Samuel’s Official Farewell Chapter 12 begins with Samuel’s review of Israel’s history. He reminded them of everything God had done for them. He recalled Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Sisera, the Philistines, and the king of Moab. He reminded them how the people had served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and how God had sent Gideon, Jephthiah, and Samuel, including him-self in the list of historical characters.
He began by giving an account of his stewardship as judge and
they exonerated him (vs. 4): “Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us,
neither hast thou taken out of any man’s hand.
But, they had begun to serve the Baals again. If you recall, the
Canaanites considered Baal responsible for crop fertility, so Samuel said
to them (vs. 17): Is it not wheat harvest to day? I will call unto the Lord, and he
shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking you a king.
It was to be a demonstration that they were wrong in asking for a
king in advance of God’s program, and it would validate the fact that
God was in charge of the elements of nature responsible for fertility.
Samuel called on the Lord; the Lord sent thunder and rain, and “the
people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.
XXIV SAUL’S TRAGIC CHOICES
FIRST SAMUEL First Samuel 13:1 tells us that after Saul had reigned for two years he began to select an army of specialized troops. We can assume that the year was approximately 1048 to 1047 B.C. We know it was early in his reign because 14:35 says he built his first altar to the Lord.
Based on a date of 1048 B.C., Saul’s son Jonathan must have been
twenty or twenty-one years old when Saul put him in charge of the
specialized army. Saul would have been in his mid-forties, and thus
approximately forty years old when he became king. Jonathan’s birth date would have been approximately 1070 B.C. These figures are inferences since we are not given specific dates or ages for these men, but the chronology seems to indicate their accuracy.
A Sin of Presumption Saul’s life was marked by four tragic sins. Three of them were the reasons why God cut off his house so that he did not become head of a royal dynasty. No descendent of Saul ever sat on the throne of Israel.
The army was gathered at Gilgal, anticipating the promised arrival of
Samuel to offer sacrifices before they went into battle. Becoming
impatient, Saul presumed to officiate at the offerings. No sooner had he finished than Samuel arrived and asked, “What hast thou done?” (13:11). Samuel continued (vs 13): “Thou hast done foolishly, for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. “ Samuel said there would be no dynastic succession in Saul’s case. His son Jonathan would never wear the crown. “But now,“ Samuel continued in verse 14, “thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.”
Remember, the year was about 1048 B.C. We will later learn that
David was crowned king over Judah in 1010 B.C. at the age of thirty.
This means he was born in 1040 B.C. So, eight years before David was born, Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart.“ I am reminded of Luke 1:14-17, where the angel of the Lord prophesied that John the Baptist would be the forerunner of Jesus “to turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people Prepared for the Lord.“ This promise was made before John was conceived. As Ephesians 2: 1 0 says, “ We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Some Historical Considerations Chapter 13 contains interesting information from an archaeological perspective. Remembering that it was 1048 B.C., only seven years elapsed since the battle of Mizpeh when the Philistines were defeated after their forty year occupation of the land. Verse 19 says there were no black-smiths in the land because the Philistines had forbidden them so that the Hebrews could not make weapons. The army fought with weapons such as axes, ox goads, and pitchforks. Only Saul and Jonathan had swords. (Evidently, as signs of their offices of king and prince.)
Chapter 14 contains two important genealogies. In verse 3 we read:
“Ahiah, the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh, wearing an ephod.“ From First Samuel 22:9-12, 20, we learn that Ahiah was a short form of Ahimelech. Later we will find that Abiathar, the son of Ahiah (or Ahimelech), served as priest for David. The other important genealogy is in 14:49-50. Saul’s sons were Jonathan, Ishui, and Melclishua, by his wife Ahinoam (vs. 50). The captain of his army was Abner, the son of Ner. In 9:1 we read that Abiel gave birth to Kish and Ner. Kish was the father of Saul and Ner was the father Abner. So, Saul, and his commander- in-chief Abner, were first cousins. In I Chronicles 8:33 we learn that Saul also had two additional sons, named Esh-baal and Ish-bosheth.
In I Samuel 14:47, there is a summary of all the battles which took
place during the next twenty-two years, making a gap of twenty-two
years between 14:52 and 15:1. We can therefore date chapter 15 at 1026 B.C.
A Sin of Disobedience Chapter 15 narrates the second of Saul’s four tragic sins. To understand it more fully, we must pick up the historical background from Deuteronomy 25:19.
