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Saul’s Search

There was a man of [the tribe of] Benjamin whose name was Kish the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of influence and wealth. Kish had a son named Saul, a choice and handsome man; among the sons of Israel there was not a man more handsome than he. From his shoulders and up he was [a head] taller than any of the people.

Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, had wandered off and were lost. Kish said to his son Saul, “Please take one of the servants with you and arise, go look for the donkeys.” And they passed through the hill country of Ephraim and the land of Shalishah, but did not find them. Then they passed through the land of Shaalim, but they were not there and the land of the Benjamites, but they [still] did not find them.

When they came to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant who was with him, “Come, let us return, otherwise my father will stop worrying about the donkeys and become anxious about us.” The servant said to him, “Look here, in this city there is a man of God, and the man is held in honor; everything that he says comes true. Now let us go there; perhaps he can advise us about our journey [and tell us where we should go].” Then Saul said to his servant, “But look, if we go [to see him], what shall we bring to the man? For the bread from our sacks is gone and there is no gift to bring to the man of God. What do we have [to offer]?” The servant replied again to Saul, “Here in my hand I have a quarter of a shekel of silver; I will give that to the man of God, and he will advise us as to [where we should go on] our journey [to find the donkeys].” (Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he would say, “Come, let us go to the seer”; for he who is called a prophet today was formerly called a seer.) 10 Saul said to his servant, “Well said; come, let us go.” So they went to the city where the man of God was living.

11 As they went up the hill to the city, they met some young women going out to draw water, and said to them, “Is the seer (prophet) here?” 12 They answered them, “He is; look, he is ahead of you. Hurry now, for he has come into the city today because the people have a sacrifice on the high place today. 13 As you enter the city you will find him before he goes up to the high place to eat, for the people will not eat until he comes, because he must ask the blessing on the sacrifice; afterward, those who are invited will eat. So go up now, for about now you will find him.” 14 So they went up to the city. And as they came into the city, there was Samuel coming out toward them to go up to the high place.

God’s Choice for King

15 Now a day before Saul came, the Lord had [a]informed Samuel [of this], saying, 16 “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him as leader over My people Israel; and he will save My people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have looked upon [the distress of] My people, because their cry [for help] has come to Me.” 17 When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said to him, “There is the man of whom I spoke to you. This one shall rule over My people [as their king].” 18 Then Saul approached Samuel in the [city] gate and said, “Please tell me where the seer’s house is.” 19 Samuel answered Saul, “I am the seer. Go on ahead of me to the high place, for you shall eat with me today; and in the morning I will let you go, and will tell you all that is on your mind. 20 As for your donkeys which were lost three days ago, do not be concerned about them, for they have been found. And for whom are all things that are desirable in Israel? Are they not for you and for all your father’s household (family)?” 21 Saul replied, “Am I not a Benjamite, of [b]the smallest of the tribes of Israel? And is not my family the smallest of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then have you spoken this way to me [as if I were very important]?”

22 Then Samuel took Saul and his servant and brought them into the hall [at the high place] and gave them a place [to sit] at the head of the persons—about thirty men—who were invited [while the rest ate outside]. 23 Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the [priests’] portion that I gave you, regarding which I told you, ‘Set it aside.’” 24 Then the cook lifted up the leg (thigh) with the meat that was on it [indicating that it was the priest’s honored portion] and placed it before Saul. Samuel said, “Here is what has been reserved [for you]. Set it before you and eat, because it has been kept for you until the appointed time, ever since I invited the people.” So Saul ate with Samuel that day.

25 When they came down from the high place into the city, Samuel spoke with Saul on the [c]roof [of his house]. 26 They got up early [the next day]; and at dawn Samuel called Saul [who was sleeping] on the roof, saying, “Get up, so that I may send you on your way.” Saul got up, and both he and Samuel went outside. 27 As they were going down to the outskirts of the city, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell the servant to go on ahead of us so that he may pass by but you stand still now so that I may proclaim the word of God to you.”

Saul among Prophets

10 Then Samuel took the flask of oil and poured it on Saul’s head, kissed him, and said, “Has the Lord not anointed you as ruler over His inheritance (Israel)? When you leave me today, you will meet two men beside Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah; they will say to you, ‘The donkeys you went to look for have been found. And your father has stopped caring about them and is worried about you, saying, “What shall I do about my son?”’ Then you will go on further from there, and you will come to the terebinth tree of Tabor, and three men going up to [sacrifice to] God at Bethel will meet you there, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a jug of wine. They will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from their hand. After that you will come to [d]the hill of God where the garrison of the Philistines is; and when you come there to the city, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place [of worship] with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, and they will be prophesying. Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you mightily, and you will prophesy with them, and you will be changed into another man. When these signs come to you, do for yourself whatever [e]the situation requires, for God is with you. You shall go down ahead of me to Gilgal; and behold, I will be coming down to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. You shall wait seven days until I come to you and show you what you must do.”

