1 Samuel 1-14 Common English Bible (CEB)
1 Now there was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite[a] from the highlands of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah. He was from the tribe of Ephraim, and he was the son of Jeroham son of Elihu son of Tohu son of Zuph. 2 Elkanah had two wives, one named Hannah and the other named Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah didn’t.
3 Every year this man would leave his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of heavenly forces in Shiloh, where Eli’s two sons Hophni and Phinehas were the Lord’s priests. 4 Whenever he sacrificed, Elkanah would give parts of the sacrifice to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But he would give only one part of it to Hannah, though he loved her, because the Lord had kept her from conceiving.[b] 6 And because the Lord had kept Hannah from conceiving, her rival would make fun of her mercilessly, just to bother her. 7 So that is what took place year after year. Whenever Hannah went to the Lord’s house, Peninnah would make fun of her. Then she would cry and wouldn’t eat anything.
8 “Hannah, why are you crying?” her husband Elkanah would say to her. “Why won’t you eat? Why are you[c] so sad? Aren’t I worth more to you than ten sons?”
9 One time, after eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah got up and presented herself before the Lord.[d] (Now Eli the priest was sitting in the chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s temple.) 10 Hannah was very upset and couldn’t stop crying as she prayed to the Lord. 11 Then she made this promise: “Lord of heavenly forces, just look at your servant’s pain and remember me! Don’t forget your servant! Give her a boy! Then I’ll give him to the Lord for his entire life. No razor will ever touch his head.”
12 As she kept praying before the Lord, Eli watched her mouth. 13 Now Hannah was praying in her heart; her lips were moving, but her voice was silent, so Eli thought she was drunk.
14 “How long will you act like a drunk? Sober up!” Eli told her.
15 “No sir!” Hannah replied. “I’m just a very sad woman. I haven’t had any wine or beer but have been pouring out my heart to the Lord. 16 Don’t think your servant is some good-for-nothing woman. This whole time I’ve been praying out of my great worry and trouble!”
17 Eli responded, “Then go in peace. And may the God of Israel give you what you’ve asked from him.”
18 “Please think well of me, your servant,” Hannah said. Then the woman went on her way, ate some food, and wasn’t sad any longer.[e]
19 They got up early the next morning and worshipped the Lord. Then they went back home to Ramah. Elkanah had sex with his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 So in the course of time, Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, which means “I asked the Lord for him.”[f]
21 When Elkanah and all his household went up to make the annual sacrifice and keep his solemn promise, 22 Hannah didn’t go.
“I’ll bring the boy when he is weaned,” she told her husband, “so he can be presented to the Lord and stay there permanently. I will offer him as a nazirite forever.”[g]
23 “Do what seems best to you,” said her husband Elkanah. “Stay here until you’ve weaned him. But may the Lord bring to pass what you’ve[h] promised.” So the woman stayed home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.
24 When he had been weaned and was still very young,[i] Hannah took him, along with a three-year-old bull,[j] an ephah[k] of flour, and a jar of wine, and brought him to the Lord’s house at Shiloh. 25 They slaughtered the bull, then brought the boy to Eli.
26 “Excuse me, sir!” Hannah said. “As surely as you live, sir, I am the woman who stood here next to you, praying to the Lord. 27 I prayed for this boy, and the Lord gave me what I asked from him. 28 So now I give this boy back to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.”
Then they worshipped there before the Lord.[l]
2 Then Hannah prayed:
My heart rejoices in the Lord.
3 Don’t go on and on, talking so proudly,
4 The bows of mighty warriors are shattered,
10 The Lord!
May God give strength to his king
11 Then Elkanah went home to Ramah, but the boy served the Lord under Eli the priest.
Corruption of Eli’s sons
12 Now Eli’s sons were despicable men who didn’t know the Lord. 13 This was how the priest was supposed to act with the people: Whenever anyone made a sacrifice, while the meat was boiling, the priest’s assistant would come with a three-pronged fork in hand. 14 He would thrust it into the cauldron or the pot.[o] Whatever the fork brought up, the priest would take for himself. This is how it was done for all the Israelites who came to Shiloh.
15 But with Eli’s sons,[p] even before the fat was burned, the priest’s assistant would come and say to the person offering the sacrifice, “Give the priest some meat to roast. He won’t accept boiled meat from you.”[q] 16 If anyone said, “Let the fat be burned off first, as usual, then take whatever you like for yourself,” the assistant would reply, “No, hand it over now. If not, I’ll take it by force.” 17 The sin of these priestly assistants was very serious in the Lord’s sight because they were disrespecting the Lord’s own offering.
18 Now Samuel was serving the Lord. He was a young boy, clothed in a linen priestly vest.[r] 19 His mother would make a small robe for him and take it to him every year when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. 20 Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife: “May the Lord replace[s] the child of this woman that you gave back to the Lord.” Then they would return home. 21 The Lord paid attention to Hannah, and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the Lord’s service.
22 Eli was very old, but he heard everything his sons were doing to the Israelites, and how they had sex with the women who served at the meeting tent’s entrance. 23 Eli said to his sons, “Why are you doing these terrible things that I’m hearing about from everybody? 24 No, my sons. Don’t do this.[t] The report I hear spreading among God’s people isn’t good. 25 If someone sins against someone else, God can intercede; but if someone sins against the Lord, who will intercede then?” But they wouldn’t obey their father because the Lord wanted to kill them. 26 Meanwhile, the boy Samuel kept growing up and was more and more liked by both the Lord and the people.
