Posts Tagged With: Israelites

Samuel’s Legacy seen in the Lives of those that were Influenced by him

The  Master Builder who Left a United Israel.   

The anarchical mess of the sprawling godless tribes of Israel carried on in ignorance of the seismic change in history that was about to take place over the next generation, all of which was precipitated and initiated through the birth of Shmuel ben Elkanah. That blessed child born in Ramathaim Zophim passed away, some think, about a full century after the day of his birth. It was Samuel’s time. The Samuellian era. The last and highest peak of the line of characters known as the Judges. This man was also the first and, to my mind, possibly the highest peak of the prophetic office and gift that ever ministered to the whole of Israel during the period of time in which the Hebrews lived in the land. He had become a one man institution. He was the posthumous pillar that epitomised what was to be the future greatness of Israel. He was treasured and feared by all in his mature years, and sadly missed after his passing.  He was anointed and appointed by God Almighty as His representative in Israel throughout his lifetime. What he left behind him was as unified, Godly and purposeful as it was the opposite of those things at the moment he had been conceived. Even while he homed in and concentrated on the schools of the prophets after his last words with Saul, the very fact that he was alive and moving “in God,” even though it was in the background of Israel’s political and tribal cosmos, Samuel gave the nation comfort, and a brighter vision to look forward to.

There was, of course, the hope of the great charismatic leader of men, David. But he was a man that Judah and Benjamin loved beyond reason, while the northern tribes knew less about.

The ground had been prepared for the Glory of God to return, just as dramatically as it had left when the Philistines had stolen the Ark of the Covenant in the early days of Samuel’s youth. The Ark was indeed safe in Israeli hands and had been after several months of Philistine illicit ownership, but the Hebrews had never had it been returned to the Tabernacle. There is no way we can possibly imagine that it was left in the home of a certain Abinadab, by Samuel’s forgetfulness, or anybody else’s forgetfulness. It was a deliberate act of “neglect.” That is, it was deliberately left there by Samuel. It was symbolic of a new day dawning. Samuel was so busy relating to God, hearing from God and ministering to the people of Israel, as well as judging them, that to trouble himself with the symbol of the God he was relating to seemed almost irrelevant.  The substance of their faith was much more vital than the symbol of the same. Samuel was a man born out of time, with a world view, belief system and spiritual disciplines far ahead of his generation. Samuel was living in his own, “Holy Spirit church age.” All he did was relate to Him who is invisible, in as real a relationship as Peter, James and John had done in the days of Christ’s ministry. Samuel would have been considered a spiritual gargantuan giant no matter what age he had lived in. Samuel was the classic wild, giant, dangerous prophet.

Samuel’s anointing had led him in a different direction than the proscribed national slavery to what had degenerated into a deadened sacrificial system. Samuel was a man of the Spirit all the days of his life. He was worshipping the Lord with abandon before he had received that first prophetic word in his youth. By keeping the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle in a low profile with the people, it meant that he could keep the person of Yahweh Himself in the highest possible highlight. For Samuel, everything was a matter of the Spirit. The input of the prophetic word, and the spread and education of aspiring prophets was changing the face of Israel then, in a way that would have a future impact on the entire planet. Samuel’s lifelong circuit ministry of judging and teaching was a generational, credible call to return to the purity and faith of a life lived in devotion to Yahweh. This, after all, was the basic reason for Israel’s existence on the planet. How great was the force of righteousness within the prophet Samuel, and how magnificent was the working of the anointing that was upon him.

Samuel’s adherence to keeping the most intimate relationship with God and obeying Him as often and as consistently as he did throughout his life meant that the schools of the prophets had time to have become engrafted into the atmosphere of Israel’s culture within his own lifetime. His withdrawal from public and political life meant he could give his whole being to the development and the solidifying of an understanding into the world of prophecy and how it was to be maintained. Who knows what treasures he passed on to influence the future prophets.  The schools blossomed and developed under him, and were to direct the people and rulers of Israel over the next 500 years or so, not that they always listened to them.  Because of the fact that the prophetic Spirit and prophetic schools in Israel ultimately gave us the writing prophets, we could actually say that Samuel is still impacting the world today through them.  The writing prophets have left us a deep rich seam of truth that has not to this day been fully fathomed.

Samuel was the original seed of which all later prophets in Israel were the flower and growth. Sacrifice of animals was never abandoned altogether of course, but the sacrificial activity was brought into subjection to the flow of the Spirit of God and the prophetic word and office.  Samuel had gone quite some distance in tying Israel to Yahweh rather than to the Mosaic system that was attached to their history. The Tabernacle and the corrupted Levitical priesthood had lost the awe and wonder of the manifest presence of God in the infrastructure of that form of worship. Samuel had brought the drifting vessel of Israel, at first floating without a sail or rudder, back into its divine haven in all its proper function, i.e. loving God and walking in the parameters of His law.  The land of Israel was and is Yahweh’s land. The people of Israel were and are God’s nation. The whole of Samuel’s life and mission was to see his beloved nation brought under the umbrella of the terms of that covenant that they had so crassly broken.

