THE BOOK OF 1 SAMUEL
Lesson 4: Chapters 11-13
The Political Transition from Samuel to Saul
Most Holy Shepherd of Your People,
The Israelites asked for a king to rule them with justice and to lead them in battle against their enemies. We acknowledge that Jesus Christ is our King, and the Pope is His Vicar who rules Jesus' kingdom of the Church with justice and leads us in the battle against mankind's great enemy, Satan, and the sin that contaminates the world. We are Christ's soldiers in that war. It is our responsibility to be valiant in the fight against evil and to provide a moral and spiritual example to our children and the secular world. Lord, give us the strength to be Christ's holy warriors who are ever obedient to His teachings and to our calling as the children of our holy God and divine Father. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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wholeheartedly in Yahweh, put no faith in your own perception; acknowledge him
in every course you take, and he will see that your paths are smooth. Do not
congratulate yourself on your own wisdom, fear Yahweh and turn your back on
evil ... My child, do not scorn correction from Yahweh, do not resent his
reproof; for Yahweh reproves those he loves, as a father the child whom he
Proverbs 3:5-7, 11-12
In last week's lesson, the prophet Samuel privately anointed Saul as nagid, "prince" or "king elect" of the covenant people. Later at a National Assembly, Saul was selected by lot as Yahweh's divine choice for a king as witnessed by the representatives of the twelve tribes of Israel. 1 Samuel chapters 9-12 form the end of the period of the Judges. Saul's career bridges two periods in salvation history: His selection as Israel's first human king marks the end of the era of Israel's Judges and the beginning of the period of Israel's United Monarchy which will conclude with the death of Israel's third king, Solomon, in c. 930 BC (see the chart of Israel's kings).
Saul's name is from a passive participle from the Hebrew root s'l, meaning "the one asked for" or "the one requested" (Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 5, "Saul", pages 989-90). He is the one prophesied by Samuel's mother Hannah (1 Sam 1:22; 2:10), and he is the man God chose when the Israelites "asked" for a king to rule them like the other nations (1 Sam 8:5).
Chapter 11: Saul's Victory over the Ammonites
month, the war which Saul had with Nahash, the king of the Ammonites, obtained
him respect from all the people; for this Nahash had done a great deal of
mischief to the Jews that lived beyond Jordan by the expedition he had made
against them with a great and warlike army. He also reduced their cities into
slavery, and that not only by subduing them for the present, which he did by
force and violence, but by weakening them by subtlety and cunning that they
might not be able afterward to get clear of the slavery they were under to him:
for he put out the right eyes of those that either delivered themselves to him
upon terms, or were taken by him in war; and this he did, that when their left
eyes were covered by their shields, they might be wholly useless in war.
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 6.5.1 [68-70]).
The ancient Near East, in this historical period of Late Iron Age I, was still recovering from effects of the decline of the region's most powerful nations. The powers of Egypt, Hatti (the Hittites), Assyria, and Babylonia were all embroiled in domestic problems. All these empires were still involved in international trade, but none of these once powerful nations were politically strong enough to assert dominance over the region's other kingdoms. In the political void, the Philistines who occupied the west side of the Jordan River along the Mediterranean coast and the Ammonites on the east side of the Jordan River had grown powerful enough to begin expanding their territories. Their political and military strength became the greatest threat to the destiny God planned for His covenant people.
In this lesson, Saul will be tested by war and his military success against the Ammonites will lead to the renewal of kingship in a religious ceremony at Gilgal in the "presence of Yahweh." Thus, in a three-part pattern within the narrative of 1 Samuel chapters 10-11, Saul is chosen as Israel's first human king:
1 Samuel 11:1-7 ~ The Situation at
Jabesh-Gilead and Saul's Response
The copies of the Book of Samuel show that most of the texts they were copied from were degraded and were missing words or phrases (indicated by ... in our lesson text). This may be because it was such a popular book and the scrolls of Samuel were used so frequently that they became degraded more quickly than other Bible scrolls. A missing part of the narrative from 1 Samuel chapter 11 was found in one of the four scrolls of the Book of Samuel discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls near Qumran in what was once ancient Israel. The fourth scroll, designated 4QSam, is one of the most dramatic finds among the Biblical scrolls discovered at Qumran. It has three and a half lines that were missing from the Massoretic Text, the Septuagint, and all other existing Biblical manuscripts. However, Josephus' account of the war with King Nahash of the Ammonites documents that the missing passage was in the ancient form of the Old Testament Book of Samuel that he used (Antiquities of the Jews, 5.5.1 [68-71]; see quote above). The missing paragraph from 4QSam reads: Nahash king of the Ammonites oppressed the Gadites and the Reubenites viciously. He put out the right eye of all of them and brought fear and trembling on Israel. Not one of the Israelites in the region beyond the Jordan remained whose right eye Nahash king of the Ammonites did not put out, except seven thousand men who escaped from the Ammonites and went to Jabesh-Gilead. Then after about a month, ....(1) The next line is what is designated verse 1 in our text.