Therefore it shall be, when the Lord thy God hath given thee rest
from all thine enemies round about in the land which the Lord thy
God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot
out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not
This was prophetic, and the task of fulfilling it fell on the shoulders of
Saul, Israel’s first monarch (15:2-3).
It has become obvious in Scripture that omnipotence is never in a
hurry. The words of Peter that one day is as a thousand years and a
thousand years as one day (11 Pet. 3:8) are certainly true in the case of God in His judgment on those who oppose Him. We have seen that the inhabitants of Canaan were given seven hundred years of grace. Eli had fifteen years of grace. Now the Amalekites have had four hundred years of grace since they attacked the weak and elderly Israelites after they came out of Egypt. That event occurred in 1446 B.C. and the year was now 1026 B.C. But, God has not forgotten His promise to Moses that He would blot out Amalek.
God said (vs.2), “I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, “ and in
verse 3, Samuel instructed Saul, “Go and smite Amalek, and utterly
destroy all that they have, and spare them not.” Saul summoned the fighting men and numbered them. Then he “came to a city of Amalek. and laid wait in the valley” (vs. 5). Verse 7 says that the battle raged “from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt.“ Saul defeated the Amalekites and captured Agag, their
king, but kept him alive. Verse 9 says:
But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep,
and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was
good, and would not utterly destroy them; but every thing that
was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.
In direct opposition to what God had said, and in direct disobedience to His prophecy and commandment made 420 years earlier, they spared the king and whatever spoil they considered to be of value. God’s chosen instrument to carry out His will failed to obey, and so His judgment fell on Saul.
Confrontation Following Saul’s sin and failure, God spoke to Samuel
and said, “It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for
he is turned back from following me. “ Samuel rose early in the morning
and went to meet Saul. Saul greeted him with the words, “Blessed be
thou of the Lord” (vs. 13). This once humble man, who twenty-four years earlier had ridden himself among the baggage, had now reached the exalted plateau in his life where he blessed the priest, prophet, and judge sent by God.
Samuel approached and asked, “What meaneth then this bleating of the
sheep in mine ears?” (vs. 14). Saul replied (vs. 15), “They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep.”
Rejection Samuel then pronounced, for the second time, the Lord’s rejection of Saul and his dynasty, while prophesying that
the throne would be given to another man. Verses 17 and 18 state:
When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the
head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over
Israel? And the Lord sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and
utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them
until they be consumed. Wherefore then didst thou not obey the
voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the
sight of the Lord?
Saul’s excuse was, “I feared the people, and obeyed their voice”. He
begged Samuel to return with him that he might be honoured “before the elders of my people, and before Israel. “ When Samuel refused and turned to leave, Saul, in desperation, grabbed Samuel’s garment and tore it. Using this as an illustration, Samuel said, “The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou” (vs. 28). Then he returned with Saul, but strictly as an out-ward show for the people.
Agag was still alive and thought he was out of danger for he said,
“Surely the bitterness of death is past. “ But Samuel said to him, “As thy
sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among
women.“ And he cut Agag into pieces. Verse 35 ends the narrative with a tragic epitaph:
And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death:
nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the Lord repented that
he had made Saul king over Israel.
XXV THE RISE OF DAVID TO PROMINENCE
FIRST SAMUEL Approximately one year elapsed between chapters 15 and 16; then the word of the Lord came again to Samuel and instructed him to go to Jesse, the Bethlehemite, because He had selected a king from among his sons.
Saul was fully aware, from the earlier judgments announced by
Samuel, that God was raising up a king from one of the other tribes, but he did not know where or whom. Saul was becoming demented,
obsessed with the fact that there was a man out there who would take his kingdom from him and keep his son Jonathan from sitting on the throne. Evidently, his hand had become very heavy on the kingdom, because in verse 2, Samuel asked, “How can I go? if Saul hears it, he will kill me. “ Such an act would be tantamount to treason. There was al-ready a king on the throne whom Samuel had anointed. If he anointed someone else, Saul would surely hear about it and have him executed.
David Anointed God gave Samuel a plan whereby the sons of Jesse would pass before him and be considered. When he looked at Eliab, the eldest, he thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed. “ Samuel’s mind was just like that of the people. They also wanted a king who looked like a king. Eliab evidently had the stature and appearance of a king. But in verse 7,
The Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the
height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth
not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but
the Lord looketh on the heart.
Samuel began to understand very rapidly that God did not consider
the way a man looked physically. It was what was inside that counted. Jesse called in the rest of his sons, and God made it clear that He had not chosen any of them.
