Early the next morning, Samuel awoke the farmer’s son who was destined to be Israel’s king. And in those early sunrise hours of that eventful day in the history of the Benjamite, Samuel solemnly anointed Saul to the kingly office. The sacred anointing that was used in those times pointed forward to the Messiah – the Lord’s Anointed One, the King of the Church, and our Great High Priest. The oil of the Holy Spirit was poured out upon Jesus without measure – far above all the priests and princes of the Jewish nation.
For Saul’s further satisfaction, Samuel gave him some signs which would come to pass that same day. The first place he directed the new king to was the tomb of Rachel – one of Saul’s own ancestors. This landmark was located north of Bethlehem, on the border-line between the tribes of Benjamin and Judah. There he would be reminded of his own mortality; for now that he had a crown before him, he must also think of his grave, in which all his honor would eventually be laid in the dust. Samuel told Saul that near Rachel’s grave, he would find two men (perhaps servants who were sent by his father) who would tell him that the lost donkeys had been found. Saul was then to proceed as far as the oak of Tabor – a spot unknown to us today, but evidently on the road to Bethel. There, three more men would meet him and give him some loaves of bread. After that, Saul was to proceed still further northward as far as Gibeah-elohim (“the hill of God”), six miles north of Jerusalem. The Philistines still retained a garrison there, which was subsequently dislodged by Saul’s son Jonathan; but it was also home to a school for prophets. Samuel said that these prophets would come down in a long procession, with music and song; and Saul himself would find himself strongly moved to join with them, and would be turned into a different man from what he had been before. By publicly praising God with these prophets, Saul became “another man” (verse 6); but from the narrative of his later life, we know that he did not become a new man. Let us pray that the Spirit of the Lord may actually change and transform our hearts.
This threefold sign was granted to encourage the new monarch, who strictly obeyed the directions of the venerable prophet. All that Samuel had said to Saul came to pass punctually. He found that God had given him “another heart” – that is, another disposition of mind. And at length, he received the special gifts of the Holy Spirit which had been predicted. High and noble thoughts possessed his mind; his heart was deeply affected by the responsibilities of his position; and under these supernatural influences, he poured forth words of such exalted meaning that the wonder which they aroused passed into a proverb in Israel: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” After this, Saul’s uncle began to speak with him; but his nephew modestly withheld from him all reference to his being anointed king.
Saul went down to Gilgal, as Samuel had directed him; and he remained there for a week. Then he must have returned to Mizpeh – the scene of the people’s great revival in chapter 7 – where Samuel caused a general assembly of the tribes to convene. Here the first king of Israel was chosen by an appeal to the Lord’s directing of lots that were drawn. Samuel began by telling the people, “Ye have this day rejected your God.” And then he called the people to present themselves according to their tribes, so that the lots could be drawn. After the Lord had directed the drawing of the lots, the final selection rested upon the head of the son of Kish. But he could not be found among the crowd! At this point, Saul was so little fond of power that he hid himself. It is good to be conscious of our unworthiness and insufficiency for the services to which we are called, but we should not go into the contrary extreme by refusing the employments to which the Lord and the Church call us. When the people enquired of the Lord as to Saul’s whereabouts, the Lord directed them where to look. And when he stood in the assembly, “he was higher than any of the people, from his shoulders and upward.” Samuel set him forth as the chosen of God; and all the people shouted, “God save the king!”
“Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the Lord.” He described the people’s “manner of asking” for their king, in order to warn the nation. But he also described “the manner of the kingdom” – according to the mind of God – as the rule of their obedience. This was their constitution – the covenant between the monarch and his subjects. The rights of the king were specified therein, and so were the rights of the people. In the Word of God, there is a clear recognition of the rights of the ruled people, as well as those of the ruler. No person is at liberty to tyrannize over another. This engagement between God, the king, and the people was written down and laid up before the Lord. Thus it would be kept under His eye, and it would be a witness against the monarch and the subjects if they should break their engagements.
The appointment of Saul was not universally approved. However, Saul showed no resentment, but modestly went home to his own house in Gibeah. In a similar manner, there is a difference in people’s reactions to our exalted Redeemer. There are some who despise Him, and ask, “How shall this man save us?” But there are always those who submit to Him and follow Him.
Father, we thank You that You have not merely given us “another heart, but a “new” one; for You have renewed us by the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.
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illustration of Rachel’s tomb from A Comprehensive Dictionary of the Bible, 1871, by W. Smith and S. W. Barnum | Wikimedia Commons