11:1 About a month later, Nahash the Ammonite marched up and laid siege to Jabesh in Gilead. All the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, "Make a treaty with us and we will be your subjects." 2 Nahash the Ammonite replied, "I shall make a treaty with you only on this condition, that I put out all your right eyes, and I will make it a taunt to the whole of Israel." 3 The elders of Jabesh said to him, "Give us seven days' grace while we send messengers throughout the territory of Israel, and if no one comes to our help, we will come out to you." 4 The messengers came to Gibeah of Saul, and reported this to the people, and all the people wept aloud. 5 Now Saul was just then coming in from the fields behind his oxen, and he said, "What is wrong? Why are the people weeping?" They explained to him what the men of Jabesh had said. 6 And the spirit of Yahweh seized on Saul when he heard these words, and he fell into a fury. 7 He took a yoke of oxen, cut them into pieces and sent these by messengers throughout the territory of Israel with these words, "Anyone who will not march with Saul will have the same done to his oxen!" At this, a panic from Yahweh swept on the people and they marched out as one man.
During this period, the Ammonite kingdom across the Jordan River to the east was the second greatest military threat to the Israelites after the five Philistine city-states to the east. After Ammonite King Nahash conquered the Transjordan Israelite tribes (on the east side of the Jordan River), he ordered that every man was to have his right eye blinded. Only seven thousand men who sought refuge at the city of Jabesh-Gilead in the tribal territory of Manasseh escaped. A month later, King Nahash laid siege to the town of Jabesh-Gilead. He offered terms of surrender only if the men would also submit to the blinding of their right eyes.
Question: Who are the Ammonites? See Gen 19:30-38.
Answer: They are the descendants of a son born to Lot, Abraham's nephew, and Lot's younger daughter who named her son Ben-ammi.
The Ammonites lived east of the Jordan River in the area of the modern state of Jordan. According to historical research, the rise of the kingdom of Ammon with its capital at Rabbah-Ammon (the modern city of Amman, Jordan) coincided with the rise of several states east of the Jordan River including the Aramaeans, Edomites and Moabites during the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age. Conflicts between Ammon and Israel arose sometime after the Israelites entered Canaan. In the period of the Judges, the Israelites were defeated by a coalition of Ammonites from the east and Philistines from the west who oppressed by them for eighteen years and made the tribes who bordered their lands their vassals.
Question: What judges did God put His Spirit upon
from among the people in the period of the Judges to drive the Ammonites and
Philistines out of Israelite lands? See Judg 10:6-9; 11:29-33; 15:14-20.
Answer: God put his Spirit upon judge Jephthah who then rallied the Israelites and successfully drove the coalition of Ammonites and Philistines out of Israelite lands after the eighteen years of subjugation. Years later, when the Philistines subdued the Danites and Judahites, God also put His Spirit upon Samson to defeat the Philistines and to hold back their advance into Israelites lands.
1 Samuel 11:1-2 ~ About a month later, Nahash the
Ammonite marched up and laid siege to Jabesh in Gilead. All the men of Jabesh
said to Nahash, "Make a treaty with us and we will be your subjects." 2 Nahash the Ammonite replied, "I shall
make a treaty with you only on this condition, that I put out all your right
eyes, and I will make it a taunt to the whole of Israel."
Question: Blinding an enemy by gouging out his eyes was considered to be deeply humiliating. What judge of Israel suffered this humiliation and from what enemy? See Judg 16:21.
Answer: Samson had both his eyes gouged out by the Philistines.
It was a punishment reserved for an enemy leader like
Samson or for a disloyal vassal as when the Babylonians gouged out the eyes of
King Zedekiah of Judah when he rebelled against his Babylonian overlords (2 Kng 24:20; 25:7).
Question: Most warriors were trained to be right-handed. They fought with a shield and a sword. What was the reason for not just blinding the leaders of the tribes of Gad and Reuben but all the men? Why do you think Nahash blinded only the right eyes of the Israelite men from Gad and Reuben?
Answer: Most warriors were right handed swordsmen. They held their shields with their left hand which covered their left eyes while they looked at the enemy with their right eyes as they fought with a sword in their right hands. Therefore, Nahash blinded the warriors' right eyes to make the men unfit for battle. He also did this to terrorize the people as a constant reminder of their defeat and to make the possibility of a future revolt less likely.
This is the explanation Josephus gave in Antiquities of the Jews, 6.5.1 . The exception to right-handed warriors was the tribe of Benjamin who trained their warriors to be left-handed swordsmen and to be ambidextrous with the sling (Judg 3:15-16; 20:16; 1 Chr 12:2). The town of Jabesh was located in the Gilead on the east side of the Jordan River. The men of Jabesh-Gilead sided with the tribe of Benjamin in the civil war with the other eleven tribes about fifty years earlier during the period of Israel's judges. They paid dearly for their loyalty when their town was destroyed by the coalition of Israelite tribal armies (Judg 21:8-12). The Benjaminites would have remembered the loyalty of the people of Jabesh and their kinship tie when surviving Benjaminites married the surviving daughters of Jabesh.
