Christian Churches of God

No. CB88

 

 

 

Saul:

Israel’s First King

 

(Edition 1.0 20060722-20060722)

 

The people asked for a king and God gave them Saul, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin and he ruled for forty years. This paper has been adapted from Chapters 80-85 of The Bible Story Volume IV by Basil Wolverton, published by Ambassador College Press.

 

 

 

Christian Churches of God

PO Box 369,  WODEN  ACT 2606,  AUSTRALIA

 

E-mail: secretary@ccg.org

 

 

 

(Copyright ă  2006  Christian Churches of God, Ed. Wade Cox)

 

 

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Saul: Israel’s First King

 

 


Israel asks for a King

 

God raised up Judges to rule over Israel but neither Eli nor Samuel, the last two judges, corrected their sons who were behaving badly and contrary to God’s Laws. So the people asked for a king to rule over them, just like the nations around them had kings.

 

This did not please Samuel so he went to pray to God. He realised that he needed God's advice on how to answer the elders.

 

And the Lord told Samuel, "The elders and the people they represent do indeed want a king. It isn't that they don't want you as their leader. It's because they don't want me as their king. Ever since I brought the Israelites up from the land of Egypt, they have rejected me again and again by rejecting the men I have chosen as leaders. During the past several years most of Israel has turned back to me in some degree. Now they are again going back to the ways of the pagan nations about them. Your sons have given them cause to protest. If they insist on a king, that's what they deserve. Tell them they can have one. At the same time, warn them what they can expect if a king is to rule them" (1Sam. 8:6-9).

 

Samuel told all the people who were asking for a king all that the Lord had said to him.

 

He said, "Now let me tell you what you can expect if a king is made the head of Israel. In the first place, he will draft your young men into a great standing army. A king chooses whom he pleases for what he pleases. Many of your sons who are trained toward being master craftsmen in various pursuits will be forced into lesser careers in the bloody art of war. At the same time, many who have lesser ability will become military leaders.

 

"He will also take your young women to be bakers, cooks, maids, housecleaners, dishwashers and for every service for which a king and his princes and underlings have a need. Besides, he will choose your best fields, vineyards and orchards to take from you to give to those in high offices under him. He will demand a tenth of what all farmers and wage earners produce. He will take your servants and your animals if they are to his liking. Even some of you may become his lowliest servants. In time many will cry out in despair because the king has taken so much from them. In that day God will do nothing to help you because of the choice you are now making" (1Sam. 8:10-18).

 

But the people refused to listen. “We want a king,” they said. “Then he will lead us and go out before us to fight our battles.”

 

Samuel knew that Israel would soon face her enemies, who were beginning again to make attacks at the borders. This was one of the reasons why the elders wanted a fighting leader. There was no need for a massive fighting force for the Israelites as long as they obeyed God, but they were inclined to go their own ways and now looked to an army for protection.

 

Samuel repeated all this to the Lord who said, “ Listen to the people and give them a king” (1Sam. 8:19-22).

Samuel anoints Saul

 

Shortly afterward, in the territory of Benjamin, an ordinary event took place that had a great bearing on Israel's future. There, a man by the name of Kish, who owned a farm and raised fine donkeys. One day he discovered that his mare donkeys and their colts had disappeared from his grazing fields.

 

Realising that his missing animals might be in some distant area, Kish decided to send his son Saul after them. Young Saul had developed a strong physique in his years of labour on his father's farm, and was very tall. Kish knew that if his son found that someone had stolen the donkeys, he wouldn't have too much trouble convincing the thief to give them back.

 

"Take provisions for a few days for both yourself and one of your servants," Kish told Saul. "Bring the animals back even if you have to search behind every hill in the high country of Ephraim" (1Sam. 9:1-3).

 

Setting out with donkeys, Saul and the servant went through the territory of Benjamin and into Ephraim. There they turned back to pursue a circular course through the rugged Mt. Ephraim and Benjamin area into the region of Judah.

 

God leads Saul to Samuel

 

Saul said to his servant, "We have covered many miles and have been gone over two days and have accomplished nothing. By now my father is probably much more concerned about us than he is about the donkeys. We should return home at once. Later we can look for the animals in other directions."

 

The servant said, "We are very near the city where the man of God lives who is Israel's prophet. If we were to visit him, he might be able to tell us where the donkeys are."

 

“We have nothing to bring him as a gift. Even all our food is gone," Saul replied.

 

"I have some money I can give to the man of God," the servant suggested.

