Reading 78/341, 1 Samuel 9-12

With this reading, the age of the Judges is over. The Kingdom of Israel begins. As much as Samuel protests, things do seem better with a king, both from the perspective of Israel's military success and from our modern judgment of their actions.

...1 Samuel...

Now there was a man of Benjamin, whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah, the son of a Benjamite, a man of wealth. He had a son, whose name was Saul, an impressive young man, and there was not among the children of Israel a handsomer man than him. From his shoulders up he was taller than any of the people. The donkeys of Kish, Saul's father, were lost. Kish said to Saul his son, “Take now one of the servants with you, and arise and look for the donkeys.” He passed through the hill country of Ephraim, and passed through the land of Shalishah, but they did not find them, then they passed through the land of Shaalim, and there they were not there, and he passed through the land of the Benjamites, but they did not find them. When they had come to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant who was with him, “Come, and let us return, lest my father leave off caring for the donkeys, and be anxious for us.” He said to him, “See now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is a man who is held in honor; all that he says comes surely to pass. Let us go there. Perhaps he can tell us concerning our journey on which we go.” Then said Saul to his servant, “But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? For the bread is spent in our vessels, and there is no present to bring to the man of God. What do we have?” The servant answered Saul again, and said, “Behold, I have in my hand a quarter shekel of silver, that I will give to the man of God, to tell us our way.” (In earlier times in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he said, “Come, and let us go to the seer; for he who is now called a prophet was before called a seer.) Then Saul said to his servant, “Well said; come, let us go.” So they went to the city where the man of God was.
As they went up the ascent to the city, they found young maidens going out to draw water, and said to them, “Is the seer here?” They answered them, and said, “He is; behold, he is ahead of you. Hurry now, for he has come today into the city, for the people have a sacrifice today on the high place. As soon as you have come into the city, you shall immediately find him, before he goes up to the high place to eat; for the people will not eat until he come, because he blesses the sacrifice and afterwards the invited guests eat. Now therefore go up, for at this time you shall find him.” They went up to the city, and as they came within the city, behold, Samuel came out to them, to go up to the high place. Now the Lord had revealed to Samuel a day before Saul came, saying, “Tomorrow about this time I will send you a man out of the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel, and he shall save my people out of the hand of the Philistines, for I have looked on my people, because their cry has come to me.” When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said to him, “Behold the man of whom I spoke to you! This one shall have authority over my people.” Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, “Tell me, please, where the seer's house is.” Samuel answered Saul, and said, “I am the seer; go up before me to the high place, for you shall eat with me today, and in the morning I will let you go, and will tell you all that is in your heart. As for your donkeys who were lost three days ago, do not set your mind on them; for they have been found. For whom is all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for you, and for all your father's house?” Saul answered, “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? And my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak to me in this way?”
Samuel took Saul and his servant, and brought them into the guest room, and made them sit in the best place among those who were invited, who were about thirty people. Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the portion which I gave you, of which I said to you, ‘Set this aside.’” The cook took up the thigh, and what was on it, and set it before Saul. Samuel said, “Behold, what has been reserved is set before you. Eat, for this was kept for you until the appointed time, for I said, ‘I have invited people.” So Saul ate with Samuel that day. When they had come down from the high place into the city, he talked with Saul on the housetop. They arose early, and it happened about the break of day, that Samuel called to Saul on the housetop, saying, “Get up, that I may send you away.” Saul arose, and they both went out, he and Samuel, down the street. As they were going down to the end of the city, Samuel said to Saul, “Bid the servant pass on before us,” (and he passed on), “but you stand still first, that I may cause you to hear the word of God.” Then Samuel took the flask of oil, and poured it on his head, and kissed him, and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his inheritance? When you have departed from me today, you shall find two men by Rachel's tomb, in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah, and they will tell you, ‘The donkeys which you went to seek are found, and behold, your father has left off caring for the donkeys, and is anxious for you, saying, “What shall I do about my son?”’ Then shall you go on forward from there, and you shall come to the oak of Tabor, and there you shall meet three men going up to God at Bethel, one carrying three kid goats, and another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine, and they will greet you, and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall receive from their hand. After that you shall come to the hill of God, where the garrison of the Philistines is, and it shall happen, when you are come there to the city, that you shall meet a band of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tambourine, and a pipe, and a harp, before them, and they will be prophesying, and the Spirit of the Lord will come mightily on you, and you shall prophesy with them, and shall be turned into another man. Let it be, when these signs have come upon you, that you do as you hand finds to do, for God is with you. You shall go down before me to Gilgal, and behold, I will come down to you, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings. Seven days shall you wait, until I come to you, and show you what you shall do.”
It was so, that when he had turned his back to go away from Samuel, God gave him another heart, and all those signs happened that day. When they came there to the hill, behold, a band of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God came mightily on him, and he prophesied among them. It happened, when all who knew him before saw that, behold, he prophesied with the prophets, then the people said one to another, “What is this that has come upon the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” A man of the same place answered, “Who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” When he had made an end of prophesying, he came to the high place. Saul's uncle said to him and to his servant, “Where did you go?” He said, “To seek the donkeys, and when we saw that they were not found, we came to Samuel.” Saul's uncle said, “Tell me, please, what Samuel said to you.” Saul said to his uncle, “He told us plainly that the donkeys were found.” But concerning the matter of the kingdom, of which Samuel spoke, he did not tell him.
