1 Samuel 8 - 12

From the days in the wilderness, God had told the Israelites that one day they would have a king (Deuteronomy 17:14-17). And yet, it had been understood up to this point that GOD was their king. When the Israelites had offered the kingship to Gideon, he had refused, insisting that "the Lord shall rule over you" (Judges 8:23).

That changes as we come to this chapter. For the first time, there will be a legitimate king over Israel.

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

A King Requested

A King Chosen

King Goes Forth

The Kingdom Admonished

The People request a king

Saul comes to Samuel

Saul Anointed

Saulís call to arms

Samuelís call to commitment



1. The Need for a King.

And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel.

Now the name of his first-born was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judging in Beersheba.

His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice. (1 Samuel 8:1-3).

Chapter 7 ends on a positive note. The Lord has delivered the Israelites from the Philistine threat and Israel repossesses all of the disputed holdings from Ekron to Gath (7:14).

But over the course of years, Samuel grew older and was succeeded by his two sons. Their judging was characterized by dishonesty and corruption. They followed after a perversion of justice.

There is a parallel here between Samuel and Eli. They both judged Israel. They both had two sons. Their sons acted wickedly and were rejected.

Perhaps Samuel had learned his parenting skills from Eli. The good news is that he does not seem to have been partaking in their sinful behavior the way in which Eli did. Because his sons were not fit to succeed him, the Israelites perceived a need for a king.

2. Request for a King.

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; 5 and they said to him, "Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations." (1 Samuel 8:4-5).

In verse 1, Samuel had appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. Now the elders ask Samuel to appoint a king to judge them.

There are several things which ought to be mentioned in defense of Israelís request for a king:

Nevertheless, their request was perceived as a rejection, not only of Samuel and his sons, but even of the Lord who tells Samuel that "they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them" (8:7). One of the problems with a king was that many of the surrounding nations considered their kings to be gods.

3. The Procedure of a King.

The Lord issues a warning of what it will mean for the Israelites to have a king to reign over them.

They have come and asked the Lord for a king. Before it is all over, they will come and ask God to take their king back (8:18). There is a lesson here. It is that you be careful what you pray for. You might get it.



The scene suddenly shifts to a young man named Saul. He is described as one of valiant heritage and of personal distinction.

"...a choice and handsome man, and there was not a more handsome person than he among the sons of Israel, from his shoulders and up he was taller than any of the people." (1 Samuel 9:2).

The word translated "handsome" is ("good"). We would say that he was "a fine figure of a man." He was a manís man, literally head and shoulders above the rest of his countrymen. And that is not all, he seems to have initially been a capable leader and one who was willing to follow the Lord. Unfortunately, he does not stay that way.

The career of Saul is set forth in three acts, each of which consists of several parallel scenes.

Act 1

Act 2

Act 3

Scene 1

Saul meets Samuel and is anointed by him (9-10)

Saul meets Samuel and is condemned by him (15).

Saul meets Samuel and his death is foretold (28).

Scene 2

Success in battle with the help of God (11).

Success in battle with the help of David (17-18).

Failure in battle and suicide (31).

Scene 3

Saulís failure before Samuel and Jonathan (13-14).

Saulís failure before David (19-26).

1. A Humble Quest.

Saul comes on the scene, not seeking a kingdom or a throne, but looking for some lost donkeys. As they are about to give up on their quest, Saulís servant suggests that they go and inquire from the local Seer about the missing donkeys.

They discuss this plan. Saul is reluctant because they have no gift to give to the Seer. But the servant has a quarter of a shekel of silver. This was not a coin, for coinage would not be invented until the 7th century B.C. This was a weight.

Meanwhile, the Lord had revealed to Samuel that a man was coming from the tribe of Benjamin who would be anointed as the deliverer of the Israelites.

Thus, when Saul arrives at the gate of the city, he is met by Samuel who informs him that the donkeys have been found and then proceeds to invite him as the guest of honor to a special dinner.

2. Saulís Anointing.

a. His anointing at the hands of Samuel.

Then Samuel took the flask of oil, poured it on his head, kissed him and said, "Has not the Lord anointed you a ruler over His inheritance?" (1 Samuel 10:1).

Notice the use of the definite article in describing the flask of oil (the Hebrew has the sign of the direct object). This was not merely any old flask. It was THE flask.

I think it is possible that this was the flask that contained holy anointing oil of a special recipe which had been used to anoint the tabernacle and the holy things (Exodus 30:22-32).

What was the significance of anointing someone with oil? It was a sign of sanctification - of setting apart for a special purpose. It was also a sign of the Spirit of God. Isaiah would later write:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted... (Isaiah 61:1a).

