We left off last time and Saul had claimed that he had fulfilled the commandment of the Lord, which included destroying all of the livestock of the Amalekites (15:3). This whole episode would almost be comic were not the issue and stakes so very, very serious. He was told to kill the animals and yet Samuel hears the bleating of sheep. Samuel may have been old, but he was neither deaf nor stupid. Saul said one thing, and all the evidence said another. Samuel probably had to wonder just how dumb did Saul think he was? Maybe he thought Samuel would overlook his disobedience to the commandment he was given.
Well, that wasn't going to happen. Samuel knew his God and if he did not do his job, he would have been a classic 'after the fact' co-conspirator with Saul. Again, that just wasn't going to happen. Remember, Samuel had spent a long night praying about the situation earlier in this chapter and the Lord had already spoken to Samuel about Saul. What did he say?
"It repenteth meWell, little did Saul know, that Samuel already had a strong divinely given word that he didn't do what he was commanded before he arrived. But this is so typical. God gives men a high position to serve him and then they turn on him. Either through arrogance, weakness of character, temptation or listening to the wrong people, they forget the Lord and rebel against his express commandments. This is what happened to Saul here. He was told what to do and did not do it. Moreover, he lied about it.
that I have set up Saul to be king;
for he is turned back from following me,
and hath not performed my commandments.
And Samuel was wroth; and he cried unto Jehovah all night."
(1 Samuel 15:11 - ASV)
Then Samuel said unto Saul,Samuel here basically runs down the situation to Saul from his rise to the throne and the great honor it was to be elevated above all others in Israel. After all of this, one would think he would be most careful about obeying God's commandments seeing he was of such humble origins. Then Saul reminds him of the commandment he was given to fulfill and to be one of God's instruments on earth to accomplish his will. Then he asks the question, the key question. Why did you disobey? Why did you do evil in God's sight?
Stay, and I will tell thee
what Jehovah hath said to me this night.
And he said unto him, Say on.
And Samuel said, Though thou wast little
in thine own sight, wast thou not made
the head of the tribes of Israel?
And Jehovah anointed thee king over Israel;
and Jehovah sent thee on a journey,
and said, Go, and utterly destroy the
sinners the Amalekites, and fight against
them until they be consumed.
Wherefore then didst thou
not obey the voice of Jehovah,
but didst fly upon the spoil,
and didst that which was evil
in the sight of Jehovah?
(1 Samuel 15:16-19 - ASV)
And Saul said unto Samuel,
Yea, I have obeyed the voice of Jehovah,
and have gone the way which Jehovah sent me
and have brought Agag the king of Amalek,
and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.
But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen,
the chief of the devoted things,
to sacrifice unto Jehovah thy God in Gilgal.
(1 Samuel 15:20-21 - ASV)
Now comes the excuses. But Saul starts off by contesting what Samuel had said claiming he did do what he was commanded, but they tries to put off the disobedience onto the people, whom he claims wanted to sacrifice to the Lord. Well, perhaps... perhaps not; the text is not clear other than Saul's mention of this which may have been said merely to justify his disobedience. The key here is that he was told to do one thing and did not do it and now wants to blame someone else. He was King, he could have issued a royal commandment. He was not so shy about issuing commands before when he swore an oath keeping Israel from eating when they were in pursuit of the Philistines. But now when it came to obeying the Lord, he was shy about it.Here is an oft quoted passage of scripture and for good reason. It is a call to obedience, not ritual, not sacrifice but to obedience. There is nothing wrong with ritual or sacrifice as each has their place. But the key here and in any walk with God is obedience, something that Saul had a real problem with.
Also noteworthy is the fact that Saul did not at all appear to be repentant or sorrowful for not having obeyed. No, he was making excuses. One thing I have learned walking with God all of these years - when we mess up, God hears prayers of repentance, not a litany of excuses. You want God to plug up his ears when you pray? Keep on making excuses for your sins and mistakes. Deep in our souls when we make excuses rather than fessing up, we are paving the way for more sins and errors. Why? We will always have an excuse. This is why God is not interested in hearing them but rather will hear prayers of contrition and repentance.
And Samuel said,
Hath Jehovah as great delight
in burnt-offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of Jehovah?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to hearken than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
and stubbornness is as idolatry and teraphim.
Because thou hast rejected the word of Jehovah,
he hath also rejected thee from being king.
(1 Samuel 15:22-23 - ASV)
But Saul's problem is one that is relevant for today. Obedience. Very few want to actually do what God commands and this is particularly true with many Churches. Some want to wear their robes and priestly vestments and be known as Pastor or Father. Some just want to go and hear the sermon and see the chalice and bread, sing the hymn's, etc., but obeying God? I mean really doing those things he commands? Not all want to do that because it costs. It can really cost. It's hard and as many of you know, the closer you walk with God, the more others will turn away from you. Why?
In many cases with nominal Christians, they have that form of godliness but deny its real power... from such we are commanded to turn away from (2 Timothy 3:5). It is not hard to find pastors and churchmen who go against the express commands of scripture.
So Samuel's words are also for today. God is not interested in you taking communion, raising holy hands in Church or hearing a new message from an evangelist if you aren't doing or going to do as you were commanded. Why bother? Ritual and sacrifice are meaningless if obedience is not present. This is the road to spiritual rejection. You want to become such a reject? This is the lesson plan.
Lesson one - disobey and rebel against the LordDo these things consistently and you will graduate from the school of spiritual rejects.
Lesson two - lie about it.
I also think Saul's whole excuse about a sacrifice was not genuine. It sounded good... 'holy', if you will and he may have thought that would appease Samuel. I think Samuel saw through Saul like a pane of freshly cleaned glass on a bright summer day.
He lets Saul know that God isn't nearly as interested in these things as he is in obedience. Moreover his rebellion is no better than the sin of witchcraft or bowing before an idol. The word used in the - ASV Teraphim is merely a transliteration of the actual Hebrew word (8655 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary - 1890). It means idols. In short what Samuel seems to be saying is that if Saul had bowed down before the gods of of the Amalekites or Philistines, he could not have done worse by the Lord.
By this act, Saul was to lose his Kingdom.
We will return to Samuel soon, God willing!!
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We left off last time and Saul had been given a commandment. It was to destroy utterly the Amalekites. If you recall, Samuel reminded Saul, who had won many victories, who had placed him on the throne (15:1). So Saul went over to the city of Amalek and laid wait for them. The word for laid wait (verse 5) has the connotation of an ambush. You can find a map of the general area at a decent Bible map site online. Saul was being entrusted with an important task, he was going to be the instrument of God fulfilling his word given back in Deuteronomy (25:19).
Saul pauses a moment and decides to warn the Kenites of what is coming and tells them to get out. Who are the Kenites? The Kenites were related to Moses (see Judges 1:16).
Saul remembered or perhaps was told by Samuel or reminded by some other elders of the former kindness of the Kenites.
The Kenites, it appears from the text, did not need to be told twice. Having witnessed the acts and power of the God of the Israelite's in the past they certainly found it prudent to make haste and get out of the danger area.
And Saul smote the Amalekites,
from Havilah as thou goest to Shur,
that is before Egypt.
(1 Samuel 15:7 - ASV)
The Kenites now departed, Saul could now go in and begin his military campaign. This looks to be a real rout.
So far so good, Saul is executing the Lord's commandment.
And he took Agag
the king of the Amalekites alive,
and utterly destroyed all the people
with the edge of the sword.
(1 Samuel 15:8 - ASV)
Again so far, mostly good with one caveat. He has destroyed the Amalekites all except the king, Agag. Why did he spare him? Perhaps he wanted a ransom for him or was afraid that it would set a bad precedent, killing a King, which Saul was one. In any event, God told Saul to get rid of all of them. Unless Saul completed the task, perhaps later for all Israel to see after perhaps some military 'Triumph' (public spectacle), he was moving into dangerous territory - disobedience.
But Saul and the people spared Agag,
and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen,
and of the fatlings, and the lambs,
and all that was good, and would not
utterly destroy them:
but everything that was vile and refuse,
that they destroyed utterly.
(1 Samuel 15:9 - ASV)
Now we move into the rebellion and disobedience of Saul. He was told to do one thing and decided to do another. This is so typical of so many believers today. God says one thing and then Christians find new 'justifications' for doing the exact opposite of what God clearly commands. This is exactly what Saul did here. Time and again, we see little signs of character flaws in Saul. This one was much more severe - he was given a specific command and he specifically disobeyed much of it.
One may think that Saul was being pitiful and merciful. Hardly, he killed everyone else on God's command, why spare the leader? Moreover, they took the all the livestock as well; those very things they were commanded to destroy, they took for themselves. I can almost hear the justifications for it "This is some choice livestock... it makes no sense to destroy it. Let's keep it and we can fatten our own herds and fill our own homes with these goodly things". They forgot the God who put Saul on the throne (at their insistence for such a King) and the God who led Israel out of Egypt. They owed him something as well, obedience; something they had shown time and again, they were unwilling to honor God with.
No, this was a big sin and something that God was not going to let pass.
Then came the word of JehovahGod knows all. He saw what Saul did and calls one of his most faithful servants, Samuel to tell him just what he thought about Saul's actions. He was sorry he made Saul King. He tells Samuel why, he turned away from following after God and obeying his commandments. This is key. This is key to this passage, the thrust of much of the OT's message and what is mostly wrong with the Western Church today. It is a pattern of turning back from following after God and obeying his commandments, even (and particularly) those we may not personally agree with or fully understand why. Clearly Saul did not agree with getting rid of Agag, and the people did not agree with killing all of that fat, lovely livestock. So they forget the commandments and did whatever it is they wanted to do, contrary to God's wishes... no, command!
unto Samuel, saying, It repenteth me
that I have set up Saul to be king;
for he is turned back from following me,
and hath not performed my commandments.
And Samuel was wroth;
and he cried unto Jehovah all night.
(1 Samuel 15:10-11 - ASV)
How many times do Christians do the same thing? I won't cite any specific examples of clear concise commandments in the NT that are not just ignored by Christians today, but openly flouted. It's the Saul syndrome and it is no less present in our Churches today. You can't get away with it. Churches may think they can, but they can't. The judge, even Jesus Christ notes these things and keep in mind how Christ looked upon the Seven Churches of Asia (Revelation Chapters 1-3). The Lord's warnings are not to be taken lightly nor are his commandments.
Samuel cried out to the Lord all night in prayer. He was angry. It was not clear what his anger was about, but probably that the Lord was so soon going to remove Saul from his place as King. The KJV renders the word grieved rather than wroth. But the word 2734 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary (1890) seems to have the connotation of being angry, really upset as it can mean to blaze up or burn. No, Saul seems to have been very upset about this whole affair but again, it is not clear where the anger is directed, it could be at Saul, who had previously been warned by Samuel (13:13).
I suspect that Samuel was probably a little frustrated with both as now this whole affair could reflect upon him and his office. He would not be the first prophet who was upset with the Lord (Jonah, Ezekiel). But he was probably also angry with Saul because he was such a... well..., 'knucklehead', for lack of a better word, when it came to obeying God's commandments. He picked and chose when and what to obey, like so many Christians today. Of note here is that Samuel does not appear to be some person that is secretly glad Saul has fallen from the Lord's favor (and whom Samuel was not wild about appointing in the first place). No, hardly. He seems to be most earnestly concerned with Saul and the government of the Kingdom.
