And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was taken.
. . . the family of Matri was taken, and Saul the son of Kish was taken: and when they sought him, he could not be found.
At last the time had come for Samuel to gather Israel together at Mizpeh and present to them their king. It had not been long after Samuel had called Saul aside and anointed him with oil; but for Saul it had seemed to be a long time, an almost interminable age which dragged on from one thought-filled moment to another. And yet, as the time had drawn near, it had seemed short, altogether too short. Saul was afraid, he was virtually terrified.
At first the prospects of being king had been wonderfulto imagine, very really a fulfillment of his fondest dream. Before a non-religious man, he suddenly came to the excited conviction that Jehovah was real and the most wonderful being imaginable. In very fact, through a special bestowal of the Spirit of God, he had come himself to sing and dance and prophesy along with the sons of the prophets. Suddenly his whole attitude toward God and religion was changed, transformed; it had to be, God had appointed him king. In one sense though, Saul’s discretion did not leave him; he knew better than to broadcast the real reason for his conversion, he kept it to himself that he was going to be king.
It was the uncle of Saul, seemingly a man of some insight into people, who saw immediately that there was something very much out of character in the way that Saul was acting. He felt that there was sure to be something more behind Saul’s conversion than just a religious experience; Saul just was not acting as a man should who had come to meet foursquare with the reality of Jehovah with the existence of sin and guilt and forgiveness. Carefully he tried to dig it out. The next time he met Saul, he dropped the simple question, “Whither went ye?”
Unsuspecting but carefully Saul answered him, “To seek the asses: and when we saw that they were no where, we came to Samuel.”
The name Samuel immediately struck him as the key for which he was looking and quickly he queried, “Tell me, I pray thee, what Samuel said unto you.”
But Saul was not about to divulge his secret. He only replied, “He told us plainly that the asses were found.” Smugly he kept the matter of the kingship to himself.
But time went on and it dealt harshly with Saul. At first the prospects of being king had seemed all wonderful. Gradually, however, as he continued to reflect, Saul began to realize that there was going to be much more to the office of king than just the glory. There would be responsibilities and duties to perform of every imaginable kind, and what did he know about these things that would be required of him as king? What did he know about judging the troubles of people? What did he know about leading an army? What did he know about governing a great nation? Hardly a day went by but there dawned upon him some different responsibility for which he was terribly unprepared. Day after day he felt the cold chill of fear settling more heavily upon his soul, and in the terror of it he stood alone. Saul indeed had undergone a certain conversion; but he had never come to understand, and believe in Jehovah as the Savior and covenant God of his people. He had none of that faith which his successor of a later generation showed in a similar situation by going to the tabernacle and praying, “And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father; and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge the people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?” Had Saul had such faith as that, matters might have gone quite differently. But that was not the kind of king Israel as yet wanted, and therefore the man to be given to Israel was not of that kind either. In his fear, Saul stood all alone with nothing to support him but his pride and ambition—poor comforters in a time of need.
When at last Samuel called the meeting at Mizpeh, it was like a doomsday closing in upon Saul—a dooms-day which he knew that really he did not have the capital to meet. As all the people gathered together provisions to make the, trip to Mizpeh, he had no choice but to go with them. To fail to go would have been too much of an indication that he knew more than others; and besides, he was far from ready to give up that which awaited .him there. But he couldn’t join in the jovial anticipation of the rest of the people. His stomach was tied up in too many knots for that. He had all he could do to maintain a fairly calm expression on his face. Already he felt himself put apart, separated from everyone else. There were thousands of people there at Mizpeh laying aside their provisions and hurrying over to where Samuel was calling the meeting. But Saul was terribly alone among them. He just couldn’t get himself to go along with them but sat, huddled miserably amid the baggage. Saul was afraid—afraid for the responsibility which he knew was soon to be pressed upon him—but afraid at the same time that something might go wrong and he would not receive the royal office after all. No, Saul’s ambition, his dream of many years was not by any means dead; for all his fear, he still wanted to be king more than anything else. It was just that there was within him still a certain naive honesty which would not allow him to forget that he was really incapable of the office. It made him miserable indeed.
