Samuel – Saul’s Servant

The unsung hero in the story of Samuel and Saul is the servant.  I am pretty sure I have never heard a sermon about his role in the crowning of Saul as king.  He is never named and only referred to as a servant (na ar).  He had a “God part” to do and did it well.  He is easily compared to Ananias (Acts 9) in the story of Saul the Apostle.  He did the job that needed to be done and was never heard of again.  Na ar is mentioned nine times before Saul’s signs and only once after them.

In the Strong’s/Vines Concordance the first definition listed is probably not the description of this servant.  I think he would have been younger than Saul but not a boy.  He was certainly trusted and displayed knowledge of his physical surrounding.  He was also spiritually aware because he encouraged Saul to “see the prophet” when he was ready to go home.  He had brought his own money, and was willing to use it to resolve the “donkey problem.”  He was obedient and loyal to Saul and followed Saul’s leading when the uncle asked about Samuel.

He was honored at the sacrifice because he got to eat with Saul in the main room.  But he was not allowed to witness the actual pouring of the oil.  He would have seen the results of the anointing because the oil would have been all over Saul’s head.  He observed/witnessed the three signs and I cannot believe Saul was not talking about them as they went.

God used an unnamed servant to affect the history of Israel; sometimes we have to do things “just because.”  It turned out well for him.  Who knows maybe he was Ziba the servant in 2 Samuel 9 who did play a part in the life of Mephibosheth and the story of Lo Debar.

Samuel – Saul, and the Signs

Background

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 chapter 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 to build 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 immediate provisions 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 – Food, Feast, and Fast

Food and Meals

An unusual link that twists the stories in 1 and 2 Samuel together is food and meals.  Eating or abstaining from it are key ingredients in many of the stories in the lives of Samuel, Saul, and David.  The anointing of Saul and David are both served at sacrifices and their accompanying feast (probably New Moon Celebrations).  Fasting stirs the drama of stories with Jonathan and Saul.  The main course at several feasts was treachery, often served with someone dying.Challah_Bread_Six_Braid_1

1 Samuel starts with Elkanah giving Hannah a double portion at the sacrifice and ends with Saul breaking his fast with the fattened calf.  David also feeds a slave to find where the Amalekite raiding party that is feasting on their plunder.  2 Samuel opens with David feasting his enemy who is seeking peace, only to have his general kill him, and additional courses of treachery are added with Amnon and Absalom in chapter 13.  The feasting continues in 1 Kings with Adonijah giving a party to proclaim himself king.  Meals are included in many of the stories and show the importance of these times in the lives of the people.  It adds the touch of humanity to what could be just a history lesson.

Fasting

Several fast are also talked about in 1 Samuel; to show this use and possible abuse of a way to seek YHWH.  In chapter 7 Israel is fasting at Mizpah repenting before the LORD.  The Philistines attack and God responds with thunder and a rout of the enemy.  A rout and fasting are also in chapter 14, but this seems to be a very “religious thing” and almost cost Jonathan his life.  Saul may have been making amends for his foolishness in chapter 13.  Chapter 20 has Jonathan not eating at a New Moon Festival because he was grieved that his father was determined to kill David.  Saul is again fasting in chapter 18 because he hopes it will find favor with God or Samuel as he consults a witch.  Even though fasting is important it seems Saul did not understand his God and this method of seeking Him.

New Moon Festivals

Personally, the importance of this festival was lost to me until this post, it may become a post of its own in the future.  This was an important time every thirty days for the people of Israel.  The moon was the main timekeeping device Israel.  Special sacrifices (1 Samuel 20:29) and celebrations were planned at this time by the people.  The new moon is a reminder of “rebirth” and fresh starts with God.  The lunar calendar is important in the Bible and it is something to be aware of as we read Scripture.  I did a brief study of the full moon with a post on Passover.

Food, feast, or fast all find their way into the lives of Samuel, Saul, and David.  They are just as important to us today.  It may be time with friends and family, fellowship dinners, or cropped-dscf0348.jpgthe Lord’s Supper but all of us have strong memories preserved in the act of eating.

These sites were used for reference on the feast and New Moon celebrations.

http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Rosh_Chodesh/rosh_chodesh.html

http://www.jewfaq.org/chodesh.htm , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosh_Chodesh

http://www.beingjewish.com/yomtov/chodesh/newmoon.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Challah

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.

King David the Writer

I once heard someone say that David was a yo-yo when he wrote Psalms because one psalm he was up and one psalm he was down.  I was just starting to write and I recognized how silly that statement was because David did not write them all at one time and that he was writing these as a response to the times he was living in and what he was experiencing. To read David’s psalms are to read his struggles and victories of his life, his cries for help and his shouts of praise. Songwriters don’t always write just happy songs or just sad ones. And if you study psalms many of them may have been written for specific reasons (scholars have classified them as to content).

A study of psalms would be incomplete without a reading of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. So I started to place the Psalms in 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles (see Joined) where I thought they might have been written.  Some of the psalms give you clues in the titles; some translations and Bibles don’t always include those.  For the other ones I tried to place myself in the moment or look for other clues.  I know the Chronological Bible does something similar but I have never really looked at their placement because I wanted this to be from a writer’s point of view not a timeline one.

I am sure that if you look at the list you may put some in a different location.  That is fine as these are just my guesses as to where I would have written them.  But I would challenge you to check mine out and then do your own list; the only rule to guide this would be that you must have a reason for its placement.

I am not finished with this yet because some are hard to place but by the end of the year I may have another list to post.  You will need to click on the link that is part of WordPress.com as it is saved in there as a media file.  My original copy is a word document and should be put into a table or in EXCEL but that will be a while in coming.

Have fun and I want to hear your feedback as you place the Psalms where you think they should go!

Click here to see my list.   psalm position