But enough is enough and the Lord had had his fill of Saul's inconstancy, indecision and disobedience.
And Samuel rose early
to meet Saul in the morning;
and it was told Samuel, saying,
Saul came to Carmel, and, behold,
he set him up a monument, and turned,
and passed on, and went down to Gilgal.
And Samuel came to Saul; and Saul said unto him,
Blessed be thou of Jehovah:
I have performed the commandment of Jehovah.
(1 Samuel 15:12-13 - ASV)
After a long night in prayer, he got up to meet Saul. Let us keep in mind that Samuel was probably tired from having almost certainly interceded for Saul the previous night in prayer. It seems that Saul had set up some kind of monument. The word is probably best directly translated hand (3027 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary - 1890). It could mean a direction as in some kind of sign. It's not clear but translators render it some kind of place (KJV) or monument. This was probably done to remember the battle and victory. When Samuel arrives he is greeted by the King. But the blessing he utters is followed by a falsehood, for Saul did not obey the commandment of the Lord, not fully.
I think what is sad here is that Saul disobedience is followed by this falsehood. It shows a serious character flaw - flaws that will (as we shall see) cause him to be rejected as King by the Lord. Truth... this is a key trait in any man or woman who wishes to serve God.
Behold, thou desirest truthWhat is interesting about the above passage is that it is a direct contrast to Saul. This was written by King David after he sinned with Bath-sheba and Nathan came and spoke to him about it. Truth. This is so important. Obedience and truth - they really speak volumes about any persons character. Can their words be trusted? Do they utter lies to hide their own sins, crimes and shortcomings? Such a person will eventually tell bigger lies and cannot and should not be trusted. It was clear that God no longer trusted Saul with the throne. He had to go.
in the inward parts;
And in the hidden part
thou wilt make me
to know wisdom.
(Psalms 51:6 - ASV)
We will get to the next section of Samuel soon, God willing!
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God's Recompense: Slow But Sure
Saul gets a new commandment from Samuel. Samuel, here reminds Saul who sent Samuel to anoint Saul to be king and by that same authority makes it clear that he is being given a commandment.
Here the Samuel invokes the name Lord Of Hosts to refer to God. He is Israel's God who guides them in war. The word hosts is 6635 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary (1890) which means a mass of persons or army. It is probably not a stretch to use the term the God of Armies as this appears to be the implication for this title.
But the thrust of the command - this side of God's character is not in keeping with the 'baby milk' form of Christianity that is taught in some pulpits today. Yet this is the same God and as I like to impress upon all, this side of God's character is still very much part of him and his make up. The Lord does not change (Malachi 3:6). So Saul is being told that he is under a divine edict to go war against the Amalekites.
But many Christians will ask - how can one reconcile the Prince of Peace with passages like this? It's not hard to do if one can dispense with so much questionable theology about God, Christ and Christianity that is out and about these days.
God is a God of judgment, holiness and righteousness. He is also a God of love, great love for mankind. God will and has determined to judge sin and evil. All of it. Forget about this idea that God is going to forgive unrepentant sin and that men can just keep on doing greater and greater evil and God is not going to hold them to account. He has provided a way to be saved from judgment and the consequences for evil deeds in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is up to each of the sons and daughters of Adam (sons of men) to reach out and grab that salvation and forgiveness. If a person does not want it and would rather love and commit evil, then rest assured that person's wish will be granted.
So many new Christians just have a hard time with passages like the one above in Samuel though. They can't reconcile Jesus Christ with the God of the Old Testament. Let me try and help you just a bit on this.
All mankind is under a death sentence. That's right, me too. I am (or rather was) under a death sentence just like all the sons of men. We who commit sin have committed a capital offense, spiritually speaking. Lies, murder, thefts, blasphemy, hate, fraud, sexual perversions, adultery... brothers, God really hates these things.
For the wages of sin is death;
but the free gift of God is eternal life
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 6:23 - ASV)
So again, we are all under a death sentence for there is not a one of us who is free of sin and evil. Not one! But now consider this - God has tremendous latitude as to when he carries out that sentence on the sons of men. And who are we to complain? Has he not offered each and every one of us a free pardon?
There is therefore now no condemnation
to them that are in Christ Jesus.
(Romans 8:1 - ASV)
Let me ask you this, what judge in the US gives free pardon's out to offenders of capital crimes? None. But God loves mankind and wants to forgive us. Yes, very much so. He is not up there just 'itching' to destroy the human race. He wants us to cease with evil and do right, to speak truth, be honest in our dealings, forgive and love one another; cease with all of this hate, murder, thefts, lust, etc.
Yet God is a God of justice. How many times have you heard people say, 'Why doesn't God do something', when we see some new horror in our world that seems to go un-recompensed? We are offended by such things. God see's these things day in and day out. What... should he lash out at someone because you are offended and let you off the hook for the sins you have committed? That may be the way man does justice, but then look at the world today and the way certain people can commit serious crimes and get off and the guy who is poor and innocent and can't afford a lawyer winds up in prison, or worse.
No, God's standards are very different. He's got a universe to run but does not want to just be the 'harsh judge', but also wants to show his merciful and gracious side. It's completely up to us to decide which side of his character we will experience.
So each of us being under a death sentence, it is now completely up to God when, where and how that sentence will be carried out.
But God is also a God who is jealous of his name and those whom he calls his own. He protects his own and remembers evils done against his people. He has a very, very long memory and if the Lord lays a curse on something or someone, it may take a while for it to materialize, but it will come and be the worst nightmare for those who have troubled and done evil to his people or mocked and blasphemed God's holy name.
Let all, saint and sinner take heed.
Such is the case above. God did something very important in the days of Moses to be told to Joshua
(bold emphasis mine)
And Jehovah said unto Moses,
Write this for a memorial in a book,
and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua:
that I will utterly blot out
the remembrance of Amalek
from under heaven. And Moses built an altar,
and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi;
And he said, Jehovah hath sworn:
Jehovah will have war with Amalek
from generation to generation.
(Exodus 17:14-16 - ASV)
Amalek stood in the way of God's purpose and did so with violence. God remembers these things and was most angry with Amalek. How did the Psalmist put it (emphasis mine)?
They take crafty counsel against thy people,When the Amalekites stood and fought against Israel, they wanted to exterminate Israel and in so doing, they pronounced their own fate.
And consult together against thy hidden ones.
They have said, Come, and let us cut them off
from being a nation; That the name of Israel
may be no more in remembrance.
For they have consulted together with one consent;
Against thee do they make a covenant:
The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites;
Moab, and the Hagarenes; Gebal,
and Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia
with the inhabitants of Tyre:
Assyria also is joined with them;
They have helped the children of Lot.
(Psalms 83:3-8 - ASV)
God is a God of both forgiveness and vengeance. This is one time his vengeance comes into play. So what this passage is saying in essence is 'I have not forgotten what they did in the days of Moses and my account book shows a major deficit that must be paid for the evil they did'.
Let us not stand in the way of God's people or purpose. This was Amalek's key sin.
Remember this as well - it is God who gives life and all life; Jew and Gentile, Black and White, American or Zimbabwean, is his give and to take at his good pleasure. This is the ultimate issue of God's sovereignty. God gives each of us an allotment of time to live. For the Amalekites, the clock had run out and there was a reason for it - it was not arbitrary. This was because they stood against God, his people and his purpose. As an aside, Amelek may very well have been a decedent of Eliphaz the Temanite in Job (Genesis 36:12).
But you know what? This passage goes directly to the idea of National Sins. God remembers the sins of nations and the evil they do.
I believe that Matthew Henry (1662-1714) in his commentary gets this right in that he see's this whole episode as a test for Saul. He was winning battles and was getting known as a great warrior. Samuel comes along and reminds him who set him on the throne. Will he do what he is commanded... fully?
And Saul summoned the people,After getting the commandment from the mouth of the Lord's prophet, Saul prepares to go to battle accordingly. He got an account of the number of men ready for battle. We don't know where this place (Telaim) was exactly, though some commentators think it is the same as Telem (Joshua 15:24). It appears that the 200k number were all of the tribes, less Judah, which is listed here separately. Why are they listed separately? It's hard to say, but may show that the divisions in Israel, which would eventually split the kingdom, had been existent for some time before.
and numbered them in Telaim,
two hundred thousand footmen,
and ten thousand men of Judah.
And Saul came to the city of Amalek,
and laid wait in the valley.
(1 Samuel 15:4-5 - ASV)
We will continue our look at Samuel
next weeksoon, God willing.
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We left off last time the Israelites had won a victory and Saul and inquired after the Lord if they should go and finish the job. But there was no answer from the Lord. This non-reply on the Lord's part was taken that there was some sin in the camp that must be dealt with first. So Saul decides to find out just what is going on and what this sin is. Saul here swears another oath (just like he did last time with not eating) that whoever did this great sin, was going to pay for it, even if it was his own Son. The penalty for disobeying this was death.
I think Saul is showing a pattern of rashness. Some commentators may not agree, but twice we see him make oaths and neither one was well considered. Each seem to have been made in the heat of the moment and when angry and emotionally agitated. It's bad enough when ordinary people make decisions in such a state, but it can be disastrous for a king. I don't think any of you need to be reminded that oaths were not forbidden in the old covenant, but are in the new. So without knowing it, Saul was passing a death sentence on his son without knowing all of the facts and the key fact was that Jonathan was not cognizant of the commandment about not eating until Saul was avenged on his enemies.
Now clearly many knew that Jonathan had eaten but no one was about to speak up and accuse the King son. It is always bad business to speak up at such a time. If someone had reported Jonathan to the King, he might wind up not being believed and then what? Maybe his head would wind up laying unattached in the sand after the king expressed his rage against them - and Saul as we see, could be rash. It is unwise... most unwise to get involved in such squabbles. Additionally, it can be surmised that it was assumed that Jonathan would be in line for the succession so getting on the heir apparent's bad side would be most impolitic.
Then said he unto all Israel,
Be ye on one side,
and I and Jonathan my son
will be on the other side.
And the people said unto Saul,
Do what seemeth good unto thee.
(1 Samuel 14:40 - ASV)
So Saul decides to group Israel on one aide and both Saul and his son on the other. The people humbly acquiesce with this. This was being done to find out by lots who the guilty party was.
Therefore Saul said unto Jehovah,
the God of Israel, Show the right.
And Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot;
but the people escaped. And Saul said,
Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son.
And Jonathan was taken. Then Saul said to Jonathan,
Tell me what thou hast done.
And Jonathan told him, and said,
I did certainly taste a little honey
with the end of the rod that was in my hand;
and, lo, I must die. And Saul said,
God do so and more also;
for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan.
And the people said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die,
who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel?
Far from it: as Jehovah liveth, there shall
not one hair of his head fall to the ground;
for he hath wrought with God this day.
So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not.
(1 Samuel 14:41-45 - ASV)
It was by the intercession of the people that Jonathan did not die that day. I note something rather remarkable about Jonathan. That was that he did not make excuses. He did not whine and say he did not know about the commandment, though clearly he did not (14:27). No, he accepts his fate and seems to just put his fate in the hands of the Lord. The people were having none of it. Saul, it seems was on the verge of a revolt if he killed his own son; particularly over an oath he probably should not have made in the first place.Then Saul went up from following the Philistines;
Jonathan was the instrument of the battle's victory and was clearly used and honored by God. The people just were not going to stand by and let him die. Adam Clarke (1762-1832) in his commentary seems to think that God allowed this whole episode to transpire so that Saul's rashness could be corrected.
and the Philistines went to their own place.