27 Now a man of God came to Eli and said, “This is what the Lord says: I revealed myself very clearly to your father’s household when they were slaves[u] in Egypt to the house of Pharaoh. 28 I chose your father from all of Israel’s tribes to be my priest, to go up onto my altar, to burn incense, and to wear the priestly vest[v] in my presence. I also gave all of the Israelites’ food offerings to your father’s household. 29 Why then do you kick my sacrifices and my offerings—the very ones I commanded for my dwelling place? Why do you respect your sons more than me, getting fat off the best parts of every offering from my people Israel? 30 Because of all that, this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: I had promised that your household and your father’s household would serve me forever. But now—this is what the Lord declares: I’ll do no such thing! No. I honor those who honor me, and whoever despises me will be cursed. 31 The days are coming soon when I will eliminate both your children[w] and the children of your father’s household. There won’t be an old person left in your family tree. 32 You’ll see trouble in my dwelling place, though all will go well for Israel.[x] But there will never be an old person in your family tree. 33 One of your descendants whom I don’t eliminate from serving at my altar will cry his[y] eyes out and be full of grief. Any descendants in your household will die by the sword.[z] 34 And what happens to your two sons Hophni and Phinehas will be a sign for you: they will both die on the same day. 35 Then I will establish for myself a trustworthy priest who will act in accordance with my thoughts and desires. I will build a trustworthy household for him, and he will serve before my anointed one forever. 36 Anyone left from your household will come and beg him for a bit of silver or a loaf of bread, saying: ‘Please appoint me to some priestly duty so I can have a scrap of bread to eat.’”
3 Now the boy Samuel was serving the Lord under Eli. The Lord’s word was rare at that time, and visions weren’t widely known. 2 One day Eli, whose eyes had grown so weak he was unable to see, was lying down in his room. 3 God’s lamp hadn’t gone out yet, and Samuel was lying down in the Lord’s temple, where God’s chest[aa] was.
4 The Lord called to Samuel. “I’m here,” he said.
5 Samuel hurried to Eli and said, “I’m here. You called me?”
“I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go lie down.” So he did.
6 Again the Lord called Samuel, so Samuel got up, went to Eli, and said, “I’m here. You called me?”
“I didn’t call, my son,” Eli replied. “Go and lie down.”
(7 Now Samuel didn’t yet know the Lord, and the Lord’s word hadn’t yet been revealed to him.)
8 A third time the Lord called Samuel. He got up, went to Eli, and said, “I’m here. You called me?”
Then Eli realized that it was the Lord who was calling the boy. 9 So Eli said to Samuel, “Go and lie down. If he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down where he’d been.
10 Then the Lord came and stood there, calling just as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel said, “Speak. Your servant is listening.”
11 The Lord said to Samuel, “I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of all who hear it tingle! 12 On that day, I will bring to pass against Eli everything I said about his household—every last bit of it![ab] 13 I told him that I would punish his family forever because of the wrongdoing he knew about—how his sons were cursing God,[ac] but he wouldn’t stop them. 14 Because of that I swore about Eli’s household that his family’s wrongdoing will never be reconciled by sacrifice or by offering.”
15 Samuel lay there until morning, then opened the doors of the Lord’s house. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel, saying: “Samuel, my son!”
“I’m here,” Samuel said.
17 “What did he say to you?” Eli asked. “Don’t hide anything from me. May God deal harshly with you and worse still if you hide from me a single word from everything he said to you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him.
“He is the Lord, ” Eli said. “He will do as he pleases.”
19 So Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not allowing any of his words to fail. 20 All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was trustworthy as the Lord’s prophet. 21 The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh because the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh through the Lord’s own word.
4 And Samuel’s word went out to all Israel.
The Philistines capture God’s chest
In those days the Philistines gathered for war against Israel,[ad] so Israel went out to engage the Philistines in war. Israel camped at Ebenezer, while the Philistines camped at Aphek. 2 The Philistines readied themselves to fight Israel. When the battle was joined, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the battlefield. 3 When the troops returned to the camp, Israel’s elders said, “Why did the Lord defeat us today before the Philistines? Let’s bring the chest containing the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh so it can go with us and save us from our enemies’ power.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the chest containing the covenant of the Lord of heavenly forces, who sits enthroned on the winged heavenly creatures.[ae] Eli’s two sons Hophni and Phinehas were there with the chest containing God’s covenant.
5 When the chest containing the Lord’s covenant entered the camp, all Israel let out such a loud shout that the ground shook. 6 When the Philistines heard the sound of that shout, they asked, “What is that loud shouting in the Hebrew camp about?” When they learned that the Lord’s chest had come into the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid and said, “A god has come into that camp! We’re doomed,” they said, “because nothing like this has ever happened before. 8 We’re doomed! Who will deliver us from the grip of these powerful deities? They are the same gods who struck the Egyptians in the desert with every kind of wound. 9 Pull yourselves together and act like men, Philistines! Otherwise, you’ll serve the Hebrews like they’ve been serving you. Act like men and fight!”
10 So the Philistines fought. Israel was defeated, and everyone fled to their homes. It was a massive defeat: thirty thousand Israelite foot soldiers fell, 11 God’s chest was taken, and Eli’s two sons Hophni and Phinehas died.
12 That very day, a Benjaminite ran from the battle to Shiloh. His clothes were torn, and dirt was on his head. 13 When he got there, Eli was sitting in a chair beside the road, waiting because he was nervous about God’s chest. The man arrived and gave the news to the city, and the whole city cried out.
14 Eli heard the sound of the cry and said, “What’s all this noise about?”
The man hurriedly went and told Eli the news. (15 Now Eli was 98 years old, and his eyes stared straight ahead, unable to see.) 16 The man told Eli, “I’m the one who just came from the battle. I fled from the battle today.”
