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And Jehovah answered me, and said, Write the vision,
and make it plain upon tablets, that he may run that readeth it.
(Habakkuk 2:2 - ASV)

Last Updated

  25 May 2023


Watson's Web

Biblical and Prophetic Perspective For Our Times

For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words,
of him shall the Son of man be ashamed,
when he cometh in his own glory,
and the glory of the Father,
and of the holy angels.
(Luke 9:26 - ASV)

I have set Jehovah always before me:
Because he is at my right hand,
I shall not be moved.
(Psalms 16:8 - ASV)

Contents On This Page

- 1 Samuel Part 34
- 1 Samuel Part 33
- 1 Samuel Part 32
- 1 Samuel Part 31
- 1 Samuel Part 30
- 1 Samuel Part 29
- 1 Samuel Part 28
- Hello Again!
- 1 Samuel Part 27
- 1 Samuel Part 26
- 1 Samuel Part 25
- 1 Samuel Part 24
- 1 Samuel Part 23


25 May

1 Samuel Part 34

Now therefore stand still and see this great thing,
which Jehovah will do before your eyes.
Is it not wheat harvest to-day? I will call unto Jehovah,
that he may send thunder and rain; and ye shall know
 and see that your wickedness is great,
which ye have done in the sight of Jehovah,
in asking you a king.
(1 Samuel 12:16-17 - ASV)

We 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 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,
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)

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.

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 Bible Commentary
Keep 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,
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)

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 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.

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,
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)

We as Christians need to remember these things about being God's.

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.

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)

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
I call heaven and earth to witness
against you this day, that I have set before thee
 life and death, the blessing and the curse:
 therefore choose life, that thou mayest live,
thou and thy seed; to love Jehovah thy God,
to obey his voice, and to cleave unto him; for he is thy life,
and the length of thy days; that thou mayest
dwell in the land which Jehovah sware
unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac,
and to Jacob, to give them.
(Deuteronomy 30:19-20 - 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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18 May

1 Samuel Part 33

Then said Samuel to the people,
Come, and let us go to Gilgal,
and renew the kingdom there.
(1 Samuel 11:14 - ASV)

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 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. 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;
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)

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 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,
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)

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.

And Samuel said unto the people,
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)

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. It can also be rendered 'judge' or 'contend' with.
When Jacob was come into Egypt,
and your fathers cried unto Jehovah,
then Jehovah sent Moses and Aaron,
who brought forth your fathers out of Egypt,
and made them to dwell in this place.
But they forgat Jehovah their God;
and he sold them into the hand of Sisera,
captain of the host of Hazor,
and into the hand of the Philistines,
and into the hand of the king of Moab;
and they fought against them.
(1 Samuel 12:8-9 - 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. 
And they cried unto Jehovah,
and said, We have sinned,
 because we have forsaken Jehovah,
 and have served the Baalim and the Ashtaroth:
but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies,
and we will serve thee. And Jehovah sent Jerubbaal,
and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel,
and delivered you out of the hand
of your enemies on every side;
and ye dwelt in safety.
(1 Samuel 12:10-11 - ASV)

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!

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12 May

1 Samuel Part 32

And he numbered them in Bezek;
and the children of Israel were three hundred thousand,
and the men of Judah thirty thousand.
(1 Samuel 11:8 - ASV)

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.
And they said unto the messengers that came,
Thus shall ye say unto the men of Jabesh-gilead,
To-morrow, by the time the sun is hot,
ye shall have deliverance. And the messengers
came and told the men of Jabesh;
and they were glad.Therefore the men of Jabesh said,
To-morrow we will come out unto you,
and ye shall do with us all that seemeth good unto you.
(1 Samuel 11:9-10 - ASV)

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,
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)

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.

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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4 May

1 Samuel Part 31

And Nahash the Ammonite said unto them,
On this condition will I make it with you,
that all your right eyes be put out;
and I will lay it for a reproach upon all Israel.
(1 Samuel 11:2 - ASV)

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,
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)

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 the Spirit of God came mightily
upon Saul when he heard those words,
and his anger was kindled greatly.
(1 Samuel 11:6 - 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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27 April

1 Samuel Part 30

Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom,
and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before Jehovah.
And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house.
And Saul also went to his house to Gibeah;
and there went with him the host, whose hearts
God had touched.
(1 Samuel 10:25-26 - ASV)

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 1Samuel 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!

