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.”

Samuel and His Accomplishments

The Prophet Samuel who was raised by Eli, the priest of God, is a foundational person in the spiritual life of Israel.  He is the key spiritual figure between Moses and the prophets Elijah and Elisha.  His story is found in 1 Samuel chapters 1 through 25. Most people have heard at least one sermon about him and the references probably came from 1 Samuel: 1 -3; they are used a lot in meetings where young people are the target audience.  While studying his role in the anointing of the first two kings of Israel, Saul, and David, it became apparent just how important he really was to Israel.

We are not told how old he was in chapter 4 when Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas all die on the same day.  Nothing is mentioned of him until 1 Samuel 7: 3 when he is calling Israel to repent.  Verse two gives us a time stamp of twenty years that the ark was in Kiriath Jearim.  Why had it not been returned to Shiloh?

A possible reason is that there was no priest who was of age to carry on the proper worship at the Tabernacle or “Temple.”  Phinehas had sons (4:20 and 14:3) but who trained them in their duties as a priest?  I will guess that Samuel either did the training or at least had a hand in doing it; after all, he studied under Eli.  There needed to be an Aaronic priest to serve before the Ark, Samuel was from Ephraim. (Side note – If I was writing this as a novel the Benjamite in 4:12 would have King Saul’s father, Kish.)

While at Mizpah, where Samuel was leading Israel in their return to God, the Philistines attacked trying to keep them in slavery.  Samuel’s leadership was being put to the test and his response is a true act of faith.  He orders the people to continue in their “crying out to God” and he offers a sacrifice.  God responds to this “faith action” with thunder, “loud thunder” that caused the defeat of the enemy.  (I will assume there was a storm with lightning, but what if God just spoke at the enemy and they heard it as thunder.)

The next time reference is Chapter 8:1 and all it says is that Samuel is “old.”  This and the fact that Nahash the Ammonite king was threatening Israel (12:12) made the people think a “king” would be better.  The remaining years of Samuel’s life were spent in hearing about Saul chasing around after David trying to kill him.

The final reference to Samuel in the Book of Samuel is in chapter 28 after he is dead.  Saul breakers his own decree and the Law of God and consults a witch/medium.  Samuel comes “back” and rebukes Saul once more.

The other mentions of Samuel’s life and deeds are found in 1 and 2 Chronicles. 1 Chronicles 9:22 he and David assigned gatekeepers.  I could think that David just added or continued to what Samuel did since Samuel would have been dead when David got around to doing this.

In 1 Chronicles 26: 28 the things that Samuel had dedicated for the “Temple” were brought in when Solomon had finished the building.  So it seems that Samuel was honoring God with offerings even when the Ark was still in the Tent.

1 Chronicles 29: 29 states that Samuel was a writer/historian.  Other people probably took his work and that of other historians and wrote the Books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles.  I have done parallel studies of these books and combined them into one manuscript.   

2 Chronicles 35: 18 mentions that Samuel was the last leader to celebrate Passover correctly.  He did his best to get Israel to honor God as described in the Law of Moses.

There is still more post to come from the study of the anointing of the first two kings, but I have developed a new appreciation for Samuel and his place in the Bible and the spiritual history of Israel.

Lo Debar – Another Look

Lo Debar, I have a feeling that it has become a symbol of hope and that God can turn things around in as long as it takes to ask a question.  Lo Debar holds the love of a true friendship and the strength of a promise kept but also has a darker side of greed, fear, and poor communication.  The characters in this story have strong messages to teach us if we will listen. (see A Place Called Lo Debar)

David’s life before he killed the giant sets the stage for Lo Debar.  The time he spent in the wilderness keeping sheep and singing praise to God allowed him to have a realDavid052 friendship.  C. S. Lewis in Membership said, ”We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy; and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.”  David had those so when Jonathan decided that they should be friends David was ready.  David means “loving” and Jonathan means “Jehovah-given.