(1 Samuel 14:46 - ASV)
So the military episode was over. They would no longer pursue the Philistines. It is not clear why. He could have asked the Priest for another answer. He did not.
Now when Saul had taken the kingdom over Israel,The Lord was still with Saul for the most part. It seems that perhaps Saul may have learned some lessons after the previous episodes. Saul had indeed turned into a valiant warrior. The passage 'did valiantly' does not appear in some versions (like the KJV). The words in question are 6213 and 2428 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary (1890).
he fought against all his enemies on every side,
against Moab, and against the children of Ammon,
and against Edom, and against the kings of Zobah,
and against the Philistines: and whithersoever
he turned himself, he put them to the worse.
And he did valiantly, and smote the Amalekites,
and delivered Israel out of the hands
of them that despoiled them.
(1 Samuel 14:47-48 - ASV)
This passage seems to be in keeping with those overviews of a King's acts we find later in the books of Kings and Chronicles, where it gives a very basic gist of the King's acts.
Now the sons of Saul were Jonathan,
and Ishvi, and Malchishua;
and the names of his two daughters
were these: the name of the first-born Merab,
and the name of the younger Michal:
and the name of Saul's wife was Ahinoam
the daughter of Ahimaaz.
And the name of the captain of his host
was Abner the son of Ner, Saul's uncle.
And Kish was the father of Saul;
and Ner the father of Abner
was the son of Abiel.
(1 Samuel 14:49-51 - ASV)
So here we get a glimpse of the Royal Family. He had five children and Jonathan was the eldest of the males. The text is not totally clear if the daughter was the first born child or the first born female child. Ishvi appears to be another name for Abinadab (see 1 Samuel 31:2). There does appear to be a fourth son. Ishboseth (2 Samuel 2:8) who would be used against David. Why he is not mentioned here it is not known. It may be that he was not the son of Ahinoam but was the product of the union with a concubine. I don't know for sure. Commentators differ on the reasons for him not being named.
Abner was Saul's 'Chairman of the Joint Chiefs' by today's reckoning; his chief warlord. The last passage may cause some confusion. It appears that Ner was Saul's uncle not that Abner was his uncle. It appears that Saul and Abner were cousins.
So we see here that the war with the Philistines continued all the days of King Saul's rulership. If he had not issued his rash oath about not eating when he had a real chance of cleaning up their host, this probably would not have been a problem, at least not to the degree it clearly was for him and his kingdom.
And there was sore war against the Philistines
all the days of Saul: and when Saul saw any mighty man,
or any valiant man, he took him unto him.
(1 Samuel 14:52 - ASV)
We will continue our look at King Saul's reign soon, God willing!
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We left off last time and Saul had charged the men with him not to eat anything until Saul was 'avenged on mine enemies'. This was frankly a most unwise command/oath as the men had to be hungry and very tired. Johnathan, not knowing of this command went ahead and ate.
The passage says his eyes were 'enlightened'. The word is number 215 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary (1890). It means to make glorious or like the break of day. It has the connotation of light. Commentators say this was merely to show that he was no longer famished and that he was refreshed after having eaten. I do think this is at least part of the meaning. But I am not so sure it is the whole 'gist' of what the writer was trying to convey. I think upon eating it, something else happened, his eyes were opened to an important truth which will be shown in verse 29.
Then answered one of the people, and said,Jonathan is told of the Kings command and then an important truth is told by him to those nearby. Saul was troubling the land. The word used is the same one used in Joshua chapter 7 (verse 25) after the defeat at Ai (5916 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary - 1890). His own son saw Saul's horrible administration. Others probably did as well, but were afraid to say it. He clearly saw the folly of such a command and it does appear that it was not issued in zeal to God. Jonathan then tells those around him how much better he feels now that he has had a little to eat.
Thy father straitly charged the people with an oath,
saying, Cursed be the man that eateth food this day.
And the people were faint. Then said Jonathan,
My father hath troubled the land: see,
I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened,
because I tasted a little of this honey.
(1 Samuel 14:28-29 - ASV)
How much more,Saul's oath had cost Israel much. The Philistines may have been done away with for many many years to come. But as a result of Saul's commandment, this could not happen.
if haply the people had eaten freely to-day
of the spoil of their enemies which they found?
for now hath there been no great slaughter
among the Philistines.
(1 Samuel 14:30 - ASV)
And they smote of the Philistines
that day from Michmash to Aijalon.
And the people were very faint;
and the people flew upon the spoil,
and took sheep, and oxen, and calves,
and slew them on the ground;
and the people did eat them
with the blood.
(1 Samuel 14:31-32 - ASV)
So after the battle they finally got to eat. They clearly had a ravenous hunger. The implication here as Matthew Henry (1662-1714) puts it in his commentary is that they began to think more of food than of the battle and the work at hand.Then they told Saul, saying, Behold,
the people sin against Jehovah,
in that they eat with the blood.
And he said, Ye have dealt treacherously:
roll a great stone unto me this day.
(1 Samuel 14:33 - ASV)
Ruling men is not an easy task. Not in any form of government and not at any time. It's a hard business and leaders must know men, the limits of their own and their servants power and abilities in order to get things done. Saul's earlier command to not eat was just very unwise - not evil, just very unwise. There was no reason to cripple his army with such a rash edict.Then they told Saul, saying,
Behold, the people sin against Jehovah,
in that they eat with the blood.
And he said, Ye have dealt treacherously:
roll a great stone unto me this day.
(1 Samuel 14:33 - ASV)
Saul has not gone off the deep-end yet. He still reveres the Lord and has no desire to sin against him or to allow the people to do so.
The phrase 'roll a great stone' is not some imprecation of woe as a result of their actions, but probably means that he wants them to roll a stone to him so that the animals can be property dressed and drained before eating. This may very well have become an altar as the next verse implies.
And Saul built an altar unto Jehovah:
the same was the first altar that
he built unto Jehovah.
(1 Samuel 14:35 - ASV)
As John Gill (1697-1771) points out in his commentary, Saul did attend a sacrifice previously at Gilgal (1 Samuel 10:8), but it was at an altar that was already built. So this would have been the first altar built by a King of Israel. We don't know if they did offer a sacrifice here. It is not mentioned, Samuel or the high Priest had to be present (Ahijah may have been there - vs. 36). This may have been an altar of remembrance of the victory that the Lord gave Israel that day. But such a sacrifice is not an impossibility, based on the text.
And Saul said,After their much needed meal, they could then discuss the military situation. Saul wants to go and attack them at night and take their spoil. He wants to kill all of them. The people (assumed in 'they') gave their assent that if that is what he wanted to do, they were with him. The Priest however while not dashing their desire to deal with the Philistines, subtly changes the conversation back to the Lord. He almost seems to be saying... 'you are not going to go on this military expedition without seeking God's counsel are you?'
Let us go down after the Philistines by night,
and take spoil among them until the morning light,
and let us not leave a man of them. And they said,
Do whatsoever seemeth good unto thee.
Then said the priest,
Let us draw near hither unto God.
(1 Samuel 14:36 - ASV)
And Saul asked counsel of God,This inquiry may have been made via the Urim and Thummim (see Exodus 28:30 and Numbers, 27:21). But there was no reply. Why was this?
Shall I go down after the Philistines?
wilt thou deliver them into the hand of Israel?
But he answered him not that day.
(1 Samuel 14:37 - ASV)
We will continue our look at this wonderful book next week, God willing!!
So the people that were with Saul went to the battle. We don't know how many this was. If it was just the few with Saul or if the ones that were before with Jonathan (see verse 13:2) were also numbered among them. Whatever their number, they went to the battle scene and saw that each man's sword was against his brother.
Bible commentator John Gill (1697-1771) thought that they may have mistook each other for Hebrews. This may very well be the case, but another possibility was that the various cities of the Philistines may not have been totally of one accord on issues of leadership, command, tactics and dividing up the spoils after the battle. The battle started by Jonathan and his squire may have caused some to turn against each other in the hopes that key disagreements between rivals were settled by the sword rather than negotiations. We don't know and the text does not give us any hints.
But what it does make clear was that whatever the method, God was with Jonathan and his faith was rewarded with what to the natural mind would have been an impossible victory, at least for two men to accomplish on their own.
When Saul's company saw this, they saw what a horrible site it was. The word translated discomfiture is 4103 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary (1890). So what they saw was very significant.
It is not clear to me who this company was. It seems that they may have been prisoners or slaves of some kind whom the Philistines had taken with them. They may have had the task of carrying out menial chores in the camp for the soldiers of the Philistines. Or they could have been those pressed into service with them or perhaps even those who went willingly to serve with the Philistines when the defeat of Israel seemed certain. I don't know for sure.
Let us remember that 'collaboration' is something that is a reality with many oppressed people. This possibility seems unlikely however as they would hardly be welcomed if they had turned traitor against their own people. Finally they may have been neither in or outside of the camp, but were kind of hanging about (camp followers). I tend to think what is meant is that they were pressed into service as those who did chores for the soldiers and officers; jobs like stable keepers, wood gatherers, latrine keepers and other menial tasks. The use of the word Hebrews seems to me to indicate that they were indeed acting as servants.
Likewise all the men of IsraelThis time the word for Israelite's is not Hebrews, but men of Israel, perhaps denoting a different class of people. They were not slaves, but seem to have hidden themselves when things weren't going well. They may have fled the field when the going was tough, and only came out again when victory was sure. This is often how it is with spiritual victories as well. People only flock to leaders when they see victory and something 'in it' for them. I don't want to digress, but I think this is what is wrong with many American Church goers. They want to go to a Church that is successful, from a worldly perspective. Big fancy building; expensive, fancy cars in the parking lot, successfully dressed 'beautiful' people heading in... you what I'm talking about.
that had hid themselves in the hill-country of Ephraim,
when they heard that the Philistines fled,
even they also followed hard after them in the battle.
(1 Samuel 14:22 - ASV)
But the real men of God are out on the battlefield, like Jonathan, fighting the enemy with the meagerest of resources to draw upon. Christ had to face the cross alone, his disciples fled and Peter denied him. Any true man of God has to learn to stand alone or with a very few but on the firm foundation of Christ. Why? Courage (faith) is not always contagious, but cowardice (unbelief) often is. That goes in the temporal as well as the spiritual battlefields.
But they all went hunting after the remaining Philistines with great determination.
So Jehovah saved Israel that day:This was a great day of Salvation and it was God who wrought it for his people. But it took a man of faith and courage to make it happen.
and the battle passed over by Beth-aven.
(1 Samuel 14:23 - ASV)
It is from passages like this that I think we can kind of begin to see the first signs, an 'inkling' if you will, of a spiritual descent of King Saul. As the Keil & Delitzsch (K & D) Commentary on the Old Testament (Samuel Volume - 1867) notes, this oath sworn by Saul did not proceed from the right spirit. To Saul, this battle was no longer about the Lord, but now appears to have taken on the form of a personal vendetta by the King, who had little or nothing to do with the victory. K & D calls this an act of 'false zeal' and was no longer fighting for the Lord, but for himself. He swears this oath that does no one any good. These men were at war and had to be most tired from riding all day in pursuit of the enemy. But Saul would not let them eat. As we will see, it will have an effect on the future of this whole military endeavor. Slowly, I think we can begin to see a shroud of spiritual darkness surround King Saul.
