13. And when he had finished prophesying, he went to the high place.
Once his prophesying is finished, Saul goes to the high place. It seems that this place was very near home for him, for he will meet one of his relatives there.
14. Then Saul’s uncle said to him and his servant, “Where did you go?”
So he said, “To look for the donkeys. When we saw that they were nowhere to be found, we went to Samuel.”
Saul’s uncle meets him at this high place, and asks him where they went. As we see, everyone was surprised they were gone so long, including this uncle. Saul explains that he had only gone to look for the donkeys, and nowhere else. He explains that they could not find them anywhere, and that they decided to go for help in finding them to Samuel. Notice that he calls him by name here, and expects his uncle to know who this is. It may be that Saul and his uncle were better informed about current events in Israel than Saul’s servant was. Or it may be that the reputation of this “seer” had gone out without everyone who knew it realizing that this seer was actually Samuel, the judge of their country. At any rate, this would indicate to us that Samuel was not as unknown in the land as we might have gathered from the previous chapter.
15. And Saul’s uncle said, “Tell me, please, what Samuel said to you.”
Saul’s uncle, upon hearing this, is interested to hear what the prophet Samuel said. This is sensible, for who would not be interested in hearing a message from God given right to a member of his family?
16. So Saul said to his uncle, “He told us plainly that the donkeys had been found.” But about the matter of the kingdom, he did not tell him what Samuel had said.
Saul only tells his uncle part of the story. He tells him that Samuel told them plainly that the donkeys had been found. This was true, but it was not the whole truth. Saul told him nothing about the revelation of Samuel that he would be Israel’s first human king. It seems he wanted to keep this part of Jehovah’s message to himself. Maybe he wanted to see if it would really start to happen before he admitted it, or maybe he was afraid of what might happen once the people knew he had been chosen to be king. It could be that he thought this uncle of his would laugh at this message and not believe it. Or perhaps he was more afraid of what might happen if his uncle did believe it, and used this as an opportunity to try to turn things to his own advantage.
At any rate, Saul keeps this part of the message to himself at this time, and it appears to us that this was a very wise decision. God had kept it a secret between Saul and Samuel, and Saul was not about to give away what God had not yet revealed. God in His Own time would let people know whom He had chosen for king. Until that time, Saul wisely chose to just wait, and to let the God make the first move to bring him to the throne.
17. Then Samuel called the people together to the LORD at Mizpah,
Now that the choice of king has been made, Samuel calls the people together to reveal it to them. Of course, he would not have gathered every last Israelite in the land to make this announcement to them, for that would have meant gathering millions of people, which would not have been practical. What he called together was the leaders or governing body of Israel, who would be the ones interacting with the new king directly. The place chosen for this meeting is Mizpah, the place where the LORD defeated the Philistines through Samuel back in I Samuel 7:6-12, and also was one of the three places where he judged Israel according to I Samuel 7:16.
18. and said to the children of Israel, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all kingdoms and from those who oppressed you.’
The LORD reviews history with the Israelites, and reminds them of all He had done for them in bringing them out of slavery in Egypt. He had delivered them from the hand, that is the power, of the Egyptians, from the hand of all the governments they met on their journey from Egypt and when they came to the land, and from all those nations around them who oppressed them since they settled in the land. He had truly been with them the whole way!
19. But you have today rejected your God, who Himself saved you from all your adversities and your tribulations; and you have said to Him, ‘No, set a king over us!’ Now therefore, present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and by your clans.”
Having reminded them of His rescuing them from all calamities and troubles in the past, Jehovah now contrasts this with their treatment of Him in the present. They have rejected Him by them calling for another king. Yet He is willing to do as they ask. So He calls upon them to present themselves before Him by their tribes and by their thousands.
The New King James Version has made this “clans” here rather than “thousands,” but remember that Israel was literally divided under leaders over thousands and leaders over hundreds. It is doubtful that every man in Israel was present here, but more likely the individuals in Israel were represented by their leaders over thousands. After all, it was from among the leadership that the new king was most likely to be chosen. If he was not among them, then the leader over thousands that was chosen would know the names of the families under him, and could identify the families from which the king might come.
