THE BOOK OF 1 SAMUEL
Lesson 3: Chapters 8-10
Samuel and Saul: The Institution of the Monarchy
Most Holy and Divine King,
When the covenant people of Israel petitioned You for a human king, You granted their petition, not by relinquishing Your authority as the divine king of all Creation, but by appointing an earthly king as Your anointed representative. Help us to remember, Lord, that our earthly rulers are subservient to Your divine authority and that our first allegiance and our obedience belong to You. We praise You, Lord, for Your divine kingship over all of Creation, Your intervention in the direction of the course of human history, and Your guidance over the lives of the men and woman You have called to Your service to advance Your divine plan for mankind's salvation. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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He [God] brought them to his
holy land, the hill-country won by his right hand; he dispossessed nations
before them, measured out a heritage for each of them, and settled the tribes
of Israel in their tents. But still they challenged the Most High God and
defied him, refusing to keep his decrees; as perverse and treacherous as their
ancestors, they gave way like a faulty bow, provoking him with their high
places, rousing his jealousy with their idols. God listened and vented his
wrath, he totally rejected Israel; he forsook his dwelling in Shiloh, the tent
where he used to dwell on the earth. He abandoned his power to captivity, his
splendor to the enemy's clutches; he gave up his people to the sword, he vented
his wrath on his own heritage.
The Philistines destroyed Yahweh's Sanctuary at Shiloh and captured the Ark of the Covenant, the shrine that was God's visible dwelling place among His people. But after God's demonstrations of power over the Philistines and their false god, they returned the Ark of the Covenant to the Israelites. Unfortunately, after the destruction of the Sanctuary at Shiloh, there was no place to adequately house the Ark as a center of worship. In addition, the awesome power of the Ark and the terrible consequences of contact with it for those who did not revere God not only left the Philistines fearful but the Israelites as well, and so the Israelites left the Ark at the house of Abinadab at Kiriath-Jearim where Abinadab's son Eleazar was consecrated to guard the Ark.
The Israelites never considered that Yahweh would allow His Sanctuary to be destroyed, no matter how numerous their sins and covenant failures. The destruction of God's Sanctuary at Shiloh was meant to be a warning to the Israelites that their covenant with Yahweh did not give them immunity from God's divine judgment for violations against His Sanctuary or acts that violated the moral and religious laws of God's covenant, as the prophet Jeremiah will remind the people in the 6th century BC prior to the destruction of Yahweh's Temple in Jerusalem: Now go to the place which used to be mine at Shiloh, where I once gave my name a home; see what I have done to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel! And now, since you have done all these things, Yahweh declares, and refused to listen when I spoke so urgently, so persistently, or to answer when I called you, I shall treat this Temple that bears my name, and in which you put your heart, the place that I gave you and your ancestors, just as I treated Shiloh, and I shall drive you out of my sight , as I did all your kinsfolk, the whole race of Ephraim (Jer 7:12-15; also see 26:6).
Without a central Sanctuary, the people were reduced to offering sacrifice to Yahweh at various places within their communities wherever a chief priest was willing to preside. It was a violation of the covenant with Yahweh (Dt 12:8-14), but it was evidently permitted during this unsettling period in Israel's history. But God had not abandoned His covenant people. As always, the punishment of God's divine judgment was meant to call the people to repentance and restoration of fellowship with Yahweh. After twenty years, the people's sufferings resulted in their crying out to God. God responded to their pleas and Samuel, in his first act as judge of Israel, called a National Assembly of communal repentance and reconciliation at Mizpah. The restored fellowship with God led to the Israelite's victory over the Philistines and years of peace under Samuel's leadership.
Chapter 8: The Israelites ask for a Human King to Rule Them
to the Israelites prior to the conquest of Canaan concerning an Israelite
monarchy: "If, having reached the country [land] given by Yahweh your God
and having taken possession of it and, while living there, you think, 'I should
like to appoint a king to rule me like all the surrounding nations,' the king
whom you appoint to rule you must be chosen by Yahweh your God; the appointment
of a king must be made from your own brothers; on no account must you appoint
as king some foreigner who is not a brother of yours. He must not, however,
acquire more and more horses, or send the people back to Egypt with a view to
increasing his cavalry, since Yahweh has told you, 'You must never go back that
way again.' Nor must he keep on acquiring more and more wives, for that could
lead his heart astray. Nor must he acquire vast quantities of silver and gold.
Once seated on his royal throne, and for his own use, he must write a copy of
this Law [torah = instruction] on a scroll, at the dictation of the Levitical
priests. It must never leave him, and he must read it every day of his life
and learn to fear Yahweh his God by keeping all the words of this Law [torah =
instruction] and observing these rules, so that he will not think himself
superior to his brothers, and not deviate from these commandments either to
right or to left. So doing, long will he occupy his throne, he and his sons,
Deuteronomy 17:15-21 [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. I, page 508-9.
In last week's lesson we saw the transition in leadership from the chief priest Eli to Samuel. In this week's lesson we see the beginning of the transition in leadership from God's prophet-judge Samuel to Israel's first king, Saul.
1 Samuel 8:1-9 ~ The Israelite's make a Petition to
1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges of Israel. 2 His eldest son was called Joel and his second one, Abijah; they were judges at Beersheba. 3 His sons did not follow his example, but, seduced by the love of money, took bribes and gave biased verdicts. 4 The elders of Israel all assembled, went back to Samuel at Ramah, and said, 5 "Look, you are old, and your sons are not following your example. So give us a king to judge us, like the other nations." 6 Samuel thought that it was wrong of them to say, "Let us have a king to judge us," so he prayed to Yahweh. 7 But Yahweh said to Samuel, "Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you: it is not you they have rejected 8 but me, not wishing me to reign over them anymore. They are now doing to you exactly what they have done to me since the day I brought them out of Egypt until now, deserting me and serving other gods. 9 So, do what they ask; only, you must give them a solemn warning, and must tell them [certainly bear witness to them and inform to them] what the king who is to reign over them will do." [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 727; Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel, page 252.
