Saul Rescues the Town
1About this time, King Nahash of Ammon came with his army and surrounded the town of Jabesh in Gilead. The people who lived there told Nahash, “If you will sign a peace treaty with us, you can be our ruler, and we will pay taxes to you.”
2Nahash answered, “Sure, I'll sign a treaty! But not before I insult Israel by poking out the right eye of every man who lives in Jabesh.”
3The town leaders said, “Give us seven days so we can send messengers everywhere in Israel to ask for help. If no one comes here to save us, we will surrender to you.”
4Some of the messengers went to Gibeah, Saul's hometown. They told what was happening at Jabesh, and everyone in Gibeah started crying. 5Just then, Saul came in from the fields, walking behind his oxen.
“Why is everyone crying?” Saul asked.
They told him what the men from Jabesh had said. 6Then the Spirit of God suddenly took control of Saul and made him furious. 7Saul killed two of his oxen, cut them up in pieces, and gave the pieces to the messengers. He told them to show the pieces to everyone in Israel and say, “Saul and Samuel are getting an army together. Come and join them. If you don't, this is what will happen to your oxen!”
The Lord made the people of Israel terribly afraid. So all the men came together 8at Bezek. Saul had them organized and counted. There were 300,000 from Israel and 30,000 from Judah.
9Saul and his officers sent the messengers back to Jabesh with this promise: “We will rescue you tomorrow afternoon.” The messengers went back to the people at Jabesh and told them that they were going to be rescued.
Everyone was encouraged! 10So they told the Ammonites, “We will surrender to you tomorrow, and then you can do whatever you want to.”
11The next day, Saul divided his army into three groups and attacked before daylight. They started killing Ammonites and kept it up until afternoon. A few Ammonites managed to escape, but they were scattered far from each other.
12The Israelite soldiers went to Samuel and demanded, “Where are the men who said they didn't want Saul to be king? Bring them to us, and we will put them to death!”
13“No you won't!” Saul told them. “The Lord rescued Israel today, and no one will be put to death.”
Saul Is Accepted as King
14“Come on!” Samuel said. “Let's go to Gilgal and make an agreement that Saul will continue to be our king.”
15Everyone went to the place of worship at Gilgal, where they agreed that Saul would be their king. Saul and the people sacrificed animals to ask for the Lord's blessing, and they had a big celebration.
Interviewers love to ask leaders, “How did this happen? How did you get started?”
For Saul, the answer has two parts. First, he was publicly anointed as king by the prophet Samuel as described in chapters 8-10. But then like everyone else he returned to his home. Not only was Saul a humble and perhaps even a timid man; the idea of having a king or being a king was so new that nobody knew exactly what to do. We don’t know the length of this uncertain pause but this passage tells the second phase of the story, a crisis that moved Saul to action and to the accepted role as King of Israel.
Jabesh-Gilead lay on the east side of the Jordan, about 65 kilometres from where Saul lived in Gibeah. The Ammonites who lived just south of Jabesh-Gilead from time to time claimed that this territory belonged to them (Judges 11:12-28).
Something extraordinary happened when Saul heard of the plight of the town of Jabesh-Gilead. The Spirit (wind) of God rushed upon Saul and he became very angry. This combination moved him into vigorous action! Suddenly he knew exactly what to do; dramatic publicity, call to arms, threats for non-compliance, and exact time-lines along with an understanding of what to do with an instant army of 300,000 men!
After a quick and decisive victory Saul was King in every Israelite’s heart!
How does God raise up leaders?
- He prepares the person
- He impresses the person privately that he has a purpose for them
- He reveals the person to others at the right time, and it’s not uncommon for this to take place at a time of crisis.
- He combines human initiative, the leading of the Holy Spirit, and affirmation from the people to be led.
One more thing! The people of Jabesh-Gilead never forgot Saul’s actions on their behalf. Forty years later when Saul died in another military action, it was the men of Jabesh-Gilead who crept across the Jordan at great danger to themselves to retrieve the bodies of Saul and his sons from disgrace to give them a proper and decent burial. (I Samuel 31:11-13)
Lord God, you raise up leaders, you know the right timing and circumstances in which leadership should assert itself. Give me grace to support the leaders in my world. If I should step forward to lead in some way, give me discernment for that day. Thank you for this very human story which reveals so much of your heart!