Samuel Anoints Saul to be First King of Israel
God calls a person to rule a people as king, queen, president, prime minister, governor, mayor, or other similar positions. Through the call, he tasks the person to lead the people toward a specific objective. A person so called will know because God will choose a way to communicate to him or her effectively. However, the information is held confidential: revealed only to a select few, thus preserving the people’s freedom to choose their ruler. Therefore, a person called to rulership still needs to win the people’s choice to become ruler.
The biblical account of making Saul first king of Israel illustrates a three-step process for elevating a person to rulership: Call, election, and inauguration.
The first step is the call: God calls a person to rule a people. In the case of Saul, the call was manifested through Prophet Samuel anointing him to be king. God selected Saul and directed Samuel to anoint him. Samuel did not know Saul but prepared to meet him at a dinner event. On his part, Saul set out from his home on a normal errand but a sequence of events during the errand led him to Samuel and the anointing to become king of Israel. The anointing was private, known only to Samuel and Saul. Furthermore, although the anointing set Saul on a path to becoming king, he did not become king until the people chose him.
In a separate event after his anointing, the people of Israel chose Saul to be king without knowing that God selected him. The event illustrates the second step in the process of making a person ruler: that is, the election, whereby the people choose a person to the rulership position. The call and the election are independent from a human viewpoint because the people are generally unaware of God’s selection. The people were free to choose and chose Saul but did not know that God had selected him to be king. Therefore, we can understand that the people’s choice aligned with God’s choice in making Saul king, which leads us to wonder what would happen if the people’s choice should fail to align with God’s selection. The question is not answered in the current study but will be explored through future studies in the series.
Having chosen Saul to be king, the next step in the process was to install him king in a ceremony that present-day systems may refer to as inauguration.
The current bible study focuses on the first step, i.e., the call to rulership. We discuss the call of Saul to become king of Israel. The anointing of Saul illustrates that God may call a person to rulership, to lead a people through a specific objective; chooses how and when to communicate the call; and will reveal the information only to a select few.
God selected Saul to be king of Israel, revealed the selection to Prophet Samuel by directing him to anoint Saul king, and led Saul to Samuel through a sequence of events in his performance of normal living activities [1 Samuel 9:16]: “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.” Saul was being called to rulership of Israel with a specific objective of delivering Israel from the Philistines. He was to fulfill the role of king with rights and responsibilities as we discuss in a previous study under Authority of Government—Israel Asks for King.
Saul was led to the call through a sequence of events that occurred as he performed normal living activities. He had left home with an assistant to search for his father’s missing donkeys. They searched diligently through a large territory but could not find the donkeys. As they were about to return home, Saul accepted the assistant’s counsel to seek advice from Prophet Samuel since he was in the area, with the hope he might tell them what way to take in order to find the donkeys [1 Samuel 9:6]: “But the servant replied, ‘Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let’s go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take.’” Samuel was expecting them and assigned Saul a special place of honor at the dinner party [1 Samuel 9:24]: “Samuel said, ‘Here is what has been kept for you. Eat, because it was set aside for you for this occasion from the time I said, “I have invited guests.”’” The following day, he anointed Saul privately so only he and Saul knew about the anointing.
Receiving God’s Call to Rulership
A person that God calls to rulership will know about the call because God will choose an effective way to communicate the call to him or her. He communicated to Saul by directing Samuel to anoint him and leading him to Samuel through normal conduct of ordinary human activities. As we discuss in Human Relationship with God Regarding Work, God assigns tasks to a person and will choose an effective way to communicate the task. He can send a message through another person, a vision, an angel in human form, the person’s thinking, the Holy Spirit with or without physical manifestation, or any other form of communication.
It is noteworthy that he led Saul to the call through normal activities and interaction with his assistant. Saul had decided to return home from searching for the donkeys when his assistant suggested they seek advice from Prophet Samuel. Therefore, the interaction with his assistant was a link between searching for the donkeys and meeting Samuel. The events illustrate that God may use normal living activities to direct a person to important opportunities if the person performs the activities diligently and interacts positively with other participants. He can use such activities to direct a person to his/her next task, including a call to rulership.
Preserving People’s Freedom to Choose
God selects a ruler for a people but also preserves the people’s freedom to choose by keeping his selection confidential, revealed only to a select few. The call of Saul to rulership of Israel was known to him and Samuel only. God revealed the call to Samuel first in directing him to anoint Saul king. Then he led Saul to receive the information from Samuel.
Saul met Samuel in the district of Zuph as Samuel had gone there to lead a sacrifice and dinner. He expected Saul to meet him there and had prepared a place of honor for him among the invited guests at the dinner. Saul and his assistant slept at Samuel’s house that night. In the morning, Samuel escorted them on their way but told Saul to send his assistant ahead of them: “As they were going down to the edge of the town, Samuel said to Saul, ‘Tell the servant to go on ahead of us’—and the servant did so—’but you stay here for a while, so that I may give you a message from God.’” He anointed Saul in privacy so only he and Saul knew.
He explained the anointing to Saul and told him about three events that will occur on their way, by which God will confirm he selected Saul to be king. Based on Saul’s interaction with his uncle later, we can surmise that Samuel also told him to keep the kingship information confidential. Saul’s uncle had asked him where he and the assistant had been after they arrived home. He told his uncle they had gone to look for the donkeys and met Prophet Samuel who told them the donkeys had been found. But he did not say anything about the kingship despite his uncle’s curiosity regarding their meeting with Samuel [1 Samuel 10:15-16]: “Saul’s uncle said, ‘Tell me what Samuel said to you.’ Saul replied, ‘He assured us that the donkeys had been found.’ But he did not tell his uncle what Samuel had said about the kingship.”
Therefore, only Samuel and Saul knew that God had selected Saul and had Samuel anoint him to be king of Israel. Because the information was not revealed to the people, their freedom to choose was preserved as we discuss in a subsequent bible study.
Summary of What We Learned
The account of Saul’s anointing to be king of Israel leads to understanding that God calls a person to rule a people as king, queen, president, prime minister, governor, mayor, or other similar positions. Through the call, he tasks the person to lead the people toward a specific objective. A person so called will know because God will choose a way to communicate to him or her effectively. However, the information is held confidential: revealed only to a select few, thus preserving the people’s freedom to choose their ruler. Therefore, a person called to rulership still needs to win the people’s choice to become ruler.