Saul is given three signs which are to serve as witnesses that this anointing is truly from God.

Sign #1

Two men inform him that the donkeys have been found.

Sign #2

Three men on their way to worship the Lord give him two loaves of bread.

Sign #3

Saul meets a group of prophets and the Spirit of God comes upon him and he prophesies.

b. Saulís anointing by the Spirit of God.

"Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man." (1 Samuel 10:6).

Saul wasnít very kingly. And he certainly wasnít a prophet. But when the Spirit of God came upon him, Saul was changed.

Then it happened when he turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came about on that day." (1 Samuel 10:9).

Saul was a changed man. This change was sudden and it was supernatural. The change also had an outward manifestation.

When they came to the hill there, behold, a group of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him mightily, so that he prophesied among them.

And it came about, when all who knew him previously saw that he prophesied now with the prophets, that the people said to one another, "What has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?"

And a man there answered and said, "Now, who is their father?" Therefore it became a proverb: "Is Saul also among the prophets?" (1 Samuel 10:10-12).

This mysterious experience would be repeated later in Saulís life (see 1 Samuel 19:20-24). What was this experience and why did it take place.? It was a manifestation of the filling of the Holy Spirit. And it took place as a confirmation that Saul was to be the next king of Israel.

Does this mean that the filling of the Spirit must always be accompanied with such a sign? Not at all. Here it is accompanied by prophesying. In Acts 2 it is accompanied by tongues and flames of fire. In Exodus 28:3 and 31:3 is was accompanied by skilled workmanship on the part of the designers of the tabernacle. In Judges 15:14 it resulted in Samsonís great strength. In Acts 4:8 is was accompanied by a holy boldness.

What is the point? It is that God does always have to do things the same way. And we ought to be careful when building doctrines based on historical passages.

3. Chosen at Mizpah.

Thereafter Samuel called the people together to the Lord as Mizpah (1 Samuel 10:17).

The name "Mizpah" means "watchtower" -- literally, "place of watching." There were several Mizpahs throughout the land. This Mizpah was likely the place where the Lord had last delivered the Israelites from the attack of the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:5-11). It had since become one of the regular points along Samuelís traveling circuit (1 Samuel 7:16).

Thus Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot.

Then he brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its families, and the Matrite family was taken. And Saul the son of Kish was taken; but when they looked for him, he could not be found.

Therefore he inquired further of the Lord, "Has the man come here yet?" So the Lord said, "Behold, he is hiding himself by the baggage."

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.

And Samuel said to all the people, "Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? Surely there is no one like him among all the people." So all the people shouted and said, "Long live the king!" (1 Samuel 10:20-24).

There is a touch of irony here. When we first saw Saul, he was being sent to look for missing donkeys. Now it is Saul who is missing and the people go looking for him. They find him hiding by the baggage.

Remember, being a king was not something for which Saul had been seeking. He had come on the scene seeking nothing but a pair of lost donkeys. And now that he is chosen, he is still reluctant to take of the mantle of kingship. There will come a time when that mantle of kingship will be taken away from Saul and he will be equally reluctant to give it up.

Perhaps there is a lesson here for us. It is that we shall find it much easier to take things up and to give things up as we realize that they are given and taken by the Lord. Anything coming into your life comes via a nail-scarred hand. And anything that is taken away is taken by that same hand.

4. A Mixed Reception.

And Saul also went to his house at Gibeah; and the valiant men whose hearts God had touched went with him.

But certain worthless men said, "How can this one deliver us?" And they despised him and did not bring him any present. But he kept silent. (1 Samuel 10:26-27).

What happened after Saul had been proclaimed the first king of Israel? Did he move into the royal palace? He did not. There was no royal palace into which he could move. And so, when the celebration was over, there was nothing else for him to do but to return home. When next we see him, he will be at the south end of a northbound team of oxen.

You see, Israel at this time was nothing more than a scattered and disunited collection of tribes. This was not a unified nation. You couldnít even get them to agree on what to eat for lunch. And they also did not agree that Saul should be their new king, no matter what Samuel had told them. But this changed dramatically when Saul led the Israelites to victory in battle.



1. The Demand of Nahash the Ammonite.

Now Nahash the Ammonite came up and besieged Jabesh-gilead; and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, "Make a covenant with us and we will serve you."

But Nahash the Ammonite said to them, "I will make it with you on this condition, that I will gouge out the right eye of every one of you, thus I will make it a reproach on all Israel."

And the elders of Jabesh said to him, "Let us alone for seven days, that we may send messengers throughout the territory of Israel. Then, if there is no one to deliver us, we will come out to you." (1 Samuel 11:1-3).

