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Deeper Commentary

1Sa 10:1 Then Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, Hasn’t Yahweh anointed you to be prince over His inheritance?-
The significance of the kiss was maybe to simply show this secular man that actually, God really loved him. He really wanted Saul to work out well, and was not at all predestining him to failure. He was reminded that he was only prince over God's inheritance; the kingdom was always to be God's, and not Saul's. And yet he later reasoned with Jonathan as if the kingdom was theirs and not God's. All his angst about David becoming king would have not been an item had he believed that the Kingdom is God's and not ours. An inheritance was all a man had, and was more important to him than his own life. And we God's people are His inheritance... We are no mere plaything within the boundless function of an omnipotent being.

Samuel's kissing of Saul may reflect a genuine fondness for him (1 Sam. 10:1); hence he is told to stop grieving that Saul has gone wrong (1 Sam. 16:1). And yet it was through Samuel that God had foretold what a bad man Saul would be. But Samuel's grief and fondness for Saul surely reflects how he understood that those prophecies were not inevitably going to be fulfilled. Samuel knew that Saul could have acted otherwise as he lived in the gap between prophecy and fulfilment.

1Sa 10:2 When you have departed from me today you will find two men by Rachel’s tomb, in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah, and they will tell you, ‘The donkeys which you went to seek have been found, and your father has stopped caring about the donkeys, and is anxious for you, saying, What shall I do for my son? ’-
Rachel’s grave was on the road from Bethel to Ephrath / Bethlehem (Gen. 35:16-20; 48:7). Assuming Samuel and Saul were in Ramah, to go here was a long way out of Saul's way if he were returning home. Especially as he presumably wanted to get home as soon as possible to comfort his anxious father. Samuel's statement that Kish was anxious for Saul confirmed what Saul himself had been thinking (1 Sam. 9:5). To go there was therefore a test of his obedience- and he passed it. He did indeed begin well. Spiritual paths often do begin with simple tests like this.

This detail would be relevant for the exiles, for whom this history was apparently rewritten. For Jer. 31:15 seems to imply that as the exiles of Judah were marched into captivity from Jerusalem, they passed Rachel's tomb and wept there for their lost children. The idea was that not only Samuel but others were also prophets in Israel, and these were the men whom Saul ought to be associated with when he became king.

1Sa 10:3 Then you will go on from there and you will come to the oak of Tabor. Three men will meet you there, going up to God to Bethel, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread and another carrying a bottle of wine-
"Tabor" may possibly be a form of "Deborah", referencing the oak of Deborah, Rebecca's nurse; Deborah was buried beneath an oak "under Bethel" (Gen. 35:8), It could equally refer to the tree under which the judge Deborah had more recently judged Israel, again nearby, between Ramah and Bethel (Jud. 4:5).  Saul was to be further introduced to the faithful within Israel, whom Samuel hoped he would associate with. Perhaps these faithful men also had Divine revelation about Saul as Samuel had had, or maybe he got word to them of his plans for Saul.    .

The priests were God’s representatives, and for a man to ‘appear before the Lord’ effectively referred to his appearance before the priest. When we read of “men going up to God at Bethel”, the ‘house of God’ (1 Sam. 10:3), we aren’t to think that God Himself lived in a house in Bethel. The reference is to the priests, His representative, being there.

1Sa 10:4 They will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them-
A symbolic gift of food [for two loaves is not much] reflected acceptance of the person receiving the food, and even acceptance of them as a leader.

The extent of God’s activity for us is simply huge. Just consider all the apparently insignificant details added in to God's plan for making Saul king here and in :3. One of this, two of that, three of those... why such detail? It's the same question as to why is the cosmos so vast, the range of plant and animal life on earth so huge and varied. Perhaps in Saul's case all the detail was necessary in order to try to build faith in him, and to demonstrate for all time the capability of God to have micro level involvement and control in human experiences.

