Saul’s victory has cemented the hearts of the people to him. Those who refused to follow him in the beginning are in danger now. Not from Saul but from the people.
Before we jump into our story I have a few things I want to look at. The first is that Samuel was apparently present in the battle with Nahash. The second is that the Ark of the Lord may also have been present. And if it was I want to ask why it wasn’t taken back to Shiloh afterwards.
The first issue is Samuel. In our opening verse the people speak directly to Samuel. They want the men who refused Saul’s rule to be put to death. Saul is surely the Lord’s man and their disrespect of him needs to be dealt with. The fact that Saul counters their plan immediately says that the two of them were together. Saul’s words about “today” being the day that the Lord worked his salvation means that they are still in Jabesh-gilead. So Samuel was at the battle. This is certainly not unheard of as many times Israel’s spiritual leaders were present when they went to war.
My second issue is that the Ark of the Lord may have been present. I base this on a future battle and its account. In chapter 14 of 1 Samuel we see Israel fighting against the Philistines. Jonathan and his armor bearer have snuck over into their camp and began killing the enemy. After looking around and finding out who is missing Saul calls for the Ark to be brought. “For the Ark of God went at that time with the people of Israel” (1 Samuel 14:18b). This is at least a year later but is it possible that the Ark came at the king’s command too?
But if the Ark did come why wasn’t it put back in Shiloh afterwards? We know that when David had the Ark brought to Jerusalem he brought it from where it was left after the Philistines sent it back; the house of Abinadab in Kiriath-jearim. If it was out and about I would think it would have been put back in the Tabernacle but apparently it wasn’t. I suppose this is another one of those questions I am going to have to take up with Jesus when I get there.
Now that those questions are out of the way, let’s get back to our story. I going to PRETEND I already had Samuel join Saul and pick up from where we start today. I have a desire to take all the “first person” stories I have created over the years and put them together into a book. When I put Samuel’s story together I will change the “King’s 1st Army” to reflect Samuel joining Saul at Bazak. IF I get a wild hair and find time I might update the blog story too, but don’t hold me to that.
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The camp yielded few swords as metal workers are scarce even in the ranks of the Ammonites. This was a disappointment to Saul as the Philistines have taken any Israelite who could work with metals and made them serve the Philistines instead. Good swords are HARD to come by.
The spoils are laid at Saul’s feet. Samuel stands to his left and watches the activities. Three hundred thousand men stand before Saul. Elated by the victory yet also weary from the demands of battle. The air is charged with excitement!
A voice rings out a stone’s throw from Saul. It is directed at Samuel. “Who is it that said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring the men, that we may put them to death” (verse 12b).
Saul was shocked! This was a day for celebration, not revenge. “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has worked salvation in Israel” (verse 13).
Samuel is very pleased with Saul’s answer. It shows not only forgiveness for wrongs done to him personally but that Saul is continuing to take on the leadership role of a king. Saul’s answer also shows that he knows to Whom this victory ultimately belongs. On the people’s part, their cry shows that they have accepted Saul as their king in more than name alone. They are ready to follow him wherever he leads, without threat of violence as motivator.
Samuel calls out to the people “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingdom” (verse 14).
The people shout their agreement and readiness. “Let’s Go!” “Long live the king!” “Onward to Gilgal!”
Saul knows the people need rest and refreshing but they are determined to do what Samuel has voiced. So ready to renew their allegiance to their king that they would have set out immediately if Saul not called for them to sit and refresh themselves first. The journey to Gilgal would take time and strength.
While the men eat Saul looks over the spoils laid out if front of him. He reaches down and chooses twelve changes of clothing, twelve wineskins and twelve bags of bread to present as his offering to the Lord. These he set aside to gives to Samuel to carry back to the Tabernacle. Samuel does not reside there any longer but he would be able to see to it that Saul’s gift to the Lord was delivered into the Levite’s hands.
Saul separated the swords from the other items taken and marks these to be put into his first garrison. This will be his next task upon returning home from Gilgal. The remaining spoils will be divided amongst the tribes. The captains of thousands were given this task. It is now time for Saul to refresh himself also. He will have his army make camp for the night here at Jabesh-gilead and then send the men to their homes. From there all the people will be gathered as a whole at Gilgal. Saul wants all Israel to be a part of this renewal.
Celebration of the Lord’s salvation goes long into the night. The people of Jabesh-gilead are happy to host their rescuers. They cannot provide enough food and wine for such a large crowd but what they have they freely share. Stories and songs flow through the camp more freely than any drink ever did.
Morning breaks and Saul calls his army together again. “You are all to return to your homes today and tell of this deliverance from the Lord. You are also to tell all the people that we meet in Gilgal in seven days. There the Lord will confirm me again as king over Israel. He has confirmed me in battle and in your hearts. On that day He will confirm me in the eyes of the rest of the nation.”
Men began breaking camp within the hour. They were anxious to get home to tell the story of what had happened here. Their hearts knew that this was the beginning of the work the Lord would do in Israel at the hand of their king. Saul would be the Lord’s hand of deliverance!
The seven days passed quickly. Samuel delivered Saul’s gift to Shiloh. The swords taken from the field of battle were in Gibeah at the home of Saul. And all of Israel were now assembled at Gilgal to reconfirm their commitment to their king.
Saul was no longer the reluctant king who hid among the baggage. He stood tall beside Samuel in front of the people. He held his head high. He had changed a great deal from the man who stood before Israel a short time ago. He was now prepared to take on all the responsibilities the Lord had set before him. He was the Lord’s willing instrument.
Saul had brought with him animals to sacrifice before the Lord. These would be presented to Samuel to make a peace offering before the Lord on behalf of all Israel. All Israel would partake in the celebration and eating of this offering.
Samuel called for the scroll where he had written the duties of the king. He read this again in the hearing of the people. He then began to present the offerings Saul had provided for the people. The Levites stepped in to help with this task after Samuel had begun it. This would take some time as there were many animals to offer and a multitude of people to feed.
There were none who rejected Saul at this celebration. All Israel rejoiced greatly as their king stepped into the role the Lord had called him to.
(to be continued)
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A LOT of hearts changed between the two coronation ceremonies. The change in Saul is astounding! From hiding in the baggage to standing tall before the people. Saul was no longer a reluctant king. The hearts of the men who rejected Saul were now accepting him and swearing their loyalty. We don’t see them named here but neither do we see them pointed out as resistant. Saul also forgave them as fully as the nation forgave Gilgal and Jabesh-gilead their prior sins. New hearts all around!
Father God, thank You for helping me in this story today. I was lost with all that was going on in my day. You quieted me and took me to the place You wanted me to go. To a place of thanks giving. A place where I was able to recognize the change YOU worked in Saul’s heart. You have worked some of those same kinds of changes in my heart over the years. Taken me from a place of reluctance to a place where I’m Your willing servant. I know Saul makes A LOT of mistakes on his journey as king. I PRAY I don’t follow in that path in the things You have called me to! Pull me back whenever I start to wander. Redirect my path. I want to give myself fully into Your hands.