“What’s the report, my son?” Eli asked.
17 The messenger answered, “Israel has fled from the Philistines. The army has suffered a massive defeat. Also, your own two sons Hophni and Phinehas have died, and God’s chest has been taken!” 18 At the mention of God’s chest, Eli fell backward off the chair beside the gate. His neck broke, and he died because he was an old man and overweight. Eli had judged Israel for forty years.
19 Now Eli’s daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, was pregnant and about to give birth. When she heard the news that God’s chest had been captured and that her father-in-law and her husband had died, she doubled over and gave birth because her labor pains overwhelmed her. 20 As she was about to die, the women standing by helping her said, “Don’t be afraid. You’ve given birth to a son!” But she didn’t answer or pay them any attention. 21 She named the boy Ichabod,[af] saying, “The glory has left Israel,” referring to the capture of God’s chest and the death of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 “The glory has left Israel because God’s chest has been taken,” she said.
God’s chest among the Philistines
5 After the Philistines took God’s chest, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then the Philistines took God’s chest and brought it into Dagon’s temple and set it next to Dagon. 3 But when the citizens of Ashdod got up early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen facedown on the ground before the Lord’s chest! So they took Dagon and set him back up where he belonged. 4 But when they got up early the next morning, there was Dagon again, fallen facedown on the ground before the Lord’s chest—and this time Dagon’s head along with both his hands were cut off and lying on the doorstep! Only Dagon’s body[ag] was left intact. 5 That’s why to this day Dagon’s priests or anyone else who enters his temple in Ashdod doesn’t step on the threshold.
6 The Lord’s hand was heavy on the people of Ashdod: God terrified them and struck them in Ashdod and its surroundings with tumors.[ah] 7 When Ashdod’s inhabitants saw what was happening, they said, “The chest of Israel’s God must not stay here with us because his hand is hard against us and against our god Dagon.”
8 So they summoned all the Philistine rulers to a meeting and asked, “What should we do with the chest of Israel’s God?” The people of Gath said, “Let the chest of Israel’s God be moved to us.” So they moved the chest of Israel’s God to Gath.[ai] 9 But once they moved it, the Lord’s hand came against the city, causing a huge panic. God struck the city’s inhabitants, both young and old, and tumors broke out on them.
10 Then they sent God’s chest to Ekron, but as soon as God’s chest entered Ekron, the inhabitants cried out, “Why have you moved the chest of Israel’s God to us? In order to kill us and our people?”[aj]
11 So they summoned all the Philistine rulers to a meeting and said, “Send the chest of Israel’s God away! Let it go back to its own home so it doesn’t kill us and our people,” because there was a deadly panic throughout the whole city. The hand of God was very heavy there. 12 The people who didn’t die were struck with tumors, and the screams of the city went all the way up to heaven.
God’s chest is returned
6 The Lord’s chest was in Philistine territory for seven months. 2 The Philistines called for the priests and the diviners. “What should we do with the Lord’s chest?” they asked. “Tell us how we should send it back to its own home.”
3 They replied, “If you are returning the chest of Israel’s God, don’t send it back empty, but be sure to return a guilt offering to him.[ak] Then you will be healed, and it will become clear to you why God’s hand hasn’t left you alone.”
4 “What compensation offering should we return to him?” they asked.
The priests and diviners replied: “Five gold tumors[al] and five gold mice,[am] matching the number of the Philistine rulers, because the same plague came on all of you and your rulers. 5 You must make images of your tumors and the mice that have devastated the land. Honor Israel’s God. Perhaps he will lighten the weight of his hand on you, your gods, and your land. 6 Why be stubborn like the Egyptians and Pharaoh? After God had dealt harshly with them, didn’t they send the Israelites on their way? 7 So get a new cart ready along with two nursing cows that have never been yoked before. Harness the cows to the cart, but take any of their calves that are following back home. 8 Next, take the Lord’s chest and put it in the cart. Set the gold items that you are giving God as a compensation offering in a box next to the chest. Then send it on its way. 9 Then watch what happens: If the cart goes up the road to its own territory toward Beth-shemesh, then Israel’s God has brought this great disaster on us. If the cart goes another way, then we’ll know that it wasn’t God’s hand that struck us. It happened to us randomly.”
10 The rulers[an] did just that. They took two nursing cows and harnessed them to the cart, penning their calves up at home. 11 They put the Lord’s chest on the cart along with the box containing the gold mice and the images of their tumors.[ao] 12 The cows went straight ahead, following the road to Beth-shemesh. They kept to one route, mooing as they went, without turning right or left. The Philistine rulers followed them as far as the territory of Beth-shemesh.
13 Now the people of Beth-shemesh were harvesting wheat in the valley. When they looked up and saw the chest, they were overjoyed at the sight. 14 The cart entered the field belonging to Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped right by a large stone. They chopped up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as an entirely burned offering to the Lord. 15 The Levites unloaded the Lord’s chest and the box that was with it that contained all the gold items, and they set them on the large stone. That very day the people of Beth-shemesh offered entirely burned offerings and made sacrifices to the Lord. 16 When the five Philistine rulers witnessed this, they went straight back to Ekron.
17 These are the gold tumors that the Philistines returned as a compensation offering to the Lord: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, and one for Ekron. 18 The gold mice matched the number of Philistine cities belonging to the five rulers, from fortified cities to country villages. And the large stone[ap] they set the Lord’s chest on is a witness even now in the field that belongs to Joshua of Beth-shemesh.
19 But God struck down some of the people from Beth-shemesh because they looked into the Lord’s chest. God struck seventy people,[aq] and the community grieved because the Lord had struck them so severely. 20 The people of Beth-shemesh said, “Who can stand before the Lord, this holy God? Where can he go that is away from us here?” 21 They sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim. “The Philistines returned the Lord’s chest!” they said. “Come down and take it back with you.”