Samuel was confused. He asked, “Are here all thy children?” Well, he
was told, there is still the youngest who is out tending the sheep. Samuel had him called in and when he appeared, the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he. “ Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers, “and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.
Now look at Psalm 78:70-72.
He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds:
From following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed
Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance. So he fed them according
to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skillfulness
of his hands.
We know that David began to reign in Hebron in the year 1010
B.C. when he was thirty years old, which means he was born in 1040
B.C. Therefore, we can date chapters 16 and 17 to approximately 1025- 1024 B.C. Using this chronology, David was fifteen or sixteen years of age at the time he was anointed to be king over Israel.
Being anointed king and becoming king were two different things.
David had the right to the throne, but an ungodly man occupied it.
Only God knew that Saul had fifteen more years to rule Israel as its
king. David had fifteen years to live as the anointed king of Israel, but
would be unable to fulfill his position until the man currently occupying
the throne was slain. The next fifteen years were years of rivalry
between the two, but David patiently waited for God to work out His
program so that he could sit on the throne with honor. Saul would
attempt on several occasions to kill David, the one whom God had
selected to be his successor.
David and Goliath We dated chapter 16 to 1026 B.C. and chapter 17 to 1025 B.C. So we see David, a young man of sixteen, anointed as
king, about to become the champion of Israel. Very often,
during the military activities of the time, a champion would be selected to fight the champion of an opposing army. Wars were speeded up in that way; lives were spared; and political and military confrontations were brought to a rapid conclusion. However, once the champions had fought, there was no guarantee that the losing side would live up to the terms of the agreement.
This was the situation in chapter 17 as the armies of the Philistines,
against whom Saul constantly fought, sent their champion Goliath to
challenge a champion from Israel. Since Saul was head and shoulders taller than the rest of the people of Israel, and since he had been selected to lead, the people into battle, he should have been the logical choice for Israel to send out against Goliath. In fact, he should have volunteered. But Saul wanted no part of this man. Chapter 17 says his height was six cubits and a span. Since a cubit was eighteen inches, this equaled nine feet. The span was the difference between the little finger and the thumb, which is approximately six inches. Goliath was a trained gladiator, 9 feet 6 inches tall. Clad in armor, he was a fearsome opponent.
In II Samuel 21, beginning in verse 16, we will read that there
were several giants encountered later on: Ishbibenob, Saph, Lahmi, and a huge six-fingered mutant. Goliath came from “large stock” and he was the kind of champion any army would love to have. As he stood in the valley, with his armor glistening in the sunlight, the Israelites were terrified. Day after day he would go out to rebuke and humiliate the armies of Israel. His armor, which was made of scales and woven metal, weighed 125 pounds. His spearhead weighed fifteen pounds. There was not a man in Israel who would dare try to stand up to him.
The armies were about two miles apart, and the champion of the
Philistines would shout across the valley that the Israelites were to choose a man who would come down to him. The terminology used in17:8 suggested that the Philistine giant wanted a man to be sent down like a sacrifice because, humanly speaking, anyone who challenged Goliath would end up slaughtered just like a sacrifice.
David’s older brothers were at the battle site because they were
soldiers in Saul’s army. David’s job, as the youngest brother, was to take provisions to them from home and then go back and tend his father’s flock in Bethlehem. The Philistine giant had been taunting the Israelites every day for forty days. On a trip to the battle zone with provisions, David learned that Saul, in desperation, had promised his daughter, riches, freedom from taxes and conscription to public service, to any man who would kill the giant opponent. When David heard this, his blood ran hot and he asked (vs. 26), “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
Eliab, the oldest brother, heard David speak these words.
Remember, Eliab was the first one God rejected in the
presence of Samuel, and because of this , he was jealous of
David. Scripture says that his anger burned against David, and he asked, “Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride and the naughtiness of thine heart, for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.
“What have I now done?” David asked, and he continued to speak
to others who were around him.
Some who heard David’s words went and repeated them to Saul,
who sent and had David brought to his tent.
It is interesting to see Eliab’s jealousy. He had been rejected once,
had seen his younger brother as the chosen of God, and witnessed his anointing as the future king of Israel. Because of these things, his anger burned against him. Yet, David had such a sweet spirit. In many ways he was like Joseph. Joseph could have said to his brothers, “I have been waiting for this for years and now I am going to get even with you for selling me into slavery. “ When David did become king of Israel and Judah, he could have looked at Eliab and said, “I have waited for this time. Now I will get even. But he did not because David was, in many ways, a type of Christ. He showed the virtues of patience and forgiveness which we should strive for in our Christian lives.
