Chapter 9- Kish the Benjamite has a very handsome son named Saul. Kish’s donkeys get lost, and so he sends Saul and a servant to look for them. Saul doesn’t have any luck locating them, so the servant suggests they go speak with a man of God for guidance where they might be. This man of God just so happens to be Samuel, who had received a message from God the day before that the Benjamite who comes to see him should be anointed as commander over Israel. Samuel takes Saul to a feast, and gives him choice portions of food, then sends the servant away so that he may tell Saul the word of God.
Verse 2, “And he [Kish] had a choice and handsome son whose name was Saul. There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.” Makes me wonder what they considered handsome back then. Too bad cameras didn’t exist yet. Or more detailed accounts of what Saul looked like. I’m curious.
Chapter 10- Samuel anoints Saul, then tells him where to go to receive some messages, prophesy for a bit, then meet up with Samuel again. Things happen as Samuel said they would. Saul runs in to his uncle who asks where he’s been. Saul says he was looking for the donkeys, but doesn’t mention the whole getting anointed bit. Then Samuel presents Saul to the people as their king, and gives the people a book about the behavior of royalty. Some people aren’t happy about Saul being king.
I have to wonder if Saul realized what was going on. It kinda went from “Where are my donkeys?” to “Let’s eat dinner” to “Go prophesy for a bit” to “Oh, by the way, you’re king now.”
This story of how Saul comes to be the king reminds me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
King Arthur: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. That is why I am your king.
Dennis the Peasant: Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
Arthur: Be quiet!
Dennis the Peasant: You can’t expect to wield supreme power just ’cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!
Chapter 11- Nahash the Ammonite comes to Jabesh Gilead and threatens to put out everyone’s right eye. Saul threatens to kill the oxen of anyone who won’t go to battle against the Ammonites. Lots of people show up for battle, they defeat the Ammonites, and now the people all recognize Saul as king.
At least, that’s my best guess as to what happened in this chapter. The Bible’s editor did a poor job when it comes to story flow and continuity, and this chapter was particularly hard to parse.
Verse 8 is of interest to me, as it lists 300,000 fighters from Israel, and 30,000 from Judah. From my church-going childhood, I remember that the people eventually end up with two main kingdoms, Israel and Judah, and I had been wondering how they transitioned from 12 tribes to two kingdoms. This is the first indication I’ve noticed of that shift occurring.
Chapter 12- Samuel speaks to the people and basically washes his hands of the fact that he anointed Saul as king. He again tells them that they are wicked for asking for a king, but that if they are faithful to God their king will lead them well. Then he has God deliver a thunderstorm as a sign to make the people fearful.
And that’s all I have to say about that.