Reading through the Bible together
This chapter records Saul’s first act of courage after the people had chosen him to be king, but before his coronation.
Nahash, the king of the Ammonites, came against Israel and surrounded the city of Jabesh-gilead. The elders of the city offered to make a covenant with Nahash and serve him if he would not destroy their city. Nahash agreed on one condition, that he be allowed to put out the right eye of each of their men. The elders were shocked and asked him to give them seven days to think about it. Nahash consented and this gave the elders a chance to send messengers to Saul to come and help them.
Saul was working in the field, awaiting his coronation. When the messengers found him, they wept. He asked them why they were weeping. So they told him that Nahash, the king of the Ammonites, had surrounded their city and the demands he had made. When Saul heard this, the Spirit of God came on him and he was moved to take action. He slaughtered the oxen he was working with, cut them into pieces and send these pieces throughout Israel with the message: “Whoever does not come with Saul to battle, this is what will be done with his oxen.” Three hundred and thirty thousand men responded. Then Saul sent this message to the elders of Jabesh-gilead: “Tomorrow help will come!” When the men of the city heard this they were glad. So the next day, Saul took his men, divided them into three companies, and early in the morning attacked the Ammonites, killed many of them, and scattered the rest.
When it was over, the people said to the prophet Samuel, “Who are those in Israel who didn’t want Saul to be king? Bring them here so we can put them to death because today the Lord blessed Saul and saved the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead.” Samuel responded, “This is not the time for death. This is the time to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving to the Lord and then to officially make Saul king of Israel.” When the people heard this they greatly rejoiced.
The promptness and bravery of Saul, as well as the generalship he showed in the successful conduct of so large a force of men, were qualities which the people of Israel had desired in a monarch, in order for them to relate to be like other nations. So the people made Saul their king and attributed the honor of the victory at Jabesh-gilead to human power and skill, forgetting that without God’s blessings all their efforts would have been in vain. But Saul gave evidence of the change that had taken place in his character and instead of taking the honor to himself, he gave the glory to God. Also instead of showing a desire for revenge against those who did not favor him to be king, he manifested a spirit of compassion and forgiveness. This is the unmistakable evidence that the grace of God dwells in the heart (see PK p. 613).
This is a lesson for all of us, but especially for those in leadership.
Jack J. Blanco
Southern Adventist University