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Saul Comes to the Aid of Jabesh

11 [a] Nahash[b] the Ammonite marched[c] against Jabesh Gilead. All the men of Jabesh Gilead said to Nahash, “Make a treaty with us and we will serve you.”

But Nahash the Ammonite said to them, “The only way I will make a treaty with you is if you let me gouge out the right eye of every one of you and in so doing humiliate all Israel!”

The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Leave us alone for seven days so that we can send messengers throughout the territory of Israel. If there is no one who can deliver us, we will come out voluntarily to you.”

When the messengers went to Gibeah (where Saul lived)[d] and informed the people of these matters, all the people wept loudly.[e] Now Saul was walking behind the[f] oxen as he came from the field. Saul asked, “What has happened to the people? Why are they weeping?” So they told him about[g] the men of Jabesh.

The Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and he became very angry. He took a pair[h] of oxen and cut them up. Then he sent the pieces throughout the territory of Israel by the hand of messengers, who said, “Whoever does not go out after Saul and after Samuel should expect this to be done to his oxen!” Then the terror of the Lord fell on the people, and they went out as one army.[i] When Saul counted them at Bezek, the Israelites were 300,000 strong[j] and the men of Judah numbered 30,000.

They said to the messengers who had come, “Here’s what you should say to the men of Jabesh Gilead: ‘Tomorrow deliverance will come to you when the sun is fully up.’” When the messengers went and told the men of Jabesh Gilead, they were happy. 10 The men of Jabesh said, “Tomorrow we will come out to you[k] and you can do with us whatever you wish.”[l]

11 The next day Saul placed the people in three groups. They went to the Ammonite camp during the morning watch and struck them[m] down until the hottest part of the day. The survivors scattered; no two of them remained together.

Saul Is Established as King

12 Then the people said to Samuel, “Who were the ones asking, ‘Will Saul reign over us?’ Hand over those men so we may execute them!” 13 But Saul said, “No one will be killed on this day. For today the Lord has given Israel a victory!” 14 Samuel said to the people, “Come on! Let’s go to Gilgal and renew the kingship there.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal, where[n] they established Saul as king in the Lord’s presence. They offered up peace offerings there in the Lord’s presence. Saul and all the Israelites were very happy.

12 Samuel said to all Israel, “I have done[o] everything you requested.[p] I have given you a king.[q] Now look! This king walks before you. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have walked before you from the time of my youth till the present day. Here I am. Bring a charge against me before the Lord and before his chosen king.[r] Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I wronged? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I taken a bribe so that I would overlook something? Tell me,[s] and I will return it to you!”

They replied, “You have not wronged us or oppressed us. You have not taken anything from the hand of anyone.” He said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and his chosen king[t] is witness this day, that you have not found any reason to accuse me.”[u] They said, “He is witness!”

Samuel said to the people, “The Lord is the one who chose Moses and Aaron and who brought your ancestors[v] up from the land of Egypt. Now take your positions, so I may confront you[w] before the Lord regarding all the Lord’s just actions toward you and your ancestors.[x] When Jacob entered Egypt, your ancestors cried out to the Lord. The Lord sent Moses and Aaron, and they led your ancestors out of Egypt and settled them in this place.

“But they forgot the Lord their God, so he gave[y] them into the hand of Sisera, the general in command of Hazor’s army,[z] and into the hands of the Philistines and the king of Moab, and they fought against them. 10 Then they cried out to the Lord and admitted,[aa] ‘We have sinned, for we have forsaken the Lord and have served the Baals and the images of Ashtoreth.[ab] Now deliver us from the hands of our enemies so that we may serve you.’[ac] 11 So the Lord sent Jerub Baal,[ad] Barak,[ae] Jephthah, and Samuel,[af] and he delivered you from the hands of the enemies all around you, and you were able to live securely.