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20 April

1 Samuel Part 29

And Samuel called the people together unto Jehovah to Mizpah;
and he said unto the children of Israel,
Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel,
I brought up Israel out of Egypt,
and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians,
and out of the hand of all the kingdoms that oppressed you:
but ye have this day rejected your God,
who himself saveth you out of all your calamities
and your distresses; and ye have said unto him,
Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore
present yourselves before Jehovah by your tribes,
and by your thousands.
(1 Samuel 10:17-19 - ASV)

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) 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,
 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)

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 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.

Therefore they asked of Jehovah further,
Is there yet a man to come hither?
And Jehovah answered, Behold, he hath
 hid himself among the baggage.
(1 Samuel 10:22 - ASV)

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.

How did they inquire (7592 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary) 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;
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)

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.

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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14 April

1 Samuel Part 28

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,
And who is their father? Therefore it became a proverb,
Is Saul also among the prophets?
(1 Samuel 10:12 - ASV)

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.

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,
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 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.

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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7 April

Hello Again!

Blessings to all of you who come by the site. May you have a blessed Passover, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday.

Yes, Watson's Web is still going strong (23 years!). Many of you may wonder why so many of the older posts on this page are gone. Well, two reasons. The first is that the underlying html code was getting really sloppy and needed to be cleaned up and it was a perfect opportunity to take down some of the things that had been up well over a year. No mystery here. Just a bit of tidying up.

I beg of you all - each and everyone of you who serves the Lord to stay on the path Christ lays out before you. Do not stray from it. The times they are dangerously deceptive and it's easy to be fooled by the falsehoods that permeate the whole global informational landscape. Let us be wise as serpents but as harmless as doves in these times.

God willing, we will return to our look at 1 Samuel next week!

And he saith unto them, Be not amazed:
ye seek Jesus, the Nazarene, who hath been crucified:
he is risen; he is not here:
behold, the place where they laid him!
(Mark 16:6 - ASV)

Again, may God richly bless you all in Christ and may you have a blessed Passover/Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday (Easter)!

Brother Mark

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30 March

1 Samuel Part 27

Then Samuel took the vial of oil,
and poured it upon his head,
and kissed him, and said,
Is it not that Jehovah hath anointed
thee to be prince over his inheritance?
(1 Samuel 10:1 - ASV)

We left off last time, Samuel and Saul were walking towards the edge of town as it was time for Saul to leave. The night before, Saul stayed overnight with Samuel and their meeting almost certainly set many a tongue to wagging. Who is this Saul and why did Samuel extend so many honors to him during the post-sacrifice feast? Samuel had to know that whatever these two did was a kind of theater for the town, so who knows, perhaps what he did here was not just for Saul but for the people who were probably standing at the end of town watching, as well the town's gossips. Many a curtains were probably twitching that morning so the old ladies could get a glimpse of things!

So Samuel asks Saul to get his servant to move on. It is noteworthy that Samuel asks Saul to ask him rather than ordering him, himself (9:27). Moreover, it seems that Samuel's word was to be for Saul alone and for some reason, he did not want the servant to hear the Lord's counsel.

Once this was accomplished, we come to the verse above. Saul was anointed King over Israel. The ceremony was of pouring oil over him as was customary and then kissing him, perhaps as a sign of fealty to the new ruler.

Saul had to be wondering why Samuel was acting so strangely with him, a nobody, extending him all of those social honors. But now the wait is over. He knows now why and unless Samuel had dropped some hints the night before when they were talking, this had to be a complete surprise to him.

When thou art departed from me to-day,
then thou shalt find two men by Rachel's sepulchre,
  in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah;
and they will say unto thee, The asses
which thou wentest to seek are found;
and, lo, thy father hath left off caring for the asses,
and is anxious for you, saying,
What shall I do for my son?
(1 Samuel 10:2 - ASV)

But there was no time for any modesty. Samuel had a command for him. There were some things he had to do. They were not 'big' things... the kinds of things one would expect a new King to do, but some were rather mundane things, like getting his sheep and letting his father know he was OK.

