March 29 Reading: I Samuel 9-12 Commentary

Below is our I Samuel 9-12 commentary from our Beginning to End Bible reading program. You can find an email link at the end of this page to share your thoughts or comments with us.

Key Verse(s): 

“And Saul answered and said, ‘Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin?'” (I Sam. 9:21)

“Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.” (I Sam. 12:24)

I Samuel 9 – God Chooses Saul to Be King

commentaryThe day had finally arrived. Israel asked for a king (see I Samuel 8) and now they are going to get one. There would be no election and no power struggle for this position. God decided whom to appoint to be the first king of Israel. His name was Saul.

Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin. His father’s name was Kish. I Sam. 9:1 describes Kish as a “mighty man of power” although we don’t know why. Perhaps he was a wealthy landowner like Boaz in the story of Ruth.

His son Saul is described as “a choice and handsome man.” In fact, “There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people” (v. 2).

On one occasion, some donkeys belonging to Kish became lost. Kish sent Saul and a servant to look for them. They searched for days but to no avail (vv. 3-5).

They are about to give up and return home. However, Saul’s servant remembered that there was “an honorable man” living nearby in Ramah and “all that he says surely comes to pass” (v. 6). So they headed to the town and inquired of the people where they could connect with the seer (vv. 11-14).

God Prepped Samuel

Interestingly enough, God gave Samuel a heads up about meeting “a man from the land of Benjamin” (v. 16). This man was who Samuel would anoint as commander of the people. “So when Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said to him, ‘There he is, the man of whom I spoke to you. This one shall reign over My people'” (v. 17). How encouraging for Samuel to know that he did not have to make the choice for king himself.

Samuel assured Saul his donkeys had been found. But then Samuel said something interesting that caught Saul’s attention:

“And on whom is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on you and on all your father’s house?” (v. 20)

Saul is taken aback. He asked why Samuel was speaking this way to him (v. 21). After all, he’s from the smallest of tribes, where almost all the men of Benjamin had been wiped out in retribution for their sin at Gibeah (see Judges 19-20). Within the tribe, Saul describes his family as “the least of families”, which is different than how the family is presented in I Sam. 9:1. Whatever the case, Saul does not think he is a man of importance.

It shows us that no matter if you do feel like “the least”, God can use you.

I Samuel 10 – Samuel Anoints King Saul

After an evening feast at which Samuel honored Saul with special portions of food (I Sam. 9:22-24), Saul is ready to go on his way. Before that happened though, Samuel tells Saul to send his servant on alone ahead of him. There is something Samuel must do.

In Chap. 10 verse one, God instructed Samuel to take a flask of oil and anoint Saul. With just the two of them present, Samuel poured the oil on Saul’s head, kissed him and said:

“Is it not because the Lord has anointed you commander over His inheritance?” (v. 1).

That was Samuel’s way of saying, “You are king.” But just in case Saul doubted, Samuel described to him the events that would happen once Saul left him. The description of events is so clear and so unique that they could not have happened by chance (vv. 2-8).

All the events Samuel described to Saul happened on the journey. One of those events should have left no doubt in Saul’s mind, in that he prophesied with some other prophets (vv. 11-13). But you can tell Saul is hesitant with telling others what Samuel told him. He withheld the information from his uncle when asked where he’d been.

Saul Proclaimed as King

The time had come for the rest of the nation to hear the news. Samuel called all the people together at Mizaph (v. 17) and addressed them about their desire for a king saying,

“Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all kingdoms and from those who oppressed you.’ But you have today rejected your God, who Himself saved you from all your adversities and your tribulations; and you have said to Him, ‘No, set a king over us!’ Now therefore, present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your clans.” (vv. 18-19)

The presentation of tribes before Samuel began, even though Samuel knew who would be chosen. Most likely this was for the benefit of the rest of the people so that they would understand that God was choosing the king.

When Saul was finally chosen from the family of Kish, he was nowhere to be found. They did a search and someone found him “hiding among the equipment” (v. 22). Either Saul was that modest or was still dealing with feelings of self-doubt over his role as king.

Either way, he’s brought before the people and Samuel declared him king (vv. 23-24). Not everyone is thrilled at this choice, as some “rebels” question his leadership. But Saul “held his peace” (v. 27) so as not to provoke them.

I Samuel 11 – Saul’s First Military Victory

Saul gets a quick chance to prove himself as leader. An Ammonite leader, Nahash, came up to attack Jabesh Gilead. The people of the city tried to persuade Nahash to make a covenant with them. He agreed under one condition – that he was allowed to “put out all your right eyes” (v. 2).

The elders of the city ask for 7 days to think it over, to which Nahash agreed (v. 3). They quickly dispensed messengers to all the territories of Israel, including some sent to Saul at Gibeah (v. 4).

When Saul heard what happened,

“…the Spirit of God came upon Saul…and his anger was greatly aroused. So he took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, ‘Whoever does not go out with Saul and Samuel to battle, so it shall be done to his oxen'” (vv. 6-7). 

When the rest of Israel heard Saul’s threatening call to arms, they were afraid. The impact of his message though, had the same affect like the similar circumstance in Judges 19-20. All Israel rallied to his side, 300,000 men of Israel plus an additional 30,000 from Judah (v. 7-8).

The battle against the Ammonites is a success. Very few men of the enemy army were left alive (v. 11). And no one was left to question Saul’s leadership at that point (vv. 12-13).

It would seem that even though the people knew Saul was king, there had not been an official ceremony yet. So after the battle, “all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king…they made sacrifices of peace offerings before the Lord…” (v. 15).

I Samuel 12 – Samuel Speaks at Saul’s Coronation

We don’t have all the details about the ceremony at Saul’s coronation. What we do have is a long speech by Samuel. It’s presented in four parts:

1. Samuel confirms the testimony of his own ministry to the people (vv. 2-5).

2. He reviewed how God had worked in the people’s lives since raising up Moses and Aaron in Egypt (vv. 6-12).

3. There is an admonition to serve the Lord and be obedient to the Lord’s commands (vv. 13-15).

4. A sign (severe thunder and rain) is given that God is not pleased with their request for a king (vv. 16-19).

The people know Samuel has been righteous before them. He’s never taken advantage of them and they can trust his word.

They also understand the depth of their sin in asking for a king (v. 19). After the miracle of thunder and rain coming in an odd time of the year (v. 16), they are fearful of what else God might do to them.

But Samuel encourages them not to fear (v. 20). Instead he says,

“…do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people….Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you” (vv. 20-24).

Questions to Consider:

“Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all our heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.” – I Samuel 12:24

Have you ever been hesitant to do something that God asked of you? In those moments, what is it that holds you back? 

As Israel started out on a new journey with a new king (Saul), Samuel urged them to never forsake serving the Lord. He said the nation and new king would be “swept away” if they abandoned God. Have you forgotten all the Lord has done? Has it caused you to move away from Him?

What other points would you want to know about in our I Samuel 9-12 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.