A Yeminite Rabbi named Abram. Photograph taken 1935
Without any indication of calendar dates or passage of time, Samuel called the entire nation, once again, to Mizpah. Despite the fact that it was to procure a King of the very character that the people had desired, what Samuel called was not a political convention but a holy convocation. Here we have Samuel, seeking to solicit the national recognition of incipient kingship on the “country yokel” that God Himself had chosen. This is the day, and the very moment that the last embers of the old Jewish Theocracy were smoldering away into extinction. The day had arrived when the whiners were to have their way, as granted by gracious Yahweh. The rejection of Israel’s Divine King was public, ungrateful, widespread and very willful.
There is not so much as a vague inference as to how much time had passed after Saul’s “private” anointing before the prophet burst into action to, “go public,” with it all As far as the Bible is concerned, the text informs us that Saul arrived home on that day previous, and refused to tell his family the full transcription of Samuel’s prophetic word to him. The very next sentence says baldly and boldly “And Samuel called the people together to Yahweh at Mizpah”
Samuel rose victorious. It was a noble freedom from jealousy, like that of John the Baptist, when he looked upon his successor saying, “He must increase, but I must decrease!” It was grace, the like of which the world does not often see. But this characteristic, now marked Samuel’s future course. By a great act of self denial, Samuel now becomes even greater. If Saul was head and shoulders above the nation physically, in character, Samuel was a mountain compared to the gentle grassy knolls, the flat plains, or ever the deep valleys, of the character of the masses.
The lifelong career of Samuel screams to us concerning the strength and alertness that comes from a life filled with implicit and immediate obedience to the word of God. To find one’s self wholly opposed to prevailing currents of thought and feeling is to become helpless and despondent, excepting, of course, when the human spirit rests upon nothing but the Word of God and the revelation therefrom. And such a revelation had been Samuel’s bread and butter for decades.
A Jewish man from Spain. 1920
This rejection of God, mediated by rejection of Samuel, was reprehensible though tolerated. It was not a mere frantic impulse that had taken possession of the nation’s heart, nor had the petty orations of a renegade politician aroused the people to a spiritual revolution. This was a case of a definite, fixed purpose, arising from, and settling with, the masses. God frequently permits nations to have their own way, to pursue their own plans, and thus throw themselves away from the charts and maps of Divine Providence, they are soon loosed into a wild ocean, until they are wrecked upon divinely foreseen reefs, rocks and shallow, dangerous waters. The people had asked for a King. Here at Mizpah they were to receive exactly what they asked for.
It was, however a good thing that they at least came to Samuel in their lust to overthrow the divine rule. The usual oriental style of massacre, riot and occupy was not resorted to.
This rejection affected Samuel as an awesome disappointment. It was an insult to Him. The people, in their demand for a King had told him in the bluntest possible way of the unfitness of his own sons to be their leaders. By his God instructed action, he was forced to reluctantly agree with that sad statement. In instructing the nation, he had not been so faithful in instructing his own, “flesh and blood” children.
In the midst of all this Samuel was judicious, brave, humble and selfless. We see here, as we stare at, and study Samuel, that Godly men sometimes have to do things against their judgement and better wishes. Occasionally, the man of God must yield to the demands of the faithless and the wicked. And in so doing he is not disobeying God. Samuel does all he can in obedience to the same Lord that chose Saul, to install him into the office invented for him by the people that cried, “Give us a king!” as soon as was possible.
We need to note firstly that as the masses of Israel came together, that hundreds of thousands, if not a couple of million people came, not having a clue as to what was to transpire, or how the days were to conclude in the sacred assembly called by the prophet of God. No one knew. Apart, that is, from Samuel, Saul and Yahweh Himself. Saul, apart from remembering the anointing oil that Samuel pored over him, would not, of course known how the screenplay of this moment was to play out.
The supernatural prophetic word shared with Saul in private was an absolute declaration of what God was going to do. For Samuel to simply stand up in public and say, “This is what God told me,” was not enough to conclude the elevation of a man to the high office of “Yahweh’s anointed.” What was needed now, in equally as supernatural a manner, was for the general public to see and understand that God had chosen the man who was to be their anointed king.
Perhaps in the call to the national convention, Samuel had explained his mode of selection. I think it more than likely he had done so. You see, the mode of a publicly open selection was, what is referred to in scripture and in historical writings as, “The Sacred Lot”. Yes folk’s, we are talking about a Sacred National Lottery! A one off! The Jackpot was the crown of Israel.