Samuel called the people together to the Lord at Mizpah, and he said to the children of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all the kingdoms that oppressed you, but you have this day rejected your God, who himself saves you out of all your calamities and your distresses, 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 thousands.” So Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken. He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by their families, and the family of the Matrites was taken, and Saul the son of Kish was taken, but when they sought him, he could not be found. Therefore they asked of the Lord further, “Is there yet a man to come here?” The Lord answered, “Behold, he has hid himself among the baggage.” They ran and fetched him there, and when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders up. Samuel said to all the people, “You see him whom the Lord has chosen, that there is none like him among all the people?” All the people shouted, and said, “Long live the king.” Then Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the Lord. Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house. Saul also went to his house to Gibeah, and the army went there with him, whose hearts God had touched. But certain worthless fellows said, “How shall this man save us?” They despised him, and brought him no present. But he held his peace.
Then Nahash the Ammonite came up, and besieged Jabesh-gilead, and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Make a treaty with us, and we will serve you.” Nahash the Ammonite said to them, “On this condition will I make it with you, that all your right eyes be put out, and I will thus disgrace all Israel.” The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days' respite, that we may send messengers to all the territories of Israel, and then, if there be none to save us, we will come out to you.” The messengers came to Gibeah, to Saul, and spoke these words in the ears of the people, and all the people lifted up their voice, and wept. Behold, Saul came following the oxen out of the field, and Saul said, “What ails the people that they weep?” They told him the words of the men of Jabesh. The Spirit of God came mightily on Saul when he heard those words, and his anger was kindled greatly. He took a yoke of oxen, and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the territories of Israel by the hand of messengers, saying, “Whoever does not come forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen.” The dread of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out as one man. He numbered them in Bezek, and the children of Israel were 300,000, and the men of Judah 30,000. They said to the messengers who came, Thus shall you tell the men of Jabesh-gilead, “Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you shall have deliverance.” The messengers came and told the men of Jabesh, and they were glad. Therefore the men of Jabesh said, “Tomorrow we will come out to you, and you shall do with us all that seems good to you.” It was so on the next day, that Saul put the people in three companies, and they came into the midst of the camp in the morning watch, and struck the Ammonites until the heat of the day, and it happened, that those who remained were scattered, so that no two of them were left together. The people said to Samuel, “Who said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring the men, that we may put them to death.” Saul said, “No man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has worked deliverance in Israel.” Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there.” All the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal, and there they offered sacrifices of peace offerings before the Lord, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.
Samuel said to all Israel, “Behold, I have listened to your voice in all that you said to me, and have made a king over you. Now, behold, the king walks before you, and I am old and gray-headed, and behold, my sons are with you, and I have walked before you from my youth to this day. Here I am. Witness against me before the Lord, and before his anointed, whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or of whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with? I will restore it you.” They said, “You have not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, nor have you taken anything of any man's hand.” He said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” They said, “He is witness.” Samuel said to the people, “It is the Lord who appointed Moses and Aaron, and brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt. Now therefore stand still, that I may plead with you before the Lord concerning all the righteous acts of the Lord, which he did to you and to your fathers. When Jacob had come into Egypt, and your fathers cried to the Lord, the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought forth your fathers out of Egypt, and made them to dwell in this place. But they forgot the Lord their God, and he sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them. They cried to the Lord, and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord, and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve you.’ The Lord sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and you lived in safety. When you saw that Nahash, the king of the children of Ammon, came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us’, but the Lord your God was your king. Now therefore see the king whom you have chosen, and whom you have asked for, and behold, the Lord has set a king over you. If you will fear the Lord, and serve him, and listen to his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and both you and also the king who reigns over you are followers of the Lord your God, all is well, but if you will not listen to the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then will the hand of the Lord be against you, as it was against your fathers. Now therefore stand still and see this great thing, which the Lord will do before your eyes. Is it not the wheat harvest today? I will call to the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain, and you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking for a king.”
So Samuel called to the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. All the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for a king.” Samuel said to the people, “Be not afraid; you have indeed done all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart, and do not turn aside, for then you would go after vain things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are vain. For the Lord will not forsake his people for his great name's sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. Moreover as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you, but I will instruct you in the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart, for consider the great things he has done for you. But if you shall still do wickedly, you shall be consumed, both you and your king.”

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