The Jamieson Fausset and Brown Commentary on the Old and New Testaments (1871) says that bees in the east lived in the wild in honeycombs and as a result, honey often flowed onto the ground. The people, fearing the oath of the king, did not partake of it.
And all the people came into the forest;
and there was honey upon the ground.
And when the people were come unto the forest,
behold, the honey dropped: but no man
put his hand to his mouth;
for the people feared the oath.
(1 Samuel 14:25-26 - ASV)
God willing, we will see next week (God willing!) how Jonathan reacts to his fathers rash and unwise oath.
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Last week I spoke about faith. Jonathan's faith here was very real. What is faith?
Jonathan clearly had a conviction of things not seen. He knew they were going to win, though his natural eyes had not witnessed it yet. He had sought a sign of the Lord and it was given to him. There would be success in this venture. But there was still one thing to do - the hardest part, get up that hill and deal with all of those Philistines. Did Jonathan fail in his faith at the last moment when the danger was the greatest? No.
So the Philistines call to come up, some commentators think was a kind of ridicule, or rude 'taunt' to Jonathan. Kind of like 'come on up and I will show you the sharp end of my sword!'
And Jonathan climbed up upon his handsNo, his faith did not fail him. They both went clamoring up the hill and each having to know that without God, their deaths were sure and perhaps would not be quick ones.
and upon his feet, and his armorbearer after him:
and they fell before Jonathan; and his armorbearer
slew them after him.
(1 Samuel 14:13 - ASV)
Brother that is faith! You don't find that kind of godly faith very often today. How many today are often more concerned with their revenues or public image to take a real risk like this one; one that could have cost both of them their lives? These two did not go with the crowd, did not sit and mope in the camp, they went out and took action, by the power and faith in God.
And that first slaughter,
which Jonathan and his armorbearer made,
was about twenty men, within as it were
half a furrow's length in an acre of land.
And there was a trembling in the camp,
in the field, and among all the people;
the garrison, and the spoilers, they also trembled;
and the earth quaked:
so there was an exceeding
(1 Samuel 14:14-15 - ASV)
This is often how faith works. We have to start off doing our part. They started to fight and given that there were just two of them, they were doing very well. But there was a camp of thousands of Philistines, no matter how great a warriors they were, they could not deal with them all by themselves. Now it was time for God to do his part.
The Lord set up a massive earthquake to take place just when Jonathan and his armor bearer needed it. This clearly caused considerable panic and fear in the camp. This looks like it was a pretty good 'rumbler' as the passage makes clear an exceeding great trembling.
Lesson? If we do our part, we can count on God to do his part, in his way, for his purposes and in his perfect timing.
And the watchmen of Saul
in Gibeah of Benjamin looked;
and, behold, the multitude melted away,
and they went hither and thither.
(1 Samuel 14:16 - ASV)
This passage has presented difficulties to some translators and commentators. Apparently the watchman saw what was going on. It looks like while Jonathan and his assistant killed many, many others ran about wildly and others were probably killed in the confusion of the quake.
It may be an over-reach on my part, but I cannot help but suspect that the Philistines may not have been of a 100% single mind in this whole military expedition. We saw in earlier passages where with the Ark, one city tried to pass it off onto another when the plagues hit them. I cannot help but wonder that this may have been the reason for such a long delay before they struck Saul. The delay in attacking Saul based on the text we have, did not make any military sense to me. But may have been because of some political/military dissension in the camp. One leader arguing with another about how to do this or that and there may have been serious conflict between the different rulers of the five cities of Philistines (Pentapolis of Philistia), of whom all of the cities may have had representatives. It is just a hunch, granted, but one that kind of fits what we are told in the narrative.
Then said Saul unto the people
that were with him, Number now,
and see who is gone from us.
And when they had numbered, behold,
Jonathan and his armorbearer were not there.
(1 Samuel 14:17 - ASV)
Saul now seems to be coming out of his mental 'fog' and wants to know who has left. It's not clear why this question was asked. Was he concerned about desertions? Did he want to know who may be behind the confusion in the Philistine camp? It's not clear. Neither Jonathan nor his assistant were present.
And Saul said unto Ahijah,Saul wanted to inquire of the Lord. The text is clear that it was the ark that he wanted to bring to him. But some commentators think that what was meant was the ephod and the Urim and Thummim. This was how ascertaining God's will was often done. Some commentators have doubts about the ark being here because there is no mention of it being moved. I say, that does not mean it wasn't.
Bring hither the ark of God.
For the ark of God was there
at that time with the children of Israel.
And it came to pass, while Saul talked
unto the priest, that the tumult that was
in the camp of the Philistines went on and increased:
and Saul said unto the priest,
Withdraw thy hand.
(1 Samuel 14:18-19 - ASV)
But the commotion was apparently pretty intense so he asked the Priest to cease from the inquiry before he had formally begun it. Many commentators have differing views on this. Me? I think Saul after having been chided by Samuel before wasn't going to do anything without seeking the Lord. But this was a time to act. There is a time to pray, seek the Lord and a time to act. Do you remember when Joshua got beaten at the battle of Ai? He fell on his face and prayed. Was he supposed to do that? The Lord was not happy about it. See the following passage (emphasis mine).
And Jehovah said unto Joshua,
Get thee up; wherefore art thou thus
fallen upon thy face? Israel hath sinned;
yea, they have even transgressed my covenant
which I commanded them: yea,
they have even taken of the devoted thing,
and have also stolen, and dissembled also;
and they have even put it among their own stuff.
(Joshua 7:10-11 - ASV)
The Lord tells Joshua to get up off his face, there was something that needed to be done. But I think Saul was just slowly being 'bypassed' by the Lord, who was now using others to accomplish his purpose. From here on we will witness first in small things and later in larger ones, a slow spiritual decent of Saul.
We will continue our look at Samuel next week, God willing!!
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Now it fell upon a day,As we see here, 'gun control' did not have its origins in the USA(!). The Philistines would not allow the Hebrews to own arms, or at the very least the ability to make their own. This is a typical precaution and burden that the oppressor puts upon the oppressed. The principle is one that has echoed down the ages, even in the US with with the old Slave Codes of the deep south. The oppressor was always afraid of a rebellion by those whom he ruled... without their consent.
Let us keep in mind that the word Hebrew is used here and has a kind of connotation as we talked about before, probably as that of a slave. So the slaves could not own arms, but what they could do was get their farming instruments and have them sharpened. So they got their axe's and hammers and other farming instruments and got them ready for battle. It would seem that the Philistines, realizing what was going on would have prevented this. But there is no record of this. Perhaps some did perform this service at this time who were more interested in the fee's made than any notion of patriotism to the Philistine kingdom. It may have been a 'five shekels per implement sharpened... no questions asked', kind of situation.
Some commentators think that the Hebrew smiths that would have ordinarily done these things were moved out of the country or their shops were pulled down. We don't know for sure, only that there were none around or in business at this time. But this is how sin works. It takes everything and it looks like the Israelite's lost their skilled smith's to the Philistines. What they did have was a file... used or sharpening instruments. Not much, but it was something.
So it came to pass in the day of battle,So they were getting ready to go to war and the people had no decent weapons. One almost gets the impression it was like farmers with pitchforks and rakes for weapons going against a well armed, battle hardened army. In short, they were severely outgunned. It may not be a totally accurate comparison, but I look at this as a kind of 'slave revolt' (like Spartacus of Rome's third servile/slave war), to get a sense of the situation.
that there was neither sword nor spear
found in the hand of any of the people that
were with Saul and Jonathan: but with
Saul and with Jonathan his son was there found.
(1 Samuel 13:22 - ASV)
The passage seems to indicate that no one had arms but the King and his son. Commentators note that the Israelite's were better known for their skill with the sling and the bow. For these instruments, someone to forge metal arms was not needed. However, the text makes no mention of these weapons and it is unlikely that the Philistines would let them have such weapons, though a sling probably could be easily made.
And the garrison of the Philistines went outVarious online Bible maps have maps of this location. The name Michmash means 'hidden' (4363 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary - 1890). This (if one looks at the picture of it today) shows that it is indeed a very narrow pass. Some years later, the place is referenced in Isaiah (10:28)
unto the pass of Michmash.
(1 Samuel 13:23 - ASV)
So Jonathan told his assistant (a kind of squire) to come with him and go over to the Philistines. Saul was in command but Jonathan decided not to tell him, why is not clear but probably because Saul probably would not have approved. Saul also may not have been in the best mental and emotional state after having been rebuked by Samuel. Where was Saul? Matthew Henry (1662-1714) in his old Bible Commentary mentions others who think Saul may have taken shelter because he was so depressed in Spirit.
The key to the above passages seems to be that Saul was not in a military or mental state to attack the Philistines. So, Jonathan took it upon himself to do something more than sit under a tree. This passage seems to indicate that Ahijah may now have been the High Priest.
So the Priest was here and probably officiating at some religious ceremony as he is wearing an ephod. Saul may have called him after being rebuked by Samuel. So while Jonathan was planning, Saul was sitting under a tree, apparently moping. The passage here notes that no one noticed Jonathan's absence.
Rather than get into any of the military details as this passage does, let us focus in on what I think is the most important part of this passage. That was Jonathan's faith. He clearly had a military plan and it was bold and daring. This whole thing took a lot of plain old, no-so-ordinary guts. Where did he get that courage from? The passage makes it clear, he put his faith in the Lord, who can save by many or by few.
Brothers that is faith. Real faith. Despite how hard the situation looked for Israel, Jonathan had faith in God - real powerful actionable faith. Jonathan clearly knew God and how he was able to win battles for his people. Jonathan distinguishes between the uncircumcised heathen and God's chosen people. That is faith brothers. This move however was a very dangerous undertaking. Any battle is and this move on Jonathan's part on the surface seems foolhardy.... to a person who does not know God. But that is often what faith is, doing something that is totally not in keeping with what the natural world would call ordinary. Faith requires both belief and action based on that belief, with a firm foundation on God and Christ. This is what Jonathan displayed here.
And his armorbearer said unto him,His armor bearer as well was faithful both to his master and to God. Such loyalty in the face of danger is not common. Often when people step out in faith, friends and family flee. Some may mock, laugh and snigger behind your back. Often, when we stand in faith, we stand alone. Is this not what Jesus had to do (Matthew 26:56), stand alone? This is the way it often is.
Do all that is in thy heart: turn thee, behold,
I am with thee according to thy heart.
Then said Jonathan, Behold, we will pass over
unto the men, and we will disclose ourselves unto them.
If they say thus unto us, Tarry until we come to you;
then we will stand still in our place,
and will not go up unto them.
But if they say thus, Come up unto us;
then we will go up;
for Jehovah hath delivered them into our hand:
and this shall be the sign unto us.