Shlomo from the Yemen 1935
We do not mean to infer that everybody bought a ticket and whoever’s number or numbers were called was given the throne of Israel – not at all! As we shall see as we plough through the text, it was a little more dignified than that. But in announcing that there would be a sacred lot, it would have undoubtedly driven the entire nation to its knees. “Lord let it be me!” would have been the cry heard in heaven from every home across the twelve tribes. “It could be you!” would have been every mother’s encouragement to the son’s of their love.
If we are properly aware of the use of the sacred lot in the epoch of which we are examining, we shall be hit, full in the face, with the solidly based conclusion that Samuel’s private and mysterious meeting with Saul was nowhere near sufficient for the full , majestic destiny of Saul to be installed as king – but Yahweh Himself would establish the fact so that none could doubt His sovereign choice in a National assembly, where all the elders were participants in the sacred prayers and lottery that was to not only validate Samuel’s secret prophecy to Saul, but validate Saul’s induction to the nation as their first monarch. Whether Saul was loved or hated, accepted or rejected by people, nobody would be able to say that he was there by error. All would have to say, “It was the choice, and the anointed of Yahweh,” that was king.
See also that they were called, “to Yahweh.” It was a meeting with God that they were hailed to. It was God’s issue to resolve, not Samuel’s. We are not discussing a political cabinet meeting, but a religious, spiritual summit.
Mizpah was a place of rich memories to both Samuel and the nation. The lottery was probably to be finalised by means of the Urim and the Thummin. By this, each choice that arose could be asked for a, “Yes,” or a, “No,” answer. The Urim and Thummin would then vindicate the outcome as, “of God.”
However, exactly how the “lots” were taken is not stated. To give credence to the scholarship of others, it may have been by throwing tablets as per Joshua 18:6 and 8, or even by drawing from a vessel or an urn as per Numbers 33:54. The word used in 1 Samuel is consistent with the Urim and Thummin or the drawing from the urn. I feel confident in holding to it being the Urim and Thummin on the grounds of the scripture saying later that Samuel caused them to, “be brought forward”. Suggesting that acceptance or rejection was made on the act of stepping forward.
Before proceeding to the election, Samuel, in order to clear his heart, has to once again bear his soul felt grief that such a meeting had to even be called. Note, that even though he had already spoken to the man that was to be king and told him he would be so, the prophet is still sensitive to the very heart of God and knows that it is a concession to the hard hearted call of the people of Israel, that a king after their own heart, and a character such as they would approve of, was about to be selected by a very compassionate God.
The contents of Samuel’s address, depending which translation of scripture one reads of course, could be accurately translated into one long sentence. I am sure it is a summary to what was probably quite a lengthy sermon.
The People Know What They Want
The nation sat and listened like war-time Britain would have listened to Churchill’s inspirational monologues:
“This is what Yahweh, the God of Israel has said. I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all the kingdoms that are were oppressing you: and you have this day rejected your God who is Himself your Saviour out of all your evils and your distresses, and you have said unto him, “No! Set a king over us.” Now therefore station and present yourselves before Yahweh by your tribes, and by your thousands.”
If we understand it correctly, if Urim and Thummin were used, for speed and accuracy, elders from each tribe would step forward with a rod, a banner, or some symbolic artefact for each tribe. Whether the Urim and Thummin were consulted in the open for the masses to see, or within some enclosure with only the leaders of the nation watching intently is conjecture, as is the very issue of them being used. I rather fancy that the entire nation would have been within view of the natural amphitheatre that is present at Mizpah in Benjamin, otherwise the integrity of the national knowledge that, “God chose the king,” would be impaired.
The scripture states: “Samuel brought near the whole tribes of Israel.” One by one the tribes were highlighted and either by prayer, or even possibly by the stones responding of themselves as they stepped forward a “Yes!” or a “No!” “Affirmative!” or “Negative!” as modern parlance would dictate, would have been understood by the onlookers. It could not be seen, or even thought to have been of Samuel’s subjective selection, as if, “God told Samuel.” Not that the people did not trust Samuel in that regard, but it was to be seen, to the satisfaction of the masses, that this was God Himself speaking and selecting.
Of the twelve, all received a rejection, accept the tribe of Benjamin. I wonder if Samuel was sweating, or laid back about it all. The celebrated Young’s Literal Translation, says simply, “and the tribe of Benjamin was captured”.