According to the Law of Israel's covenant-treaty with Yahweh, courts were to be set up in each town (Dt 16:18). Samuel's sons were appointed judges at Beersheba, a town and oasis in the northern Negeb which was in Judean territory. It was the southernmost town in Israel and was located far from Samuel's headquarters in Ramah in the hill country of Benjamin. Samuel's sons abused their authority by accepting bribes and giving unjust verdicts.
Question: What were the commandments of God
concerning judges rendering just verdicts? What was the motive of Samuel's
sons for perverting justice? See Ex 23:2; Lev 19:15-18; Dt 16:18-20.
Answer: Judges were to render their verdicts impartially and were forbidden to take bribes. Samuel's sons were motivated by their love of money.
Question: Why doesn't Samuel fall under the same divine
judgment as the priest-judge Eli for his sons' crimes and abuses? Eli was
condemned by God for allowing his sons to abuse their positions of leadership
and power over the people and God's Sanctuary at Shiloh. See 1 Sam 2:29-36;
Answer: Eli was not a good role model for his sons; he was aware of his sons' abuses and did nothing to stop to them. It appears that Samuel was a good role model for his sons and was not aware of their disgraceful behavior; therefore he did not fall under God's judgment for their sins.
It was on the journey to Mt. Sinai that Moses appointed elders from each of the twelve tribes to serve as judges: Moses chose capable men from all Israel and put them in charge of the people as heads of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. These acted as the people's permanent judges. They referred hard cases to Moses but decided minor matters themselves (Ex 18:25-26). It was the tribal elders who approached Samuel to petition Yahweh to give them an earthly king "like other nations."
1 Samuel 8:5b ~ So give us a king to judge us, like
the other nations.
Question: Is this the first time the Israelites have expressed their desire to have a king to rule over them? See Judg 8:22-23.
Answer: The Israelites asked the judge Gideon to rule over them and to create a royal dynasty, but Gideon refused.
Question: What is the problem with Israel wanting
a king so they are "like other nations?" See Ex 19:3-8; Dt 7:6; 10:14-15.
Answer: It was Israel's vocation to be Yahweh's divinely chosen people and to be set apart from the other nations of the earth. They were not supposed to be like the other nations of the earth. By asking to be like the other nations, Israel is rejecting its true king and its own special vocation.
Question: What does God say to comfort His
distressed prophet in verse 7?
Answer: God tells Samuel the people have not rejected him as their prophet but that they have rejected God's divine kingship.
God is the King of the Cosmos and all it contains (Ps 9:7; 10:16; 47:2, 7; 93:1-2, 96:10; 97:1; 99:1-3; Is 52:7; Jer 10:10; etc). He has been acknowledged as King of humanity since "before the Flood", meaning from all eternity (Ps 29:10). He rules over all nations including the Philistines (7:13). And in the Exodus liberation, He replaced the Egyptian Pharaoh to become Israel's one divine King to rule over Israel, and as the song of victory after the crossing of the Red Sea expressed: "Yahweh will be king forever and ever" (Ex 15:18). No human king can take up the power of kingship except as a representative of Yahweh the divine King. In granting the Israelite's petition, God is not abandoning His own authority over Israel as her divine King. Instead, He is accepting a man chosen from among the Israelites to act as his representative in civil affairs just as the high priest is His representative in religious affairs. This turn of events was not unforeseen. God anticipated this petition prior to the conquest of Canaan and established His requirements for a limited monarchy.
Question: List God's requirements for a
limited monarchy found in Deuteronomy 17:14-20.
Chariots and war horses were the most technologically advanced weapons of the time. In the initial conquest of the Promised Land, the Canaanites had chariots and the Israelites did not, but God gave the Israelites victory over the fearsome chariots because the Israelites were obedient to Yahweh and His agent, Joshua (Josh 11:4-9; 17:16-18). The Israelites must not rely on their own efforts to defeat their enemies. Instead they must be obedient and faithful to God's commandments and rely on God to destroy their enemies as He did in the Exodus liberation and the conquest of Canaan. A king must not acquire many wives, especially foreign wives in making treaties with foreign nations, because these women who worship pagan gods will lead their husband away from God. In addition, God, who is the author of marriage, ordained marriage between one man and one woman (Gen 2:22-24), as Jesus will emphasize in Matthew 19:5-6. Although God allowed plural marriage, which was a common practice in ancient times, it is not sanctioned in the covenant laws nor is it ever presented in a positive light in the Bible.
Question: What was God's promise to an Israelite
king who was obedient to these laws under a limited monarchy?
Answer: If the king is obedient in observing the laws of kingship, long will he occupy his throne, he and his sons, in Israel.
1 Samuel 8:9 ~ So,
do what they ask; only, you must certainly bear witness to them and inform to
them what the king who is to reign over them will do."
God commands Samuel to warn the people what will happen to them when they are ruled by a king. What Samuel tells the people is more than a warning; it is a legal witness statement of not what "might" happen but what "will happen."
1 Samuel 8:10-22 ~ Samuel's criticism of Monarchy
10 Everything that Yahweh had said, Samuel then repeated to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, "This is what [the right of] the king who is to reign over you will do. He will take your sons and direct them to his chariotry and cavalry, and they will run in front of his chariot. 12 He will use them as leaders of a thousand and leaders of fifty; he will make them plough his fields and gather in his harvest and make his weapons of war and the gear for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters as perfumers, cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields, your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his officials. 15 He will tithe your crops and vineyards to provide for his courtiers and his officials. 16 He will take the best of your servants, men and women, of your oxen and your donkeys, and make them work for him. 17 He will tithe [take a tenth part of] your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry aloud because of the king you have chosen for yourselves, but on that day Yahweh will not hear you." [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 727-28; Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel, page 252.
The elders of Israel asked for a king to judge the people with justice (verse 9), but in verse 11 Yahweh instructs Samuel to inform them of the "rights" a king sees as his in governing his people rather than his role as a dispenser of justice.
Question: What does Samuel list as warnings for
the abuses of a monarchy?
*Literally a tenth of their flocks. The Israelites already pay a tenth of their wealth material to support the priesthood and this tithe would be in addition to that tax.
