In 1 Samuel 9, we are introduced to a man from relative obscurity named Saul. But we quickly learn that he was set aside for a very special task. He would be the First King of Israel. That’s a pretty incredible piece of news for a person to be told and so chapter 10 begins with the Prophet Saul anointing Samuel and then giving him further instructions to prepare him to become king.
Saul anointed as king
Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies. And this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you to be prince over his heritage.
Samuel anoints Saul in a private ceremony.
As always, anointing in the Old Testament is something done at the beginning of the ministry of a prophet or a priest, and now of a future king. It is meant to set someone aside for a divine task.
Saul is not yet king. And interestingly, just as we saw in chapter 9, this verse does not use the word king. It uses the word prince. This is another reminder that even though Israel will have a human ruler, God is still the king.
Saul will rule as God’s emissary in the land.
The people’s demand for a king
As a reminder, though this will come up at the end of the chapter, the reason why Israel is getting a king is because they had asked for one. In 1 Samuel 8, the Israelites had been in various struggles and wars. Samuel’s sons were not as godly as he was and the people did not want them to be in power and so the people demanded a king.
In that same chapter, the Lord warned the Israelites about how badly it would go for them.
More men will have to serve in the army, more taxes, more of their goods will have to be given up in service of the king.
But the people still want a king anyway.
1 Samuel 8:19-20:
No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”
They want a king because they think it’ll make life easier, even though they’re told it will actually make their lives much, much harder.
It’s especially interesting that one of the reasons why they want a king is so that they can be like all of the other nations, when God had chosen Israel and redeemed them from slavery in Egypt preciseisly so that they would not be like all the other nations.
You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.
So you have a sinful nation who were trying to usurp God and who were graciously warned and yet still wanted a king anyway.
Sometimes God gives us what we want. But in the process, we learn that what we wanted really wasn’t good.
Sometimes God’s “yes” is a judgment. Is that because God is unloving? No. But man is sinful and some of us seem to only learn lessons the hard way!
Romans 1:28 says:
since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
God is the king Israel needs but he’ll give them Saul, the king they deserve.
Saul prepared to be king
Now let’s take a step back and look at this all from Saul’s perspective.
That is quite the series of events. In chapter 9, he’d simply gone out looking for some lost donkeys and now he finds out that he’s going to be king!
What would you think if you were Saul?
I’ll just speak for myself. I’m a pretty skeptical person. There are lots of things I hear that I question. I think I’d have a hard time believing that a prophet picked me out from obscurity and that it was my destiny to be the king of a nation that’s never even had a king.
So to prove that it’s all true, the Prophet Samuel gives Saul three signs or prophecies which will happen which are meant to validate that he really has been anointed to be the king.
First, his lost donkeys will be found.
2 When you depart from me today, you will meet two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah, and they will say to you, ‘The donkeys that you went to seek are found, and now your father has ceased to care about the donkeys and is anxious about you, saying, “What shall I do about my son?”
Part of what this sign is also doing is tying up loose ends from Saul’s prior life. It is showing a completion of his former life as a farmer and things that will not be his responsibility when he is king.
We see the second sign. People will give Saul bread.
3 Then you shall go on from there farther and come to the oak of Tabor. Three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. 4 And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall accept from their hand.
The New Bible Commentary is helpful on this verse.
There was a shrine at Bethel and the bread was meant to be given to the priests. So these aren’t just ordinary loaves of bread. They’re for a special purpose but when the people give the bread to Saul, it’s a reminder that he too has been set aside for a special purpose.
We see the third sign.
5 After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, where there is a garrison of the Philistines. And there, as soon as you come to the city, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. 6 Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. 7 Now when these signs meet you, do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you.
This sign points to Saul having the necessary skills to govern.
Borrowing again from the New Bible Dictionary, “Once these signs had been fulfilled, Saul could have full confidence to act as king, because God would clearly be with him.”
At this point, Samuel is still telling Saul what will happen.
Next, he tells Saul what to do after these things happen.
8 Then go down before me to Gilgal. And behold, I am coming down to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.”
So after the signs Saul will then spend seven days in the city of Gilgal and wait for Samuel. Gilgal was a city in the Benjaminite territory. Saul was a Benjaminte.
Gilgal was also the place where Joshua built the first monument to the Lord after the Israelites had crossed the Jordan and entered into the Promised Land in Joshua 4:20.
9 When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart. And all these signs came to pass that day.
This is probably the most hotly debated verse in this entire chapter. What does it mean that Saul was given another heart? Is that a metaphor for conversion or being born again?
Given that this event happens prior to the New Covenant, I don’t assume that it refers to regeneration. And given the way Saul’s life plays out, we don’t see much in the way of fruit or a life dedicated to God.
But in being given another heart, it points to Saul being equipped with what was needed to where he could have been a good king.
It’s also important that these verse mention that all of the signs that Samuel had mentioned came to pass.
Continuing in our passage.
10 When they came to Gibeah, behold, a group of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them.
The signs come to pass because Saul truly has been chosen by God to be the King of Israel. He’s chosen, he’s anointed, he’s been given the signs as confirmation. And at the end of chapter 10, he will officially become the first king of Israel.
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