Saul had no bread with him (1 Sam. 9:7); God saw his lack and would provide. His inadequacies were covered by God's potential provision. But the loaves were intended for offering to God, and Saul was to accept them, implying he was to eat them; Saul's lack of bread would be met in this way. By accepting the offerings intended for God, he was to act as a priest and to accept them on God's behalf. For the loaves were intended for sacrifice to God. He was to see that God wanted him as His representative, and if he accepted this, then his human inadequacy [lack of bread] would thus be met. He was being set up for success, not failure.

1Sa 10:5 After that you will come to the hill of God-
A place called Gibeath-Elohim. The hill of God probably means the ark was there. Again it was in Philistine hands, and again it had failed to help Israel. If this is the Gibeah of Saul where Saul was from, we learn that he had grown up where the ark was, admittedly under Philistine control, and where there was a school of the prophets taught by Samuel (1 Sam. 19:20). But he didn't recognize Samuel when he met him and apparently was totally disengaged with Yahweh worship. Hence the surprised "Is Saul also among the prophets?", and the wonder of how God's Spirit transformed such a secular man.

Where the garrison of the Philistines is, and when you come near to the city you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, a tambourine, a pipe and a harp being played before them. They will be prophesying-
Again Saul is being shown that there were other spiritually minded believers in Israel, right under the noses of the Philistine garrison. Saul didn't even know Samuel to look at, and he clearly moved outside the sphere of believers. He appears to have felt lost when actually not that far from home (1 Sam. 9:6,8), so he may never have travelled far from his birthplace- like many rural folk in Israel at the time. The Biblical idea of prophesying is speaking forth God's word, not necessarily predicting the future. But it may be that these prophets were doing both, speaking under inspiration of Saul's future kingship.

1Sa 10:6 and the Spirit of Yahweh will come mightily on you, and you will prophesy with them, and you will be changed into another person-
Here we see the essence of the work of the Spirit; it is not so much the miraculous gifts, as the internal change of the person. And that is what we so desperately need, and is a strong reason in our age to encourage people to accept the Lord Jesus and be baptized, knowing that this leads to the gift of the same transforming Spirit in the hearts and persons of people. And this transformation is our greatest need. Whilst the gift of the Spirit as we currently experience it is predicated upon the Lord's death and resurrection, through which His Spirit is poured out upon His people (Jn. 7:39), yet clearly God even in Old Testament times was active through His Spirit directly on human hearts. The parallel in :9 says that Saul was 'given' (s.w. "changed" in :6) another heart. The same word is used in Ps. 105:25 of how God turned or changed the heart of the Egyptians towards hatred of His people. It is the word used of how Gentiles will be "converted" or turned to Yahweh (Is. 60:5)- by His work upon them, and not their own unaided intellectual searching for truth. The Spirit is not simply the power of God but also His mind and thinking, which precedes or is the essence of His actions. To be given God's Spirit is essentially to have our spirit changed; His breathing, His mind, becomes ours. And this is what happened to Saul. But as we see from his later life, God will not force a man to be other than what he himself wishes to be. If we wish to be spiritually minded, we will be helped toward this by the Spirit. If we do not, then as with Saul, an evil spirit from God will confirm us in the psychological path we prefer to take.

1Sa 10:7 When these signs have happened, then do as occasion demands, for God is with you-
"As occasion demands" is hard to translate. Literally, "do what your hand shall find". I have discussed on 1 Sam. 9:4 how Saul didn't "find" the donkeys but was "found" by God and "found" everything he needed whilst he was in the way of the Spirit, doing the work of the Kingdom. Although the Spirit would come upon him and transform him, he would still have freewill and was to act on his own initiative, having God "with" him as he did so. This gives quite some insight into the operation of the Spirit to this day. And yet this doesn't preclude the need to follow specific commands as we have in :8. Here we see the interplay between human action and God's confirmation. Saul was to do as he could in response to his calling, and God would work with that. This is the work of the Spirit.  The idea seem to be that Saul had God with him and was to act in response to his calling. Whatever he did would prosper. The fact God departed from him (1 Sam. 28:15) was a sad reflection of how initially God had been with Saul (1 Sam. 10:7). In Saul's case it was given by the pure grace of how God calls otherwise unspiritual people. But in response to their rejection of His Spirit, God will send an evil spirit to confirm them in that rejection, as happened later in Saul's life.