1 Samuel 8:17-18 ~ He
will tithe your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry aloud
because of the king you have chosen for yourselves, but on that day Yahweh will
not hear you."
Verse 17 warns that all the people have and they themselves will become subject to arbitrary use by the king including labor corvees which is a form of slavery they experienced in Egypt. This warning does not contain any specific example from the future but is a warning of the conditions of possible oppression experienced by most people in a monarchial society. In verse 18 Yahweh threatens to ignore their cries because He warned them what would happen. He will respect their decision and will not respond to their self-inflicted misery.
Question: What warning is there for us in this
story where God's grants the people's petition even though it is not the best
plan of government for them?
Answer: The warning is that sometimes when we willfully demand what seems right for us instead of submitting ourselves to God's wisdom for our lives that He will give us what we demand even if it is the wrong choice.
However, even when we make the wrong choice, God will always have a "plan B" to restore us to fellowship with Him and to continue to advance His divine plan for mankind's salvation. "Plan B" will be the kingship and dynasty of David of Bethlehem, the ancestor of Jesus of Nazareth (Mt 1:1).
1 Samuel 8:19-22 ~ The People's response to Samuel:
19 The people, however, refused to listen to Samuel. They said, "No! We are determined to have a king, 20 so that we can be like the other nations, with our own king to rule us and lead us and fight our battles." 21 Samuel listened to all that the people had to say and repeated it in Yahweh's ear. 22 Yahweh then said to Samuel, "Do as they ask and give them a king." Samuel then said to the Israelites, "Go home, each of you, to his own town."
Despite the warnings, the people refuse to listen to God and are determined to fulfill their self-interest to have a king. That they refused to listen to Yahweh demonstrates their distrust of God's leadership and their preference for the leadership of a human king. The granting of the people's request by God is not a positive order; it is a negative concession.
Question: What reason does God give Samuel for
granting the people's request and what will be the consequence? See Ex 19:8;
24:3, 8; 1 Sam 8:7-9, 18; 12:12.
Answer: They have rejected God who has been their king and to whom they swore their allegiance at Mt. Sinai. Israel's oppression will not come from her enemies as in the time of the Book of Judges, but from her kings.
Question: In response to God's list of negatives
concerning rule by a human king delivered through Samuel, what are the three positive
political reasons the elders of Israel offer for wanting a king? See 8:5, 20.
These were the three political functions of a king in all ancient societies at that time. After hearing the elders' petition, Samuel sends them all back to their own towns. As the future of the nation of Israel hangs in the balance, a handsome young man from the tribe of Benjamin goes looking for his father's lost donkeys but finds kingship and a kingdom.
Chapters 9-10: Saul seeks His Father's Donkeys but finds Divine Election
The unfolding events in chapters 9-10 seem to take place merely by chance, but it becomes obvious that God's providence is at work in what only appears to be happenstance:
1 Samuel 9:1-10 ~ The search for Kish's Donkeys
1 Among the men of Benjamin was a man called Kish son of Abiel*, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah; a Benjaminite and a person of rank [mighty warrior]. 2 He had a son called Saul, a handsome man in the prime of life. Of all the Israelites there was no one more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders taller than anyone else. 3 Now since the donkeys belonging to Kish, Saul's father, had strayed, Kish said to his son Saul, "My son, take one of the servants with you and be off; go and look for the donkeys." 4 They went through the highlands of Ephraim, they went through the territory of Shalishah, and did not find them; they went through the territory of Shaalim but they were not there; they went through the territory of Benjamin and did not find them. 5 When they reached the territory of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, "Come on, let us go back or my father will stop worrying over the donkeys and start being anxious about us." 6 The servant, however, replied, "Look, there is a man of God in this town, a man who is held in honor; everything he says comes true. Let us go there, then; perhaps he will be able to show us the way that we should take." 7 Saul said to his servant, "But if we do go, what can we take to the man? The food in our sacks is finished, and we have no present to offer the man of God. What else have we got?" 8 The servant spoke up again and said to Saul. "Look, I happen to have a quarter of a silver shekel; I shall give that to the man of God, for him to tell us which way to go." 10 Saul then said to his servant, "Well said! Come on, let us go." And they went off to the town where the man of God was. [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 728; Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel, page 253. Underlined phrase is not in the original text. The NJB numbers verse 9 among the verses in the next section and considers it a gloss inserted into the text by a later scribe to explain the archaic word for "prophet" as "seer." *Saul's genealogy is missing a name.(1)
Saul is a member of the tribe of Benjamin. His father is
a wealthy and influential man of rank and status (literally "a mighty warrior")
in the tribe of Benjamin. That his genealogy is given is a sign of the status
of his family, despite Saul's self-deprecating claim to humble birth in 9:21.
Question: How is Saul described? Why is his description important to the story?
Answer: Saul is a tall and handsome young man in the prime of life. Then as now, being attractive is an important asset in one's political career; perception often being more important than content.
You may recall from the Book of Judges that the Benjaminites were skilled left-handed warriors (Judg 3:15; 20:16; 1 Chr 12:2), and they were nearly wiped out in a disastrous civil war between the tribes (Judg 20-21). Now the tribe that was threatened with extinction will become prominent among the other tribes because Israel's first king will come from the tribe of Benjamin. Saul (sha'ul), whose name is derived from the root sha'al "to ask," can be linked to Hannah's statement in 1:20. Notice that this young man is going about the normal routine of his life as his destiny is altered just as other Biblical men and women experienced divine intervention during the normal routines of their lives. For example:
The story of Saul's encounter with Samuel is another example of God quietly working behind the scenes as He guides by His providence the destiny of men and women and the events in salvation history.
4 They went
through the highlands of Ephraim, they went through the territory of Shalishah,
and did not find them; they went through the territory of Shaalim but they were
not there; they went through the territory of Benjamin and did not find them.
Question: What route did Saul and his servant take to look for the donkeys?
Answer: From his family home in the territory of Benjamin, it appears Saul and his servant traveled in a circle north from Benjaminite lands into the lands of Ephraim and then returned south again into Benjaminite lands.