20. And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was chosen.
So representatives of all the twelve tribes of Israel come near, and Samuel chooses between them. This choosing was done by using the Urim (pronounced oo-REEM) and Thummim (pronounced too-MEEM.) These appear to have been two smooth, identically sized stones, one white and one black. They were used for achieving a “sacred lot.” They were kept in a little pouch inside the ephod of the high priest’s garments. When one wanted to consult the will of God, one or the other of them would be pulled out of the ephod, and this would reveal God’s answer. Urim means “Lights,” and depending on the question meant either “guilty” or “yes.” Thummim means “Perfections,” and depending on the question meant either “innocent” or “no.” In this case, a stone would have been drawn out until the Urim was chosen instead of the Thummim.
The tribe of Benjamin was the one chosen by Urim. This would have been a surprise, since it was the smallest and least significant tribe. As we discussed in the last chapter, we learn in the book of Judges that, because of their wickedness, Benjamin was all but wiped out, with only six hundred men of the tribe remaining. Hundreds of years have passed, yet Benjamin must still have been the smallest and least significant tribe. Compared to their neighbors, the mighty tribe of Judah, Benjamin seemed kind like their little sidekick. Yet Benjamin is the tribe from which the king will come.
21. When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the family of Matri was chosen. And Saul the son of Kish was chosen. But when they sought him, he could not be found.
Now the families of Benjamin start to come forward. These would have been the large tribal families, the sub-tribes, if you will. Of these, the Urim comes out for the family of Matri. Matri means “Rainy,” or perhaps “Rain of Jehovah.” We read of this family only here, but obviously it was a well-known family in Benjamin in that day. Then, of the men of this family, Saul the son of Kish is chosen. Of course, Samuel had already anointed him, so of course the Urim would come out for him, since every decision of the Urim and Thummim was directed by God. So they sought for Saul, knowing that he was among the representatives who were to come up to the congregation, yet they could not find him.
22. Therefore they inquired of the LORD further, “Has the man come here yet?”
And the LORD answered, “There he is, hidden among the equipment.”
This mystery was soon solved, for they could consult the Yahweh to see where Saul was. Obviously, for this a more verbal message was needed than what the Urim and Thummim could provide, so they probably consulted Him this time through His prophet Samuel. Nothing can be hidden from God, and so Yahweh reveals to Samuel where Saul is. (He had talked with Samuel earlier, and so of course he knew he would be chosen by the Urim.) Saul had apparently gotten scared at the prospect of being chosen king, and was hiding among the baggage! This was a humble beginning indeed for the chosen king of Israel. His humility was a good way to start. It is too bad that he did not stay humble, instead of becoming filled with pride, as we will see later on in the record.
23. So they ran and brought him from there; and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward.
So they run to search among the baggage, and they find Saul there as the LORD had said. When they bring him among the people, the first thing they all notice is how tall he is. From his shoulders and upward he is taller than anyone else among the people. He must have looked the part of a king indeed!
24. And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen, that there is no one like him among all the people?”
So all the people shouted and said, “Long live the king!”
Samuel calls upon them to look on the one the LORD has chosen to be their king. They can clearly see that there is no one like him among all the people. This was exactly the kind of a king they wanted: tall, strong, and impressive looking; the kind of man who could lead them against their enemies. So they saw him, and they approved of his looks, shouting, “Long live the king!” Looks are not the only thing important in a king, however. These men wanted a man who looked good rather than God Who is good!
25. Then Samuel explained to the people the behavior of royalty, and wrote it in a book and laid it up before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house.
Now a new form of government is about to be instituted in Israel, and so it was important for all the people and for the king himself to know how this new kind of government was to run. So Samuel spells out Jehovah’s version of a kingdom to the people. No doubt in doing this, he explained to them the commands of Jehovah regarding a king found in Deuteronomy 17:14-20. There, in anticipation of this day, God through Moses wrote:
14. “When you come to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’
This is exactly what had happened, as we have seen it in the last two chapters.
15. you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother.
This has been done, for the king has been chosen by Jehovah, and he is indeed one of the Israelites, and not a foreigner.
16. But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’
These laws are the laws Saul is to follow. He is not to multiply horses for himself, nor return to Egypt to get horses. Horses at that time were in many ways the military advantage of the day. A man on horseback was much more formidable than a man on foot. Therefore, it put Israel at a disadvantage not to have a cavalry. Yet this prohibition was made, and its object was to teach them that Jehovah was their advantage, and they were to trust in Him.
17. Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.
The king is also not to multiply wives for himself. Of course, this is not saying he cannot have a wife, any more than verse 16 was saying he could not have a horse. Christ when He returns comes riding a great, white horse. Yet he is not to multiply horses. Strictly speaking, one cannot multiply to get to one, for any number multiplied by zero equals zero. To get from no wives to one, then, one must add. Yet to go from one to two, one times two equals two, and any wife beyond one equals multiplication. There were very few of Israel’s kings who took this command so literally. Yet Jehovah warns that a multitude of wives could turn his heart away from Him.
This also speaks of silver and gold. Of course, the king must have money, and this does not tell him he cannot multiply money, but only that he cannot greatly multiply money for himself. This would put his trust in gold and silver, rather than in the LORD.
18. “Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites.
This is what Saul was supposed to do, yet as far as we can tell from this verse, Samuel actually wrote it for him. This would make us wonder if Saul was not able to write? This would certainly explain why the prophet had to do it for him. And not being able to write would not have been an unusual thing in that day.
19. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes,
The king was supposed to read these laws every day of his life, so he could never claim ignorance or forgetfulness as to why he did not obey these commands.
20. that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.
If he did not remember these laws, his heart would be more likely to be lifted up above his brothers, and he would then turn aside from the commandment one way or the other. If he obeys these laws, his days and his government will be prolonged, both for himself and for his children. This could have happened to Saul, yet we know his heart did get lifted up, and he did turn aside, and his government was cut short.
So Samuel let Saul and the other rulers know these laws, and he wrote them before the king. Saul now knows the rules, and can never plead ignorance if he breaks them. Then, this being completed, Samuel sends everyone home. This seems like an anticlimactic end to this day. Should not more have been done about setting up a court for Saul? Yet at this point, it seems all is left in the LORD’s hands. It remains for God to give power to His king whom He has chosen. If He does not step in, then Saul’s kingship will go nowhere. Only with God’s help will his throne be established.
26. And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and valiant men went with him, whose hearts God had touched.
Saul also goes back home to Gibeah. Yet he does not go alone. Most were willing, it seems, to choose a king and then go home to let someone else follow him. We recall their rather foolish wish for a king to fight their battles for them, as if a king would call soldiers out of the air, rather than collecting them from among the people. Yet when other men went home, these valiant men’s hearts were touched by God, and they followed His chosen man.
In the same way, many are content today to believe in Christ, but leave it to others to serve Him. Yet thank God for those who do choose to serve Him. And those who rise to perform such service may also thank God for those who seem to be touched in their hearts to help and join in the work. May God touch our hearts so that we will go out of our way to follow His Christ, His Anointed One, like these did.
27. But some rebels said, “How can this man save us?” So they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace.
Some despised God’s choice. They see nothing in Saul but a man like themselves, and they scorn the idea that he can save them. The same is true of our Anointed Savior, Jesus. Men will look upon Him and despise Him, denying that He has any ability to save. Yet for those of us who believe, we know He is God’s chosen Savior of the world.
These rebels are called in Hebrew the “sons of Belial.” We have seen this twice in Samuel already. The first time was in I Samuel 1:16, when Hannah did not want to be thought a daughter of Belial when Eli thought she was drunk when her lips were moving in prayer but her voice was not heard. The second time was when God described Eli’s sons as sons of Belial. This name appears to mean “Worthlessness,” so the sons of Belial are sons of worthlessness or wickedness. Proverbs describes the character of the Belial man.
Proverbs 6:12. A Belial man (adam), a wicked man (ish), Walks with a perverse mouth.
Proverbs 16:27. A Belial man (ish) digs up evil, And it is on his lips like a burning fire.
Proverbs 19:28. A Belial witness scorns justice, And the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity.
So we see that the character of the Belial man is a wicked and worthless one. That is how these men who reject Saul are described. They did not believe God’s words or acknowledge the LORD’s choice. So they show their scorn by not bringing their new king any presents, as other men were doing to acknowledge him. Yet Saul at this time does nothing about this slight, but holds his peace. He is not yet established enough to throw his weight around, or do anything about the attitude of these men. Again, if he is ever to be established as king, God will have to do it and strengthen him in this position.