Thou shalt anoint him to be captain - Not to be king, but to be נגיד nagid or captain of the Lord's host. But in ancient times no king was esteemed who was not an able warrior. Plutarch informs us that Alexander the Great esteemed the following verse the most correct, as to its sentiment, of any in the whole Iliad of Homer: -
Ουτος γ ' Ατρειδης ευρυκρειων Αγαμεμνων,π
Αμφοτερον βασιλευς τ ' αγαθος, κρατερος τ ' αιχμητης.
"The king of kings, Atrides, you survey;
Great in the war, and great in acts of sway."
That he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines, etc. - These words are not very easily reconcileable with 1 Samuel 7:13. It is possible that the aggressive movements of the Philistines, after the long cessation indicated by 1 Samuel 7:13, coupled with Samuel‘s old age and consequent inability to lead them to victory as before, were among the chief causes which led to the cry for a king. If this were so the Philistine oppression glanced at in this verse might in a general survey be rather connected with Saul‘s times than with Samuel‘s.
God had raised up Samuel to judge Israel. He was honored by all the people. God was to be acknowledged as their great Head, yet he designated their rulers, and imbued them with his Spirit, and communicated his will to them through his angels, that they might instruct the people. God also gave special evidences to the people, by his mighty works performed through the agency of his chosen rulers, that they might have confidence that he had invested them with authority which could not be lightly set aside. 4aSG 67.1
God was angry with his people because they demanded a king. He gave them a king in his wrath. Yet he bade Samuel to tell the people faithfully the manner of the kings of the nations around them; that they would not be as a judge of difficulties of church and State, to instruct them in the ways of the Lord, like their rulers: that their king would be exalted, and would require kingly honors, and would exact a heavy tax or tribute; that they would be oppressed; and that God would not manifest to them his mighty power, as in Egypt, to deliver them, but when they should cry unto him in their distress he would not hear them. 4aSG 67.2
But the people would not receive the advice of Samuel and continued to demand a king. “And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” Here God granted to rebellious Israel that which would prove a heavy curse to them, because they would not submit to have the Lord rule for them. They thought that it would be more honorable in the sight of other nations to have it said, The Hebrews have a king. The Lord directed Samuel to anoint Saul as king of Israel. His appearance was noble, such as would suit the pride of the children of Israel. But God gave them an exhibition of his displeasure. It was not a season of the year when they were visited with heavy rains, accompanied with thunder. “So Samuel called unto the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day. And all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God, that we die not; for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king.” Samuel sought to encourage the people, that although they had sinned, yet if they from that time followed the Lord, he would not forsake them, for his great name's sake. “Moreover, as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart; for consider how great things he hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.” 4aSG 67.3Read in context »
Though a monarchical form of government for Israel had been foretold in prophecy, God had reserved to Himself the right to choose their king. The Hebrews so far respected the authority of God as to leave the selection entirely to Him. The choice fell upon Saul, a son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin. PP 608.1
The personal qualities of the future monarch were such as to gratify that pride of heart which prompted the desire for a king. “There was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he.” 1 Samuel 9:2. Of noble and dignified bearing, in the prime of life, comely and tall, he appeared like one born to command. Yet with these external attractions, Saul was destitute of those higher qualities that constitute true wisdom. He had not in youth learned to control his rash, impetuous passions; he had never felt the renewing power of divine grace. PP 608.2
Saul was the son of a powerful and wealthy chief, yet in accordance with the simplicity of the times he was engaged with his father in the humble duties of a husbandman. Some of his father's animals having strayed upon the mountains, Saul went with a servant to seek for them. For three days they searched in vain, when, as they were not far from Ramah, [See Appendix, note 9.] the home of Samuel, the servant proposed that they should inquire of the prophet concerning the missing property. “I have here at hand the fourth part of a shekel of silver,” he said: “that will I give to the man of God, to tell us our way.” This was in accordance with the custom of the times. A person approaching a superior in rank or office made him a small present, as an expression of respect. PP 608.3Read in context »