When Samuel saw Saul for the first time, God informed Samuel that this was the powerful young Benjamite who would become the leader of Israel. Saul didn’t know who Samuel was, though God had caused him to walk up to Samuel and inquire where the chief of Israel could be found (I Sam. 9:10-18).
“I am Samuel,” the older man answered. “Is there some way I may help you?” Saul and his servant were startled by the words. They had not expected to meet Samuel among the people who were walking to the spot where a special sacrifice would be made.
“Yes – there is sir,” Saul explained hesitantly. “But probably you won’t consider it a very important matter. My father owns a farm northwest of here. A few days ago he discovered that several of his donkeys were missing. This man and I have been looking for them over a large area. We have come to you to ask if you know where they are, or if God might tell you where they are.”
Much as Saul had been startled and surprised when he realized that he had run into Samuel, he was even more startled and surprised by Samuel’s next remark.
“God has already helped locate your father’s donkeys. I shall tell you about that later. There is a matter of much greater importance that you should be concerned about now. I am aware that you are Saul, the son of Kish, and I happen to know that you have been chosen for a very high office in Israel.”
Saul didn’t know exactly what to say, and that was because he didn’t understand what Samuel was talking about. “I don’t know what you mean, sir,” the young Benjamite said in an uncomfortable tone. “I am of the smallest tribe of Israel, the tribe that has suffered great disgrace. And, he added modestly, “my family is the least important in the tribe of Benjamin. Why should I be chosen for anything?”
“I shall explain all this at another time,” Samuel replied. “Go now before me to where the sacrifice is being made. I’ll speak more with you after the sacrificial ceremonies are over.”
Samuel then seated Saul and his servant as dinner guests with about thirty other people. These probably included certain leaders of Israel and some of the learned men who were instructors at a nearby college Samuel had established for training chosen men for careers in teaching the laws of God to the people.
Saul was greatly impressed by being in the company of such men. He was honored almost to the point of embarrassment when Samuel requested that a special portion of meat be set before Saul. This was the shoulder. The shoulder, the choice part of an offering, told those present that Saul was a very special quest (I Sam. 9:19-24).
That night Saul and his servant were guests at the house occupied by Samuel. Before bedtime Samuel took Saul up on the roof, which was a flat area where the dwellers of the house went for privacy. There the elderly judge explained to Saul that God had picked him to be the head of Israel, and briefly told him what would be expected of him. Saul could scarcely believe that such honor and responsibility would soon be his. He felt that he wasn’t prepared for such a position, but Samuel persuaded him that inasmuch as God had chosen him, He would surely give him divine help.
After a night’s rest, Samuel told Saul that he should return to his home for a time, and that he would like to walk along with him and his servant on their way out of town. As soon as they arrived at a secluded area, Samuel asked Saul to send his servant on ahead (I Sam. 9:23-27).
When the two of them were alone, Samuel followed God’s instructions by pouring a small container of olive oil over Saul’s head.
“I anoint you for consecration to the rank of captain of Israel!” Samuel exclaimed. “This is the office God has already decreed for you.”
The elderly judge congratulated Saul by kissing him on the cheek, which in those times meant about the same as our present-day handshake.
“I shall leave you here,” Samuel told Saul. “Don’t be concerned about your father’s donkeys. They have been found. Let me tell you what will happen to you on your way back, so that you will know for certain that God is speaking through me concerning you.
“A little way north of here, at the place where Jacob buried Rachel his wife, two men will appear and inform you that your father’s donkeys have been found, and that he was worried because you have been gone so long. After you leave them, you will walk out on a plain where there is a large oak tree. There you will meet three men who will be going northward to offer sacrifices at Bethel. One will be carrying three young goats. One will be carrying three loaves of bread. The other will be carrying a bottle of wine. They will speak to you and insist on giving two loaves of their bread to you” (I Sam. 10:1-4).
“Later, you will come to the hill of God – Mt. Moriah, at Jerusalem – where the Philistines have built a garrison. As you approach the nearby city, you will see a group of men carrying musical instruments. They will be from one of my colleges for training ministers. They shall speak and sing of things that have to do with God. You will join them, and God will guide you in what to say before them. You will begin to feel like another man with other interests. When you experience all these things I have mentioned, you will realize that God is beginning to work through you”.
“After you have rested at your home, go down to Gilgal. Stay there for a week. I shall join you there to tell you what next to do” (I Sam. 10:5-8).
As Saul moved northward with his servant companion, his head was swimming with the startling events of the past hours. It was like a fantastic dream. But as he thought about these things, he realized that if God could inspire Samuel to forecast the details of their return trip home, there was no reason to doubt that God could work through anyone He chose, and that the Creator owed no explanation to those whom He chose to work through as to why He picked them. Somehow Saul felt that he suddenly had a different outlook on many things.
He wasn’t completely convinced, however, that matters were going to turn out just as Samuel had predicted. Soon, however, as they traveled, his servant reminded him that they were passing close to Rachel’s tomb, and pointed to the rocky area off to the left that had been a landmark of the Israelites for centuries. Saul remembered what Samuel had told him about two men meeting him at this place, but he didn’t see anyone around except a few laborers in a distant field. As he walked on past the tomb site he began to think that Samuel hadn’t been exactly accurate in his predictions.
Suddenly Saul was aware that two of the field laborers had left their work and were hurrying toward the road. They were waving and shouting to attract his attention. Saul stopped to see what they wanted.
“We’ve been watching for you to come by this way!” one of the men panted. “We have news for you!”
“Your father’s donkeys have been found, and have been returned to his farm,” the other said. “Your father is very concerned about you, and hopes that you will return very soon.”