Samuel had died while David was still on the run from the demonised and demented first monarch, Saul ben Kish. Yet even with the sorrow of the prophet dying without seeing the unity of one nation happily existing under the rule of a man who was after God’s own heart, the loyalty that was brewing in support of the anointed son of Jesse might possibly have been seen and perceived by the wise old man as a truly God inspired phenomenon. This would have allowed Samuel to die in peace concerning the future of the nation after he had departed to Sheol. Yet, whether he saw the hearts of the people turning towards David or not, I feel sure he would have seen in the Spirit what kind of a giant killing king Jesse’s son was to become. The priesthood may have turned out to be wimpish and retiring, but there was a Lion out of the tribe of Judah that was moving into maturity and position.

Saul was famous for his bravery across the twelve tribes, if only infamous for his demonic illness around the southern tribe of Judah. The bible reads as if it was only the confidantes of Saul’s court and the intimates of David’s friends and family that new of all the attempts on his life made by the son of Kish. Common folk might have turned against Saul had they known of the demonically inspired murderous attempts the sovereign had made time and again.  The giant killing, sweet psalmist of Israel was on the run from Saul for many years, while Samuel was alive, and the king’s hot pursuit of his successor continued until his death at Gilboa. There was indeed a conflict of loyalties in the hearts of the people. What were the Godly population of Judah to do? Follow Saul the present king who was clearly not the man he was when he was crowned? Or, like all the other nations that surrounded them, should they rid the land of an unwanted megalomaniac, dictator of a king and put the revolutionary “new boy on the block,” on the throne? Which way was the right one?

David had undoubtedly been taught well by Samuel. God had put Saul in office. God would remove Saul from office. Whatever human means or circumstances would bring about Saul’s removal from the throne, it was not to be by the hand of any God-fearing Hebrew, especially the man who was destined to succeed him. Because of Samuel’s integrity, morality and his grasp of patience for God to resolve issues, after Samuel’s death, the nation, in particular the people of Judah, waited to see what was about to happen. It was clearly a wait for Saul to die. Nobody in Israel it seems, wanted to touch this “Ark,” this anointed of God. Saul, as it were, was a holy vessel chosen by God, no matter what the outward display of vileness revealed. The resolution of the issue was all about divine intervention and a trust in the character of the Ever Living God, and His direct interaction with the people and concerns of Israel.  The tribe of Judah would have wanted Saul’s removal to happen quickly. I often wonder if the Northern tribes had a clue about Saul’s political intrigues against his own son and the man he had long suspected wanted to, “steal,” his throne. The North–South divide in Israel, from Joshua’s time on, is plain to see. On crossing the Jordan, the major campaign in the south, under Joshua, was nothing but a thorough conquering of Judah’s territory. As the years passed the fighting spirit that was needed for the conquering of Canaan leaked away like sand in a sieve. The book of Joshua reveals an incredible campaign in Judah, then a list of all the area that was not conquered, and a much lesser campaign in the north. The mid lands of Canaan were seemingly ignored.

One cannot but own the idea that the many people of Judah, and Benjamin, if not the rest of the nation, were aware that Saul’s successor had been anointed by Samuel and was waiting “in the wings” to assume the throne. News would have spread, throughout the southern people of Israel, of David’s two opportunities to have slain Saul – opportunities he had refused to seize, explaining his actions with the now famous words; “Touch not the Lord’s anointed.” Not only would the story have spread like wild fire amongst the people of Judah, Simeon and Benjamin, but it would have inspired them to emulate their future king. “If Saul’s successor, the son of Jesse, dare not remove Saul in order to get to the throne, then it would be wrong to override his will, his intention and his Godly motive. Therefore we, his future subjects as well as being Saul’s subjects must support our present king and wait to see what will happen.”  And so the people of Judah “sat back” as it were in respect of the throne and waited for the appropriate moment to acclaim their darling tribal representative as the rightful king.

As for the other tribes, there was a kind of cultural and social chasm once a person went North of Judah and Benjamin. (I referred above also to Simeon, but the land allotted to Simeon was a kind of annexe in the midst of Judah’s land. After a generation or two had passed, it seems Simeon was totally absorbed into Judah and is hardly mentioned again in the Bible.) Probably in ignorance of the details of the heavy story of Saul’s downfall, depression and demonization, there was a kind of nominal, “God save the King!” attitude amongst those northern tribes. There was little knowledge up north to think anything else but good things about Saul. If one pedantically marks the map of Israel and the narrative’s geographical location, while reading both David’s life and Saul’s reign, very little transpired in the northern tribal areas, but when it did, it shows a king who endeared himself to the people. Saul was much loved up north.  Possibly unawares of the court politics and intrigues, some were more than nominal in their support of Saul. Some risked their lives simply to return Saul’s cadaver to the land of Israel for a proper burial and time of mourning, showing an almost religious commitment to Saul even when dead. No matter what they thought of Saul down south, the north truly honoured their first king.