Shalishah and Shaalim are unknown regions and are not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. Saul's home was probably on the border between Ephraim and Benjamin. When Saul and his servant completed their circular journey and returned to the tribal lands of Benjamin, they came to the territory of Zuph (verses 4b-5a). You will recall that Samuel's father was an Ephraimite from the clan of Zuph. It is unclear where they are; have they come to where Zuphites live in Ephraimite territory near Ramathaim ("two hills") or to Ramah ("hill") in the tribal lands of Benjamin where members of the Zuphite clan settled as resident aliens? The territory that belonged to the tribe of Benjamin centered on the ridge of hills extending from Jerusalem north to Bethel (Josh 18:11-20).
Question: What is interesting about Saul's
exchange with his servant?
Answer: The reader gets the impression that Saul is not a natural leader. It is his servant who comes up with a plan for finding the donkeys and the means for paying the "man of God."
Question: Why did they feel it was necessary to
have a gift to offer the prophet? See Num 22:7; 1 Kng 14:3;
2 Kng 4:42; 5:15;
Answer: It was the custom that the people did not consult a prophet without giving him a present to show their appreciation and to help him provide for his living expenses.
1 Samuel 9:11-13 ~ Saul seeks Samuel
11 As they were going up the slope to the town they came across some girls going out to draw water, and said to them, "Is the seer there?" 9 In Israel, in olden days, when anyone used to go to consult God, he would say, "Come on, let us go to the seer," for a man who is now called a prophet' used to be called a seer' in olden days. 12 The girls replied, "He is. He arrived a moment or two ahead of you. You had better hurry: he has just come to town because the people are having a sacrifice [zebah = feast] today on the high place. 13 You can catch him as soon as you go into the town, before he goes up to the high place for the meal. The people will not eat until he comes, since he must bless the sacrifice [zebah = feast]; after that, the guests will start eating. If you go up now, you will find him straight away." [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page ; Tsumara, The Book of First Samuel, page 272.
The town is located on a hill, and on their way up to the town, Saul and his servant meet some girls going to the well outside the town to draw water. Asking about Samuel, Saul and his servant do not use the term nabi/navi, normally translated "prophet." Instead they use what is described as an old fashioned term, ra'ah, from the prime root "to see." Biblical scholars assume that since the original text used the archaic word that was for later generations was an unfamiliar term that a scribe at a later date added the explanation.
1 Samuel 9:12-13 ~ The
girls replied, "He is. He arrived a moment or two ahead of you. You had
better hurry: he has just come to town because the people are having a
sacrifice [zebah = feast] today on the high place. 13 You can catch him as soon as you go into
the town, before he goes up to the high place for the meal. The people will
not eat until he comes, since he must bless the sacrifice [zebah = feast];
after that, the guests will start eating. If you go up now, you will find him
The Hebrew noun zebah means "feast" or "sacrifice" and is related to the verb zabah, "to slaughter" or "to sacrifice." The verb usually refers to slaughtering of an animal for food but can also refer to offering an animal in sacrifice, and the noun can refer to any communal feast that was common in all parts of Israel for weddings, or any community celebration, or to a sacrifice offered at Yahweh's sanctuary. In this case, since zebah is in the singular and no altar is mentioned and Samuel is not said to be officiating in offering a sacrifice, it probably means an animal or several animals had been slaughtered for a communal banquet as in 1 Samuel 20:6 where David tells Jonathan to tell King Saul that David needed a leave of absence to go to Bethlehem for a zebah hayyamin = "yearly feast", or verse 29 where Jonathan gives the excuse for David's absence from Saul's court to attend a zebah mispahah, a family or clan feast in Bethlehem (Tsumara, page 272, 506). In the summary of this event by Flavius Josephus, the 1st century AD Jewish priest and historian, he does not mention a religious sacrifice and only mentions a feast to which Samuel had personally invited the guests (Antiquities of the Jews, 6.4.1 [48-52]).
Question: What was God's law concerning animals
offered in sacrifice to Him? See Dt 12:8-12.
Answer: According to the Law of the covenant, sacrifice could only be offered at God's Sanctuary altar (Dt 12:11-14).
However, God gave the Israelites permission to kill animals for food wherever they were living after they had settled into the land of Canaan (Dt 12:15). It is therefore unlikely that the feast Samuel is attending is a religious communion sacrifice, a zebah ha-shelamin, a "feast of peace," since the communion sacrifices could only take place at the Sanctuary and the animal had to be offered to God by a chief priest on God's sacrificial altar during a worship service. In a communion sacrifice, the fat of the animal as given to Yahweh in the altar fire and God, through His agent the priest, returned the meat to be shared with His covenant community (Lev 3:1-17; 7:11-15/7:1-5; JPS Torah Commentary: Leviticus, pages 14-15). Biblical scholar R. P. Gordon concludes that the feast was "a small, local celebration of the kind which must often have taken place in Israel" (Gordon, 1 & 2 Samuel, Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1986, page 114; quoted by Tsumura, page 272).
The girls are friendly and very chatty, perhaps charmed by Saul's good looks. They tell Saul and his servant that the prophet will share a communal meal with guests at the top of the hill. Verse 13 suggests that the animal(s) for the feast were slaughtered and cooked before Samuel arrived and the guests were only waiting for him before they began the meal. The girls' response to Saul suggests that Samuel has come to preside over the banquet. However, we will come to realize that this meeting is not by chance and that Samuel, directed by God, has planned this meal in Saul's honor. It will be an inaugural feast.
1 Samuel 9:14-21 ~ The Meeting with Samuel that
redirects Saul's Life
14 So they went up to the town and, as they were going through the gate, Samuel came out towards them on his way to the high place. 15 Now, Yahweh had given Samuel a revelation the day before Saul came, saying, 16 "About this time tomorrow, I shall send you a man from the territory of Benjamin; you are to anoint him as prince of my people Israel, and he will save my people from the power of the Philistines; for I have seen the misery of my people and their cries of anguish have come to me." 17 When Samuel saw Saul, Yahweh told him, "That is the man of whom I said to you, "he is to govern my people." 18 Saul accosted Samuel in the gateway and said, "Tell me, please, where the seer's house is." 19 Samuel replied to Saul, "I am the seer. Go up ahead of me to the high place. You must eat with me today. Tomorrow, when I let you go, I shall tell you whatever is on your mind. 20 As regards your donkeys, however, which strayed three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found. And for whom is the whole wealth of Israel destined, if not for you and for all the members of your father's family?" 21 To this, Saul replied, "Am I not a Benjaminite, from the smallest of the tribes of Israel? And is not my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why are you saying a thing like this to me?"