1Sa 10:8 Go down before me to Gilgal and I will come down to you, to offer burnt offerings and to make sacrifices of peace offerings. Wait seven days until I come to you and show you what you must do-
It seems to me that all the Lord's servants are taught by increments, progressively, being given tests as to the degree to which they have grasped what the Lord has sought to teach them previously. Take Saul. At the beginning of his intended ministry, he was told by Samuel to wait for his coming, when he would offer sacrifices. Saul obediently obeyed; yet when he was tested on this very point in this very way at a later stage, he failed. It is for this reason that circumstances repeat so strangely in the lives of God's people. See on 1 Sam. 16:3.  

An alternative is that this command was not for immediate obedience, and it was only later that Saul had to wait for Samuel at Gilgal- and he failed.

1Sa 10:9 When Saul had turned to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart, and all those signs happened that day-
This gift of another heart was through the Spirit coming upon him (see on :6,10). "The same word is used for the transformation of Moses' rod into a serpent (Ex. 7:15), or the Nile water to blood (Ex. 7:20)- and the "overthrow" of Sodom (Gen. 19:21,29). This is the work of the Spirit- a fundamental transformation and reconstitution of a person's mind. But they have to be willing to accept it in an ongoing way. I have seen so many transformed by the birth of water and Spirit- but not continuing to run with it. And so it was to be with Saul. "Gave" is the same word for "changed" in :6. So  "Another heart" is clearly parallel with "another person" (:6). The heart is the person, and the Spirit is a term which embraces the heart / mind.

This is further evidence that God can work directly upon the hearts of people, including those like the Egyptians who are not His people. The heart of Saul was likewise turned (s.w. Ps. 105:25 He turned their heart"). This is effected today by the work of the Holy Spirit directly upon human spirits / hearts.

The association of an Angel with God's "good spirit" in Neh. 9:20 suggests that the good and evil spirits that troubled Saul were actually Angelically-controlled dispositions of mind, co-ordinated by two different Angels. This giving of a new heart to Saul by the Angel (1 Sam. 10:9) appears to be the basis of Jer. 31:33, where God says He will make a new Covenant with them (remember it was an Angel who made the Old Covenant also), when He "will put My Law in their inward parts... and will be their God". This giving a new heart to Israel described here and in Jer. 32:39 and Ez. 36:26 appears to be over and above Israel's personal spirituality, although as with the case of Saul it will probably be a vast magnification of some small spiritual effort made of their own freewill, as Saul must surely have had. Again we see how the record of Saul was rewritten [under inspiration] for the exiles. Yet these words are quoted in the New Testament about  God doing this to our hearts now (Heb. 8:10); inviting us to read the other passages in the New Testament concerning the Spirit creating a new mind or creation in us as referring to God being willing to do the same to us as He did to Saul (Acts 15:8,9; 2 Cor. 3:3; Gal. 4:6; Eph. 3:14-20).

1Sa 10:10 When they came to the hill a band of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God came mightily on him and he prophesied among them-
The hill was where the Philistine garrison was (:5). Although at that time the Israelites were allowed some autonomy, they were in power over Israel in this area. The association of this place with the outpouring of the Spirit was  surely to teach Saul that he was going to be empowered by the Spirit to defeat the Philistines and lead Israel to freedom from them. It was he, therefore, who should have fought Goliath, and he would have won, through the work of the Spirit. But Saul didn't want to use the potential. Hence his bitter jealousy of David was based upon a sense that  David had the faith to use the potential of the Spirit which he did not have. And it is spiritual jealousy which is the very worst and bitterest form of jealousy. Possession of the Spirit did not mean that someone was necessarily acceptable in God’s sight, e.g. Saul possessed it for a time as did the judges of Israel (Num. 11:17) although they were not righteous; they did not believe the report of Joshua and Caleb and therefore were condemned to die like the other Israelites, despite their having the Spirit - Psalm 82:1-7 says as much.