1 Samuel 11:3 ~ The
elders of Jabesh said to him, "Give us seven days' grace while we send
messengers throughout the territory of Israel, and if no one comes to our help,
we will come out to you."
The Ammonites granted the citizens of Jabesh the seven days they requested not out of benevolence but because they believed the Israelites did not have the will to oppose them or a military commander to lead them; they intended to further humiliate the Israelites.
1 Samuel 11:4-5 ~ The
messengers came to Gibeah of Saul, and reported this to the people, and all the
people wept aloud. 5 Now
Saul was just then coming in from the fields behind his oxen, and he said, "What
is wrong? Why are the people weeping?" They explained to him what the men of
Jabesh had said.
The people of Gibeah were weeping because people of the tribe of Benjamin had family ties to the people of Jabesh-Gilead (Judg 21:14). Notice that despite the fact that Saul had been elevated to the office of kingship that he was still going about his normal duties as a landowner by plowing his fields.
1 Samuel 11:6 ~ And
the spirit of Yahweh seized on Saul when he heard these words, and he fell into
Question: When had the "Spirit of Yahweh" come upon Saul earlier? How is this action of the Holy Spirit coming upon Saul similar to other events of crisis in Israel's history? See 1 Sam 10:10 and Judg 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14, 19.
Answer: The Spirit of Yahweh had come upon Saul once before when he fell into a state of ecstasy with the itinerate prophets. The Spirit of God rousing Saul to action is like the Spirit rousing the former heroic warrior-judges to deliver Israel from her enemies.
Question: What action did Saul take to convince
the tribes of Israel to follow him into battle against the Ammonites? What was
the result? See 1 Sam 11:7.
Answer: He slaughtered his two oxen, very valuable animals, and sent their body parts throughout Israel with the threat that whoever refused to join him against the Ammonites would have their oxen slaughtered. His fired up spirit through God's intervention and his call to action resulted in a muster of all Israelite fighting men.
For a similar act that was meant to rally the tribes of Israel to war because of a crime perpetrated at Gibeah see Judges 19:29. Saul's demand for the tribes to muster for war is a transition from the period of the Judges that only called for a volunteer fighting force from the confederation of the twelve tribes to the forced military conscription of all tribes in the period of the monarchy.
1 Samuel 11:8-11 ~ War with the Ammonites
8 Saul inspected them at Bezek; there were three hundred thousand of Israel and thirty thousand of Judah. 9 Then he said to the messengers who had come, "This is what you are to say to the people of Jabesh in Gilead, Tomorrow, by the time that the sun is hot, help will reach you.'" The messengers went and reported this to the people of Jabesh who were overjoyed; 10 they said to Nahash, "Tomorrow we shall come out to you and you can do whatever you like to us." 11 The next day, Saul disposed the army in three companies, which burst into the middle of the camp during the dawn watch and slaughtered the Ammonites until high noon. The survivors were so scattered that no two of them were left together.
Saul mustered his forces at Bezek, a former Canaanite city that was conquered by the tribes of Judah and Simeon shortly after Joshua's death (Judg 1:1-7). The city was probably located in north-central Israel about twelve miles northeast of Shechem and about sixteen miles west of Jabesh-Gilead. Judah's warriors are mentioned because they are the single largest fighting force from any of the tribes. Judah has traditional been the most populous tribe (see the tribal census of fighting men in Num 1:20-47 or compare the numbers on the chart of the marching order of the tribes of Israel).
Question: What promise did Saul send to the people
Answer: He sent the messengers back with the promise that he would rescue them by noon the next day.
1 Samuel 11:9b-10 ~ The messengers went and reported
this to the people of Jabesh who were overjoyed; 10 they said to Nahash, "Tomorrow we shall come out to you
and you can do whatever you like to us."
Question: How did the Ammonites understand the message from the citizens of Jabesh, but what did the townspeople really mean?
Answer: The Ammonites understood "we shall come out to you" to mean that the city intended to surrender, but what really was meant by the people of Jabesh was "we will fight!"
1 Samuel 11:11 ~ The next day, Saul disposed the army
in three companies, which burst into the middle of the camp during the dawn
watch and slaughtered the Ammonites until high noon. The survivors were so
scattered that no two of them were left together.
The three companies each took a side of the Ammonite camp and attacked from three different directions. The attack was planned "during the dawn watch." At that time the Israelites divided the twelve seasonal hours of darkness into three night watches: sundown (c. 6 PM) to c. 10 PM; 10 PM to c. 2 AM and the "dawn watch" from 2 AM to dawn (c. 6 AM). The attack was planned for the last watch when the soldiers, included those tasked as camp guards, were likely to be deeply asleep. The Israelites slaughtered the Ammonite forces until noon. Saul has achieved his first military victory! As in the case of Samuel's first act as an adult prophet, the divine calling is one thing but what the people really want so see is a demonstration of Yahweh's favor, as with Samuel's leadership in the defeat of the Philistines at the Battle of Mizpah ( 1 Sam 7:7-12).
