And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day.
And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them . . . .
Therefore it became a proverb, is Saul also among the prophets?
One might be inclined to wonder why it was that God brought Saul to Samuel prior to his public presentation to the children of Israel at Mizpeh. It surely was not so that Samuel might know whom to present to the people. When the time came for Israel to receive its king at Mizpeh, it was not upon the weight of Samuel’s authority that he was presented. Rather the long but indisputable use of the lot was made to select exactly the man which God had chosen; and it was, of course, this same Saul who had stood before Samuel a short time before. But Samuel could well have waited for the casting of the lot to meet Saul. No, the reason for this meeting was with Saul.
Saul, the son of Kish, was a man of this world. He was an Israelite all right. Genetically he was, born of the seed of Abraham from the tribe of Benjamin. Politically and socially he was; his loyalty and concern were very strong with the nation of Israel and its people. It was just that he, like so many of the young men of his generation, had no real feeling at all for the religion of Israel. It was not so much that he was opposed to the worship of Jehovah; if the occasion demanded, he would even go along with the formalities of worship. But it meant nothing to him, he was indifferent to its importance and meaning, he felt quite capable of getting along in his life without God. And this was really the kind of man that Israel wanted for a king. They wanted to be like the other nations with a man of this world to rule over them. Thus it was that God separated out Saul to be their monarch.
Nevertheless, before God placed Saul upon the throne, he wanted him to understand from whom it was that he was receiving his office. Had God waited until the casting of lots at Mizpeh, Saul would have been the first to ascribe his selection as king to his good fortune, or luck, as we would say. Thus it was that before the gathering at Mizpeh, God through His all comprehensive providence directed the feet of Saul until he stood before Samuel at Ramah.
Saul’s reason for coming to see Samuel in the first place was, perhaps, more curiosity than anything. He was not one, like his servant, to really expect that Samuel could or would help them to locate the lost asses. But the experience of challenging the prophet was bound to be interesting and a diversion for the night before they returned to his father’s home. The meeting took place as soon as Saul and his servant entered the city, having ascertained from some young girls that the prophet, or seer as they called him, was present in the city. There, just within the city, they found themselves approached by a man, a stranger to Saul, who came up to them almost with a look of recognition on his face. Saul had time only to ask in complete politeness, “Tell me, I pray thee, where the seer’s house is,” and with that he, a man accustomed himself to dominate, suddenly found his life taken over by a person of even stronger character than he. This stranger answered Saul, “I am the seer: go up before me unto the high place; for ye shall eat with me today, and to morrow I will let thee go, and will tell thee all that is in thine heart. And as for thine asses that were lost three days ago, set not thy mind on them; for they are found. And on whom is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on thee, and on all thy Father’s house?”
Samuel had indeed recognized Saul. It was not that he had ever seen him before; it was rather because God had been speaking to him. Through the years, Samuel had come to dwell on terms of very close communion with God. He spoke to God freely, and God answered him always concerning all of the problems which he met. For some time now, they had been speaking together about the future king of Israel. It was just the day before this that God had come to Samuel and said, “To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people, Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me.” Samuel had indeed known that Saul was coming. In fact, when Saul first entered the city as Samuel was making his way toward the evening sacrifice of the city, God in secret communion had whispered to him, “Behold the man whom I spake to thee of this same shall reign over my people.” That was why Samuel had approached him and spoken as he did.
Saul was utterly amazed at what Samuel had to say to him. He had expected nothing at all from the prophet, except perhaps some cleverly evasive answers. And now, not only did the prophet tell him immediately that his father’s asses were found, and that without even being asked but he went on to lead Saul’s mind into areas he had never before allowed any one else to enter. Samuel first commanded them to come with him to the evening sacrifice of the city. This was not the kind of activity at which Saul was usually to be found, but he could endure that. It was the other that bothered him. Samuel told him that afterward he would take him aside and “tell thee all that is in thine heart.” This bothered Saul because in actual fact he had been preoccupied with an over-bearing dream that would not leave him. He knew that the people of Israel were looking for a king, and for some time now he had been filled with the burning desire to be just that. He had been very careful to keep this dream to himself because it had seemed so impossible and hadn’t had the least of an idea how he could implement it. And now suddenly Samuel told him that he was going to talk to him about this dream and he intimated clearly enough that he knew exactly what it was. It made Saul, a man usually so composed, flush with shame to think that someone else should know about his extraordinary ambition; but at the same time his heart began to beat wildly with intoxicated excitement at the mere suggestion that his fondest dream might soon be realized.