Saul was pleasantly startled to find these strangers carrying out a part of Samuel’s prediction. At the same time he experienced a surprising feeling when he realized that the God of Israel had arranged this matter just because of him. He heartily thanked the two men for their information and continued northward into prairie area. After a while he and his servant arrived at an unusually large oak tree. They sat down there to rest in the shade.
“I was told that we would meet three men at an oak tree on our way home.” Saul mentioned to his servant. “There is no one in sight. Perhaps that isn’t the right tree.”
At almost that moment three men appeared over a nearby rise. As they approached, Saul could see that one was carrying three young goats. Another had a leather bottle hanging over his shoulder. The third had a flat package tucked under his arm (I Sam. 10:9).
“Hello, there!” one of them called out. The other two gave friendly nods.
“A good day to you, sirs,” Saul answered. “Are you by any chance going up to Bethel?”
“We are indeed,” one of them replied in a puzzled tone. “How could you guess that?”
“I noticed the young goats and the wineskin,” Saul answered, “and I supposed they were for sacrificing on the altar at Bethel.”
“Perhaps you are as hungry as you are observing,” the man with the package remarked. “We have three loaves of bread here, and we have just eaten. All we need is one for the offering. We would like to give you the other two loaves.”
“Thank you,” Saul said, “but we really don’t need them. We are close to the end of our trip.”
“A man of your size requires an unusual amount of nourishment,” the fellow countered. “Please take these two loaves.”
“All right,” Saul smilingly agreed, remembering Samuel’s words about accepting the bread. “Thank you for being so considerate of us.”
As the two men moved on with their beasts, Saul marveled at how Samuel’s predictions had come true to that time. He wondered if any or all of the beings they had met up to that time could have been angels instead of men.
When they arrived at the hill where a Philistine fortress was situated-- at present-day Jerusalem – Saul anxiously looked for the group of men about which Samuel had spoken. He expected to see the men as soon as he arrived. His disappointment mounted as the minutes went by. Just when he had begun to conclude that Samuel had done well, after all, in correctly predicting two out of three situations, he spotted several men walking together and carrying musical instruments. He moved eagerly toward them, and hesitantly joined them when they began playing, singing and speaking.
These students and instructors from one of the colleges Samuel had instituted were impressed by Saul’s willingness and desire to join them so that he might learn more of the history of Israel and what God required of obedient Israelites. Meanwhile, several people passed by who knew Saul, all of whom wondered what this young man was doing in the company of such a religious group (I Sam. 10:10-13).
When Saul finally arrived home, he was warmly greeted by his family. He didn’t at first mention to any of his relatives his exciting experience with Samul. Finally an inquisitive uncle began to question him.
“Just where have you been these past few days?” the uncle inquired.
“Why do you ask?” Saul cheerfully queried. “You know that we were trying to find my father’s lost donkeys.’
“I know that you set out to try to find them,” the uncle persisted. “But where did you go and what did you do?”
“We went forth to Mt. Ephraim and then southward into southern Benjamin”, Saul replied. “On our way back we went to the leader of Israel, Samuel, to ask him if he could tell us where the donkeys were. He told me that the animals had already been found. We returned home to find them here.”
“That Samuel is an amazing man,” the uncle observed, wagging his head thoughtfully.
Saul could have told his uncle about Samuel’s feast and other matters, but he didn’t wish to invite questions that might lead to the disclosure of Saul’s being chosen as the future leader of Israel (I Sam. 10:14-16).
Shortly after Saul’s return home, Samuel sent out a decree that the Israelites should come to Mizpeh on a certain day to witness the election of their future king. Of course Samuel already knew that Saul would be king, but God had told him that at least the heads of families should be present when the person who would rule them should be chosen.
Because this was something they had long desired, the people turned out in huge numbers. The mood of most of them was most festive, but Samuel sobered many of them by what he had to say.
“Before we get to the business of choosing a king,” Samuel addressed the crowd. “I want to pass on to you some things that God has spoken to me. He wants me to remind you that although He brought your ancestors out of Egypt and saved them and you from many enemies, you rejected Him as your ruler when you asked for a man to rule over you. God’s way is to lead and instruct you through men who have a special knowledge of God’s laws and ways – men who are dedicated to serving God and the welfare of the people through God’s great mercy and wisdom. But now you want a king, the kind of leader pagan nations look up to. God will give you a king, and He has told you what to expect if that kind of leader becomes too ambitious or lets his power go to his head. Now let us get on with the election, and may God guide the one who will be chosen” (I Sam. 10:17-19)!
Inasmuch as this matter was to be determined by the drawing of lots, the leaders of the tribes of Israel were asked by Samuel to participate in the drawing. Marked tabs were put into a container. One was taken out at random, and handed to Samuel.
There was silence as the people waited, each person hoping that his tribe would be chosen.
“Benjamin has been chosen!” Samuel announced. “Your king will come from that tribe!”
There was a cheer from the Benjamites, but after it ceased there was a murmur from the rest of the people. They couldn’t forget the bloody civil war that had been triggered by the evil actions of a few wanton Benjamites.
The next choice to be made was that of a family or clan from the tribe that had just been picked. There was tab for every family. One was taken out and handed to Samuel.
“The Benjamite family of Matri has been chosen!” Samuel told the people.
A cheer went up from those of that family who were present. Tabs were then prepared for all eligible men in the family of Matri. One tab was taken from the container and given to Samuel.
“From the tribe of Benjamin, of family of Matri, a son of Kish has been chosen as the man to be your king!” Samuel declared. “His name is Saul” (I Sam. 10:20-23).
Although most of the Israelites didn’t know Saul, a great sound thundered up from the crowd.
“Show us this man!” the people roared.
Samuel sent men to bring Saul, they returned a few minutes later, while the crowd still yelled, to report that Saul was nowhere to be found.
Be watching for the next installment of The Story of the bible.