The eleven other tribes were reduced somewhat to the excitement of spectators to the rest of the proceedings. The tensions throughout Benjamin, the smallest tribe in the nation, would have been enormous. At this point, the organising stewards would have brought in the heads of all the clans within the tribe of Benjamin. We are not told whether there were many or few in this second line of selection. The same steps were taken, as with the tribes. “The family of Matri was taken.” We have a mystery here. Who on earth is Matri? In none of the Benjamite family lines in scripture does the name appear. Most scholars declare their ignorance as to why “Matri” is even mentioned. One particular scholar (there is always one) is clever enough to suggest that the Hebrew letters for Matri could be a slight corruption of the Hebrew letters for “Bikri” in 1 Chronicles 17:8. We leave this remark for you to ponder, as we excitedly move on to the next level of the draw.
“Saul the son of Kish was taken” Now you might label me pedantic, but this is a letdown to me. I am expecting the household of Kish to be selected next. Perhaps it was, and the writer considered it irrelevant. Or perhaps he was trying to save ink and vellum and just miss it out. Who knows? But we have amazingly, miraculously, and supernaturally arrived at the same selection as Samuel’s prophetic word heard with his spiritual ears from Yahweh Himself.
Saul hiding among the stuf
Israel now had a king who had visibly, in the open view of the entire nation, been chosen by God Himself. Nobody but Saul himself, Samuel and the elders that were in Naioth when they had the sacred meal earlier, knew who “Saul the son of Kish” was, or had ever met the man.
As we are talking about taking lots, I hope it is legitimate and appropriate to say that, if I was a betting man, I would bet that, although the elders at Naioth had met Saul at the meal that day while he was looking for his three donkeys, none of them knew what Saul and Samuel were discussing, or why Saul was given the top seat at the banquet!
We have the name and address given by god Almighty stating who Israel’s first king is. So where was he? “Let’s have a look at him!” was the cry.
This, of course, informs us that the lot was made over lists or symbols of each individual, rather that using the urim and thummin with the people themselves standing before Samuel and/or the elders.
But where is he? Where is the man who was born to be king?
The nation wants to see what they have got themselves into! Who is it that will rule over them? Like the ushers, calling for the next character to the witness box in a court of law, all over the large mass of people could be heard: “Call Saul ben kish!!” “Call Saul ben Kish!” Call Saul son of Kish!”
But there was no reply from anywhere in the camp.
Now such was the solemnity of the moment, and such was the anticipation of the people, and such was the need for Samuel to present the king to the nation, that when he could not be seen, they did not feel it appropriate to simply organise a search. The Bible says, “Therefore they enquired of Yahweh, further, if the man should yet come forward”.
Now, I don’t know about you, but this seems awfully strange. Why should they ask if the man should step forward? This is where access to multiple versions is preferred. The best translation that makes sense says: “Has the man come here?” In other words, “Is Saul ben Kish in the camp? Or was he so convinced he did not have a chance to be king, that he stayed home?”
Whether or not the answer came by a prophetic word to Samuel, or some other prophet amongst the people, we can but conject. A word came that was so far in advance of an open, “affirmative” or, “negative,” that it seems it must have been a prophetic insight given to a seer or prophet. Samuel’s school’s of the prophets were undoubtedly present, so a resource for prophetic input was there on tap.
Samuel judging his people
And the LORD answered, he has hidden himself among the stuff.” “The stuff” is normally understood by all translators and scholars to mean the baggage, the tents, the wagons and the donkeys. Whether working, or at rest, that is where the future king was.
Now I have heard sermon after sermon that derides Saul for being where he was, and occasionally, one that considered Saul being absent from the draw as an acquiescence to his future by faith. I think it was a positive thing that Saul was “among the stuff.”
God does not despise the humbler circumstances of life. I believe Saul’s modesty, at this point of his life, is worthy of observation. Few men would run from kingship. Its pageantry would suit pride too easily, and pride is so commonly on the throne of people’s hearts that few would turn from it. The kingly sceptre, the universal symbol of kingly power and authority, would meet the ambition of nearly every person that has ever lived, and its flattery would suit their weakness. Saul must have known what was coming, because he had had too many supernatural insurgences to doubt that he was the chosen of God. Far from disqualifying him, the humble work may have added important qualifications for the higher service.
I think it is safe to assume that apart from the natural humility of Saul, Samuel’s explanation of the situation to Saul in the previous chapter would have included words of deprecation of the people’s desire to have a visible human king. I think that it is possible that this was the first moment the weight of it all had landed on Saul’s shoulder. After all, there was a massive number of people there. A nation! I remember at school, confidently and nonchalantly learning my few lines for the school play and saying, “Here goes nothing”, and then being close to fainting when, while peeping through the curtain, I saw the faces of the masses who I would have to address from the stage. Suddenly, what had been initially received with a light heart became grave, serious, and extremely weighty. A man of God, even of Samuel’s stature, is sometimes at a loss to know how far his co-operation with what seems to him to be the best policy possible to succeed, but which still falls below his ideal, makes him responsible for the defects of that policy or system. It is sometimes difficult to decide which systems or organisations, or policy, are fundamentally evil and those systems wherein the evil is but incidental and simply created because of the characters within the scenario.
