1 Samuel 11
Saul’s battle for the right eyeballs
They’d give their right eyes1About a month later, soldiers from Israel’s neighboring nation of Ammon  surrounded the Israelite town of Jabesh.  Men in town sent a message to Ammon’s king, Nahash:  “If you’ll sign a peace treaty with us, we’ll serve you and stay loyal to you.”
2King Nahash said, “Sure, I’ll give you peace. But you give me your right eyes. I’ll use this to disgrace Israel.”
3Town leaders told him, “Give us seven days to see if we can find someone to help us. If no one comes, we’ll surrender.” 
Saul’s first army, 300,000 men4When messengers arrived in Gibeah with the news, townspeople broke out crying. 5Saul hadn’t heard about it yet. He was just getting home from driving cattle back in from the fields. He asked, “What’s going on? Why is everybody crying?” They told him what Jabesh messengers said.
6God’s Spirit filled Saul and anger set him on fire. 7He slaughtered a team of two oxen, cut them to pieces, and dropped them in the mail—special delivery. He gave them to couriers to spread them throughout Israel. The meat came with a message: “What happened to this ox will happen to you if you don’t come now and follow Saul and Samuel.” That terrified people. They came in a big way.
8Saul gathered his army of 300,000 men at the town of Bezek.  Judah’s tribe contributed a tenth of the army, some 30,000 warriors.
9Saul told the messengers to say this to the people of Jabesh in Gilead, “We’ll rescue you by the time the sun gets hot tomorrow.” People in Jabesh were elated to hear that.
Jews set trap for attacking army10Jabesh Jews weren’t entirely honest with the Ammonites. They said, “We’ll surrender tomorrow, and you can do whatever you want to us.” 11When tomorrow came, so did King Saul. He divided his massive army into three battalions. And he surprised the enemy with a wake-up call during the early morning watch, sometime between 2-6 a.m. He slaughtered Ammonites all morning and into the heat of the day. Enemy survivors ran for their lives, scattered so wildly that each man ran on his own. Not even two ran together.
12Some people in Israel said to Samuel, “Tell us who said, ‘Are we really crazy enough to want Saul as our king?’ Give us their names so we can execute them.” 13Saul answered himself and said, “No one’s going to die today. This is the day the LORD saved Israel.”
Crowning Saul king by acclamation14Samuel told the people, “Let’s go to Gilgal.  Let’s renew our commitment to the king.” 15So the people went to Gilgal and by acclamation declared Saul king—while God watched it all. They sacrificed peace offerings  and celebrated what happened.
Ammonites had been perpetual enemies of the Jewish people since the time Jews returned from slavery in Egypt and began resettling in what was then called Canaan, today’s Israel and Palestinian Territories (Judges 3:13; 10:8).
One contender for Jabesh in Gilead is Tell Maqlub, a ruin on Jordan’s side of the Jordan River. It’s about 7 miles (10 km) east of the river and 20 miles (32 km) south of the Sea of Galilee. It’s also about 45 miles (73 km) northeast of Saul’s hometown of Gibeah, near Jerusalem. That’s about a two-day walk in each direction under normal circumstances. Perhaps less in wartime.
Nahash shows up in an ancient introduction to the Books of Samuel from the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, which were written more than 2,000 years ago, copied from earlier scrolls. These scrolls started showing up in the 1940s in dry caves by the Dead Sea. The intro says King Nahash terrorized Jews living east of the Jordan River, in the tribes of Gad and Reuben, in what is now the country of Jordan. He tore out their right eyes as a way of dishonoring Israel. Seven thousand Jews escaped and ran to Jabesh in the region of Gilead for protection. But a month later, Nahash’s army shows up at the front gate.
Why would any besieging army give a surrounded enemy time to hunt for allies to rescue them? Perhaps Nahash gambled that no one would come. If he got that right, it could save him from losing a lot of soldiers during an attack on a fortified city. Also, he may have been curious to see if others were too threatened by his reputation to face him in battle. An ego thing.
Bezek is linked to a ruin called Khirbet Ibziq, about 15 miles (24 km) almost directly west of Jabesh, on Israel’s side of the Jordan River. That’s less than a day’s march from the staging area to the battlefield.
It’s uncertain where Gilgal was. Contenders include several dirt-covered mounds of ruins near Jericho. No winners yet. Israel’s invasion of Canaan took the people there. Gilgal was described as their camp in the Promised Land of Israel and the staging ground for the coming attack on nearby Jericho (Joshua 4:19).
A peace offering, described in Leviticus 3, is one of several prescribed offerings in Jewish tradition. When Jewish people wanted to give thanks to God for something, such as good health or safety, they would sacrifice a sheep, goat, cow, or bull. They would burn part of the animal, including the kidneys and fat covering the intestines. They would eat the rest in celebration, often with family and friends. It takes a fair number of hungry people to eat a cow. But people were eager to eat meat because it was rare in Bible times for common folks to eat meat, many Bible scholars say.
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