Turn to I Chronicles 27:18 to see what happened later when David
became monarch over all Israel and Judah. Chapter 26:32 informed us that David made captains over the tribes and over the different sections of the armies. Chapter 27 lists the names of the captains over the different armies and tribes. Finally, verse 18 recounts that over the tribe of Judah David selected Eliab as captain. He was in a position to rebuke Eliab for his jealousy and hatred of him when he was only a boy of sixteen, but David, in the greatness of his forgiveness, made him captain over the tribe of Judah.
As David prepared to go to battle against Goliath, he was
informed (vs. 33) that the giant had been a trained gladiator
since his youth, and David, young and untrained, did not stand a chance. But David recounted his exploits as a shepherd and finally Saul said (vs 37), “Go, and the Lord be with thee. “ David rejected the armor of Saul, picked up five smooth stones, took his shepherd’s crook in his hand, along with his sling, and approached the Philistine. The Philistine cursed David by his gods.
In contrast to our “Sunday School theology,” this was not a tiny
young man, just out of diapers, with a simple slingshot going out against a giant of the Philistines. David was a strong teen-ager who had already slain a lion and a bear. He knew what it was like to protect innocent sheep from the ravages of nature and wild beasts. He did not have a child’s slingshot but a weapon of war, albeit not on the level of a gladiator’s weapons. A gladiator preferred the spear, the sword, and the broad axe, in hand-to-hand combat.
David rebuked the Philistine and assured him that God would defeat
him that day. Verse 48 says David ran quickly toward the battle fine. Then with one stone from his sling, David prevailed over the giant. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled (vs. 51), reneging on their previous agreement. In verse 9 Goliath had said, “If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants. “ Goliath was dead, but the Philistines did not honor the agreement. However, the armies of Israel, their morale renewed, pursued and slew the Philistines all the way to their own home towns, Gath and Ekron.
David and Jonathan Chapter 18 describes the meeting of David and Jonathan. They became close friends as David began to serve in the
court of Saul. We should recall now that Jonathan was
approximately twenty to twenty-two years old in 1048 B.C.,
which means he was born about 1069 B.C. and was twenty-five to thirty years older than David. David was a teen-age boy and Jonathan a middle-aged man, old enough to be his father when the two became friends. Verses 3 and 4 state:
Then Jonathan and David made a covenant because he loved him
as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was
upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his
sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.
David prospered whenever he was sent to battle. Saul
set him over his men of war and it was pleasing to all the
people. He soon became a national hero. The women began
to sing, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. “ Saul
became angry and exclaimed, “What can he have more but the kingdom?” From that time on, he looked at David with suspicion. Could he know
already that David was his prophesied successor?
Verse 12 says, “And Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was
with him, and was departed from Saul. “ Chapter 18 describes Saul’s first
attempt to eliminate him. Although he had promised his daughter to
whom ever was victorious over the giant, he put an additional stipulation on the contract so that his hand would not be against David, but hopefully the Philistines would kill him. (It is interesting to see that David did the same thing years later when he sent Uriah into battle so that his hand would not be against him, but the hand of the enemy would be
Marriage David fumed the terms of the contract and, in fact, doubled
the requirements set by Saul. Grudgingly, Saul gave Michal
to David to be his wife. I am reminded of the old song, “Everything’s going my way. “ David could certainly have sung it. He was a hero; he defeated the Philistines; the daughter of the king loved him; he married into the royal household. Everything he touched prospered, and everything Saul did went wrong. In the eyes of Saul, it was a
bad omen. As a result, he became even more afraid of David. Verse 29 says, “And Saul became David’s enemy continually.
Verse 30 records that David behaved himself more wisely than
all the servants of Saul, so that his name was highly esteemed. Can this be the shepherd boy of a few years earlier? In his highest dreams and aspirations, he could never have imagined that within a very few years he would be taken from the pasture where he tended the sheep, to have a place of honor in the house of the king, and that one day he would reign on the throne of Israel.
However, even though from David’s point of view it appeared that everything was going his way, there was a dark, ominous side to the picture. Chapter 19: 1 records that Saul told Jonathan and all his servants to put David to death. Jonathan warned David of Saul’s intention, and defended David in the presence of his father. We begin now to sense the vacillating, irrational, mental state of Saul because, when he heard the voice’ of his son Jonathan re-count the exploits of David, which were done in honor of Saul and for Saul, he relented and said David should not be put to death.