Samuel did not want a king. He reasoned with the people against such an idea. It grieved him that the request dominated the people for a while. He was weary with the weight of it, until Yahweh told him not to be anxious. They had not rejected Samuel, they had rejected God Himself. God gave the people the kind of king they were after. Saul was the tallest of the nation. Everything about him made him attractive to male and female alike. He was the man that the people desired.
Saul, actually, had started off in very fine style. His humility and self effacement from the time that Samuel first met him endeared him to Samuel’s heart I believe. When the Ammonites besieged Jabesh Gilead, Saul went into action like Superman. He acted immediately in a very kingly manner. He took his army to relieve Jabesh Gilead. And what is most important is that Samuel tagged along (1 Samuel 11:7). I think Samuel was just wanting to see what Saul was like in battle, and the way he handled himself in war, as well as assessing the people’s response to their new king. Samuel was like a big “father-figure” that was overseeing the whole transition from a free for all rabble, to an actual nation of subjects under a well beloved king. The whole conflict with the Ammonites siege in Gilead was so ably handled that the people wanted any that had ever complained about him when he was first crowned king to be put to death.
|Dark shadowy days were ahead for King Saul.|
Saul was very definitely the flavour of the month at that moment, but whether or not he ever embedded himself into the loving psyche of the people is extremely doubtful. Samuel was obviously very pleased with what happened in 1 Samuel 11. He was so pleased that he called the nation to return to Gilgal, the national religious “conference centre,” in order to reaffirm the kingship on the now well proven king.
I cannot help but wonder if this was the only moment in Samuel’s life when his wisdom and prophetic gifting failed to operate as it seems to have done throughout all his days. Samuel seems to have been so content with what had happened with Saul functioning as king that he went into “retirement.” The speech he made in 1 Samuel 12 is nothing but a valedictory monologue. One cannot mistake the logic of his words. It was a definite, “Thank you everybody, and Good-bye” speech.
I believe his actions spoke louder than any words could express. It shows humility, in as much as he did not consider himself by any means indispensible. It was obvious that he was nearer to indispensible than he considered himself to be. If Saul had submitted himself to the tuition and wisdom of Samuel it is obvious he would never have lost the throne. Saul needed fathering in his newly given authority. But Samuel had already proven himself an inadequate domestic father of two sons, and was only seen as a giant in his fathering and prayerful listening to God’s views on issues to do with the nation of Israel. If he had fathered his two sons in the same way that he had fathered the nation, destiny might have taken a different direction.
Having retired as a non – royal national leader, he slipped out of the circle of Saul’s “court” and was destined only to appear before His Majesty the King in the role of prophet and/or priest.
So it seemed all was as it should be until Saul was told at a certain time to wait before a certain battle with the Philistines (1 Samuel 13:5 – 10). His instructions were to wait until Samuel would arrive to pray and offer a sacrifice, facilitating Saul’s victory over the dreaded foe. Israel and its armies were all in array, and the Philistines came and camped not so far away with chariots, and foot soldiers “as numerous as the sand on the seashore.” In the context of biblical battles and God’s fighting on Israel’s behalf,one would think that there was little for the soldiers of Israel to fear. So they all camped down and waited for Samuel before engaging the dread might of Philistia.
Samuel actually told Saul he was not to arrive for a full week. Perhaps you are like this writer, querying the legitimacy of such a pause. Was this a prophetic test? Or, did Samuel not know what was happening on the prospective battle field? Was Samuel wanting to reduce Saul’s army, like Yahweh did for Gideon, down to 600 in order to show God’s glory in their victory against many many thousands of the huge Philistines? The insurmountable problem for Saul, was that during that seven day wait, the tension and fear had grown to the point where it gripped the armies of Israel, that they had trickled away to hide in caves and thickets. We are seriously considering grown men being petrified with fear for them to act in such a manner. And sure enough, as if Gideon’s experience was a template for the scene, everybody had left Saul, but for 600 men.
|Saul’s route to destruction.|
No explanation is given in scripture for Samuel’s late arrival. But like some well written BBC drama, Saul was so terrified of being left to fight the whole Philistine army by himself, that on the seventh day, feeling unsure to wait any longer, he himself made the sacrifice. Hear the dramatic music of the BBC drama as, “Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived…” Oh dear! This was not to be the last time that Saul would be relieved to see Samuel, but then be severely spoken to by the elderly prophet.
Samuel told him that his kingdom would not endure. That was the first strike. The severe word of God spoken by Samuel was responded to by the king in an ungodly frame of mind. It was the very beginning of the backward slide of Saul ben Kish. Samuel went storming off to Gibeah. We are not told why he went to what seems like Saul’s home.
