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which so frequently characterises those who are suddenly elevated to exalted stations; for when some men of Belial* said, how shall this man save us ? and despised him, and brought him no presents ;t he discovered no resentment, but merely held his peace : and we shall find, from his subsequent conduct towards them upon another occasion, this was the result of real magnanimity, and not merely the effect of smothered resentment.
The sacred record says, that when the new monarch stood among the people, he was higher than any of them, from his shoulders and upward; and Samuel said to all the people, “See ye him whom Jehovah hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people."
In the whole of this proceeding, we cannot fail to admire the tender yearnings of God over this favoured race, and his evident unwillingness to give them up to their own hearts' lusts. It was true they had rejected his immediate authority, and demanded a king, that they might be like the other nations. He complied with their request, and gave them their hearts' desire ; but well aware of the misery they were bringing upon themselves, and justly indignant with them for their ingratitude, he interposed an expedient by which they might have been saved ; for although he gave them a king, he reserved to the exercise of his own divine omnisience and prescience, the prerogative of appointing who that king should be. “ To-morrow, about this time, I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines ; for I have
I Sam. x. 27. We are not informed who or what they were, but probably the term is used, merely as designating their wickedness in general. + As was the usual custom in the East. Harmer, ii. 302.
1 Sam. x. 23, 24.
looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me. And when Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said unto him, behold the man whom I spake to thee of this same shall reign over my people.”
We may also remark, that God has respect to the A. C. 1095.
perfection of human beauty in those whom he selects
to administer before him ; thus Saul was exceedingly distinguished for his manly proportions, and David afterwards for his personal beauty.
One of the first transactions in which the new monarch distinguished himself, was in a battle with Nahash, a king or chief of the Ammonites, one of the nations bordering on the land of Canaan, who were not as yet entirely extirpated. Nahash had encamped with his army before Jabesh Gilead, and threatened to besiege it, when the inbabitants, in order to appease him, offered to serve him, or submit to become his tributaries, if he would make a covenant with them, or enter into such a treaty of alliance, as would secure them from future injury. The proud Ammonite acceded to their request, but upon the insolent and cruel condition, that he might thrust out all their right eyes, and lay it for a reproach upon all Israel. I
Conquerors and warriors often overshoot their mark, and by aiming to impose too severe conditions upon the vanquished, or those whom they consider unable to contend with them, excite a spirit of despair and revenge, which proves fatal to themselves. So it happened with the enemies of Jabesh Gilead. Exasperated at the insolence of the Ammonite, and yet unable to resist him without assistance, they solicited, and apparently obtained, a respite of seven days, at the end of which time, if they received no assistance from their brethren, they agreed to go out to Nabash, as it would seem,
I Sam. ix. 16, 17. + Burder, 0. L. 763.
# 1 Sam. xi. 2. Burder, 0. L. 136.
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, he 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 you, 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
* 1 Sam. xi. 9. † We have some affecting examples of similar relief in history. Such 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, The English! The English! I see the English.
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. +
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, I 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
* | Sam. xi. 11.
+ 1 Sam. xi. 13.
# 1 Sam. xii, 14.
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."'*
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 he 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 Micbmash, eastward
* 1 Sam. xii. 19. Harmer, i. 91. + 1 Sam. xii. 25. * 1 Sam. xiii.2. § 1 Sam. xiii. 4.