Poole on 1 Samuel 11:1, 2: Crisis at Jabesh-Gilead

Verse 1:[1] Then (1 Sam. 12:12) Nahash the Ammonite came up, and encamped against (Judg. 21:8) Jabesh-gilead: and all the men of Jabesh said unto Nahash, (Gen. 26:28; Ex. 23:32; 1 Kings 20:34; Job 41:4; Ezek. 17:13) Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee.

[Nahash went up] The Ammonites were dwelling in Arabia. Their capital was Rabbath,[2] Deuteronomy 3:11. Question: Whether this Nahash was the same as the one of whom it is spoken in 2 Samuel 10:2? Response: Most deny; but Peter Damianus[3] affirms, Epistles 6:5. If it is so, perhaps out of hatred for Saul he afterwards showed himself beneficent to David. But it hinders that that Nahash died more than forty-seven years after this battle (Mendoza).

[He went up] Now, he had gone up. Some say that the Israelites asked for a King, because they were hearing that that King was preparing troops againt them (Vatablus). The cause of the war is the same as in Judges 11:13. But, because they were defeated then, they reclaim their right with renewed military might (Mendoza, Martyr). He had already previously prepared an expedition against the Jews, 1 Samuel 12:12. But the Jews appear at that time to have settled with him upon certain conditions. Now one month after the choice of Saul as King, perhaps with occasion taken hence, the tyrant renews the war (Tirinus).

Then, that is, about that time; this particle being used in some latitude, as is frequent; for that this happened before, and was the occasion of their desire of a king, may seem from 1 Samuel 12:12; although it is possible that Nahash’s preparation, and declared intention of warring against them, might cause that desire, and that Nahash did not actually come against them (which is here related) till their king was chosen. Nahash the Ammonite; either the same with him, 2 Samuel 10:2, or his father and predecessor. Came up to war, probably to revenge and to recover their former great loss by Jephthah, Judges 11:33.

[Against Jebesh-gilead] This was a city of the first rank in the half tribe of Manasseh beyond Jordan, near the Ammonites; for which reason it was attacked by them first (Mendoza).

Jabesh-gilead was beyond Jordan, and near the Ammonites, who dwelt in part of Arabia.

[Thou shalt have us as confederates, and we will serve thee] We will be tributaries to thee (Vatablus). We will be thy subjects and servants, but allied by treaty, not slaves (Lapide). So that they might secure their life, they offer servitude (Mendoza). They act impiously, because they fall from God’s covenant, and defect to the Ammonites, which whom the Israelites were forbidden to enter into covenant in Deuteronomy.[4] They do not put their trust in God (Martyr). But since faith in God excludes temerity, and requires human industry, unless one rests upon some divine oracle; I rather believe that they were prudent (Mendoza).

Make a covenant with us, to wit, upon good conditions, so as we shall enjoy our religion and properties. We will serve thee; in other things we will be thy subjects and tributaries. The occasion of this offer was, that they saw no likelihood of relief from their brethren the Israelites in Canaan, who were remote from them, and then weak and divided, and scarce able to defend themselves from the Philistines.

Verse 2:[5] And Nahash the Ammonite answered them, On this condition will I make a covenant with you, that I may thrust out all your right eyes, and lay it for (Gen. 34:14; 1 Sam. 17:26) a reproach upon all Israel.

[Upon this condition a covenant with you (thus Pagnine), בְּזֹאת֙ אֶכְרֹ֣ת לָכֶ֔ם] In this I will cut to you[6] (Montanus). In this I will arrange a testament with you (Septuagint). In this I will determine for you (Jonathan). On this condition I will settle with you (Junius and Tremellius, Syriac, Arabic) a covenant (Syriac, Arabic), or I will strick a covenant (Munster, Tigurinus). Hebrew: in this, in this thing, on this condition. There is no Ellipsis here: but rather a Synecdoche of genus. And the feminine term is used with a neuter sense (Piscator). To strike a covenant is used, because covenants were confirmed by slaughtered animals. Concerning which see on Genesis 15:9; Jeremiah 34:18[7] (Mendoza).

[That I may pluck out…your right eyes, בִּנְק֥וֹר לָכֶ֖ם כָּל־עֵ֣ין יָמִ֑ין] In gouging out (by gouging out [Junius and Tremellius, Pagnine, Piscator]: by Apposition: with this condition, if I will have gouged out [Piscator, Vatablus]) to you every right eye (Montanus, similarly Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Munster, Tigurinus). Or, the eye of the right, understanding, side (Munster, Pagnine, Druisus out of the Hebrews). עַיִן/eye is a feminine noun (Drusius). Question: To what end does he demand this? Responses: 1. So that he might make them useless in war; for the left eye was wont to be hidden behind a shield (Grotius after Lyra, Estius, Menochius, Tirinus, Lapide, Sanchez, Mendoza out of Josephus and Tostatus). 2. For the reproach and contempt of Israel. See Judges 16:21; 2 Kings 25:7; 2 Samuel 5:8 (Mendoza). 3. So that he might strike terror into all the Hebrews (Lapide). But he was not willing to make them completely blind, for the sake of his own advantage, so that they might leave them with the ability to perform services of the meaner sort (Tirinus, similarly Menochius, Sanchez).

That I may thrust out all your right eyes; partly for a reproach, as it here follows; and partly to disable them from managing offensive weapons in battle; for their left eye served only or chiefly for defence, being covered by those large shields which then they used, and held in their left hand. He leaves them one eye, that they might be fit to serve him in any mean and base office.

[1] Hebrew: וַיַּ֗עַל נָחָשׁ֙ הָֽעַמּוֹנִ֔י וַיִּ֖חַן עַל־יָבֵ֣שׁ גִּלְעָ֑ד וַיֹּ֙אמְר֜וּ כָּל־אַנְשֵׁ֤י יָבֵישׁ֙ אֶל־נָחָ֔שׁ כְּרָת־לָ֥נוּ בְרִ֖ית וְנַעַבְדֶֽךָּ׃ [2] Rabbath was twenty-five miles east of Gilgal. [3] Peter Damianus (988-1072) served the Benedictines as a Prior and Abbot, and then the broader Roman Church as a cardinal. [4] See Deuteronomy 7:2. [5] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲלֵיהֶ֗ם נָחָשׁ֙ הָעַמּוֹנִ֔י בְּזֹאת֙ אֶכְרֹ֣ת לָכֶ֔ם בִּנְק֥וֹר לָכֶ֖ם כָּל־עֵ֣ין יָמִ֑ין וְשַׂמְתִּ֥יהָ חֶרְפָּ֖ה עַל־כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ [6] A woodenly literalistic rendering. [7] Jeremiah 34:18: “And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut (כָּרְתוּ) the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof…”

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