12 “When you saw that King Nahash of the Ammonites was advancing against you, you said to me, ‘No! A king will rule over us’—even though the Lord your God is your king. 13 Now look! Here is the king you have chosen—the one that you asked for! Look, the Lord has given you a king. 14 If you fear the Lord, serving him and obeying him[ag] and not rebelling against what he says,[ah] and if both you and the king who rules over you follow the Lord your God, all will be well.[ai] 15 But if you don’t obey[aj] the Lord and rebel against what the Lord says, the hand of the Lord will be against both you and your king.[ak]

16 “So now, take your positions and watch this great thing that the Lord is about to do in your sight. 17 Is this not the time of the wheat harvest? I will call on the Lord so that he makes it thunder and rain. Realize and see what a great sin you have committed before the Lord by asking for a king for yourselves.”

18 So Samuel called to the Lord, and the Lord made it thunder and rain that day. All the people were very afraid of both the Lord and Samuel. 19 All the people said to Samuel, “Pray to the Lord your God on behalf of us—your servants—so we won’t die, for we have added to all our sins by asking for a king.”[al]

20 Then Samuel said to the people, “Don’t be afraid. You have indeed sinned.[am] However, don’t turn aside from the Lord. Serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 You should not turn aside after empty things that can’t profit and can’t deliver, since they are empty.[an] 22 The Lord will not abandon his people because he wants to uphold his great reputation.[ao] The Lord was pleased to make you his own people. 23 As far as I am concerned, far be it from me to sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you! I will instruct you in the way that is good and upright. 24 However, fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. Just look at the great things he has done for you! 25 But if you continue to do evil, both you and your king will be swept away.”


