King Saul Declares for Peace and Unity
The people of Israel chose Saul to be king through election-by-lot. Some people supported the choice, others opposed, while several just accepted. Saul declared for peace and invited the people to unite under his leadership. The events illustrate government is for all irrespective of support for the election result, opposition against, or acceptance without complaint. Samuel assembled the people thereafter to reconfirm Saul as king and celebrate the process of choosing their own ruler.
We conclude a two-part study on the formation of government based on biblical accounts of making Saul first king of Israel. The first part of the study (Call to Rulership—Saul Anointed King) led to understanding that God selects a ruler for a people but also allows them freedom to choose their ruler. In the case of Israel and Saul, the choice of the people aligned with the choice of God. The current study focuses on the people choosing Saul and confirming him king not knowing God selected him prior to the election.
After his anointing, Saul was introduced to the people through an event that presented him as special and placed his name on several minds among the people of Israel. Thereafter, Samuel invited the people to assemble at Mizpah to choose a ruler. They chose Saul through a process of direct democracy. However, though the choice was clear and unambiguous, there was lack of unanimity: some people supported Saul but others did not. Furthermore, some of the people that did not support him expressed strong disappointment with the election result.
Therefore, the outcome of choosing a ruler caused a division among the people. We discuss an event that brought the disagreement to the surface and provided Saul an opportunity to address the division. He declared for peace and invited the people through his deed to unite under his leadership. Thereafter, Samuel assembled them again to install the new king and celebrate the process of choosing their own ruler.
SAUL INTRODUCED TO THE PEOPLE Having been anointed as God’s selection to be king, Saul was introduced to the people through an interaction with a team of prophets. He encountered the prophets during his return from meeting with Samuel. He joined the prophets in singing, dancing, and prophesying as the Holy Spirit led him; in a way that conveyed to observers that there was something special about him: [1 Samuel 10:11]: “And it happened, when all who knew him formerly saw that he indeed prophesied among the prophets, that the people said to one another, ‘What is this that has come upon the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?’”
We note that Saul’s participation in the event was not prearranged by any human. He encountered the event naturally and responded as God led him based on Samuel’s counsel. His participation in the event set him apart from others and raised his name to the consciousness of an increasing number of people in Israel. Thus, the event increased his name recognition and associated him with special capabilities as time approached for the election of a new king. Therefore, we can surmise that God used the event to introduce Saul to the people of Israel as someone he has called for a special mission. Similarly, God may use a life event to introduce a person’s special calling and invite others to recognize and support the calling.
ELECTION BY LOT Samuel invited the people to assemble at Mizpah, where he explained they were about to choose a ruler as they requested. First, they chose the tribe of Benjamin by lot from among all the tribes of Israel. Then Saul’s clan Matri was chosen from among the clans of Benjamin and Saul was chosen from the clan [1 Samuel 10:20–21]: “When Samuel had all Israel come forward by tribes, the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri’s clan was taken. Finally Saul son of Kish was taken.”
Although the election process appears simple, it is comparable to modern day elections on account of being based on an established procedure for collecting and accounting for the people’s vote. The process and how to interpret its results were well-established and understood among the people. They chose Saul following the established process. Samuel announced the election result, and the people proclaimed Saul king [1 King 10:24]: “Samuel said to all the people, ‘Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.’ Then the people shouted, ‘Long live the king!’”
King for All
Saul Declared for Peace and Unity
Though the election result was clear and Saul was declared king, the choice was not unanimous. Some people supported Saul enthusiastically but some others did not support him. Some of the people that did not support him expressed their disappointment openly [1 Samuel 10:27]: “But some scoundrels said, ‘How can this fellow save us?’ They despised him and brought him no gifts…” Saul did not address the division. Instead, he focused on another challenge.
He needed to raise an army against Ammonites that threatened the city of Jabesh Gilead. He raised the army and defeated the invading Ammonites. The people that supported him enthusiastically after the election were emboldened by his victory against the Ammonites and asked for permission to kill those that opposed him [1 Samuel 11:12]: “The people then said to Samuel, ‘Who was it that asked, “Shall Saul reign over us?” Turn these men over to us so that we may put them to death.’”
Their demand provided Saul an opportunity to address the division. He declared for peace and unity: “But Saul said, ‘No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel’” [1 Samuel 11:13]. He declared for unity of all Israel under him as king, irrespective of whether they supported or opposed him or just accepted the election result. His declaration illustrates the role of a ruler in uniting the people under one leadership, and of the people in accepting their election results. A government represents all people, whether they are enthusiastic supporters, vehement opposition, or those that willingly accept the government irrespective of how they feel about the election results.
Samuel invited all Israel to Gilgal to unite and reconfirm Saul as king and celebrate completion of the election process: “Then Samuel said to the people, ‘Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship’” [1 Samuel 11:14]. Thus, the inauguration was established as a coming together of the people after an election to install the new government and unite under its leadership: “So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration” [1 Samuel 11:15].
This study raises a few questions that are not discussed in the study but will be explored in future sessions of the series. The questions include the following.
- Because the people chose Saul without knowing that God had chosen him, one may wonder what would happen if the people’s choice does not align with God’s choice. Is it even possible for the people to choose a person that God has not selected for the position?
- Could a person bypass a part of the process to capture rulership? Can a person capture rulership without being selected by God or elected by the people? What are the people’s responsibilities in such situation? Incidentally, there are notable examples in the bible that we expect to explore in future studies.
Summary of What We Learned
The people of Israel chose Saul to be king through election-by-lot. Their choice of Saul aligned with God’s choice, because God selected Saul for the position prior to the election but did not disclose the selection to the people, thus preserving their freedom to choose.
However, the election result was not unanimous in choosing Saul. Some people supported the result, others opposed, while several just accepted. Saul declared for peace and invited the people to unite under his leadership. The events illustrate government is for all irrespective of support for the election result, opposition against, or acceptance without complaint.
Samuel assembled the people thereafter to reconfirm Saul as king and celebrate the process of choosing their own ruler.