 

So Saul decided that was a good idea and they set out for the town where the man of God was. Just outside the city they met some young women carrying water from a well. From them they learned that the prophet lived most of the time outside of town, but that he would soon be arriving to officiate at a special sacrifice that was to take place that day (1Sam. 9:4-12).

 

The day before this took place, God had spoken again to Samuel, informing him that about twenty-four hours later He would send him a young Benjamite to be the new leader of Israel and a staunch captain against the Philistines.

 

As Saul and his servant came into the city, they noted that other people were hurrying to the place where the special sacrifice was to be made. Among them was Samuel, coming towards them on his way to the high place. When Samuel caught up with Saul, the Lord said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.”

 

Saul said to Samuel, "Could you tell me where I can find the prophet?" (1Sam. 9:13-18).

 

“I am the prophet,” Samuel replied. “Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you are to eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is in your heart. As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found. And the desire of Israel is turned to you and your father’s family.” (vv. 19-20 NIV)

 

Saul didn't know exactly what to say, because he didn't understand what Samuel was talking about. "I don't know what you mean, sir," the young man said. "I am of the smallest tribe of Israel, the tribe that has suffered great disgrace. And, my family is the least important in the tribe of Benjamin. Why should I be chosen for anything?"

 

Samuel then seated Saul and his servant as dinner guests ahead of those who were invited—about thirty other people.  Samuel requested that a special portion of meat be set before Saul. This was the shoulder. The shoulder, the choice part of an offering, told those present that Saul was a very special guest (vv. 21-24).

 

That night Saul and his servant were guests at the house occupied by Samuel. Before bedtime Samuel took Saul up on the roof, which was a flat area where the dwellers of the house went for privacy. There Samuel explained to Saul that God had chosen him to be the head of Israel, and briefly told him what would be expected of him. Saul could scarcely believe that such honour and responsibility would soon be his. He felt that he wasn't prepared for such a position, but Samuel persuaded him that inasmuch as God had chosen him, He would surely give him divine help.

 

Saul anointed King

 

After a night's rest, Samuel told Saul that he should return to his home for a time, and that he would like to walk along with him and his servant on their way out of town. As soon as they arrived in a secluded area, Samuel asked Saul to send his servant on ahead (vv. 25-27).

 

When the two of them were alone, Samuel followed God's instructions by pouring a small container of oil over Saul's head.

 

"I anoint you for consecration to the rank of leader of Israel!" Samuel exclaimed. "This is the office God has already decreed for you."

 

The elderly judge congratulated Saul by kissing him on the cheek, which in those times meant about the same as our present-day handshake.

 

"Don't be concerned about your father's donkeys” Samuel said. They have been found. Let me tell you what will happen to you on your way back, so that you will know for certain that God is speaking through me concerning you.

 

"When you leave me today, you will meet two men at the place where Jacob buried Rachel, his wife. They will inform you that your father's donkeys have been found, and that he is worried because you have been gone so long. After you leave them, you will walk out on a plain where there is a large oak tree. There you will meet three men who will be going to offer sacrifices at Bethel. One will be carrying three young goats. One will be carrying three loaves of bread. The other will be carrying a bottle of wine. They will speak to you and insist on giving two loaves of their bread to you" (1Sam. 10:1-4).

 

These two loaves were set apart for Saul, and a little later he was given the Holy Spirit and was able to prophesy, as we shall see. In the same way, the two loaves at Pentecost symbolise the receipt of the Holy Spirit and the wine that goes with them, while the three young goats signify the sacrifices of Passover and Atonement.

 

Samuel continued: "After that you will go to Gibeah where the Philistines have built a garrison. As you approach the town you will meet a procession of prophets with musical instruments being played before them. They shall speak and sing of things that have to do with God. The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them. You will begin to feel like a different person. When you experience all these things you will realise that God is beginning to work through you.”

 

"Then go down to Gilgal and I shall join you there to tell you what to do next" (vv. 5-8).

 

Samuel's rophecies ulfilled

 

As Saul left Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were filled that day. When they came to Gibeah, there were the prophets and the Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul and he joined in with them. All the people who knew Saul could not believe it was the same Saul they knew before.

 

Now Saul’s uncle asked him where they had been. Saul told him they were looking for the donkeys but when they could not find them they went to see Samuel, but he did not tell his uncle what Samuel had said about the kingship (1Sam. 10:9-16).