But I suspect that this was part of a test for Saul to see if he would do as he was commanded by the prophet. But also to show Saul that this really was God's man speaking to him and what he has said can be depended upon to come to pass. He is going to find his animals and Samuel knows where. Also, Saul's father was worried about him. This was the first sign and perhaps test. I say test because later in the book, Saul is not going to do so well in doing what the Lord commands him.

Then shalt thou go on forward from thence,
and thou shalt come to the oak of Tabor;
and there shall meet thee there three men
going up to God to Beth-el, one carrying three kids,
and another carrying three loaves of bread,
and another carrying a bottle of wine:
  and they will salute thee,
  and give thee two loaves of bread,
which thou shalt receive of their hand.
(1 Samuel 10:3-4 - ASV)

After he leaves Rachel's Sepulcher he is to go to a place called the oak of Tabor.

At Beth-el, there may have been an altar there from Patriarchal times and was still considered an acceptable place for worship and sacrifice. Samuel tells them exactly what these men are going to do. Again, I see this both as a test and as a sign for Saul, who may have been understandably incredulous that he was going to be King. What these men had was probably for a meat, bread and drink offering to be given at the altar. Saul was commanded to receive the gift.

It was customary in those days for travelers to salute one another. These days of course, strangers rarely speak to one another, even neighbors rarely speak one to another. It is not uncommon in our strange times, that a simple friendly greeting is viewed by some folks almost as a threat. But back then and even when I was growing up, a friendly greeting was often customary.

But they were also going to give him some of the offering intended for the sacrifice. This may have been a sign of their acceptance of him as their Lord. Remember the comments made earlier where an inferior does not go to a superior without giving him a gift? This seems to indicate that they acknowledged him as their King by this act.

After that thou shalt come to the hill of God,
where is the garrison of the Philistines:
and it shall come to pass, when thou art come
thither to the city, that thou shalt meet
a band of prophets coming down
from the high place with a psaltery,
and a timbrel, and a pipe, and a harp, before them;
and they will be prophesying:
and the Spirit of Jehovah will come mightily upon thee,
and thou shalt prophesy with them,
and shalt be turned into another man.
(1 Samuel 10:5-6 - ASV)

Then he is to come to the Hill of God (Gibeah) and meet some prophets. These may have been a kind of band of singing prophets for their musical instruments are listed here. Who exactly they were is not clear, but some commentators see them as being perhaps scribes or prophetic students. There may have been a college of prophets and they learned of God, the law and signing holy songs of praise in this school.These may not necessarily have been the kind of prophets that foresaw future things, but rather offered encouragement and perhaps teaching to the people in the name of the Lord.

Once he meets them, the Holy Spirit is going to descend upon him and he too will receive the spirit of prophecy and a mighty transformation will occur over him.

And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee,
that thou do as occasion shall serve thee;
  for God is with thee.
(1 Samuel 10:7 - ASV)

Samuel is giving Saul both signs and some commandments. If he goes where he is told, these are the things, specifically that will come to pass. Once these signs are accomplished and he receives the Holy Spirit, he will have the wisdom he needs for the task at hand, for God is with him! But note, in order for him to get the blessing, he has to do as he is told. Later in this book, we shall see what happens when he ceases to do as God commands.

But look how the Lord is! He takes a man from a very humble position and makes him ruler over his people! As the scripture says, he resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Saul thought little of himself and his family lineage, but the Lord moved to raise him up very high.

A question I have when going over this passage is, why did Saul take so long to anoint Saul? The Lord clearly told him this was the man who was going to be King (1 Samuel 9:16-17). Was Samuel a bit resistant to anointing this man King, who had no reputation? Was he being cautious making sure he did not make a mistake? We will never know the answer, but Samuel's slight delay was not rebuked nor even commented upon. But I think it might have been a bit indicative of his care for his office, for which he was responsible. He may have just wanted to take a day and check this man out before he did something that could not be undone - anointing him with oil as King.

