The Strained Relationship Between Prophet and King A Sermon on 1 Samuel 9

But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”

– Last week talked about the need for leadership, this longing for someone to be in control, responsible, someone to make decisions for us.

– Read through the rant of Samuel about what a King will do to them and their children. (make them slaves, take their money, make them fight etc.

– National security rests on the need of a king

– Being like everyone else was a priority so they could keep up, fight battles and be a nation that could hold their own. God wasn’t enough.

There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.
Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, were lost. So Kish said to Saul his son, “Take one of the young men with you, and arise, go and look for the donkeys.” And he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and passed through the land of Shalishah, but they did not find them. And they passed through the land of Shaalim, but they were not there. Then they passed through the land of Benjamin, but did not find them.

– There is a lot of focus on Saul’s physical attributes – he comes from wealth, he’s quite tall and he’s more handsome than anyone else.

– Saul’s name literally means ‘asked’ – which is giving us a hint because Israel was just asking for a King, so there is a hint here that maybe this is what they’ve been asking for.

– Samuel is the answer to Hannah’s request for a son, Saul is the answer to the people’s request for a king

When they came to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant who was with him, “Come, let us go back, lest my father cease to care about the donkeys and become anxious about us.” But he said to him, “Behold, there is a man of God in this city, and he is a man who is held in honor; all that he says comes true. So now let us go there. Perhaps he can tell us the way we should go.” Then Saul said to his servant, “But if we go, what can we bring the man? For the bread in our sacks is gone, and there is no present to bring to the man of God. What do we have?” The servant answered Saul again, “Here, I have with me a quarter of a shekel of silver, and I will give it to the man of God to tell us our way.” (Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he said, “Come, let us go to the seer,” for today’s “prophet” was formerly called a seer.) And Saul said to his servant, “Well said; come, let us go.” So they went to the city where the man of God was.

Q: What does Saul’s first speech tell us about him?

– First recorded speech is a defining moment of characterization for characters in the Hebrew Scriptures. Saul’s first utterance reveals him as a young man uncertain about pursuing his way and quite concerned about his father.

– Saul’s servant is unnamed but he has lots to say and really seems to be the one ordering their steps.

– Interesting that Saul comes from a wealthy man but he is the one that doesn’t have any money, but his young servant has money

As they went up the hill to the city, they met young women coming out to draw water and said to them, “Is the seer here?” They answered, “He is; behold, he is just ahead of you. Hurry. He has come just now to the city, because the people have a sacrifice today on the high place. As soon as you enter the city you will find him, before he goes up to the high place to eat. For the people will not eat till he comes, since he must bless the sacrifice; afterward those who are invited will eat. Now go up, for you will meet him immediately.” So they went up to the city. As they were entering the city, they saw Samuel coming out toward them on his way up to the high place.

– Remember we talked about typescenes (one being that there was two mothers, one barren and one wasn’t) this is another typescene – foreign men travelling in and meeting a women at a well, eventually after he drinks the women run to tell about the stranger’s presence and they are invited to a meal. This happens numerous times in the scriptures – even present in the New Testament with Jesus and the women at the well. This however is considered an aborted type scene because it doesn’t play how they normally do and instead of hooking up with a girl he meets Samuel.

Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.” When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you! He it is who shall restrain my people.” Then Saul approached Samuel in the gate and said, “Tell me where is the house of the seer?”

– Do you notice anything strange about this meet up? The women just told Saul that there was a seer in town visiting and that Saul would meet him right when he got into town. The next person he runs into he asks him where is the house of the seer? Why would he have a house if he was just visiting? Is this a bit of foreshadowing for Saul not being able to listen to instructions?

– It is also important to remember who the tribe of Benjamin was in Israel – in this case we know that they have had some hard times cleaning up their act and have almost been wiped out completely.

Samuel answered Saul, “I am the seer. Go up before me to the high place, for today you shall eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is on your mind. As for your donkeys that were lost three days ago, do not set your mind on them, for they have been found. And for whom is all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for you and for all your father’s house?” Saul answered, “Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then have you spoken to me in this way?”

– Samuel’s main job here is to help get Saul’s mind of the asses on onto his kingship. There is this element that we tend to get all caught up in small little issues when the prophet is constantly trying to get our mind back onto the bigger picture and what is coming in the kingdom.

Then Samuel took Saul and his young man and brought them into the hall and gave them a place at the head of those who had been invited, who were about thirty persons. And Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the portion I gave you, of which I said to you, ‘Put it aside.'” So the cook took up the leg and what was on it and set them before Saul. And Samuel said, “See, what was kept is set before you. Eat, because it was kept for you until the hour appointed, that you might eat with the guests.”

So Saul ate with Samuel that day. And when they came down from the high place into the city, a bed was spread for Saul on the roof, and he lay down to sleep. Then at the break of dawn Samuel called to Saul on the roof, “Up, that I may send you on your way.” So Saul arose, and both he and Samuel went out into the street.

As they were going down to the outskirts of the city, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell the servant to pass on before us, and when he has passed on, stop here yourself for a while, that I may make known to you the word of God.”

– It is important to keep an eye on Samuel. He seems to put Saul through a lot of extra grief and make him do things that aren’t that normal. Many think that this is Samuel’s way of exerting control over Saul and making sure he knows who is in charge.

Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Is it not because the Lord has anointed you over his inheritance to be a leader? And you shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies. And this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you to be prince over his heritage. When you depart from me today, you will meet two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah, and they will say to you, ‘The donkeys that you went to seek are found, and now your father has ceased to care about the donkeys and is anxious about you, saying, “What shall I do about my son?”‘

– What is interesting about this is that Saul is anointed in an abnormal way that most kings are anointed, and anointed differently than Hannah’s song in Chapter 2. The brutal northern Kings later on all get anointed with vials or flasks of oil, but the main important kings (like David or Solomon) were anointed with horns of oil. So not only do we hae an aborted type scene earlier at the well, we also have a way of anointing that doesn’t set him up for too much of a bright future.