It has been three days since Saul went looking for his
father's donkeys (verse 20). The number three is always significant in
Scripture, often symbolizing some important turn of events in moving forward
God's plan for man's salvation.
Question: What do we learn from what at first appears to be a chance encounter between Saul and Samuel in verses 15-17?
Answer: We discover that God's providence is at work in this meeting to fulfill the Israel's request for a king.
The events that have taken place and the choosing of Saul are by God's will and guided by His providence. Every step of Saul's journey has been directed by God. Up to this point God has remained hidden behind human events as God guided Saul and his servant in their search for the lost donkeys.
1 Samuel 9:16 ~ "About
this time tomorrow, I shall send you a man from the territory of Benjamin; you
are to anoint him as prince of my people Israel, and he will save my people
from the power of the Philistines; for I have seen the misery of my people and
their cries of anguish have come to me."
Question: What does God's revelation to Samuel tell us about God's reason for permitting Israel to have a king?
Answer: God's reason is not the same as the people's reason for wanting a king. They want to be like "the other nations", but God's wants to save them from their suffering by anointing a king as His agent to defend them and to lead them in conquering their enemies.
Question: Why does God tell Samuel to "anoint"
Answer: Anointing was a ritual sign in which a man or an object was set aside for a divinely chosen task in service to God.
In the Old Testament, people or objects were anointed. Priests (Ex 28:41; 29:7; Lev 6:13/20; 8:12), prophets (1 Kng 19:16; Is 61:1), and kings (1 Sam 9:16; 10:1; 15:1; 16:1, 12-13; 2 Sam 2:4; 1 Kng 1:34, 39) were anointed and so were objects like God's altar ( Ex 29:36; 40:10), the Sanctuary laver (Ex 40:11), God's Tabernacle and everything inside ( Ex 30:26; 40:9). In the New Testament all New Covenant believers are anointed as servants of the Lord who have been dedicated to spread the Gospel of salvation (1 Jn 2:20, 27). See CCC 436.
Question: In the Catholic Church when are holy
oils used in a Sacrament? When are they used for other purposes?
Answer: Holy oils are used in the administration of the three Sacraments which impart a permanent character: Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders. Holy oil is administered with a different purpose in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick where it is used to give the sick spiritual aid and strength and to perfect spiritual health including the remission of sins. Anointing oils are also used in the blessing of altars, bells, and sacred vessels used in the Mass.
The institution of anointing by Christ is an article of the Catholic faith defined by the Council of Trent. The use of holy oils is also implied in the Gospel reference to Jesus sending out His disciples who ... anointed many sick people with oil and cured them (see Mk 6:13) and also where St. James wrote: Is anyone among you sick? Let him bring in the presbyters of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him (Jam 5:14-15; CCC 1510, 1511, 1519-20, 1526).
1 Samuel 9:18-20a ~ Saul accosted Samuel in the
gateway and said, "Tell me, please, where the seer's house is." 19 Samuel replied to Saul, "I am the seer. Go
up ahead of me to the high place. You must eat with me today. Tomorrow, when
I let you go, I shall tell you whatever is on your mind. 20 As regards your donkeys, however, which
strayed three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found."
The Hebrew text reads the "middle of the gateway" while the LXX reads "the middle of the town." In his encounter with the Samuel, suddenly Saul becomes aware that the "seer" has been expecting him. Samuel even knows about the missing donkeys. Samuel's promise to tell Saul "whatever is on your mind" suggests that Saul is going to have more concerns than the missing donkeys.
1 Samuel 9:20b-21 ~ And for whom is the whole wealth
of Israel destined, if not for you and for all the members of your father's
family?" 21 To this, Saul replied,
"Am I not a Benjaminite, from the smallest of the tribes of Israel? And is not
my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why are you
saying a thing like this to me?"
Not only is Saul shocked to learn that Samuel knows about the donkeys but the young man is totally unprepared to hear Samuel prophesy Saul's destiny. Samuel's words in verse 20b can also be translated "for whom the longing of all Israel is destined" and refers to the people's desire for a king like all the other nations in 1 Samuel 8:5, 20. Saul will become the focus of Israel's hopes against the reality of the Philistine threat.
Question: What is Saul's response?
Answer: He is reluctant and self-deprecating in insisting that his tribe is the smallest and his family the least important.
While it is true that the tribe of Benjamin is the smallest, having been decimated in the civil war with Israel about fifty years earlier, it is not true that his family is the "least of all the families" of Benjamin. His father is admired as a "mighty warrior" (8:1) and his family is wealthy (only the wealthy owned donkeys).
Question: Saul isn't the first reluctant hero God
has called to greatness. Can you name at least two others?
Answer: Moses was reluctant to accept his destiny and so was the warrior-judge Gideon.
Question: What New Testament hero also came from
the tribe of Benjamin and bore the same name and became Jesus' emissary to the
Gentiles? See Phil 3:5.
Answer: Saul of Tarsus who we remember as St. Paul, apostle to the Gentiles.
1 Samuel 9:22-25 ~ Saul is the Guest of Honor at the
22 Samuel then took Saul and his servant and brought them into the hall and gave them a place at the head of the guests, of whom there were about thirty. 23 Samuel then said to the cook, "Serve the portion which I gave you and told you to put on one side." 24 The cook then picked up the leg and the tail and put it in front of Saul, saying, "This is for you. This is what was left. Make a good meal ..." That day, Saul ate with Samuel. 25 They came down from the high place into the town. A bed was made for Saul on the roof and he lay down there.
Question: What does Saul discover when he is taken
into the banquet hall?