Such caution is wise and is even mentioned in the New Testament. Below, Paul lays out to Timothy about anointing others by the laying on of hands.

Lay hands hastily on no man,
neither be partaker of other men's sins:
keep thyself pure.
(1 Timothy 5:22 - ASV)

I suspect that Samuel, who knew he was moving up in years wanted to make sure that Israel was left in good hands when he departed this life. Samuel, as we already remarked and shown in the forgoing passages, had misgivings about a King and this too may have contributed to the brief delay. If there is anything that can be gained from this short comment it's that Church leaders, prophets and even divine healers should take very great care before they lay hands on or anoint another person.

We will continue out look at the book of First Samuel next week, God willing!

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23 March

1 Samuel Part 26

And Saul answered and said,
Am not I a Benjamite,
of the smallest of the tribes of Israel?
and my family the least of all the families
of the tribe of Benjamin?
wherefore then speakest thou
to me after this manner?
(1 Samuel 9:21 - ASV)

We left off last time and Saul had arrived, as the Lord had told Samuel that Saul would be king and Saul was slowly being prepared to have his new role as King revealed to him. Samuel here was doing him great honor. The above passage is Saul's reaction to this unexpected and in his mind, undeserved attention. He notes that his tribe is the least significant in Israel and his family insignificant among them. He was curious as to why he was doing him these honors.

And Samuel took Saul and his servant,
and brought them into the guest-chamber,
and made them sit in the chiefest place
among them that were bidden,
who were about thirty persons.
And Samuel said unto the cook,
Bring the portion which I gave thee,
of which I said unto thee,
Set it by thee.
(1 Samuel 9:22-23 - ASV)

This is may have been a cook or butcher (2876 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary). The last part of this passage seems to be indicative of the fact that Samuel was prepared for the arrival of a 'mystery visitor' and had told the cook to lay aside a special portion for him when he arrived. Note that Saul was given the best place.

And the cook took up the thigh,
and that which was upon it, and set it before Saul.
And Samuel said, Behold, that which hath been reserved!
set it before thee and eat; because unto
the appointed time hath it been kept for thee,
for I said, I have invited the people.
So Saul did eat with Samuel that day.
(1 Samuel 9:24 - ASV)

This was the choicest morsel and according to the law, was reserved for the Priest (see Leviticus 7:32; 10:12ff). This was a mark of great honor and respect. He was being given one of the choicest pieces of the meal before the highly respected Samuel and in the company of his guests.

And when they were come down from
the high place into the city,
he communed with Saul upon the housetop.
  And they arose early: and it came to pass
about the spring of the day,
that Samuel called to Saul on the housetop,
saying, Up, that I may send thee away.
And Saul arose, and they went out both of them,
he and Samuel, abroad.
(1 Samuel 9:25-26 - ASV)

So Saul went and lodged at Samuel's home for the evening and had a conversation on the roof of his home, roofs being flat in that part of the world in those days, since 20 inches of snow and collapsed rooftops were not a major concern for people in that part of the world (!).

But as this was a place that all could see, this special attention to Saul may have aroused many people's tongues to wag. Saul, may have slept all night on the roof, which was not at all uncommon in that time and place. But people were almost certainly gossiping about this meeting of a very odd pair of people; Saul the 'bumpkin' and Samuel, the de-facto leader of Israel.

We don't know what was discussed, if Samuel revealed what the Lord was going to do or not. I don't think he did, but he probably wanted to get a feel for what kind of person Saul was, how much he knew about the problems facing Israel and how well he knew the Lord. Some commentators think Samuel revealed to Saul he was to be king and that the conversations they had were a kind of 'private interview' before being anointed King. I am not so sure this is the case.

In any event, it was time for Saul to depart and apparently Samuel traveled with Saul at least part of the way, perhaps into the street to head out of town, where Saul was on his way to.

    As they were going down at the end of the city,
Samuel said to Saul, Bid the servant pass on
before us (and he passed on),
but stand thou still first,
that I may cause thee to hear
the word of God.
(1 Samuel 9:27 - ASV)

Then was this another somewhat unusual episode, they are heading out of town and now Samuel has some new and unusual request. He is going to speak a word of prophecy over Saul.