1 Samuel 11:12-15 ~ Saul is Proclaimed Israel's King a
Second Time by the People
12 The people then said to Samuel, "Who said, Must we have Saul reigning over us?' Hand the men over, for us to put them to death." 13 "No one must be put to death today," Saul said, "for today Yahweh has intervened to rescue Israel." 14 Samuel then said to the people, "Let us now go to Gilgal and reaffirm the monarchy there." 15 The people then all went to Gilgal. And there, at Gilgal, they proclaimed Saul king before Yahweh; they offered communion sacrifices before Yahweh, and there Saul and all the people of Israel gave themselves over to great rejoicing.
Question: What are the political implications of
the victory over the Ammonites?
Answer: Saul's victory has consolidated his support among the people.
Previously, after his acknowledgment as God's choice as
king of Israel at the National Assembly at Mizpah, some people had expressed
distain for Saul (1 Sam 10:27). Now opposition is no longer tolerated and the
people demand that those who treated Saul without respect must be put to death.
Question: What are Saul's three responses?
Everything seems to be working in Saul's favor. He has his first big military victory and has humbly given the credit to God. He has also refused to cause further division among the people by forgiving those men who opposed his kingship, and he has called for a demonstration of national reconciliation and renewal in a religious celebration at Gilgal. Gilgal was the site of Israel's first camp and their first sacred meal in God's presence in the Promised Land after crossing the Jordan River (Josh 4:19-20; 5:10-12).
Samuel summons the people to Gilgal, the place he first told Samuel to "go down before him" and "wait for seven days" (10:8). Since Saul has already been proclaimed king by Israel at Mizpah (10:17-24), his kingship does not need to be granted again by the people. Instead they will renew or reaffirm the kingship that has been granted by God in a religious ceremony at Gilgal in the presence of Yahweh:
That the tribes offered communion sacrifices and shared in a sacred meal indicates that this is more than a renewal of Saul's kingship but that it is also a renewal of Yahweh's kingship and His covenant with Israel as His vassal people. It is an act that recalls the first sacred meal in God's presence at Mt. Sinai when the covenant-treaty with Yahweh was ratified (Ex 24:9-11).
Chapter 12: The Transition of Leadership from Samuel to Saul
Samuel's discourse to the people is given in four parts:
Part I: Introduction and vindication of his years of leadership (verses 1-5).
Part II: A Survey of Israel's History (verses 6-1).
Part III: Samuel's Warning to the People (verses 12-19).
Part IV: Samuel's Encouraging Conclusion and Final Warning (verses 20-24).
1 Samuel 12:1-5 ~ Part I: Introduction and Vindication
of His Leadership
1 Samuel said to all Israel, "I have faithfully done all that you asked of me, and have appointed you a king. 2 In future, the king will lead you. As for me, I am old and grey, and in any case you have my sons. I have been your leader ever since I was young until today. 3 Here I am. Bear witness against me before Yahweh and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Have I wronged or oppressed anyone? Have I taken a consideration from anyone for looking the other way? If so, I will make amends." 4 They said, "You have neither wronged nor oppressed us nor accepted anything from anyone." 5 He said to them, "Yahweh is your witness and his anointed is witness today that you have found nothing in my hands?" They replied, "He is witness."
Having fulfilled his mission, Samuel announces that he is ready to retire from an active political role since they have a king to lead them. Samuel begins with a vindication of his past leadership (verses 3-5). He defends his record as a faithful prophet who did not take advantage of his position. The people agree and bear witness to his faithful service. Samuel seems to be unaware of his sons' transgressions as judges (12:2).
Question: What other witnesses does Samuel ask to
verify that the people have not brought any charges against him?
Answer: He asks that God and the new king, God's "anointed," stand as witness to his faithful service.
Question: What is implied in Samuel's insistence
that the people bear witness to the fact that he never abused or profited from
Answer: It implies that the rejection of his leadership in favor of a king is unjustified and an act of ingratitude.
Samuel implies that Israel's ingratitude extends not only for his faithful service but ingratitude for God's protection of Israel as he will address in part II of his discourse.
1 Samuel 12:6-11 ~ Part II: Survey of Israel's History
6 Samuel then said to the people, "Yahweh is witness, he who raised up Moses and Aaron and who brought your ancestors out of Egypt. 7 So now, stay where you are, while I plead with you before Yahweh and remind you of all the saving acts which he has done for you and for your ancestors. 8 After Jacob had arrived in Egypt, the Egyptians oppressed them, and your ancestors cried to Yahweh. Yahweh then sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your ancestors out of Egypt and gave them a settle home here. 9 They then forgot Yahweh their God and he sold them into the power of Sisera, general of the army of Hazor, and also into the power of the Philistines and of the king of Moab, who made war on them. 10 They cried to Yahweh, 'We have sinned,' they said, for we have deserted Yahweh and served the Baals and the Astartes [Asheroth]. Rescue us now from the power of our enemies, and we will serve you.' 11 Yahweh then sent Jerubbaal, Barak, Jephthah, and Samuel. He rescued you from the power of the enemies surrounding you, and you lived in security."
