1 Sam 11:1-15 – Saul Defeats the Ammonites

Christian Mölk1 Samuel Leave a Comment

1Sam 11:1

  1. Saul is the new king of Israel, but as we see in verse 12, before this event he did not yet have all the people with him. The people observed him and wondered if he was really the right man in the right place.
    1. This is something that many leaders recognise, especially at the beginning of their leadership. Just because you’ve been hired as a pastor, for example, doesn’t automatically mean you have the trust of all the congregants right away. You need to earn trust by showing those you are appointed to lead that you are a capable shepherd who cares for both God and people.
    1. Now, however, a situation arises in which Saul has the opportunity to prove himself a capable leader of Israel.
  2. The Ammonites were descended from Lot, Abraham’s nephew (Gen 19:38), were settled east of Israel (Josh 12:2) and had previously attempted to conquer Israelite land (Judges 11:4ff). While Israel is preoccupied with the Philistines in the west, the Ammonites in the east take the opportunity to prey on a weakened Israel.
  3. The name “Nahaz” means “serpent” and there are many similarities between his approach and that of the devil, who appears as a serpent in the first book of the Bible when he deceives the first humans into sinning (Gen 3:1-20) and who is then thrown into prison in the last book of the Bible (Rev 20:2).
    1. Nahaz was the enemy of earthly Israel, just as the devil is our spiritual enemy.
      1. According to Paul, we Christians do not fight against “flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and rulers of the world here in darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” (Ephesians 6:12)
      1. Israel’s battles against earthly enemies often serve as an example for us how to fight against our spiritual enemies.
  4. The Israelis in Jabesh were suddenly surrounded by hostile forces and are doing what they can to survive. In one way this is understandable, but on the other hand, perhaps they should have gone to their king first?
    1. In the same way, today we too can give up too easily. When we face difficulties in life, we often try to solve them on our own before asking God for help. You can’t always help the situation you find yourself in, but you can help the way you handle it.
    1. If you want to see a lot of God’s miracles in your life, it is not necessarily wrong to find yourself in situations where you are actually in great need of God’s miracles.

1Sam 11:2

  1. This condition from Nahas probably came as a shock! The people of Jabesh had probably expected to pay taxes to Nahas or something similar, not to be maimed in this way!
  2. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, a text fragment (4QSam) has been found where the following can be read: “Nahaz, king of the children of Ammon, oppressed the children of Gad and Reuben severely, and he put out all their right eyes and struck terror and fear into Israel. There was not one of the children of Israel on the other side of the Jordan whose right eye had not been pierced by Nahaz king of Ammon, except the seven thousand men who fled from the children of Ammon and came to Jabesh of Gilead.” (Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls, Vintage Books, 1993, p.156ff).
  3. By gouging out one eye of the Israelites, he removes their ability to rebel at a later time because they become useless warriors. Both sword and bow handling are greatly impaired with only one eye.
    1. But Nahaz not only wanted to wipe out the fighting ability of the Israelites, he also wanted to shame them.
  4. The devil wants to do to you and me what Nahaz wanted to do to the Israelites, and that is why this Bible text serves as an excellent instruction on how to deal with our enemy.
    1. If the devil has surrounded you and besieged you with problems, don’t be fooled by his proposals for peace that will blind you and take away your fighting ability. Turn to the Lord and ask for help. Do not let the devil frighten you because he cannot defeat you if God is on your side.
    1. If the devil succeeds in “shaming” us, as Nahaz wanted, then there is a risk that we as believers will not dare to approach God. If you have ever fallen for a temptation, you know that it is not easy to go and have a prayer immediately afterwards. Just like Adam and Eve who hid from God after eating of the forbidden fruit, we hide from the Lord when we have given in to the temptations of the devil.
      1. The remedy is to repent wholeheartedly and turn from sin and ask God for forgiveness.
    1. Being besieged by a hostile force, like the Israelites, was not necessarily the worst situation to be in, as it gave them an opportunity to witness the miracles of God. So an “attack from the devil” need not always be a wholly negative experience, as the situation hopefully leads to a more desirable state of dependence on God.
      1. Unfortunately, I think too many of us Christians live a life that is pleasing to the devil and he finds no reason to attack us. After all, if we are not in the habit of praying to God or reading the Bible, why would he want to attack us? If we are not a threat to him, he will probably leave us alone.
      1. It is only when we are made aware that we really need Jesus that we fully turn to him.