There was bad blood between the Ammonites and the Israelites. The Ammonites were descendants of Lot through his incestuous relationship with one of his daughters (the name Ammon - - means "my father"). They occupied the territory north of the Arnon River and east of the Dead Sea.

They had joined Moab in invading Israel and taking Jericho in the days of Ehud (Judges 3:12-13).

They had also warred with Israel in the days of Jephthah and had been defeated by him, losing a number of their border cities to him (Judges 10-11).

Now they were back. The city which they were now attacking was Jabesh-gilead. By strange coincidence, this is the same city which had been destroyed by the Israelites for not joining in the punitive attack against the tribe of Benjamin following the incident at Gibeah in which a Leviteís concubine was raped and then dismembered (Judges 19-21).

The city had since been rebuilt and reinhabited. It is now being attacked, not by Israel, but by Ammon. And because of her past history, it seems doubtful that anyone will come to her aid. Except for a man from the tribe of Benjamin - Saulís tribe. And specifically, a man of Gibeah - Saulís city.

"Nahash king of the Ammonites sorely oppressed the Gadites and the Reubenites, and he gouged out all their right eyes and struck terror and dread in Israel. Not a man was left among the Israelites beyond Jordan whose right eye was not gouged out by Nahash king of the Ammonites, except for seven thousand men who fled from the Ammonites and entered Jabesh Gilead." (4QSama).

Judges 19-21

1 Samuel 11

Takes place when Israel had no king.

Becomes the confirming event of Saulís kingship.

Gibeah becomes a city destined to be destroyed for her sins.

Gibeah becomes the city from which salvation goes forth.

Jabesh-gilead refuses to join in Israelís call for punishment against wicked Gibeah.

Jabesh-gilead is besieged and asks for help from Israel.

Benjamin becomes the object of attack.

Benjamin becomes the leader in this holy war.

2. Saulís Call to Arms.

Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul mightily when he heard these words, and he became very angry.

And he took a yoke 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 after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen." Then the dread of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out as one man. And he numbered them in Bezek; and the sons of Israel were 300,000, and the men of Judah 30,000. (1 Samuel 11:6-8).


Just as the Israelites had been called to arms against Gibeah by the cutting up of the body of the murdered concubine, so this time two oxen are cut up and their pieces sent throughout the land as a call to arms. Gibeah which was formerly in need of the heavy hand of punishment has now become the rallying point of salvation for Godís people.

3. The Battle of Jabesh-gilead.

And it happened the next morning that Saul put the people in three companies; and they came into the midst of the camp at the morning watch, and struck down the Ammonites until the heat of the day. And it came about that those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together. (1 Samuel 11:11).

Having assembled at Bezek on the mountains of Gilboa, Saul and his force cross the Jordan River and attack the Ammonites just before sunrise. The result is an overwhelming victory.

It is noteworthy that it would be at this same locale on the mountains of Gilboa that Saul would eventually fight his last battle. And when his body is mutilated and hung up on the wall of the city of Beth-shan, it will be men of Jabesh-gilead who will rescue the body and give it a proper burial.

Flushed with their victory, the people call for the death of those who had originally refused to follow Saul as king. Saul refuses, requiring leniency, pointing out that it is the Lord who has accomplished deliverance.

4. Coronation at Gilgal.

Then Samuel said to the people, "Come and let us go to Gilgal and renew the kingdom there."

So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. Tere they also offered sacrifices of peace offerings before the Lord; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly. (1 Samuel 11:14-15).

Gilgal was located on the western bank of the Jordan River. It was here that Joshua and the Israelites first camped after crossing the Jordan River. They had built a monument here of 12 memorial stones. And it was here that the Israelites had renewed the covenant, circumcising all of the men in the camp. This was a place of...

Gilgal will be the scene both of Saulís coronation, his rebuke and his ultimate rejection as king.

5. Samuelís Call to Commitment.

This call is presented in the legal terms of a covenant. Samuel begins by calling for witnesses against himself. Having shown that he is a qualified judge, he then places the nation of Israel "in the dock." The witnesses are from Israelís past.

All are men who were used by God to deliver His people.

Samuel testifies of his own past faithfulness (1-5).

The people repent of their unfaithfulness (17-25).



"Take your stand" to see what God has done in the past (6-7).

"Take your stand" to see what God is going to do in the future (16).



God has been faithful in the past despite Israelís continued unfaithfulness (8-12).

God will continue to be faithful both to bless faithfulness and to punish unfaithfulness (14-15).



Here is the King for whom you asked (13).


About the Author
Return to the St Andrews Homepage
Return to Online Bible Studies & Sermons Page