(1 Samuel 14:7-10 - ASV)
When God has a job for you to do, let him choose your friends, associates and your spouse. If you don't now, you probably will in some, perhaps many future instances, wish you had. Did not Christ tell us of great betrayal even in our family members; the brother handing brother over to death, the father the son, etc? This was not a metaphor. See Micah 7:5. God was and is warning us all. You will be most wise if you take heed to the warning. Jonathan clearly chose wisely and had someone who clearly could be depended upon in a pinch.
So in these times, choose your companions with care and if there is treachery in the circle of people you know, ask the Lord to reveal who it is so you can treat them accordingly.
But also know this...
He that maketh many friends
doeth it to his own destruction;
But there is a friend
that sticketh closer
than a brother.
(Proverbs 18:24 - ASV)
So if you have a friend that sticks closer than a brother (or sister), then thank God for them and be there for them when they need you.
Jonathan then uses a sign to determine what they should do next. They will let their presence be known and if told that the Philistines would come up to them, then they were going to stand in place. But if they are told to go to them, a military victory was coming over the Philistines.
God was clearly moving in Jonathan.
Doing what God calls us to do is rarely easy. There are few 'easy' jobs in God's kingdom, but they are jobs that we are or will be equipped to carry out IF we are obedient to him, have faith and give any and all glory that accompanies any work we do for him, to God.
We will continue our look at Samuel next week, God willing!!
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And the spoilers came out of the campSaul took it upon himself to offer a sacrifice. It was his impatience that did it. Samuel didn't come fast enough so Saul starts to make excuses. He has just finished with the offerings and then goes out to salute or 'bless' Samuel and is asked by the Prophet, 'what have you done'? Now comes the excuses...
Saul explains of his concern that the people had scattered from him and that Samuel did not get to him on time and he saw that the Philistines were getting ready to attack, in all of this time he did not seek God's favor in the coming battle. So he decided to offer up a sacrifice. Saul appears to be subtlety shifting the blame onto Samuel for not arriving on time.
While Saul did finally entreat the Lord, he went about it the wrong way. This seems like a little thing and as many pastors would say today, 'his heart was in the right place'. But that was not enough for what God wanted in this most important office. This is so key. Today, we Christians have developed our own 'excuse-ology' that does not emphasize the importance of the doctrine of obedience. When God gives us a commandment, it's not optional. It's not something that we should debate about.
Moreover, we should never presume upon any office we have not been given. Weather it is Pastor, Prophet, Deacon or whatever. Obedience is always the key to spiritual success. I did not say worldly or financial success in the religion business. But like what Saul did here, far too many people - they usurp and presume upon a role that is not theirs to have... by divine command. Saul was king, not a priest.
The role of King and Priest in its entirety over God's possession is reserved to Jesus Christ and to those whom he hands those roles out to during the millennium (Revelation 5:10; 20:6). Those who wish to earn that title have to do one thing in particular - obey the commandments of the Lord for it is only through our humble obedience to God that we can ever hope to be elevated to a place of such trust in the Kingdom of God. In short, if you want a place of trust in the Kingdom, you have to prove yourself trustworthy. You prove that by being obedient... even to those commandments you don't understand and may not personally 'agree' with.
Brothers, this was a very important time for Saul and this was a test. He failed and as a result his Kingdom would not stand. How many of our brethren will fall away and like Saul not wait to the fullness of time, just before our Lord returns?
But he that endureth to the end,Let Saul's poor example give us all pause.
the same shall be saved.
(Matthew 24:13 - ASV)
And Samuel said to Saul,Thou hast done foolishly;The price of disobedience is now laid bare. God was (past tense) going to establish his kingdom forever. In other words, God was going to establish a line of succession that would eventually give rise to the Messiah, via Saul. But Saul messed up... bad. What the Lord appears to have discovered was that Saul had some major character flaws. His heart was not 100% to serve the Lord. He would take the person who had that fully dedicated heart and establish his kingdom with that person. Saul, by this act failed. This is always the key moment for each of us. To obey or not to obey; to trust God or not to trust God. To have faith or to give in to unbelief and if I can add this, to accept responsibility for our own failings and not try and project them onto others.
thou hast not kept the commandment of Jehovah thy God,
which he commanded thee: for now would Jehovah
have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.
But now thy kingdom shall not continue: Jehovah
hath sought him a man after his own heart,
and Jehovah hath appointed him to be prince
over his people, because thou hast not kept that
which Jehovah commanded thee.
(1 Samuel 13:13-14 - ASV)
In short, if you mess up, fess up.
And Samuel arose, and gat him up fromSo Samuel left and went to Gibeah, which was Saul's hometown. The reasons for this move is not clear. It may have been a place that was better defended. Gibeah in Hebrew means 'hill'. Hills do indeed tend to be more easily defended.
Gilgal unto Gibeah of Benjamin.
And Saul numbered the people
that were present with him,
about six hundred men. And Saul,
and Jonathan his son, and the people
that were present with them, abode in
Geba of Benjamin: but the Philistines
encamped in Michmash.
(1 Samuel 13:15-16 - ASV)
Note that Saul is still king. He has not been removed from power. Only told that his disobedience would cause his line of succession to end.
Saul had around 600 men with him. As the text states both Saul and Jonathan both were present and came to Geba (Gibeah). The Philistines had not moved from their place.
So the Philistines sent their raiders and marauders in to destroy and create havoc. There were three companies each had their task. The Philistines I suspect were well organized and probably waited so long to attack because they were afraid of the God of Israel. They were not going in ill advised. But in they went, first with this kind of 'preparatory' attack which may have been designed to weaken Israel's ability to fight and perhaps for psychological reasons - these kinds of attacks can have a horrible effect on the psyche of people, particularly if they don't go well. Another reason may have been they wanted to draw Saul out to battle. Hearing of the cries, destruction and depredations upon his men could have caused him to engage in an ill considered battle.
We will continue our look at the book of Samuel, next week, God willing!
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And all Israel heard sayIn the last chapter we saw how Saul finally is established as King, and how it was done in the eyes of the people. One key reason was by a victory in battle. It was only after such a victory that the people accepted him. Before, there was widespread skepticism of his abilities. But now he was king.
It was two years since his reign began and it is at this time he appears to have finally formed a standing army. Verse one is not clear. But probably it is counted from the time of the previous battle. But the passage is a very difficult one in Hebrew as far as the numbers (time) are concerned. Commentators say that the whole verse (one) is omitted in some versions of the Septuagint.
How large was the army of Israel is not clear as again we are only given the number that was chosen to go to battle, the rest (regular army? civilians who were 'drafted'?) were sent back to their tents. Saul takes most of the army (2K men) and Jonathan the rest. Jonathan is a man whom we will be hearing much about as we move through the book of Samuel.
Remember, one of the key reasons the people wanted a King was so that they could be delivered from their enemies. First it was the Ammonites. Now the Philistines are the target.
And Jonathan smote the garrison
of the Philistines that was in Geba:
and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul
blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying,
Let the Hebrews hear.
(1 Samuel 13:3 - ASV)
This appears to have been a surprise attack and the Philistines were caught completely off guard. Even today, the modern Israelis are known for such surprise raids, executed with great skill. Israel was throwing off its shackles and probably in their minds, gaining its independence once again. The blowing of the trumpet may have been a cry of an uprising among the Hebrews or perhaps it may have been a shout of freedom to those who may have been slaves in the Philistine camp.
The news was out and the report of Saul's victory 'went viral' as we say today. Now that this had happened, the Philistines were angry and now saw Israel as something loathsome (abomination - a stink). But these battles and victories appear to be bringing Israel together at least for a short while. This gathering seems to me to indicate the people's willingness to fight because they had to know that such a wound inflicted on Philistia would certainly bring a military response.
That response was on its way.
And the Philistines assembled
themselves together to fight with Israel,
thirty thousand chariots,
and six thousand horsemen,
and people as the sand which is
on the sea-shore in multitude:
and they came up,
and encamped in Michmash,
eastward of Beth-aven.
(1 Samuel 13:5 - ASV)
So here the Philistines were ready to take revenge on Israel for their attack. But the army here is probably much greater than anyone expected. This time they had 30,000 chariots and 6,000 cavalry (horseman) an infantry which exceeded these large numbers by far. This is a very large number and this may be because the Philistines had enlisted the help of surrounding kings to deal with these 'slaves'. This may be the reason that the word 'Hebrew' is used (verse 3) rather than Israel. Those being liberated may have been enslaved by the Philistines. 'Hebrews' would most likely have been a term used by the Philistines to describe the Jews.
When the men of Israel saw
that they were in a strait (for the people were distressed),
then the people did hide themselves in caves,
and in thickets, and in rocks, and in coverts,
and in pits. Now some of the Hebrews
had gone over the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead;
but as for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal,
and all the people followed him trembling.
(1 Samuel 13:6-7 - ASV)
The complexities of the military campaign is not a subject I will dwell upon as I know it will bore most of you. But the Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary (1892) has a very interesting comment on it. It goes into some detail on the battle. But one thing that is striking about this whole battle is this - nowhere is Samuel seen, nor of God's direction nor of his support of this whole initial surprise attack. One gets the impression reading this, is that Saul thought it up and did it all by himself and the people were no longer relying on the Lord, but on the military prowess of the King, who so far did not have a long line of military successes.
They started something that it did not look like they could finish and probably either did not expect or did not fully factor in the swift and mighty retribution that would come upon them for their attack on the Philistine camp. When the people saw what was coming, some ran and hid in the thickets and caves. Note that the word 'Hebrews' is again used to describe those who ran. Some were showing a remarkable degree of cowardice here in the face of the enemy they so clearly provoked. Even those who followed Saul were very afraid.
And he tarried seven days,
according to the set time that Samuel
had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal;
and the people were scattered from him.
(1 Samuel 13:8 - ASV)
Finally the prophet is brought into the narrative. We don't know when this word on seven days from Samuel was given, before the battle or after. But from the way things are going and the fix they are in now and the fact that Samuel told Saul to wait leads me to suspect they only called to Samuel after they saw that big army assemble against them. This seven days may have been a 'test' to see if Saul would wait upon the Lord or if he would by his own strength go out and try and beat this massive military force arrayed against him.
Note that there was no prayer, no offering to the Lord, no prophetic blessing upon the original military enterprise, it is only after they were in deep trouble did Saul consider offering up a sacrifice to the Lord. But frankly while a couple of commentators disagree, the simple fact is the Mosaic law was very much still in force and only the Priests were allowed to offer up sacrifices to the Lord. It was a very great presumption on Saul's part to do this thing.
It was just these kinds of religious and priestly sins that got Eli's house out of favor - disrespect for the Lord's rituals. Saul was Benjaminite and therefore was not entitled to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. God is almost always a real stickler for these kinds of things. What appears to have happened here is that it was the 7th day and Samuel was nowhere to be found and in his fear of his abysmal military situation and the people beginning to desert him, Saul sacrificed to God. As we will see, Samuel arrived and rebukes Saul.
The nature of the (coming) rebuke seems to be not just about the sacrifice, but in the predicament Israel is now because of Saul's attack on the Philistines without (apparently) consulting the Lord. This seven days time period is just like he told Samuel before (10:8) and appears to be some kind of testing period that the Lord was using on Saul. Saul passed the test the first time. But not this time. I suspect his new Royal rank may have made him presumptuous enough to the point he felt he could offer up sacrifice to the Lord if the Priest did not arrive when he thought he should.
