Today we meet Saul from the small tribe of Benjamin, and “There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.” Wow! The Israelites, who often make decisions based on sight, are going to love this guy!
While Saul is out looking for his father’s lost donkeys, he meets Samuel. “Now the Lord had told Samuel in his ear the day before Saul came, saying, ‘Tomorrow about this time I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him commander over My people Israel, that he may save My people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have looked upon My people, because their cry has come to Me.’” So Samuel anoints Saul as king and sends him home. Samuel tells Saul that, on his journey home, he will have three God orchestrated encounters with one being an encounter with a group of prophets – “Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you.”
“So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day.” Later, when Samuel gathers the tribes of Israel to announce Saul as their king, Saul is nowhere to be found. The Lord reveals to the people that Saul is hiding behind the equipment. This is sort of a cowardly move for a tall handsome king, but after Saul is brought out, Samuel presents him as their new king, and the people shout, “Long live the king!”
When the Amorites threatened the children of Israel “the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard the news, and his anger was greatly aroused. So he took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, ‘Whoever does not go out with Saul and Samuel to battle, so it shall be done to his oxen.’” This is a similar tactic that was used against his own tribe in the Judges Era when the Levite chopped up his dead concubine and sent her pieces out to all of Israel to call them to battle against the tribe of Benjamin.
Israel defeats the Amorites, and the people gather at Gilgal to rejoice and offer sacrifices to the Lord. Then Samuel gives a farewell address to transition his leadership of the people over to their new king Saul. He reminds the people of God’s faithfulness in the same way Moses and Joshua did by telling the amazing story of the Lord! – “When Jacob had gone into Egypt, and your fathers cried out to the Lord, then the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your fathers out of Egypt and made them dwell in this place. And when they forgot the Lord their God, He sold them… into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab… Then they cried out to the Lord… And the Lord sent Jerubbaal, Bedan, Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side; and you dwelt in safety… And when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the Lord your God was your king.”
Samuel explains that the Lord has given the people what they wanted – a king. Then Samuel warns the people – “If you fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the Lord your God. However, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you, as it was against your fathers.”
Samuel tells the people that they were wicked in rejecting the Lord and asking for a king, but he concludes his speech with a word of hope – “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.”
Will Saul be a king who fears the Lord and obeys His commandments? Keep reading to find out. (1 Samuel 9:1-12:25)