1Sa 10:11 When all who knew him before saw that he prophesied with the prophets, then the people said one to another, What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?-
It is possible that somehow there were people from Saul's home village who were present at the garrison of the Philistines when Saul began prophesying there. But it could also be that he continued prophesying on the way back to his home (see on :13), leading to this comment. The idea is that a totally secular man could instantly be transformed by the Spirit. This amazement by those who knew him, marvelling that he was the son of Kish, who also was not perhaps known for his spirituality, is also seen in the transformations of secular lives which the Spirit works today.

1Sa 10:12 A man who lived there answered, Who is their father? Therefore it became a proverb: Is Saul also among the prophets?-
As suggested on :11, the idea may be that Kish was not known for his spirituality. This amazing transformation of Saul therefore gave birth to the proverb, because it meant that the unspiritual way in which he was raised was no barrier to the work of the Spirit upon Saul's heart. This really does happen today also, and such transformations are the greatest advertisement for the Gospel. "Who is their / his father?" may mean that Saul now appears as a spiritual person, whereas his family background wasn't spiritual. Hence the comment "What has happened to the son of Kish?", as if Kish wasn't a spiritual person. The transformation of the Spirit means that we are a new creation, and bad family background or even apparent genetic spiritual disadvantage is nothing compared to the transformation of the Spirit. Old things have passed away and all things have become new- we are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).

1Sa 10:13 When he had stopped prophesying, he came to the high place-
LXX "to Gibeah". It's possible that on the way home to Gibeah of Saul, he met people who had previously known him (see on :11). If we retain the reading "the high place", we conclude that the work of the Spirit led him to come and make a sacrifice at the high place; when from the account in 1 Sam. 9, it seems he had never made such a sacrifice in his life. And this is where the work of the Spirit leads- to the principle of sacrifice.

1Sa 10:14 Saul’s uncle said to him and to his servant, Where did you go? He said, To seek the donkeys. When we saw that they were not to be found we came to Samuel-
"Seek" is not really the word one would use for searching for lost cattle. It is the word more usually used for seeking in prayer or worship. The transformation of the Spirit led to Saul's vocabulary changing; and he now speaks of Samuel as if he was of course known to the family. When in reality Saul didn't recognize Samuel when he met him, indicating he had never attended Samuel's meetings. Such change in language is a typical reflection of the Spirit's transforming work.

1Sa 10:15 Saul’s uncle said, Please tell me what Samuel said to you-
I suggested on 1 Sam. 9:3 that the donkeys were a symbol of leadership or even kingship. Therefore Samuel's commentary upon them being lost but then found was significant to Saul's uncle. We note that Saul's servant and Saul's uncle speak as if they know Samuel, whereas Saul doesn't recognize him nor apparently know much about him. He was not the spiritual one in the family, but he was the one chosen to be transformed by the Spirit. Truly old things passed away and all things became new in this new creation of the Spirit; background and previous spirituality was and is irrelevant to the work of the Spirit.

1Sa 10:16 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 didn’t tell him-
We wonder why he didn't, especially given the amazing signs and wonders he had experienced in the wake of the statement about him becoming king. Indeed, he had been anointed to be king. His silence could have been bashful humility, or it could have been a lack of faith in running with the possibilities now opened up to him. The fact Saul does nothing until he is called by the Ammonite crisis indicates his passivity to the call. See on :21.

1Sa 10:17 Samuel called the people together to Yahweh to Mizpah-
"Mizpah" means watchtower, an appropriate place for a prophet to make statements. But Samuel called the people "to Yahweh". It was a calling to Him, to repentance. Just as Saul was called, so the people were called. 'Calling' is a major theme in this section.

