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Jabesh Gilead was a somewhat remote city on the east side of the river Jordan,
although some miles from the Ammonite border. The Ammonites were a warlike people
and had a powerful army. When Nahash came up he would have surrounded the city, so
that it was completely cut off. The elders had no option but to accept the terms laid down.
In order to save the people's lives, and their homes from being ransacked, they declared
their willingness to pay tribute. The barbaric threat to "thrust out all their right eye"
meant the men of Jabesh would never be able to bear arms again; for in battle it was the
practice to cover the left eye by the shield.
"And the elders of Jabesh said unto them, Give us seven days' respite, that we may
send messengers unto all the coasts of Israel: and then, if there be no man to save us, we
will come out to thee" (11: 3).
A request by a beleaguered city or fortress for time or respite was usually accepted.
They certainly were far away from any hope of rescue from the tribes on the other side of
the Jordan river. It looked as though the city was doomed. Yet messengers got through
the enemies' lines, and went straight to Gibeah where Saul's home was.
It is interesting to note that between the tribe of Benjamin and the city of JabeshGilead
there had long existed the closest ties of friendship. This would have originated well
before the terrible punishment of the tribe of Benjamin by the remainder of Israel
recorded in Judges 20:
The only city from the whole nation that did not send
representatives to take part in the judgment meted out on that sad day was the city of
Jabesh Gilead (Judg. 21: 8, 9). Israel were summoned "as one man" by Phinehas, the
grandson of Aaron, to exact vengeance on the tribe of Benjamin for the crime committed
by the men of Gibeah (20: 11, 28). Jabesh Gilead alone refused to comply with the
imperious command. For this act of disobedience the city was razed to the ground and
the inhabitants put to the sword. The girls of marriageable age were saved, however, and
given to the sorely decimated tribe of Benjamin that their name should not die out in
Israel. Jabesh Gilead had been rebuilt and had become once again a great city.
Benjamin had produced the first king in Israel. No wonder then that the city in the hour
of its sore need and deadly peril should send for help to Gibeah to Saul.
The messengers got through, and the people who heard of the tragic plight of their
friends bewailed, and wrung their hands. Saul's anointing had made no difference to his
manner of life, for we read that "he came after the herd out of the field". He carried on
the duties on the farm and waited for the Lord to indicate His will as to when he was to
take on the leadership in Israel. The time had now come. The news of the desperate peril
of the people of Jabesh-Gilead, and of the distress of this ancient friend and ally deeply
moved Saul. It was then that the Spirit of God came upon him, and he knew what he had