Hurlbut's Story of the Bible  by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut

The Tall Man Who Was Chosen King

I Samuel viii: 1, to x: 27.

dropcap image HEN Samuel, the good man and the wise judge, grew old he made his sons judges in Israel, to help him in the care of the people. But Samuel's sons did not walk in his ways. They did not try always to do justly. When men brought matters before them to be decided, they would decide for the one who gave them money, and not always for the one who was in the right.

The elders of all the tribes of Israel came to Samuel at his home in Ramah, and they said to him, "You are growing old, and your sons do not rule as well as you have ruled. All the lands around us have kings. Let us have a king also, and do you choose the king for us."

This was not pleasing to Samuel, not because he wished to rule, but because the Lord God was their king, and he felt that for Israel to have such a king as those who ruled the nations around them would be turning away from the Lord. Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to him, "Listen to the people in what they ask, for they have not turned away from you; they have turned away from me in asking for a king. Let them have a king, but tell them of the wrong that they are doing, and show them what trouble their king will bring upon them."

Then Samuel called the elders of the people together, and he said to them, "If you have a king, as do the nations around, he will take your sons away from you, and will make some of them soldiers, and horsemen, and men to drive his chariots. He will take others of your sons to wait on him, to work in his fields, and to make his chariots and his weapons for war. Your king will take the best of your fields and your farms, will give them to the men of his court who are around him. He will make your daughters cook for him, and make bread, and serve in his palace. He will take a part of your sheep, and your oxen, and your asses. You will find that he will be your master and you shall be his servants. The time shall come when you will cry out to the Lord on account of the king that you have chosen, and the Lord will not hear you." But the people would not follow Samuel's advice. They said, "No, we will have a king to reign over us, so that we may be like other nations, and our king shall be our judge and shall lead us out to war."

It was God's will that Israel should be a quiet, plain people, living alone in the mountains, serving the Lord and not trying to conquer other nations. But they wished to be a great people, to be strong in war and to have riches and power. And the Lord said to Samuel, "Do as the people ask, and choose a king for them."

Then Samuel sent the people to their homes, promising to find a king for them.

There was at that time in the tribe of Benjamin a young man named Saul, the son of Kish. He was a very large man and noble looking. From his shoulders he stood taller than any other man in Israel. His father Kish was a rich man, with wide fields and many flocks. Some asses that belonged to Kish had strayed away, and Saul went out with a servant to find them. While they were looking for the asses they came near to Ramah, where Samuel lived. The servant said to Saul, "There is in this city a man of God whom all men honor. They say that he can tell what is about to happen, for he is a seer. Let us go to him and give him a present. Perhaps he can tell us where to find the asses."

In those times a man to whom God made known his will was called a seer; in later times he was called a prophet.

So Saul and his servant came to Ramah and asked for the seer; and while they were coming the seer, who was Samuel, met them. On the day before the Lord had spoken to Samuel, and had said:

"To-morrow, about this time, I will send you a man out of the tribe of Benjamin, and you shall make him the prince of my people, and he shall save my people from the Philistines."

And when Samuel saw this tall and noble-looking young man coming to meet him, he heard the Lord's voice, saying:

"This is the man of whom I spoke to you. He is the one that shall rule over my people."

Then Saul came near to Samuel, not knowing who he was, and he said, "Can you tell me where the seer's house is?" And Samuel answered Saul, "I am the seer; come with me up to the hill. We are to have an offering and a feast there. As for the asses that were lost three days ago, do not be troubled about them, for they have been found. But on whom is the desire of all Israel? Is it not on you and on your father's house?" Saul could not think what the seer meant in those last words. He said, "Is not my tribe of Benjamin the smallest of all the tribes? And is not my family the least of all the families in the tribe? Why do you say such things to me?"

But Samuel led Saul and his servant into the best room at his house; at the table, where thirty had been invited, he gave Saul the best place, and he put before him the choicest of the meat, and he said, "This has been kept for you of all those invited to the feast."

That night Saul and his servant slept in the best room, which was on the roof of Samuel's house. And the next morning Samuel sent the servant on while he spoke with Saul alone. He brought out a vial of oil and poured it on Saul's head, and said:

"The Lord has anointed you to be prince over his land and his people."


Samuel anoints Saul king

Then he told Saul just what he would find on the way, where he would meet certain people, and what he must do. He said:

"When you come to the tomb where Rachel is buried, two men will meet you and will say to you, 'The asses for which you were looking have been found, and now your father is looking for you.' Then under an oak you will meet three men carrying three kids, three loaves of bread, and a skin-bottle full of wine; and these men will give you as a present two loaves of bread. Next you will meet a company of prophets, men full of God's Spirit, with instruments of music, and the Lord's Spirit shall come upon you and a new heart shall be given to you. All these things will show you that God is with you. Now go, and do whatever God tells you to do."

And it came just as Samuel had said. These men met Saul, and when the prophets came near, singing and praising God, Saul joined them and also sang and praised the Lord. And in that hour a new spirit came to Saul. He was no more the farmer's son, for in him was the soul of a king.


A company of prophets meet Saul

He came home, and told at home how he had met Samuel, and that Samuel said to him that the asses had been found. But he did not tell them that Samuel had poured oil upon his head and said that he was to be the king of Israel.

Then Samuel called all the people to the meeting place at Mizpah. And he told them that they had wished for a king, and God had chosen a king for them.

"Now," said Samuel, "let the men of the tribes pass by, each tribe and each family by itself."

The people passed by Samuel, and when the tribe of Benjamin came, out of all the tribes Benjamin was taken; out of Benjamin one family, and out of that family Saul's name was called. But Saul was not with his family; he had hidden away. They found him and brought him out; and when he stood among the people his head and shoulders rose above them all. And Samuel said: "Look at the man whom the Lord has chosen! There is not another like him among all the people!" And all the people shouted, "God save the king! Long live the king!"

Then Samuel told the people what should be the laws for the king and for the people to obey. He wrote them down in a book, and placed the book before the Lord. Then Samuel sent the people home, and Saul went back to his own house at a place called Gibeah, and with Saul went a company of men to whose hearts God had given a love for the king. So after three hundred years under the fifteen judges Israel now had a king. But among the people there were some who were not pleased with the new king, because he was an unknown man from the farm. They said, "Can such a man as this save us?" They showed no respect to the king and in their hearts looked down upon him. But Saul said nothing and showed his wisdom by appearing not to notice them.