A. Saul is anointed as king over Israel.
1. (1) Samuel anoints Saul.
Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said: "Is it not because the LORD has anointed you commander over His inheritance?"
a. Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head: This was a literal anointing of Saul. The word "anoint" means to rub or sprinkle on; apply an unguent, ointment, or oily liquid to. When Samuel poured it on his head, Saul was anointed with oil.
i. But the idea of anointing is much bigger. What happened to Saul's head and body was simply a picture of what God was doing in him spiritually. The Holy Spirit was being poured out on him, equipping him for the job of being king over Israel.
ii. Priests were anointed for their special service to the LORD (Exodus 28:41). Literal oil would be applied, but as a sign of the Holy Spirit upon their lives and service. The oil on the head was only the outward representation of the real, spiritual work going on inside them.
iii. Sometimes anointing oil would be poured (Exodus 29:7), sometimes it would be sprinkled (Exodus 29:21). This shows that the Holy Spirit's equipping for service is poured out in different ways and in different measures at different times and on different persons.
iv. Exodus 30:22-33 tells us about the special anointing oil. It was regarded as a sacred compound that could not be imitated nor used as normal perfuming oil. Since oil is emblematic of the Holy Spirit, we see that the Holy Spirit is not poured out to enhance our flesh, but to glorify Himself. Exodus 30:32 says specifically: it shall not be poured on man's flesh. Also, the work of the Holy Spirit is never to be imitated: nor shall you make any other like it . . . it is holy, and it shall be holy to you (Exodus 30:32). There is to be no place for encouraging a fleshly imitation of the gifts or operations of the Holy Spirit; this denies the holiness of the Holy Spirit, regarding His work as something we can do just as well on our own.
v. "In 1988 archaeologists uncovered in the bottom of a three-foot-deep put near Qumran, at the northwestern end of the Dead Sea, a five-inch-diameter clay flask wrapped in a nest of palm fibers and containing a small amount of well-preserved reddish oil, probably distilled from balsam. Dating from the first century A.D., the oil may be the only surviving sample of its kind and may be similar to that use to anoint ancient Israelite kings." (Youngblood)
vi. As Christians under the New Covenant, we also have an anointing: But you have an anointing from the Holy One (1 John 2:20). In the New Testament sense, anointing has the idea of being filled with, and blessed by, the Holy Spirit. This is something that is the common property of all Christians, but something we can and should become more submitted and responsive to. "As oil was used among the Asiatics for the inauguration of persons in important offices, and this oil was acknowledged to be an emblem of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, without which the duties of those offices could not be discharged; so it is put here for the Spirit himself, who presided in the Church, and from which all gifts and graces flowed." (Clarke)
b. And kissed him: This was not only a greeting, but it was a sign of Samuel's personal support of Saul. It was important that the first king of Israel feel the support of the man of God.
c. Is it not because of the LORD has anointed you: God had anointed Saul, and there were many aspects to this anointing which were especially memorable to Saul.
i. It was a secret anointing, because it was not yet the time to reveal Saul as king to the nation. As Christians, our anointing often comes in just such a private way, not in a flashy, public ceremony.
ii. It was a memorable and evident anointing, because Saul's head was drenched with oil. Psalm 133:2 describes how messy an anointing could be: It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down the beard . . . running down on the edge of his garments. As Christians, our filling and empowering of the Holy Spirit should be memorable and evident. Saul could look back on this day, and this event, and know that God had called him to something special as the king of Israel.
iii. It was a prophetic anointing, because just as Saul was anointed as king, so Jesus is anointed as the King of Kings. Jesus is the Messiah (the same word as "Christ"), which means Anointed One.
d. Commander over His inheritance: Samuel reminds Saul that Israel belongs to the LORD, they are His inheritance. At the same time, Saul has an important job to do, because God has placed him as commander over His inheritance. Saul should have tried to be the best king he could be, because he was taking care of a people who belonged to the LORD God.
i. Poole on His inheritance: "Whereby he admonisheth Saul that this people were not so much his as God's; and that he was not to rule and manage them according to his own will and pleasure, but according to the will and mind of God."
2. (2) Samuel tells Saul of a sign to confirm what God has done.
