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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.


  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.”