1 Samuel 9:1-4; 10:1, 17-27: Saul Made King
Saul was a young man, tall and handsome, "from his shoulders and upward higher than any of the people." When we first hear of Saul, he was starting out from his home in Gibeah with a servant to search for his father's asses which were lost. His father's name was Kish. Gibeah stood on a hill a little north of Jerusalem, in the tribe of Benjamin. Saul and his servant went a long way looking for the asses, through the hills of Ephraim to the north and afterward in the country near Bethlehem to the south. At last they were giving up the search and returning home, when they found themselves near the town where Samuel lived. Samuel was known as a prophet. They would stop and ask his help to find the asses.
The town stood on a hill, and we see Saul and the servant climbing the steep path and stopping to ask their way of girls who were coming to the spring outside the town to draw water. You know how the women and girls in that country come with their jars to the spring and carry them full of water on their heads back to their homes. The girls told Saul and the servant that they would find Samuel in the town, and they met him as they went in at the city gate. He told them that the asses were found. But Samuel was just going to a sacrifice and a feast on a hilltop near the town. He took the strangers with him and gave them the chief place among the guests. At the feast he gave Saul a shoulder of meat, which was a mark of honor, for it was the part given to the priest. (Lev. 7:32) He kept them with him all night, and gave Saul the cool pleasant chamber on the housetop. Early in the morning Samuel called Saul and went with him out of the town.
Why did Samuel show Saul so much honor? The day before Saul came, the Lord had told Samuel that he would come and that he would be king of Israel. When Saul came in at the city gate, the Lord told Samuel that he was the man. Now, as they went out of the town together in the early morning and were alone, Samuel told Saul what the Lord had told him, and poured oil upon his head and kissed him. This was called anointing, and it made him king.
We must know the story of Saul's looking for the asses and of his anointing by Samuel, as I have told it to the little children. We can feel pretty sure that the hill on which Gibeah stood is the one often called "Gibeah of Saul." I wish that we could feel equally sure about Ramah, Samuel's home. It also was on a hill, for Ramah means a height. Ramathaim (1 Sam. 1:1) means a double height, and it was not very far from Gibeah.
Saul had been anointed king, but it was a secret. Before the anointing, Saul's servant had been sent on, so that Saul and Samuel were alone. (1 Sam. 9:27) When Saul came home and his uncle asked him what Samuel had said, he told him that Samuel told them plainly that the asses were found; but of the matter of the kingdom whereof Samuel spake, he told him not. (1 Sam. 10:14-16) Perhaps no one knew it except Saul and Samuel.
Samuel now called the people together to choose a king, and the Lord helped them in the same way that He helped them when they came to Shiloh to learn where each tribe should have its home. The meeting now was at Mizpeh, the high hill where Samuel before had gathered the people and one of the places where he judged them. The hill is still called Neby Samwil, the Prophet Samuel. Samuel drew lots, as Joshua had done at Shiloh, and the Lord guided the lots. First he drew lots among the tribes, and the tribe of Benjamin was chosen. This was Saul's tribe. Then Saul's family was chosen, and at last Saul himself. They could not find him, for he was hiding among the baggage. When they found him they saw how tall he was, and handsome. Samuel said, "See ye him whom the Lord bath chosen," and all the people shouted, "Live the king!"
We read that Samuel then told the people the manner of the kingdom and wrote it in a book and laid it up before the Lord. This would seem to have been a formal agreement between the people and the king as to his rights and duties. Looking back to chapter 8, we read that Samuel was grieved when the people asked for a king, and he told the people what a king might be like, drawing the picture from the harsh and oppressive ways of many eastern kings. Possibly the agreement written for Saul and the people was intended to guard against such abuses of kingly power. It is possible, also, that in the writing of this agreement there may have been some memory of the wise instruction given by Moses to the people in Deut. 17, looking forward to a day when the people might wish to have a king. Read Deut. 17:14-20, how the king should not gather luxuries for himself, but should write a copy of the Lord's law and should read therein and obey it all the days of his life.
1. Where was Saul's home? In what tribe? Why was he away from home?
2. What is said of Saul's appearance?
3. Tell me about Saul's meeting with Samuel. Of whom did he inquire as he came to the town?
4. Did Samuel know Saul?
5. What kindness did Samuel show him? What did he tell him about the asses? What else did he tell him?
In general, what is represented by the change in Israel from the patriarchal to the kingly government? (A. 1672, 8770)
For deeper lessons connected with this story we must go back to remember what is represented by the desire of the people for a king and by the establishment of the kingdom. We remember that the period of the judges represents states of older childhood before principles of truth rationally understood are established and attempt to order and direct the life. This maturer development is represented by the kingdom. The judges who were both king and priest represented a motive of rule in which truth and love were joined, but the king represents a motive of truth perhaps without love. Hence Samuel's dread of the kingdom and his warning of what a king might be. (1 Sam. 8:10-18) At best the reason at first is natural; it will be stronger and wiser as it becomes more spiritual. The natural reason which first rules is especially represented by Saul, commended by his outward appearance and strength. The riper spiritual reason is represented presently by David; and reason which is of a still higher celestial character, by Solomon. (A. 6148, 10540; E. 323)
It is in keeping with this meaning of Saul that he was made king while he was searching for his father's asses, and that David was anointed while he was tending the sheep. The asses represent a natural understanding, which attends not to interior spiritual things, but to things of the world and natural life. They represent a reason which is not yet very gentle, but is stubborn and self-willed. Those who have studied the story of Ishmael will remember that he also is a type of natural reason, hard and contentious. He was called a wild ass man. (Gen. 16:12) The relation of Saul to this first effort to govern the life by principles of truth grasped as yet only in a natural way, will become more evident as we study incidents of Saul's reign. There were fine things about Saul, but also limitations. (A. 2781)
Our story tells of an anointing. What was represented by the anointing of kings and priests and of the holy furniture of the tabernacle? Remembering that oil is a type of love, and the precious anointing oil a type of the Lord's own love, we can see that the anointing to a sacred office represented a gift of the Lord's love for the right performance of the duties of the office. Read Isa. 61:1-3, and Luke 4:18-22, which speak about the Lord's anointing. We need a touch of His love to enable us to rule our little kingdoms well. (Ps. 133; A. 9954; E. 375)
There is beautiful opportunity for spiritual study in Samuel's warning about the king, in 1 Sam. 8:10-18, and in Moses' picture of what a king should be, in Deut. 17:14-20. Samuel's warning tells how cruel the rule of a spirit may be which cares only for truth, ignoring love and kindness, how destructive it is of all spiritual life. Moses pictures the rule of a motive which the Lord shall choose; one of Israel's own people, a spiritual motive; one not trusting in horses of Egypt, its own intellectual powers; one not influenced to justify evil pleasures; a spirit which makes its own copy of the Lord's law inscribing it on the heart; which is wise by study of the Lord's Word, and in obedience is not turned aside to the right or left. So will life be long, rich in all that makes life worth while. Every young man and young woman choosing a king and establishing a kingdom should profit by Samuel's warning and by Moses' picture. (A. 6148, 2015 end, 2567 end, 6125)