7 So the people of Kiriath-jearim came and took the Lord’s chest. They brought it to Abinadab’s house, which was on the hill. Then they dedicated Eleazar, Abinadab’s son, to care for the Lord’s chest.
Samuel leads Israel
2 Now a long time passed—a total of twenty years—after the chest came to stay in Kiriath-jearim, and the whole house of Israel yearned for[ar] the Lord.
3 Then Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, “If you are turning to the Lord with all your heart, then get rid of all the foreign gods and the Astartes you have. Set your heart on the Lord! Worship him only! Then he will deliver you from the Philistines’ power.” 4 So the Israelites got rid of the Baals and the Astartes and worshipped the Lord only.
5 Next Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah. I will pray to the Lord for you.”
6 So they assembled at Mizpah, and they drew water and poured it out in the Lord’s presence. They fasted that same day and confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Samuel served as judge of the Israelites at Mizpah.
7 When the Philistines heard that the Israelites had assembled at Mizpah, the Philistine rulers went up to attack Israel. When the Israelites learned of this, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 The Israelites said to Samuel, “Please don’t stop praying to the Lord our God for us, so God will save us from the Philistines’ power!” 9 So Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it as an entirely burned offering to the Lord. Samuel cried out in prayer to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him.
10 While Samuel was offering the entirely burned offering, the Philistines advanced to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered against the Philistines with a great blast on that very day, throwing the Philistines into such a panic that they were defeated by Israel. 11 The Israelite soldiers came out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines. They struck them down until they reached a place just below Beth-car. 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah.[as] He named it Ebenezer,[at] explaining, “The Lord helped us to this very point.”
13 So the Philistines were defeated, and they stopped coming into Israelite territory. The Lord’s hand was against the Philistines throughout Samuel’s life. 14 The towns the Philistines had captured from Israel, from Ekron to Gath, were returned to Israel. Israel also recovered the territory around those two cities from the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.
15 Samuel served as Israel’s judge his whole life. 16 Each year he traveled between Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah, serving as Israel’s judge in each of those locations. 17 Then he would return to Ramah because that’s where his home was. In Ramah too he served as Israel’s judge, and that is also where he built an altar to the Lord.
Israel demands a king
8 Now when Samuel got old, he appointed his sons to serve as Israel’s judges. 2 The name of his oldest son was Joel; the name of the second was Abijah. They served as judges in Beer-sheba. 3 But Samuel’s sons didn’t follow in his footsteps. They tried to turn a profit, they accepted bribes, and they perverted justice.
4 So all the Israelite elders got together and went to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “Listen. You are old now, and your sons don’t follow in your footsteps. So appoint us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” 6 It seemed very bad to Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us,” so he prayed to the Lord.
7 The Lord answered Samuel, “Comply with the people’s request—everything they ask of you—because they haven’t rejected you. No, they’ve rejected me as king over them. 8 They are doing to you only what they’ve been doing to me[au] from the day I brought them out of Egypt to this very minute, abandoning me and worshipping other gods. 9 So comply with their request, but give them a clear warning, telling them how the king will rule over them.”[av]
10 Then Samuel explained everything the Lord had said to the people who were asking for a king. 11 “This is how the king will rule over you,” Samuel said:
“He will take your sons, and will use them for his chariots and his cavalry and as runners for his chariot. 12 He will use them as his commanders of troops of one thousand and troops of fifty, or to do his plowing and his harvesting, or to make his weapons or parts for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, or bakers. 14 He will take your best fields, vineyards, and olive groves and give them to his servants. 15 He will give one-tenth of your grain and your vineyards to his officials and servants. 16 He will take your male and female servants, along with the best of your cattle[aw] and donkeys, and make them do his work. 17 He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and then you yourselves will become his slaves! 18 When that day comes, you will cry out because of the king you chose for yourselves, but on that day the Lord won’t answer you.”
19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel and said, “No! There must be a king over us 20 so we can be like all the other nations. Our king will judge us and lead us and fight our battles.”
21 Samuel listened to everything the people said and repeated it directly to the Lord. 22 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Comply with their request. Give them a king.”
Samuel then told the Israelite people, “Go back, each of you, to your own hometown.”
Saul chosen to lead Israel
9 There was a wealthy man from the tribe of Benjamin named Kish. He was the son of Abiel son of Zeror son of Becorath son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite. 2 He had a son named Saul, who was a handsome young man. No one in Israel was more handsome than Saul, and he stood head and shoulders above everyone else.
3 When the donkeys belonging to Saul’s father Kish were lost, Kish said to his son Saul, “Take one of the servant boys with you and go look for the donkeys.” 4 So he traveled through the highlands of Ephraim and the land of Shalishah, but they didn’t find anything. They traveled through the land of Shaalim, but still found nothing, so they crossed back into the land of Benjamin, but they still couldn’t find the donkeys. 5 When they came to the territory of Zuph, Saul said to the boy who was with him, “Let’s go back before my father stops worrying about the donkeys and starts worrying about us.”
6 But the boy said to him, “Listen, there’s a man of God in this town. He’s famous—everything he says actually happens! So let’s go there. Maybe he’ll be able to tell us which way we should go.”
7 Saul said to his young boy, “But if we go, what should we bring to the man? The food in our bags is all gone. We don’t have any gift to offer the man of God. Do we have anything?”
8 “Here,” the boy answered Saul, “I’ve got a quarter-shekel of silver. I’ll give that to the man of God so he tells us which way to go.” (9 Earlier in Israel, someone going to consult with God would say, “Let’s go to the seer,” because the people who are called prophets today were previously called seers.)
