1 Samuel 8-12
Rejecting God as the King
8 1-3 When Samuel got to be an old man, he set his sons up as judges in Israel. His firstborn son was named Joel, the name of his second, Abijah. They were assigned duty in Beersheba. But his sons didn’t take after him; they were out for what they could get for themselves, taking bribes, corrupting justice.
4-5 Fed up, all the elders of Israel got together and confronted Samuel at Ramah. They presented their case: “Look, you’re an old man, and your sons aren’t following in your footsteps. Here’s what we want you to do: Appoint a king to rule us, just like everybody else.”
6 When Samuel heard their demand—“Give us a king to rule us!”—he was crushed. How awful! Samuel prayed to God.
7-9 God answered Samuel, “Go ahead and do what they’re asking. They are not rejecting you. They’ve rejected me as their King. From the day I brought them out of Egypt until this very day they’ve been behaving like this, leaving me for other gods. And now they’re doing it to you. So let them have their own way. But warn them of what they’re in for. Tell them the way kings operate, just what they’re likely to get from a king.”
10-18 So Samuel told them, delivered God’s warning to the people who were asking him to give them a king. He said, “This is the way the kind of king you’re talking about operates. He’ll take your sons and make soldiers of them—chariotry, cavalry, infantry, regimented in battalions and squadrons. He’ll put some to forced labor on his farms, plowing and harvesting, and others to making either weapons of war or chariots in which he can ride in luxury. He’ll put your daughters to work as beauticians and waitresses and cooks. He’ll conscript your best fields, vineyards, and orchards and hand them over to his special friends. He’ll tax your harvests and vintage to support his extensive bureaucracy. Your prize workers and best animals he’ll take for his own use. He’ll lay a tax on your flocks and you’ll end up no better than slaves. The day will come when you will cry in desperation because of this king you so much want for yourselves. But don’t expect God to answer.”
19-20 But the people wouldn’t listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We will have a king to rule us! Then we’ll be just like all the other nations. Our king will rule us and lead us and fight our battles.”
21-22 Samuel took in what they said and rehearsed it with God. God told Samuel, “Do what they say. Make them a king.”
Then Samuel dismissed the men of Israel: “Go home, each of you to your own city.”
Saul—Head and Shoulders Above the Crowd
9 1-2 There was a man from the tribe of Benjamin named Kish. He was the son of Abiel, grandson of Zeror, great-grandson of Becorath, great-great-grandson of Aphiah—a Benjaminite of stalwart character. He had a son, Saul, a most handsome young man. There was none finer—he literally stood head and shoulders above the crowd!
3-4 Some of Kish’s donkeys got lost. Kish said to his son, “Saul, take one of the servants with you and go look for the donkeys.” Saul took one of the servants and went to find the donkeys. They went into the hill country of Ephraim around Shalisha, but didn’t find them. Then they went over to Shaalim—no luck. Then to Jabin, and still nothing.
5 When they got to Zuph, Saul said to the young man with him, “Enough of this. Let’s go back. Soon my father is going to forget about the donkeys and start worrying about us.”
6 He replied, “Not so fast. There’s a holy man in this town. He carries a lot of weight around here. What he says is always right on the mark. Maybe he can tell us where to go.”
7 Saul said, “If we go, what do we have to give him? There’s no more bread in our sacks. We’ve nothing to bring as a gift to the holy man. Do we have anything else?”
8-9 The servant spoke up, “Look, I just happen to have this silver coin! I’ll give it to the holy man and he’ll tell us how to proceed!” (In former times in Israel, a person who wanted to seek God’s word on a matter would say, “Let’s visit the Seer,” because the one we now call “the Prophet” used to be called “the Seer.”)
10 “Good,” said Saul, “let’s go.” And they set off for the town where the holy man lived.
11 As they were climbing up the hill into the town, they met some girls who were coming out to draw water. They said to them, “Is this where the Seer lives?”
12-13 They answered, “It sure is—just ahead. Hurry up. He’s come today because the people have prepared a sacrifice at the shrine. As soon as you enter the town, you can catch him before he goes up to the shrine to eat. The people won’t eat until he arrives, for he has to bless the sacrifice. Only then can everyone eat. So get going. You’re sure to find him!”
