I Samuel 11 The LORD Saves Jabesh Gilead Through Saul.
The people of Jabesh Gilead should rather have died in battle then to make a covenant with the LORD’s enemies, the Ammonites, to say nothing of even contemplating having their right eyes plucked out (vv. 1-2). Odd as it seems, the Ammonites actually gave them seven days to see if there were any of their number willing to fight for them (v. 3). Saul would lead the charge, but only because “the Spirit of God came upon” him (v.6), and any who did not follow him with Samuel would be killed and cut in pieces (v. 7a). And the fear of the LORD fell on the people, and they came out with one consent” (v. 7b).
There was a history between the tribe of Benjamin which included Saul, and the camp of Jabesh Gilead. At the conclusion of the book of Judges, when wives had to be provided for the depleted tribe of Benjamin, the only people who did not send any eligible women was the camp of Jabesh Gilead (21:8-9). For such a failure to keep covenant with their brothers all its inhabitants were killed but the virgin women (vv. 10ff.). It is all the more remarkable therefore, that Saul was willing to go to battle for them, but such was the transformation which the Spirit of God made.
Israel had 300,000 soldiers, and Judah a tenth of that, and all together they killed the vast majority of the Ammonites in one day (vv. 8-11). The majority of the people asked of Samuel that those who opposed Saul be destroyed, but Saul himself had a change of heart, and declared that “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has accomplished salvation in Israel” (v. 13). We then come to another critical juncture in the flow of salvation history. Samuel calls the people to go with him “to Gilgal and renew the kingdom there” (v. 14).
Gilgal was the place where under Joshua the LORD rolled back the bondage of the people in preparation for taking the promised land (Josh. 4). To “renew the kingdom” was the same as saying to ‘renew the covenant’. Kingdom and covenant are inseparable. The LORD God established his covenant with his people that his kingdom and will would be done on earth as it is in heaven (Mt. 6:10). At Gilgal they concurred with the LORD to make Saul king, offered sacrifices and rejoiced (vv. 15-16).