1 Samuel 10 Commentary: Saul’s Anointing and Transformation

1 Samuel 10 Commentary

1 Samuel 10 presents a pivotal chapter in the narrative of Israel’s transition from a theocracy to a monarchy, chronicling the anointing of Saul, Israel’s first king, by the prophet Samuel, marking a significant shift in the nation’s governance and spiritual dynamics.

This chapter captures the profound transformation of Saul, from an ordinary Benjamite to a divinely appointed leader, characterized by prophetic experiences and a change of heart.

As the story unfolds, it delves into themes of divine intervention, leadership challenges, and the complex interplay between human agency and divine will. This exploration offers a nuanced understanding of Saul’s early reign and the foundational moments that shaped the trajectory of Israel’s monarchy.

1 Samuel 10:1-8, Samuel Anoints Saul and Gives Him Signs

The chapter begins with the prophet Samuel anointing Saul as the first king of Israel. This significant act marks a pivotal transition in Israel’s history, from a loose confederation of tribes to a centralized monarchy.

The anointing signifies God’s selection and empowerment for Saul’s royal mission.

Samuel also prophesies a series of signs to confirm Saul’s anointment as king.

Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies. And this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you to be prince over his heritage. When you depart from me today, you will meet two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah, and they will say to you, ‘The donkeys that you went to seek are found, and now your father has ceased to care about the donkeys and is anxious about you, saying, “What shall I do about my son?”’

1 Samuel 10:1-2, ESV

The signs that Samuel gives Saul include encounters with two men near Rachel’s tomb, three men going to Bethel, and a group of prophets at Gibeah.

These signs serve multiple purposes:

  • They are meant to confirm Saul’s divine appointment
  • Reassure him of God’s guidance
  • And prepare him for his forthcoming challenges.

Then you shall go on from there farther and come to the oak of Tabor. Three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall accept from their hand. After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, where there is a garrison of the Philistines. And there, as soon as you come to the city, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.

1 Samuel 10:3-6, ESV

These experiences, especially prophesying with a group of prophets, symbolize a transformation in Saul’s life. Underscoring the idea that God can empower and equip those He chooses for His purposes, even if they seem unlikely candidates, as Saul did.

Now when these signs meet you, do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you. Then go down before me to Gilgal. And behold, I am coming down to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.”

1 Samuel 10:7-8, ESV

Samuel’s final instruction to Saul to wait at Gilgal for seven days until Samuel arrives to offer sacrifices, highlights the importance of obedience and patience in leadership.

Saul’s role as king requires not only courage and strength but also submission to God’s timing and commands.

1 Samuel 10:9-13, Saul’s Prophetic Experience and Transformation

As Saul departs from Samuel, the prophesied signs begin to unfold. This immediate fulfillment of Samuel’s prophecies serves to strengthen Saul’s faith and confirms his divine appointment as king.

When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart. And all these signs came to pass that day.

1 Samuel 10:9, ESV

The transformation of Saul is marked significantly when God gives him a new heart.

This change symbolizes a spiritual renewal, preparing Saul for his kingly duties and is a direct intervention by God, indicating that true leadership according to God’s will requires not just external anointing but also internal transformation.

When they came to Gibeah, behold, a group of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them. And when all who knew him previously saw how he prophesied with the prophets, the people said to one another, “What has come over the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”

1 Samuel 10:10-11, ESV

Saul’s involvement in prophetic activities astonishes those who knew him, leading them to question, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” This event signifies Saul’s radical change and his acceptance into the prophetic community, a group highly respected in Israel.

And a man of the place answered, “And who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” When he had finished prophesying, he came to the high place.

1 Samuel 10:12-13, ESV

This emphasizes that God can equip and change anyone for His purposes, and it serves as a reminder that God’s choices often defy human expectations and norms.

1 Samuel 10:14-16, Saul’s Return and Conversation with His Uncle

Upon returning home, Saul’s uncle inquires about his journey.

This part of the narrative shows Saul’s reluctance to disclose the full extent of his experience and Samuel’s proclamation about the kingship.

Saul’s uncle said to him and to his servant, “Where did you go?” And he said, “To seek the donkeys. And when we saw they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.” And Saul’s uncle said, “Please tell me what Samuel said to you.” And Saul said to his uncle, “He told us plainly that the donkeys had been found.” But about the matter of the kingdom, of which Samuel had spoken, he did not tell him anything.

1 Samuel 10:14-16, ESV

Saul’s hesitance to share the news about his anointment as king reflects his humility or possibly his uncertainty about the new role. This aspect of Saul’s character contrasts with the usual expectations of a king, who would typically assert his authority and status.

1 Samuel 10:17-24, Saul’s Selection as King at Mizpah

Samuel gathers the Israelites at Mizpah to officially present Saul as their king.

This public assembly for selecting a king is significant as it represents the collective acknowledgment and acceptance of Saul’s leadership by the people of Israel.

Now Samuel called the people together to the Lord at Mizpah. And he said to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, ‘Set a king over us.’ Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your thousands.”

1 Samuel 10:17-19, ESV

In these verses, Samuel reminds the people of their demand for a king and its implications.

He emphasizes that this demand is a rejection of God’s kingship, highlighting the tension between human desires and divine will.

Then Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its clans, and the clan of the Matrites was taken by lot; and Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot. But when they sought him, he could not be found. So they inquired again of the Lord, “Is there a man still to come?” and the Lord said, “Behold, he has hidden himself among the baggage.”

1 Samuel 10:20-22, ESV

When Saul is chosen by lot, it signifies divine selection.

However, Saul’s initial hiding among the baggage reflects his humility or perhaps fear, demonstrating that he is not a typical assertive leader.

Then they ran and took him from there. And when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? There is none like him among all the people.” And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

1 Samuel 10:23-24, ESV

Samuel’s declaration about Saul’s physical stature is meant to appeal to the people’s expectations of a kingly figure. Despite Saul’s earlier hesitation, the people’s acceptance and cheer, “Long live the king!” confirms his position as the chosen leader.

1 Samuel 10:25-27, Saul’s Kingship Proclaimed and Initial Challenges

Samuel establishes the regulations of the kingship, laying down the foundation for Saul’s and future kings’ rule, and act crucial in establishing the legal and religious framework within which Saul is to operate as king.

Then Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship, and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the Lord. Then Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his home.

1 Samuel 10:25, ESV

The mention of some worthless men rejecting Saul’s kingship indicates the initial challenges Saul faces. Despite divine appointment and public acclamation, not all in Israel are supportive of his kingship.

This foreshadows the difficulties Saul will encounter during his reign.

Saul also went to his home at Gibeah, and with him went men of valor whose hearts God had touched. But some worthless fellows said, “How can this man save us?” And they despised him and brought him no present. But he held his peace.

1 Samuel 10:26-27, ESV

Yet, Saul does not immediately confront his detractors, showing a level of restraint.

His return to his hometown and the absence of immediate action against his opponents highlight a measured approach to his newfound authority.