Question: What periods in Israel's history does
Samuel cover in his historical survey?
Answer: From the migration in to Egypt (verse 8a), to the Exodus liberation (verses 6 and 8b), to the conquest (verse 9) and the period of Israel's warrior- judges (verses 10-11).
Samuel then speaks of how Israel "forgot Yahweh their God" in verse 9. He doesn't mean they forgot God but that they forgot the mighty deeds He worked on their behalf. It is forgetfulness that leads to ingratitude. In verse 11 four men are named as deliverers from the period of the Judges. In the Massoretic text they are: Jerubbaal who is also called Gideon (Judg 6:32), Bedan, Jephthah, and Samson. No judge named Bedan is found in the Book of Judges. He is either an unknown judge or it is another name for Barak (the judge Deborah's general), as interpreted by our translation and the LXX (Septuagent) and which corresponds to the naming of the Canaanite general Sisera who Barak defeated (Judg 4:15-16).
Question: Why does Samuel include his own name in
his list of Israel's judges?
Answer: He includes his own name in order to put himself in the official list of the roll call of Israel's judges. It is a mission to which he has given his life, and he is justifiably proud to have served with Israel's other hero judges.
1 Samuel 12:12-19 ~ Part III: Samuel's Warning
12 "But when you saw Nahash, king of the Ammonites, marching on you, you said to me, 'No, we must have a king to rule us'; although Yahweh your God is your king. 13 So, here is the king whom you have chosen [asked]: Yahweh has appointed you a king. 14 If you fear and serve Yahweh and obey his voice and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who rules you follow Yahweh your God, all will be well. 15 But if you do not obey Yahweh's voice but rebel against his commands, Yahweh's hand will be against you and against your king. 16 Stay where you are and see the wonder which Yahweh will do before your eyes. 17 Is it not now the wheat harvest? I shall call on Yahweh and he will send thunder and rain, so that you may clearly understand what a very wicked thing you have done in Yahweh's eyes by asking for a king." 18 Samuel then called on Yahweh and Yahweh sent thunder and rain the same day, and all the people held Yahweh and Samuel in great awe. 19 They all said to Samuel, "Pray for your servants to Yahweh your God, to save us from death; for to all our sins we have added this wrong of asking for a king." [..] = IBHE, vol. II, pages 738-39.
Samuel accuses the people of impiety against God in asking for a human king. For the first time we hear that the people's request for a king in 1 Samuel 8:5 originated with the war of the Ammonites against the tribes on the east side of the Jordan River (verse 12). Notice Samuel's sarcastic tone and the word play with the verb "to ask" (sha'al) which is intended to play off the meaning of Saul's name (Sha'ul) in verses 1, 13, 17 and 19.
Question: What are the verses that carry the full
force of Samuel's warning to Israel?
Answer: The Israelites and their king must fear offending God and be obedient to His commandments. The force of Samuel's warning is in verses 14-15: If you fear and serve Yahweh and obey his voice and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who rules you follow Yahweh your God, all will be well. 15 But if you do not obey Yahweh's voice but rebel against his commands, Yahweh's hand will be against you and against your king.
Notice the triple exhortation in the warning: "fear", "serve," and "obey" which has always characterized the conditions for a good relationship between God and His people. This command is not limited to the people but also to their king and, if they will not fear offending God by serving Him and being obedient to His Laws, both the people and their king will suffer the consequences (verse 15).
1 Samuel 12:16-17 ~ Stay
where you are and see the wonder which Yahweh will do before your eyes. 17 Is it not now the wheat harvest? I
shall call on Yahweh and he will send thunder and rain, so that you may clearly
understand what a very wicked thing you have done in Yahweh's eyes by asking
for a king."
Notice Samuel's reference to doing "what is evil in Yahweh's eyes." This was the repeated refrain in the Book of Judges (Judg 2:11; 3:7, 12 twice; 4:1; 6:11; 10:6; 13:1) as opposed to God's command in Deuteronomy 12:28 and 13:19, and this failure is the root of Israel's problem in her relationship with Yahweh. Next, Samuel directs the people's attention to God's divine response to their sin in asking for a king.
Question: To give added force to his warning, what does Samuel do and how does God respond?
Answer: Samuel asks God to send thunder and rain and God answers His prophet's request with a thunder storm.
In the Levant (Israel and Syria), thunder and heavy rain
are chiefly confined to the winter months (see Antiquities, 6.5.6 ; War
of the Jews, 4.4.5) and not in the late spring and summer. But as a
demonstration of God's anger with the people, Samuel requests an out of season
Question: Why is it significant that it is the time for the wheat harvest?
Answer: It is late spring/early summer during the time of the wheat harvest when a long lasting storm could be devastating to the crops.
Question: What effect does the storm have on the
Answer: It terrifies them and compels them to confess their sin in asking for a human king and to request Samuel to intercede for them with prayers to save them from death.
Question: What is the Israelites' response to the
Answer: The Israelites confess their sin in asking for a king other than Yahweh. However, they do not renounce their king. They are sorry for having offended God, but not sorry enough.
