Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead. And all the men of Jabesh said to him, “Make a treaty with us, and we will be subject to you.”
But Nahash the Ammonite replied, “I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel.”
The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days so we can send messengers throughout Israel; if no one comes to rescue us, we will surrender to you.”
When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and reported these terms to the people, they all wept aloud. Just then Saul was returning from the fields, behind his oxen, and he asked, “What is wrong with the people? Why are they weeping?” Then they repeated to him what the men of Jabesh had said.
When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of Elohim came upon him in power, and he burned with anger. He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.” Then the terror of YAHWEH fell on the people, and they turned out as one man. When Saul mustered them at Bezek, the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and the men of Judah thirty thousand.
They told the messengers who had come, “Say to the men of Jabesh Gilead, ‘By the time the sun is hot tomorrow, you will be delivered.’” When the messengers went and reported this to the men of Jabesh, they were elated.
They said to the Ammonites, “Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you can do to us whatever seems good to you.”
The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.
The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring these men to us and we will put them to death.”
But Saul said, “No one shall be put to death today, for this day YAHWEH has rescued Israel.”
Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there reaffirm the kingship.” So all the people went to Gilgal and confirmed Saul as king in the presence of YAHWEH. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before YAHWEH, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.
Samuel said to all Israel, “I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of YAHWEH and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right.”
“You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.”
Samuel said to them, “YAHWEH is a witness against you, and also his anointed is witness this day that you have not found anything in my hand.”
“He is witness,” they said.
Then Samuel said to the people, “It is YAHWEH who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your forefathers up out of Egypt. Now then, stand here because I am going to confront you with evidence before YAHWEH as to all the righteous acts performed by YAHWEH for you and your fathers.
“After Jacob entered Egypt, they cried to YAHWEH for help, and YAHWEH sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your forefathers out of Egypt and settled them in this place.
“But they forgot YAHWEH their Elohim; so he sold them into the hand of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the king of Moab, who fought against them. They cried out to YAHWEH and said, “We have sinned; we have forsaken YAHWEH and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve you.’
Then YAHWEH sent Jerub-Baal, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel, and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies on every side, so that you lived securely.
“But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, ‘No, we want a king to rule over us’—even though YAHWEH your Elohim was your king. Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, YAHWEH has set a king over you. If you fear YAHWEH and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow YAHWEH your Elohim—good! But if you do not obey YAHWEH, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers.
“Now then, stand still and see this great thing YAHWEH is about to do before your eyes! Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call upon YAHWEH to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of YAHWEH when you asked for a king.”
Then Samuel called upon YAHWEH, and that same day YAHWEH sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of YAHWEH and of Samuel.
The people all said to Samuel, “Pray to YAHWEH your Elohim for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.”
“Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied, “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from YAHWEH, but serve YAHWEH with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. For the sake of his great name YAHWEH will not reject his people, because YAHWEH was pleased to make you his own. As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against YAHWEH by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear YAHWEH and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away.”
Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years.
Saul chose three thousand men from Israel; two thousand were with him at Micmash and in the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. The rest of the men he sent back to their homes.
Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. Then Saul had the trumpet blown throughout the land and said, “Let the Hebrews hear!” So all Israel heard the news: “Saul has attacked the Philistine outpost, and now Israel has become a stench to the Philistines.” And the people were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.
The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Micmash, east of Beth Aven. When the men of Israel saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.
Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.
“What have you done?” asked Samuel.
Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought YAHWEH’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”
“You acted foolishly,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command YAHWEH your Elohim gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; YAHWEH has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept YAHWEH’s command.
Then Samuel left Gilgal and went up to Gibeah in Benjamin, and Saul counted the men who were with him. They numbered about six hundred.
Saul and his son Jonathan and the men with them were staying in Gibeah in Benjamin, while the Philistines camped at Micmash. Raiding parties went out from the Philistine camp in three detachments. One turned toward Ophrah in the vicinity of Shual, another toward the borderland overlooking the Valley of Zeboim facing the desert.
Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, “Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!” So all Israel went down to the Philistines to have their plowshares, mattocks, axes and sickles sharpened.
The price was two-thirds of a shekel for sharpening forks and axes and for re-pointing goads.
So on the day of the battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in his hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them.