Bible: What Does 1 Samuel 8-10 Teach Us About Israelite Kingship?
A King Like All the Nations
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"Make A King Like All the Nations"
Age catches up with Samuel, so he transfers his judging duties to his sons (vv. 1-2).
As with Eli's sons, Samuel's boys do not follow the LORD's ways either (v. 3), and certain elders bluntly tell the old prophet as much (vv. 4-5a).
Expressing their heart's desire, they request that he make them a king . . . "like all the nations" (v. 5b).
Samuel seems to take their decision as a direct affront to himself (v. 6), but the LORD mildly corrects him, saying that it is in reality a veiled rejection of His Lordship over them (v. 7).
In essence, God informs His prophet, "They have been rejecting Me since Egypt; you, Samuel, are just the latest human leader whom My people have dishonored" (v. 8).
He commands his servant to do what they ask, yet also to warn them about their future king's behavior (v. 9).
That is exactly what Samuel does (vv. 10-18).
[Alva McClain in The Greatness of the Kingdom (108-13) has written an excellent discussion of this new arrangement in Israel, examining the difficulties that harass citizens when they appoint a king "like all the nations."]
He tells the people that such a king will take their sons and make them into bureaucrats and warriors [big government and the military] (v. 11).
Of course, these soldiers will need superior officers, so he will appoint them, too (v. 12a).
In addition, since the king possesses much land, he will need to hire farm laborers; artisans to supply the army with weapons he will call into service also (v. 12b) [more government jobs].
The young women he will use for domestic purposes (v. 13), and he will raise citizens' taxes and confiscate their best lands (vv. 14-15).
Soon their king will become a totalitarian dictator (vv. 16-17), and turn to oppression to ensure that his stranglehold on the nation continues (v. 18).
Despite Samuel's stern admonition, the people adamantly demand a king like the rest of the nations, since they no longer see themselves as a unique people of God (vv. 19-20).
Undoubtedly, the prophet sadly repeats Israel's decision to Yahweh; probably with a similar reaction, the LORD instructs Samuel to follow through with their wishes (vv. 21-22).
1 Samuel 9
Kish, a warrior ("mighty man of power") from Benjamin, sends his tall, handsome son on a mission to retrieve some stray donkeys (vv. 1-3).
Saul, the son, travels “far and wide” seeking the animals, but fails to locate them (v. 4).
A long way from home, Saul decides to head back, so that his father would not begin to worry about him and his servant (v. 5).
However, the latter does not wish to give up.
Producing a piece of silver, the servant convinces Saul to pay a certain man of God (namely, the seer/prophet Samuel) in the land of Zuph to counsel them before they resign themselves to returning home (vv. 6-10).
On the way to the city, the two Benjamites meet some young women who direct them to Samuel: the special visitor asked to bless a sacrifice on the high place (vv. 11-13).
Divinely instructed to anoint Saul commander/king (vv. 15-17), the prophet invites the young man to a feast (v. 19).
Perhaps to convince the future king of his authority and insight (or simply to ease his heart), Samuel informs Saul that his donkeys had been found (v. 20a).
The prophet further astounds the young man by telling him that he is now “the desire of Israel'' (v. 20b).
[This title must mean “king.”]
Obviously, these words shock Saul, for he perceives himself as a lowly servant (v. 21; cf. Judges 6:15).
Nevertheless, Samuel seats him in a place of honor at the feast (v. 22), and gives him a "sanctified" choice thigh as his portion (vv. 23-24).
Later, he privately consults with Saul, probably concerning the revelation he had received about him (v. 25).
Early the next morning, he rouses Saul from sleep and proclaims the word of God to him; in the meantime, the latter's servant starts back home before he does (vv. 25-27).
Samuel and Saul
1 Samuel 10
Samuel anoints Saul "commander" over God's inheritance (v. 1; cf. 9:21 for what might have been the question that the prophet answers here), then gives him directions home, complete with detailed descriptions of the events and the people he would encounter along the way (vv. 2-8).
First, Saul will meet two men (at a very specific location) who will inform him about Kish's paternal concern (v. 2);
Second, three men standing under a certain tree in a certain town and carrying animals and food will give him two loaves to sustain him on his journey (vv. 3-4);
Third, near the hill of God, an "orchestra" leading a group of prophesying prophets will pass by him, and God's Spirit will "come upon" him, transform him, and enable him to prophesy with them.
Samuel instructs Saul to do as the occasion demands (vv. 5-7).
Finally, he will travel to Gilgal where he must wait one week for Samuel to arrive to offer various sacrifices (v. 8).
As Saul leaves Samuel's presence, God gives him "another heart" (v. 9).
[Is this the occasion of his conversion?
Given his future behavior, it is difficult to believe that such is the case].
Events transpire just as the prophet had foretold, but Samuel recounts only the one involving the prophets (v. 10).
When Saul begins to prophesy, prior acquaintances of his seem to question the reality of this phenomenon (v. 11).
This question eventually becomes a proverb, because how Saul acquired this gift remained a mystery (v. 12).
[The puzzling query—"But who is their (the prophets') father?"—suggests that some kind of mythology had arisen about the origin of prophets.
Perhaps the people believed that these unusual men came out of nowhere; no one knew their families or their hometowns.
Another definition for the term “father” may be “mentor”; in other words, who is their spiritual leader, their teacher?]
After he prophesies, Saul goes to the high place (v. 13).
Later, he merely reports to a curious uncle what Samuel had told him about the donkeys; he says nothing about the anointing (vv. 14-16).
Why does Samuel highlight Saul's height and appearance?
The day arrives at Mizpah for Samuel to announce God's word to Israel regarding Saul's appointment as king (v. 17).
Preceding the formal selection process, however, he remarks how Israel is now rejecting Yahweh, despite how often He had saved them from enemies (vv. 18-19).
[Is he intimating that selecting a king in this way is wrong?]
Then Samuel begins his search.
Out of all the tribes, the LORD chooses the tribe of Benjamin, then the family of Matri, and finally Saul himself (vv. 20-21).
However, no one, except God, knows timid Saul’s location; the LORD has to point him out to Samuel.
The people then bring the tall, timid fellow out from among the baggage (vv. 22-23)!
Immediately, they respond positively to his impressive outward appearance—a trait Samuel purposely highlights (v. 24).
After the prophet writes some pertinent words about the behavior of kings (cf. chapter eight), he sends the people away (v. 25).
Saul gains an instant following (v. 26), but also acquires some gainsayers (v. 27a).
The new king wisely keeps this knowledge to himself (v. 27b).
© 2013 glynch1