The people of course knew nothing of the pathetic figure they were leaving behind them with the baggage as they hurried over to where Samuel stood. All was eagerness and anticipation. They were going to have a king. They were going to be like the other nations. There was excitement. There was laughter. There was good natured banter as each tribe affirmed as though with conviction what they faintly hoped within them—that the king would be from their number and so they would receive the ascendancy over the others. But in the end it didn’t really matter as long as their nation could stand with the others having a man they could count as king and to whom they could give their allegiance.
It was a good natured crowd that slowly settled to silence as Samuel beckoned his intention to speak. It didn’t even bother them too greatly when he began with a reprimand saying, “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed you: and ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes, and by your thousands.” It was really too bad that he had to be that way. How much nicer it would be if he could get into the spirit of the crowd and go along with them cheerfully. But Samuel was getting to be an old man, and he didn’t understand the younger generation. They were impatient and wanted a change, and they weren’t about to wait for it. There was no use fighting it. But Samuel was that way. He had really said all of this before, and they could expect that he would be sure to repeat it. But today they could take it. What did it matter as long as they were getting their king.
The casting of the lots began slowly and with ceremony. For most this was where the greatest excitement lay. The first lot was for the tribe and it was the closest most of them could expect to come to the royal family. One by one they were eliminated until finally, to just about everyone’s surprise, it fell to Benjamin, the smallest of all the tribes. To many the selection was almost exciting just because it had been so unlikely; but to the few who were still familiar with the prophecies of Moses and of Jacob, it must surely have been disturbing. No where in the promises was there any indication that a royal blessing was to fall to Benjamin. And these same persons knew also best that, “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.” (Prov. 16:33) It could only mean that the man selected this day was not the one whom God finally had ordained to rule and from whom the promised Messiah, Shiloh was to come. This was indeed a foreboding of trouble. But to most of the people it made no difference. They didn’t know; and had they known, it wouldn’t have seemed important.
From there on for a time interest waned as the tribe of Benjamin was narrowed down according to families. Here again was one of the advantages they had in Benjamin; it was small and this process of narrowing it down did not take as long as it would have with another tribe. There was just a nice lull in excitement long enough to give the people time to visit for a while. But before long the lot began to come close to individual households and people, and the attention of the people revived. And the final conclusion was as dramatic as anyone could hope for. The family of Kish was chosen and when the members of the family stepped forward to take their place before Samuel, one of them was missing. But the casting of the lot went on regardless, and sure enough it fell to Saul, the one who was missing. But the casting of the lot went on regardless, and sure enough it fell to Saul, the one who was missing. It was a stunning blow to the people and their eager anticipation. What were they to do now? Where was their king? But Samuel was there and in complete charge of the situation. Here was yet another reminder that it was Jehovah who ruled the day and knew exactly its outcome. He prayed to God and was told that they should look for Saul among the baggage. There it was that they found him.
When at last the eyes of the people fell upon the one who was chosen, he was all and more than they could have desired. Strong and healthy, he was a handsome man who stood head and shoulders above the crowd that gathered about them. To a crowd used to judging by superficial externals, this was all that really mattered. He had the stature and bearing of a king. From them went up a great shout, “God save the king!”
For a time yet that day Samuel sought to instruct the new king and the people in the responsibilities that now stood before them. But the people were not in a mood to listen, and his words were soon forgotten. As evening drew nigh, Samuel dismissed them and they returned toward their homes. Some there were, of course, who were not happy. They were no doubt those who had had their hearts set upon some other leader, and they had no regard for the directions of God. But there were others too, men who took it upon themselves to guard their new king and escort him home. With joy they brought him to Gibeah.
But Saul was not a natural. leader. For all of his much dreaming, when the time came, he did not know what he should do to set up his throne and rule in Israel. There were enemies to be fought; but he didn’t know how to gather and arm an army. There were taxes which would have to be collected; but how was he to collect them. There was a palace to be built, a court to be established, a government to be organized; but these were all beyond him. All that Saul could think to do was to return to the home of his father and continue with the activities he knew best. And so he did until at last the Spirit of God came upon him.