We will get to that specific rebuke of Saul in the next installment of this series, God willing!
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I call heaven and earth to witnessWe left off last time Samuel with talking to the people after the victory given them over the Ammonities via the agency of King Saul. He was reminding them of their history of apostasy and God's continued constancy towards them. Such a history was telling in light of the recent victory and the reasons for it. He sent in deliverers to save the people from their enemies and listed some of the Judges in his speech.
Now after this history lesson by the Prophet and Judge Samuel, he now is going to give a demonstration for the people so they know and remember both the power of God and his great displeasure with their desire for a King. Clearly this was a time when God wanted the people to know he was greatly offended by their desire and request. He was not going to forget it and as the Kingdom continued on and moved into a hereditary monarchy as the decades passed, its sins and wickedness would be duly recounted in the books of the Kings, Chronicles and in the books of the prophets.
So Samuel asks them if this is not wheat harvest day? God would send in rain and thunder as a sign of God's great displeasure of Israel's desire for a King. A King once they had him, many at first rejected. There was just no pleasing the people. Well, here God was now showing his own displeasure with a potent sign. This clearly was to impress upon the people of the importance of Samuel's message and God's deep displeasure.
So Samuel called unto Jehovah;
and Jehovah sent thunder
and rain that day: and all the people
greatly feared Jehovah and Samuel.
(1 Samuel 12:18 - ASV)
So as Samuel spoke and called out to the Lord, so were the words of the prophet fulfilled. After this miraculous display, the people feared both the Lord and Samuel. The word here is 3372 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary (1890) and it has the clear connotation of being afraid of. They were very afraid of both Samuel and the Lord. The people may have assembled here with a ho-hum attitude thinking to themselves, 'oh no, not another speech by this thousand-year-old has-been'. This demonstration may have been done to make sure they pay better attention to what was said because the Lord himself was not happy with where Israel was heading with this whole king thing. Samuel's words probably needed to be vindicated in the eyes and hearts of the people whose history was too prone to forgetting God and his salvation once it was accomplished and going back to worshiping idols and the gods of the nations around them.
And all the people said unto Samuel,This demonstration got their full and undivided attention. They were afraid of what had just happened as God demonstrated his power. I suspect that this was no ordinary display and that the sky was probably clear before the thunder and this particular thunder was no ordinary thunder. It was clearly designed to make a lasting impression on the people as to God's power and their evil in asking for a King. Adam Clarke (1762-1832) in his old commentary makes this interesting point.
Pray for thy servants unto Jehovah thy God,
that we die not; for we have added
unto all our sins this evil,
to ask us a king.
(1 Samuel 12:19 - ASV)
Is it not strange that they did not now attempt to repair their fault? They might have done it, but they did not; they acknowledged their sin, but did not put it away. This is the general way of mankind. - Adam Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes on the BibleKeep in mind that this was the time of the wheat harvest (verse 17) and this occurred in the heat of the summer, a time when rain was very scarce in this part of the world.
And Samuel said unto the people,So Samuel here comforts the people who were clearly quite afraid and exhorts them to continue to seek after and follow the Lord. The vain things here mentioned are probably the idol worship they so often fell prey to. The word used for vain is 8414 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary (1890) meaning empty and nothing. But I suspect Samuel knew their hearts and after he was gone, he knew they would be offering up sacrifices to the new popular idol of the day.
Fear not; ye have indeed done all this evil;
yet turn not aside from following Jehovah,
but serve Jehovah with all your heart:
and turn ye not aside; for then would ye
go after vain things which cannot profit nor deliver,
for they are vain. For Jehovah will not forsake
his people for his great name's sake,
because it hath pleased Jehovah
to make you a people unto himself.
(1 Samuel 12:20-22 - ASV)
But Samuel reminds him that God won't forsake his people and God is still pleased with the idea of Israel being his. Even in great sin God had reasons for keeping Israel as his own. But Israel one day would go too far. As Paul put it in his epistle to the Romans...
And Isaiah crieth concerning Israel,We as Christians need to remember these things about being God's.
If the number of the children of Israel
be as the sand of the sea,
it is the remnant that shall be saved:
(Romans 9:27 - ASV)
Moreover as for me,
far be it from me that I should sin against
Jehovah in ceasing to pray for you:
but I will instruct you in the good
and the right way.
(1 Samuel 12:23 - ASV)
Samuel here reminds the congregation of his own duty to pray for them. Remember, he was the key judge, prophet and probably also held the post of High Priest after the house of Eli was done away with. This made intercession for the people an imperative of his God given office. If he did not do this thing, he would be sinning as a Priest's job is to make intercession as well as to teach people the way of God. So Samuel was not going into total retirement after Saul's enthronement. His job would now focus on the spiritual side of things.So in closing, Samuel sums up the matter. Serve the Lord and live, do evil and be severely punished for your deeds. This word hearkens back to the days of Moses
Only fear Jehovah,
and serve him in truth
with all your heart;
for consider how great things
he hath done for you.
But if ye shall still do wickedly,
ye shall be consumed,
both ye and your king.
(1 Samuel 12:24-25 - ASV)
This speech by Samuel is much like that of Moses years before. This time, it came about because of a major change in the political order of the nation urged by the people and their evil lusts (for a King), not completely unlike the sins Israel committed in the wilderness.
We will continue our look at Samuel next week God willing!!
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So Samuel, who was no longer the actual ruler of the people still wielded very significant influence with them and exhorts them to go to Gilgal. This was a sacred place for Israel. The Easton Bible Dictionary (Illustrated version - 1893) has a good entry on the place. You may want to look it up.
It is at this place that they will renew or rebuild the kingdom. The word for renew is 2318 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary (1890). Since the word renew implies there was an actual regency to renew, this is probably in reference to the first 'coronation' of King Saul when he was found hiding with the baggage. Remember, before Saul, there had never been a king before in Israel. Saul's performance in battle was all the evidence of his 'kingship' that they needed. Keep in mind that their desire for a King was probably mostly about saving them from the enemies of Israel.
And all the people went to Gilgal;So whereas the last time Saul was anointed King, there was widespread skepticism of his abilities, now they had a very different opinion and sacrificed to the Lord over Saul as King.
and there they made Saul king
before Jehovah in Gilgal; and there they
offered sacrifices of peace-offerings
before Jehovah; and there Saul
and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.
(1 Samuel 11:15 - ASV)
And Samuel said unto all Israel,
Behold, I have hearkened unto your voice
in all that ye said unto me, and have
made a king over you. And now, behold,
the king walketh before you;
and I am old and grayheaded;
and, behold, my sons are with you:
and I have walked before you from
my youth unto this day. Here I am:
witness against me before Jehovah,
and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken?
or whose ass have I taken?
or whom have I defrauded?
whom have I oppressed?
or of whose hand have I taken a ransom
to blind mine eyes therewith?
and I will restore it you.
(1 Samuel 12:1-3 - ASV)
Samuel here gives here what kind of appears to be a farewell speech to the people of Israel as he hands the leadership 'baton' to Saul. Was this speech made right after the battle or at Gilgal? I think it pretty clear it was. He reminds them in a most subtle way that this whole 'king thing' was their idea, but that he did listen to them. Then he reminds them that he was faithful in his work as Judge. No one could charge him with the kinds of corruption that he outlines in this speech. He behaved honorably in office.
This kind of abdication is rare, very rare in history. We Americans may not mark it much because we have a peaceful transition of power every four to eight years. But throughout history, such abdications are very uncommon. History shows us that power is usually transferred when the king dies in bed, is killed in battle or is murdered for his crown.
One such abdication was the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who abdicated and choose rather to grow his cabbages than return to power when begged to do so. There was no way he was going to return to the greed and backstabbings of the royal palace.
This passage of scripture is one of those rare occasions and shows you the depth of integrity that Samuel possessed. He did not greedily try and hang on to power but graciously stepped aside.
And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us,
nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken
aught of any man's hand.
(1 Samuel 12:4 - ASV)
As a testimony the people bear witness that Samuel was not guilty of any of these crimes. In the days before TV, YouTube and when most people probably could not read or write, this was the way these things were done, mass assemblies. Everyone came and heard the words at the same time.
And he said unto them,Samuel wants the Lord to bear witness as well. Knowing his God, Samuel will place his trust in God's justice. Also keep this in mind. Accusing people of crimes real and imagined after they leave office is not unheard of. Once the person loses power, friends, political connections and some forms of immunity, their enemies can often gang up on them and politically rend them to pieces.
Jehovah is witness against you,
and his anointed is witness this day,
that ye have not found aught in my hand.
And they said, He is witness.
(1 Samuel 12:5 - ASV)
And Samuel said unto the people,Samuel I think here senses an important opportunity to remind the people here of God and their covenant with him, their history and their ancestors. Samuel appeals to them. The ASV translates the word 'pleads' with them. The KJV renders the word 'reason'. The word is 8199 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary (1890). It can also be rendered 'judge' or 'contend' with.
It is Jehovah that appointed Moses and Aaron,
and that brought your fathers up out
of the land of Egypt. Now therefore stand still,
that I may plead with you before Jehovah
concerning all the righteous acts of Jehovah,
which he did to you and to your fathers.
(1 Samuel 12:6-7 - ASV)
So Samuel begins his historical overview to the people, some of whom may not be totally familiar with the history. Samuel mentions God's mighty salvation of Israel. But as usual, it was followed by apostasy. The incident of Hazor can be found in Judges chapter four. Here Samuel wants to remind the people of the pattern of apostasy that usually follows after God brings deliverance to his people.
Trouble comes and the people remember God, then they repent and God sends in deliverers. This was the consistent pattern in the Judges.
And when ye saw that Nahash
the king of the children of Ammon came against you,
ye said unto me, Nay, but a king shall reign over us;
when Jehovah your God was your king.
Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen,
and whom ye have asked for: and,
behold, Jehovah hath set a king over you.
(1 Samuel 12:12-13 - ASV)
Now Samuel drives this short history lesson home and personalizes it. This time he is recounting just how those assembled have behaved. So far, they are following the same pattern, that of needing help because of the enemies that gathered against them and God sending in a deliverer (Saul). The question is, will they repeat the rest of the pattern and apostatize yet again?
If ye will fear Jehovah, and serve him,
and hearken unto his voice,
and not rebel against the commandment
of Jehovah, and both ye and also the king
that reigneth over you be followers of
Jehovah your God, well: but if ye will not hearken
unto the voice of Jehovah, but rebel
against the commandment of Jehovah,
then will the hand of Jehovah be against you,
as it was against your fathers.
(1 Samuel 12:14-15 - ASV)
This is a very simple principle that needs little comment. Samuel is warning them of the consequences of any future rebellion by the people but also of their King. This is done in a public assembly and in the hearing of all. No one can say they were not warned.
We will continue out look at Samuel next week, God willing!
And they said unto the messengers that came,We left off last time and disaster had struck Israel in the form of an abominable Ammonite ultimatum. Saul finally has his hour to shine as King. He issues his first edict as such to gather Israel together to meet this threat. The people in their fear of the Lord, gathered together and this leads us to the above passage. They were numbered here with a total of 330,000 in total. Bezek may have been some kind of an ancient meeting/mustering place (see Judges 1:4-5). Note the distinction made between Israel and Judah. This may be in anticipation the future political break-up at a later date.
