The Hunt for a King – 1 Samuel 9-10

Israel’s desire to be like other nations led them to reject God and have a mortal human ascend the throne. Samuel was handed the task of finding Israel a new king, one that would lead them to battles. Among the twelve tribes of Israel, the tribe of Benjamin was one of the smallest with a history of seditious revolt against the other eleven tribes (Judges 20:20). However, God’s ways are unfathomable to us, as no one would have expected the first king of Israel to come from the tribe of Benjamin.

Saul, Son of Kish

Now Kish, a Benjamite, son of Aphiah, was a man of standing. He had a son named Saul, a young man who was described as handsome and a head taller than anyone else in the land. Kish’s donkeys were lost and he sent his son Saul, along with a servant to search the land to bring back the donkeys. Saul searched throughout the land, crossing over districts and even went out of the territory of Benjamin but he did not find them. When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul wanted to call off the search and head back to his father’s household and that’s when the servant pointed Saul’s attention to the man of God residing in a close-by town.

“Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let’s go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take.”

1 Samuel 9:6

Having only a quarter of a shekel of silver on them, they headed to the man of God to inquire about the lost donkeys. Unbeknownst to them, God was leading them towards the “seer” to accomplish His purpose in the life of Saul.

The King Revealed to Samuel

The day before Saul came to Samuel, God revealed His plan to have Samuel anoint a king in the most unusual way.

“About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.”

1 Samuel 9:16

When Saul came in the presence of Samuel, God spoke to His servant confirming that the tall handsome man standing before him was the one He had chosen to rule over Israel. Samuel invited Saul to the high place to eat with him and spend the day with him. Informing him that the donkeys that led Saul to Samuel had safely returned home to his father’s house.

And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and your whole family line?

1 Samuel 9:20

Saul did not understand Samuel’s words instead cited the lowliness of his tribe. Samuel knew that Saul would lead the nation but Saul doubted himself and questioned if a Benjamite would be accepted by the nation given their dark past. Samuel asked Saul to dismiss his servants while he stayed back so that Samuel could give him a message from God. Samuel anointed Saul by pouring a flask of olive oil on his head. He gave him clear instructions that would act as indicators for Saul to know that God has begun His work in his life. Just as Samuel had said, Saul found two men looking for him at Rachael’s tomb, the men with three young goats, three loaves of bread and a skin of wine going to Bethel to worship God. And then Saul met with a procession of prophets coming down from the high place playing various instruments. At that moment the Spirit of God came upon him and he changed into a completely different person even prophesying along with the men of God. All the people who had known Saul were shocked seeing the transformation probably because a Benjamite was prophesying.

The Reveal

Samuel summoned the people at Mizpah and revealed the king that God had chosen for them. Saul’s name was drawn from the lot but he was nowhere to be found as he had hidden himself among the supplies. When Saul did appear before the people they were happy with the decision as Saul being tall and handsome, had the appearance of a king that they wanted. Perhaps assigning a king by the means of lots brought legitimacy in the minds of people as they might have had trouble accepting Samuel’s decision of assigning a king from one of the lowest tribes.

Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!

1 Samuel 10:24

Samuel explained the rights and duties that the post entailed and wrote them down on a scroll in the presence of the Lord. Thus the divorce papers were signed and Israel got their wish for some separation from God but time and time again they would run back to Him to save them from the misery the had brought upon themselves. Not everyone was onboard with the king that God had chosen perhaps due to the fact that the king was not selected from the prominent tribes but from the mischievous tribe of Benjamin as many were not happy with God’s decision.

The Israelites already had a king in their minds. Perhaps they wanted someone from a prominent tribe but Saul for most of them fit the billing of how a king should look like. The Israelites wanted a king just like the other nations had and they got one who looked like someone who could play the part of a king but perhaps did not have the connection with God that was needed to lead the holy nation. In the end, the Israelites did get their hearts desire of a separation from God and having a good looking king. Similarly for us, we also have some idea of how God should bless us. Our expectations for our education, career and for our life partner are all based on outward appearances. We look for prestige, salaries and outward beauty while making these decisions. God might fulfill the desires of our heart but are we asking about His desire for our life? The Israelites failed in this part and many of our decisions are also driven by our own desires. Let us not assume that just because our prayers are answered, that our desires were in line with the plans that God had for us and wholly submit to Him before making any life decisions.

Discussion Questions

  • Why did God choose a tall and handsome man to be the first king of Israel? Are appearances important? Doesn’t God look at what’s the inside?
  • Why give signs to Saul on his journey back?
  • Why go through the process of lots when Samuel already knew God’s decision?
  • Why was Saul hiding?
  • Why were some not happy with Saul as the king?

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