 

Shortly after Saul's return home, Samuel sent out a decree that the Israelites should come to Mizpah on a certain day to witness the election of their future king. Of course Samuel already knew that Saul would be king.

 

God guides the selection

 

"Before we get to the business of choosing a king," Samuel addressed the crowd, "I want to pass on to you some things that God has spoken to me. He wants me to remind you that although He brought your ancestors out of Egypt and saved them and you from many enemies, you rejected Him as your ruler when you asked for a man to rule over you. God's way is to lead and instruct you through men who have a special knowledge of God's Laws and ways -- men who are dedicated to serving God and the welfare of the people through God's great mercy and wisdom. But now you want a king, the kind of leader pagan nations look up to. God will give you a king, and He has told you what to expect from that kind of leader. May God guide the one who will be chosen!" (1Sam.l 10:17-19).

 

The leaders of the tribes of Israel were asked by Samuel to participate in the drawing of lots. Marked tabs were put into a container. One was taken out at random, and handed to Samuel. There was silence as the people waited, each person hoping that his tribe would be chosen.

 

"Benjamin has been chosen!" Samuel announced. "Your king will come from that tribe."

 

The next choice to be made was that of a family or clan from the tribe that had just been picked. There was a tab for every family. One was taken out and handed to Samuel.

 

"The Benjamite family of Matri has been chosen!" Samuel told the people.

 

Finally from the tribe of Benjamin, of the family of Matri, Saul, a son of Kish was chosen as the man to be king. But when they looked for him he could not be found (1Sam. 10:20-21).

 

Samuel was certain that Saul couldn't be very far away because he had seen him earlier in the day. The only thing left to do was to take the matter to God, who had just performed a miracle for Israel by causing certain lots to be drawn.

 

And the Lord said, "He is hiding among the baggage”.

 

Saul tried to hide so he would not have to perform the duties that were required of him. However, God causes men to do what He has set before them.

 

They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others.

 

"This is the man God has chosen to be your king!" Samuel called out. “There is no one like him among all the people” (1Sam. 10:22-23).

 

"Long live the king!" the people shouted.

 

Samuel then told the people the changes that would be required because of a different kind of government soon to go into effect. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the Lord. Then Samuel dismissed the people.

 

Saul also went to his own home in Gibeah accompanied by men whose hearts God had touched with the Holy Spirit. But some troublemakers said, “How can this fellow save us?” They hated him and did not bring him gifts. But Saul kept silent (1Sam. 10:24-27). Here we see Satan putting the idea into the minds of the people to act in a wrong way towards God’s Anointed.

Saul receives the city of Jabesh

 

Shortly after lots had been drawn to determine the man who should become Israel's first king, an Ammonite army appeared in the area of Jabesh-gilead.

 

The inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead were fearful when they saw such a fighting force approaching, and were filled with panic when the Ammonite army marched up and completely surrounded their city.

 

All they could do would be to throw themselves on the Ammonites' mercy. The leaders of Jabesh-gilead made their decision, and fearfully went to talk with their enemy.

 

Nahash, the Ammonite king, was a harsh, arrogant man who was intent on driving Israel out from the territory east of the Jordan River. He was aware that Israel, under Jephthah's leadership, had crushed his nation's army nearly forty years previously. And he felt that it was time the score was more than evened.

 

"My only agreement with you," he said to the Gadites, "is that I will scoop out the right eyeball of every man. That would prevent you from ever taking up arms against me and should give the rest of Israel something to think about!" (1Sam. 11:1-2).

 

"Please give us seven more days of freedom," the elders of Jabesh said.

 

"Now why should I spare your city for seven more days?" the Ammonite leader slowly asked in mock concern.

 

"So that we may send messengers to other Israelite tribes to bring us help," they explained. "If no one comes to rescue us within a week, then do as you will with us."

 

Not long afterward, messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and reported the Ammonites' terms to the people who wept aloud. Just then Saul was returning from the fields and he asked, “What is wrong with these people?” Then it was repeated to him what the men of Jabesh had said (1Sam. 11:3-5).

 

King Saul acts

 

Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul in power and he burned with anger. As a means of getting fast action, he sent pieces of freshly butchered oxen to the leaders of the tribes of Israel. The messengers who brought the pieces explained to the leaders that it was a reminder from Saul and Samuel that their oxen too would be slashed up in like pieces -- unless the leaders immediately sent armed men to help rescue the people of Jabesh Gilead.

 

The leaders did as Saul demanded, because they feared what God might do to them if they failed to deliver the men. When they had all gathered together into Bezek, the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and the men of Judah thirty thousand.