10 Saul said to the boy, “Great idea! Let’s go.” So they went into the town where the man of God lived. 11 They were going up the hill to the town when they met some young women coming out to draw water. “Is the seer here?” they asked them.
12 “He’s just ahead of you,” they answered. “Hurry up! He has just come to town because there is a sacrifice today for the people at the shrine. 13 You’ll find him as soon as you enter the town, before he goes up to the shrine to eat. The people won’t eat until he gets there, because he must bless the sacrifice. Only after that can the invited guests eat. Now get going because you’ll find him momentarily.”
14 So Saul and the boy went up to the town, and as they entered it, suddenly Samuel came toward them on his way up to the shrine. 15 Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed the following to Samuel: 16 “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the Benjaminite territory. You will anoint him as leader of my people Israel. He will save my people from the Philistines’ power because I have seen the suffering of[ax] my people, and their cry for help has reached me.” 17 When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, “That’s the man I told you about. That’s the one who will rule[ay] my people.”
18 Saul approached Samuel in the city gate and said, “Please tell me where the seer’s house is.”
19 “I’m the seer,” Samuel told Saul. “Go on ahead of me to the shrine. You can eat with me today. In the morning I’ll send you on your way, and I will tell you everything you want to know. 20 As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, don’t be worried about them because they’ve been found. Who owns all of Israel’s treasures, anyway? Isn’t it you and your whole family?”[az]
21 “I’m a Benjaminite,” Saul responded, “from the smallest Israelite tribe, and my family is the littlest of the families in the tribe of Benjamin. Why would you say something like that to me?”
22 Then Samuel took Saul and his young servant and brought them to the banquet room. He gave them an honored place among the invited guests. There were about thirty total. 23 Samuel said to the cook, “Serve the portion I gave you—the one I told you to set aside.” 24 So the cook took the thigh and what was on it,[ba] and put it in front of Saul. Samuel said, “Look, what had been reserved is now in front of you. Eat up, because it was set apart for you for this specific occasion, ever since I invited the guests.”[bb] So Saul ate with Samuel that day. 25 When they came back from the shrine to the town, a bed was made for Saul on the roof, and he slept.[bc]
26 Near dawn, Samuel called to Saul on the roof, “Wake up! I will send you on your way.” So Saul got up, and the two of them, he and Samuel, went outside. 27 As they were nearing the edge of town Samuel said, “Tell the boy to go on ahead of us” (the servant did so) “but you stop for a bit so I can tell you God’s word.”
Samuel anoints Saul as king
10 Samuel took a small jar of oil and poured it over Saul’s head and kissed him. “The Lord hereby anoints you leader of his people Israel,” Samuel said. “You will rule the Lord’s people and save them from the power of the enemies who surround them. And this will be the sign for you that the Lord has anointed you as leader of his very own possession:[bd] 2 When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel’s tomb at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will tell you, ‘The donkeys you went looking for have been found. Now your father has stopped thinking about the donkeys and is worried about you. He’s asking: What should I do about my son?’ 3 Then, when you’ve gone on a bit farther, you will come to the oak at Tabor. Three men who are going to consult God at Bethel will meet up with you there, one carrying three young goats, one carrying three loaves of bread, and one carrying a jar of wine. 4 They will ask how you’re doing and will offer you sacrificial bread,[be] which you should accept. 5 After that, you will come to Gibeath-elohim, which is a Philistine fort. When you enter the town, you will encounter a group of prophets coming down from the shrine preceded by harps, tambourines, flutes, and lyres. They will be caught up in a prophetic frenzy. 6 Then the Lord’s spirit will come over you, and you will be caught up in a prophetic frenzy right along with them; it will be like you’ve become a completely different person. 7 Once these signs have happened to you, do whatever you would like to do, because God is with you. 8 Then go down to Gilgal ahead of me. I’ll come down to meet you to offer entirely burned offerings and to make well-being sacrifices. Wait seven days until I get to you, then I’ll tell you what you should do next.”
9 And just as Saul turned to leave Samuel’s side, God gave him a different heart, and all these signs happened that very same day. 10 When Saul and the boy got to Gibeah, there was a group of prophets coming to meet him. God’s spirit came over Saul, and he was caught up in a prophetic frenzy right along with them. 11 When all the people who had known Saul saw him prophesying with the prophets, they said to each other, “What’s happened to Kish’s son? Is Saul also one of the prophets?” 12 One of the locals then asked, “And who is their leader?”[bf] So it became a proverb: “Is Saul also one of the prophets?” 13 When the prophetic frenzy was over, Saul went home.[bg]
14 Saul’s uncle said to him and to his young servant, “Where did you go?”
“To look for the donkeys,” Saul replied, “but when we couldn’t find anything, we went to Samuel.”
15 “Please tell me what Samuel told you,” Saul’s uncle said.
16 “He reassured us that the donkeys had been found,” Saul answered. But Saul didn’t tell his uncle what Samuel had said about the kingship.
Saul selected as king
17 Samuel summoned the people to the Lord at Mizpah. 18 Then he told the Israelites: “This is what the Lord God of Israel says: I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the Egyptians’ power and from the power of all the kingdoms that oppressed you. 19 But today you’ve rejected your God who saved you from all your troubles and difficulties by saying, ‘No! Appoint a king over us!’ So now assemble yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and clans.”
20 Then Samuel brought all the Israelite tribes forward, and the tribe of Benjamin was selected. 21 Next Samuel brought the tribe of Benjamin forward by its families, and the family of Matri was selected. Samuel then brought the family of Matri forward, person by person,[bh] and Saul, Kish’s son, was selected. But when they looked for him, he wasn’t to be found. 22 So they asked another question of the Lord: “Has the man come here yet?”
