Samuel, having established a relationship with Saul in the previous chapter, anoints Saul as the king of Israel in the beginning of chapter 10. As a prophet, Samuel was working under the direction of God (I Samuel 9:15-16). The people of Israel have not yet been told of their new king, but that will change near the end of this chapter.
Samuel uses oil to anoint Saul as king. This was a religious anointing because God had set Saul apart for service to lead Israel. Samuel does much to accomplish God’s plan to make Saul king. Samuel tells Saul that as he travels, he will find two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin. This was significant because Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin and nearing the grave of Rachel his forbear would have reminded him of his mortality. Then, Samuel tells Saul that the two men will tell him that the donkeys he was seeking have been found. This will result in Saul’s father worrying for Samuel, just as he feared in chapter nine. But Saul will travel on to the terebinth tree of Tabor, where he will meet three men carrying various things, and he will receive two loaves of bread form them. Saul will then go to a hill where a Philistine garrison is and will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high places with stringed instruments. It is at this point that Saul will feel the spirit of the Lord upon him, and he will become a new man.
Adjoin these prophetic signs with the fact that he was just told that he would be made king of all Israel, and Saul would have likely contemplated his past, his future, and the state of his life. Such ruminations for young Saul could have turned him into the man that he was to become. However, as we will find with Saul in coming chapters, the choices he will make with his power and his privilege will turn out to be unwise, foolish, rebellious, and sinful.
Samuel tells Saul that he will meet him later and that sacrifices and peace offerings will be made. All of the things that Samuel prophesied come true. The people saw Saul prophesying with the men of God and saw him in a new light. Also, Saul had a conversation with his uncle, who was curious about Saul’s relationship with Samuel. Saul kept quiet about being named king at this point. Signs suggest that Saul felt inadequate, embarrassed, or unprepared for the huge responsibility.
Nevertheless, Samuel moves ahead with proclaiming Saul king. Samuel addresses the people at Mizpah, and speaks the Words of the Lord: “’I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all kingdoms and from those who oppressed you.’ But you have today rejected your God, who Himself saved you from all your adversities and your tribulations; and you have said to Him, ‘No, set a king over us!’ Now therefore, present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your clans.”
Unsurprisingly for us at this point, the tribe of Benjamin (Saul’s tribe) is chosen, the family of Matri, the father Kish, and Saul the son chosen as king. But Saul is hiding when it is time to come forward. The Lord indicates to the people where Saul is hiding and Saul is brought forth to the people and is praised. But it is difficult not to see the farce in his kingship already. The proclamation that Samuel made from God to the people suggests that Israel getting a king will turn out to be more of a burden than a blessing for them. This is a case of God leaving them up to the consequences of their actions. By all the signs we see so far, Saul is neither suited nor prepared to become king.
Samuel records the requirements for royal behavior in a book. Then he sends the people away. Saul goes to Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men that were inspired by God to be there. But there are some that also that do not believe in Saul as king.
We can find a bit of ourselves in Saul if we are honest. God bestows on each of us untold and uncountable blessings, and we can misuse them due to our own feelings of inadequacy, laziness, or self-will. The challenge is to accept the responsibilities God gives us and find a way to success using our talents. This was certainly the path chosen by Samuel, and it is interesting to compare Saul and Samuel’s characters as we read through these chapters.
We all have the ability to be as Samuel: righteous, honest, obedient, and a follower of God. Or, we can take our blessings and foolishly squander them. One of the main keys to avoiding the fate of the foolish is to keep God in the front of our minds and seek His counsel through reading His Word, prayer, and the obedience of His commands. God will show us the way. A life lived under God is not often glorious (although it can be), it is not often easy (even though His blessings can make life comfortable and fulfilling), but it is worth the sacrifice each and every time.