Understanding the Old Testament

King Saul

(All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

Before he was anointed as king, Saul described himself as “a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin.” (1 Samuel 9:21) The first is probably true, for the Benjamites had been decimated during the civil war that almost destroyed them. Choosing a king from the smallest and weakest of the twelve tribes may have avoided arousing jealousy and rivalry among the other tribes.

But Saul’s claim about his family does not ring true, because his family owned donkeys (1 Samuel 9:3), a prized animal at that time, indicating at least moderate wealth.

Those donkeys brought Saul and Samuel together. The animals wandered away, and Saul’s father, Kish, sent him in search of them. (1 Samuel 9:3) That search eventually led Saul to Samuel—who was well known as a prophet—in the hope that he would know where the donkeys were. (1 Samuel 9:6-10) Samuel told Saul that the animals were safe, and then secretly anointed him as king over Israel. (1 Samuel 9:20 and 10:1)

Samuel also told Saul that he would soon receive the “Spirit of the Lord,” leading him to prophesy “and be changed into another man”—all of which happened. (1 Samuel 10:6 and 10:9-13)

Finally, Samuel told Saul to wait at Gilgal for seven days until Samuel came down to offer burnt offerings and peace offerings. (1 Samuel 10:8) As we shall see, this simple instruction—or one like it—would be Saul’s undoing.

To make Saul’s selection as king official, Samuel called for a meeting of the Israelites at Mizpah. There he cast lots to determine the new king. Casting lots was a random selection method that the Israelites believed God would manipulate to lead them to His choice. See, for example, Joshua 7:14-21, where lots were used to detect Achan’s sin after the battle of Jericho.

The casting of lots selected the tribe of Benjamin, then Saul’s family, and finally Saul himself, who was proclaimed king of Israel. (1 Samuel 10:20-24)

Questions to ponder or discuss: When Saul was chosen as king, the people found him “hiding himself by the baggage” (1 Samuel 10:22). Probably for this reason, some were skeptical of his selection as king, saying to themselves, “How can this one deliver us?” (1 Samuel 10:27) When have you seen somebody accomplish things beyond your expectations? Why do we so often judge people by our first impression of them?

Copyright 2018 by Don Davidson

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Beyond Blind Faith: Reasons for the Hope We Have (1 Peter 3:15):

Why Reasonable People Should Consider Christianity

Stories of the Faithful (with some church history)

Christmas Stories

Understanding the Old Testament

The Truth About America Star Books


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I am a member of Trinity Arts Writers Workshop, in Bedford, Texas.