1 Samuel 12:20-25 ~ Part IV: Samuel's Encouraging
Conclusion and Final Warning
20 Samuel said to the people, "Do not be afraid. Although you have done all these wicked things, do not withdraw your allegiance from Yahweh. Instead, serve Yahweh with all your heart. 21 Do not transfer your allegiance to useless idols which being useless, are futile and cannot save anybody; 22 Yahweh, for the sake of his great name, will not desert his people, for it has pleased Yahweh to make you his people. 23 For my part, far be it from me to sin against Yahweh by ceasing to pray for you or to instruct you in the good and right way. 24 Fear none but Yahweh, and serve him faithfully with all your heart, bearing in mind the wonder which he has just performed. 25 But, if you persist in wickedness, you and your king will perish."
Question: Samuel responds to the people's repentance
and fear with compassion but also with straightforward admonitions by giving
them what four commands and what last warning?
Answer: Samuel tells the people:
And he concludes with the warning that if they persist in sin that they and their king will die (similar to the warning in verse 15).
Question: Why does Samuel say it would be a sin
for him to cease to pray for the people and to no longer instruct them in what
is right and just? How do we label the kind of prayer Samuel promises?
Answer: All his life it has been his mission to be the intercessor between God and Israel. He is duty bound to remain faithful to that mission and to offer intercessory prayer on Israel's behalf no matter how much Israel falls into sin.
The Catechism refers to this passage: ... At first the leaders of the people, the shepherds and the prophets, teach them to pray. The infant Samuel must have learned from his mother Hannah how "to stand before the LORD" and from the priest Eli how to listen to his word: "Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening." Later, he will also know the cost and consequence of intercession: "Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; and I will instruct you in the good and the right way" (CCC 2578).
Since the time of Abraham's intercession for mercy on behalf of the people of Sodom (Gen 18:16-32), intercessory prayer, petitioning God on behalf of someone else, has been characteristic of a heart that is specially attuned to God's mercy. In our age of the New Covenant in Christ, Christian intercession participates in Christ's life as He who is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men and women, especially sinners. Jesus is able to save those who drawn near to God through Him since the power to save those who come to God through him is absolute, since he lives forever to intercede for them (Heb 7:25; also see 1 Tim 2:5-6). Intercessory prayer is also "an expression of the communion of saints. In intercession, he who prays looks not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others, even to the point of praying for those who do him harm" (CCC 2635).
Chapter 13: The History of the First Years of Saul's Reign
1 Samuel 13:1-7 ~ The Revolt Against the Philistines
1 Saul was ... years old when he became king, and reigned over Israel for ... years. 2 Saul selected three thousand men of Israel; two thousand of them were with Saul at Michmash and in the highlands of Bethel, and one thousand with Jonathan at Geba of Benjamin; the rest of the people Saul sent home, everyone to his tent. 3 Jonathan killed the Philistine governor stationed at Gibeah and the Philistines were informed that the Hebrews had risen in revolt. Saul had the trumpet [shofar] sounded throughout the country, 4 and all Israel heard the news, "Saul has killed the Philistine governor, and now Israel has antagonized the Philistines." So all the people rallied behind Saul at Gilgal. 5 The Philistines mustered to make war on Israel, three thousand chariots, six thousand horse and a force as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They came up and pitched camp at Michmash, to the east of Beth-Aven. 6 When the Israelites saw their plight was desperate, being so hard pressed, the people hid in caves, in holes, in crevices, in vaults, in wells. 7 Some also crossed the Jordan fords into the territory of Gad and Gilead. [..] =literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 740.
The shofar is a ram's horn. It was blown from town to town as a signal to rally the Israelites to war. Saul determined that the three thousand Israelite warriors who responded to the military muster were enough and sent the others home to their families. The expression "everyone to his tent" means to return to their homes, the expression "tents" remained from the time the Israelites lived in tents during the wilderness years.
The original years are lost to the text from verse 1. The number of years Saul reigned only has the year "two" associated with the phrase. Saul probably became king when he was thirty-five or forty years old since his son Jonathan had to be at least twenty years old to be a warrior according to the Law (Num 1:3). Josephus records that Saul reigned twenty years and eighteen of those years were while Samuel was still alive (Antiquities, 6.14.9 ).
Jonathan is the Israelite commander at Gibeah. He is Saul's son, the crown prince and heir (see 1 Sam 13:16). Jonathan is one of seven children (two sons and five daughters) Saul had with his wife Ahinoam, daughter of Ahimaaz (1 Sam 14:50). He is described as being courageous, loyal, and as having an extraordinary trust in God.
Question: How did the Israelites gain control of
the Philistine outpost at Geba?
Answer: Jonathan took the initiative by killing the Philistine governor of Geba and took possession of the city.