Now before we move on, I suspect that Samuel may have had some private misgivings about Saul and this is why he did not anoint him right away. He may have wanted to feel him out and get back to the Lord in prayer before he poured oil over him and anointed him King. Granted, that is just my suspicion here, there is not much in the text to support it other than it took Samuel awhile to anoint him and he never really wanted Israel to have a king to begin with. But Samuel was first and foremost a servant of the Lord and if this was the Lord's will, then this was what he was going to do, despite any private misgivings.

We will get to the anointing of Samuel, next week, God willing!!

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16 March

1 Samuel Part 25

As they went up the ascent to the city,
they found young maidens
going out to draw water,
and said unto them,
 Is the seer here?
(1 Samuel 9:11 - ASV)

We left off last time and Saul and his servant could not find their animals and consequently had decided to go and ask the Prophet (seer) if he could help them find them.

They find some young women who were at the well drawing water and asked them where he was. This was customary of the women in those times as they would go and get water for the family or the farm. I suspect the local well was the place where young men and women would meet to flirt with one another back in those days. But that was not what was on their minds right now, they were on a job to go and find their animals and the seer could help.

    And they answered them, and said,
  He is; behold, he is before thee: make haste now,
for he is come to-day into the city;
for the people have a sacrifice
  to-day in the high place.
(1 Samuel 9:12 - ASV)

They came to the right place and the women were most helpful and let them know that if they hurry, they can catch him for there was to be a sacrifice on that day. Samuel was probably just coming off of his duties as the local circuit judge and had come to fulfill his duties as Priest. We don't know what feast it was and remember, the ark was no longer in the Tabernacle because of the Philistines. Samuel's place is still of the greatest importance here. It is quite possible that it is only Samuel that provides the real link between God and his people. He appears to be the only one God recognizes and being his representative in those days.

As soon as ye are come into the city,
  ye shall straightway find him, before he goeth up
to the high place to eat; for the people
will not eat until he come,
because he doth bless the sacrifice;
and afterwards they eat that are bidden.
Now therefore get you up;
for at this time ye shall find him.
(1 Samuel 9:13 - ASV)

This passage is rather interesting in that we note that some will feast that were bid to come. Samuel was key as no one would eat until he blessed the sacrifice.

    And they went up to the city;
  and as they came within the city, behold,
Samuel came out toward them,
to go up to the high place.
(1 Samuel 9:14 - ASV)

Sometimes it's little things I notice in scripture that enlighten me. Saul could have said, "Let's not bother him today, he's clearly too busy to deal with us and our little problem. C'mon, let's go and track along those hills yonder and see if the animals are there....". But no, they were determined to get to the seer, even if it was a feast and sacrifice day.

Now Jehovah had revealed unto Samuel
a day before Saul came, saying,
To-morrow about this time I will send thee
a man out of the land of Benjamin,
and thou shalt anoint him
to be prince over my people Israel;
and he shall save my people
out of the hand of the Philistines:
for I have looked upon my people,
because their cry is come unto me.
(1 Samuel 9:15-16 - ASV)

The Lord had already revealed that he would send someone to be King ('prince over my people'). This is so often the case with prophets. The Lord often tells them things in advance. Sometimes they are meant for general consumption, other times private, but the Lord here revealed his plan to Samuel so that he would be prepared. The KJV uses the phrase 'in his ear' to describe the method of divine communication. The word had the connotation of hearing (241 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary). The distinction here is probably to distinguish it from a vision or a dream. Here the Lord spoke directly to his servant Samuel.

A key part of this is that Israel was clearly still having a lot of problems with the Philistines and this king, whom the people wanted, would be the one to free them from their yoke. A man from the tribe of Benjamin was going to show up and Samuel's job was to anoint him King.