1Sa 10:18 and he said to the people of Israel, Thus says Yahweh, 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-
This is said in the context of the people wanting a human king to lead them. They were bidden reflect how it was God who had led them and saved them from their enemies, even leading them out of Egypt. The local neighbouring tribes they were up against were nothing compared to Egypt. "Oppress" is the word used of how Israel were oppressed in Egypt (Ex. 3:9). But the intention, as with Israel's latter day oppression, is that it would lead them to cry out for Yahweh's salvation, 'Jesus': "For they will cry to Yahweh because of oppressors, and He will send them a saviour and a defender, and He will deliver them" (Is. 19:20 s.w.). All the judges were therefore types of the ultimate deliverance of Israel by the Lord Jesus in the last days.

1Sa 10:19 but you have this day rejected your God, who Himself saves you out of all your calamities and your distresses-
The stress is upon "who Himself". God had saved them by His direct leadership, and not through any human king. But always humanity shies away from the wonder of direct personal relationship with God. Many today prefer to hide at the bottom of a huge supposed hierarchy of priests, bishops, denominational membership etc.- rather than accept direct personal relationship with God. Just as God wished to speak directly to Israel, but they ran away from Him and wanted Moses instead to report to them what God had said. See on 1 Sam. 12:6.

You have said to Him, ‘No! Set a king over us’. Now therefore present yourselves before Yahweh by your tribes and by your thousands-
God does make concessions to human weakness; He gave them a king in His wrath, Hosea says. But using those concessions ultimately makes obedience harder. It was God's wish that Israel would not have a human king; hence His sorrow when they did (1 Sam. 10:19-21). Yet in the Law, God foresaw that they would want a human king, and so He gave commandments concerning how he should behave (Dt. 17:14,15). These passages speak of how Israel would choose to set a King over themselves, and would do so. Yet God worked through this system of human kings; hence the Queen of Sheba speaks of how God had set Solomon over Israel as King, and how he was king on God's behalf (2 Chron. 9:8). Israel set a king over themselves; but God worked with this, so that in a sense He set the King over them. God's ideal was that the Levites would live from the tithes given by Israel (Dt. 14:27); but He foresaw that this ideal level wouldn't be reached by them, therefore the Levites were given land on which to grow their own crops for survival. However, it must be noted that by opting to make use of God's concessions to human weakness, real spirituality became harder to achieve. Thus it was harder to accept Yahweh as King if they had a human king demanding their allegiance.

1Sa 10:20 So Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel together, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken-
To gather representatives from all the tribes would have taken significant planning, and also their willingness to participate.

1Sa 10:21 He brought the tribe of Benjamin forward 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-
Clearly it was God who chose Saul by this very public method of drawing lots, probably chosen by the urim and thummim. Yet Israel chose Saul, we are told. God again shows how He chose the man they would have chosen, and the peoples' joy in Saul shows that indeed He had chosen as they would have done. Again we learn that we get what we really want if it is our heart's desire. And that principle applies positively to we who seek His Kingdom above all.

Again we have questions which the record leaves hanging intentionally open. Was he hiding because he was humble? 1 Sam. 15:17 could encourage us to read him this way; he was exalted when he was "little" in his own eyes. And this was understood by Saul, who changed his name to Paul, the little one, in seeking to emulate the early spirit of Saul. Or because as suggested on :16, he failed to have the faith to be proactive after his anointing? The fact Saul was present at the gathering surely means that he had come along expecting to be pronounced king. Perhaps his nerve failed him, a kind of stage fright at the last minute. Human motivation and spirituality is nearly always mixed, and perhaps that is why these questions are left hanging.

