v1: The attack of the Ammonites on Jabesh Gilead became an early test for Saul. Jabesh clearly feared the enemy, and sought peace with them.
v2-5: Jabesh was able to buy a little time, during which they sent a message to Saul.
v6-8: Saul's response was decisive. The Spirit of God came upon him, as in 10.10. Through the message of the dismembered oxen, he encouraged the people to join with him in battle.
In Judg 21.7, Jabesh Gilead had failed to join in a battle against the tribe of Benjamin. Saul could have ignored their pleas, on the basis that they had failed to join with the rest of Israel. However, Saul considered it his responsibility to protect all Israel.
Saul's call was for the people to join him and Samuel. Doubtless the respect that people had for Samuel would ensure that many joined in.
v9-10: Saul was able to report to Jabesh that help would come.
v11: The victory was decisive, the enemy was severely defeated.
v12-13: See 10.27; some had opposed the appointment of Saul, and others now wanted to put them to death, since God had vindicated Saul. Saul was rejoicing in the victory that God had given, and showed mercy to these people.
v14-15: The people reaffirmed Saul's kingship. The first victory had been won, and Saul's authority was confirmed. There was also an opportunity for Samuel to proclaim God's word to the people.
After Saul had been anointed, he made his first oath. Several others followed, which illustrate the downward spiral of his spiritual life. These oaths are more about fear than about faith.
- (11:7) Saul made an oath to encourage the people in the battle against Nahash the Ammonite. He threatened to kill oxen, not people; the result was that the fear of the Lord fell upon the people, and there was a great victory.
- (11:13) After the victory, Saul promised that no-one would be put to death, even those who had resisted his authority as king.
- (14:24) In the battle with the Philistines, Saul commanded that the people did not eat any food. This discouraged an already weary army, and almost cost Jonathan his life.
- (17:25) An encouragement to get someone to fight Goliath; tax exemption, and Saul's daughter in marriage.
- (18:17) Saul gave his daughter Merab to David, but from a motive of deceit.
- (19:6) Saul promised Jonathan that he would not kill David. He soon disobeyed his own oath.
- (26:21) A further promise not to kill David.
- (28:10) Saul promised not to kill the witch, and almost condoned witchcraft.