The question of why did David even have to ask if Jonathan had a son puzzled me until I added ages and years together.  The last time David saw David007Jonathan alive was in 1 Samuel 23:16, while David is hiding at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph and Mephibosheth (probably), was not born yet.  There was also the oath he gave to Saul in 1 Samuel 24: 22 not to kill off his family when he became king.  So the question in 2 Samuel 9:1 is valid because he would not have known about Mephibosheth.  But the lack of communication by Jonathan to the family about the covenant of friendship and the oath that Saul had with David caused a little five-year-old boy to be crippled as panic set in and the royal household flees in fear. (It seemed to be common practice to kill off everyone including servants of a royal family back in that age so I am sure the fear was real.)  The poor communication or fear carried to other parts of the family because David had to find Ziba, a servant, instead of his wife, Michal, the aunt of Jonathan’s child, to tell him Mephibosheth existed and was alive.

I am not fussing at Jonathan because he was in a really bad spot.  His crazy father wanted to kill his covenant friend and the family servants had already proven they could not be trusted, so speaking about David was probably not a good idea.  But it would appear that he had a plan for his family in case something happened to him.  I don’t think it was an accident that Mephibosheth was “found” living at Makir son of Ammiel’s house.  Jonathan and possibly Saul must have trusted his man and his family to hide and protect the royal grandchild and eventually find a wife for Mephibosheth.  Remember he also brought supplies to David as he ran from Absalom.

In studying Jonathan I found something that I have no idea what it means but it was interesting. As I said Jonathan means “Jehovah-given” and there are two forms of it used in the Bible they are number 3083 and 3129 in the Strong’s Concordance.  3083 is used when it deals with Jonathan and David plus two times in 1 Samuel 14: 6+8 where he was relying on God for direction to attack the Philistines.  3129 is used when it deals with Jonathan and his father Saul.

God has a sense of humor and likes to hide things in scripture like Makir son of Ammiel: Makir means “salesman or brought” and Ammiel means “people of God.” The Makir meaning shines out in the Absalom story because he brought a lot of goods to David almost as if he were a salesman.  But he must have been important in Lo Debar because he hid Mephibosheth for at least twelve years, paid for his care, and picked his wife and no one turned them over to David. ( see Why Hide a Grandson There)

Ziba, Saul’s chief servant, is the dark side of this tale and may have worked for the family but with friends like him who needs enemies.  You have to wonder if Ziba, which means, “stationed” is the servant with Saul in 1 Samuel 9?  I took the “stationed” or “to be stationed” as he was the one assigned to Saul by God.  He seems to have done fairly well for himself because he had 15 sons and 20 servants, which was a sign of wealth.  I believe he was protecting his interest in telling David where Mephibosheth was living, he could have been hoping that David would kill Mephibosheth and the land of Saul would legally become his.  So in 2 Samuel 16:1-4 when he was lying about Mephibosheth’s actions he was still trying to get the land and get rid of Mephibosheth.  David seems to have seen this in 2 Samuel 19:24 when he orders the land split between them.

Saul, which means “asked”, is also part of this story.  A lot of adjectives could be assigned to him because he is the poster boy for good going bad but the one that I settled on was selfish. His “self” pops up throughout his whole story and finally leads to a crippled child hiding in fear from the man who would be his best friend.

Mephibosheth, which means “dispeller of shame”, I am sure has been the center of many sermons and he should be because it is a beautiful story.  Think about how he got to Lo Debar.  The news comes that his father is dead; his nurse (not his mother) drops him breaking both feet as he is rushed many miles from home and left with someone he barely knows.  He has no family, apparently, the only one who knows where he is, is a servant who wants his inheritance and all this five-year-old boy has to go on is stories and rumors about his father and grandfather.  Then one day a military David060unit takes him from the only house he remembers and brings him to the man he has been told to fear for at least twelve years.  Once there he finds out he is rich and will eat at the king’s table for the rest of his life.  Yeah, he should have a few sermons preached about him.