The deep mindset of division between Judah and the rest of the nation, that later split the whole hegemony into two after Solomon died, was already in the psyche of the people. It started as jealousy and was simmering for centuries before Rehoboam the son of Solomon was crass enough, and silly enough, not to soften the tax regime that funded the king’s lifestyle of luxury. It was the genius of David’s ability to join the nation into one that was a major aspect of the glory of his reign. David was anointed with a Spirit of wisdom. During his reign there was a joining of all the twelve tribes. Solomon’s heavy weight of taxes, and having the nation’s young sons and daughters away from their homes during the course of each year, missing farming time and normal home life for the king’s indulgence was tolerated only because of the wisdom and the character of Solomon and the deep love that the whole united hegemony of Israel had for the demised David and his son. Once the untried and untested son of Solomon had blotted his copy book, the amputation of north from south was done deftly and quickly, without any sociological anaesthetic.

The fact that we can see in retrospect that the nation was on the cusp of greatness, has to be understood as the gift of God on Samuel and then David’s life, a gift that was perpetuated with the very different gift of Solomon. It was an anointing of the Spirit of God that was placed on David’s life simultaneous to the horn full of oil that Samuel poured on his head. It was God that directly made David great. It was Samuel that had anointed David when he was but a child. It was Samuel who had mentored David from the period they had together, near the end of Samuel’s life, leaving the future king with wisdom beyond any of his peers. David proved to his own experience that, “Better is one day in the courts of Yahweh,” that is with Samuel, “than a thousand in the schools of men and worldly wisdom.”

Therefore, conceivably with some of the northern tribes knowing far less about the character of David than the people of Judah, Saul still had a staunch following right up to and even after his death. The nation was soundly formed and stabilising, despite the character of their present king. Samuel had led them away from being a family of tribes with only the religious ties of their history to bind them together while living independent existences.  Samuel, under God, had been the human instrument that had put Saul in office, and, to a degree, as far as externals were concerned, Saul was fulfilling his role. The nation was one, with only the political astute minds of a few who could see the Spiritual and social San Andreas Fault line that ran the whole length of the border between Judah/Benjamin together, and the rest of the tribes to their north, as well as the huge fault line that divided Saul’s character and personality.

David must have been a wise and discerning man, whose company other kings and leaders loved even before he was king. During David’s fugitive years, he made both friends and enemies, however, he befriended some of those rulers that reigned in the days of his loneliness, making friendships that were sustained during the years of his kingship. Some of the kings of those nations that surrounded Israel were still his submissive friends once he had ascended to the throne of Israel.

The nation having been propelled forward by the wisdom of Samuel, a prophet who had an ear to God and the people, as well as a mouth to pray with and teach the masses, built a shrine around his burial place. A building still surrounds his tomb today. Israel has an annual celebration of the life of Samuel.

I salute the son of Hannah, and personally seek God for some slight semblance of his characteristics and Spirit.

4 Nebi Samuel

Nebi Samuel

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Categories: SAMUEL’S LEGACY SEEN IN THE LIVES OF THOSE THAT WERE INFLUENCED BY HIM | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Lonely and Confused Life of the King in waiting without a Mentor

The Greater “King to be” learning how to handle the dethroned “king in situ.”
(1 Samuel 19:18-20:1a)
The ten to twelve year old child who Samuel had drenched with a full horn of oil, was now a man. The fresh faced youngster that reminded Samuel of the days when he was first hearing the word of God from the divine Lord, was now a bearded soldier.  The arms of the child that embraced the lambs, now swung a sword, as well as a sling, better than most in Israel. The sheltered and excluded youngest son of Jesse was now a bar-mitzvah’d and engaging young man possibly in his early to mid twenties. The youth that once surveyed and studied the lives of sheep, was now a leader and teacher of men, who surveyed the whole nation of Israel in his meditations. The innocence, and lack of knowledge of childhood, had dissipated into a deeply spiritual and perceptive man of God, exploring deep things of the Spirit, not to mention the hardships of life, with every breath he took. All this had developed without any mentoring or teaching from Samuel, just the mentoring of the Spirit of God who sat and remained upon him, and his own listening ear.
Just where had Samuel gone after that day he anointed the child David? Where had he been for those 15 years or so? Didn’t David need him?

At this point of the real-time of our story, this fighting, fearless, anointed, future king was under more pressure than he had ever been hitherto in his lifetime. He had been bold and courageous for Yahweh, and had destroyed Goliath who had intimidated thousands of warriors and blasphemed God. He had walked in purity of spirit all his life hitherto. The fact that people sang, “Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands,” in no way had spoilt David’s frame of mind. Stuff like that didn’t touch the future monarch, it was nothing but the popular voice that could praise him today and want him dead tomorrow. Crowds have always been the same. It was best to ignore it, and David did just that. Even with He who was far greater than David; it was, “Hosanna! Blessed be He who comes in the name of the Lord” on Sunday, and “Crucify Him!” less than a week later. But Saul allowed that same pop song to rot his very soul. He brooded over it. He allowed the words to keep him awake at night. On top of that he kept company with an attached demonic spirit that encouraged and fed the jealous impulses of hell within him. This thing from the devil’s bosom had come only to kill, steal and destroy. And he was doing a great job with Saul. The jealousy that Saul’s heart vomited with every thought of his lost dynasty, went spiraling downwards to a bottomless well of hatred.

