1 Samuel 8-10: A King For Israel

How poetic is it that as Saul is confusedly searching for Samuel to assist in finding donkeys, Samuel is watching Saul and being told by God that this is Israel's king?

Introduction

When Samuel grows old, he appoints his sons as judges to follow in his footsteps. Unfortunately they turn out to be corrupt, which seems to be a common issue (I will discuss this within the post). This corruption, along with the desire to be like other nations, leads the Israelites to ask Samuel to appoint a king. Knowing that the Israelites were simply trying to copy other nations is a major clue that this isn't going to turn out well. It was recorded in the Books of Law that God wanted His people to be a peculiar people; they were meant to stand out. This call to stand out and be different applies to us as Christians as well.
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Parallels to Today

It is interesting to note the parallels of the story to today. We can find parallels to raising children, government, and our individual lives.
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Raising Children

In the Bible, and in modern day, we often see that the most devout believers have a tendency to raise rebellious children. Most of the people I knew growing up who were forced to go to church every week or their parents were preachers ended up rebelling against their parents beliefs. We see that Moses' sons were not worthy of following his footsteps and two of Aaron's sons were killed for their inability to carry out priestly duties. Earlier in 1 Samuel, we hear about the failure of Eli's sons, and now we learn about Samuel's sons being corrupt. This pattern, which clearly extends into today's society, leads me to ask how the idea of royalty by blood became a thing. Clearly, it is unlikely that children follow in the righteousness of their parents.

I have my own theories about why children tend to drift from faith rather than continue in their parents' footsteps when their parents are devout. The main problem, I think, is that devout people tend to convey heavily religious messages but not relational messages. What I mean is that the parents force their children to follow religious rules without explanation and without cultivating a relationship between God and the child. Simply telling children that God doesn't want you to do this and that isn't the way to inspire children to build a relationship with God. Instead, it makes our relationship with God sound like a checklist. Prayed, check. Didn't have premarital sex, check. Didn't get drunk, check. Wore modest clothes, check. However, our desire to follow God's law comes from our love for Him. This is confirmed in both the Old and New Testaments (Deuteronomy 11:1 and John 14:15). I think we forget to encourage the relationship and let the laws fall into place on their own, because it's easier to simply hold children to the standards we believe God to have. It's easier to teach a child to obey rules than to teach them to love. However, the moment they question a rule, everything falls apart. They have no relationship with God to solidify their faith, they don't understand God, and since they don't like the "rules," they don't like God. I have met so many people who despise all things related to God, simply because of their parents forced religion on them. Remember God is love, and you can't force love.
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Theocracy

God intended Israel to have a theocracy, with Him as their supreme ruler. This will be the way His Kingdom operates after the end of the world. The biggest difference between God's theocracy, and the religious dictatorships we see today is that God is perfect; He will rule in absolute justice, whereas mankind is corrupt and easily distracted. By rejecting God as King, the Israelites were saying they would rather have an imperfect and corruptible man lead them than God. Samuel warns the people of the dangers of conforming to the world around them, but the Israelites are apathetic to God's message.

While we may live in a democratic government, our life should be a theocracy. The majority shouldn't decide our morals and actions, God should. Like the Israelites, we often want to blend with the people around us. Their lifestyles often seem easier, more glamorous, and happier than our own. The grass may look greener on the other side of the fence, but there's a dynamite mine beneath that grass.
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Secular Governments

One of the hardest things, today, is reconciling our faith with a secular government. We are not to be of the world, but in order to survive, we have to live in this world. This means we generally have secular jobs, attend secular schools, and are expected to participate in secular civic duties, such as voting. Last year we saw controversy when Kim Davis refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses, as was required by her position.[1] This is just like the case where Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) were told to bow to an idol by King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3. In these moments you have to chose whether you will obey God or the government. This issue came up just this past election season when Dr. Ben Carson was asked whether Biblical law or the U.S. Constitution was higher in rank.[2]

This issue is exactly what God was avoiding by having a theocracy. When God is the supreme ruler of the nation and His laws govern the land, there is never a conflict between the world we live in and the God we serve. However, once we removed God as the supreme leader, we opened the door to conflict.

Interestingly, when we get to the passages in the Bible on end time prophecy, we will see that there is a good reason God allowed Israel to drift into this direction. In the U.S., we live in a society made up of many religions and cultures. This makes it common for us to reduce the issue to a Christian versus "other" issue. We often see the religious right seek to place more "Christian" values into our government, which is staunchly opposed by the liberal left. People on the right want to ensure they are able to participate in society without compromising their faith. Those on the liberal left want to defend those of varying religions, often leading society to a more atheistic approach. What people neglect to remember is that even within Christianity, there are varying views. Man has corrupted religion to the point that it is dangerous for the government to side with one particular denomination (re: the dark ages and the Catholic Church).

God knew that eventually these problems would occur. As humans, we are imperfect, so we would have problems maintaining either form of government. As such, God has given us earthly rulers to govern us. We are to pray that they lead us in the right direction, and while we are to respect their authority, God's authority is always higher.
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Saul

1 Samuel 9 introduces us to Saul, the first king of Israel. Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin and came from a powerful family. His father's name was Kish, who was considered a mighty man. Saul's lineage can be found in 1 Samuel 9:1, tracing back to a man named Aphiah. Interestingly, Saul claims that his family is "least." Least could be in reference to power or to size. 1 Samuel 9:1 seems to call Kish a mighty man, but it could also be referencing Saul's ancestor Aphiah. If the latter is the case, Kish's lineage could have fallen from such stature and be considered "least." Similarly, Saul could be comparing his family to his near kinsmen. For example, Serena Williams may overshadow Venus Williams, and Venus may feel "least" but in the grand scheme of things, she is still considered great.

