When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”
- 1 Samuel 8:1-9
There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bekorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.
Now the donkeys belonging to Saul’s father Kish were lost, and Kish said to his son Saul, “Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys.” So he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and through the area around Shalisha, but they did not find them. They went on into the district of Shaalim, but the donkeys were not there. Then he passed through the territory of Benjamin, but they did not find them.
The servant answered him again. “Look,” he said, “I have a quarter of a shekel of silver. I will give it to the man of God so that he will tell us what way to take.” (Formerly in Israel, if someone went to inquire of God, they would say, “Come, let us go to the seer,” because the prophet of today used to be called a seer.)
“Good,” Saul said to his servant. “Come, let’s go.” So they set out for the town where the man of God was.
As they were going up the hill to the town, they met some young women coming out to draw water, and they asked them, “Is the seer here?”
“He is,” they answered. “He’s ahead of you. Hurry now; he has just come to our town today, for the people have a sacrifice at the high place. As soon as you enter the town, you will find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. The people will not begin eating until he comes, because he must bless the sacrifice; afterward, those who are invited will eat. Go up now; you should find him about this time.”
They went up to the town, and as they were entering it, there was Samuel, coming toward them on his way up to the high place.
Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed this to Samuel: “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.”
- 1 Samuel 9:1-4, 8-16
Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance? When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel’s tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, ‘The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, “What shall I do about my son?”’
“Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to worship God at Bethel will meet you there. One will be carrying three young goats, another three loaves of bread, and another a skin of wine. They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them.
“After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, timbrels, pipes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.
“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.”
As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying. When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, “What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”
- 1 Samuel 10:1-11
The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Turn these men over to us so that we may put them to death.”
But Saul said, “No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel.”
Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.
- 1 Samuel 11:12-15
Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years.
Saul chose three thousand men from Israel; two thousand were with him at Mikmash and in the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. The rest of the men he sent back to their homes.
Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. Then Saul had the trumpet blown throughout the land and said, “Let the Hebrews hear!” So all Israel heard the news: “Saul has attacked the Philistine outpost, and now Israel has become obnoxious to the Philistines.” And the people were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.
The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Mikmash, east of Beth Aven. When the Israelites saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.
Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.
“What have you done?” asked Samuel.
Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”
“You have done a foolish thing,” 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. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”
Then Samuel left Gilgal and went up to Gibeah in Benjamin, and Saul counted the men who were with him. They numbered about six hundred.
- 1 Samuel 13:1-15
See also 1 Samuel 15 at this link HERE.
[1 Samuel 13:12] ”For the unbelieving mind to tinker with the truth of God is as terrible as was the unauthorized act of Saul when in fear and unbelief he offered a burnt-offering at Gilgal. So the king explained his act, but there is something spine-chilling about it all. An unholy man tried to do a holy act and tragedy followed. From that hour Saul’s life degenerated till at last, deserted and terrified, he died by his own hand.”
- A. W. Tozer, The Size of the Soul
What Do We Know about their Relationship?
We know that the Israelites’ insistence on having a king was a rejection of God as king, thus doomed from the beginning. Samuel’s sons were corrupt.
Saul stumbled into the presence of Samuel, looking for donkeys that had gone astray. But God had already told Samuel that the new king to anoint would come on such a quest the next day at that hour. Samuel expected Saul’s arrival. Saul was humble at first, giving the same argument as Gideon, smallest tribe, smallest family, etc., but then he has the spirit come upon him. People think of him as a prophet.
He has some marginal success, but the army is small, and the weapons are few. He fears a loss in the next battle. Since Samuel was late getting there, Saul offered the sacrifices himself – as the quote says, an unholy man doing holy things. At this point, Samuel appears and prophesies that the kingdom will be taken from him.
What Can We Infer about their Relationship?
As long as Saul turned to Samuel for advice, Samuel provided good advice. Once Saul got the idea that he was king and did not need Samuel, the relationship fell apart. And sadly, Saul’s relationship with God fell apart also. The spirit left Saul.
We can infer that there was a slow transition from the lovable lummox who needed help finding lost donkeys to the arrogant king who did not need the greatest of the judges helping him, at least advising him.
That slow process is what happens when we feel self-confident in our abilities and then, over time, we start getting the idea that WE had that innate power instead of God granting us the power.
In What Ways Can We Fill in the Gaps about their Relationship?
There are many gaps to fill, but not when it comes to the relationship. At first, Samuel anoints who God had foreordained to be anointed, a stranger to Samuel really. Then Saul is hesitant at even starting his reign. Samuel was there to provide support. But then after a couple of minor military victories, Saul acts like he does not need Samuel, but he is frightened thinking that a sacrifice needed to be made first. Now comfortable with the idea of being king, he oversteps is boundaries.
What Can We Learn from this Relationship?
I was a military officer, platoon leader, a few years after the Vietnam War had ended. The Army had shifted to an all-volunteer army, and I had to learn some people skills. What I learned from those classes was that I was, to some extent, lost when it came to people skills. I had gone to engineering school, and I was great with computers and calculations.
So here I was with nearly forty soldiers looking at me and asking what I wanted them to do. I in turn pulled my non-commissioned officers (NCOs – sergeants) aside and I asked them for their opinion. If I ever made a decision without consulting them, it usually did not end well.
You could say that I was only a success because I had good people working for me. In looking at my entire career, that would sum every success. And while in the army, I had great sergeants, all but one had Vietnam War experience and all of them were wise men.
Saul let the victories go to his head, thinking that it was his leadership that won those battles. Why then should he listen to the religious leader?
When we cut off our good advisors, we cut off our own nose to spite our face. There are many more examples of this in the Bible, and sadly thousands more in life since the canon of Scripture was written.
We need to be humble, and we need to listen to our wise advisors, and be wise enough ourselves to know which advisors to listen to.
And never think that God responds to some religious ceremony as a magical anointment of future success. Saul did not have the right attitude, nor the authority, to do the sacrifice, and his lack of faith doomed his reign as king. The same thing can be said of us when we rely on religiosity and ceremony instead of having a healthy relationship with God.
What Have We Learned thus far?
We have learned to:
- Own our own mistakes and not blame others.
- Be faithful to God, and worship properly, in the proper spirit.
- Go to God in prayer, especially before any major decisions.
- Do not show favoritism among family members, but always go to God.
- Forgiveness is extremely important for none of us are perfect except for God.
- Beyond physical love, there are other expressions of love, and respect is very important.
- A relationship requires maintenance, nurturing, and an acceptance of the roles.
- Be humble and listen to wise advice, and even wait when necessary.
- At times, we must be bold and trust God, and we must obey.
- And to love, love, and love.
- Be trustworthy. Trust is required.
- And don’t worry. God has this situation, and He has us in the palm of His hand.
- And remember to forgive others and confess our sins.
- And never go against what God instructs us to do.
A Closing Prayer
We look to You for guidance. You are our greatest advisor and many of the answers that we need can be found in Scripture. Help us to be wise enough to seek those answers and to come to You in prayer continuously. Be our guide all the time. And please, Lord, place respected, knowledgeable advisors in our path to guide us here on earth.
In Thy Name we pray,
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.