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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 10

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-27

No one else was present when Samuel anointed Saul. This contrasts with David's anointing in Chapter 16:3, "in the midst of his brethren," then by "the men of Judah" in 2 Samuel 2:4; and later by the elders of Israel in 2 Samuel 5:3. For God could have David publicly anointed because he was God's specific choice, being a type of Christ. On the other hand, Saul was really the people's preference for king, yet behind the scenes God anointed him (by His servant) so that the people could not depose him as they pleased. Democracy is not to be allowed in Israel. This reminds us that "the powers that be are ordained of God" (Romans 13:1), even though those powers have no intention of honorably carrying out God's will; whereas the only government that God actually approves is that in which His Son is given full pre-eminence.

The anointing oil speaks of the Holy Spirit, who alone can give power to enable a king to rightly rule in Israel. Did Saul discern in this that he could be enabled only by God? Samuel also kisses him, an indication that God's kindness and love was fully available to Saul if he would receive it. Then Samuel gives him three signs of an unusual character that were intended also to speak to his soul. How plain is the fact here that though Saul was to be king, yet Samuel was in practical authority over him, the representative of a higher kingdom than that of Israel. First, Saul was to meet two men by Rachel's grave. We remember that Rachel died in giving birth to Benjamin (Genesis 35:16-19). Saul should then remember the sorrow and death from which his very tribe had sprung. This ought to subdue the pride of the flesh. More than that, the men would tell him that the lost donkeys had been found, and now Saul's father was sorrowing for him. Saul could have learned from this that the rebellious house of Israel (typified by the donkeys) will be recovered by God apart from man's help, so that Saul's being king was not a thing in which the flesh had any right to boast.

The second sign given to Saul (v.3) was to take place at the plain of Tabor, where he would meet three men going up to God to Bethel. There is of course special significance in the number three, for one was to be carrying three kids, another three loaves of bread. It was the triune God they were going to meet at Bethel, "the house of God." They had full provision with them for a blood-sacrifice, for the meal offering and for a drink offering (a bottle of wine). All of this was surely a reminder that Saul too would have to deal with God, and ought to be prepared with proper sacrifices and a genuine concern for the house of God. They would greet Saul and give him two loaves of bread, which he was to receive. Would this not tell Saul that the king's sustenance would actually come from God by His moving the hearts of His people? for these loaves were what was really offered to God. Moreover, the liberality of the people ought to have been an example to Saul that he would take to heart, rather than to have an attitude of merely expecting from others, as those in authority often do.

The third sign (v.5) was to be at "the hill of God," where the army of the Philistines was then garrisoned. But no suggestion of conflict is made. Rather, Saul would meet a company of prophets coming from the high place, following a band of musical instruments, and they themselves would prophesy. The lesson here is most significant. Though Saul would be required to lead Israel in battle against the Philistines, yet the way of victory is only in giving God His place first. The music is of course symbolical of joyful worship of God, and prophesying is the declaring of God's message to the people where this order is observed, then the victory in battle will follow, for God will have directed the battle. In going to fight against Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, Jehoshaphat first appointed singers to praise the Lord and beauty of holiness (2 Chronicles 20:21). This resulted in a resounding victory of Israel. But we read nothing like this in Saul's history in spite of his having this early sign.

Added to this sign was Saul's having the Spirit of the Lord come upon him to virtually turn him into another man in his prophesying among the prophets. God was thereby signifying His own willingness to lead Saul by the power of His Spirit in Saul's taking the kingdom. It was left to Saul to realize, however, that only in his submitting to the Spirit of God could he expect this guidance, though this is implied in Samuel's telling him, when this happened, to do as occasion serves him. Sad to say, this spirit of submission to God was ignored by Saul in his ruling Israel. But what can we expect? "The mind of the flesh is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:7-8). Saul did, for a brief time, make a fair show, but the flesh very soon exposed itself in his pathetic failure.