The Lord said, “Yes, he’s hiding among the supplies.” 23 They ran and retrieved Saul from there, and when he stood up in the middle of the people, he was head and shoulders taller than anyone else.
24 “Can you see the one the Lord has chosen?” Samuel asked all the people. “He has no equal among the people.”
Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!”
25 Samuel then explained to the people how the monarchy should operate[bi] and wrote it in a scroll and placed it in the Lord’s presence. Then Samuel sent every person back to their homes. 26 Saul also went back to his home in Gibeah. Along with him went courageous men whose hearts God had touched. 27 But some despicable people said, “How can this man save us?” They despised Saul and didn’t bring him gifts, but Saul didn’t say anything.
Saul delivers Jabesh-gilead
[bj] Nahash the Ammonite king had been severely oppressing the Gadites and the Reubenites. He gouged out everyone’s right eye, thereby not allowing Israel to have a deliverer. There wasn’t a single Israelite left across the Jordan River who hadn’t had their right eye gouged out by the Ammonite king Nahash. But seven thousand people had escaped from the Ammonites’ power and fled to Jabesh-gilead.
11 About a month later,[bk] Nahash the Ammonite went up and laid siege to Jabesh-gilead. All the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Make a treaty with us, and we’ll be your servants.”
2 “I will make a treaty with you on one condition: that everyone’s right eye be gouged out!” Nahash the Ammonite said to them. “That’s how I bring humiliation on all Israel.”
3 The elders of Jabesh replied to him, “Leave us alone for seven days so we can send messengers thoughout Israel’s territory. If there’s no one to save us, then we’ll surrender to you.”
4 When the messengers reached Gibeah where Saul lived, they reported the news directly to the people there. Then they all wept aloud. 5 At just that moment, Saul was coming back from keeping the cattle in the fields. “What’s wrong with everybody?” he asked. “Why are they crying?” Saul was then told what the men from Jabesh had said.
6 God’s spirit came over Saul when he heard those words, and he burned with anger. 7 He took two oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent them by messengers throughout Israel’s territory. “This is exactly what will be done to the oxen of anyone who doesn’t come to the aid of Saul and Samuel,” he said. Great fear of the Lord came over the people, and they came to Saul completely unified.[bl] 8 When Saul counted them at Bezek, the soldiers from Israel totaled three hundred thousand and those from Judah thirty thousand.
9 The messengers who had come were then told, “Say this to the people of Jabesh-gilead: Tomorrow by the time the sun is hot, you will be saved.” When the messengers returned and reported this to the people of Jabesh, they were overjoyed.
10 Then the people of Jabesh told the Ammonites, “We will surrender to you tomorrow. Then you can do whatever you want to us.”
11 The next day Saul organized his troops into three formations. They attacked the Ammonite camp during the morning watch and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. The survivors were so scattered that not even two of them could be found together.
12 Then people asked Samuel, “Who was it who said, ‘Will Saul rule over us?’ Give us those people; we’ll kill them!”
13 But Saul said, “No one will be executed because today the Lord has saved Israel.”
14 “Let’s go to Gilgal,” Samuel told the people, “and renew the monarchy there.” 15 So everyone went to Gilgal, and there at Gilgal they made Saul king in the Lord’s presence. They offered well-being sacrifices in the Lord’s presence, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration there.
Samuel’s last speech
12 Samuel said to all Israel: “Listen: I have done everything you asked of me and have placed a king over you. 2 The king will lead you now. I am old and gray, though my sons are still with you, and I’ve been your leader since I was young until now. 3 So I’m here: Tell the truth about me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Have I ever stolen someone’s ox? Have I ever taken someone’s donkey? Have I ever oppressed or mistreated anyone? Have I ever taken bribes from someone and looked the other way about something? Tell me the truth.[bm] I will make it right.”
4 “You haven’t oppressed or mistreated us, and you’ve never taken anything from anyone,” the people answered.
5 Samuel replied, “The Lord and his anointed one are witnesses against you today that you haven’t found anything in my possession.”
“Agreed,” they said.
6 Then Samuel told the people: “The witness[bn] is indeed the Lord, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors up from the land of Egypt. 7 So now stand here, and I will judge you in the Lord’s presence because of all the Lord’s righteous acts that he has done for you and your ancestors:
8 “When Jacob entered Egypt, the Egyptians oppressed them.[bo] So your ancestors cried out to the Lord. The Lord then sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your ancestors out of Egypt and settled them here. 9 But your ancestors forgot the Lord their God, so he handed them over to Sisera the commander of Hazor’s army, and to the Philistines, and to the Moabite king, all of whom fought against them. 10 Then your ancestors cried out to the Lord and said: ‘We have sinned because we have abandoned the Lord and have worshipped the Baals and the Astartes. But now deliver us from the power of our enemies, and we will worship you.’ 11 So the Lord sent Jerubbaal, Barak,[bp] Jephthah, and Samson,[bq] and he delivered you from the power of your enemies on every side. And you lived safe and secure. 12 But when you saw that Nahash the Ammonite king was coming against you, you said to me, ‘No! There must be a king to rule over us.’ But the Lord your God was already your king!
13 “So now, here is the king you chose, the one you asked for. Yes, the Lord has put a king over you! 14 If you will fear the Lord, worship him, obey him, and not rebel against the Lord’s command, and if both you and the king who rules over you follow the Lord your God—all will be well. 15 But if you don’t obey the Lord and rebel against the Lord’s command, then the Lord’s power will go against you and your king to destroy you.[br]
16 “So now take a stand! Look at this awesome thing the Lord is doing. 17 Isn’t the wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord to send thunder and rain. Then you will know and will see for yourselves what great evil you’ve done in the Lord’s eyes by asking for a king.”