"When you have departed from me today, you will find two men by Rachel's tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say to you, 'The donkeys which you went to look for have been found. And now your father has ceased caring about the donkeys and is worrying about you, saying, "What shall I do about my son?" ' "
a. You will find two men by Rachel's tomb: Samuel gives Saul a specific, prophetic word from God, by which Saul can have confidence that his anointing by Samuel was really from God. If there were no men by Rachel's tomb, or if there was only one man and not two, then Saul should know that Samuel was not really speaking from God.
i. However, speaking purely theoretically, there could have been three men by Rachel's tomb and the prophecy could have been still exactly correct. You can say there are two men if there are three or four or five; but you cannot say there are two men if there is only one. When a word is from God, it is always fulfilled exactly as God says, but not always exactly as we were expecting it.
b. They will say to you: If the men by Rachel's tomb do not tell Saul about the finding of the lost donkeys, Saul will know Samuel is not a true prophet. God gave Saul this sign to make him confident in what the LORD was doing.
i. We need to trust in God's confirmation along the way. God did not want Saul to doubt his calling later, so he gave him a lot of confirmation.
3. (3-4) Samuel tells Saul of another sign to confirm what God has done.
"Then you shall go on forward from there and come to the terebinth tree of Tabor. There three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall receive from their hands."
a. The terebinth tree of Tabor . . . three men . . . three young goats . . . three loaves of bread . . . a skin of wine . . . they will greet you and give you. Again, Samuel is giving Saul such specific predictions that they can be exactly verified. God may have a place for vague, broad words (such as saying to an audience of five hundred people, "There is someone here with a headache . . ."), but they are not remarkable evidence of prophecy.
b. Which you shall receive: It would be unusual for men to simply give a stranger like Saul loaves of bread. But as king, Saul will be often receiving gifts, so this was a good way to speak to confirm to him his position as king.
i. Wasn't two loaves of bread a strange present? "The more strange the present was, the more fit it was for a sign of God's extraordinary providence in Saul's affairs." (Poole)
4. (5-7) Samuel tells Saul of a third sign to confirm what God has done.
"After that you shall come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is. And it will happen, when you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with a stringed instrument, a tambourine, a flute, and a harp before them; and they will be prophesying. Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you."
a. A group of prophets: These prophets were apparently seeking the LORD and worshipping Him at the place of worship (the high place). They will be prophesying isn't necessarily that they were all predicting the future, but that they were all speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
i. Prophets may speak by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, yet their words may not be predicting the future. 1 Corinthians 14:3 says, he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. Also, people may speak to God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
ii. Poole on a group of prophets: "He understands persons that did wholly devote themselves to religious studies and exercises, such as preaching, praying, praising of God."
iii. "Members of prophetic bands were often young (2 Kings 5:22; 9:4); they frequently lived together (2 Kings 6:1-2), ate together (2 Kings 4:38), and were supported by the generosity of their fellow Israelites (2 Kings 4:42-43) . . . Samuel provided guidance and direction for the movement in its early stages, as Elijah and Elisha did later." (Youngblood)
b. Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you: This reception of the Holy Spirit was the real anointing. The oil poured out on Saul's head was just a picture of this. A gallon of oil could have been put on his head, but if the Spirit of the LORD did not come upon him, it would have meant nothing!
i. Poole writes that the literal Hebrew for will come upon you is "will leap or rush upon thee, to wit, for a season. So it may be opposed to the Spirit's resting upon a man, as in Numbers 11:25; Isaiah 11:2."
c. And you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man: Saul, before this time, never seems to have been a particularly spiritual man. So for him to prophesy - that is, speak as inspired from the LORD, whether predicting the future, exhorting others, or speaking unto God - was real evidence that he had been turned into another man.
i. God picked Saul just as he was, even though he was not a particularly spiritual man. Yet, God did not want to leave Saul just as he was. For God to use Saul to the fullest, he had to be turned into another man by the filling of the Spirit of the LORD.
ii. God says His work will be done, not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). When we let the Spirit of the LORD fill us and change us, then we can see the work of God really done.
d. When these signs come to you: God arranged for each one of these three events to be a sign to Saul. God always confirms His anointing!
5. (8) Saul is commanded to wait for Samuel at Gilgal.
"You shall go down before me to Gilgal; and surely I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, till I come to you and show you what you should do."
a. Seven days you shall wait: This is an important command. By the nature of their office, kings do not wait for anybody. Others wait for them. But Samuel commands Saul to wait for him, because the prophet of God had more real authority than this king over Israel! Saul had to show that even though he was a king, he was submitted to the LORD, and the LORD's prophet. Failing to wait for Samuel will get Saul into trouble on a future occasion.
b. Why Gilgal? "Gilgal was chosen for this purpose as a very fit place; partly because that place was famous for the solemn renewing of the covenant between God and Israel, Joshua 4 . . . and partly because it was a very convenient place for the tribes within and without Jordan to assemble, and consult, and unite their forces together upon such occasions." (Poole)
6. (9-13) The signs come to pass.
