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Story of the Bible by  Jesse Lyman Hurlbut
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HOW SAUL SAVED THE EYES OF THE MEN OF JABESH

I Samuel xi: 1, to xii: 25.

[267]

S AUL was now the king of all the twelve tribes of Israel, but he did not at once in his manner of life set up the state of a king. He lived at home, and worked in the fields on his father's farm, just as he had always done.

One day, while Saul was plowing in the field with a yoke of oxen, a man came running with sad news. He said that the Ammonites, a fierce people living near the desert on the east, beyond the Jordan, had come up against Jabesh in Gilead, led by their king, Nahash. The people in that city were too few to fight the Ammonites, and they said, "We will submit to your rule, if you will promise to spare our lives."

And Nahash, the king of the Ammonites, said to the people of Jabesh, "You shall live, but within seven days I will come with my soldiers, and I will put out the right eye of every man in your city."

When a city was taken by its enemies in those times, such cruel deeds were common. Often all the people in it, young and old, were slain without mercy. The men of Jabesh sent a messenger to go to Saul as swiftly as possible, and to tell him of the terrible fate that was hanging over them.


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A MESSENGER BRINGS SAUL SAD NEWS

When Saul heard of it the spirit of a king rose within him. He killed the oxen that he was driving, cut them into twelve pieces, and sent swift messengers through all the land, to say to every fighting man in the twelve tribes, "Whoever will not come out after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen."

And the Lord gave to all the people the spirit of obedience to [268] their king. At once a great army gathered at a place called Bezek, and he sent word to Jabesh, saying, "To-morrow, by the time the sun is hot, you will be set free from all fear of the Ammonites."

Saul and his men marched swiftly over the mountains of Benjamin and down into the Jordan valley. They walked across the river where it was shallow and climbed the mountains of Gilead. There they fell furiously upon the Ammonites early in the morning, killed many of them and scattered the rest, so that not even two of their men could be found together.

We read in the last Story that when Saul was made king some men were not pleased and were unwilling to submit to him. Now that a great victory had been won under Saul as leader, the people said with one voice, "Where are those men who would not honor our king? Bring them out, and let them be put to death."

But King Saul said, "There shall not a man be put to death this [269] day, for to-day the Lord has set his people free from their enemies." Samuel was with Saul, and he said, "Let us go to Gilgal, where Joshua encamped long ago when our fathers crossed the Jordan; and there let us set up the kingdom again."

They came to Gilgal, and offered sacrifices to the Lord and worshipped. There Samuel gave up to the new king the rule over the land and spoke words of farewell. He said to the people:

"I have done as you asked me, and have given you a king. Your king stands before you now. I am old and gray-headed, and I have lived before you from my youth up to this day. Here I am; now, in the presence of the Lord and of his anointed king, is there any man whom I have wronged? Have I taken any man's ox or ass? Have I taken a present from any man to make me favor him as judge? If I have robbed any man, let him speak, and I will pay him all that I have taken."

And all the people said to Samuel, "You have ruled justly, and have wronged no man, and have robbed no man."

And Samuel said, "The Lord is witness, and his anointed, the king, is witness, that I have taken nothing from any man."

And all the people said, "He is witness."

Then Samuel called to their minds all that God had done for his people since he had led them out of Egypt; how he had saved them from their enemies, and had given them judges. And he said, "Now the Lord has set a king over you. If you will fear the Lord, and will serve him, then it shall be well with you. But if you disobey the Lord, then God will punish you, as he punished your fathers."

Then Samuel called upon God, and God sent thunder and rain on that day, showing his power. The people were filled with fear, and they cried to Samuel, "Pray to the Lord for us, for we have done wrong in asking for a king."

"Yes," said Samuel, "you have done wrong; but if you from this time do right, and seek the Lord, God will not forsake you. He will forgive you and bless you. I will always pray for you, and will teach you the right way. But if you do evil, God will destroy you and your king. So fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart."

After this Samuel went again to his own house at Ramah, and Saul ruled the people from Gibeah, the home of his family.


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