Jabesh was a town in Gilead, which was on the east side of the river Jordan. You can read about the terrible incident that left that town empty in Judges 21:8-14. After that incident, other people moved into Jabesh. They probably also came from the small part of Israel that was on the east side of the river Jordan.
Near them, there was a strong nation called Ammon. Its king was Nahash. Nahash led a powerful army, and the people in Israel were afraid of him (12:12).
Nahash brought his army to Jabesh, and his soldiers surrounded it. They could not enter the town itself, because a wall surrounded the town. So they did not allow anyone to enter or to leave the town. When the inhabitants ran out of food, they would starve.
The inhabitants of Jabesh urged Nahash to make a peace agreement with them. They were willing to pay a high price for peace. They offered to hand over their town to him. They would accept his rule and they would be loyal to him. They would pay whatever taxes he demanded.
Nahash refused because he did not just want to gain control over that one town. His ambitions were greater than that. He wanted to make everyone in Israel ashamed that they were unable to defend Jabesh. He wanted to offend them so much that nobody in Israel would try to oppose his army. Then he could quickly and easily gain control over the whole of Israel.
So, Nahash made a very cruel demand. He would give peace to Jabesh if he could pull out the right eye of everyone in the town. However, he allowed Jabesh’s rulers first to request help from the rest of Israel. He wanted everyone in Israel to know how cruel he was. He probably thought that they would be too afraid to fight him.
Next part: Saul’s powerful leadership (1 Samuel 11:4-7)
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© 2014, Keith Simons.