The Israelite victory at Geba caused the Philistines to rally their troops at Michmash with greatly superior numbers and chariots. Michmash Pass was a key strategic site located in the rugged hills of Benjaminite territory about seven miles north of Jerusalem. The town was on the north bank of the Wadi Suweinet opposite the town of Geba and was almost 2,000 feet above sea level. Two rocky outcrops called Bozez and Sench stood nearby on either side of the valley (1 Sam 14:4, 5). Geba was located northwest of the Dead Sea in Benjamite territory. Geba guarded the other side of the Michmash Pass. The Israelites needed to eliminate the two Philistine outposts at Geba and Michmash which controlled the strategic pass that was an important internal east-west route from the Philistine Plain to the Jordan River Valley. However, the Israelites were terrified of the Philistines and many of the people fled to hide in caves or to cross the Jordan River into the territory of the tribes of Gad and Reuben while three thousand Israelites rallied to Saul and Jonathan.
It should be noted that the Hebrew word "elph" can mean "thousand" or "unit." One "unit" consisted of about twenty-five men. The three thousand men who joined Saul is probably an accurate number, since it is recorded that later after the desertions of the soldiers that he only had six hundred (13:15), but the Philistine three thousand chariots, may mean three units of chariots or seventy-five chariots and six thousand horses may mean six units of horses or one hundred and fifty horses in addition to the very large number of foot soldiers. Units of chariots and horses are far more likely. It would have been difficult to maneuver many chariots in the hilly terrain, although Josephus does record the number as "thousands" (Antiquities of the Jews, 6.6.1 ).
Saul's Test at Gilgal
so he [Samuel] commanded him [Saul] to stay there for him, and to
prepare sacrifices, for he would come to him within seven days, that they might
offer sacrifices on the seventh day, and might then join battle with their
enemies. So he waited, as the prophet sent to him to do; yet he did not,
however, observe the command that was given him, but when he saw that the
prophet tarried longer than he expected, and that he was deserted by the
soldiers, he took the sacrifices and offered them; and when he heard that
Samuel was come, he went out to meet him. But the prophet said he had not done
well in disobeying the injunctions he had sent to him, and had not staid till
his coming, which being appointed according to the will of God, he had
prevented him in offering up those prayers and those sacrifices that he should
have made for the multitude, and that he therefore had performed divine offices
in an ill manner, and had been rash in performing them.
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 6.6.2 [100-102]).
1 Samuel 13:8-15 ~ Saul Fails a Test of Obedience
8 Saul was still at Gilgal and all the people who followed him were trembling. He waited for seven days, the period fixed by Samuel, but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the army, deserting Saul, began dispersing. 9 Saul then said, "Bring me the burnt offering and the communion sacrifices." And he presented the burnt offering. 10 Just as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to meet and greet him. 11 Samuel said, "What have you been doing?" Saul replied, "I saw the army deserting me and dispersing, and you had not come at the time fixed, while the Philistines were mustering at Michmash. 12 So I thought: Now the Philistines are going to fall on me at Gilgal and I have not implored the favor of Yahweh. So I felt obliged to make the burnt offering myself." 13 Samuel said to Saul, "You have acted like a fool. You have not obeyed the order [commandments] which Yahweh your God gave you [which He commanded you]. Otherwise, Yahweh would have confirmed your sovereignty over Israel for ever. 14 But now your sovereignty will not last; Yahweh has discovered a man after his own heart and designated him as leader of his people, since you have not carried out what Yahweh ordered you." 15 Samuel then got up and left Gilgal to continue his journey. Those people remaining followed Saul as he went to join the warriors, and went from Gilgal to Geba of Benjamin. Saul reviewed the force that was with him; there were about six hundred men. [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 741.
Question: What instructions did Samuel give Saul
concerning waiting for him at Gilgal? What was the importance of waiting at
Gilgal? See 10:8.
Answer: Saul was to go to Gilgal and to wait seven days for Samuel to come to offer burnt offerings and communion offerings before sending the Israelites warriors into battle. The waiting was a test of obedience.
Question: What was Saul's excuse for offering the
Answer: According to Saul, it is Samuel's fault for not arriving on time. Saul was fearful that the men were returning to their homes that he would not have enough warriors to fight the enemy.
Question: Remember that a prophet speaks for God.
What was Saul's double sin? The Hebrew day ended and the next day began at
Answer: He waited seven days, but the seventh day had not yet ended when he took it upon himself to act as a priest in offering the burnt offerings and in preparing to offer the communion sacrifices. Such actions were not part of the kingly prerogative. In not waiting it wasn't Samuel Saul had disobeyed but God. His excuse was that the army was deserting him, but he did not submit his destiny to the will of God.
It was customary to offer sacrifices before a battle (7:10), and kings could come to the altar to present special sacrifices (2 Sam 6:17; 1 Kng 8:62-63; 13:1), but it was only the chief priests who could officiate at God's altar with those sacrifices. Saul knew this and he knew he must wait for Samuel to offer the sacrifices. This is why Samuel told him that he "acted like a fool" and had "not carried out what Yahweh ordered;" he had offered sacrifices to Yahweh in a profane manner, usurping the authority of the priesthood.(2) Chapter 15 will give more reasons for Saul's rejection, but his chief fault was that his heart did not belong to God, implied by Samuel's statement that God had found a man "after his own heart."