 
The son of Jesse was utterly innocent in this regard. As far as the scripture tells us, Saul’s thoughts were actively plotting and planning against David. It seems, however, that nobody, at first, had a clue of the animosity Saul accounted against the sweet psalmist of Israel. Perhaps he was projecting the animosity he held against Samuel, towards David instead. He was afraid of expressing that animosity against Samuel. David seemed easy prey. Who knows the depths of the psychology of death and corruption that was encrusting the soul of Saul ben Kish? At first the court of the king, as well as the general public, thought that Saul appreciated David in the same way as they did. It was Saul that invited him to stay with him, to look after the royal suit of armour and to sing to the king when appropriate. It was Saul that promoted him within the ranks of the military. It was Saul who seemingly wanted David to be his son-in law … seemingly! Seemingly, Saul loved David. Little did the populace know.  But where was Samuel while Saul’s environment of intrigue was getting darker and stickier, and David’s life was in the balance, never mind his sanity?
 
The demonic plots of Saul to rid himself of the man that was more popular than he was, were rampant in his creative evil. At first David was welcomed into the family circle. Saul kept David with him from the day of Goliath’s death (1 Samuel 18:2). No ill motive is indicated at that point.  Although the malice of the king is not mentioned until the ladies of the nation started singing their song, with all things considered, if the King, who was the tallest man in the whole State of Israel, had trembled for nearly six weeks under Goliath’s braggadocio, surely it would be inconsistent with the overall biography of Saul, to think he kept David with him simply because of love and appreciation. Perhaps Saul was merely subscribing to the philosophy that calls on a person to keep one’s friends close, but to keep one’s enemies even closer.
Fear of any superior seeming character must have touched him from the moment Samuel told him that the kingdom was going to another who was better than him, even if it was subliminal at the beginning.  He was the tallest, and he was the king, and he had, to a point, shown himself to be brave in battle. Yet for nearly 6 weeks (40 days) he had failed to act and lead the armies of Israel out into battle against Goliath and the host of the Philistines. This youth, in his mid teens, had done what nobody else could or would do. If jealousy was not birthed in Saul between the moment that Goliath fell to the ground, and the next moment when David decapitated the giant, I would suggest that King Saul was walking in New Testament apostolic grace – which he definitely was not. Chagrin, fear and jealousy must have gripped Saul’s heart when he saw the giant fall. But how silly, for a mature man who must have been on the throne for around 25 years at the time of 1 Samuel 17, to fear a 15 year old. Saul must have fought a dreadful and bloody battle within his mind and lost. Should he love David for his music? Or despise him because of his popularity? The balance of Saul’s mind was under siege, and there was a demon that desired to push him off the scales.

David was coming to grips with the battle’s of life while Samuel was off the national and international scene, as far as we know. What was Samuel thinking? How did he keep himself busy? Why hadn’t he seen David at all during the fifteen years since he had anointed the little lad?  

David’s anointing brought him success in everything he put his hand to.  When David told Saul that he had killed lions and bears whilst defending his sheep, it undoubtedly took place after the anointing that Samuel performed upon him (1 Samuel 17:34-37). Once David reached 20, and joined the ranks of the military, he was incredibly successful in every sortie he was sent on.  David was promoted to a high rank in the army because of his valour and leadership, and the text suggests he was famous, known and sung about all over the country (1 Samuel 18:5). He was even extremely popular amongst all the senior military leaders of Israel. I find it also difficult to believe that Saul smiled all the way through David’s ascent into battle glory as well as into the hearts of the nation. Samuel must surely have heard of the national joy and merry making of the up and coming son of Jesse. He must have known what was happening in the court of the king as affection and support was heaped on his new general. Did the people have any love left for Saul?

What Saul missed completely, was what was most obvious. David’s success, popularity, and development of love, support and followers, was not a natural thing at all. It was a God thing. It was an anointing that just sat upon David’s life. Success and victory just followed him like a lap dog wherever he went and whatever he put his hand to. Saul must have had the mental facility to see and perceive this, as it was the very same process and exactly the same Spirit of God that had been with him when he had been chosen, anointed, in his early days as king. The demonic cloud that now pervaded his understanding simply held him back from seeing it or understanding who David was. The eyes of his understanding were utterly blinded to the phenomena of David’s personage and the trail of success and blessing that he left behind him wherever he went. His insecurities and fears caused him to see David as nothing but a young, “upstart,” that was challenging his own popularity. Oh the evil contrivances of a spirit of jealousy. Oh the exceeding sinfulness of sin.

