I Samuel 10
1. 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 commander over His inheritance?
Now that they are alone together on the outskirts of the city where none can overhear, Samuel delivers the LORD’s message to Saul. First, he performs a significant ritual act. He takes a flask of oil and pours it on his head. There was doubtless nothing special about this flask of oil. Men of that day in that part of the world appear to have used oil much like we use soap, perfume, or deodorant today. It is very likely that any traveling man like Samuel would constantly have a flask of oil in his possession. Therefore, there was nothing special in this flask, nor in the act of pouring it over a man’s head. When cleaning himself, Saul had probably done something similar many times. Yet in this case, this very ordinary action had very extraordinary implications. This little ritual was a symbolic act, signifying the fact that the LORD had chosen Saul to be the next king.
Now the important part of this ritual was not the pouring of the oil itself, for that was only symbolic. As I said, Saul himself might have poured oil over his own head many times before this. What was important here was the choice the LORD had made of Saul as king, and the fact that Samuel had the authority to communicate that choice to Saul. In other words, there was a ritual here of anointing, but what it pointed to was the reality of Saul’s anointing. The real anointing of Saul was when the LORD chose him to be king. The ritual was significant only in that it communicated that reality.
Once he has anointed Saul with oil, Samuel kisses him, and tells him plainly that the LORD has anointed him to be the king. We usually think of an inheritance as being something you receive from someone when he dies. Yet the reality is that to have an inheritance is to enjoy a portion. The inheritance here refers to the portion of the LORD, which was the people He had chosen. Saul was now commander over that portion, even the twelve tribes of Israel.
2. When you have departed from me today, you will find two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say to you, ‘The donkeys which you went to look for have been found. And now your father has ceased caring about the donkeys and is worrying about you, saying, “What shall I do about my son?”’
Now there is a further communication from God to Saul. Samuel tells him exactly what is about to happen to Saul when he leaves him. This was done because it was very important from the start of his kingship that Saul be impressed with the fact that God’s hand is in all that is happening to him. His understanding of the Divine character of his office and mission will help greatly in keeping him on the narrow road to serve and honor the God Who has appointed him to this most exalted position. Therefore, God does for him what He has seldom done for anyone else, and reveals to him exactly what his experiences are going to be after he departs from Samuel’s side.
First, Saul will meet two men by Rachel’s tomb back in the territory of Benjamin. These men will tell him that what he thought might happen back in I Samuel 9:5 has happened, and his father is worried about him instead of the donkeys. The donkeys have been found, and now all Kish’s concern is with his son. He was expecting Saul back long before this, and is afraid something terrible has happened to him. Since Saul was his son and heir, the tragedy is that much more magnified. Kish now worries about him, wondering what he will do without his son who is the one trained to rule the family after him.
3. Then you shall go on forward from there and come to the terebinth tree of Tabor. There three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine.
After this, Samuel tells him, he will go on forward until he comes to the terebinth tree of Tabor. These were great trees, and stood out, so that this one would be easily identifiable. Tabor means “Mound,” so this tree was probably up on a hill. Here Saul will meet three men going up to God at Bethel. This seems rather strange, for we have had no particular reason to identify the city of Bethel with God at this time. We know that this is where Jacob saw his vision of the ladder with the angels ascending and descending on it, and he called it the “House of God,” which gave it the name Beth-El. However, we have no indication that the tabernacle was ever set up there, or that the ark ever resided in that town. Why then would one seek God at Bethel?
Yet we do have precedence for this. In Judges 20, when Israel was carrying out its terrible war against Benjamin, they made their camp at Bethel, and we read in verse 18:
18. And the children of Israel arose, and went up to the house of God, and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the LORD said, Judah shall go up first.
In Hebrew, “house of God” is actually “bayith Elohim Bethel” or “the house of God Bethel.” So Israel actually sought God at Bethel, and received an answer from Him there. Upon being defeated by the Benjamites, they sought Him again there, as we read in verse 26.
26. Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.
In Judges 21, when the people realized the tragedy that one of the tribes of Israel had all but been destroyed, it was to Bethel to God that they sought to find out what to do about it in Judges 21:2.
2. And the people came to the house of God, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore;
Why would this place have been so chosen as being a place to seek God, we might wonder? All we can say is that though the place where the tabernacle and ark had been, Shiloh, had been destroyed by the Philistines back in chapter 4, yet Bethel had not been destroyed. Moreover, Bethel was near Shiloh, as we can tell from Judges 21:19.
19. Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the LORD in Shiloh yearly in a place which is on the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.
So we see that Bethel was very near to Shiloh, so much so that the two are connected together in the feasts of Jehovah. Since Shiloh was destroyed, and since Bethel was near to it and had been connected with seeking Jehovah in the past, this might explain the journey of these men to meet God there.
Samuel does not just tell Saul that he will meet these three men, but he also tells him that they each will be carrying something, and tells him what it will be. One man will be carrying three young goats, no doubt for sacrificing. One man will be carrying three loaves of bread, perhaps for them to eat, or perhaps to offer a meal offering to Jehovah. The third man will be carrying a skin of wine, perhaps for them to drink, or perhaps for a drink offering to Jehovah.
4. And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall receive from their hands.
These men, when they meet Saul, will greet him in the traditional way, and then will unexpectedly give him a gift: two of the three loaves of bread they have with them. This was a strange thing for these men to do, although remember that we found out in I Samuel 9:7 that Saul and his servant were out of food, and this might help to explain the generosity of these men. Saul will therefore be given this bread, and he will receive it from these three men.
5. After that you shall come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is. And it will happen, when you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with a stringed instrument, a tambourine, a flute, and a harp before them; and they will be prophesying.
After this, Saul will journey on and come to a place called the “hill of God.” It seems that at this time the Philistines had set up a garrison at this place, showing again their power over Israel. When Saul comes here, Samuel reveals, a group of prophets will come down to him from the high place that is there. This seems to be our first encounter with the idea of a “school” of prophets in Scripture. This is not a very common thing throughout Scripture, but it seems to have been at this time, and also in the time of Elijah and Elisha, that there were whole groups of men who were used by God as His prophets. This particular school of them may have been started by Samuel. At any rate, Samuel informs Saul that they will have a stringed instrument, a tambourine, a flute, and a harp playing music before them as they come down, and they will be prophesying. Notice the exact details that Saul is given here. When all these things happen exactly as he has been told, he will have no choice but to believe that all that has been told to him has its origin in God.
6. Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.
At this point Saul will receive the Spirit of the LORD. He will come upon him, and the result will be that he will prophesy along with them. It may be that all these prophets were speaking in unison, and that Saul joined in with them. Or it may be that they were all speaking the same thing, and that Saul joined them in saying the same. Yet the point was that he was speaking the words of God along with them. Then, the result of all this would be that Saul will be turned into another man. Saul will need a change indeed if he is to change from the very timid country man we have seen so far in the narrative to the powerful ruler of all of Israel. Indeed, it is very good when the Spirit turns anyone into another man! Though today, of course, He does not do it so that we can all become kings or mighty men, but he changes men from the inside so that they can live righteous and Godly lives in service to Him.
7. And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you.
After this, Samuel assures Saul, his steps will no longer be bound to this particular path. Therefore, once the signs are completed, he is to do whatever the situation calls for, for now he has God with him, and He will guide all his steps to make him the king He wants him to be.
8. You shall go down before me to Gilgal; and surely I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, till I come to you and show you what you should do.”
Yet there will be yet one more sign to go, and this one will test Saul’s obedience and Saul’s faith. At some unknown future time, Samuel reveals, Saul will go down before Samuel to Gilgal. When he does this, he must wait for Samuel to come to him to offer burnt offerings and sacrifices of peace offerings for him. Saul is to wait for Samuel seven days, and then Samuel will come and show him what God has for him to do. This time we can see that Samuel’s words are instructions, not just a prediction. We will see when the time comes how well Saul will follow these instructions.