– Rachel’s tomb is a significant spot here because it is where Rachel died in giving birth to Benjamin shortly after the Lord had promised that Jacob would father kings.

Then you shall go on from there farther and come to the oak of Tabor. Three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall accept from their hand. After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim. where there is a garrison of the Philistines. And there, as soon as you come to the city, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. Now when these signs meet you, do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you. Then go down before me to Gilgal. And behold, I am coming down to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.”

– He is told to first do what his finds him to do but in the next verse he is told that he needs to wait because Samuel will tell him what to do.

– A Hebrew idiom for whatever your hands find to do means ‘whatever is within your power’

– Notice again the pointing to the Eucharistic elements

When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart. And all these signs came to pass that day.When they came to Gibeah, behold, a group of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them. And when all who knew him previously saw how he prophesied with the prophets, the people said to one another, “What has come over the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” And a man of the place answered, “And who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”When he had finished prophesying, he came to the high place.
Saul’s uncle said to him and to his servant, “Where did you go?” And he said, “To seek the donkeys. And when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.” And Saul’s uncle said, “Please tell me what Samuel said to you.” And Saul said to his uncle, “He told us plainly that the donkeys had been found.” But about the matter of the kingdom, of which Samuel had spoken, he did not tell him anything.

– This is an important scene and raises all sorts of questions. It mixes in the office of the prophet and the office of the king, people are confused and scholars think that this is one of the major moments in this book where things take a turn for the worse. There is also some theories that Saul participating in prophecy like this is yet another attempt from Samuel to control Saul.

– If Saul is a prophet, that would mean that Samuel was his father and no longer the son of Kish

– This line ‘Is Saul, too, among the prophets?’ won’t the the first time we hear it and is a long remembered Proverb within Hebrew literature. This becomes more and more interesting as Saul always seems to NOT have divine knowledge and always asking what is going on.

– So it’s no so much Saul’s behaviour but the association.

– The conversation is odd here but there is a number of things to notice that I can quickly point out. First off the hebrew for the uncle that comes on the scene has the proper name of the name ‘David’ so there is some allusion to how Saul and David will eventually interact with each other in the future.

Now Samuel called the people together to the Lord at Mizpah. And he said to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, ‘Set a king over us.’ Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your thousands.” Then Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its clans, and the clan of the Matrites was taken by lot;

– Remember that in Chapter 7, the last time everyone gathered at Mizpah, there was a big victory won, so this probably isn’t by accident that Samuel gathers them there again. Maybe to remind them that they really don’t need a king, or maybe to shove it in their faces a bit. Saul is reminding them here that God rescued a Kingless Israel from all the other Kingdoms (nations with kings).

– This kind of gathering that Samuel is doing is not generally a happy or festive one. If you look at Joshua 7 or 1 Samuel 14 – this kind of ceremony is designed to uncover guilt. So even though Samuel knows that Saul is God’s choice for Israel’s king, the lot-casting is certainly a downer of a way to unveil it.

– It is really strange how much negative connotations seems to come with Israel wanting a king. Wanting a King is wanting a different system in place than they have always had and has worked when they followed the rules, but regardless they choose to reject their memory and reject Yahweh and demand a king.

and Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot. But when they sought him, he could not be found. So they asked again of the Lord, “Is there a man still to come?” and the Lord said, “Behold, he has hidden himself among the baggage.” Then they ran and took him from there. And when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward.

– Saul, like the donkeys earlier, cannot be found!

– Remember these lot casting ceremonies are usually done to find out the guilty and identify the offender to the common good. So really, it could make sense why he was hiding, it really wasn’t the kind of ceremony that was set to introduce your king.

– Again, the verb asked comes up again – a lot of asking for Saul (asked)

– Eugene Peterson says “they are now forced to pray to God to help them find the king they have just chosen with God’s help, but against God’s will. God graciously condescends to do for them what they cannot for for themselves.”

Q: How should we read the Old Testament when we get these weird tensions of God seemingly wanting one thing and doing another? How can we know God’s will if he seems to ‘meet us where we are at’ on crucial matters like this?

And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? There is none like him among all the people.” And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”
Then Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship, and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the Lord. Then Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his home. Saul also went to his home at Gibeah, and with him went men of valor whose hearts God had touched. But some sons of Belial said, “How can this man save us?” And they despised him and brought him no present. But he remained silent.

– Interesting here that at no point Samuel mentions the word king, he leaves that up to the people

– Samuel writes all this in a book which is important to note at how the office of the prophet and the king will intersect. Walter Brueggemann says that it is likely that Samuel wrote down “conventional expectations for monarchy to bring that dangerous institution and its dangerous concentration of power into the framework, expectations, and values of the covenant torah.”

– There are some scholars that think that ‘men of valor’ might have some hidden aspirations a bit and that it was no wonder they were so excited because they would have been close to power and have a lot to gain by Saul’s kingship.

– We learn here that Saul for sure is from Gibeah, which is an interesting place to be from. In Judges 19, it is in Gibeath where a whole civil war is started and a concubine is gang raped and the tribe of Benjamin is almost destroyed completely. So from this very suspicious and wild place comes the first king of Israel!

– Remember from earlier in Samuel those that were labeled sons of Belial, these were usually ones that that would oppose the leaders or royalty, and they come up again here.

– So overall there is both a positive and negative undercurrents that are starting to build up. There is men of valor and sons of Belial which all seem to need and want and hope for different things and have differing opinions on how it will unfold.

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