  1. 1 Samuel 11:1 tc 4QSama and Josephus (Ant. 6.68-71) attest to a longer form of text at this point. The addition explains Nahash’s practice of enemy mutilation, and by so doing provides a smoother transition to the following paragraph than is found in the MT. The NRSV adopts this reading, with the following English translation: “Now Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had been grievously oppressing the Gadites and the Reubenites. He would gouge out the right eye of each of them and would not grant Israel a deliverer. No one was left of the Israelites across the Jordan whose right eye Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had not gouged out. But there were 7,000 men who had escaped from the Ammonites and had entered Jabesh Gilead. About a month later, Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead.” The variations may be explained as scribal errors due to homoioteleuton, in which case the scribe jumps from one word to another word with a similar ending later in the text. If the reading in 4QSama is correct, then perhaps the scribe of the MT skipped from the phrase ויהי כמחרישׁ (vayehi kemakharish) at the end of 1 Sam 10:27, which should possibly be ויהי כמו חרשׁ (vayehi kemo kheresh), and picked up after the phrase ויהי כמו חדשׁ (vayehi kemo khodesh, “it happened about a month later…”). Interestingly 4QSama itself involves a case of homoioteleuton in this passage. The scribe first skipped from one case of גלעד (Gilʿad, “Gilead”) to another, then inserted the missing 10 words between the lines of the 4QSama text. The fact that the scribe made a mistake of this sort and then corrected it supports the idea that he was copying from a source that had these verses in it. Also the 4QSama text first introduces Nahash with his full title, which is a better match to normal style See the discussions in E. Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, 2nd rev. ed. [Fortress Press, 2001] 342-344, P. K. McCarter, I Samuel (AB), 199, and R. W. Klein, 1 Samuel (WBC), 103. Though the external evidence for the additional material is limited, the internal evidence is strong.
  2. 1 Samuel 11:1 sn The name “Nahash” means “serpent” in Hebrew.
  3. 1 Samuel 11:1 tn Heb “went up and camped”; NIV, NRSV “went up and besieged.”
  4. 1 Samuel 11:4 tn Heb “to Gibeah of Saul.”
  5. 1 Samuel 11:4 tn Heb “lifted their voice and wept.”
  6. 1 Samuel 11:5 tn Or perhaps, “his oxen.” On this use of the definite article see Joüon 2:506-7 §137.f.
  7. 1 Samuel 11:5 tn Heb “the matters of.”
  8. 1 Samuel 11:7 tn Heb “yoke.”
  9. 1 Samuel 11:7 tn Heb “like one man.”
  10. 1 Samuel 11:8 tc The LXX and two Old Latin mss read 600,000 here, rather than the MT’s 300,000.
  11. 1 Samuel 11:10 tn The second masculine plural forms in this quotation indicate that Nahash and his army are addressed.
  12. 1 Samuel 11:10 tn Heb “according to all that is good in your eyes.”
  13. 1 Samuel 11:11 tn Heb “Ammon.” By metonymy the name “Ammon” is used collectively for the soldiers in the Ammonite army.
  14. 1 Samuel 11:15 tn Heb “and there in Gilgal.”
  15. 1 Samuel 12:1 tn Heb “Look, I have listened to your voice.”
  16. 1 Samuel 12:1 tn Heb “to all which you said to me.”
  17. 1 Samuel 12:1 tn Heb “and I have installed a king over you.”
  18. 1 Samuel 12:3 tn Heb “anointed [one].”
  19. 1 Samuel 12:3 tn The words “tell me” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  20. 1 Samuel 12:5 tn Heb “anointed [one].”
  21. 1 Samuel 12:5 tn Heb “that you have not found anything in my hand.”
  22. 1 Samuel 12:6 tn Heb “fathers” (also in vv. 7, 8).
  23. 1 Samuel 12:7 tn Heb “and I will enter into judgment with you” (NRSV similar); NAB “and I shall arraign you.”
  24. 1 Samuel 12:7 tn Heb “all the just actions which he has done with you and with your fathers.”
  25. 1 Samuel 12:9 tn Heb “sold” (so KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV); NAB “he allowed them to fall into the clutches of Sisera”; NLT “he let them be conquered by Sisera.”
  26. 1 Samuel 12:9 tn Heb “captain of the host of Hazor.”
  27. 1 Samuel 12:10 tn Heb “and said.”
  28. 1 Samuel 12:10 tn Heb “the Ashtarot” (plural). The words “images of” are supplied for The Semitic goddess Astarte was associated with love and war in the ancient Near East. See the note on the same term in 7:3.
  29. 1 Samuel 12:10 tn After the imperative, the prefixed verbal form with the prefixed conjunction indicates purpose/result.
  30. 1 Samuel 12:11 sn Jerub Baal (יְרֻבַּעַל, “Yerub Baʿal”) is also known as Gideon (see Judg 6:32). The book of Judges uses both names for him.
  31. 1 Samuel 12:11 tc The MT has בְּדָן (Bedan, “Bedan”) here (cf. KJV, NASB, CEV). But a deliverer by this name is not elsewhere mentioned in the OT. The translation follows the LXX and the Syriac Peshitta in reading “Barak.”
  32. 1 Samuel 12:11 tc In the ancient versions there is some confusion with regard to these names, both with regard to the particular names selected for mention and with regard to the order in which they are listed. For example, the LXX has “Jerub Baal, Barak, Jephthah, and Samuel.” But the Targum has “Gideon, Samson, Jephthah, and Samuel,” while the Syriac Peshitta has “Deborah, Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson.”
  33. 1 Samuel 12:14 tn Heb “and you listen to his voice.”
  34. 1 Samuel 12:14 tn Heb “the mouth of the Lord.” So also in v. 15.
  35. 1 Samuel 12:14 tn The words “all will be well” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  36. 1 Samuel 12:15 tn Heb “listen to the voice of.”
  37. 1 Samuel 12:15 tc The LXX reads “your king” rather than the MT’s “your fathers.” The latter makes little sense here. Some follow MT, but translate “as it was against your fathers.” See P. K. McCarter, 1 Samuel (AB), 212.
  38. 1 Samuel 12:19 tn Heb “for we have added to all our sins an evil [thing] by asking for ourselves a king.”
  39. 1 Samuel 12:20 tn Heb “you have done all this evil.”
  40. 1 Samuel 12:21 tn Or “useless” (so NIV, NRSV, NLT); NAB “nothing”; NASB “futile”; TEV “are not real.”
  41. 1 Samuel 12:22 tn Heb “on account of his great name.”