Containing The Interval Of Thirty Two Years.
From The Death Of Eli To The Death Of Saul.
The Appointment Of A King Over The Israelites, Whose Name Was Saul; And This By The Command Of God.
1. THERE was one of the tribe of Benjamin, a man of a good family, and of a virtuous disposition; his name was Kish. He had a son, a young man of a comely countenance, and of a tall body, but his understanding and his mind were preferable to what was visible in him: they called him Saul. Now this Kish had some fine she-asses that were wandered out of the pasture wherein they fed, for he was more delighted with these than with any other cattle he had; so he sent out his son, and one servant with him, to search for the beasts; but when he had gone over his own tribe in search after the asses, he went to other tribes, and when he found them not there neither, he determined to go his way home, lest he should occasion any concern to his father about himself.
But when his servant that followed him told him as they were near the city of Ramah, that there was a true prophet in that city, and advised him to go to him, for that by him they should know the upshot of the affair of their asses, he replied, That if they should go to him, they had nothing to give him as a reward for his prophecy, for their subsistence money was spent. The servant answered, that he had still the fourth part of a shekel, and he would present him with that; for they were mistaken out of ignorance, as not knowing that the prophet received no such reward (6) So they went to him; and when they were before the gates, they lit upon certain maidens that were going to fetch water, and they asked them which was the prophet's house. They showed them which it was; and bid them make haste before he sat down to supper, for he had invited many guests to a feast, and that he used to sit down before those that were invited.
Now Samuel had then gathered many together to feast with him on this very account; for while he every day prayed to God to tell him beforehand whom he would make king, he had informed him of this man the day before, for that he would send him a certain young man out of the tribe of Benjamin about this hour of the day; and he sat on the top of the house in expectation of that time's being come. And when the time was completed, he came down and went to supper; so he met with Saul, and God discovered to him that this was he who should rule over them. Then Saul went up to Samuel and saluted him, and desired him to inform him which was the prophet's house; for he said he was a stranger and did not know it. When Samuel had told him that he himself was the person, he led him in to supper, and assured him that the asses were found which he had been to seek, and that the greatest of good things were assured to him: he replied,
"I am too inconsiderable to hope for any such thing, and of a tribe to small to have kings made out of it, and of a family smaller than several other families; but thou tellest me this in jest, and makest me an object of laughter, when thou discoursest with me of greater matters than what I stand in need of."
However, the prophet led him in to the feast, and made him sit down, him and his servant that followed him, above the other guests that were invited, which were seventy in number (7) and he gave orders to the servants to set the royal portion before Saul. And when the time of going to bed was come, the rest rose up, and every one of them went home; but Saul staid with the prophet, he and his servant, and slept with him.
2. Now as soon as it was day, Samuel raised up Saul out of his bed, and conducted him homeward; and when he was out of the city, he desired him to cause his servant to go before, but to stay behind himself, for that he had somewhat to say to him when nobody else was present. Accordingly, Saul sent away his servant that followed him; then did the prophet take a vessel of oil, and poured it upon the head of the young man, and kissed him, and said,
When Samuel had said this, and foretold these things,he sent the young man away. Now all things fell out to Saul according to the prophecy of Samuel.
3. But as soon as Saul came into the house of his kinsman Abner, whom indeed he loved better than the rest of his relations, he was asked by him concerning his journey, and what accidents happened to him therein; and he concealed none of the other things from him, no, not his coming to Samuel the prophet, nor how he told him the asses were found; but he said nothing to him about the kingdom, and what belonged thereto, which he thought would procure him envy, and when such things are heard, they are not easily believed; nor did he think it prudent to tell those things to him, although he appeared very friendly to him, and one whom he loved above the rest of his relations, considering, I suppose, what human nature really is, that no one is a firm friend, neither among our intimates, nor of our kindred; nor do they preserve that kind disposition when God advances men to great prosperity, but they are still ill-natured and envious at those that are in eminent stations.
4. Then Samuel called the people together to the city Mizpeh, and spake to them in the words following, which he said he was to speak by the command of God: - That when he had granted them a state of liberty, and brought their enemies into subjection, they were become unmindful of his benefits, and rejected God that he should not be their King, as not considering that it would be most for their advantage to be presided over by the best of beings, for God is the best of beings, and they chose to have a man for their king; while kings will use their subjects as beasts, according to the violence of their own wills and inclinations, and other passions, as wholly carried away with the lust of power, but will not endeavor so to preserve the race of mankind as his own workmanship and creation, which, for that very reason, God would take cake of.
"But since you have come to a fixed resolution, and this injurious treatment of God has quite prevailed over you, dispose yourselves by your tribes and scepters, and cast lots."
5. When the Hebrews had so done, the lot fell upon the tribe of Benjamin; and when the lot was cast for the families of this tribe, that which was called Matri was taken; and when the lot was cast for the single persons of that family, Saul, the son of Kish, was taken for their king. When the young man knew this, he prevented [their sending for him], and immediately went away and hid himself.
I suppose that it was because he would not have it thought that he willingly took the government upon him; nay, he showed such a degree of command over himself, and of modesty, that while the greatest part are not able to contain their joy, even in the gaining of small advantages, but presently show themselves publicly to all men, this man did not only show nothing of that nature, when he was appointed to be the lord of so many and so great tribes, but crept away and concealed himself out of the sight of those he was to reign over, and made them seek him, and that with a good deal of trouble. So when the people were at a loss, and solicitous, because Saul disappeared, the prophet besought God to show where the young man was,and to produce him before them. So when they had learned of God the place where Saul was hidden, they sent men to bring him; and when he was come, they set him in the midst of the multitude. Now he was taller than any of them, and his stature was very majestic.
6. Then said the prophet,
"God gives you this man to be your king: see how he is higher than any of the people, and worthy of this dominion."
So as soon as the people had made acclamation, God save the king, the prophet wrote down what would come to pass in a book, and read it in the hearing of the king, and laid up the book in the tabernacle of God, to be a witness to future generations of what he had foretold. So when Samuel had finished this matter, he dismissed the multitude, and came himself to the city Rainah, for it was his own country. Saul also went away to Gibeah, where he was born; and many good men there were who paid him the respect that was due to him; but the greater part were ill men, who despised him and derided the others, who neither did bring him presents, nor did they in affection, or even in words, regard to please him.
(7) It seems to me not improbable that these seventy guests of Samuel, as here, with himself at the head of them, were a Jewish sanhedrim, and that hereby Samuel intimated to Saul that these seventy-one were to be his constant counselors, and that he was to act not like a sole monarch, but with the advice and direction of these seventy-one members of that Jewish sanhedrim upon all occasions, which yet we never read that he consulted afterward.