 

Meanwhile, the men who had come from Jabesh Gilead returned to their city with news that help would be there by about mid-morning the next day. The leaders were so happy to hear that rescue was on the way that they decided to talk to Nahash again.

 

"We have decided to surrender to you," the Gadites told the Ammonite king. "By tomorrow our people will come out to you. We hope that you will spare our city, if not us."

 

Although Saul had never commanded an army, he was inspired in what to do. He divided the men into three divisions. During the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together (vv. 6-11).

 

Remember from the story of Gideon, he also divided his army into three divisions and defeated the nations. Gideon had three hundred while Saul had thirty thousand of Judah and three hundred thousand of Israel.

 

Samuel came out to meet Saul after the new king had crossed over the river. Now, at last, there was great and growing enthusiasm for the new leader. But trouble started to develop when a part of the crowd began to loudly demand that something be done about the men who had insulted Saul at his home near Gibeah, and who had refused to recognise him as their leader.

 

The people then said, "Find all those who treated Saul with contempt and disrespect and let us kill them before our brave new king!"

 

Saul called out to the crowd, "no one is to be slain just because he doesn't approve of me! This is a day of thankfulness to God for sparing our lives and giving us victory over the Ammonites" (1Sam. 11:12-13).

 

After the shouting ceased, Samuel appeared before the people to ask them to congregate soon at Gilgal. There all of Israel was invited for public ceremonies in honour of Saul. Although he had already anointed Saul privately as the new leader of the nation, Samuel went through the rite once more to confirm it for the benefit of the people (1Sam. 11:14-15).

 

After hours of celebration, offerings and sacrifices, when the festive mood of the crowd was beginning to subside, Samuel went out to speak to the people.

 

"Over the years I have listened to your requests," Samuel told them. "One of them was for a human king and I took the matter to God, and now your young king is standing in your sight. I have been of service to you and to God ever since my childhood. I have carried out His decisions. Now tell me, have God or I been unfair? Can anyone say that I have taken a bribe? If anyone can prove it, I am ready to pay it back here and now. If any of you has a fault to find with me, step up here and let me know about it."

 

Nobody came forward and nobody spoke up. "Am I to assume that your silence means that God is a witness that you have found no fault with me as God's servant?" Samuel asked of the crowd.

 

"God is our witness that you have been honest," many voices chorused (1Sam.12:1-5).

 

"Then listen to what I'm saying now," Samuel continued. "You have seen down through our history how God supplied men of great ability when Israel was in trouble. Israel cried out for help in Egypt, and Moses and Aaron were raised up to help lead our ancestors here. When the people turned to idolatry, God sent the armies of the kings of Hazor, Philistia and Moab. The Israelites cried to God when the pagan armies attacked, tearfully confessing that they had sinned by worshipping Baal and Ashtaroth.” Ashtaroth, (the Sumerian Astarte)  is the Canaanite and later Hebrew word for the goddess consort of Baal. She is the same as the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre or Easter whose name comes from the Assyrian equivalent name Ishtar).

 

"God then sent men such as Gideon, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel to help rescue Israel time after time. Lately there has been more trouble because of breaking God's Laws. But even when it was reported that the king of Ammon was planning to attack you, you desired to have a human king, such as Nahash was, to ride before your army. I reminded you that God is your King, but you insisted that your king be a man. God has given you your desire in the man who was confirmed just a few hours ago (1Sam. 12:6-13).

 

"Now I am solemnly warning you that you must obey God if you want Him to protect you and your king. If you refuse to live by your Creator's ways, then you will lose His protection and blessing. You and your king will come into a time of misery and want. Your enemies will come to conquer you as they did your ancestors."

 

These same things apply to us today.

 

"Now stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes" Samuel went on. “This is the wheat harvest season when it is clear and cloudless. "Now I am going to ask God to send thunder and rain. You'll see God's power. It will also be a sign that those who asked for a king over Israel have sinned in doing so, even though God has allowed that king!" (vv. 14-17).

 

Then Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain. All the people were amazed and afraid (v. 18).

 

"Pray to God for us, so that we don’t die," the people shouted. "We realise that we were wrong in asking for a king!"

 

When Samuel heard people repenting he said, "You have nothing to fear now, as long as you obey God and let nothing turn you aside from serving Him at all times. Then He will never forsake you, for you are the people He has chosen for a mighty purpose. You should be thankful for that, and for all that God has done for you. I shall continue to pray for you and to show you the right way. And once more I make this warning: Don’t turn away from God, or you and your king will be destroyed" (vv. 19-25).

