Saul, the Man Who Would Be King (1 Samuel 9)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 9

1 Samuel 9 marks the beginning of a new era in Israel, for in this chapter we will be introduced to Saul, the man who would become Israel’s first king. The people had demanded a king (8:19-20), and the LORD commanded Samuel to heed their demands, “and make them a king” (8:22).

A Common Errand, and a Date with Destiny (9:1-14)

The opening verses of 1 Samuel 9 gives us the ancestral lineage of Saul, whose father was a “mighty man of power;” and perhaps indicating he was a man of wealth and authority among the tribe of Benjamin (9:1).

Saul is introduced as a handsome, and physically imposing man, “a choice young man, and a goodly [handsome]: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier [pleasant] person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people” (9:2).

It is often in doing the ordinary, the mundane, that we come face to face with divine providence, and the truth that “the steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD” (Psalm 37:23). Providentially, Saul’s father had sent him and a servant on an errand to find donkeys that had strayed from the family’s property (9:3). The journey was a lengthy one (9:4), and scholars estimate it may have been an excursion of some sixty-five miles (quite a distance given the terrain, and the heat of the desert).

Knowing they had been away longer than was expected, Saul was concerned his father would be anxious, and therefore, he advised they return home (9:5). His servant, however, suggested they consult with the “seer,” the prophet whom he described as “an honorable man; and all that he saith cometh surely to pass” (9:6).

Saul hesitated, having no payment for the prophet’s time and advice. Knowing God’s servants were dependent on the gifts of the people (9:7), his servant provided a small amount of silver, and they agreed to go into the city and seek the man (9:9-10). Nearing the city, young maidens directed them to the high place, where they were told they would find him, going up to eat of the sacrifice (9:11-14).

A Divine Appointment (9:15-27)

Saul did not know his life was about to change forever, for Samuel was waiting on him, as the LORD had told him (9:15-16). When “Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of! this same shall reign over my people” (9:17).

Saul did not know Samuel (9:18-19a), but he learned that Samuel knew him, for the prophet requested he remain for the meal, spend the night, and “tomorrow I will let thee go, and will tell thee all that is in thine heart” (9:19). Assuring him that his father’s donkeys had been found, Samuel saluted him with a greeting that left him perplexed, saying “And on whom is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on thee, and on all thy father’s house?” (9:20).

Not understanding the full implications of the prophet’s words, Saul understood enough to protest he was hardly the man in whom Israel would delight, for he was a “Benjamite, of the smallest tribes of Israel” (9:21). You may remember how the tribe of Benjamin had gone to war against Israel, and been nearly destroyed leaving only six hundred men that survived the battle (Judges 20-21). In Saul’s day, the tribe of Benjamin had not recovered from their devastating losses.

Overlooking Saul’s protest, Samuel honored him, placing him at the head of the table, and serving him the best portion of the meat that was reserved for the priest (9:22-24). He then invited Saul to be his guest for the night (9:25), and they fellowshipped “upon the top of the house” to escape the heat of the house.

They rose early the next morning (9:26), and Samuel walked Saul out of the city. After requesting that Saul send his servant ahead, and give them privacy. Samuel bid Saul: “Stand thou still a while, that I may shew thee the word of God” (9:27).

The chapter break, and the conclusion of this devotional seem abrupt, but in the next chapter Samuel will anoint Saul with a vial of oil, and declare he had been chosen by the LORD to be the captain, the ruler of Israel (10:1).

Samuel’s long ministry as the prophet and judge of Israel was nearing its end, even as Saul’s was beginning. The nation had rejected the LORD as their King (8:7), and they would soon realize all the prophet had warned would come to pass (8:11-18).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith