The Life And Times Of Samuel The Prophet
(1 Sam. 10 and 11)
"Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the Lord hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance? " (ver. 1).
It is beautiful to see here how fully and freely Samuel resigns his authority to Saul. There is no restraint, but heartily and ungrudgingly he pours the anointing oil upon his head. Without reserve he performs the rite that marks Saul out as supreme head of the nation. This is very lovely, and exhibits the prophet as a man of remarkably generous spirit, devoid of jealousy, without ambition for himself or his sons, desiring only that Jehovah's will might be done in him and the nation.
Would that we all did imitate him in this, as the apostle exhorts, "In honor preferring one another;" and again, "Let no man seek his own, but every man another's [profit]" (Rom. 12: 10; 1 Cor. 10: 24). How we lack in that love, that "seeketh not her own." "Jealousy is cruel as the grave," and "envy is as rottenness to the bones," but joy in another's profit, the promotion of our neighbour, this is a spirit all too rare in this selfish world. May it be cultivated diligently by the believer who desires to be more like his blessed Master, who was "meek and lowly in heart," or even as His forerunner John, who unregretfully said, "He must increase, but I must decrease."
Samuel anoints Saul, "and kissed him." This was another lovely act of Samuel's. It was not done before the multitude, as if for effect, or as a mere conventional ceremony. No, being done in privacy, it shows what spirit he was of, that he should thus be the first, and without show, to confess his allegiance to the king, his king thenceforth. It was the pledge to Saul, and before God, of his fealty and whole good pleasure in Jehovah's choice, in the exaltation of this man of Benjamin, his neighbour.
There was no real necessity for it here, as there might be later at his public coronation at Mizpeh (see Ps. 2: 12.) Very beautiful indeed is this trait of self-renunciation in Samuel seen constantly throughout his lifetime, from his earliest infancy, when he forfeited a mother's tender care and the sweet companionships of home, for the care and awesome solitude of the tabernacle at Shiloh; and later, when for twenty years he is hidden from the public eye though demonstrated as a prophet of Jehovah. Here, and further on in his devoted life, he does the same, as we shall see. It is a characteristic of his self-renunciation which we cannot cease to admire; yet it is not he but the grace of God that was in him, to whom be glory for evermore! Amen.
Three things are pointed out to Saul by Samuel, in explanation of the meaning of the ceremony just performed. He reminds him of the nature of the government to which he is called. He was anointed to be "captain," a commander, which bespeaks honor and power; but a commander in war, which bespeaks care and toil and danger. As to the origin, he says, "The Lord hath anointed thee." By Him he was to rule, and therefore must rule for Him, in dependence on Him, and with an eye to His glory.
As to the end of it, it was over God's inheritance, to take care of that, protect it, and order its affairs, as a steward, set over His estate, to manage it for His service, and give an account of it to Him.
This done, Samuel tells Saul what should befall him ere reaching his home in Gibeah. All coming out true, just as the man of God had said, would convince the newly appointed captain that Samuel was indeed a prophet of the Lord which, because of his previous utter ignorance, he might have doubted - and his appointment therefore valid. Consequently, Saul must have felt that his responsibility was great, not to be lightly thought of, nor negligently discharged. We quote from another, "The first place Samuel directed him to was a sepulchre, the sepulchre of one of his ancestors, for there Rachel had died in travail with Benjamin; there he must read a lecture of his own mortality, and now that he had the crown in his eye, must think of his grave, in which all his honor would be laid in the dust."
Other details of the happenings on the journey home we pass over in silence, as our purpose is to write of Samuel rather than Saul which others have done in detail and to fullest profit.
Samuel's closing word to Saul is one of utmost importance, and for failing to heed it he was rejected by the Lord, who had chosen him at the outset of his career
"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 to thee, and show thee what thou shalt do" (chap. 10: 8).
This was not at his final installation into power (see chap. 11: I4), but later, at the gathering together of the Philistines against him, as we shall presently see. Samuel next convokes an assembly of the tribes at Mizpeh:
"And Samuel called the people together unto the Lord to Mizpeh, and said unto the children of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed you: and ye have this day rejected your God, who Himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto Him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes, and by your thousands'' (chap. 10, 17-19).
Samuel here reminds them of Gods gracious dealings with them in the past (when they were without a king), from the time of their going forth out of Egypt to the present. Who Himself saved you." he says, so emphasizing the fact that it was God alone, without the aid of any arm of flesh, who had so far delivered them from the power of their enemies; and he vigorously charges home upon their consciences their sin in now refusing the rule of the mighty Jehovah, of whose power and wisdom there was no limit, and whose ear had been ever open to their cry. He had never failed them - but they were determined on the change, and God will let them have it even as they wished.
Then lots are cast, and Saul is taken: "And when they sought him he could not be found." They inquired of the Lord if the man should yet come thither, and the Lord answers, "He has hid himself among the stuff." Why this inquiry, "If the man should yet come thither?" Are the people beginning to have some misgivings? Is it beginning to dawn upon them that the change would not be for the better but for the worse? Were the recently uttered words of Samuel disturbing their consciences? But it is too late. They have deliberately, in the face of protest and warning from Samuel, made their choice, and must abide the issue. Israel would not go up to possess the land, when encouraged, aye, commanded by God to do so; and when they repented their decision, He told them, No; they must turn back to wander forty weary years in the wilderness, until the carcases of the guilty had fallen in the desert (Num. 14). Esau changed his mind, after having sold his birthright, but "afterwards, when he would have inherited the blessing; he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears" (Heb. 10). Judas, too, after his betrayal of the Lord, "repented himself, but only to go to his own place," in hopeless and everlasting misery. And here, with foolish Israel, the die is cast, the irrevocable choice is made.
"He hath hid himself among the stuff,'' was the undignified position of the man upon whom the prophet had poured the anointing oil: It betrays the smallness of Saul's soul; the act savors more of mock humility, or childish affectation, than real heart-felt lowliness before God. But they bring him forth, and as he stands before the people, a splendid specimen of humanity, "higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward," Samuel says to the assembled multitude, "See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, GOD SAVE THE KING'" He towers like a giant above them, and as they behold with admiring eyes his great stature, they are content. The misgivings they might for the moment have entertained, vanish immediately on sight of him, and they shout aloud their approbation and delight, "Let the king live."
Poor mistaken people, without faith, they judged by the sight of their eyes. They are satisfied with the "height of his stature," without another qualification to recommend him for the position they expected him to fill. He had never subdued a single Philistine, a lion, or a bear, like David. His stature was all they asked, while God the Invisible, and Samuel His modest prophet, they rejected. Alas, this is man! "Not this Man but Barabbas - now Barabbas was a robber." "No king but Caesar," they cry. Tiberius, who then reigned, was a most profligate man, and his government was despotic and cruel. "I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name; him ye will receive " (John 5: 43) They would not have the "Man of Sorrows," "the Man of Calvary"; and God will in a day not far distant, let them have "the man of sin;" the Antichrist.
"Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the Lord. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house" (chap. 10: 25).
Here we can do no better than quote the comment of Matthew Henry: "Samuel settles the original contract between them, and leaves it upon record. He had before told them the manner of the king, how he would abuse his power (chap. 8: 11). now he tells them the manner of the kingdom, or rather the law or constitution of it; what power the prince might challenge and the utmost of the property he might claim. Let them rightly understand one another at first, and let the agreement remain in black and white, which will tend to preserve a good understanding between them ever after - The learned bishop Patrick thinks he now repeated and registered what he had told them (chap. 8: 11) of the arbitrary power their kings would assume, that it might be hereafter a witness against them that they had drawn the Calamity upon themselves, for they were warned what it would come to, yet they would have a king."
Samuel then dissolves the convention, and Saul returns to Gibeah. Why he did not at once take the reins of government into his hands is not clear. There were dissentients to the choice, men who "despised him," and "brought him no presents." "How shall this man save us?" they asked, in derision. They probably knew him better than his more distant people, and had little confidence in his qualities of leadership, or of his abilities to save them from the hand of their oppressors; and their numbers may have been considerable. But Saul hides any resentment he may have felt at this nonrecognition of him as their king and captain, and the siege of JabeshGilead by Nahash the Ammonite furnished him the opportunity to ingratiate himself fully into the confidence of the nation. "Nothing succeeds like success," is a popular saying, and Saul was given this in full measure. The invading Ammonites are defeated and put to utter rout, and Jabesh-Gilead is saved.
"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 hot a man be put to death this day: for today the Lord hath wrought salvation in Israel" (chap. 11: 12, 13).
This word of clemency from Saul sounds fair, and augured well for the future mildness of his reign. Yet we note that the people addressed themselves to Samuel, not to Saul; they still recognized him as their lawful judge, doubtless, and Samuel proposes that they go to Gilgal, "and renew the kingdom there." This expression, "and renew the kingdom," suggests, as we have before intimated, that there had been some hitch, or halt in the establishment of Saul in power.
The fitting opportunity had arrived to formally and finally install Saul in his office.
"AND all the people went to Gilgal; and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal ; and there they sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before the Lord; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly" (chap. 11: 15).
Peace offerings were the sacrifices offered here. "This is distinct from both the burnt offering and the meat offering, though founded upon them. Its object was not to show how a sinner might get peace, nor to make atonement; it was rather the outcome of having been blessed - the response of the heart to that blessing." It typified communion, and the offerer and his friends could eat of it together. It was the offering most used by the nation, especially on occasions of joy or thanksgiving, as here.
So Saul is, at last, enthroned in authority; the sceptre has been placed in his hands by the people, which was to be used so soon and heavily upon them. Now he is king indeed, and Samuel hands over to him the government that had for so many years rested on his own willing shoulders. The "bloodless revolution" is effected. What follows we shall shortly see.
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