14 They continued their climb and entered the city. And then there he was—Samuel!—coming straight toward them on his way to the shrine!
15-16 The very day before, God had confided in Samuel, “This time tomorrow, I’m sending a man from the land of Benjamin to meet you. You’re to anoint him as prince over my people Israel. He will free my people from Philistine oppression. Yes, I know all about their hard circumstances. I’ve heard their cries for help.”
17 The moment Samuel laid eyes on Saul, God said, “He’s the one, the man I told you about. This is the one who will keep my people in check.”
18 Saul came up to Samuel in the street and said, “Pardon me, but can you tell me where the Seer lives?”
19-20 “I’m the Seer,” said Samuel. “Accompany me to the shrine and eat with me. In the morning I’ll tell you all about what’s on your mind, and send you on your way. And by the way, your lost donkeys—the ones you’ve been hunting for the last three days—have been found, so don’t worry about them. At this moment, Israel’s future is in your hands.”
21 Saul answered, “But I’m only a Benjaminite, from the smallest of Israel’s tribes, and from the most insignificant clan in the tribe at that. Why are you talking to me like this?”
22-23 Samuel took Saul and his servant and led them into the dining hall at the shrine and seated them at the head of the table. There were about thirty guests. Then Samuel directed the chef, “Bring the choice cut I pointed out to you, the one I told you to reserve.”
24 The chef brought it and placed it before Saul with a flourish, saying, “This meal was kept aside just for you. Eat! It was especially prepared for this time and occasion with these guests.”
Saul ate with Samuel—a memorable day!
25 Afterward they went down from the shrine into the city. A bed was prepared for Saul on the breeze-cooled roof of Samuel’s house.
26 They woke at the break of day. Samuel called to Saul on the roof, “Get up and I’ll send you off.” Saul got up and the two of them went out in the street.
27 As they approached the outskirts of town, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell your servant to go on ahead of us. You stay with me for a bit. I have a word of God to give you.”
“You’ll Be a New Person”
10 1-2 Then Samuel took a flask of oil, poured it on Saul’s head, and kissed him. He said, “Do you see what this means? God has anointed you prince over his people.
“This sign will confirm God’s anointing of you as prince over his inheritance: After you leave me today, as you get closer to your home country of Benjamin, you’ll meet two men near Rachel’s Tomb. They’ll say, ‘The donkeys you went to look for are found. Your father has forgotten about the donkeys and is worried about you, wringing his hands—quite beside himself!’
3-4 “Leaving there, you’ll arrive at the Oak of Tabor. There you’ll meet three men going up to worship God at Bethel. One will be carrying three young goats, another carrying three sacks of bread, and the third a jug of wine. They’ll say, ‘Hello, how are you?’ and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept.
5-6 “Next, you’ll come to Gibeah of God, where there’s a Philistine garrison. As you approach the town, you’ll run into a bunch of prophets coming down from the shrine, playing harps and tambourines, flutes and drums. And they’ll be prophesying. Before you know it, the Spirit of God will come on you and you’ll be prophesying right along with them. And you’ll be transformed. You’ll be a new person!
7 “When these confirming signs are accomplished, you’ll know that you’re ready: Whatever job you’re given to do, do it. God is with you!
8 “Now, go down to Gilgal and I will follow. I’ll come down and join you in worship by sacrificing burnt offerings and peace offerings. Wait seven days. Then I’ll come and tell you what to do next.”
9 Saul turned and left Samuel. At that very moment God transformed him—made him a new person! And all the confirming signs took place the same day.
Saul Among the Prophets
10-12 When Saul and his party got to Gibeah, there were the prophets, right in front of them! Before he knew it, the Spirit of God came on Saul and he was prophesying right along with them. When those who had previously known Saul saw him prophesying with the prophets, they were totally surprised. “What’s going on here? What’s come over the son of Kish? How on earth did Saul get to be a prophet?” One man spoke up and said, “Who started this? Where did these people ever come from?”