 

Samuel rebukes Saul

 

It wasn’t long before the people were again turning to paganism. After several years of Israelite lawlessness, God again allowed the Philistines to take over part of Israel.

 

One way in which the Philistines controlled the Israelites was to forbid them possession of files or devices for sharpening metal cutting edges, which meant that it was almost impossible for the Israelites to make knives or swords for equipping an army. The Philistines saw to it that no blacksmiths should remain among the Israelites. When the Israelite farmers and carpenters needed their tools sharpened, they had to go to the Philistines (1Sam. 13:19-21).

 

After Saul had ruled for two years he raised an army of three thousand men. Saul kept two thousand of the troops with him at Michmash. The other thousand soldiers were with his son Jonathan at Gibeah (1Sam. 13:2). Saul possessed a sword and armour, as also did Jonathan (1Sam. 13:22).

 

One day Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba and the Philistines heard about it. Saul summoned the men to join him at Gilgal by the blowing of the trumpet. The Philistines assembled to fight Israel with three thousand chariots, six thousand horsemen, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the sea-shore. They went up and camped at Michmash.

 

When the men of Israel saw their situation was critical they were afraid and hid in caves and bushes and among rocks. Some even crossed the Jordan River to the land of Gad and Gilead.

 

Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were shaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel (1Sam. 10:3-7). But Samuel did not come to Gilgal and Saul’s men began to scatter.

 

Saul decided he could not wait any longer for Samuel and that he would personally make burnt offerings and peace offerings so that God might be moved to step in and somehow save Israel (1Sam. 13:8-9). He should have been patient. The seventh day was not yet over.

 

Just as he finished making a burnt offering, Samuel arrived at Gilgal. Saul hurried to meet him.

 

“What have you done?” asked Samuel.

 

"When you didn't show up to advise me I wanted to seek God’s favour and felt compelled to offer the burnt offering," Saul replied.

 

"You have done a most foolish thing," Samuel told the king. "I did show up in time. The seventh day is not yet over and the Philistines have not yet attacked. If you had obeyed God, He would have established your family as kings over Israel for all time.

 

"But you have overstepped your authority, which does have definite limits. God has made it known to me that your days are numbered as the king of Israel."

 

Samuel said, "God will appoint another man to become king who is more inclined to be obedient to Him".

 

When Samuel left for Gibeah, Saul counted the men with him and they numbered about six hundred (1Sam.13:10-15).

 

The vast Philistine forces remained for a time at Michmash. Then one day they showed signs of moving. They sent out three companies -- plundering and ravaging the Israelite homes and farms and villages in their paths. For some reason they chose not to move south toward Gibeah. The Israelites were powerless, since the Philistines had taken away their swords, spears and blacksmith's tools. Only Saul and Jonathan had a sword and spear (1Sam. 13:16-22).

 

One day, Saul's son Jonathan said to his armour-bearer, “Come let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can stop the Lord by saving whether by many or few.” The armour-bearer agreed, but Jonathan did not tell his father of his plan.

 

Saul and his six hundred men, together with the High Priest Ahiah, were staying on the outskirts of Gibeah (1Sam. 14:2-3).

 

"Now here's my plan. If we're careful, probably we won't be seen till we're very close to the base of the cliff where one edge of the camp is. If the Philistines discover us and threaten to come down against us if we come any closer, then we'll give up and return here. But if they ask us to come up to them, then we'll do so. We'll consider it a sign from God that He will help us" (1Sam. 14:1, 4-10).

 

So Jonathan and his servant showed themselves to the Philistine outpost.

 

"Come up to us and we will teach you a lesson," the sentries called to Jonathan.

 

"That's a sign from the Lord," Jonathan said to his armour-bearer. "I really believe it means that God will help and protect us. Follow me up the cliff!" (1Sam. 14:11-12).

 

Jonathan climbed up the rock on the side opposite the garrison, with his companion close behind. The Philistines fell before Jonathan's sword and his armour-bearer followed and killed behind him.

 

In that first attack twenty of the enemy lost their lives at the hands of only two young Israelites whom God had inspired to start something that turned out to be more than a great battle (1Sam. 14:13-14).

 

The Philistines panic

 

Then panic struck the whole Philistine camp. It was a panic sent by God. Saul’s lookouts at Gibeah saw the army running away in all directions. So he gathered his men and only then noticed that Jonathan and his armour-bearer were missing (1Sam. 14:15-16).

