Saul’s anointing in 1 Samuel 10 follows a pattern that can be seen in the lives of other leaders. There is a calling followed by a physical anointing/visitation, that is confirmed by “signs” with the person doing the job they have been called to do. The reason I say “a pattern” is that every step may not be recorded in Biblical text or at least a matter of discussion between friends. God also can individualize the pattern to fit the person and situation. I can see this pattern in the lives of Moses, David, Samuel, and others.
Like an onion, this story has several layers that can be viewed, but all of them are presented as one solid story. Josephus and Matthew Henry were used in this study and they exposed layers in this story that I had not noticed.
I have said before the anointing of Saul was a “faith-building situation” for the old prophet Samuel. Samuel’s “building” part started the day before Saul arrived in his town. (NOTE: Many of the places in chapters 9 and 10 are unknown. It would be fun to be able to follow Saul’s exact footsteps but that is not a reality.) If this was Samuel’s hometown, this took place in Ramah. Most maps put this in southern Benjamin near Jerusalem. So for the Lord to say, “I am sending you a Benjamite” could be viewed as vague. Samuel took this information and reserved a “royal” portion of the meat; he also knew about the donkeys.
I think these “words” were also given for building faith in Saul, in order to prepare for the anointing the next day. How specific the “words” were is a reflection of God trying to build up Saul, who may have been a little weak in his understanding of God. I say this because of his need to “reward” the prophet for his time, the timing of when he calls for a fast, and his need to do the work of Samuel with respect to the offerings.
After the physical oil was poured on Saul, he was told that three very specific things would happen: at Rachel’s tomb he would get news of the donkeys, he was required to take bread, and that he would join in the activities of a group of prophets. I wonder if 10:8 was not a fourth thing that needed to be done. Verse 7 and 9 talk about his heart being changed before the trip to Gilgal could take place, and some resources put this reference to another time. Gilgal was where Joshua circumcised the men before the conquest of the land could begin. The “seven days” may represent the work/rest cycle (Genesis and the Law) before the new time in Israel’s history was to begin.
First Sign – verse 2 This sign has several interesting layers. Saul being a Benjamite and starting at Rachel’s tomb begins the symbolism. Benjamin was the thirteenth child of Jacob/Israel and the second child of Rachel. The only child of Jacob born in Canaan and this tomb was the starting place of the Tribe of Benjamin. Zelzah may mean “a cover for his bright spot”, and its exact location is unknown, the text is also rendered “south border.” There is a traditional Rachel’s tomb near Jerusalem. This was Saul’s “pull back” to “present problems.” The men confirm Samuel’s word that the donkeys were found, but that Kish was worried about him. Saul and the servant may have been gone for a while because it would seem they went north, came in a large arc to the south covering a lot of territory. Family is the theme that unifies the first sign. This includes past and present.
Second Sign – verse 3 and 4 Saul and his servant were moving toward home. The next place they were going was the “great tree of Tabor.” Tabor means brokenness; this shadows Jesus on the cross. Here he would meet three men going to the House (Bethel) of God. What they are carrying (young goats, bread, and wine) indicates these would be an offering. Saul was to accept part of their offering; this is stated in such a way as to suggest he might have refused it. Again there could be several things here that God is working on. First, it was an immediate provision for them to finish their journey. Second, pride could have been a factor; in taking the offering it was doing a work in him. Also, it would seem that God was willing to share His offering with them. The theme here is a personal work done in Saul.
Third Sign – 5 to 7 The two wanders move now to Gibeah of God. Gibeah and several variations refer to “hill.” Here at Gibeah Saul is to meet prophets and join in the prophesying. Samuel tells him that he will be changed as he prophesies because of the Spirit of the Lord. He is now ready (supposedly) to act as king. There is still some narrative before he is introduced to the people in verse 24. The sign’s theme is spiritual change.
Observations – 1. The Philistine outpost on or near the Hill of God should disturb us. They let God’s people worship and did not try to stop them, but they were still in charge and keeping an eye on them.
- People noticed the change. Saul’s uncle was curious. Both Josephus and Matthew Henry comment on this and Saul’s incomplete answer; they feel that if he had told what happened, jealous and ill feelings would have started in the family.
- Saul did continue to prophesy. 1 Samuel 18: 10
4. His hiding in the baggage could be seen as him going back to the “old Saul.”