9. So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day.
So we read that as Saul turned his back on Samuel to go away from him, that God stepped in and gave him another heart! The word for “heart,” the Hebrew word leb, has to do with the inner being. Saul became a new person inside, and this made him a new man. And just as God had said, all the signs came to pass that day just as they had been told to him.
Have you ever learned what it means to be made a new man through faith in Jesus Christ? For what Saul experienced, while in some ways it was unique to him, is not something that is entirely foreign to God’s work today. God is still in the business of changing men from the inside, and many a believer is there who can testify to the life-changing power of the work of the Spirit of God in his life. Praise God that, not just in Saul’s day, but also in ours, we serve a God who has the power to change hearts, and through changed hearts to change lives. May He change us all to conform us to the likeness of His Son!
10. When they came there to the hill, there was a group of prophets to meet him; then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.
The LORD does not think it necessary to spell out for us the fulfillment of each one of the signs given Saul, so we jump ahead to the third sign. Saul and his servant come to the hill, the prophets meet him, the Spirit of God comes upon him, and he prophesies along with them, just as Samuel had said.
11. And it happened, when all who knew him formerly saw that he indeed prophesied among the prophets, that the people said to one another, “What is this that has come upon the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”
By this time, Saul is close enough to home that there are people here who have known him prior to this time. When these acquaintances of Saul’s see him prophesying among the prophets, they are amazed. They wonder what has become of the son of Kish? For it seems that Kish, whose name, as we have already learned, means “Bent,” was not at all the kind of man one would expect to find among the prophets. Therefore they are amazed to see his son Saul there, standing with the prophets, acting like the prophets, and prophesying.
12. Then a man from there answered and said, “But who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb: “Is Saul also among the prophets?”
One man, it seems, was wiser than the rest, and answered their questions with another, pointed question. Who is the father of the rest of these prophets, he asks? This points out for us apparently what the problem was they had with Saul being among the prophets. Kish, it seems, had a bad reputation as an ungodly man. In those days, one’s family was everything, and one could only expect that a man would be found doing what his father had done and had taught him to do. Because of this, the last person they would expect to find among God’s prophets was a son of Kish. Yet this wise man points out that a prophet was not chosen because of his father. Unlike most of their positions in Israel, the position of prophet was not hereditary. God chose the prophets, and He did so from men with all different kinds of fathers. No one could look at the family of a man and what business it was in and assume from these things who might or might not be made a prophet.
It seems that this man’s words were so wise and the event so memorable that this became a proverb in the land. Perhaps it was used whenever anyone might unexpectedly be found to be doing something for God he was not expected to do, or when someone was found to be among those he was not expected to associate with. In these cases, they might say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”
One important lesson we can learn from this is that parentage and family background need equally not to be a hindrance today. Though one might have come from a very bad family indeed, this does not cripple God, or stop Him from being able to change such a person and use him for His glory. God changes hearts and God alters legacies. One who is saddled with the burden of a dishonorable family history can rest assured that God can use him anyway, and that he can start a new, Godly legacy going forward to pass on to his own children. To God, who or what one’s family was does not matter. All that matters is our availability to God for him to use us as He will.
Equally important is to realize that a Godly family legacy does not automatically make us acceptable to God either. It is quite possible to come from a Godly family that has been faithful and served Him, and yet to have no love for God yourself and no desire to serve Him. Godly parents can have an ungodly child, and ungodly parents can have a Godly child. It all depends on God, Who changes hearts, and whether or not one will yield himself to Him. So the good news here is that you are not tied to your family’s legacy. You get to make your own legacy as to whether or not to live for Him. Even the son of Kish can serve God if he will yield himself to Him.