The Monarchy - King Saul

"Has not the Lord anointed you
leader over his inheritance?"

–1 Samuel 10:1

Samuel Anoints Saul

1Samuel 9:1-2 1. There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. 2. He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites - a head taller than any of the others.

Samuel has been tasked with providing Israel with a king. God gave clear warning to the people about the consequences of their request, but he is going to give them what they ask for in a Benjamite named Saul.

Chapter 9 begins with Saul and one of his father's servants out looking for some lost donkeys. There is biblical imagery here: Saul is out looking for stubborn and rebellious donkeys while later on, David will be introduced as a shepherd of his father's sheep. The Israelites have shown themselves to be wayward and obstinate and soon we will see King Saul acting the same.

Saul lives in Gibeah, about four miles north of Jerusalem and about three miles south of Ramah which is Samuel's hometown. The servant knew of Samuel and his reputation (Saul did not) and suggested they seek his advice on where to find the donkeys. They enter Ramah just as Samuel is going up to the "high place"* to sacrifice to the Lord.

1Samuel 9:15-6 15. Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed this to Samuel: 16. "About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him leader over my people Israel; he will deliver my people from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked upon my people, for their cry has reached me."

When Samuel saw Saul, God said to him, "This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people." Samuel brought Saul and his servant to the high place and set them at the head of the table a had the cook bring out a prepared leg of meat that had been set aside for Saul and they all dined together. Later, when they came back to Samuel's house, they talked up on the roof. The next morning, Samuel directed Saul to send the servant ahead and he took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul's head anointing him leader over Israel. Samuel then told Saul of some signs he was to look for:

Verse nine says these things were fulfilled that day. Interestingly though, there is a fourth "instruction" listed in verse eight that is to come some time later. It is significant because it will be one of Saul's first major stumbles. Here's the verse (emphasis mine):

1Samuel 10:8 "Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do."

King Saul

Saul returned to Gibeah and caused a stir among people who knew him when he was seen prophesying. There seems to be some contempt for prophets (Jesus says this in John 4:44) and Saul seem reluctant to talk about it when his uncle asks.

Samuel summons the Israelites to Mizpah to present themselves before God.

1Samuel 10:18-19 18. and said to them, "This is what the Lord , the God of Israel, says: 'I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.' 19. But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses. And you have said, 'No, set a king over us.' So now present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and clans."

Samuel brings forth each tribe and God chooses Benjamin. Then he brings forth each clan of Benjamin and Matri's clan is chosen. Finally Saul is chosen. When he is brought out, he stands "a head taller than any of the others." Samuel declares Saul king, "There is no one like him among all the people." Samuel explains to the people the regulations of the kingship and writes them down in the presence of the Lord. He then sends everyone home. Israel now has their king. Saul returned home with some "valiant men" God had provided but there were some malcontents who despised the new king. Saul noticed.

Saul at Jabesh

The Philistines occupation encouraged other Canaanite peoples to move against Israel; this was a prime motivator for Israel seeking a king. Nahash the Ammonite (the Moabites and Ammonites were descendants of Lot) lay siege to Jabesh Gilead. Jabesh Gilead was east of the Jordan in Manasseh, about one hundred miles north of Gibeah. (See Jabesh Gilead in Judges 21:10.) The men of Jabesh implored Nahash for a treaty, but the Ammonite would only agree if he could gouge out their right eye. This would bring humiliation and destroy their capacity as archers. The Israelites asked for a week to think it over. They sent messengers seeking help from other Israelites.

When news reached Gibeah, Saul was working the fields with his oxen. He asked why everyone was crying.

1Samuel 11:6-8 6. When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he burned with anger. 7. He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, "This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel." Then the terror of the Lord fell on the people, and they turned out as one man. 8. When Saul mustered them at Bezek, the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and the men of Judah thirty thousand.

Bezek is west of the Jordan, about twenty miles west of Jabesh Gilead. Saul sent the messengers back to Jabesh to let the Israelites know that they would be rescued the next day. That night, Saul divided his army into three divisions and they attacked and killed the Ammonites, scattering the few survivors.

The people were elated with their new king. They asked Samuel to bring out the men who spoke out against Saul in order to put them to death but Saul himself intervened.

1Samuel 11:13 But Saul said, "No one shall be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel."

Samuel then had the people assemble at Gilgal to reaffirm Saul's kingship. They sacrificed fellowship offerings to the Lord and there was a great celebration. At this event Samuel delivers his farewell speech. It's in Chapter eleven, and it lays out before Israel their evil in rejecting God and seeking out an earthly king.

The Fall of Saul

Saul was thirty years old when he became king and he ruled for forty-two years. It would not be a glorious reign however. Refer back to 1Samuel 10:8 (above); this seems to be the start of his problems. After his victory over the Ammonites, Saul kingship was solidified in Israel. Beginning in Chapter thirteen, we see Saul had commissioned three thousand men at Micmash (a few miles from Gibeah), two thousand with Saul and one thousand with his son Jonathan. Saul goes on the offensive with the Philistines. Jonathan attacks the Philistine outpost at Geba and Saul loudly proclaims Israel to be at odds with the Philistines. Saul rallies the troops at Gilgal.

The Philistines hear of the attack and assemble three thousand chariots and "soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore." Saul's troops, realizing that they might have a problem, take to hiding in the caves, rocks and thickets. Some cross the Jordan ten miles away. Saul waits the seven days that Samuel had instructed, but on the seventh day, when Samuel did not arrive, Saul's men begin to scatter. So he takes matters into his own hands and offers up the burnt offering himself. Just as he is making the offering, Samuel arrives and asks, "What have you done?" Saul attempts to deflect responsibility, but Samuel isn't buying it.

1Samuel 13:13-14 13. "You acted foolishly," Samuel said. "You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord 's command."

Like Eli before him, Saul's family will not endure. This doesn't mark the end of Saul's reign, but Saul's dynasty began and ended with him.