Then it happened when Saul turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came to pass that day. 10 When they came to the hill [Gibeah], behold, a group of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came on him mightily, and he prophesied [under divine guidance] among them. 11 Now when all who knew Saul previously saw that he actually prophesied now [by inspiration] with the prophets, the people said one to another, “What has happened to [Saul, who is nobody but] the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” 12 And a man from there answered, “But who is the father of the others?” So it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” 13 When Saul had finished prophesying, he went to the high place [of worship].

14 Saul’s uncle said to him and to his servant, “Where did you go?” And Saul said, “To look for the donkeys. And when we saw that they were nowhere to be found, we went to Samuel [for help].” 15 Saul’s uncle said, “Please tell me, what did Samuel say to you?” 16 And Saul said to his uncle, “He told us plainly that the donkeys had been found.” But he did not tell him about the matter of the kingdom which Samuel had mentioned.

Saul Publicly Chosen King

17 Then Samuel called the people together to the Lord at Mizpah, 18 and he said to Israel, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘It was I who brought Israel up from Egypt, and I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and from all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ 19 But today you have rejected your God, who Himself saves you from all your disasters and distresses; yet you have said, ‘No! Set a king over us.’ Now then, present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your families (clans).”

20 And when Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, the tribe of Benjamin was chosen by lot. 21 Then he brought the tribe of Benjamin near by their families, and the family of Matri was chosen by lot. And Saul the son of Kish was chosen by lot; but when they looked for him, he could not be found. 22 So they inquired further of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?” And the Lord answered, “He is there, hiding himself by the [f]provisions and supplies.”(A) 23 So they ran and took him from there, and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. 24 Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? For there is no one like him among all the people.” So all the people shouted and said, “Long live the king!”

25 Then Samuel told the people the [g]requirements of the kingdom, and wrote them in a book and placed it before the Lord. And Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his home. 26 Saul also went home to Gibeah; and the [h]brave men whose hearts God had touched went with him. 27 But some [i]worthless men said, “How can this man save and rescue us?” And they regarded Saul with contempt and did not bring him a gift. But he ignored the insult and kept silent.

Saul Defeats the Ammonites

11 Now Nahash the [j]Ammonite [king] went up and [k]besieged Jabesh-gilead; and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Make a treaty [of peace] with us and we will serve you.” But Nahash the Ammonite told them, “I will make a treaty with you on this condition, that I will [l]gouge out the right eye of every one of you, and make it a disgrace upon all Israel.” The elders of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Give us seven days so that we may send messengers throughout the territory of Israel. Then, if there is no one to save us, we will come out [and surrender] to you.” [m]Then the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and told the news to the people; and all the people raised their voices and wept aloud.

Now Saul was coming out of the field behind the oxen, and he said, “What is the matter with the people that they are weeping?” So they told him about the report of the men of Jabesh. The Spirit of God came upon Saul mightily when he heard these words, and he became extremely angry. He took a team of oxen and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout the territory of Israel by the hand of messengers, saying, “Whoever does not come out to follow Saul and Samuel, the same shall be done to his oxen.” Then fear of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out [united] as one man [with one purpose]. He assembled and counted them at Bezek; and the sons of Israel numbered 300,000, and the men of Judah 30,000. They said to the messengers who had come, “You shall say to the men of Jabesh-gilead: ‘Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you will have [n]help [against the Ammonites].’” So the messengers came and reported this to the men of Jabesh; and they were overjoyed. 10 So the men of Jabesh said [to Nahash the Ammonite], “Tomorrow we will come out to you [to surrender], and you may do to us whatever seems good to you.” 11 The next morning Saul put the men into three companies; and they entered the [Ammonites’] camp during the [darkness of the early] morning watch and killed the Ammonites until the heat of the day; and the survivors were scattered, and no two of them were left together.

12 The people said to Samuel, “Who is the one who said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring the men, and we will put them to death.” 13 But Saul said, “No man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has brought [o]victory to Israel.”

14 Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there restore the kingdom.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they also sacrificed peace offerings before the Lord; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.

Samuel Addresses Israel

12 Then Samuel said to all Israel, “Behold, I have listened to your voice in everything that you have said to me and have appointed a king over you. And now, here is the king walking before you. As for me, I am old and gray, and here are my sons with you. I have walked before you from my childhood to this day. Here I am; testify against me before the Lord and [Saul] His anointed [if I have done someone wrong]. Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I exploited? Whom have I oppressed or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes [to the truth]? [Tell me and] I will restore it to you.” They said, “You have not exploited us or oppressed us or taken anything at all from a man’s hand.” Samuel said to them, “The Lord is a witness against you, and [Saul] His anointed is a witness this day that you have not found anything in my hand.” And they answered, “He is a witness.”