Answer: He discovers that he is the guest of honor.
The Jewish Masoretic text reads "about thirty" guests but the Septuagint has seventy and so does Josephus in recounting this event: However, the prophet led him in to the feast, and made him sit down, him and his servant that followed him, above the other guests that were invited, which were seventy in number; and he gave orders to the servants to set the royal portion before Saul (Antiquities of the Jews, 6.4.1 ). It has been suggested the Massorites changed the number to thirty because seventy seemed such a large number. Since this was a feast to welcome the divinely appointed king, it is possible Samuel had invited elders from the twelve tribes. The number may be a coincidence but the men who formed Israel's High Court and made political decisions for the nation numbered seventy men. They were probably the same men who first came to Samuel to request a king and were the seventy elder-judges from the twelve tribes (Num 11:16-17). While the sacrifice of a bull might feed thirty people, more than one sheep would be necessary to feed thirty people much less seventy. That the sacrifices for the banquet included at least one sheep will be suggested in verse 24. The point is that the word zebah was singular and probably was intended to be read as "feast" and not "sacrifice" since several sacrifices were needed to feed such a large number of people.
The portion that Samuel instructed the "cook" (the literal Hebrew is "butcher") to set aside for Saul is the choice portion. That the cook/butcher says "this is what is left" suggests the rest of the meat was distributed to the other guests and this choice piece kept in reserve for Saul. Saul receives the right thigh and the fatty sheep's tail. Sheep in the Middle East have large, broad tails consisting of fat. The fatty tail of a sheep was considered a delicacy. If this had been a communion sacrifice and a sacred meal, all fatty portions, including the tail, would have been given to Yahweh according to the Law, and a chief priest would have presided over the division of the meat: Of the communion sacrifice he will offer the following as food burnt for Yahweh: the fat, all the tail taken off near the base of the spine, the fat covering the entrails, all the fat on the entrails, both kidneys, the fat on them and on the loins, the mass of fat which he will remove from the liver and kidneys. The priest will burn this on the altar as food, as food burnt for Yahweh (Lev 3:9-11). The right thigh of the animal was given to the presiding priest in a communion offering and sacred meal ( Lev 7:32/22-34/24). That Saul was given what was in the Sanctuary the choice priest's portion and also what would have been God's portion is evidence that the meal is not a sacred communion meal but a banquet in which Saul is the honored guest. Josephus interprets Saul's portion as the designated king's portion: ...and he gave orders to the servants to set the royal portion before Saul (Antiquities of the Jews, 6.4.1 ). Indeed, this portion is referred to as the "thigh of consecration in Scripture (Ex 29:27; Lev 7:34; 10:14-15; Num 6:20), reserved for priests and their families but also for royalty.
Saul spent the night in the town. It was common for the flat roof of village houses to be used for extra sleeping space especially in the warm summer months.
1 Samuel 9:26-10:8 ~ Samuel anoints Saul King of
26 At dawn, Samuel called to Saul on the roof, "Get up, and I shall send you on your way." Saul got up, and Samuel and he went outside together. 27 They had walked as far as the end of the town when Samuel said to Saul, "Tell the servant to go on ahead of us, but you stand still for a moment, so that I can make known to you the word of God." 10:1 Samuel took a phial of oil and poured it on Saul's head: he then kissed him and said, "Has not Yahweh anointed you as leader of his people Israel [anointed you over his inheritance as prince]? You are the man who is to govern Yahweh's people and save them from the power of the enemies surrounding them. The sign for you that Yahweh has anointed you as prince of his heritage is this: 2 after leaving me today, you will meet two men near the tomb of Rachel, on the frontier of Benjamin [next Hebrew word is untranslatable]...* and they will say to you, The donkeys which you went looking for have been found, and your father has lost interest in the matter of the donkeys and is worrying about you and wondering, What am I to do about my son?' 3 Going on from there, you will come to the Oak of Tabor, where you will meet three men going up to God at Bethel; one will be carrying three kids, one three loaves of bread and the third a skin of wine. 4 They will greet you and give you two loaves of bread which you must accept from them. 5 After this, you will come to Gibeah of God (where the Philistine garrison is) and when you are just outside the town, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place, headed by lyre, tambourine, pipe and harp; they will be in a state of ecstasy. 6 The spirit of Yahweh will then seize on you, and you will go into ecstasy with them, and be changed into another man. 7 When these signs have occurred, act as occasion serves, for God is with you. 8 You will then go down, ahead of me, to Gilgal, and I shall join you there to make burnt offerings and to offer communion sacrifices. You must wait seven days for me to come to you, and I shall then reveal to you what you must do." [..] literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 732; Tsumara, The First Book of Samuel, page 281. *In the Hebrew text there is an untranslatable Hebrew word here. The LXX ends the sentence without the extra word.
Samuel 10:1 ~ Samuel took a phial of oil and poured it on
Saul's head: he then kissed him and said, "Has not Yahweh anointed you as
leader of his people Israel [anointed you over his inheritance as prince]? You
are the man who is to govern Yahweh's people and save them from the power of
the enemies surrounding them.
Saul receives a private anointing as will David (1 Sam 16:13). Later Samuel will demonstrate publicly by the drawing of lots that Saul is chosen by God and not just by Samuel (10:17-18). Samuel tells Saul that he is now the "prince designate" or "crown prince" until the people accept him as king in a National Assembly. Anointing was literally the pouring of oil on someone or something in a religious ritual. Its purpose in the Bible was to make the person or object sacred for God's service.
In 10:1-8 Samuel keeps his promise from 9:19 to send Saul
on his way with information concerning his future.
Question: What three "signs" does Samuel tell Saul will be confirmation that all that is happening to him is God's plan?
Note the repetitions of the number three:
In the second encounter, the men are on their way to Bethel, which has apparently replaced Shiloh as the site for worshipping Yahweh. They are taking offerings of bread, animals for sacrifice, and wine. The gift of two of the three loaves of bread that was intended for the priests at Bethel (Num 18:11) is another indication of Saul's royal status like the portion of the meat at the banquet (9:24).
