Sunday, May 15, 2005

1 Samuel 11

Back in Judges (21:10), Jabesh-Gilead had been put to the sword for failing to answer the call to avenge the murder/rape of a Levite's concubine, and the virgin girls given to the Benjamites to help them rebuild their tribe, which had been all but wiped out in the vengeance. What triggered the assembly of Israel for war had been the cutting of the body of the concubine into pieces and their distribution throughout Israel.

This time, Jabesh-Gilead is in danger of being put to the sword by Ammon. The Ammonites, under Nahash, offer to lift the siege only if the townspeople allow the Ammonites to gouge out their right eyes as a means of disgracing Israel. Apparently puffed up with arrogance, he allows a messenger to leave and later to return with good news that help is on the way. Saul, newly crowned but still plowing his fields with his own oxen, rallies the Israelites by cutting up two oxen and sending the pieces around, threatening the oxen of any who don't appear with a like fate. Three hundred thousand Israelite troops show up at Bezek (12 miles northeast of Schechem), eventually marching 60 miles to Jabesh-Gilead and smash the besieging Ammonites. Given that Saul promises relief to the Jabesh-Gileadites to arrive about 24 hours after arriving at Bezek, the army must have had a hard march to Jabesh-Gilead.

At this point, Saul does one of the few statesmanlike acts of his career. Some suggest that those who did not support Saul earlier should be killed. But Saul demurs, saying "Israel has been saved today." At any rate, Saul is re-coronated at Gilgal, the town on the east bank of the Jordan where the Israelites entered Canaan originally. So Saul is the new Joshua.


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