Then, at a later date, several years later, Saul was instructed to wipe out the Amalekites. We have seen in the immediately previous pages of this volume that Saul failed in obeying the divine orders of his mission. The drama of the tearing of Samuel’s mantle, and Samuel telling Saul that God had torn the kingdom from his hands was the final cliff edge experience for Samuel. He had returned to the Naioth (Samuel’s home), and never spoke to Saul thereafter, or saw his face again as long as they both lived. We will, of course, later engage in the supernatural moment when the spirit of Samuel arose from Sheol to speak with Saul on the last day of the king’s life. But that is for another day.
As if the news of Saul refusing to annihalate the Amalekites was not enough to stress Samuel out and take him to his grave, the confrontation with Saul in 1 Samuel 15 just pained the prophet too much.
“Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him.” This line tells us so very much of Samuel’s Godliness.
- Samuel did not turn introverted about his own position, but mourned for many days, possibly years, for what Saul had done, and how he had lost character because of his actions.
- It was as if Samuel knew, and prophetically perceived how Saul was to die. Thus the prophet mourns, seemingly prematurely.
- Samuel did not publicly announce the “fall” of the king, nor the future of Israel as a kingdom. At the moment of time that encapsulates 1 Samuel 15:34 and 35, Samuel seems to have had no idea of what was to happen to the political side of the nation.
- Samuel was not conceited in any way whatsoever as to think that because Saul had been discredited in the eyes and words of God, he himself should reassume the role of leader, or presidential administration of the twelve tribes. In fact, such was the character of Samuel, I think it totally unlikely that he ever saw himself in that roll anyway. Samuel was a prophet. He heard from God, and he spoke from God. Samuel was in full knowledge of the fact that if God removed his hand from his life, there was nothing about himself to hold the interest of anybody. He was God’s ambassador and voice, and nothing more, as far as the nation was concerned.
- The only possible way the writer of the scriptures could have in any way known that God was grieved that he ever made Saul King, was through the revelation of the prophet Samuel. Samuel was God’s confidante. Samuel was God’s shoulder to share with. God does nothing but that He tells it to His servants the prophets. God was grieved about the whole issue. That only increased Samuel’s mourning.
- Samuel, as a true prophet of God, felt the very heart of God. He didn’t just recite God’s word as a parrot would. Samuel felt the heart of God in the receiving of the word of God. It was grief and mourning for the lost king, and the dark days that were ahead of him.
- I find it amazing that Samuel did not complain to the national leaders with an, “I told you so,” attitude. He would have been well justified to take such a line. “I was the wise man! I saw it all coming! You would not hear me!” But such an arrogance was not in his DNA at all. His withdrawal into the grief and mourning of a bereavement was genuine. He had nothing to say about the incredible loss of the king.
- Samuel had such respect from the people, we do not hear that anybody gathered around him to encourage him. He was held in such a lofty position in the conceptual minds of the nation that he was simply left alone to get on with whatever his routine responsibilities were. Perhaps even the School of the prophets did not even lift him out of the grief.
- Samuel’s mourning for Saul was long and hard and heavy. It was so deep that the lengthy first verse of 1 Samuel 16 informs us that Yahweh had to shake him out of the oppressiveness of loss, and set him to work again. He who knows all things, knew the reality of Samuel’s grief. God knew that nobody had a love and a passion for the people of Israel, their land and their future, like Samuel did.
- The grief for Saul, informs us that Samuel really loved him. His need to absent from Saul was a deliberate intention to avoid people making the mistake that Samuel was approving of King Saul’s policies and practices. Samuel withdrew from the wider public life, and merely withdrew into his ministry of training the school of the prophets.
Oh the affliction of being God’s prophet.
- Day 24 – 1 Samuel 1-15 (otinasemester.wordpress.com)
- 1 Samuel 31 (sisterspray4me.com)
- The View from the Balcony – 1 Samuel 16:7 (stevesbiblemeditations.com)
- Samuel: A Study In Character – “The Afterthought” (presbymusings.com)
- Going to Gilgal – 1 Samuel 11:14-15 (stevesbiblemeditations.com)
- Saul’s confession, and the folly of short-term political fixes (1 Samuel 24)… by Dr. Joel McDurmon (jericho777.wordpress.com)
- All Glory to God! (Part One) (theteentheme.wordpress.com)
- On 1 Samuel 10-14 (reflectingchristian.wordpress.com)
- David and Goliath: Looking Beyond the Bible Story (runningredeemed.wordpress.com)