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in order to submit themselves to the infliction of his cruel and abandoned purpose.
They accordingly sent their messengers to Saul, who was then in Gibeah, and their melancholy tale excited the sympathy of the people, so that they wept, and no less indignation in the mind of Saul; for, influenced by the Spirit of God, be immediately took a yoke or pair of oxen, and hewed them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel, by the hands of messengers, saying, whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen. By this means, and under the fear of the Lord, Saul assembled an army of 300,000 men of the children of Israel, and 30,000 of the men of Judah, and sent the messengers back to their terrified and anxions brethren of Jabesh Gilead, with this significant and encouraging message. “To-morrow by that time the sun be hot, ye shall have help.”*
We may easily imagine how grateful this message must have been to the inhabitants of the besieged city,t who immediately sent word to Nahash; “to-morrow we will come out to yon, and ye shall do with us all that seemeth good unto you.”
Upon his arrival, Saul divided his army into three bands, or companies ; and they came into the midst of the host (of the enemy), in the morning watch, and slew the Ammonites
* I Sam. xi. 9. + We have some affecting examples of similar relief in history. Soch must have been the joy experienced by the inhabitants of Vienna, when besieged by two hundred thousand Turks, under the famous Kara Mustapha, in the year 1683, they were relieved at the last moment, by the arrival of the famous John Sobieski, King of Poland: and such the exultation with which Jane, Countess of Montford, when, from the highest turret of the Castle of Hennebon, in Flanders, and whilst her ministers were actually framing the terms of capitulation to her husband's rival, exclaimed on descrying the pennons of the brave Sir Walter Manny floating in the offing, until the heat of the day: and it came to pass, that they which remained were scattered, so that two of them were not left together.*
Saul here again shewed his magnanimity and disposition for mercy, for when, in the exultation of victory, some of his adherents were desirous of punishing the men of Belial for their insolence and disloyalty, exclaiming, who is he that asked, shall Saul reign over us? bring the men that we may put them to death; he replied, there shall not a man be put to death this day, for to day the Lord hath wrought salvation in Israel.t
It would seem that it was not the purpose of Jehovah, that the king whom he appointed over this people should be established in great pomp, for although Saul had been already anointed, and subsequently publicly chosen by lot, and the manner of the kingdom had been written in a book, yet when the messengers from Jabesh Gilead came to him, they found him “coming after the berd out of the field;" so that he must have continued to follow his pastoral and patriarchal occupations, after his elevation to the regal dignity.
Still, however, God was unwilling to pass by the great crime of which the Jewish nation had been guilty, in rejecting his own immediate government, for towards the close of Samuel's life, that distinguished prophet, in a solemn address, after pointing out how they had been led, conducted, and preserved, by Jehovah himself, but yet promising protection both to them and their king, if they would fear the Lord and serve him, and obey his voice, adds, “now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the Lord will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat-harvest to day? I will call unto the Lord, and he shall send thunder and rain : that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking you a king. So Samuel called unto the Lord : and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people feared the Lord and Samuel. And all the people said unto Samuel, pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins, this evil, to ask us a king."*
* | Sam. xi. 11.
+ 1 Sam. xi. 13.
1 Sam. xii, 14.
But mark the forbearing mercy of God, for the prophet immediately adds,“ the Lord will not forsake his people for his great name's sake :” but why, “ because it has pleased the Lord to make you his people.” And then he pathetically concludes, “only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you: but if ye shall still do wickedly ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.”+
In the third year of the reign of Saul, the people began to feel something of the kingly burthen which they had brought upon themselves; for we are told that Saul had selected three thousand soldiers, two thousand of whom he reserved as a body guard for himself in Michmash and Mount Bethel ; and the other thousand he gave to his eldest son Jonathan, who dwelt in Gibeah of Benjamin.
The next transaction in the reign of Saul was a war with the Philistines, originating in an attack by Jonathan upon one of their garrisons in Geba. We are not informed what induced Jonathan to take this step, nor whether he was authorized by Saul, who however anticipated it would involve the nation in a general war; and therefore be blew the trumpet throughout the land, and said, “let the Hebrews hear;''who, in consequence, assembled themselves to Saul in Gilgal. The Philistines encamped in Michmash, eastward from Beth-Aven, an immense army, described as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude, with thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen.
* 1 Sam. xii. 19. Harmer, i. 91.
Alarmed at the formidable appearance of the enemy, most of the Israelites withdrew from Saul; and he with difficulty induced a small number to remain with him in Gilgal, where he was waiting for Samuel, according to the directions of that prophet when he anointed him.*
The prescribed seven days having expired, and six hundred men only remaining, and those without any sword or spear,t either through want of faith, or excess of impatience, Saul ventured to offer up a burnt offering; and which sacri. fice he had hardly completed, when Samuel arrived. Upon Saul's offering in excuse the prophet's delay, the paucity of his own troops, and the imposing appearance of the Philistines, Samuel exclaimed, “thou hast done foolishly; thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee ; for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue ; the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.”
Samuel departed from Gilgal to Gibrah of Benjamin ; and thus rejected by God, deserted by his army, and abandoned by the prophet, Saul and Jonathan, and the few troops that remained, withdrew to Gibeah also; leaving the Philistine army encamped in Michmash, from whence they sent out three bands to pursue the Israelites, and harass the country.
The sacred writer then relates a brave and daring action of Jonathan, which would well deserve the character of rashness and imprudence, had we not reason to believe, that although the Lord had, as it were, given up Saul, yet that he inspired Jonathan to perform it, in order to shew that he had not wholly withdrawn his presence from his own people.
* 1 Sam. s. 8.
+ 1 Sam. xiii, 15. 22.
1 Sam. xiii. 13, 14.
Whilst Saul and the remnant of his army were thus lying at Gibeah, and expecting no doubt every moment to be attacked and exterminated by the Philistines, Jonathan secretly withdrew from the camp, taking with him only a young man, his armour bearer, in order to attempt a surprise upon the enemies' garrison at Michmash. In the passage between Michmash and Gibeah, there were two rocks with their backs to each other, or one rock with a double face ; one of which was named Bozez, and the other Seneh.
It would seem that sentinels were placed on the top of this rock; and Jonathan, guided no doubt by a divine impulse, had settled with his armour bearer, that if, on approaching the sentinels, they should say, “ come up to us," they would do so; but if the sentinels should say, “ tarry until we come to you,” then they should stand still. Upon seeing Jonathan and his armour bearer, the Philistines said, “Behold, the Hebrews come forth out of the holes where they had hid themselves ;” and cried out, “ come up to us, and we will shew you a thing.” Jonathan evidently felt he was acting under the guidance of God; for having exclaimed to his armour bearer, “ come up after me, for the Lord hath delivered them into the hand of Israel :” he immediately climbed up on his hands and feet, followed by his armour bearer, when they slew twenty men. The alarm produced by this sudden attack, and the miraculous effect of the terror put into their hearts by the Lord, was so great, that the whole garrison fled before them; and could be distinguished by the sentinels of Saul in Gibeah, as beating down one another till the whole multitude melted away.
Saul was so entirely ignorant of what had happened, and