Yet on this occasion God gave him another heart, so that he would act differently than usual. All the signs given him came to pass, including his meeting the company of prophets and the Spirit of God endowing him with power to prophesy also. This surprised his former acquaintances, who incredulously asked the question, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" One person, however, who was resident there, asks a discerning question, "But who is their father?" The source of the prophecy was the important thing, for the questioner evidently knew that this was not Saul's normal character, but that if it was a true prophecy it came from God.

Coming then to the high place Saul is met by his uncle, who asks him and his servant where they had been, and when knowing that they had sought Samuel's help, was interested to learn what Samuel had said to them. Saul informed them only that Samuel had told them that the donkeys were found, and said nothing of Samuel's words to him in reference to the kingdom. At least at this time he showed no inclination to boast in his anticipated greatness. The effect of the signs he had witnessed had not yet worn off: he seemed in some measure rightly subdued by them, though later it appears that he forgot them entirely, or at least forgot their significance.

The time comes for the king to be presented to Israel. It is Samuel who gathers the people to Mizpah, and there addresses them with a message from God. They are reminded that it was God who had brought them out of Egypt, delivering them from that bondage and from subsequent enemies who opposed them in coming into the land of Israel. He had done this without the help of a king. Therefore, their demanding a king was their virtual rejection of God who had before saved them out of all their adversities and tribulations.

Since it was God who had so graciously dealt with Israel in bringing them from Egypt and delivering them from all their enemies, then for Israel to demand a king to virtually take God's place was actual rejection of Him. This must be pressed upon their consciences before the king is given them. Then Samuel tells them to present themselves together before the Lord, that He might indicate who was to be king.

The method Samuel used was evidently the same as seen in Joshua 7:16-18 in the exposing of Achan as the man whose sin had been a curse to Israel. The tribes come first, and Benjamin is taken. We are not told exactly how this took place. It may have been by the casting of lots, for we are told in Proverbs 16:33, "The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord." From the families of Benjamin, that of Matri was taken, and from his family Saul was designated. This whole process at least tells us that all Israel was considered, but Saul was the one whom God discerned to be the people's general preference.

But Saul was not to be found, which cause further enquiry of God, who told them that Saul had hid himself among the baggage. Evidently at this time Saul was still "little in his own sight," and no doubt apprehensive of being given a place of such prominence and honor in Israel. He is then found and brought before all the people, and seen to be in height head and shoulders above all. The head of course speaks of intelligence, and the shoulders of strength to bear responsibility. These human qualities, great intelligence and strength, are considered the essentials in men's governments, but the more important matter of faith in and dependence upon the living God, is largely overlooked and forgotten by men.

Presenting him then to the people, Samuel told them that there was not another like this man whom the Lord had chose. To all outward appearances this was true, though Samuel had to be told by God later, "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (Chapter 16:7). The people respond with a great shout, "Let the king live." It is a great mercy of God in any culture when at least some measure of respect is shown for God-appointed authority.

Samuel then in addressing the people lays down the principles of the kingdom, after which he writes these in a book. Manifestly the government at its inception was not top heavy with ordinances, as is the case with virtually every government now. Of course the laws of God had been already given to Israel in scripture, and these remained in force just as before.

Of course there was no palace in which the king was privileged to live: the people went back to their homes and Saul did the same, though a band of men accompanied him "whose hearts God had touched." No doubt they were capable men, which was practically a necessity if Saul was to have the support he needed in his new office. On the other hand, we read of "children of Belial" who despised him and gave him no allegiance. These were the class of people who would "despise dominion and speak evil of dignities" (Jude 1:8), no matter who is placed in authority. Though believers know that the only ruler who can ever satisfy God is the Lord Jesus Christ, yet they recognize that at present "the powers that be are ordained of God" (Romans 13:1) and for this reason we are told to submit to them. The two books of Samuel give excellent instruction as to this question of proper subjection to government. On this occasion Saul's silence in bearing the despite of the men of Belial is commendable. At least at first he did not take advantage of his authority to act rigorously: he resorted to this only after he was established in the kingdom.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 10". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/1-samuel-10.html. 1897-1910.
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