Saul has taken the kingship of Israel with little fanfare. Some of the Israelites despised him and did not believe that he would be a good leader. Ultimately, the doubters will prove to have truth in their beliefs. For this chapter, Saul gives many people reason to believe that he will be a great and godly king.
An Ammonite named Nahesh came to the Israelite city of Jabesh, located in the Gilead region east of the Jordan. The Israelites in Jabesh were intimidated by Nahesh and his army and offered to make a deal with him so that they would not be attacked. Nahesh answered: “On this condition I will make a covenant with you, that I may put out all your right eyes, and bring reproach on all Israel.”
Seeing that they would get no mercy from Nahesh, the elders of Jabesh seek assistance from the different factions of Israel. When Saul hears of this threat, he admonishes all of the other peoples of Israel to rise up with him against Nahesh and the Ammonites. Saul had God on his side for this endeavor, guiding him through the actions he took: “Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard this news, and his anger was greatly aroused.” Saul cut an oxen into pieces and sent them throughout all the land of Israel with the warning, “Whoever does not go out with Saul and Samuel to battle, so it shall be done to his oxen.”
Under Saul’s inspired leadership, the people came to Saul, ready to fight for the defense of their countrymen in Jabesh. The men came during the morning watch and killed Ammonites “until the heat of the day.” The Ammonites were defeated and devastated so totally that when they were scattered, “no two of them were left together.”
The people, seemingly all of them now, are so impressed with this victory and with Saul as a leader that they want to put to death those men that expressed no confidence in Saul before these events. But Saul showed mercy, ““Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has accomplished salvation in Israel.”
The final verse is a picture of victorious celebration as Saul leads the people to Gilgal where he is made king before the Lord, and sacrifices and peace offerings are made to the LORD.
This chapter is a very important one in the story of king Saul. We have the picture of a man that is inspired by God and leading the people in a strong and righteous way. Under the inspiration and power of Almighty God, there is not a wrong step that can be taken nor is there a fallible path set before him. Such is the divine nature of our life when God chooses to directly bless us with His wisdom and guidance. Saul might not have known it, but he was in the loving arms of God. Who knows when we, unbeknownst to ourselves or our loved ones, are also working under the power of God as an aid to a person or people in need? Although it seems more likely that God would directly inspire men of importance such as world leaders to sway the ways of the world, the imagination comes alive to think that He also might inspire you or me to humbler deeds. Only when we are faithful and open to His guidance will we experience it. Otherwise, we are operating under our own imperfect will.