The Word Made Fresh
1Then Samuel took a container of oil and poured it on Saul’s head. He kissed Saul and said, “The LORD has anointed you ruler over the inheritance the LORD has given. 2After you have left me today you will meet two men near Rachel’s tomb at Zelzah in Benjamin. They will tell you that the donkeys you were looking for have been found, and now your father is worrying about you and wondering what to do. 3From there you will travel on to the oak tree at Tabor. You will meet three men going up to God’s altar at Bethel. One of them will be carrying three goat kids; one will be carrying three loaves of bread; one will be carrying a skin filled with wine. 4They will speak to you and offer you two loaves of bread, and you will take them. 5Then you will come to Gibeah on God’s hill where there is a Philistine camp. As you arrive there you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the shrine, and a band will be leading them, playing harp and tambourine and flute and lyre. They will be excited and spouting their prophetic pronouncements. 6Then you will be overwhelmed by the LORD’s spirit and will become a changed man, shouting prophesies along with them. 7Then you can do whatever seems best to you, for God is with you. 8Then go down to Gilgal, and I will come to you and present burnt offerings and thanksgiving sacrifices. Wait there for seven days, and I will come and show you what to do.”
9Saul turned to leave Samuel, and everything happened just as Samuel had said. 10While he and his young assistant were approaching Gibeah a group of prophets met them, and Saul was overtaken by the spirit of God and joined their prophetic frenzy. 11Some people who knew him saw it and said, “What is happening to Saul, the son of Kish? Is he a prophet now?”
12A man standing nearby answered, “Who is their father?” It became a recurring question: “Is Saul a prophet, too?” 13Saul’s prophetic trance soon ended, and he went home.
14Saul’s uncle asked him, “Where have you been?”
“We were looking for the donkeys,” Saul told him. “When we couldn’t find them, we went to consult Samuel.”
15“What did he say?” asked his uncle.
16“He told us they had already been found,” Saul said, but didn’t tell his uncle anything Samuel had said about him being the king.
17Samuel called an assembly of the people at Mizpah. 18He said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel said to me: ‘I brought Israel out of Egypt. I saved you from the Egyptians and the other kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ 19But you turned away from your God who has rescued you from every trouble and every enemy. You said, ‘Give us a king.’ So be it. Arrange yourselves by tribes and clans and present yourselves to the LORD.”
20The tribes paraded by him, and he chose Benjamin. 21Benjamin passed by, clan by clan, and he chose the clan of Matri. He continued until Saul, son of Kish, was chosen, but Saul was nowhere to be found. So, they asked the LORD, “Is he here?” And the LORD replied, “He is hiding in the luggage.” 23So, they got him and brought him forward. He stood head and shoulders above all of them.
24Samuel called out, “Do you see this man, whom God has chosen? There is not another one like him in all of Israel.”
The people shouted, “Long live the king!”
25Samuel then explained to the people the rights and duties of the king, wrote it all down in a book and placed it before the LORD. Then he sent the people home.
26Saul went home to Gibeah, joined by a number of brave men whom God had inspired. 27But he also had some detractors who said, “How is he going to help us?” They did not honor him with gifts, but Saul kept his peace.
1-8: Samuel anoints Saul with oil, kisses him, and tells him that the LORD has made him ruler over all Israel. He will save them from their enemies, he says. Then Samuel gives Saul certain “signs” that God has indeed chosen him. 1) On his way home two men will meet him and tell him the donkeys have been found and now his father is worried about him. 2) Then three men will meet him and give him two loaves of bread. 3) We learn that there is a Philistine garrison stationed at Gibeah, and when Saul approaches that town he will meet a band of prophets coming out, and he will join them in a “prophetic frenzy” and become a “different person.” Verse 8 is mistakenly inserted here; it will be several chapters later before we follow Saul to Gilgal to wait 7 days for Samuel to arrive, but the seven days is symbolic – Aaron and his sons had to remain in the sanctuary in the wilderness for seven days after their anointing (Leviticus 8:35).
Here is an interesting explanation of all this beating around the bush: Samuel is not quite certain about Saul, so he has arranged for several tests. He anoints Saul in private just in case he turns out to be a poor choice. Meanwhile, he has arranged for two men to wait at Rachel’s tomb, telling them that when the new king arrives, they are to give him news about the donkeys his father lost. These two men don’t know Saul: Samuel wants to see if they immediately see Saul as the king when they meet him (just as Samuel did), thus verifying the choice. A similar thing is to happen at Tabor: Samuel has arranged for three men to meet him, each carrying an identifying item. Samuel simply tells them to wait at a certain place for the king and give him bread. Again, if they see Saul and conclude he is the king that will be another verification that Samuel has picked the right man. Finally, Samuel has sent word to a prophetic school at Gibeath to watch for a tall man approaching, and to swarm out of the town as he nears it, in a prophetic frenzy. Later, Samuel hears from the prophets how Saul reacted to their procession, again testing whether Saul has what it takes to be king.
9-13: Saul passes the tests, and Samuel hears the report, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”
14-16: When Saul reaches his home, he dodges his uncle’s question about Samuel, and mentions nothing of the anointing.
17-19: Samuel summons everyone to Mizpah (not Gilgal; that will come later). You insisted on a king, he says. You have rejected God, he says. So, come to Mizpah and see what you get.
20-24: Samuel has arranged an elaborate selection process to make it appear that God is choosing their king right before their eyes. Samuel knows that the casting of lots will “choose” the tribe of Benjamin, then the family of the Matrites, then Saul the son of Kish. Saul, however, is nowhere to be found. God has to let them know that their new king is hiding from them! They find him and bring him out, and Samuel says, “Here’s your king!” They are thinking, “My, my, isn’t he tall!” and shout “Long live the king!”
25-28 Samuel writes down the rights and privileges of the king and sends the people home. Saul goes home to Gibeah (isn’t that where the Levite’s concubine was raped and murdered?). We learn immediately that not everybody is impressed with Saul, but Saul is new to the business of being a king and doesn’t know how to treat such threats, so does nothing.
The simple truth is that nobody is capable of being in charge of everybody. That’s God’s job. If you are placed in a position of authority over others, spend lots of time in prayer asking for the LORD’s guidance.