1Sam 11:3

  1. The people of Jabesh did not know where to find someone to rescue them, so they sent messengers “throughout the land of Israel”.
    1. What is positive about this is that the people of Jabesh knew that they could not save themselves and that they were dependent on a “saviour”; i.e. a “saviour”.
      1. The name “Jesus” means “God saves” and this whole chapter points to Jesus. Being in extreme distress can sometimes be positive if it leads to the realization that you need to be saved by Jesus. It is more common for people to pray to Jesus when they have big problems that they cannot sort out themselves than when everything is under control and they are not in need of a saviour.
      1. The people of Jabesh don’t know where to find their savior, so they try to send messengers everywhere. It is the same for the person who has not heard of Jesus; they do not know where to find salvation, so they try all sorts of things. The best thing would be if we Christians witnessed so much that when unbelieving people get into deep trouble they turn directly to Jesus because they have heard that there is help to be had there.
  2. Why did Nahaz allow them to go out into all Israel and seek help? Because then all Israel would hear of Nahaz and his power, i.e. more glory to Nahaz and more humiliation to Israel.

1Sam 11:5

  1. Saul does not yet seem to have really started living like a king, but lives like an ordinary man of the people, taking care of his oxen.
    1. Perhaps this was because the people did not yet trust in Saul’s abilities, or perhaps Saul was not yet ready to live up to his role as king.
    2. It can be the same with leadership. It’s only when you start to gain people’s trust that they start to contact you with their problems and ask for your help.
    3. In a way, it was probably wise of Saul to go back to his old job even though he had become king. In this way he humbled himself and let God exalt him at the right time instead of the other way around.
      1. As a Christian leader, it is important not to exalt oneself and take credit for something that God does.

1Sam 11:6-7

  1. Often we Christians think that it is sinful to be angry, but this view can sometimes prevent us from properly confronting the devil and sin. It is not wrong to be angry at the evil in the world.
    1. Saul was not only “angry”, he was even “very angry”. When was the last time you were so angry with the devil that you cut up a couple of oxen? Oxen are big powerful animals that are very valuable, then as now.
    1. It doesn’t always have to be wrong to show the world how we feel about sin, especially when it shows up in our own lives. Daring to be “holy angry” is not a sign of weakness, but a sign that you take your faith seriously and really want to serve God.
  2. The Spirit of God fell on Saul to empower her to defeat Nahaz. In the same way, we can receive power from the Holy Spirit to defeat the devil.
    1. The Spirit of God is not an “experience” that we can seek in order to get a “kick” in our Christian life. According to Jesus, the Spirit of God wants to empower us to become “witnesses” (Acts 1:8). If you pray to God for the courage to witness your faith to others, he will fill you with the power of his Holy Spirit.
  3. Saul’s method of “awakening” the people may have been a bit odd, sending pieces of meat around the country sounds more like something the Mafia does than a man of God, but it certainly had an effect, the whole people rallying around their leader!
    1. Sometimes we Christians need to put aside our internal strife and unite around a leader or a current issue. Sometimes it’s wrong to just sit quietly and watch as something important is happening around us.

1Sam 11:9

  1. Saul had made up his mind, he would, with God’s help, become the king and leader he was called and chosen to be.

1Sam 11:11

  1. The victory was total! The Ammonites are defeated, Jabesh is saved and Saul wins the confidence of the people!

1Sam 11:12-13

  1. Saul could have taken revenge on those who did not believe in him, but he chooses to forgive them instead. Although Saul eventually becomes a worse and worse king, at least on this occasion he was a good king who gives God the glory for the victory.
    1. In the same way, we too should remain vigilant even after we have experienced a great spiritual victory. We are not immune to the devil’s attacks just because we have won once; we must continue to grow in our faith and draw closer to God day by day.

1Sam 11:14

  1. Saul was king over Israel even before this renewal, but with this the people began to serve him for real.
    1. In the same way, you and I can have Jesus as our King while, in all honesty, not exactly living as if we were his wholehearted servants. If that is the case, it can sometimes be good to “renew” our allegiance to Jesus and pray for a fresh start.
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