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 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 a picture of what God did in him spiritually. The Holy Spirit was poured out on him, equipping him for the job of ruling as king over Israel.
ii. 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.
b. And kissed him: This was not only a greeting; it was also a sign of Samuel’s personal support of Saul. It was important that the king of Israel felt the support of the man of God.
c. Is it not because the LORD has anointed you: God 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 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 or 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 on 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 event and know God called him to something special as the king of Israel.
d. Commander over His inheritance: Samuel reminded Saul that Israel belonged to the LORD, that they were His inheritance. At the same time, Saul had an important job to do, because God placed him as commander over His inheritance. Saul should try to be the best king he could because he had the care of a people who belonged to the LORD God.
2. (2) Samuel tells Saul of a sign to confirm the anointing as king.
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 gave Saul a specific prophetic word, by which Saul could have confidence that his anointing 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 would know that Samuel did not really speak from God.
i. However, speaking purely theoretically, there could have been three men by Rachel’s tomb and the prophecy would still be 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 expect.
b. They will say to you: If the men by Rachel’s tomb didn’t tell Saul about finding the donkeys, Saul would know Samuel was not a true prophet. God gave Saul this sign to build confidence in the work of the LORD.
i. We need to trust 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 gave Saul specific predictions, so they could be exactly verified. God may have a place for vague, broad words (such as saying to an audience of 500 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 often receive gifts, so this was a good way to confirm his anointing as king.
i. Three loaves of bread were a strange present, but “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: They were apparently seeking the LORD and worshipping Him at the place of worship (the high place). They will be prophesying isn’t necessarily saying that they were all predicting the future, but that they all spoke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
i. “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 go on his head, but if the Spirit of the LORD did not come upon him, it would mean nothing.
i. Poole observed will come upon you is literally “will leap or rush upon thee, to wit [namely], 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: Before this Saul never was 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 to God – was real evidence that he was turned into another man.
i. 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.
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 was an important command. By the nature of their office, kings do not wait for anybody – others wait for them. But Samuel commanded 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.
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 it. 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 him 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 also can have another heart from the LORD but we must receive it from Him. We can’t receive a new heart from anyone except 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 was now deeply religious. As some used to say, “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 asked, “Who is the source of the inspiration upon the prophets?” If God was their inspiration, it wasn’t strange that God inspired an unlikely man like Saul.
d. When he had finished prophesying: Saul prophesied without ever being recognized 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 perhaps was a simple, logical question. Or, Saul’s uncle may have wanted to know why Saul had very, very oily hair.
b. About the matter of the kingdom, he did not tell him: It seems strange that Saul did not tell what he experienced. 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 declared him king? Or perhaps Saul experienced what many do after a powerful encounter with the LORD: an attack from the enemy, making them fearful and cowardly to tell others what God did.
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 appointed a king for Israel, God reminded them of all He did for them. God reminded 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, showed Israel how their rejection of Him made so little sense. It makes no sense to reject the one whoHimself saved you from all your adversities and your tribulations.
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: Saul was already anointed king over Israel. But God did this to show the whole nation that Saul was the right man. It showed that God chose Saul and not any man.
b. Was chosen: It is important to say that Saul did not become king because of the choosing 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: Here Saul showed a healthy embarrassment and humility. He did not look forward to being “center stage” in front of the nation; he seemed to dread it. Saul was not made king because of his personal ambition or to gratify a desire for the limelight.
i. Spurgeon, in his sermon Hiding Among the Stuff, showed how both believers and unbelievers hide, avoiding their crown: “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 showed he was exactly what the people wanted – a king that looked good to the other nations. God gave them “the king from central casting.”
c. Long live the king: In their desire for the image and pageantry of a human king, Israel longed to shout these words for a long time. They knew all the other nations got to have royal ceremonies and functions. Now they got to have it all as well.
d. Do you see him…there is no one like him among all the people: Samuel perhaps said this with a note of sarcasm in his voice. He wanted the nation to see the king, and according to what they could see, he was a great king. But from his long conversations with Saul (1 Samuel 9:25-26) Samuel 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 is 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.
b. Wrote it in a book and laid it up before the LORD: It doesn’t seem that this book Samuel wrote is contained in any of the books of the Bible. This doesn’t mean that there is something missing from our Bibles. It simply means 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 supported Saul yet. Because they never had a king before, it was unlikely they could choose any one man the whole nation could immediately support. Saul reacted to this wisely (he held his peace). At this point, an insecure or unwise leader might feel the need to “crush” any opposition 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 that 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 with great promise. He was:
· Chosen and anointed by God.
· Filled with the Holy Spirit.
· Supported by a great man of God.
· Given gifts appropriate to royalty.
· Enthusiastically supported by most of the nation.
· Surrounded by valiant men, men whose hearts God had touched.
· Wise enough to not regard every doubter or critic as an enemy.
iii. Despite all these great advantages, Saul could still end badly. He had to choose to walk in the advantages God gave him and choose to not go his own way. The rest of the book of 1 Samuel shows how Saul dealt with that choice.
© 2022 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org