1 Samuel 13:13-14 ~ Samuel
said to Saul, "You have acted like a fool. You have not obeyed the order
[commandments] which Yahweh your God gave you [which He commanded you].
Otherwise, Yahweh would have confirmed your sovereignty over Israel for ever. 14 But now your sovereignty will not
last; Yahweh has discovered a man after his own heart and designated him as
leader of his people, since you have not carried out what Yahweh ordered.
Saul's sin is more than impatience. The words "commandments" and "commanded" are in Hebrew from the same root as "appoint" (tz-v-h), thus connecting the punishment with the sin according to the principle of measure for measure (Jewish Study Bible, page 584).
Question: The punishment imposed on Saul for his
sin, that his kingdom that God gave him will be taken from him, is an echo of
what first sin in the history of mankind? See Gen 2:17-17; 3:1-14, 23-24.
Answer: It is an echo of the condemnation of mankind in the sin of Adam and Eve in acting according to their understanding instead of being obedient to the commandments of God. Their punishment was to have the garden Sanctuary (their kingdom) taken from them.
That God has another man "after his own heart" is the condemnation of Saul who does not have a heart for Yahweh. This will become evident in Saul's statement in 15:30. Samuel's remark in verse 14 is the first introduction to the saga of David of Bethlehem the great-grandson of Ruth and Boaz.
1 Samuel 13:15 ~ Samuel
then got up and left Gilgal to continue his journey. Those people remaining
followed Saul as he went to join the warriors, and went from Gilgal to Geba of
Benjamin. Saul reviewed the force that was with him; there were about six
Question: Compare the number of warriors that remain with Saul in verse 16 with the number of warriors with Saul from 13:2. How many men have deserted Saul?
Answer: One thousand four hundred men have deserted Saul to return home.
1 Samuel 13:16-23 ~ The Preparations for Battle with
16 Saul, his son Johnathan, and the force that was with them took up their quarters in Geba of Benjamin while the Philistines camped at Michmash. 17 The raiding company sallied out of the Philistine camp in three groups: one group made for Ophrah in the territory of Shual; 18 one group made for Beth-Horon; and one group made for the high ground overlooking the Valley of the Hyenas, in the direction of the desert. 19 There was not a single blacksmith throughout the territory of Israel, the Philistines' reasoning being, "We do not want the Hebrews making swords or spears." 20 Hence, the Israelites were all in the habit of going down individually to the Philistines to sharpen their ploughshares, axes, mattocks and scythes. 21 The price was two-thirds of a shekel for ploughshares and axes, and one-third for sharpening mattocks and straightening goads. 22 So it was that on the day of the battle, no one in the army with Saul and Jonathan were so equipped with either sword or spear; only Saul and his son Jonathan were so equipped. 23 A Philistine unit set out for the Pass of Michmash.
The Israelites camped at Geba across the ravine from
Michmash where the Philistines camped. The Philistines formed raiding parties
into Israelite territory to the west, north, and east (1 Sam 13:5, 17).
Question: The Israelites were at a disadvantage in fighting the Philistines for what three reasons?
The Philistines had been carefully not to share their iron technology with the Israelites. Not only didn't the Israelites have iron weapons, but they were also dependent on the Philistines for sharpening their farm implements. It is these farm implements, axes, and the old bronze cycle swords that the majority of the Israelite warriors will have to use in the battle. That Saul and Jonathan are the only warriors to possess iron swords will not matter if the Israelites remain faithful to God who will win the battle for them. The Philistine's military superiority and the Israelite warriors lack of weapons is another test of faith in God for the Israelite king and his army.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Question: What lessons can we learn from the mistakes the Israelites made in their relationship with Yahweh? Why does God sometimes let us fail and allow us as individuals and as nations to fall into sin?
Question: Samuel told Saul that God had found a man "after His own heart." What did Samuel mean? Hint: in Scripture the condition of one's heart reflected the total person intellectually and spiritually. Would you say that you "have a heart" for Yahweh?
1. There were four manuscripts of Samuel found at Qumran. One was found in Cave 1 and three were found in Cave 4. Dead Sea Scroll 4QSam, which is believed to be the oldest, is much closer to the Septuagint than to the Jewish Massoretic Text. It is assumed the lines were left out because a scribe copying from an older manuscript simple looked down to verse three that begins with the same wording as verse 1 and missed the earlier lines. Then this same mistake was copied by other scribes (see The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, HarperSanFrancisco, 1999, page 213). Only the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible has incorporated the passage into its translation. The best scrolls of Scripture were destroyed in the fire that consumed the Jerusalem Temple's library in 70 AD. The only remaining Bible scrolls were those that were saved from town synagogues.
2. King Uzziah of Judah attempted to usurp the priestly prerogative of burning incense in the Temple's Holy Place. God punished him for his sin by giving him leprosy for the rest of his life (2 Chr 26:16-21).
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2014 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Catechism reference for 1 Samuel Lesson 4: 1 Sam 12:23 CCC 2634-36, 2578, 2647