18 Samuel called upon the Lord, and God sent thunder and rain on that very day. Then all the people were in awe of the Lord and Samuel.
19 All of them said to Samuel, “Please pray for us, your servants, to the Lord your God so we don’t die because we have added to our many sins the evil of asking for a king.”
20 But Samuel answered the people, “Don’t be afraid. Yes, you’ve done all this evil; just don’t turn back from following the Lord. Serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 Don’t turn aside to follow useless idols that can’t help you or save you. They’re absolutely useless! 22 For the sake of his reputation, the Lord won’t abandon his people, because the Lord has decided to make you his very own people. 23 But me? I would never sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. I will teach you what is good and right. 24 Just fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. Look at what great things he has done for you! 25 But if you continue to do evil, then both you and your king will be destroyed.”
Samuel rejects Saul’s dynasty
13 Saul was 30 years old[bs] when he became king, and he ruled over Israel forty-two years.[bt] 2 Saul selected three thousand men from Israel. Two thousand of those were with Saul at Michmash in the hills near Bethel, and one thousand were with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. He sent the remaining men home. 3 Jonathan attacked the Philistine fort at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. So Saul sounded the alarm[bu] throughout the land and said, “Hebrews! Listen up!” 4 When all Israel heard that Saul had attacked the Philistine fort and that Israel was hated by the Philistines, the troops were called to Saul’s side at Gilgal. 5 The Philistines also were gathered to fight against Israel. They brought thirty thousand chariots with them, six thousand cavalry, and as many soldiers as there is sand on the seashore to fight Israel.[bv] They marched up and camped at Michmash, east of Beth-aven. 6 When the Israelites saw that they were in trouble and that their troops were threatened, they hid in caves, in thickets, among rocks, in tunnels, and in cisterns. 7 Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan River, going into the land of Gad and Gilead.
Saul stayed at Gilgal, and the troops followed him anxiously. 8 He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel, but Samuel didn’t come to Gilgal, and his troops began to desert. 9 So Saul ordered, “Bring me the entirely burned offering and the well-being sacrifices.” Then he offered the entirely burned offering.
10 The very moment Saul finished offering up the entirely burned offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet him and welcome him. 11 But Samuel said, “What have you done?”
“I saw that my troops were deserting,” Saul replied. “You hadn’t arrived by the appointed time, and the Philistines were gathering at Michmash. 12 I thought, The Philistines are about to march against me at Gilgal and I haven’t yet sought the Lord’s favor. So I took control of myself[bw] and offered the entirely burned offering.”
13 “How stupid of you to have broken the commands the Lord your God gave you!” Samuel told Saul. “The Lord would have established your rule over Israel forever, 14 but now your rule won’t last. The Lord will search for a man following the Lord’s own heart,[bx] and the Lord will commission him as leader over God’s people, because you didn’t keep the Lord’s command.”
15 Samuel got up and went on his way from Gilgal, but the rest of the people followed Saul to join the army, and they went from Gilgal[by] to Gibeah in Benjamin. Saul counted about six hundred men still with him. 16 Saul, his son Jonathan, and the people who were with him were staying at Geba in Benjamin, while the Philistines camped at Michmash. 17 Three raiding parties left the Philistine camp. One took the road to Ophrah toward the territory of Shual. 18 Another took the road to Beth-horon, and the last took the border road that overlooks the Zeboim Valley toward the desert.
19 No metalworker was to be found anywhere in Israelite territory because the Philistines had said, “The Hebrews must not make swords and spears.” 20 So every Israelite had to go down to the Philistines to sharpen their plowshares, mattocks, axes, and sickles. 21 The cost was two-thirds of a shekel[bz] for plowshares and mattocks, but one-third of a shekel for sharpening axes and for setting goads. 22 So on the day of the battle, no swords or spears were to be found in the possession of any of the troops with Saul and Jonathan, but Saul and his son Jonathan had them.
Jonathan leads Israel to victory
23 Now a group of Philistine soldiers had marched out to the pass at Michmash.
14 One day Jonathan, Saul’s son, said to his young armor-bearer, “Come on! Let’s go over to the Philistine fort on the opposite side.” But he didn’t tell his father. 2 Saul was sitting on the outskirts of Gibeah under the pomegranate tree at Migron. He had about six hundred men with him, 3 including Ahijah, the son of Ahitub, who was Ichabod’s brother and the son of Phinehas the son of Eli, who was the Lord’s priest at Shiloh. He was wearing a priestly vest.[ca] None of the troops knew that Jonathan had gone.
4 There were two stone outcroppings in the pass where Jonathan planned on crossing over to the Philistine fort—one on each side. One of these was named Bozez; the other was named Seneh. 5 One outcropping was on the north side, in front of Michmash, and the other was on the south side, in front of Geba. 6 Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come on, let’s go over to the fort of these uncircumcised men. Maybe the Lord will act on our behalf. After all, nothing can stop the Lord from saving, whether there are many soldiers[cb] or few.”
7 “Go ahead with whatever you’re planning,” his armor-bearer replied. “I’m with you, whatever you decide.”
8 “All right then,” Jonathan said. “We’ll go over to the men and show ourselves. 9 If they say to us, ‘Stay there until we get to you,’ then we’ll stay where we are and won’t go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come on up,’ then we’ll go up because that will be the sign that the Lord has handed them over to us.”