Samuel’s parish from Dan to Beersheba.
Note clearly, that the best way for the young person who feels himself fitted for a higher place than he now occupies, is to make himself so conspicuously useful where he is, that when the people begin searching among the stuff, they will find him head and shoulders above the rest of his companions. The hiding of good men would thereby become difficult.
Saul was to make himself, for the first few years, an excellent king. He proved himself as a fearsome, courageous, valiant leader and warrior after he had been drawn forth from his farming existence. Here, he undoubtedly hid himself with a feeling of unworthiness. He obviously hid himself with good intentions. Good intentions are only good when they are followed by actions. Many want to be rich without work, wise without learning, and world famous without a passport. He undoubtedly hid because of his own self doubts and self questioning. Saul was not a well educated thinker, political leader, or spiritual man.
“And they ran …” The people were in awe of the unknown personage they had just witnessed as being selected by Almighty God. They were in a hurry to see what he looked like! I should think so too! “ … and fetched him forward.” What, I hope, is a sanctified imagination, sees the people running among the baggage shouting at the folks there, “Which one of you is Saul ben Kish ben Matri ben Benjamin?” And then, as per mob rule, without thought or study, once they heard anybody whimpering, respond with, “Eh!, That’s me!” just grabbing him and whisking him away on the shoulders of the mob leaders without so much as a moment’s hesitation, to see the nature of the face of their future king.
“And when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward”. Everything that is said about Saul would normally have been considered good grounds for youthful vanity. But, in the beginning, it just is not there. Saul is a kingly youth both internally and externally. The folks would have had several minutes, perhaps even longer of embarrassingly stopping to stare at the young man who now embodied all their dreams of fame, stardom, power, authority, political leadership and the entire package of gifting and abilities that they sought. It would have been extremely difficult for anybody to match the image.
The stone altar at Gilgal
And Samuel said to all the people, “See him whom Yahweh has chosen, that there is none like him among all the people?” It was true he was taller and very kingly. The general consensus approved. However long it took for the beauty competition type of ogling , staring and wondering, is not stated. Like when a little boy meets Alan Shearer or a little girl meets Ginger Spice. The flesh and blood reality of the person creates awe. “They’re just like me!” they feel. And yet it is those mysterious areas where, “they are different from me!” that awe is created. But by his walk, his size, his manner, his speech … by the image and impact of those opening moments of high profile visibility, the spontaneous response of the people was positive. And all the people shouted, and said, “God save the king” That’s why folks in England make such a cry. It’s a biblical thing. God save, and keep prospering the king. If he prospers, so do we.
At the end of this historic day, Samuel published a book. “Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book.” I would have thought the book had already been written and he merely delivered its contents to the people. Young’s Literal Translation says he told them the, “right” of the kingdom.
My understanding is that Samuel explained the authority and parameters of the king, and the parameters of the subjects. I have no doubt that there would have been a few, “You shall not’s,” in the whole thing. But Samuel was the man to deliver it, and while the masses sat with mouths agog staring at Saul, on the “platform,” next to the aged Samuel, I feel sure I am correct in holding to the opinion that the quality of listening would not be at its sharpest. People would have been more acutely aware of the moment! “Wow! We’ve got our own king” Just like the Philistines, and the Amorites! We have our own King!”
Nebi Samuel. Samuel’s tomb.
“… And laid it up before the LORD”. The meaning of this being that either in his own home at the Naioth, or with the sacred Ark that was still at the Philistine border town of Beth Shemesh with the accoutrements of the Ark of the Covenant, the book was placed in a position of easy, but holy access. The book was laid up before the Lord. In it would have been undoubtedly the statements that demanded total obedience to the law and covenant with God no matter how many kings they were to have, or who was king.
And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house. Class dismissed! The issues were over. The king chosen, the constitution, such as it was, had been read. There was nothing but the afterglow of an amazing history changing day. There was a whole generation who went home knowing that future generations would have loved to have been there. Like Kennedy’s assassination, or the first landing on the moon, or Martin Luther King’s march on Washington, there was nothing but the warm and vivid residue of the memory of what it looked like, smelled like and sounded like.
So! Let’s get something straight here.
