 11:13), and besieged Jabesh in Gilead,

(Note: The time of this campaign is not mentioned in the Hebrew text. But it is very evident from 1 Samuel 12:12, where the Israelites are said to have desired a king, when they saw that Nahash had come against them, that Nahash had invaded Gilead before the election of Saul as king. The Septuagint, however, renders the words כמחרישׁ ויהי (1 Samuel 10:27) by καὶ ἐγενήθη ὡς μετὰ μῆνα, and therefore the translators must have read כּמחדשׁ, which Ewald and Thenius would adopt as an emendation of the Hebrew text. But all the other ancient versions give the Masoretic text, viz., not only the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic, but even Jerome, who renders it ille vero dissimulabat se audire. It is true that in our present Vulgate text these words are followed by et factum est quasi post mensem; but this addition has no doubt crept in from the Itala. With the general character of the Septuagint, the rendering of כמחרישׁ by ὡς μετὰ μῆνα is no conclusive proof that the word in their Hebrew Codex was כּמחדשׁ; it simply shows that this was the interpretation which they gave to כמחריש. And Josephus (vi. 5, 1), who is also appealed to, simply establishes the fact that ὡς μετὰ μῆνα stood in the Sept. version of his day, since he made use of this version and not of the original text. Moreover, we cannot say with Ewald, that this was the last place in which the time could be overlooked; for it is perfectly evident that Nahash commenced the siege of Jabesh shortly after the election of Saul at Mizpeh, as we may infer from the verb ויּעל, when taken in connection with the fact implied in 1 Samuel 12:12, that he had commenced the war with the Israelites before this. And lastly, it is much more probable that the lxx changed כמחריש into כמחדש, than that the Hebrew readers of the Old Testament should have altered כמחדש into כמחריש, without defining the time more precisely by אחד, or some other number.)

- according to Josephus the metropolis of Gilead, and probably situated by the Wady Jabes (see at Judges 21:8); from which we may see that he must have penetrated very far into the territory of the Israelites. The inhabitants of Jabesh petitioned the Ammonites in their distress, "Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee;" i.e., grant us favourable terms, and we will submit.

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