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Bible: What Does 1 Samuel 11-13 Teach Us About Samuel, Saul, and Jonathan?

Updated on September 9, 2016

Saul Defeats Nahash the Ammonite

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John MacArthur--Pastor-Teacher

King Saul's Victory

Small Jabesh Gilead attempts to covenant with the powerful Ammonite, Nahash (v. 1).

The latter, however, places such a facetious condition upon their agreement that Jabesh, while not refusing him outright, requests a week to find a deliverer (vv. 1-3).

When Saul and the rest of Gibeah hear the news, the new commander, righteously angry, sends slabs of slaughtered oxen throughout Israel as signs, summoning all men “To arms, or else” (vv. 4-7).

Fearing for their own livestock (and livelihood), three hundred thirty thousand warriors gather at Bezek (v. 8).

Gileadite messengers take back home a heartening report that relief will come early the next day (v. 9).

To lure Nahash, the men of Jabesh tell him they are his servants, and they will surrender the next day (v. 10).

With Nahash camping near Jabesh, Saul and his army descend at the morning watch and slaughter Ammonites all day long (v. 11).

After the great victory, some overzealous (seemingly bloodthirsty) men among Saul's troops want his detractors' heads (v. 12).

However, Saul, showing great restraint and mercy, forbids this act of barbarity (v. 13).

Instead, Samuel calls for a time of covenant renewal at Gilgal; there he officially makes Saul king, and all the people celebrate (vv. 14-15).

Samuel and Saul

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Samuel's Fear-Inspiring Prayer


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I Samuel 12

During Saul's coronation, Samuel delivers a "state of the nation" address (vv. 1-25).

[Except for a few brief responses from the people (vv. 4, 5b, 19), the prophet's message dominates the chapter].

Its “big idea” emphasizes the peril of Israel’s choice in making a king for themselves when they already had a Ruler, Yahweh.

Prior to exploring this topic more fully, however, old Samuel wishes to clear his name from any wrongdoing.

He asks anyone in Israel to testify publicly (if he can) that he had ever cheated anyone all the days of his priesthood (vv. 2-3; cf. Paul’s defense in Acts 20:31-34).

Once Samuel establishes that he has modeled a godly, righteous character before them, he moves them to bear witness to that fact before both the LORD and Saul (vv. 4-5).

Then beginning with Moses and ending with the deeds of earlier judges, Samuel reviews "the righteous acts of the LORD": how Yahweh delivered Israel from Egypt (vv. 6-8), from Sisera, Philistines, Moabites (v. 9), and from other enemies (v. 11) in response to their cries for help (vv. 8, 10).

Finally, he relates the most recent example of opposition—Nahash's attack—reminding them that instead of calling upon Yahweh, they asked the prophet to make them a king (v. 12).

Samuel reiterates that he has complied with their wishes (v. 13; cf. v. 1), but now warns Israel to obey God or suffer the consequences (vv. 14-15).

To show the people that rejecting the LORD as king constituted a serious transgression, Samuel calls upon God to send thunder and rain during the current wheat harvest (apparently something that seldom, if ever, occurs?), and He does it (vv. 16-18).

This "great thing" (v. 16) causes overwhelming fear in Israel, so much so that the people ask Samuel to intercede for them (vv. 18b-19).

Graciously, the old prophet reassures them that Yahweh will preserve them as long as they follow Him and do not apostatize (vv. 20-22).

Samuel himself promises to pray continually for their welfare and to teach them, for he sees failure to do so on his part as sin (v. 23).

Once more, he exhorts them to serve God wholeheartedly by meditating upon what He has done for them (v. 24).

However, Samuel also admonishes them about the consequences of engaging in evil behavior (v. 25).

Jonathan with David

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Saul's Act of Disobedience


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1 Samuel 13

In Saul's second year as king, he and Jonathan his son (v. 16) share three thousand warriors between them (v. 2).

Under orders, Jonathan and his one thousand men launch an (apparently) unprovoked attack upon a Philistine garrison, causing all Philistia to curse Israel.

Meanwhile, the people seek out Saul in Gilgal (vv. 1-4).

[Remember: Samuel had told the king to travel to Gilgal and wait for him for one week (see 10:8)].

A great Philistine army assembles and camps at Michmash, a town not far from Saul's headquarters, sending many frightened Israelites into caves and others across the Jordan.

As for the rest of the people, they tremble alongside the king (vv. 5-7).

After seven days of waiting, Saul, seeing the people begin to scatter from him, feels compelled to offer the sacrifices only Samuel had the right to do (vv. 8-9, 11b-12).

The prophet, slightly delayed, comes shortly after the burnt offering, and reprimands Saul for breaking the commandment (vv. 10-11a, 13).

The king's disobedience costs him the continuance of his reign, for God had chosen another: a "man after His own heart" (v. 14).

Samuel then travels to Gibeah; as for Saul, he finds himself with only six hundred men left to command (v. 15).

While Saul and Jonathan remain in Gibeah, Philistines raiders maneuver into position, taking three roads in the land (vv. 16-18).

(Under Philistine occupation, Israel received no permission to fashion traditional weapons; they even had to pay a price (exorbitant?) to have their farm implements sharpened) [vv. 19-22a].

Even though the men have nothing with which to fight their enemy, they remain faithful to the king and his son (v. 22b).

Meanwhile, the Philistines prepare for battle (v. 23).

© 2013 glynch1

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