1 Samuel 11:1-11
Then Nahash the Ammonite came up, and encamped against Jabeshgilead: and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, Make a covenant with us…
Primitive though the state of society was in those days in Israel, we are hardly prepared to find Saul following the herd in the field after his election as king of Israel. We are compelled to conclude that the opposition to him was far from contemptible in number and in influence, and that he found it expedient in the meantime to make no demonstration of royalty, but continue his old way of life. Human life was of so little value in those Eastern countries, and the crime of destroying it was so little thought of, that if Saul had in any way provoked hostility, he would have been almost certain to fall by some assassin's hand. It was therefore wise of him to continue for a time his old way of living, and wait for some opportunity which should arise providentially, to vindicate his title to the sceptre of Israel. Apparently he bad not to wait long — according to Josephus, only a month. The opportunity arose in a somewhat out-of-the-way part of the country, where disturbance had been brewing previous to his election (1 Samuel 12:12). Very probably the Ammonites had never forgotten the humiliation inflicted on them by Jepthah, when he smote them "from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and till thou come to the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter." Naturally the Ammonites would be desirous both to avenge these defeats and to regain their cities, or at least to get other cities in lieu of what they had lost. The history of the Israelites in time of danger commonly presents one or other of two extremes: either pusillanimous submission, or daring defiance to the hostile power. In this case it was pusillanimous submission, as indeed it commonly was when the people followed the motions of their own hearts, and were not electrified into opposition by some great hero, full of faith in God. But it was not mere cowardice they displayed in offering to become the servants of the Ammonites; there was impiety in it likewise. For of their relation to God they made no account whatever. By covenant with their fathers, ratified from generation to generation, they were God's servants, and they had no right voluntarily to transfer to another master the allegiance which was due to God alone. And it was not a case of necessity. Instead of humbling themselves before God and confessing the sins that had brought them into trouble, they put God altogether aside, and basely offered to become the servants of the Ammonites. How often do men virtually say to the devil, "Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee"! Men and women, with strong proclivities to sin, may for a time resist, but they get tired of the battle; they long for an easier life, and they say in their hearts, "We will resist no longer; we will become your servants." They are willing to make peace with the Ammonites, because they are wearied of fighting. "Anything for a quiet life!" They surrender to the enemy, they are willing to serve sin, because they will not surrender the ease and the pleasures of sin. But sin is a bad master; his wages are terrible to think of. The terms which Nahash offered to the men of Jabesh-Gilead combined insult to injury. "On this condition will I make a covenant with thee: that I, may thrust out all your right eyes, and lay it for a reproach unto all Israel." "The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel." But Nahash was comparatively merciful. He was willing to let the men of Jabesh off with the loss of one eye only. But as if to compensate for this forbearance, be declared that he would regard the transaction as a reproach upon all Israel. "All the people lifted up their voices and wept." It was just the way in which their forefathers had acted at the Red Sea; and again, it was the way in which they spent that night in the wilderness after the spies brought back their report of the land. But, as in the two earlier cases, there was a man of faith to roll back the wave of panic. As we are thinking how well Saul has acted on this occasion, we perceive that an old friend has come on the scene who helps us materially to understand the situation. Yes, he is all the better of Samuel's guidance and prayers. The good old prophet has no jealousy of the man who took his place at the bead of the nation. But knowing well the fickleness of the people, he is anxious to turn the occasion to account for confirming their feelings and their sins. Seeing how the king has acknowledged God as the Author of the victory, he desires to strike while the iron is hot. "Come," he says, "let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there."
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Nahash the Ammonite 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.