It was in the earlier days of David’s ascent that Saul heard the hit song about David doing better as a soldier than he was. It was from Saul’s first hearing of the popular ditty that the king finally allowed his tormented spirit, and the demonic stronghold that was filling his mind, to take over. It was, “all demonic systems go,” in Saul’s heart from 1 Samuel 18:8 onwards. From that very moment Saul kept a jealous eye on David (1 Samuel 18:9). “Kept,” means it was a continuous, sustained eye on the man who was to be his successor. 24/7.  “Kept an … eye on David,” means that his animosity became an obsession. It suggests it was Saul’s secret addiction. The fact that this compulsion was birthed in and sustained by jealousy means it was from hell. Jealousy led to lusting for David’s death. That spirit of murder lead to sinful murderous actions. Those actions would take Saul’s self control away from him.  Oh the anguish of the situation! Quite literally, an animalistic tormented  spirit of murder was ruling Israel in the person of the king.

Sentiments of death were ruling the promised land of life and prosperity. David, at that early point of time was completely ignorant of what Saul’s thoughts were feeding on, as, I suspect, was the entire royal court. Was Samuel made aware of the king’s dissipation of character and mind? I wonder! Did Samuel have any idea how the little lad whom he had anointed to be king, was faring? I feel certain that Samuel was either told from heaven, or by his those people who reported to him. Did Samuel know all of David’s bundle of life? Does a fish swim in the sea?  Does God do anything without telling His prophets (Amos 3:7)? I am convinced when I chew over the sacred text, that Samuel knew the whole story.

Saul had weakly and wilfully opened the door. Demonic infestation quickly followed. The very next day an evil spirit came on Saul, “forcefully.” That is exactly what the scripture tells us. His darkness was complete. Note the moment that the demon burst upon Saul. It states that “Saul was prophesying in his house.” The gifts of God, without the character of God within, are no protection for an evil heart. The jealousy made it legal for the spirit to enter. Saul was prophesying whilst David was playing music to soothe the King’s mind. The scripture says, “…as he usually did.” David played to Saul regularly, and it did not only subdue the demon and allow Saul to prophesy, but through the prophesying Saul’s reason and perception obviously returned. So in the midst of anointed music and prophecy, the demon breaks out of the routine of normalcy, choosing to surface in Saul’s consciousness,  and decides to take hold of Saul; and the Javelin/spear that Saul had in his hand that was being tape wound, perhaps, or admired, suddenly became active in the mind of Saul as a weapon of death. Of a sudden, like being struck by a death blow, Saul thought to himself about pinning David to the wall. The spear was thrown at the musician in a blatant attempt to kill him.

1 Samuel 18:11 says that David eluded the throw of Saul’s attempt at murder twice. Whether it means twice in the same day, or on different occasions we are not informed. But we now have the rising star of Israel’s hopes on the battlefield, having to hide from the king of the nation he served. What an incredible anomaly! In his early twenties, how was he to process his own desperate situation in the machinery of his own understanding? What was David’s state of mind under this kind of pressure? Was he going to lose his integrity in the choices he had to make in order to cope with death threats from – of all people –  the king? By any standards, it must have seemed utterly surreal to the young soldier. It was such a paradox of reality, it must have seemed like a contradiction to David. It was a complete oddity. The man who had lost the anointing was on the verge of killing the one who would succeed him. There was an absurd ambiguity in the fact that the one who had lost the kingship was in a superior position, trying to use the people of the kingdom over whom David was to rule, in order to kill him. How was David handling the enigmatic inconsistency of being pursued to death by his own people? What was going through David’s mind as Saul’s priorities developed to the point where at times he was to ignore the Philistines and other enemies of Israel, and drag the armies of Israel along with him in pursuit of the outlawed son of Jesse?

The monarch was afraid of David, because he could see that consistent success and achievement was with him, that same achievement and victory that had left him because of his shocking series of choices. So now, Israel had a king filled with jealousy as well as fear, both of which characteristics were stirred and blended into a murderous obsession towards David. Didn’t Samuel have something to say that would pour oil on these troubled waters? Where was the prophet of God when he was so desperately required?

What should David do? Where should he go?

 

 

Categories: 1 Samuel 19 :18 - 20:1a, The greater pursued by the lesser, The Lonely and Confused Life of the King in waiting without a Mentor, The madness of King Saul, The silence of Samuel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Selah – Pause and calmly think of that.

