1 Samuel 11

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Read 1 Samuel 11

Saul Rescues the City of Jabesh

1 Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead. And all the men of Jabesh said to him, “Make a treaty with us, and we will be subject to you.”

But Nahash the Ammonite replied, “I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel.”

The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days so we can send messengers throughout Israel; if no one comes to rescue us, we will surrender to you.”

When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and reported these terms to the people, they all wept aloud. Just then Saul was returning from the fields, behind his oxen, and he asked, “What is wrong with everyone? Why are they weeping?” Then they repeated to him what the men of Jabesh had said.

When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger. He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.” Then the terror of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out together as one. When Saul mustered them at Bezek, the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and those of Judah thirty thousand.

They told the messengers who had come, “Say to the men of Jabesh Gilead, ‘By the time the sun is hot tomorrow, you will be rescued.’” When the messengers went and reported this to the men of Jabesh, they were elated. 10 They said to the Ammonites, “Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you can do to us whatever you like.”

11 The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.

Saul Confirmed as King

12 The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Turn these men over to us so that we may put them to death.”

13 But Saul said, “No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel.”

14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.

Go Deeper

At the end of 1 Samuel 10, Saul is thrust into his new role as king of Israel. His head had to have been spinning as he processed all the ways his life was about to change. When we read 1 Samuel 11, the honeymoon period is over. He has decisions to make and people to protect. The Israelites in Jabesh Gilead were in trouble and faced the prospect of either having their eyes gouged out and submitting to the evil Nahash or being wiped out altogether. It felt like the ultimate no-win situation. When they asked if they could seek help, Nahash said yes for two reasons: he believed others would learn to fear him, and he believed Israel wouldn’t get on the same page quickly enough to rescue their fellow Israelites. 

Once Saul heard of their plight, verse 6 tells us that “the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger.” Saul, with the prompting of the Spirit of God, jumped into action. He quickly put his sharp military mind to use and devised a plan to attack the Ammonites. Because of Saul’s quick action and God’s blessing, Nahash and his army were destroyed and the people of Jabesh Gilead were saved. It’s at this point that all of Israel accepts Saul as their king. And why wouldn’t they? He’s a hero! Saul, humble enough to realize Who was on their side, directs the credit towards the Lord (v. 13).

Chapter 11 is a pivotal moment in both Israel’s history and the story arc of Saul’s reign as king. It is important for us to remember the reality of kingship is new to Israel. What happens in this chapter is a result of Saul’s complete surrender to God, who worked in and through Saul. Because of that, Saul knew exactly what to do and how to lead. As a result, Israel prospered. Great things happen when we live by the Spirit and not by our own whims or desires. Saul exemplifies true leadership in following God’s prompting while leading others. However, that wasn’t always the case for Saul (as we’ll see in the coming days). Today, let us learn from Saul’s example what happens when we’re led by the Spirit and not led by our flesh.


  1. The name Nahash means “serpent” or “snake.” In what ways can you draw parallels between the tactics of Satan, our enemy, and Nahash, the enemy of Israel?
  2. Can you think of a recent example of being surrendered to the Spirit and God blessing your obedience?
  3. What does this passage teach you about the character of God?

Pray This

Father, thank you for giving us access to the Holy Spirit. Today, help me put my own wants and desires to death. Help me live in tune with the Spirit, with eyes to see all that You would have me see today. You have given us the perfect example of how to live humbly submitted to you in Jesus. I pray that my focus will be fixed on Your will today, not mine. In Jesus’s name, Amen. 

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3 thoughts on “1 Samuel 11”

  1. Ella Snodgrass

    I want to remember in days ahead when we read more of Saul’s story that he began well. His first official act as king was prompted by God’s power and spirit. He also credited the Lord for providing deliverance for Israel over the enemy. Today will present choices and circumstances to either follow closely with my Savior or follow my own stubborn will. Which will I choose? Prayerfully, I submit my moments to Him realizing that following Him will be hard but so worth it. As JP reminded us yesterday “relationships are forged, not found.” When the enemy tries to intimidate me today, as he surely will, I will press into following Jesus and not surrender to his evil schemes. I will exalt Christ!

  2. Kathy Davidson

    It makes more sense to me after today’s reading why the Jews expected Jesus to bring a different kind of salvation when He came. We read today about how God physically delivered his people from their enemies; Saul even credits their “salvation” to God. Jesus was supposed to physically bring the Jews salvation from their Roman enemies, and instead he forgave their sins & healed their diseases, and, worst of all- taught them to love their enemies! Jesus brought spiritual salvation, not physical. And He brought that salvation to ALL people, including their enemies. No wonder the Jews were confused- they were expecting a military leader like Saul & instead got a carpenter named Jesus. God’s physical salvation in the Old Testament foreshadows His spiritual salvation which was to come in the New Covenant. Today I’m grateful for His salvation, yes His physical salvation at times, but ultimately for his spiritual salvation available for all at any time.

  3. I, too, love the verse “the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger.” I think often times, in Christian circles, it seems as though anger is a bad that and that we’re always to turn the other cheek. However, in this verse the Spirit of God erupted something powerful in Saul to do what is right with fervor. I think it’s important, as a man or woman, to realize that sometimes God wants us to act passionately for His purpose and not passively. Sometimes it’s imperative to act NOW and not wait for further validation or confirmation. I believe Jesus is the Warrior Spirit just as much as he is the Lamb of God slain for our iniquities.

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