It is so important to make this clear distinction again. Samuel did not choose Saul. God did. Samuel was merely the instrument God used to 'seal' Saul's rulership. This is the office of a real prophet, He does not do things presumptuously, he does not 'take authority' that is not his to take (like choosing Kings). No, he is merely an instrument to do the will of God, even if the purpose of God's actions are not clear or he may not be personally in agreement with. Remember, Samuel was deeply hurt by the people's desire for a King. But Samuel had his orders from the God he served and there is no mention of any hesitation on Samuel's part to do what the Lord required.

    And when Samuel saw Saul, Jehovah said unto him,
Behold, the man of whom I spake to thee!
this same shall have authority over my people.
(1 Samuel 9:17 - ASV)

The Lord was speaking directly to his prophet again and the word was, to paraphrase it, 'That's him, That is the man I told you about yesterday. This is the man who will be king'. I do think it noteworthy that Saul seems to have been one of those people who took little notice of public affairs. Clearly he had never seen Samuel before.

The final stanza of the last verse is a bit peculiar. Translators use the word 'authority' over my people. But the word is less clear. It is the word 6113 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary. Yes, it can mean reign but it also has the connotation of restraining or stopping.

  Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate,
and said, Tell me, I pray thee, where the seer's house is.
And Samuel answered Saul, and said,
I am the seer; go up before me unto the high place,
for ye shall eat with me to-day: and in the morning
I will let thee go, and will tell thee all that
is in thy heart. And as for thine asses that
were lost three days ago, set not thy mind on them;
for they are found. And for whom is all
that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for thee,
and for all thy father's house?
(1 Samuel 9:18-20 - ASV)

We see here clearly that the two had never met before as Saul did not recognize the seer by face. Samuel gave him an answer, realizing who this man was and would be and gave him his instructions, paraphrasing it 'Hang around for a while and have dinner with me and you can leave in the morning, I will tell you what you want to know, and don't worry about your animals. They have already been found'.

The phrase that he would tell him 'all that was in his heart', indicates that he would reveal more to Saul than just his lost animals. What is noteworthy in this passage is that when they go up to the High Place, he was to go before Samuel. This was a tremendous act of honor and may have been done to prepare the people and Saul for what was getting ready to happen.

In the last stanza of verse 20, Samuel remarks on the honor that shall be bestowed upon Saul and his fathers house. Once again, this appears to be done to prepare Saul for greatness so that he could prepare himself mentally before the formal anointing. Sure Samuel could have told him he as going to be king. But Instead, he was giving him some hints that something very special was getting ready to happen to him. Being King was probably the last thing on his mind as Israel had never had a king, and his apparent ignorance of Samuel seems to indicate a considerable lack of political knowledge on Saul's part. One almost gets the impression that Saul may have been seen as kind of country 'bumpkin' and though from a good family, he just was not with the 'in crowd' in a political and social sense. These little acts seem to be made to prepare both the people and Saul for the changes ahead.

We will continue our look at Samuel next week, God willing!

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10 March

1 Samuel Part 24

Now there was a man of Benjamin,
whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel,
 the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath,
 the son of Aphiah, the son of a Benjamite,
a mighty man of valor. And he had a son,
 whose name was Saul, a young man and a goodly:
and there was not among the children of Israel
a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders
and upward he was higher than any of the people.
(1 Samuel 9:1-2 - ASV)

The last chapter ends with a very important spiritual milestone in the history of the apostasy of Israel. It was a time when they rejected God as being king of his people and wanted a man to take his place, like all the nations around them. The deeper spiritual issue was one of rejection. Rejection of God's rulership and provision. They saw how everyone else was doing it and wanted to mimic the idolators in the region. The Lord knew the hearts of the people and where their attitude would eventually lead them.

Well, the Lord would fulfill his word and give them a King, since that is what they wanted. That man was going to be Saul. Saul did not come from the line of the tribe of Judah, but rather from the tribe of Benjamin.

His father was known as a mighty man and quite probably a man of property and who may have had his own troop of men. Saul was a good looking man and quite tall. By the description, we can deduce that he was basically the most handsome man in the kingdom. Add to that he was taller than anyone else, he looked the part. The men could look up to him, the women would swoon and clearly had the bearing that makes a person appear to be a king. If this were a Hollywood movie, Saul fit the bill of an A-list actor who was known for playing romantic, heroic leads. The name Saul means asked (7586 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary). A fitting name as a king was what Israel had asked for. God was giving the people everything they desired, but not what was best for them. But they got a good looking, notable man - the son of a man with a great reputation ruling over them.