Our last moment together with our hero left him standing alone at the gates of Ramah in deep thought, meditation, and no doubt, considerable perplexity.  He had just anointed with oil a very tall and handsome young man at the very instruction of Yahweh Himself.
000000022That would seem to be enough to put a man of God of Samuel’s stature in total quietness of spirit.  But knowing God’s heart, and God’s great patience with mankind, and with Israel in particular, Samuel wanted to be the shepherd to his people that God Almighty had called him to be, and ensure the young man’s integrity and fitness for the office that he had anointed him to.  Hearing God, and heartily and happily obeying Him, does not mean that the pastoral or prophetic heart isn’t still burdened for the people of God and the direction they choose.
So with the mental image of the aged Samuel standing, staring at Saul ben Kish as he walks away to join his servant ( who, as an aside, Jewish traditions identify as Doeg the Edomite. A man with no small part to play in the Kingdom’s transitional times about which we are thinking), we want to bring to the reader the deep ponderables of the great Prophet at this historic moment.  So we quickly sweep Samuel ben Elkanah to the figurative analyst’s couch and ask him  in a stern inquisitive doctor’s tone, “When did your problem first start?”
As he stands there musing with his left arm akimbo and his right hand scratching the beard on his chin, Samuel’s mind must have been buried in the history and environment that had brought the nation of Israel to this pivotal hinge of a moment in time, upon which the door into a new era, a new hitherto inconceivable season, under God, had been birthed by his own prophetic words to Saul. 
6e330-a8a8a8jewish-manThe biblical account tells us very clearly that while Joshua was aging, the incipient lack of purpose, drive and pastoral leaders to succeed him,  reached a climax of chaos shortly after his death.  This was a history that Samuel was immersed in and more familiar with than most of the Israelis of his generation.  Indeed, it was arguably the saddest part of Israel’s history hitherto  into which he had been born.
Relations between the tribes was loose, occasionally even frayed.  Only the tribe of Judah, Simeon, and those in the hill country of Ephraim could have had long term inter action with each other of a positive nature.  In fact, so positive was the interaction between Simeon and Judah that the former was assimilated into the latter and is never mentioned again in the historical narratives of scripture.
The Philistines, referred to by many academics as the “Sea-peoples,” and the Arameans in particular were still present in Canaan, and this made for tension between the Israelis and Arabs, tension that, though subdued at some points, at other times exploded into crude and deadly warfare.
The nice, tidy and orderly setting that the scriptures give us of the nation of Israel, the twelve tribes, and within the tribes the clans, and within the clans the family’s, is absolutely correct in its intrinsic nature of the people of Israel with true Semitic, Abrahamic, and Israelite descent. However, those statements actually, are only half the story. Those statements actually cover up the chaos that ensued in the fight for survival, the claiming of land, the search for prime farming territory, and the complications of the presence of non Israeli peoples that should not have been allowed to exist if Israel had obeyed Yahweh’s injunction when Israel took over the land of Canaan. Their slowness and failure to obey that command caused God to send an angel, who addressed the people at Bochim (See the early chapters of Judges). To put it in twenty first century street language, the angel told them plainly, “Forget it! If you are not prepared for the battle to wipe them out, I cancel the order. Let these people live! But they shall be a thorn in your flesh all your days.” Bad news, eh?
When read with a view to understanding the political make-up of these times we have the books of Joshua, Judges and First Samuel to illumine us.  The Old Testament clearly indicates the growing difficulties involved in the resolution of these scenarios we have highlighted above.
0ddec-a8a8a8a8rembrandt30We are given the names of various men that God raised up, sometimes simply acknowledged by people as a leader, sometimes God Himself having to call the person directly to deliver a tribe, or geographical area at least, from the oppression of some invading national or tribal entity.  With the majority of them, once safety had been restored, and a measure of Covenant consciousness placed in the psyche of the new generation of Israel, the hero, or “Judge,”  would return to wife (or wives),  family and farm and normal service of pastoral living would have been resumed. That was true of most, but not quite all.
The word normally translated as, “Judge,” can lead to misunderstanding.  Because of the context of the word in the twenty first century, it tends to suggest, to the cursory observer, that supreme legal and even political authority was invested in the Judges.  Not so!  There are actually other English words used that could be accurately utilised such as “Saviour”, or “Deliverer”.  The variations in the nouns used throughout  the book of Judges, and the different spheres of functionality as explained in the histories that are recounted, indicates that the tribes allowed their leading figures to be assessed and utilised in as many different ways as there were crises and deliverers to extricate them from.  In plainer language; “They made it up as they went along.” Some of the Judges had a degree of local authority, but that was given by Yahweh and the masses, not by written constitutions and regular political processes as we know them in the twenty-first century in the western world.
We note all this to once again highlight the fact that apart from Samuel, none of the Judges were national leaders. They were merely tribal, charismatic emergents that occasionally had other tribes assist them in their fight to exist.  Deborah had six tribes, at least, join in her struggle, probably assisted by her geographical middle Ephraim situation.
So this was the state of play until Samuel emerged within the context of the book of Judges, even though in the text of scripture he actually is post the Book of Judges.  He was a Judge, and even moved in a circuit to oversee Israel as depicted in our earlier chapters.  But, Samuel was utterly different to all previous Judges.  What Samuel brought was a new dimension of character, spirituality, vision and a deeper and more intelligent understanding  of the Mosaic covenant.  As already depicted, under Samuel’s leadership,  Israel had returned to covenant loyalties, and with the return of their former faith came a resurgence of national spirit and vision.  They went out against the philistines, and on the very same field where they had suffered such a crushing defeat years earlier, in the same day that “Ichabod” was born, they routed their Philistine aggressors to such a degree that for many years the Philistines had left the central highlands of the promised land alone. So, even though we never read of Samuel leading the troops on the battlefield, he certainly inspired them to victory.
The Kotel circa 1850