Then Samuel said to the people, “It is the Lord who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your fathers (ancestors) up from the land of Egypt. Now then, take your stand, so that I may plead and contend with you before the Lord concerning all the righteous acts of the Lord which He did for you and for your fathers. When Jacob [and his sons] had come into Egypt [and later when the Egyptians oppressed them] and your [p]fathers cried out to the Lord, then the Lord sent Moses and Aaron who brought your fathers out of Egypt and settled them in this place. But when they forgot the Lord their God, He sold them into the hand of [q]Sisera, commander of Hazor’s army, and into the hand of the Philistines and of the king of Moab, and they fought against them. 10 They cried out to the Lord, saying, ‘We have sinned because we have abandoned (rejected) the Lord and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth; but now rescue us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve You.’ 11 Then the Lord sent Jerubbaal (Gideon) and [r]Bedan and Jephthah and Samuel, and He rescued you from the hand of your enemies on every side, and you lived in security.

The King Confirmed

12 But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites had come against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us’—although the Lord your God was your King. 13 Now therefore, here is [Saul] the king whom you have chosen, and for whom you asked; behold, the Lord has set a king over you. 14 If you will fear the Lord [with awe and profound reverence] and serve Him and listen to His voice and not rebel against His commandment, then both you and your king will follow the Lord your God [and it will be well]. 15 But if you do not listen to the Lord’s voice, but rebel against His [s]command, then the hand of the Lord will be against you [to punish you], as it was against your fathers. 16 So now, take your stand and see this great thing which the Lord will do before your eyes. 17 Is it not [the beginning of the] wheat harvest today? I will call to the Lord and He will send thunder and rain; then you will know [without any doubt], and see that your evil which you have done is great in the sight of the Lord by asking for yourselves a king.” 18 So Samuel called to the Lord [in prayer], and He sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.

19 Then all the people said to Samuel, “Pray to the Lord your God for your servants, [t]so that we will not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil—to ask for a king for ourselves.” 20 Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid. You have [indeed] done all this evil; yet do not turn away from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 You must not turn away, for then you would go after futile things which cannot profit or rescue, because they are futile. 22 The Lord will not abandon His people for His great name’s sake, because the Lord has been pleased to make you a people for Himself. 23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way. 24 Only fear the Lord [with awe and profound reverence] and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. 25 But if you still do evil, both you and your king will be swept away [to destruction].”


  1. 1 Samuel 9:15 Lit opened Samuel’s ear.
  2. 1 Samuel 9:21 The tribe of Benjamin had fallen into disrepute and had been nearly annihilated during the time of the judges (Judg 20:46-48).
  3. 1 Samuel 9:25 This was an ancient custom, and the roofs were flat and designed in part for this purpose. Verse 26 also indicates that Saul was given the roof as a place to sleep.
  4. 1 Samuel 10:5 Or Gibeath-haelohim.
  5. 1 Samuel 10:7 Lit your hand finds.
  6. 1 Samuel 10:22 Lit baggage.
  7. 1 Samuel 10:25 Lit legal claim, i.e. what a king would require from his subjects.
  8. 1 Samuel 10:26 Or men of wealth and influence.
  9. 1 Samuel 10:27 Lit sons of Belial.
  10. 1 Samuel 11:1 The Ammonites were descendants of Lot (Gen 19:36-38).
  11. 1 Samuel 11:1 This was a common military tactic used against a fortified (walled) city or garrison, to take it with a minimal loss of troops. All supplies and communication were cut off between the city and the outside world, in the hope of starving out the citizens or destroying their morale and will to resist.
  12. 1 Samuel 11:2 Partially blinding a man made him almost useless as an enemy combatant or archer because it hampered his depth perception and limited his peripheral vision.
  13. 1 Samuel 11:4 Nahash granted the request, even though the Israelites’ offer to submit to slavery (v 1) clearly indicated that they were in essence already defeated. Nahash undoubtedly believed that there was no formidable person to save Israel, and he wanted to see them willingly submit to the painful and debilitating mutilation that he had planned for them.
  14. 1 Samuel 11:9 Lit deliverance.
  15. 1 Samuel 11:13 Lit deliverance.
  16. 1 Samuel 12:8 I.e. the descendants of Jacob (Israel) and his twelve sons.
  17. 1 Samuel 12:9 These may be representatives of Israel’s enemies during the time of the Judges: Sisera of Hazor to the north, the Philistines to the west, and Moab to the south and west.
  18. 1 Samuel 12:11 Greek and Syriac read Barak.
  19. 1 Samuel 12:15 Lit mouth.
  20. 1 Samuel 12:19 The fifty days between the beginning of the barley harvest (Passover) and the end of the wheat harvest (Pentecost) are called the “days of trepidation.” During these fifty days, the farmers pray that it will not rain because all the major crops of the land (the seven varieties of Deut 8:7-10) come to fruition during this time. The rain destroys crops in the field and any produce that has been harvested and covered. The resulting famine from the crop failure would result in many deaths.

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