So, Samuel takes out a flask or vile of oil to anoint Saul. Compare this to the “horn” of oil in 16:1 & 13 used to anoint David. Samuel is holding something back. Also, the anointing of Saul is done in private. Why? David is anointed in front of his whole family. What is Samuel up to? Something dodgy about this whole thing.
The Hebrew Masoretic (used for most translations) reads “Has not the LORD anointed you ruler over his inheritance?” whereas the Septuagint (LXX) reads “Has not the LORD anointed you ruler over his people Israel? You will reign over the LORD’s people and save them from the power of their enemies round about. And this will be a sign to you that the LORD has anointed you ruler over his inheritance?” In other words, the conquest of chapter 11 will confirm him as king. We see Saul’s kingship being recognized by Samuel, and twice by the Israelites. Tad redundant, don’t you think? But it seems as if Samuel is attaching strings to this deal- an “out”, or special clause. You fail and you’re fired.
Now, here’s the big issue- “Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.” (10:8 NIV). Now, Samuel says to go to Gilgal, and he, Samuel will perform an offering (wait, aren’t the priests supposed to do that?. Ok, prophets do sometimes lead sacrifices, but I can’t think of any instance when they do it without the presence of Levites or Priests. For instance, Elijah calls for an offering at Carmel, but he himself does not perform the sacrifice). But, notice in this line there is not a “thus says YHWH”. Samuel says, I’ll be there in seven days. Saul is to be in Gilgal when Samuel gets there, and then get further instructions. When chapter 13 rolls around there is a big problem. Saul waits for the appointed time, but no Samuel. Samuel’s instructions contain no clear statement regarding not doing the sacrifice, and no “what if” in case he’s late. Just be in Gilgal for the sacrifice in seven days. Well, presumably it’s an evening sacrifice. In Hebrew thought, the day ends at sundown. The sun is setting, the days is ending and the time for sacrifice has come. People are leaving. So Saul offers the sacrifice. Then Samuel shows up, AFTER THE APPOINTED TIME (i.e. it’s night when he gets there) and rains down wrath and judgment on Saul. The narrator tells us he shows up immediately upon the completion of the sacrifice. Some commentators imply Samuel was being manipulative, expecting Saul to fail, perhaps even waiting in the bushes until Saul’s “failure to obey” was complete.
Back to chapter 10; God changes Saul’s heart. He goes to Gibeah, which seems to have changed since we last read about this place (Judges 19-20). A group of prophets reside there. Where were these guys when they were needed? Anyway, Saul begins to prophesy. They know him in Gibeah, and now, is Saul among the prophets? Well he just got anointed king. Kings and prophets have a tense relationship throughout history. Could Saul be both at the same time? An internal tension? (a tension only resolved in Jesus!) Then, Saul goes to the High Place. Uh oh, more high places!
Who is this unnamed uncle? Well, later (14:50-51) we find out that Saul has an Uncle Ner (Kish’s brother). Ner has a son, Abner (most uncreative name in the Old Testament perhaps- “my father is Ner”). Ner doesn’t factor into this story a lot, but Abner sure does (2 Samuel 2 & 3 in particular). Why not name him here though? Is it Ner or another Uncle? Abner’s character is interesting, and if his personality reflects his father, the suspicion of this unnamed uncle might indicate it is Ner, looking for information he can exploit.
What’s up with this Mizpah gathering? Not a coincidence that it’s Mizpah where they gather. It was Mizpah where the Israelites had gathered in… guess what chapter… Judges 20… to proclaim judgment on Benjamin… wait, where’s Saul from? Oh, and of course, Samuel brought the people together and lead them against the Philistines in chapter 7 at Mizpah. So, he picks a spot of his own greatest victory, and Saul’s tribe’s greatest shame. Hey, why not call the people to Beersheba? Or how about Kiriath Jearim where the Ark is? Or how about Shiloh? Samuel’s being a little passive-aggressive I think.
And why the lot casting process? Isn’t Saul anointed to rule already? Perhaps Samuel is giving God a chance to reconsider? Or he knows how the lots will fall, but is making it look like chance that Saul is chosen. Fine, you want a king, well you’re stuck with whatever is decided by chance.
Saul is hiding… is he hoping the lot casting will get him out of this mess?
“There is no one like him among all the people”- Translation: he’s not one of you.
Verse 27 in the NIV says there are “scoundrels” opposing him. Hebrew reads “sons of Belial”… we’ve heard that phrase before, haven’t we? Oh right, Hophni and Phineas. But Saul does nothing about the sons of Belial. Shouldn’t a king head this opposition off before it spreads?
And wait, “how can he save us?”… didn’t we read something about the Philistine threat being gone for Samuel’s entire life? Oh, but wait, the Philistines have an encampment at… that’s right, Gibeah. This guy’s home town is being occupied, and he’s gonna deliver us?