And the asses of Kish, Saul's father,
were lost. And Kish said to Saul his son,
Take now one of the servants with thee,
  and arise, go seek the asses.
And he passed through the hill-country of Ephraim,
and passed through the land of Shalishah,
  but they found them not:
then they passed through the land of Shaalim,
and there they were not:
and he passed through the land of the Benjamites,
but they found them not.
(1 Samuel 9:3-4 - ASV)

This is a passage about an incident of lost asses. This was hardly anything of note and something that probably happened quite regularly to many animal herders in those times. Why is it covered here? Because of the divine appointment that is to follow. At times we may seem like we are on a wild goose chase and wonder why we have to go here or go there, take care of this annoyance or that errand but sometimes, there is a divine appointment in the most mundane of matters. This will prove to be one of them. The search for the sheep will lead Saul to his destiny. Saul may have been looking for his animals, but he was going to find something much more important.

    When they were come to the land of Zuph,
Saul said to his servant that was with him,
Come, and let us return, lest my father
leave off caring for the asses, and be anxious for us.
And he said unto him, Behold now,
  there is in this city a man of God,
and he is a man that is held in honor;
  all that he saith cometh surely to pass:
  now let us go thither; peradventure
he can tell us concerning our journey
whereon we go.
(1 Samuel 9:5-6 - ASV)

This apparently was no minor search. According to some commentators, this was a mountainous region. They covered quite a bit of ground and nothing turned up. Saul here proposed to go back home because his father may cease to worry about the animals and rather start worry about Saul.

But Saul's servant has an idea. There is a man of God he knows of who lives nearby whom they can ask about the whereabouts of the animals. Here we can ascertain that when this question was asked, they were near the city of Ramah, where Samuel lived. Samuel as we read, had an excellent reputation, not only as a man of God, but as one of honor. Men of God in those days still were highly regarded and respected. As we find later, this becomes less and less the case as the years wear on. Some would later be told to be silent, some imprisoned and others killed. When a nation that once respected God gets to that point, God's judgment is often not far off.

    Then said Saul to his servant,
But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man?
for the bread is spent in our vessels,
and there is not a present to bring to the man of God:
what have we? And the servant answered Saul again,
  and said, Behold, I have in my hand
the fourth part of a shekel of silver:
that will I give to the man of God,
to tell us our way.
(1 Samuel 9:7-8 - ASV)

Saul here asks what can we give him if we go to him? This may seem a bit out of place, a man of God giving his word for a gift, but not totally. There are several reasons that this could be so. This may have been the custom of the times rather than paying for a prophecy; where a person of inferior social rank does not go to a superior without some kind of gift.

It was customary and perhaps could be taken as a slight if it was not done. So Saul was concerned about what kind of gift was to be given, since they were out of bread. What could they give Saul? Saul's servant, again has a good answer, he has a little pocket money he can give Saul. The problem of the gift was solved.

(Beforetime in Israel, when a man
went to inquire of God, thus he said,
  Come, and let us go to the seer;
for he that is now called a Prophet
was beforetime called a Seer.)
Then said Saul to his servant,
Well said; come, let us go.
So they went unto the city
where the man of God was.
(1 Samuel 9:9-10 - ASV)

Here the author of the book lays out the interchangeable nature of the terminology between seer and prophet. They are basically the same thing but more and more, the word prophet is used to describe such men, though the word seer did not fall into total disuse. Yet this passage may have been placed in the book later by scribe to help avoid any confusion. Some think Jeremiah or Ezra may have done it. But the word seer is appropriate because they often see things that others don't. Seers were important because remember, in those days there was no frequent vision (1 Samuel 3:1).