So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day. When they came there to the hill, there was a group of prophets to meet him; then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. And it happened, when all who knew him formerly saw that he indeed prophesied among the prophets, that the people said to one another, "What is this that has come upon the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?" Then a man from there answered and said, "But who is their father?" Therefore it became a proverb: "Is Saul also among the prophets?" And when he had finished prophesying, he went to the high place.
a. When he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart. Samuel could not give Saul another heart. Only the Spirit of the LORD could do that. To demonstrate this, God did not grant this change of heart to Saul until he left the presence of Samuel. God wanted Saul to honor and respect Samuel, but to never look to Samuel in the place of the LORD.
i. God gave him another heart: Samuel did not give it. Saul did not even give it to himself. The new heart was a gift from God. We can have another heart from the LORD also, but we must receive it from him. We can't receive a new heart from anyone from God, and we can never make a new heart in anyone else.
b. Is Saul also among the prophets? This phrase became a proverb describing astonishment that someone had become a religious fanatic. As some used to say of someone who was not a religious person who became very religious, "He got religion?" Saul was an unspiritual man who became very spiritual at the time when the Spirit of the LORD came upon him.
c. But who is their father? This question asks, "Who is the source of the inspiration upon the prophets?" If God is their inspiration, then why should it be strange that God could inspire an unlikely man such as Saul? "Who is the father of all these prophets of whom you speak, and among whom Saul is now one? who is it that instructs and inspires them with this holy art, but God? They have it not from their natural parents . . . but by inspiration from God, who, when he pleaseth, can inspire Saul, or any other man, with the same skill. And therefore wonder not at this matter, but give God the glory of it." (Poole)
d. When he had finished prophesying: Saul prophesied without ever really being called as a prophet. This shows us that someone can receive prophecy as a gift from the Holy Spirit without really being a "prophet" in the sense of having that office or title.
7. (14-16) Saul hides his experience from his family.
Then Saul's uncle said to him and his servant, "Where did you go?" So he said, "To look for the donkeys. When we saw that they were nowhere to be found, we went to Samuel." And Saul's uncle said, "Tell me, please, what Samuel said to you." So Saul said to his uncle, "He told us plainly that the donkeys had been found." But about the matter of the kingdom, he did not tell him what Samuel had said.
a. Where did you go? This may have been a simple, logical question. Or, Saul's uncle may be asking because he noticed that Saul had very, very oily hair!
b. About the matter of the kingdom, he did not tell him: Of course, it seems strange that Saul would not tell of what he had experienced. Didn't he have a lot to tell about?
i. Perhaps Saul was wise, knowing that the LORD had to reveal him as king over Israel. What point was there in saying, "I'm the king now!" until the LORD had declared him to be king?
ii. Or, perhaps Saul is just experiencing what many experience after a powerful encounter with the LORD: an attack from the enemy, making us fearful and cowardly to tell others what God has done in our lives.
B. Saul proclaimed as king.
1. (17-19) Samuel's speech to the nation before the appointment of a king.
Then Samuel called the people together to the LORD at Mizpah, and said to the children of Israel, "Thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all kingdoms and from those who oppressed you.' But you have today rejected your God, who Himself saved you from all your adversities and your tribulations; and you have said to Him, 'No, set a king over us!' Now therefore, present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and by your clans."
a. I brought Israel out of Egypt: Before God appoints a king for Israel, God reminds Israel of all He has done for them. In a sense, God is reminding Israel that He was still more than qualified to be their king, and their rejection of Him was all because of them, and not because of the LORD.
b. But you have rejected your God, who Himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations: The LORD, speaking through Samuel, is showing Israel how their rejection of Him made so little sense. Why would anyone reject the one who Himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations?
i. It is easy for us to think, "Wow, those Israelites were really stupid. How foolish to reject God like that!" But are we much different? Whenever we, even in the smallest way, reject God, we show the same lack of sense.
2. (20-21a) Saul is selected by lot.
And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was chosen. When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the family of Matri was chosen. And Saul the son of Kish was chosen.
a. And Saul the son of Kish was chosen: Why did God do it this way, when He had already anointed Saul as king over Israel? Because this would show the whole nation that Saul was the right man. It would show that God had chosen Saul, not that any man had chosen him.
i. They inquired of the LORD: "Either by Urim or Thummin, which was the usual way of inquiry . . . or by Samuel, who by his prayer procured an answer." (Poole)
ii. "It appears that, in order to find out the proper person who should be made their king, they must determine by lot: 1. The tribe. 2. The thousands or grand divisions by families. 3. The smaller divisions by families. And, 4. The individual. When the lot was cast for the tribe, Benjamin was taken; when for the thousand, the division of Matri was taken; when for the family, the family of Kish was taken; when for the individual, Saul, the son of Kish, was taken." (Clarke)
b. It is important to say that Saul did not become king because he was chosen by lot. Instead, he was chosen king because of God's word to the prophet Samuel. The choosing by lot simply confirmed the word of the LORD through Samuel.