Once the army was gathered, they sent a message to those who were under this threat from Nahash that deliverance would come tomorrow round at or after noon. This was naturally excellent news to them as who would want to serve under a ruler who wants to pluck out everyone's right eye (11:2)?! What is not in the text but clearly implied is that this was a very rapid call-up and movement for battle. The distance was probably significant for those not accustomed to war and a night march seems to be implied. The men of Jabesh were pleased with this news and appear to submit themselves to the overall battle command of King Saul.
And it was so on the morrow,We see how carefully this was laid out. To me, it looks like Saul clearly knew that Nahash had spies in Jabesh so he sent the messengers with a report that he hoped the spies would believe and pass on to Nahash - that the battle would take place at noon. Saul did not lie, because he said they would have their deliverance when the son was hot, as opposed to the battle would start at that time. Saul organized his troops into thee companies (or bands) and rather than wait till noon, they hit the Ammonites in the morning in their camp. This taking place on the morning watch, would have meant it took place before daybreak sometime between 0200 and 0600 hours. It was clearly a surprise attack. They fought until noon and they scattered the enemy.
that Saul put the people in three companies;
and they came into the midst of the camp
in the morning watch, and smote the Ammonites
until the heat of the day: and it came to pass,
that they that remained were scattered,
so that not two of them were left together.
(1 Samuel 11:11 - ASV)
This piece of scripture is a testament to the God of Israel and to King Saul. He rose to the occasion. Remember they found him plowing the field and did not appear to be doing anything we associate with being 'kingly'. But when he was informed of what was going on, he moved and moved decisively after the Spirit of the Lord descended upon him once again (11:6). When God calls a person to any work he gives that person what they need to carry it out. In the New Testament we call these things spiritual gifts. This is what happened to Saul. The Spirit of God moves in him for his specific divinely appointed task. Remember some of the people were most skeptical of Saul's ability to save Israel (10:27).
And the people said unto Samuel,
Who is he that said, Shall Saul reign over us?
bring the men, that we may put them to death.
And Saul said, There shall not a man
be put to death this day;
for to-day Jehovah hath
wrought deliverance in Israel.
(1 Samuel 11:12-13 - ASV)
The people were clearly very pleased with Saul's performance as King and their anger started to turn on those who initially voiced skepticism and probably to those refused to offer him a gift at his previous 'revelation' as king before the people as well (they despised him - 10:27). They wanted to kill them! What is rather telling is that they went to Samuel on this matter. Clearly he was still viewed as a person of considerable, if not ultimate authority.
But Saul was the one who moderated the anger of what perhaps could have turned into mob violence. Many people and great anger are a very dangerous mixture. Saul's moderating hand here is probably the result of the Holy Spirit having descended upon him. Samuel's silence may be indicative that he wanted to step aside and let the King be King.
Moreover Saul, did not take credit for the winning of this hard fought battle (it went on for a good part of the day), but gave glory to the Lord. This is so telling. Men of God in our times I think too often like to take credit for being the 'great man of God' or the 'best pastor' or 'best selling author' or Christian leader. There is much too much self glorification in our nation and world and it has not left the Church unaffected. Saul here shows proper humility and gives credit where it's due. He had to know this was God because just a few short weeks ago, he was little more than a country bumpkin looking for his lost animals!
We will continue our look at Samuel, next week, God willing!!
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We left off last week with Nahash encamping near Jabesh-Gilead and the people who lived there were trying to cut a deal (make a covenant) with him. Clearly they were afraid of him and what he might do with his troops. By the way, the word Nahash means serpent. Reading the text in Hebrew may be much more revealing than our English text as they were trying to make a deal with a 'snake'.
This is a harsh thing Nahash is proposing. Very harsh, but shows you the deep animosity that they had against Israel. Moreover, it also indicates to us why Israel was so desperate for someone to save them. I suspect that the only reason he did not kill them all or try was because they could be used as labor if conquered. Taking out one eye would severely reduce their ability to go to war. This kind of thing was done to conquered people's. Allow me to digress for a second here.
Such punishments were not unheard of back then and even much later. In the year 1014 the Emperor Basil II of Byzantium (Eastern Rome) fought the battle of Kleidion. After having routed the Bulgarians on the field of battle, he took the remaining prisoners, blinded every 99 out of a hundred of them and left the single sighted person to guide the blind ones back to their home country. The King of Bulgaria (coincidentally called Samuel) died of a heart attack shortly thereafter reportedly as result of seeing the remains of his army so crippled.
So this kind of thing was not so atypical of a brutal age.
Back to our text.
As we see from the last part of the last verse in the above passage, the whole idea of this proposed atrocity was to humiliate Israel.
And the elders of Jabesh said unto him,
Give us seven days' respite, that we may
end messengers unto all the borders of Israel;
and then, if there be none to save us,
we will come out to thee.
(1 Samuel 11:3 - ASV)
Often warriors swelled up with arrogance and pride make demands on people they know they cannot or will never meet only to ensure that there will be a battle. What is amazing to me here is that Israel was prepared to meet these horrible terms. They propose to Nahash that he come back in a week, after they seek someone to save them. This was a frequent kind of request by those cities who were besieged.
Shakespeare had a scene in one of his famous plays that had something similar.
Our expectation hath this day an end:
The Dauphin, whom of succors we entreated,
Returns us that his powers are yet not ready
To raise so great a siege. Therefore, great king,
We yield our town and lives to thy soft mercy.
Enter our gates; dispose of us and ours;
For we no longer are defensible.
(Henry V - Shakespeare, Act III, Scene III)
It may be that this Ammonite warrior had heard of this new King in Israel and made such a challenge in order to bring him out to war in the hopes of a quick and easy victory. The Israelite's were almost certainly thinking.... let's go to the new King. I think this challenge was also from the Lord in order to elevate Saul in the eyes of the people and in the eyes of the skeptics (how shall this man save us? - 1 Samuel 10:27) among the people.
But this whole chain of events I think is better explained by the people's rejection of God, their rebellion and their disobedience. When a people reject God, trouble will surely follow. The fact that he was working the field like this after having been chosen King may be indicative of considerable disbelief and opposition to his choice and rule.
Then came the messengers to Gibeah of Saul,So messengers went and spread the news to the people. The news caused the people great sorrow and consternation. The events are then reported to Saul after he asks what the commotion is about.
and spake these words in the ears of the people:
and all the people lifted up their voice, and wept.
And, behold, Saul came following the oxen out of the field;
and Saul said, What aileth the people that they weep?
And they told him the words of the men of Jabesh.
(1 Samuel 11:4-5 - ASV)
This is the second time the Spirit of the Lord fell upon Saul in a mighty fashion. The first recorded instance was when he met the prophets (1 Samuel 10:10). He was understandably very angry about this state of affairs and as King, intended to do something about it. What was it?
And he took a yoke of oxen, and cut them in pieces,
and sent them throughout all the borders of
Israel by the hand of messengers, saying,
Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul
and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen.
And the dread of Jehovah fell on the people,
and they came out as one man.
(1 Samuel 11:7 - ASV)
Here Saul gives his first edict and threat as King. Israel was to come out after Samuel and Saul. Here he sent these broken pieces of the oxen yoke to all the tribes of Israel. He is also careful in his message to the tribes and to use the name of Samuel, who will presumably also be there. As King, one must often use the threats to make sure that one's subjects obey.
Such symbols were often used to send a message. Prophets used them at times as well. Saul just let's them know, (if I can use more contemporary vernacular here) 'come out to battle or you are going to have to plow your field with your own bare hands in the future!!'. Israel could not have forgotten another incident where pieces were sent all through Israel in the book of Judges. Note Saul does not threaten them directly with any kind of personal harm; this would be too harsh for a man whose kingship was in question and brand new. But it was enough to get Israel to come out. Using the names of both Samuel and Saul as well as the nature of the threat against Israel from Nahash coupled with the threat made by Saul all seem to have had a deep effect - they all came out.
We will continue our look at Samuel soon!
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We left off last time where Samuel was extolling Saul saying there was none like him among the people. By the sight of the eyes and just looking at him, this was true. He had all the physical attributes of what the people clearly wanted in a king. Also in the final verse from last week, we hear the age old phrase that echoes down even to this day, 'Long live the king!'.
In the above passage, Samuel tells the people just what having a king is all about. It is no picnic, despite all the cheers and joy. Some think this is actually when Samuel delivers the speech from 8:10ff, a passage we already went over. I will repeat the passage here because I think it important to give an idea what Samuel probably said here.
And Samuel told all the words of Jehovah
unto the people that asked of him a king.
And he said, This will be the manner of the king
that shall reign over you: he will take your sons,
and appoint them unto him, for his chariots,
and to be his horsemen; and they shall run
before his chariots; and he will appoint them
unto him for captains of thousands, and captains of fifties;
and he will set some to plow his ground, and to reap his harvest,
and to make his instruments of war, and the
instruments of his chariots. And he will take your
daughters to be perfumers, and to be cooks,
and to be bakers. And he will take your fields,
and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them,
and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed,
and of your vineyards, and give to his officers,
and to his servants. And he will take your men-servants,
and your maid-servants, and your goodliest young men,
and your asses, and put them to his work.
He will take the tenth of your flocks: and ye shall
be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day
because of your king whom ye shall have chosen you;
and Jehovah will not answer you in that day.
But the people refused to hearken unto the
voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay:
but we will have a king over us, that we also may be
like all the nations, and that our king may judge us,
and go out before us, and fight our battles.
(1 Samuel 8:10-20 - ASV)
So Samuel lays it all out to them what to expect and like I said, I suspect he merely repeated what he said in the above to all those assembled. Why? To bear witness against them when they start whining about the burdens of a king. Then Samuel took some precautions to make sure that there was another witness, he wrote it all down in a book and laid it before the Lord. This was probably done by placing the book in or by the Ark of the Covenant. This was probably where all the important records were kept. Yes, I am fairly certain that this was kept also as a witness of this new 'covenant' between the Lord and his people. Where is this book referred to in the above passage? Perhaps both books of Samuel or portions thereof in our Bible are the books meant.
After giving them solemn warning about the realities of a monarchy, Samuel sends them all back to their homes. Saul may have been king, but it was Samuel here who dismisses the people and sends them back home. Saul does not appear to have taken over the direct reigns of government quite yet. The people trusted Samuel and listened to him.
And Saul also went to his house to Gibeah;
and there went with him the host,
whose hearts God had touched.
(1 Samuel 10:26 - ASV)
So Saul went back home and others went with him, those who believed God's word and were touched by the words of Samuel, speaking on behalf of the Lord. This is interesting because as we see later, Saul did not put on the 'Royal Purple' and ride in a golden carriage to some new throne room with all the nobles ready to kiss his ring, or the equivalent of those ancient times. No, he appears to have gone back to farming (see 1 Samuel 11:5). I think this explanation helps us better understand the next verse.
But certain worthless fellows said,
How shall this man save us?
And they despised him,
and brought him no present.
But he held his peace.
(1 Samuel 10:27 - ASV)
So while the people were happy, there were some who were skeptical about Saul's ability to get Israel out of its predicament. The fact that they brought him no presents was probably indicative of their refusal to acknowledge the Lord's choice and recognize him as their sovereign. Saul said nothing about it, but certainly filed it away in his memory for 'future reference'. Their refusal was probably the usual unbelief that has long been a part of Israel. They just did not believe Saul could do anything substantive to save Israel.
