1 Samuel 10 (NRSV)
Samuel Anoints Saul
Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him; he said, “The Lord has anointed you ruler over his people Israel. You shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their enemies all around.
from Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who’s Who
by Frederick Buechner
Samuel was a combination prophet, judge, and one-man band. When the old curmudgeon wasn’t out in the field trying to fight off the Philistine guerrillas, he was riding his circuit trying to keep the tribes of Israel honest, and when he wasn’t doing that, he was giving them Hell for cheating on Yahweh every time a new fertility god showed up with a come-hither look in his eye. When he reached retirement age, he might have turned things over to his sons, but they were a bunch of crooks who sold justice to the highest bidder, and the Israelites said maybe he’d better get them a king instead. They’d never had one before, but they felt the time had come. Samuel threw a fit.
He said there was only one king worth the time of day, and Yahweh was his name. He also told them kings were a bad lot from the word go and didn’t spare them a single detail. They were always either drafting you into their armies or strongarming you into taking care of their farms. They took your daughters and put them to work in the kitchens and perfume factories. They filled their barns with your livestock and got you to slave for them till you dropped in your tracks. What is more, if Israel chose a king, Yahweh would wash his hands of them and good riddance. Samuel had it on the highest authority. But the Israelites insisted, and since Samuel didn’t have the pep he’d once had, he finally gave in.
The king he dug up for them was a tall drink of water named Saul. He was too handsome for his own good, had a rich father, and when it came to religion, tended to go off the deep end. Samuel had him in for a meal and, after explaining the job to him, anointed him with holy oil against his better judgment and made him the first king Israel ever had. He regretted this action till the day he died, and even in his grave the memory of it never gave him a moment’s peace.
Now this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you ruler over his heritage: 2When you depart from me today you will meet two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah; they will say to you, ‘The donkeys that you went to seek are found, and now your father has stopped worrying about them and is worrying about you, saying: What shall I do about my son?’
3″Then you shall go on from there further and come to the oak of Tabor; three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there, one carrying three kids, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. 4They will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall accept from them.
5″After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, at the place where the Philistine garrison is; there, as you come to the town, you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the shrine with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre playing in front of them; they will be in a prophetic frenzy. 6Then the spirit of the Lord will possess you, and you will be in a prophetic frenzy along with them and be turned into a different person. 7Now when these signs meet you, do whatever you see fit to do, for God is with you.
ADVANTAGE: As Saul sees each of these very specific predictions fulfilled, he will have proof that what is happening to him is really from the Lord.
8″And you shall go down to Gilgal ahead of me; then I will come down to you to present burnt offerings and offer sacrifices of well-being. Seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.”
Saul, remember this! In seven days Samuel will meet you in Gilgal, and give you instructions.
9As he turned away to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart; and all these signs were fulfilled that day. 10When they were going from there to Gibeah, a band of prophets met him; and the spirit of God possessed him, and he fell into a prophetic frenzy along with them. 11When all who knew him before saw how he prophesied with the prophets, the people said to one another, “What has come over the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”
12A man of the place answered, “And who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” 13When his prophetic frenzy had ended, he went home.
14Saul’s uncle said to him and to the boy, “Where did you go?”
And he replied, “To seek the donkeys; and when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.”
15Saul’s uncle said, “Tell me what Samuel said to you.”
16Saul said to his uncle, “He told us that the donkeys had been found.” But about the matter of the kingship, of which Samuel had spoken, he did not tell him anything.
DISADVANTAGE: Saul’s lack of confidence. The biggest, most shocking and exciting news of his life — and he said nothing.
Saul Proclaimed King
17Samuel summoned the people to the Lord at Mizpah 18and said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ 19But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses; and you have said, ‘No! but set a king over us.’ Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your clans.”
20Then Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. 21He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its families, and the family of the Matrites was taken by lot. Finally he brought the family of the Matrites near man by man, and Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot.
It is important to say that Saul did not become king because of the choosing by lot. Instead, he was chosen king because of God’s word to the prophet Samuel. The choosing by lot simply confirmed the word of the Lord through Samuel.
But when they sought him, he could not be found. 22So they inquired again of the Lord, “Did the man come here?” and the Lord said, “See, he has hidden himself among the baggage.”
DISADVANTAGE: Saul’s lack of confidence. Imagine — tall and handsome Saul hiding himself, like a child, among the baggage!
23Then they ran and brought him from there. When he took his stand among the people, he was head and shoulders taller than any of them. 24Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the one whom the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.”
And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”
When Queen Elizabeth had her coronation ceremony on June 2, 1953, the hymn “All People that on Earth Do Dwell” (arranged by Vaughn Williams) was sung. HERE it is from The National Service of Thanksgiving to Celebrate The Diamond Jubilee Of Her Majesty The Queen, St Paul’s Cathedral, June 5, 2012.
25Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship; and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the Lord.
Then Samuel sent all the people back to their homes.
26Saul also went to his home at Gibeah (no palace yet), and with him went warriors whose hearts God had touched. 27But some worthless fellows said, “How can this man save us?” They despised him and brought him no present. But Saul held his peace.
So we see that Saul started with great promise. He was:
- Chosen and anointed by God
- Filled with the Holy Spirit
- Supported by a great man of God
- Given gifts appropriate to royalty
- Enthusiastically supported by most all the nation
- Surrounded by valiant men, men whose hearts God had touched
- Wise enough to not regard every doubter or critic as an enemy
Despite all these great advantages, Saul could still end badly. He had to choose to walk in the advantages God gave him, and choose to not go his own way. The rest of the book of 1 Samuel shows how Saul dealt with that choice.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.