11 So they showed themselves to the Philistine fort, and the Philistines said, “Look, the Hebrews are coming out of the holes they’ve been hiding in!” 12 Then the troops in the fort yelled to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, “Come on up! We’ll teach you a lesson!”
So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Follow me, because the Lord has handed them over to Israel!” 13 So Jonathan scrambled up on his hands and feet with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan. His armor-bearer, coming behind him, would then finish them off. 14 In the first attack, Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed about twenty men in an area of about half an acre.[cc] 15 Panic broke out in the camp, in the field, and among all the troops. Even those in the fort and the raiders shook with fear. The very ground shook! It was a terror from God.
16 Now Saul’s lookouts at Gibeah in Benjamin saw the Philistine camp running all over the place.[cd] 17 Saul said to the troops with him, “Take a count and see who is missing.” So they counted, and Jonathan and his armor-bearer were gone. 18 Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the priestly vest!”[ce] because at that time, Ahijah wore the priestly vest in Israel’s presence.[cf] 19 As Saul was talking to the priest, the confusion in the Philistine camp continued to grow. Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.”[cg]
20 Then Saul called all his troops together, and they went into battle. The Philistines were completely confused; every soldier’s sword was turned against his fellow soldier. 21 Even those Hebrews who had earlier joined up with the Philistines and moved into their camp changed sides to be with the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. 22 Similarly, when all the Israelites who had been hiding in the highlands of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were on the run, they also joined the battle in hot pursuit of the Philistines. 23 The Lord saved Israel that day, and the fighting carried on beyond Beth-aven.
24 Now the Israelite soldiers were in a difficult situation that day because Saul had bound the troops by a solemn pledge: “Anyone who eats anything before evening when I have taken revenge on my enemies is doomed.” So none of the army ate anything. 25 The troops[ch] came across a honeycomb with honey on the ground. 26 But even when they came across the honeycomb with the honey still flowing, no one ate any of it because the troops were afraid of the solemn pledge. 27 But Jonathan hadn’t heard his father make the people swear the pledge, so he dipped the end of the staff he was carrying into the honeycomb. When he ate some his eyes lit up. 28 Then one of the soldiers spoke up: “Your father bound the troops by a solemn pledge: ‘Anyone who eats food today is doomed.’ That’s why the troops are exhausted.”
29 Jonathan said, “My father has brought trouble to the land. Look how my eyes lit up when I tasted just a bit of that honey! 30 It would have been even better if the troops had eaten some of their enemies’ plunder today when they found it! But now the Philistine defeat isn’t as thorough as it might have been.”
31 That day, after they had fought the Philistines from Michmash to Aijalon, the troops were completely exhausted. 32 So the troops tore into the plunder, taking sheep, cattle, and calves. They slaughtered them right on the ground and devoured them with the blood still in them. 33 When it was reported to Saul, “The troops are sinning against the Lord by eating meat with blood in it,” Saul said, “All of you are traitors! Roll a large stone over here right now. 34 Go among the troops and say to them, ‘Everyone must bring their ox or sheep, and slaughter them here with me. Don’t sin against the Lord by eating meat with blood still in it.’” So everyone brought whatever they had and slaughtered it there.[ci] 35 And Saul built an altar to the Lord. It was the first altar he had built to the Lord.
36 “Let’s go after the Philistines tonight and plunder them until morning,” Saul said. “We won’t leave them a single survivor!”
“Do whatever you think is best,” the troops replied.
But the priest said, “Let’s ask God first.”
37 So Saul questioned God: “Should I go after the Philistines? Will you hand them over to Israel?” But God did not answer him that day.
38 Then Saul said, “All you officers in the army, come forward! Let’s find out what sin was committed today. 39 As surely as the Lord lives—the one who has saved Israel—even if it’s my own son Jonathan, that person will be executed.” Not one of the soldiers answered him. 40 So Saul said to all Israel, “You be on one side, and my son Jonathan and I will be on the other.”
“Do whatever you think is best,” the troops said.
41 Then Saul asked the Lord God of Israel, “Why haven’t you answered your servant today? If the wrongdoing is mine or my son Jonathan’s, respond with Urim, but if the wrongdoing belongs to your people Israel, respond with Thummim.”[cj] Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, and the troops were cleared.
42 Then Saul said, “Decide between me and my son Jonathan.”[ck] And Jonathan was selected.
43 “Tell me what you’ve done,” Saul said to Jonathan.
So Jonathan told him. “I only took a very small taste of honey on the end of my staff,” he said. “And now I’m supposed to die?”
44 “May God deal harshly with me and worse still if you don’t die today!”[cl] Saul swore.
45 But the troops said to Saul, “Why should Jonathan die when he has won this great victory for Israel? No way! As surely as the Lord lives, not one hair off his head will fall to the ground, because he did this today with God’s help.” So the troops rescued Jonathan, and he wasn’t executed.
46 Then Saul stopped chasing the Philistines, and the Philistines went back to their own country.
47 Saul secured his kingship over Israel. He fought against his enemies on every side: against Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, the king of Zobah,[cm] and the Philistines. Wherever he turned, he was victorious.[cn] 48 He acted heroically, defeating the Amalekites and rescuing Israel from the power of any who had plundered them.
49 Saul’s sons were Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malchishua. The names of his two daughters were Merab, the oldest, and Michal, the younger daughter. 50 The name of Saul’s wife was Ahinoam, Ahimaaz’s daughter. The name of his general was Abner, Ner’s son, Saul’s uncle. 51 Kish, Saul’s father, and Ner, Abner’s father, were Abiel’s sons.
52 There was fierce warfare against the Philistines throughout Saul’s lifetime. So whenever Saul saw any strong or heroic man, he would add him to his troops.