Notice that in each of Samuel's predictive prophecies there are two parts and in each prophecy the number of men Saul encounters grows larger:
|Part 1||Part 2|
|Meeting two men (verse 2)||They will say to you ...|
|Meeting three men (verses 3-4)||They will give you ...|
|Meeting a band of prophets (verses 5-6)||The spirit of Yahweh will rush upon you ...|
Samuel mentions three geographical locations in the prophetic signs and a fourth as a meeting place for Saul and Samuel:
Question: What terrible crime occurred at Saul's
hometown of Gibeah some fifty years earlier that is recorded in the Book of
Judges? See (Judg 19:11-20:48). What does God's choice of Saul despite the
history of this crime demonstrate?
Answer: In the Book of Judges it was at Gibeah that some worthless Benjaminites of the town committed the horrific gang rape of a defenseless woman. The tribe's refusal to hand the guilty men over for punishment resulted in Israel's civil war with Benjamin. That God has chosen a son of Gibeah to be Israel's first king shows that God does not visit the punishment for the sins of "fathers" on their innocent offspring.
Hannah's prophecy, in the last verse of her canticle, is fulfilled when Samuel, in obedience to Yahweh's command, anoints Saul king of Israel. All the kings of Israel were anointed as God's agents. It is one of the three offices in which God's acknowledged agent is anointed: kings, prophets, and priests. Hannah's son has become a kingmaker in anointing Israel's first human king, and it is in Hannah's canticle that the word "king" is first found in 1 Samuel: Yahweh judges the ends of the earth, he endows his king with power, he raises up the strength of his Anointed. This is, of course, only a partial fulfillment. The word "anointed" in Hebrew is mashiyack/mashiah and is our word "messiah." Human history will reach its climax in God's "anointed," the promised Redeemer-Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, King of kings.
1 Samuel 10:7-8 ~ Samuel's final instructions to Saul: "When
these signs have occurred, act as occasion serves, for God is with you. 8 You will then go down, ahead of me, to Gilgal,
and I shall join you there to make burnt offerings and to offer communion
sacrifices. You must wait seven days for me to come to you, and I shall then
reveal to you what you must do."
Samuel allows Saul to make his journey to his home alone, but instructs Saul to meet him later at Gilgal and to wait at least seven days for Samuel to arrive. Saul is a fledgling king and Samuel sees his role as Saul's chief advisor.
1 Samuel 10:9-16 ~ Saul is seized by the Spirit of
Yahweh and returns to His Father's House
9 As soon has he had turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart. And all these signs occurred that very day. 10 From there, they came to Gibeah; and there was a group of prophets coming to meet him! The spirit of God seized on him and he fell into ecstasy with them. 11 Seeing him prophesying with the prophets, all the people who had known him previously said to one another, "What has come over the son of Kish? Is Saul one of the prophets too?" 12 And one of the local people retorted, "But who is their father?" Hence the origin of the proverb: Is Saul one of the prophets too? 13 When he came out of his ecstasy, he went into Gibeah. 14 Saul's uncle asked him and his servant, "Where have you been?" "Looking for the donkeys," he replied, "and when we could not find them anywhere, we went to Samuel." 15 Saul's uncle said, "Tell me please what Samuel said to you." 16 Saul said to his uncle, "He merely told us that the donkeys were already found," but did not mention anything that Samuel had said about the kingship.
That "God changed his heart" indicates that Saul became a
changed person with a new perspective on life with a new understanding of his
destiny. Verses 9-11 give an abbreviated account of the fulfillment of the
three signs, with only the third sign explained in detail.
Question: What happened when Saul came across the group of itinerate prophets?
Answer: When Saul came across the prophets the spirit of God "seized on him" and he began prophesizing with them.
In the Old Testament God's Spirit "came upon" or "rested upon" people temporarily, giving them the power to act as God's agents ( Num 11:17, 25, 26, 29; 24:2; Judg 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; etc.). It isn't until the miracle of Pentecost and the Sacrament of Christian Baptism that God's Spirit will permanently fill and indwell the believer, giving him/her new life in Christ. Saul's state of spirituality, which is probably manifested by speaking in a language of religious ecstasy which St. Paul calls "speaking in tongues" or in Greek glossolalia, is a spiritual or charismatic gift that enables one to speak to God in a language other than his own (1 Cor 14:5-39). Saul's state of spiritual ecstasy impresses the people who know Saul and prompts them to ask is Saul a prophet like the others in the group? However, another of the local people is not impressed and asks "but who is their father?" inquiring who is the leader of this community of prophets and is he a legitimate prophet.(2) All this happened in the presence of the Philistine garrison at Gibeah (10:5), but God was protecting Saul.
When Saul arrives at his home village, his uncle
questions him about his absence. It is uncertain why it is Saul's uncle who
questions him unless his uncle is the older brother and a clan leader.
Josephus, however, writes that Saul spoke with his uncle's son, Abner,
Saul's closest friend and an honorable man who will serve as
Saul's trusted military commander for forty years (Antiquities of the Jews, 6.4.3 ).
Question: What is curious about Saul's response to his uncle?
Answer: He does not give any details about his encounter with Samuel or being anointed by Samuel to be a "prince" of Israel.
1 Samuel 10:17-21 ~ The National Assembly chooses a
King by Lot
17 Samuel summoned the people to Yahweh at Mizpah 18 and said to the Israelites, "Yahweh, God of Israel, says this, 'I brought you out of Egypt and delivered you from the power of the Egyptians and of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.' 19 But today you have rejected your God, him who saves you from all your difficulties and troubles; and you have said, 'No, you must set a king over us.' Very well, take your positions before Yahweh, tribe by tribe and clan by clan." 20 Samuel then made all the tribes of Israel come forward and the lot indicated the tribe of Benjamin. 21 He then made the tribe of Benjamin come forward clan by clan, and the lot indicated the clan of Matri; he then made the clan of Matri come forward one by one, and the lot indicated Saul son of Kish, but when they looked for him, he was not to be found.
Samuel called a National Assembly at Mizpah. He began his
address to the tribal assembly by condemning the Israelites for rejection
Yahweh as their one divine King, reminding them again of God's great works on
their behalf during the Exodus liberation.