 

Not knowing just what to do, Saul asked Ahiah the High Priest to seek God’s will before entering the battle. But the panic in the Philistine camp increased more and more so Saul told the priest to stop.

 

Then Saul and all the men went into battle. They found the Philistines in total confusion, striking each other with their swords (1Sam. 14:17-20).

 

Through God's control of nature and circumstances, Israel had been saved by the destruction of the Philistine army (1Sam. 14:21-23).

 

Earlier in the day King Saul had bound the people with an oath not to eat any food until evening before he had avenged himself on his enemies (1Sam. 14:24). Early in the battle Jonathan and his armour-bearer had rejoined Saul's little army -- but too late to hear Saul's edict that the men shouldn't eat till evening.

 

As Saul's army trudged through the forest, the men saw that there was honey on the ground. This was a great temptation to the tired and hungry soldiers, but fearing that something terrible would happen to them if they ate any, they marched by, except for Jonathan. He knew of no reason not to eat it, and so stopped to scoop up some of the honey on a stick he was carrying and transfer it to his mouth and his eyes brightened. Just then a soldier looked back and saw what Jonathan was doing. He turned and said to him, “Your father has pronounced a curse of death on any of us who would eat anything today. That is why the men are faint."

 

Jonathan said, "My father has made trouble for the country. See how my eyes brightened when I tasted a little of this honey. How much better it would have been if the men had eaten some of the plunder they took from the Philistines today? The slaughter of the enemy would have been much greater” (1Sam. 14:24-30).

 

That day, after the Israelites had struck down the Philistines from Michmash to Aijalon, they were exhausted. They pounced on the plunder taken from the Philistines and butchered the animals on the ground and ate them. They didn't even take the time to properly bleed the carcasses, as God commanded (Lev. 3:17; Deut.12:23-25).

 

Then someone said to Saul, “Look, the men are sinning by eating meat which still has blood in it”.

 

Saul immediately ordered the soldiers to come to attention and listen to him.

 

"You have done wrong by eating meat that has blood in it. He then ordered a large stone to be brought over and told the men to slaughter their animals on it. Then Saul built an altar to the Lord. It was the first time he had done this (vv. 31-35).

 

Later, when the soldiers were refreshed and rested, Saul felt that the Israelites should seek out and destroy the Philistine troops who had hidden or escaped.

 

“Do whatever seems best to you,” his men replied.

 

But the priest said, "Before we act any further, let us take the matter to God. So Saul asked God if they should go after the Philistines. But God did not answer (vv.36-37).

 

So Saul said, "Come here all leaders of the tribes to meet with me so we can find out what sin was committed today. Even if it turns out to be Jonathan my son, I promise that he shall die."

 

Not a man spoke out or stepped up. "If no one will admit guilt, then I'll seek him out by casting lots," Saul said. "My son and I will be on one side, and all the rest of you on the other."

 

“Do what seems best to you,” the men replied.

 

Saul then asked God to make His will known through the casting of lots. So Saul said cast the lot between them and Jonathan was taken (vv. 38-42).

 

"What awful thing have you done to cause God to show you as the offender?" Saul said to Jonathan.

 

Jonathan replied. " I merely tasted a little honey I found by the trail. Now must I die?”

 

“The curse I pronounced rests on you", said Saul.

 

But the men said to Saul, "We have learned that Jonathan and his armour-bearer had much to do with the victory God gave us over the Philistines, and that he hasn't committed any great sin. That's why we're not allowing one hair of his head to be harmed because he did this with God’s help."

 

So the men rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death (vv. 43-45).

 

The real reasons God hadn't answered Saul's requests through the High Priest were that Saul had unwisely pronounced a curse on any man who didn't fast during the battle, and because so many men ate meat that hadn't been properly drained of blood. Saul eventually came to realise these things.

 

Because events turned out as they did, no attempt was made to round up the surviving Philistine soldiers, who fled to their own nation. From time to time other Philistine armies were formed to attack Israel, but Saul built up a powerful fighting force with which to keep the Philistines out of Canaan.

 

During the next several years Saul encountered the same kind of trouble from every direction, but God made it possible for him to protect Israel from all of them (1Sam.14:46-52). God left Saul in charge even though He had appointed another leader (1Sam. 13:13-14).

 

The story of Saul and David will continue in the paper Samuel Anoints David (No. CB89).

 

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