This is just for the writers and illustrators of children’s books. So often we see Saul in a big majestic palace. So often the concept is portrayed which is too boringly consistent with our own western, or twenty-first century perception of royalty, and the clippings of power. What does the book say: “And Saul also went home to Gibeah.” What? Gibeah? That’s where the farm is! That’s where the three donkeys are that got lost! That’s where the manure needs to be cleared out once a day, and the cows need milking, and the fields need ploughing! Is that where our new king returns to? Exactly right! No coronation, note! We shall discuss this in a later context. Samuel was not released in his heart to have a public coronation and celebration of the kingship of the man that now held the post of, “King!” Nothing further was said or initiated. No secretaries of state or palace building projects were in anyway suggested. He was chosen, the people were happy, and so they were sent home to their routine. The Sacred National Lottery winner himself, even, returned to the routine of farming life, such as it was circa 1000 B.C.
Where the Ark of the covenant went.
There was however one vital bit of intelligence we have, that tells us things were incipiently new. The Bible says: and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched.
Numbers? Not told! Characters? No description! Ability’s? For the moment, not important! Motives? Not a clue apart from their “hearts that God had touched.”The impact of this remarkable statement is that Saul came alone, and hid amongst the stuff alone, but now went home with a following. Nobody can be a leader, until they have a following.
Somehow, even after having stated that God had not approved of the action of the people in calling for a king, in the midst of it all, God had predeterminedly touched some people’s hearts to attach themselves to the new king he had chosen. These were men who would make sure that the king of Israel was treated like a king, and lived like a king. The fact that these were people whose heart God had touched, suggest that God had ordained and set into action all those whom God considered ideal for the future running of whatever sort of Royal Court, Saul was going to set up. It was a band, i.e. a team that worked together. These were men initiated and propelled into their relationship with the new king by God himself.
Was everybody happy? Is there ever such a scenario?
But the children of Belial said, “How shall this man save us?”
The day the Ark came back to Israel.
Sons of Belial means, quite literally, “sons of the devil.” It’s a synonym for a gang of nasties.
They saw Saul, and said “No!” There are always the cynics, the “neggo’s,” and those who are jealous of others success and rising to authority and prosperity. Whether it was the richer Jews, who considered themselves better equipped to have been king. Whether it was the, “down and outs” of Israel who thought, “He’s already got a job!” This is a global syndrome in the hearts of all mankind. No explanation is offered. I think perhaps they would have been many of the whingers who wanted a king in the first place, and were decidedly jealous that they themselves had not even got near the selection.
Whoever they were, whatever their motives, and in whatever manner their protest was seen, it registered with the masses. Later, as we shall see, when Saul’s support was at its peak, many Israelites wanted those who had despised the choice of Saul at this point in time, to be executed. No political correctness there. The tribal and clan leaders of the masses obviously expressed some sort of obeisance and gave the new king, gifts as a sign of submission. But these moaners and rebels despised him, and brought no present’s
Saul noted this. But in the flush of faith, divine selection, and national thanksgiving by the vast majority, he exercised kingly majesty and largeness of thought. He held his peace.
Saul said nothing and imparted no opinion by look or by word, by delegation or symbolic gesture. The King did as kings are often wise to do. He held his peace and put down the passing moment’s observation into the brain compartment that we refer to as “Experience.”
Without track record, without even the knowledge of whether or not he was a good farmer, Saul ben Kish was now King Saul the First of Israel. Could he fight? Could he lead an army? Could he command respect and loyalty? Would the masses follow him? Nobody knew. All Samuel knew about him was that he was a big eater, and that he was not very good at finding lost donkeys.
God help Israel. It is unthinkable to even suggest that Samuel did not go home praying even more intensely than normal about Saul and the national welfare of the twelve tribes. Samuel, Saul and the masses returned to their normal routines, while Samuel was interceding with the Almighty to show Israel and the king what to do and how to do it.
It was a scary moment in Israel’s history.
The sacred Ark of the Covenant.
- God’s Own Training School (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- Preface (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- I See Through The Smog a Bright Future On The Horizon. (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- Tuesday, August 13 (illustrationstoencourage.wordpress.com)
- Samuel’s Introduction to the Prophetic (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- First Prophet? Samuel? (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- You Cannot be Serious! Samuel who? For what? (lannononsamuel.wordpress.com)
- Obedience – Daily Text Fav (myspiritualresearch.wordpress.com)
- Introducing Kingmaker (livingdigitally.net)
- King Saul: An Example of Double-Mindedness (verse4psalm37.wordpress.com)