Question: How is Samuel going to reveal God's choice of a king for Israel?
Answer: By the casting of lots.
Prior to the Holy Spirit filling and indwelling the
Church at Pentecost in 30 AD, discerning the will of God was determined by the
drawing of lots or by the High Priest casting the urim and thummim, sacred
lots worn on the breastpiece of the High Priest that were cast in order to
obtain guidance from God (Ex 28:30;
1 Sam 23:9-12;
Question: What are some occasions when the drawing of lots was used to determine the will of God or the answer to a question? See Josh 7:14-18; 18:10; 1 Sam 14:41; Lk 1:9; Acts 1:23-26.
The casting of lots narrowed down the selection of God's kingly agent tribe by tribe and clan by clan until it was determined that Saul son of Kish was God's choice, but Saul could not be found. This was a necessary procedure even though Samuel had received God's instructions to anoint Saul. The people had to have a demonstration of God's divine selection of Saul.
1 Samuel 10:22-27 ~ A Reluctant Saul is Proclaimed
King by the Tribes of Israel
22 Again they consulted Yahweh, "Has the man come here?" Yahweh replied, "There he is, hiding among the baggage." 23 So they ran and fetched him out and, as he stood among the people, he was head and shoulders taller than any of them. 24 Samuel then said to all the people, "You have seen the man whom Yahweh has chosen, and that among the whole people he has no equal." And all the people acclaimed him, shouting, "Long live the king!" 25 Samuel then explained the king's constitutional position to the people and inscribed this in a book which he placed before Yahweh. Samuel then sent all the people away, everyone back to his home. 26 Saul too went home to Gibeah and with him went those strong [valiant] men whose hearts God had touched. 27 But there were some scoundrels [sons of worthless men] who said, "How can this fellow save us?" These treated him with contempt and offered him no present. [..] IBHE, vol. II, page 735.
Question: Why was Saul hiding among the pack
animals that carried the possessions of the tribal representatives to the
Answer: We can only assume that Saul did not want to take up the responsibilities of the destiny that had been thrust upon him.
1 Samuel 10:23 ~ So
they ran and fetched him out and, as he stood among the people, he was head and
shoulders taller than any of them.
This is the second time Saul has been described as being so tall as to be head and shoulders above other men (see 9:2). Pointing out Saul's height, Samuel comments: "You have seen the man whom Yahweh has chosen, and that among the whole people he has no equal." No one was equal to Saul in height; unfortunately while height and physical beauty are pleasing in a king these are not the attributes necessary for good leadership. Nevertheless, the people accept Saul as God's choice for king.
Question: Why is what happens next is significant?
See verse 25a.
Answer: Samuel announces that kingship over Israel is not to be exercised without limitations. Israel is to have a constitutional monarchy.
Question: Following the people's acclamation, Samuel performs what three legal actions?
We are not told by what laws the king is bound but they probably include the limitations God placed on an Israelite king in Deuteronomy17:14-20. All these laws Samuel wrote down in a book that was “placed before Yahweh,” which suggests the book was placed by the Ark of the Covenant that resided at the house of Abinadab at Kiriath-Jearim (see Dt 31:26 where the Book of the Law was placed beside the Ark). Josephus records that the book defining the limited rule of a king was later placed in the Jerusalem Temple's Holy of Holies next to the Ark of the Covenant (Antiquities of the Jews, 6.4.6 ).
Question: What were the two opposing reactions to Saul's election as Israel's king?
What is the implication of the second reaction?
Answer: Some "worthy/valiant men" immediately attach themselves to Saul as royal retainers, while others described as "worthless men" refuse to treat God's choice of Saul as Israel's king with respect. Their affront is not only against Saul but against God.
This tall and good looking young man who lacks confidence to the point of hiding from his election to kingship seems an unlikely choice to be Israel's first divinely elected king. Yet Moses, in the beginning of his divine call, was also timid and lacked confidence to the point of pleading with God four times that he was inadequate for the mission (Ex 3:11, 13, 4:1 and 10). However, Moses trusted God and completely submitted himself obediently to God's will for his life. As a result, he grew into his role as Israel's liberator and fulfilled his destiny by becoming the great leader God intended that he should be. It is a lesson for all of us that when God calls us to serve Him that He will always give us the means to fulfill our divine destiny if only we demonstrate our faith and trust by placing our lives obediently in the hands of the Master. Sadly, it is a lesson Saul fails to learn, and instead of a glorious history as Israel's first king, Saul's story is tragic.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Question: Often our young people resist the teachings of the Church concerning morality and the Church's definition of sins. Their argument is that the times we live in are different from Bible times and some behaviors condemned by the Church are now acceptable by society. How is this argument like the Israelite's argument that they wanted to be "like the other nations" and how is it an invalid argument for those who profess to be people of God?
Question: What role does physical attractiveness play in politics today? Are most voters more concerned with moral and civil issues or with the perceived personality or charisma of the candidate? How do you judge a candidate's fitness to lead? Is his/her personal morality a factor? Do you place any value in the saying: "He/she who cannot be trusted in little things also cannot be trusted in big things."
1. Kish is not the son of Abiel but the grandson; Kish's father is Ner (1 Chr 8:33; 9:39). However, it is common that some names are left out of a Biblical genealogical list with "sons" being grandsons or great-grandsons. For example in the beginning of Jesus' genealogical list in Matthew 1:1 He is named as "Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham;" and in the list of 42 generations, three names of Jesus' ancestors are deliberately left out. It is also possible this man's name is absent because he belongs to the generation where a great sin occurred in his hometown of Gibeah that led to an Israelite civil war (Judg 19:11-20:48).
2. It was common then as now to call the leaders of religious communities "father." See where a priest is called "father" in Judg 17:10; 18:19; where the prophets Elijah and Elisha were called "father" in 2 Kng 2:12; 6:21 and 13:14.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2014 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Catechism references for Lesson 3 (* indicates Scripture is either quoted or paraphrased in the citation):
9:16 and 10:1 (CCC 436*, 1510, 1511, 1519-20, 1526, 1673)