3. (21b-24) Saul is revealed to be the king.
But when they sought him, he could not be found. Therefore they inquired of the LORD further, "Has the man come here yet?" And the LORD answered, "There he is, hidden among the equipment." So they ran and brought him from there; and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. And Samuel said to all the people, "Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen, that there is no one like him among all the people?" So all the people shouted and said, "Long live the king!"
a. Hidden among the equipment: In fact, here Saul shows a healthy embarrassment and humility. He was not looking forward to being "center stage" in front of the nation; he seems to be dreading it. Saul was not made king because of his own personal ambition, or to gratify a desire for the limelight.
i. Spurgeon, in his sermon Hiding Among the Stuff, shows how both believers and unbelievers can be hidden among the equipment, avoiding the crown God has for them. "There may be some of you here present, who may be doing precisely what Saul did, only you are doing it more foolishly than he did. He did but hide away from an earthly crown, but you hide from a heavenly one." (Spurgeon)
b. He was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward: The physical description of Saul shows he is exactly what the people wanted. Israel a king that would look good to the other nations, and God gave them "the king from central casting"!
c. Long live the king! The people of Israel, in their desire for the image and pageantry of a human king had been longing to shout these words for a long time. They knew all the other nations got see royal ceremonies and functions. Now they get to also!
d. Do you see him . . . there is no one like him among all the people: What did Samuel mean by this? Probably, there was a note of sarcasm in his voice when he said this. He wanted the nation to see the king, and according to what they could see, he was a great king. But Samuel, from his long conversations with Saul (1 Samuel 9:25-26), probably knew him well enough to mean something else when he said, there is no one like him among all the people.
4. (25-27) The monarchy established.
Then Samuel explained to the people the behavior of royalty, and wrote it in a book and laid it up before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house. And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and valiant men went with him, whose hearts God had touched. But some rebels said, "How can this man save us?" So they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace.
a. Samuel explained to the people the behavior of royalty: Samuel taught them God's guidelines for both rulers and subjects, probably using Deuteronomy 17:14-20.
i. When it says the behavior of royalty, we can guess that Samuel was not explaining how a king should hold a teacup. Instead, Samuel was probably warning them about the wickedness and selfishness kings have, just as Jesus said: You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But Jesus added this word of instruction: Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:42-45). According to the way the kings of this world live, God never wants us to imitate the behavior of royalty.
b. Wrote it in a book and laid it up before the LORD: It doesn't seem that this book Samuel wrote is any of the books of the Bible we have. This doesn't mean that there is something missing from our Bibles, it simply means that God did not want this book preserved in His eternal word.
c. Saul also went home to Gibeah: At the time, there was no palace or capital. So, Saul simply walked home with his future leaders, the valiant men who went with him.
i. God called Saul to be king and lead the nation. Yet, this was not something he could do himself. He needed valiant men around him, men whose hearts God had touched.
d. So they despised him . . . But he held his peace: Not all of Israel was supportive of Saul yet. It was probable that because they had never had a king before, that it was unlikely they could choose any one man the whole nation could get behind. Yet, Saul should be recognized for his wise reaction (he held his peace). An insecure or unwise leader, at this point, might feel the need to "crush" anyone that opposed him, or simply regard them as enemies. Saul did neither, understanding that it might take him some time to win over the doubters.
i. "The Hebrew, as suggested by the margin, is still more striking. 'He was as though he had been deaf' - he pretended not to hear. He did hear; every word had struck deep into his soul, but he made as though he were deaf. It is a great power when a man can act as though he were deaf to slander, deaf to detraction, deaf to unkind and uncharitable speeches, and treat them as though they had not been spoken, turning from man to God, leaving with God his vindication, believing God that sooner or later will give him a chance . . . of vindicating the true prowess and temper of his soul." (Meyer)
ii. From this, we see that Saul started out with so much promise. He was chosen and anointed by God. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. He had the support of a man of God like Samuel. He had been given gifts appropriate to royalty. He had the enthusiastic support and goodwill of most all the nation. He had valiant men around him, men whose hearts God had touched to support him. And, he had the wisdom to not regard every doubter, or every critic, as an enemy. But despite all these great advantages, Saul can still blow it. Will he walk in the advantages God had given him so far, or will he go his own way? The rest of the book of 1 Samuel gives the answer to that question.