Unable to trust himself in this heat of excitement to say more, Saul parried the remark of Samuel with the seemingly modest but untrue answer, “Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? wherefore than speakest thou so to me?” This was the proper and polite thing to say. Saul’s family was far from the least in Benjamin, and Saul did not really think that being a Benjaminite should I interfere with being king, but his, senses had not left him completely, and he knew better than to sound too I presumptuous.
Of the sacrificial ceremony that night, Saul remembered very little. It was an unusual thing for him just to be in attendance at a religious function such as that, but his thoughts were far too preoccupied even for him to feel out of place. Frantically he was trying to get hold of his thoughts and come to terms with the sudden surge of hope that perhaps this prophet did know what he was talking about, and in the end he, Saul would actually come to be king.
It was at the feast after the sacrifice that Saul gradually seemed to come back to reality, and it was wonderful. Once the sacrifice was over, Samuel took Saul and his servant and led them back to his own house. There a great feast had been spread, and soon about thirty leaders among the people appeared. At first, it seemed strange to Saul that he and his servant should be allowed to remain among all of these devotedly religious people. But soon it became apparent that this feast was appointed in special recognition for him. To him and his servant were given the seats of special honor; and when the food appeared, the cook gave to him the thigh of the sacrificial animal while Samuel said, “Behold that which is reserved! set it before thee, and eat: for unto this time hath it been kept for thee since I said, I have invited the people.” Beyond that; nothing more was said as to the specific reason for this honor; but as yet this was not necessary for Saul. He was more than satisfied with what honor he received.
That night, after their supper, Samuel took Saul up unto the roof of the house alone. For a long time they sat and talked together. The words of Samuel were gentle and kind but very definite. Again and again, in this way and that, he pointed out to Saul the distinctive place of Israel as a nation devoted to the worship of Jehovah. This was unfamiliar talk for Saul; but he did his best to follow the old prophet and to make it appear as if he understood perfectly what Samuel was trying to say. He especially appreciated the veiled but perfectly apparent implication that his future was of primary importance for the whole of the nation of Israel.
It was late before they retired and early the next morning again when Samuel aroused him. But to Saul it mattered not; his mind was much too preoccupied to care for sleep. According to Samuel’s instructions, he sent his servant ahead while the two of them followed more slowly. It was just outside of the city, at a quiet bend in the road, that Samuel took out a vial and anointed his head with oil. As ignorant as he was of religious ceremony, he somehow realized that this was the appointment from God for him to be king.
It was a different man that left Samuel that morning to proceed on his way, at least from a certain point of view. No longer was Saul the cynical, religiously indifferent man he had been. Through the night Saul had come to the conviction that there must be something to this matter of religion after all. He didn’t know much about it, although he intended to find out more. It surely had not tempered his ambition or made him repentant for his pride. If Samuel had said anything about that, and he very likely had, it did not register with Saul. He was only convinced that a God who foretold so much good for him, must be worthwhile having, and that Samuel was a wonderful man.
Saul’s journey home was like a dream. Samuel had told him exactly what would happen, and it did. First he met two men who told him that his father’s asses had been found and that Kish worried now about Saul. This was not too remarkable except that Samuel had foretold it, and for Saul that made it an amazing thing. Next he was met by three men going to Bethel to sacrifice to God. They were strangers; but when they saw Saul, they gave to him two loaves, part of their sacrificial offering. It was a mark of recognition that thrilled Saul to the depth of his being. Finally, he was met by a company of prophets, making music, singing and dancing as they went upon their way, Saul could contain himself no longer. As often as he had scorned religion before, he now thought it the most wonderful thing in all the world. Soon he was in with the prophets, singing and dancing in praise to Jehovah, Israel’s God.
By this time he was close to his own home, and many who met this company of prophets recognized Saul. It appeared to them one of those impossible, almost unbelievable things. They had known Saul in his former days too well. It seemed to be the ultimate incongruity of life, the final improbability fulfilled until it became a proverb in the land, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”