When Kish loses some of his donkeys one day, Saul and his servant set out to search for them. When they fail to find the livestock, Saul's servant suggests they find Samuel; presumably they are seeking Samuel out for a blessing and advice. The get directions on where to find Samuel from a few women, but when they reach their destination, Saul doesn't recognize Samuel. My study Bible makes a big deal about Saul not recognizing the famous Samuel, but I'm not sure this is justifiable. Today, it's virtually impossible to not know what someone looks like if you have an interest in them. The moment you google a person, their picture is likely to appear. Though, even today, it is possible to know of someone and not know what they look like, especially if you aren't idolizing the person (which you shouldn't be). In Saul's day, the camera hadn't been invented, yet. There was no internet, no newspapers, and no photographs of people. Thus, the question of Saul recognizing Samuel would have been dependent upon how often he saw Samuel and how "striking" Samuel's features were. We've all seen people that we remember their face but not their name, and we all have heard names that are familiar but we can't place their face. Given that Saul was looking for his father's donkeys, it seems that he had not yet moved out and started his own family. Thus, Saul's father, as head of the household, was likely in charge of taking sacrifices to the priest. Saul may have only seen Samuel once or twice in his life for all we know.

Photocredit: FreeImages.com/Jeff Miller
While Saul is trying to find Samuel, God points Saul out to Samuel. How poetic is it that as Saul is confusedly searching for Samuel to assist in finding donkeys, Samuel is watching Saul and being told by God that this is Israel's king? When they speak, Samuel assures Saul that the donkeys have been found and informs him that there are more important things to discuss. Saul is taken aback because he claims to be a nobody. This echoes the thoughts of some of the judges who were called. This could be a sign of his humbleness, a trait that is often praised by God, or it could be a reminder that anyone can be called into the service of the Lord. Samuel doesn't pay Saul's protestations any attention. Instead, he places Saul in a chief position, and then invites Saul to dine with him. After all of this, when the two men are alone, Samuel finally reveals the word of God to Saul.
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Instructions

Possibly to prove to Saul that he knows what he's talking about, Samuel gives Saul several instructions and pieces of information meant to guide him to the realization that he is to become king. Before giving this information, Samuel anoints Saul, a sign of God's divine appointment. Samuel's instructions include detailed specifics, that would be sure to impress anyone if they encountered such things directly after speaking to him. As is expected, these events are exactly what happen to Saul in 1 Samuel 10.

There are a total of three signs given to Saul to lead him to his destiny as king. The first is news of the donkeys and his father, which was to be received at Rachel's (Benjamin's mother) tomb. The second was reception of 2 loaves of bread from three men going to Bethel. The three men would be carrying 3 goats, 3 loaves of bread, and wine, but they would give Saul 2 of the loaves of bread. The final sign was the gift of prophesy. Saul was to meet a group of prophets. When thy began to prophesy, the Spirit of God would come over Saul, and he would begin prophesying too.

By themselves, each is fairly remarkable. The first sign would have been the easiest for Saul to write off as coincidence. The second and third signs would have been much harder to dismiss. Together, it's pretty much impossible to ignore Samuel's wisdom. These signs become even more remarkable when we look at them through a New Testament lens. The location of the first sign is a tomb, specifically the tomb of a beloved ancestor. The tomb represents death and morality, punishments for sin. The most famous tomb in the Bible is that of Jesus, who is the King of kings (Revelation 17:14). The second sign gifts Saul with 2 loaves of bread. The men could have given Saul some of the wine or one of the goats, but they chose to give him bread. In the New Testament we learn that Jesus is the bread of life (John 6:35); thus, after being reminded of sin and death, Saul is shown the path to life. Note, too, that he is greeted by 3 men. Finally, Saul receives a gift from the Spirit of God. After Jesus redeemed us, He sent the Holy Spirit to give us gifts and comfort us. The disciples received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (John 14:16-17, 26). The three signs mimic God's plan of salvation for us. First we fell into sin (death), so He sent His son to give us life (bread), and His son sent the Holy Spirit to give us guidance (prophecy).

As Samuel predicted, Saul becomes a changed man. People take notice of the changes that have come over Saul, just as people will notice changes that come over us when we choose to follow God. Saul confesses to his uncle that he has spoken to Samuel, but he does not share the news that he is to become Israel's king.
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Revelation

The public announcement of Saul's status as chosen king is given at Mizpeh by Samuel. All of the tribes are present for the announcement. Some of the Israelites were not satisfied with God's decision and caused dissension amongst the nation. Their discontent is likely due to Saul's timidness. When God chooses His leaders, there is never 100% agreement among mankind. We don't have all of the facts, so we often reason that someone else is better for the job. We also are biased with our own ambition, inflating our egos, and deflating our confidence in others. The only leader that will satisfy everyone is God, and technically, this is only true for believers. Many have already reject Him as their King and won't be present in His kingdom.
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References

  1. Siemaszko, Corky. "Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis, Who Refused to Issue Marriage Licenses to Gays, Seeks to End Case". NBC News. June 21, 2016
  2. Kumar, Anugrah. "Ben Carson Asked 'Gotcha' Question: Does the Bible Have Authority Over the Constitution?". Christian Post. August 3, 2015

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About

Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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