That’s how the saying got started, “Saul among the prophets! Who would have guessed?!”
13-14 When Saul was done prophesying, he returned home. His uncle asked him and his servant, “So where have you two been all this time?”
“Out looking for the donkeys. We looked and looked and couldn’t find them. And then we found Samuel!”
15 “So,” said Saul’s uncle, “what did Samuel tell you?”
16 Saul said, “He told us not to worry—the donkeys had been found.” But Saul didn’t breathe a word to his uncle of what Samuel said about the king business.
“We Want a King!”
17-18 Samuel called the people to assemble before God at Mizpah. He addressed the children of Israel, “This is God’s personal message to you:
18-19 “I brought Israel up out of Egypt. I delivered you from Egyptian oppression—yes, from all the bullying governments that made your life miserable. And now you want nothing to do with your God, the very God who has a history of getting you out of troubles of all sorts.
“And now you say, ‘No! We want a king; give us a king!’
“Well, if that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get! Present yourselves formally before God, ranked in tribes and families.”
20-21 After Samuel got all the tribes of Israel lined up, the Benjamin tribe was picked. Then he lined up the Benjamin tribe in family groups, and the family of Matri was picked. The family of Matri took its place in the lineup, and the name Saul, son of Kish, was picked. But when they went looking for him, he was nowhere to be found.
22 Samuel went back to God: “Is he anywhere around?”
God said, “Yes, he’s right over there—hidden in that pile of baggage.”
23 They ran and got him. He took his place before everyone, standing tall—head and shoulders above them.
24 Samuel then addressed the people, “Take a good look at whom God has chosen: the best! No one like him in the whole country!”
Then a great shout went up from the people: “Long live the king!”
25 Samuel went on to instruct the people in the rules and regulations involved in a kingdom, wrote it all down in a book, and placed it before God. Then Samuel sent everyone home.
26-27 Saul also went home to Gibeah, and with him some true and brave men whom God moved to join him. But the riffraff went off muttering, “Deliverer? Don’t make me laugh!” They held him in contempt and refused to congratulate him. But Saul paid them no mind.
Saul Is Crowned King
Nahash, king of the Ammonites, was brutalizing the tribes of Gad and Reuben, gouging out their right eyes and intimidating anyone who would come to Israel’s help. There were very few Israelites living on the east side of the Jordan River who had not had their right eyes gouged out by Nahash. But seven thousand men had escaped from the Ammonites and were now living safely in Jabesh.
11 So Nahash went after them and prepared to go to war against Jabesh Gilead. The men of Jabesh petitioned Nahash: “Make a treaty with us and we’ll serve you.”
2 Nahash said, “I’ll make a treaty with you on one condition: that every right eye among you be gouged out! I’ll humiliate every last man and woman in Israel before I’m done!”
3 The town leaders of Jabesh said, “Give us time to send messengers around Israel—seven days should do it. If no one shows up to help us, we’ll accept your terms.”
4-5 The messengers came to Saul’s place at Gibeah and told the people what was going on. As the people broke out in loud wails, Saul showed up. He was coming back from the field with his oxen.
Saul asked, “What happened? Why is everyone crying?”
And they repeated the message that had come from Jabesh.
6-7 The Spirit of God came on Saul when he heard the report and he flew into a rage. He grabbed the yoke of oxen and butchered them on the spot. He sent the messengers throughout Israel distributing the bloody pieces with this message: “Anyone who refuses to join up with Saul and Samuel, let this be the fate of his oxen!”
7-8 The terror of God seized the people, and they came out, one and all, not a laggard among them. Saul took command of the people at Bezek. There were 300,000 men from Israel, another 30,000 from Judah.
9-11 Saul instructed the messengers, “Tell this to the folk in Jabesh Gilead: ‘Help is on the way. Expect it by noon tomorrow.’”
The messengers set straight off and delivered their message. Elated, the people of Jabesh Gilead sent word to Nahash: “Tomorrow we’ll give ourselves up. You can deal with us on your terms.” Long before dawn the next day, Saul had strategically placed his army in three groups. At first light they broke into the enemy camp and slaughtered Ammonites until noon. Those who were left ran for their lives, scattering every which way.