This whole passage seems almost unnecessary, but in it we find something most interesting. That God uses men, often unbeknownst to themselves to be of use to him. Saul's servant was indeed fulfilling God's purpose by guiding Saul to the man of God. He could not possibly have known that it would lead to his master becoming King. Yet he fulfilled God's purpose by advising Saul. How many times has someone not even knowing it, helped us on our way to God's purposes? Even children can be used of God in this manner! While the context may not fit exactly, the passage out of Zachariah comes to mind 'For who hath despised the day of small things?'... (Zechariah 4:10a).

God's detours can lead to great things!

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2 March

1 Samuel Part 23

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.
(1 Samuel 8:12-13 - ASV)

We left off last time when Samuel had just begun to tell the people what to expect when they get their new king. The people were not going to go into this without being solemnly warned about what it would mean.

In short, this was the system of governance that was widespread in the region for centuries. It is what the Israelite nation had to live under as slaves in Egypt. This is what they were crying out for, lusting for if you will; to be like the nations around them. They no longer wanted God ruling over them.

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.
(1 Samuel 8:14-17 - ASV)

Samuel goes on to describe just what a king will do, all of the burdens he will put upon the people. The last stanza is most telling, where Samuel warns them that they will be his servants. The word for servant has the connotation of being in bondage. In short, Israel was exchanging their service to God for that of a king. But what is not mentioned here in this warning section are the dynastic wars and succession issues and conflicts that often plague monarchy's. Who rules? Who will follow?  - 'Should 'we' kill the king so that his successor comes to the throne who will put 'me' in a high position?'-  This is the problem that besets monarchies then and even now.

Samuel is warning them and basically telling them in today's vernacular, 'you won't be able to say you were not warned when these evil's befall you'.

    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.
(1 Samuel 8:18 - ASV)

Another warning is clearly stated by the Lord's man. One day you're going to regret this decision, cry out to the Lord but he won't be in a listening mood... at all.

I read this whole passage like this (in a more colorful fashion) - 'If you want to lay on that bed of nails you may do so, but when the devil comes and sits on your stomach loaded with a bag of bricks on his lap, don't come crying to me, you made your choice'.

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 8:19-20 - ASV)

The people just would not listen, being afflicted with what can only be called 'hard head syndrome'. Godly counsel and sound advice are not heard. They wanted what they wanted and clearly were not concerned with the ultimate price.

But in this passage we can see why Samuel was so hurt, they wanted a king to judge them. Judge was Samuel's job. The people may have thought that Samuel had too much of an interest in keeping things the way they were and forgot all the hard work he had done and the miracles the Lord had done for them. They may have thought Samuel was just conjuring up images of disaster to keep his job. But the Lord knew their hears, they were not rejecting Samuel, but the Lord (8:7).

But despite all the warnings and pleadings, they just were not going to listen.

And Samuel heard all the words of the people,
and he rehearsed them in the ears of Jehovah.
(1 Samuel 8:21 - ASV)

So after he sounded the people out, he went to the Lord and told him what they said. Here Samuel was acting as intermediary. Of course the Lord knew what was said, but the response of the people had to come through 'official channels' - that being the Lord's prophet and judge, Samuel. We see this kind of divine order throughout the Bible, even with the angels who watch and report to the Lord.

And Jehovah said to Samuel,
Hearken unto their voice,
and make them a king.
And Samuel said unto the men of Israel,
Go ye every man unto his city.
(1 Samuel 8:22 - ASV)

The Lord was going to grant their request. So Samuel, being a dutiful servant of the Lord does as he is commanded, he listens to the people and prepares to anoint a king over them.

It seems clear that this is not what Samuel wanted, but was obedient to the Lord, his God. But as stated in an early section, this is going to mean a whole new form of government, from a theocracy to a monarchy. But my own view is that Samuel is not totally blameless in all of this. I won't denigrate the Lord's most trusted and faithful servant, but keep in mind that it was the corruption of his sons that helped bring this all about.

So Samuel dismisses the assembly of people and tells them to go home, you want a king? You'll get one.

Yet even in this act of semi-rebellion, there will be some good come out of it. Eventually, the Messiah will come and will be a king; the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and bring in his own Monarchy both to Israel and the world - Jesus Christ.

Even in our rebellion, God can eventually bring good.

We will continue our look at the book of Samuel, next week, God willing!

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