1Sa 10:22 Therefore they asked of Yahweh further, Did the man come here? Yahweh answered, He has hidden himself among the baggage-
We think of the Lord's parable of the man who hid his talent in the earth. Saul had after all been anointed to be king, and had experienced signs confirming that. David continually accuses Saul of "arrogance" in the Psalms he wrote reflecting upon Saul's persecution of him (e.g. Ps. 10:2); whereas Saul begins as an apparently humble man who doesn't feel worthy to be king, hiding himself to avoid being king (1 Sam. 15:17), and restraining himself when some mocked him as an inappropriate leader (1 Sam. 10:27). Saul's descent into apostasy was therefore primarily a descent into pride. Being called to do something for God so often makes men pride, when the invitation is intended to humble us; just as David's psalm of humility in Psalm 8 after killing of Goliath was a protestation of humility. "Who am I, to do this work for You?" ought to be our sense. However we will note on Ps. 10:10 that Saul had a false humility; so perhaps his initial humility was not genuine.

For the tallest man in Israel to hide... was impossible. It's as if resistance to the Spirit's call is futile. We cannot hide from it. In fact we have no choice but to totally surrender to the way of the Spirit, and resistance or backtracking on it will lead to the tragedy of Saul.

1Sa 10:23 They ran and fetched him, and when he stood among the people he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders and upward-
Truly God gave them just the kind of king they wanted. His unusual height made him the ideal person to fight Goliath, and his failure to do so suggests a failure to rise up to the potential given him. Perhaps the extensive prophesying from him and others right under the noses of the Philistines in :5,6 was about victory over the Philistines. Hence his bitter spiritual jealousy of David, who did rise up to the potential.

1Sa 10:24 Samuel said to all the people, You see the one whom Yahweh has chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? All the people shouted, Long live the king!-
As found often in Daniel, Gentile kings were addressed with the wish that "O King, live for ever". They were greeting their new king just as the Gentile nations did; and yet no man is immortal, and this was a phrase better not used by those who believed in the mortality of man, and that no king was in fact immortal. Or we could translate "Let the King save!". But this was a rejection of Yahweh as their saviour, and their insistence upon a visible leadership rather than accepting God's invisible leadership.

1Sa 10:25 Then Samuel told the people the regulations of the kingdom, wrote them in a book and laid it up before Yahweh. Samuel sent all the people away to their homes-
These regulations were perhaps the laws in Deuteronomy about how the king of Israel should behave, not multiplying horses etc. Being laid up before Yahweh may have meant placing it in a pouch on the ark. But mishpat, "regulations", is also more commonly the idea of a verdict or judgment. It could be that Samuel wrote down his inspired judgment on this matter from God- that He didn't want them to have a king but was going along with their request, even though it meant their rejection of Him.

1Sa 10:26 Saul also went to his house to Gibeah and with him the valiant men whose hearts God had touched-
These men were those who like him had experienced the work of the Spirit directly upon their hearts (see on :6,9). The same word is used of how God touched [AV "plagued"] the hearts of the Egyptians (Ex. 9:14). He can work directly on the human heart; this is the work of the Spirit, which is exactly what is needed by we weak minded people who want to be spiritual. Our deepest need is met in the Spirit, and yet it is this very topic which has provoked so much fear and controversy in the circles of believers. "The valiant men" is AV "a band of men", presumably the prophets of :5. They were to spiritually teach him in order to prepare him for kingship. Whether he paid attention or not we don't know; all we next read of him is that he was working in his fields and came home one evening to hear of the crisis at Jabesh (1 Sam. 11:5). 

1Sa 10:27 But some worthless fellows said, How can this man save us? They despised him and brought him no present-
Clearly Saul was considered a nobody who had no military experience. It could however be that these worthless fellows were those who considered him to be spiritually unqualified to be king; and by thinking that of the man God had chosen and was in process of transforming, they were categorized themselves as unspiritual people. 

But he was as though he had been deaf-
See on :22; Ps. 38:13. David learnt the secret of seeing the positive in our weak brethren, and he didn’t let all that was wrong with Saul interfere with this. He describes himself as responding to criticism like this: “I as a deaf man, heard not” (Ps. 38:13). Yet he was alluding to how Saul, when likewise criticized by “sons of belial”, “was as though he had been deaf” to their words (1 Sam. 10:27 RVmg.). He saw the good in Saul, he remembered that one good example he showed- and it empowered him to follow it.