Samuel – Saul, and the Signs


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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.”

Salem or Sodom – Bera, King of Sodom

Bera may be the most audacious person in the Bible! He is also a type and shadow of the devil. First, he is a king who allowed and possibly encouraged his people to sin. He then takes part in a rebellion against his overlord with the other rulers of the Valley of Siddium. They lose to the coalition lead by Kedorlaomer. The kings with the armies go hide in the hills while their families and towns are looted. The rout and panic of his army were so bad they were falling in tar pits. Then he expects to get his stuff/people given back to him! (Genesis 14)

Abram and his friends come in and save the day, and are traveling back toward Salem probably heading to his village. Out of the hills/hiding come Bera and meets Abram in the Valley of Shaveh or king’s valley, which is identified as the valley near Jerusalem. (The only other mention of a king’s valley in the Bible is in 2 Samuel 18:18 in a reference to Absalom.) I am sure there are a lot of ways to look at the goods Abram recovered, but it is possible that not all of it belonged to the Jordan River valley kings. So Abram could have made claim to everything he had just won and really who was going to take it from him, the kings who had just lost it! So Abram honors the Lord and gives a tithe to Melchizedek. I think the wicked king was getting nervous about losing so much stuff with no chance of getting it back. To curb the flow of goods Bera asks/claims the people, so Abram tells him what is going to happen and why. The nerve of that guy to be asking or claiming anything is unbelievable. But one thing is for sure, Salem brought the party and Sodom brought nothing.

Bera, just like the devil, knows people are more valuable than goods. The riches could have been a distraction for Abram because once you have all of that stuff you have to fight to keep it and Bera would have had more people.

The lesson to be learned here is what Bera/the devil does to a Christian in a fight. Abram had gotten a victory and probably was just hoping for some quiet time. But out comes someone to congratulate you on the victory. Many times that person will be a distraction from what you need, which is what Melchizedek brought, something to refresh and strengthen you. We Christians usually equate the bread and wine with communion but the truth is Melchizedek was throwing a party (feeding) for the victor because they were tired. Abram wisely discerned that Bera and the goods were not the reason he went to battle, that was to get his family back and that mission was accomplished. Bera lost everything, hid while someone else got the job done, and still claimed he was owed something.

Salem or Sodom – Abraham

Well, actually at this time he still was called Abram his name change is not for another three chapters. He would have been in his 80’s and had lived in Canaan less than ten years (16:3). He had made alliances with some of the locals and seemed to well established. He has had the foresight to train his men into a working army and claimed 318 who had been born in his house. That could have made his camp 1000 people strong and would have been a good-sized village. The importance of them having been born into his house speaks not only of loyalty but also the quality and intensity of their training. If his three allies also had similar camps that truly would have been a serious coalition. Josephus records this in Book 1 Chapter 10 and makes it sound like it was just the three brothers who went with Abram and not additional forces. If Aner, Esheol, and Mamre had brought troops the fighting force could have been up to 1,200 troops. Abram trusted these men enough to make a treaty with them so that speaks volumes about their character and abilities.

In musing over Genesis 14 I realized Abram went after Lot not after Sodom. So in verse 22 when he is talking to the king of Sodom, besides being a witness to a very heathen king, Abram is making it very clear he wanted nothing except what God would supply in his life. Given the fact that he had already decided his course of action before hand shows his intelligence and character.

We also need to look at the symbolism of this battle; Abram had victory over his past. The Euphrates River valley was his birthplace so his victory sealed his “new life” and showed his faith in the “Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.”

Other facts:

  1. God will keep you in the know (vs. 13).
  2. Someone did some editing because it was not “Dan” yet (vs. 14).
  3. Ancient Elam and Shinar equate to modern Iran and Iraq it seems they have been bullies for a long time.