12 The people came to Samuel then and said, “Where are those men who said, ‘Saul is not fit to rule over us’? Hand them over. We’ll kill them!”
13-14 But Saul said, “Nobody is going to be executed this day. This is the day God saved Israel! Come, let’s go to Gilgal and there reconsecrate the kingship.”
15 They all trooped out to Gilgal. Before God, they crowned Saul king at Gilgal. And there they worshiped, sacrificing peace offerings. Saul and all Israel celebrated magnificently.
“Don’t Chase After Ghost-Gods”
12 1-3 Samuel addressed all Israel: “I’ve listened to everything you’ve said to me, listened carefully to every word, and I’ve given you a king. See for yourself: Your king among you, leading you! But now look at me: I’m old and gray, and my sons are still here. I’ve led you faithfully from my youth until this very day. Look at me! Do you have any complaints to bring before God and his anointed? Have I ever stolen so much as an ox or a donkey? Have I ever taken advantage of you or exploited you? Have I ever taken a bribe or played fast and loose with the law? Bring your complaint and I’ll make it right.”
4 “Oh no,” they said, “never. You’ve never done any of that—never abused us, never lined your own pockets.”
5 “That settles it then,” said Samuel. “God is witness, and his anointed is witness that you find nothing against me—no faults, no complaints.”
6-8 And the people said, “He is witness.”
Samuel continued, “This is the God who made Moses and Aaron your leaders and brought your ancestors out of Egypt. Take your stand before him now as I review your case before God in the light of all the righteous ways in which God has worked with you and your ancestors. When Jacob’s sons entered Egypt, the Egyptians made life hard for them and they cried for help to God. God sent Moses and Aaron, who led your ancestors out of Egypt and settled them here in this place.
9 “They soon forgot their God, so he sold them off to Sisera, commander of Hazor’s army, later to a hard life under the Philistines, and still later to the king of Moab. They had to fight for their lives.
10 “Then they cried for help to God. They confessed, ‘We’ve sinned! We’ve gone off and left God and worshiped the fertility gods and goddesses of Canaan. Oh, deliver us from the brutalities of our enemies and we’ll worship you alone.’
11 “So God sent Jerub-Baal (Gideon), Bedan (Barak), Jephthah, and Samuel. He saved you from that hard life surrounded by enemies, and you lived in peace.
12 “But when you saw Nahash, king of the Ammonites, preparing to attack you, you said to me, ‘No more of this. We want a king to lead us.’ And God was already your king!
13-15 “So here’s the king you wanted, the king you asked for. God has let you have your own way, given you a king. If you fear God, worship and obey him, and don’t rebel against what he tells you. If both you and your king follow God, no problem. God will be sure to save you. But if you don’t obey him and rebel against what he tells you, king or no king, you will fare no better than your fathers.
16-17 “Pay attention! Watch this wonder that God is going to perform before you now! It’s summer, as you well know, and the rainy season is over. But I’m going to pray to God. He’ll send thunder and rain, a sign to convince you of the great wrong you have done to God by asking for a king.”
18 Samuel prayed to God, and God sent thunder and rain that same day. The people were greatly afraid and in awe of God and of Samuel.
19 Then all the people begged Samuel, “Pray to your God for us, your servants. Pray that we won’t die! On top of all our other sins, we’ve piled on one more—asking for a king!”
20-22 Samuel said to them, “Don’t be fearful. It’s true that you have done something very wrong. All the same, don’t turn your back on God. Worship and serve him heart and soul! Don’t chase after ghost-gods. There’s nothing to them. They can’t help you. They’re nothing but ghost-gods! God, simply because of who he is, is not going to walk off and leave his people. God took delight in making you into his very own people.
23-25 “And neither will I walk off and leave you. That would be a sin against God! I’m staying right here at my post praying for you and teaching you the good and right way to live. But I beg of you, fear God and worship him honestly and heartily. You’ve seen how greatly he has worked among you! Be warned: If you live badly, both you and your king will be thrown out.”