Then Nahash the Ammonite came up,
and encamped against Jabesh-gilead:
and all the men of Jabesh said unto Nahash,
Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee.
(1 Samuel 11:1 - ASV)
We do not know how long a time period transpired between the events of the last chapter and this episode. Some versions add a preface 'about a month later'. This may have been added by scholars based on the writings of later historians or records since lost.
The Ammonites were enemies of Israel and the city of Jabesh-Gilead is where the tribes of Manasseh, Gad and Ruben dwelt (according to the Smith Bible Dictionary). It is very likely that the threat of this attack was exactly what Israel feared and why they begged God for a King in the first place (see 1Samuel 12:12) and why the 'worthless fellows' were skeptical of Saul's ability to save them.
We will continue our look at Samuel, next week God willing.
God bless you all in Christ!
We left off last time when Saul's uncle was questioning him as to where he was and what the prophet Samuel had said to him. The above passage begins by telling us of Samuel's assembly (called the people together - see 6817 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary - 1890) of the people at Mizpah for an important announcement. This is the second time Samuel called them together at Mizpah (1 Samuel 7:5). The last time was when Israel put away all of their foreign gods.
Samuel then charges the people in the name of the Lord about their unique history and how God guided them out of the slavery of Egypt into their own land. Then he begins to chide Israel because the God who freed, guided them and gave them the very land they now stand upon, they have rejected. Samuel is careful to remind them of this fact. They stubbornly wanted a King and like some spoiled child, would not be satisfied until they got one. They now will get their wish. Samuel here I think is doing what he can to separate himself personally from the sinful desire of the people. You want a king? Very well, under protest, a king will indeed be set over you - be it on your own heads then!... If I had to paraphrase the idea here that, I think is about as good as any.
So Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near,All the tribes were near and the tribe of Benjamin was 'taken'. This word may not be the best one. The Hebrew word is 3920 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary (1890) and it can have the connotation of being chosen by lot. Saul's family, the Matrites appears nowhere else in the Bible though some have conjectured they were actually the descendants of the Bikrites (1 Chronicles 7:6) of Benjamin. What is almost certainly happening here is that the heads of each family and tribe were brought forward, not the whole people. But when they got down to the families, Saul was chosen. But they looked for him and he wasn't there.
and the tribe of Benjamin was taken.
And 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.
(1 Samuel 10:20-21 - ASV)
Therefore they asked of Jehovah further,They asked the Lord again and discovered Saul was hiding in the baggage. Hiding? Why was he doing that? Perhaps just plain modesty and perhaps he was just a bit overwhelmed with it all from tending animals to becoming King. Anyone with an honest sense of his own failings and worth would understandably be most reticent to take on all that responsibility. So Israel's next king was hiding with the baggage! Hardly a 'glorious' start of his reign, but something that probably does say something positive about his character. This baggage was probably set about the outskirts of the assembly as remember, all the tribes were present and many had to travel quite a distance to get there. Consequently, this was probably an affair that would take a few days, one day travel there - a day at least for the meeting and another for the ride back. Provisions needed to be for all the people who went as there were no fast food places or roadside cafe's for travelers to eat at back in those days.
Is there yet a man to come hither?
And Jehovah answered, Behold, he hath
hid himself among the baggage.
(1 Samuel 10:22 - ASV)
How did they inquire (7592 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary (1890) of the Lord about the whereabouts of Saul? We don't know for sure but it was probably accomplished by means of the Urim and Thummin with Samuel probably acting as High Priest (see Numbers 27:21). So there are three witnesses to the Lord's choice. One was Saul's secret anointing of Saul as King. The second were all the signs shown to Saul after he left Samuel. Now there were the lots drawn and them falling upon him and as if to make sure.
And they ran and fetched him thence;After they went and got him from the 'baggage compartment', Saul stood head an shoulders above the rest. He was clearly a very tall man and had to be a regal looking figure, despite his humble origins. Samuel here officially makes the pronouncement before the people that this is the Lord's choice.
and when he stood among the people,
he was higher than any of the people
from his shoulders and upward.
And Samuel said to all the people,
See ye him whom Jehovah hath chosen,
that there is none like him along all the people?
And all the people shouted,
and said, Long live the king.
(1 Samuel 10:23-24 - ASV)
Being a people that are slowly demonstrating they are of little faith, God here I think is giving them signs so the people know that this is not a random choice and that Samuel did not conjure this up out of his own heart. But this was done in public with all watching and with divine confirmation. Why did they need a sign? What did Christ say about those who constantly need a sign? For those who are weak in faith, it is one thing, but for others seeking them is not such a good thing.
An evil and adulterous generation
seeketh after a sign; and there shall
no sign be given unto it,
but the sign of Jonah.
And he left them, and departed.
(Matthew 16:4 - ASV)
Sometimes the Lord will confirm his word using signs. Other times he demands our faith. As the Lord was not in favor of this whole King business, he has given this generation a sign so that they know that this is their king and as if to bear witness against them when things turn out badly, Samuel is going to take a minor precaution. We will get to that next week, God willing.
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And thou shalt go down
before me to Gilgal; and,
behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt-offerings,
and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace-offerings:
seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come unto thee,
and show thee what thou shalt do.
(1 Samuel 10:8 - ASV)
We left off last time where Samuel had just anointed Saul King. Here he is giving Saul the last bit of instructions just after having received the holy anointing. We saw in the last verse from last week, all of these things were to be done for him as a sign so that he would know that God was with him. Keep this in mind, when Saul was anointed, no one was around. There was no crowd and no big ceremony. It was basically Samuel and Saul, even Saul's servant was asked to pass on (presumably) out of ear shot (9:27). So there was no witness. For all Saul knew this was some really big mistake. So these signs were given to him to let him know that it was no mistake, no vain imagining on Samuel's part and that he really was God's anointed.
The above passage tells him to go to Gilgal, and that Samuel would come there and offer sacrifices and he was to wait for him there to receive further instructions. Gigal was an important historical landmark for Israel, it was the first place they encamped after crossing the Jordan and where Joshua set up the 12 stones (Joshua 4:19-20). Saul's placement as King has to be understood fully as a divine appointment and these signs were there to help make sure Saul saw this. It also appears to be to make sure that Saul was amenable to doing the Lord's will. Saul who was king also just had received an order - it was to wait seven days at Gilgal. Again, I think that these commands were both to demonstrate to Saul the reality of divine approval for this office as well to to test him to see if he will do as he was bid.
Being a king means having discipline if one is to be any good at it. Kings have to have a lot of discipline as there are many demands on their time and many will come to him just to have a favor granted. Serving the Lord in such a capacity is not easy, it means a life; a total life of discipline and work in God's service - in this case, ruling over his people. Anyone who truly serves the Lord knows the discipline needed and that their life is not ever going to be a truly 'normal' life again. Saul's life was going to be turned upside down in God's service. Those of us who truly serve the Lord just have to be ready to do what God wants us to do and go where he wants us to go and live where he wants us to live.
And it was so, that, when he had turned
his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart:
and all those signs came to pass that day.
And when they came thither to the hill,
behold, a band of prophets met him;
and the Spirit of God came mightily upon him,
and he prophesied among them. And it came to pass,
when all that knew him beforetime saw that,
behold, he prophesied with the prophets,
then the people said one to another,
What is this that is come unto the son of Kish?
Is Saul also among the prophets?
(1 Samuel 10:9-11 - ASV)
All the signs that Samuel prophesied came to pass. God had also given him another heart as he turned from Samuel to go where he was bid. This expression has much been commented upon, 'gave him another heart'. Was he born again? The idea is not really in the OT, but clearly God's Spirit did indwell his servants and the prophets in those days. Perhaps this expression is meant to indicate Saul's changed composure as he comprehended the new position he would hold and the new and enormous responsibility that it would entail. But the idea of a new (clean) heart is not unknown in the OT (Psalms 51:10).
As Saul meets the prophets, God's spirit came upon him and he too began to prophesy with them. This of course caused no small sensation among those who knew him from before. Clearly Saul's previous life had no indication of any such important office.
And one of the same place answered and said,This is an interesting verse, though it does not have any special spiritual significance. It seems to be saying that Saul's father was not a prophet so how is it that Saul is? The implication was that the office and gift of prophecy in those days was basically hereditary. This is one way to look at the verse. Perhaps it is a kind of criticism of whoever was leading these prophets, that they should allow a man like Saul into their company as one of them. Another way to look at it is that a son of Kish would not ordinarily to be looked upon as being a prophet. The phrase is frankly a little too obscure for me to get a clear meaning from it, but the proverb that was used probably seems to have the connotation of that of a person of fairly low birth being raised to a high position.
And who is their father? Therefore it became a proverb,
Is Saul also among the prophets?
(1 Samuel 10:12 - ASV)
Some commentators note that the gift of prophecy did not seem to stay with Saul and this display may have been done in order to make him respectable to the people.
And when he had made an end of prophesying,
he came to the high place. And Saul's uncle
said unto him and to his servant, Whither went ye?
And he said, To seek the asses; and when we saw
that they were not found, we came to Samuel.
And Saul's uncle said, Tell me, I pray thee,
what Samuel said unto you.
(1 Samuel 10:13-15 - ASV)
Saul headed up to the high place (Bamah), and there met his uncle who wanted to know where he had been. He gives his very brief explanation of events and his meeting with Samuel. His Uncle wanted to know what Samuel said. His Uncle, unlike Saul, probably knew of Samuel and his reputation. He was curious as to what the prophet had said. Who knows, perhaps some gossip had reached his ears about their meet and he wanted to get the scoop first hand. Note that his uncle asked both Saul and his servant. He may have figured if he could not get the information from Saul, he may be able to finagle it out of his servant.
And Saul said unto his uncle,So he tells his uncle part of the story, but not the most important part of it. Why was Saul hesitant? We don't know. Saul may have been quietly charged not to mention his anointing to others until Samuel arrived and this charge was not recorded. It may be that his Uncle was not someone Saul particularly trusted to keep a confidence. Some folks are a little too inquisitive and Saul here may have been acting wisely by not lying, but also not telling him the whole story. It appears to be simple and wise discretion on Saul's part. But there may be another reason. Saul, even though all of these signs had come to pass may have still been a little incredulous as to what Samuel said and wanted to wait for him to arrive and make a formal announcement, lest his uncle snicker and burst out laughing at the idea of Saul being king.
He told us plainly that the asses were found.
But concerning the matter of the kingdom,
whereof Samuel spake, he told him not.
(1 Samuel 10:16 - ASV)
So far so good. Saul has done as he was bid and has shown one of the first traits of good rulership, to do as the Lord bids and to learn to be a bit stingy with information.
We'll get to Samuel's speech to the people next week, God willing!
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Note: The Bible version usually quoted from on this site is now the American Standard Version, which according to Wikipedia, the Sword Project and various other Bible sites, was published in 1901 and is now in the Public Domain.
Additionally, Bible commentaries and dictionaries mentioned herein are almost always very old (usually published in the 1800's or before). I often reference them with both the common names of the work as well as the original publishing date or the birth and death years of the author. I gravitate to older, more conservative scholarship when studying the bible.