Did you notice that David did not answer Mephibosheth’s question of “why should you take notice of me?” Mephibosheth would have seen the end of David’s years and all of the trouble with his kids but he also would have seen the Temple built and Israel become a world power.  You would take for granted that Solomon just continued David’s covenant of friendship and he ate at the king’s table for life.

The great thing that I found in finishing his story is that Mephibosheth’s tale did not end with him.  In 1 Chronicles 8:34 – 40 and in 9:35 – 44 they list his family for several generations and record them as being warriors, so they fought for the kings of Judah for many years.  This is for a grandchild of a disposed of a king who would have normally been killed; friendship is a great thing. In Chronicles, he is listed as Merib-Baal, which is a tribute to Gideon who also has connections to the Lo Debar/Manasseh area.

These final two connections are questionable so study them for yourself and you decide.  Esther in Esther 2:5 is listed as being from the Tribe of Benjamin descended from Kish.  There are two Kish’s in the tribe of Benjamin but none of the names line up with Mephibosheth.  The other possible family member is Zimri who was king of Israel for seven days.  There is a Zimri listed in Mephibosheth’s family line that would have been alive about that time but there is less proof for that than for Esther so let your imaginations go wild with the possibilities.

This “other” look at Lo Debar, Mephibosheth, David, and Jonathan has been a great study I hope you have enjoyed it.

The artwork is from 

Test, Attacks and Storms – O My! Part 1

Test, attacks, and storms have you ever heard a sermon on any of these things?  Well, I have found myself going through them in the last couple of weeks so I thought it would be a good time to look at them.   I seldom do this but for this study, I am not looking in the Old Testament for word meanings.  And for the number of sermons that are generated on these topics you would think that there must be a lot of references in Scriptures on them, no, well not in the New Testament.  Now I will use Old Testament examples to some of these but not necessarily the “words.”  In looking up the New Testament words none of them had any real difference than what we think of them today except one word for a storm that also referred to earthquakes.  Then there was a comment in the Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance about test and trials.

Test, as a teacher I give these all the time and whether I like it or not I am always preparing my students for a standardized test and right now I am studying about research and part of that is “test.”  Tests are things that are planned; they cover something that we have learned and they are to show what you know or how far we have come in that subject.  The Concordance added this comment about test and trails that I thought was excellent.  The difference between the two is the intent of the tester’s motives.  God tests us to determine our character and not to make us fail whereas the devil’s intent is to make us fail in that area.

Spiritual tests are not something we should fear because we have the knowledge or ability to pass them; since we know that God as the Master Teacher is trying to promote us to a higher level.  Trials I will put under attacks and cover them later.

The one test that I want to highlight was for the Prophet Samuel when he went to anoint David as king.  Everyone always focuses on David in this story.  Samuel, the Man of God, for that moment is sent on a mission by God.  Now he is told where to go and what to do why not just tell him the name “David” and be done with it.  Samuel had to go through the test of looking at the other sons and to know that they were not the “one.”

January Bible Study Follow-up

Well now that January is over how did you do on your Bible study?

I did start studying “blessed” but I realize that is going to be on going.  I got the definitions copied on to a word doc and as I read through Proverbs I looked up the word blessed as I found it in my daily reading. My big take away so far has been Proverbs 11:11 which says that we are to speak a blessing to our city.

I started on my second task which was to put together 1 + 2 Samuel with 1 Chronicles.  The first place they really run together is 1 Samuel 31 and 1 Chronicles 10, which is the story of King Saul. (see Lord My/Your God and Why Hide a Grandson There) This of course started a side study on where is Mount Gilboa? I found this on-line and there were several good websites that talked about Mount Gilboa.  Finding some of my old notes I still look at Saul as someone who had the call of God but not His presence.  He also never brought the Ark of the Covenant to him, which is one of the first things David did. I also realize that even though he did it wrong Saul was still trying to find God, it is a shame that he did it his own way.

Well even though I really did not meet my goal I did study some of my plan.  Keep working your plan because at least you are studying.