The Kotel (Western Wall) circa 1860

So let us here envisage plainly,  that the destructive status quo of three to four hundred years of the Judges was a “higgledy-piggledy” rise and fall of leaders,  from one crisis to another, in various localities.  The revolution that broke this generational curse was provoked firstly by the dissatisfaction in the minds of the populations of the tribes as to their vulnerability. This consciousness of weakness developed into the consciousness of strength when united in the wonderful leadership of the prophet Samuel. This, in turn, brought a deep fear of returning to those days, birthed by the ramifications of Samuel commissioning his own two sons to act in his place when old age had set in. The entire nation had high expectations, expecting those sons to replicate Samuel’s integrity and character.  Neither of them showed their father’s impartiality and they were both quickly known known for their venality.  The people had no desire to be judged by them now that Samuel could no longer discharge his judicial functions as “he always had.” The old idea and political desire to have a hereditary leader, which had found brief expression in Gideon’s day, resurfaced with greater aggression and tenacity.  The people perceived that as Samuel was growing old, and having for years assumed an authority of institutional gravity, a dynastic concept of the aged prophet  being passed on, leaving these moral non-entities of his sons in the same function and position as their father, was nationally decided to be unacceptable.  So they pleaded with the prophet for a leader with monarchical authority.

Samuel’s disappointment was ironically a fruit of his own awesome success and righteousness. They had such a lofty model to measure others with that it would have been difficult for anybody to follow in Samuel’s sandals.  His disappointment  was brought about by the people assessing Samuel’s strength and authority correctly, but by totally misreading the roots and the reasons for those very characteristics.  They could not see that it was an internal spiritual impartation – no! – better, an actual implantation of Yahweh in Samuel’s heart, not just a narcissistic desire and ability to “rule,” which is what it seemed to be with Samuel’s sons.  The thrust of their appeal was: “If we cannot have your sons to carry on your work with the same internal splendour and authority, Samuel, then give us a constitutional leader with similar external splendour and authority as “all the other nations” have.”  The elders of the people, literally, had no idea of the spirit that ruled behind their request.
Picking another man was not like buying apples at the market .  That is why the Judges, up to Samuel, of necessity, had to emerge in wisdom and the anointing of God’s Spirit upon them.  But, although this is, “in yer’ face obvious,” when reading the book of Judges and First Samuel, for some reason it was not grasped by Israel, not even their “wise men.”
Jews in Jerusalem circa 1890

Jews in Jerusalem circa 1890

Samuel had expostulated with them, telling them that their cry showed a lack of faith and a complete misunderstanding of the Covenant God had with them. Yahweh was their true king.

The cry for a monarchy was not the result of careful planning, “Think Tanks,”  or political negotiations.  In a sense it was a knee-jerk reaction by the elders to have something settled about the leadership before death took their beloved and revered Samuel home to his eternal reward.  Such was their absolute trust in the character and integrity of Samuel, they left the entire issue of selection of a successor to him and his “God uncovered ear.”  Is that not amazing?
They felt the need to be able to make speedy political decisions, as well as hasty militaristic action.  This was something that had not been in previous generations, apart from small localities being steeled into action.  It does suggest that, whether of faith, or superstition, the elders would not consider a man who was not legitimised by Samuel, and thus Yahweh. Samuel was more than a king to the people of Israel. He was revered and perceived in such a Godly and lofty perspective, he was quite naturally, and without query, asked to find a man and make him king of Israel. “No pressure, Samuel! Just make sure it’s the right man that we want!”
Also, by attempting to enter the minds of the elders we conclude that there must have been some other long term desires in their thinking.  Follow my pathway of logic:  No1.  I suggest that the elders, if not the whole entity of Israel, perceived the Philistines as an ever growing and permanently present source of danger.  Previous enemies had invaded and left.  This was historically different;  the Philistines still lived there on land  that Yahweh had given to them  (Their memory of what the angel had declared at Bochim was conveniently never referred to).  No2.  The hitherto spiritual weakness of Israel meant that they were usually forced into years of horrible bondage where prosperity and wealth, apart from sons and daughter were lost to the greed of their enemies, before a leader, or judge had arisen to deliver them. That cycle sometimes took forty years of virtual slavery before they prayed into being a new Judge to save them.  No3. During those holocaust days of subjection,  Israel had been pounded into a fear for existence.  No4.  When a judge arose it took considerable time to mobilise the people for the particular front of battle.  It would take even longer to choose the officers of rank in their forces.  No5.  This was now considered to be inefficient and insufficient for the “modern warfare” of the ever present Philistine war machine on the coastal plain, potential Ammonite aggressors from the West and belligerent Amalekites from the South East.  So, No6 and the Conclusion, logically, the appointing of a permanently commissioned leader, a “life-time Judgeship” if you will, would, in theory at least, provide a tighter organisation, a more easily mobilised military base, a better trained body of troops, and greater fighting efficiency. 
That all seemed logical and politically prudent, apart from one major issue.
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All this philosophising and politicising missed the fact that God had declared Himself to be their King, their Ruler and their Defender.  It was the negligence of the covenant keeping, the godlessness of the people, and the lack of understanding, that caused Israel to miss the whole point, i.e. that  living in the realm of the “unseen Yahweh” was the very answer to all the needs of the people of Israel whether or not it was financial, militaristic, prosperity and/or peaceful living.  If they had clung to Him with the same tenacity that later generations of Israel clung to idolatry, there would have been no “days of the Judges,” no days where, “every man did that which was right in his own eyes,” and therefore no need of a successor to Samuel.  In fact all would have been living in the same realm as Samuel lived.