Christmas – Have You Been to Bethlehem

Christmas – Have You Been to Bethlehem


Shepherds, simple shepherds, out doing their job by camping in a field so they could guard sheep; sheep that would be used for sacrifice in the Temple to worship God. Working at night outside Bethlehem (House of Bread) so they could take care of their families. Sounds like a lot of people today who are doing everything they can just to earn a living. Then a “that night” happened in their lives. The Good News was told to them and they were told exactly what they had to do. Granted they had an angelic concert with a lot of praise but how many people after getting the Good News have a concert of witnesses The_Shepherds004praising God for things done in their life. But these guys did something bold and very life changing. They went and saw for themselves and in doing so they found Jesus and the first thing they did was to tell other people. You don’t think that was a big deal! Look in Nativity_Scenes002Luke 2:17 – 20 as they told people, they praised God and glorified Him but the people that heard were just “amazed” but not moved enough to go find Jesus for themselves.

What about you? Have you heard the Good News? If you have, have you purposefully gone to “Bethlehem” to find Jesus? Have you praised God and told people of the things you have seen? If not, make God’s day and give yourself as a present to Jesus.

Top 20 Song or Musical Sunday School Lesson?

A look at Psalms 60 and 108

Previously, I wrote a blog entitled Where and When the Psalms Were Written. In that blog, I matched the verse in the Bible that may have been the inspiration for writing the Psalm. Psalm 60 and 108 were two of those psalms but I want to compare them because they have a large similar portion used in two very different psalms.

I believe Psalm 60 was one of the reasons I started doing the matching. Its timestamp was easy to find in 2 Samuel 8:13 and 1 Chronicles 18:12 which tells of the 12,000 Edomites and the Valley of Salt. The introduction and the verses don’t really match and if you do a “search” on the Valley of Salt there are several reasonable explanations as to why there may be differences. (The Valley of Salt is also a topic of disagreement because we are not sure where it is/was.)

Psalm 108 I originally put with 2 Samuel 6:5 when David was bringing the Ark to Jerusalem. David the Writer uses rhetorical devices in many psalms by repeating phrases but in these two Psalms, a large portion is used in apparently two different occasions much like Psalms 14 and 53. These “re-purposed” psalms are also in different “Books” within Psalms. I compared Psalms 135 to 136 because of similar content but they really are presented in very different styles.

Not all Bible translations have chapter “headings.” I like them because they can allow your imagination to soar as to the “when what, and why” they were written and used. Psalm 108’s heading is not a repeat, as most people will say all psalms were sung. “Song” and “psalm” here are two completely different words. I can imagine that it was a favorite that you might hear someone humming in the marketplace or while they were working.

Psalm 60, on the other hand, has all the markings of a formal arrangement that was used at special gatherings. Asaph may have been the “director” but we don’t know for sure. Miktam like maskil is thought to be a musical term whose exact meaning has been lost to us, what a shame. It also has a Selah in verse 4 which may signal a pause to give time to reflect. The fact that David set it to the tune of another well-liked song just shows that we have not changed all that much, my example is the hymn, “Amazing Grace” (it was set to a popular tune of the day). But the “for teaching” is what catches my eye. David knew the power of music to help with learning and remembering!

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Psalm 60 shows great distress and turmoil and the unspoken “where are You, God.” The term “banner” in verse 4 is a very “visible signal” that pulls the learner back to the Father. The start of Psalm 108 could not be more different with phrases like “make music with my soul” and “your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” Well maybe not. Love and faithfulness reaching to the skies and a banner do sound like the same thing.

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The shepherd, the ridiculed little brother, the youngest son, and the overachieving young man who feared little are all descriptions of David. As complex as David may be the last two lines in this shared portion would only come from the heart of someone who has been in God’s presence and has valued that experience – “human help is worthless” and “with God, we win.”  The box below – on the left is the shared portion, and the right side is my notes.

Reuben, Gad, Manasseh, Judah, Edom, Moab, Shechem, Genesis 49box 3New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®  Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.