If one had the unbelief to omit God and the covenant from the daily life and existence of Israel, what was being discussed was wise and prudent.  But the very omission of this truth made it foolish, dangerous , and frankly, a wilful sin from which, once having committed themselves to its pathway of conduct, there would be no way of escape.
Samuel's Tomb.

Samuel’s Tomb.

In practise this pathway of thinking (i.e. “We want a permanent dynastic leader!”) ultimately captured the groundswell of opinion in the whispering of Israel until it emerged as a cry from the dissatisfied Israelis that included the word “King.”  “Yes! That’s what we are looking for, give us a King!”  This was the moment of conception, the malingering  festering foetus of fallacial thought.  Fallacial, I say, even though that thought brought single bonding and unity to the twelve tribes, even though it forged a single unified nation called Israel that lasted no more than 120 years.  It was only forged through David’s character, held together though the Solomonic early years, yet lost again through Solomon’s foolish later years.

So with all this noted, we need to understand that the Israelite monarchy developed as an incredibly complex social phenomenon.  It is not enough to perceive it as the evolutionary development of the political order of the nation of Israel.  To do that is a definitive path to failing to understand its conflicts, tensions and ultimate destiny. Yahweh was the King of Israel – they needed no earthly monarch at all.
What is vital is to view the Israelite monarchy, as predominantly a religious institution.  We are not yet discussing the Davidic throne, for at this moment of time in Samuel’s chronology, David was not even born.  We are talking of a, “King of Israel,” as an humanly birthed concept that has to be initiated into being somehow by Samuel.
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As a religious office, it was far more profoundly involved with Israel’s spiritual and innermost experience than any political machinery could ever be.

And all that is to say this:  Samuel anointed Saul at the direct instruction of Yahweh, but it seems to me to be clear, that had if it been left to Samuel’s own mind, he would not have proceeded.  Samuel was aware to a degree more than anybody else in the Israeli cosmos, that Yahweh had condescended to give the people what they wanted,  i.e.  a King that was after their own heart, and not after His own heart.  They were looking on the outside.  They wanted strength, good looks, power, muscle, intelligence, respectability.  Even with the knowledge that Yahweh was God Almighty, the Supreme Ruler of the Universe whose authority in world affairs was too awesome to be stated. Nevertheless, Samuel feared for what God had decided to do, in acquiescing to the people of Israel.
Samuel’s eyes were on the covenant, righteousness, holiness and obedience to the commands of the Lord.  Would this man Saul, from the smallest family in the smallest tribe,  whom Samuel had just drenched with his now empty oil-horn, be the key to taking Israel higher?  Would he have character, spirituality, integrity and faith that could bind the nation together in the manner that Samuel understood and had pursued for decades.
This had always been Samuel’s daily meat and drink.  But it had been his meat and drink as well as his responsibility to implement the divine revelation.  He had been the proverbial, “head cook and bottle washer,” for his entire adult life.  And now, with all his understanding and wisdom gleaned from years of abiding in faith, God uncovering his ear and whispering into it, and then Samuel declaring what he had heard, and having done such a job so faithfully,  he finds himself on a cliff edge. Dare we say, “It is Samuel suffering from nervous fatigue.”
In obedience to that same divine voice, Samuel has just promised to give it all away to a young fellow that he hardly knew.  Everything he held with reverence, faith and spiritual warfare, and all that he had taught and lived  for as an example before the people, he had virtually, at God’s instruction, said to this young man, “Alright! I shall give it up now and leave it all in your hands.”  This was a young man that could not even find three lost donkeys, and was more the follower of his servant, than the leader.  This was a man that had no clue of even who Samuel was, so he did not have even the history and reputation of Samuel in his family to live with and use as a benchmark.  A total stranger had just been promised the most influential position in Israel – so incredibly influential, because the people themselves invented the post, created the job description and then had said to Samuel, “You do the recruitment!”
So this is where we continue with the story.  To say Samuel was full of thought at this point would be an understatement.  To say that what he had just done was irrevocable,  and a turning of Israel’s national destiny was also undeniable as well as irrevocable.  What on earth was going to happen now? No wonder the aged prophet was in such deep thought!
I am sure Samuel would have given a lot for a simple nine to five office job sometimes,  that is, if offices, and clocks had been invented.  (Only joking!)  But seriously, we have paused here to simply observe that the weight of responsibility on the elderly prophet must have been remarkably intense. Having handed the future of Israel over to a complete unknown, the weight on Samuel seemed even heavier than before.
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