“And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal;” said the prophet to Saul, “and behold, I will come down to thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and shew thee what thou shalt do.” I Sam. 10:8

As appears from the text at I Sam. 13:1, it was not until Saul had reigned two years that he went down before Samuel to Gilgal according to the above-cited word of the prophet. The course of events was this. Having secretly anointed Saul, Samuel called the people together to Mizpeh, where the public choice of Saul by lot took place in the presence of the people in confirmation of the secret anointing. Having been declared king by the people, Saul returned to his home in Gibeah as followed by a band of valiant men. Nahash, king of the Ammonites, besieged Jabesh Gilead. The Jabeshites proffered their service, which Nahash would accept only on the condition that he be allowed to thrust out all their right eyes, and lay it for a reproach on all Israel. The men of Jabesh appealed to all Israel for help and were delivered by Saul. Samuel exhorted the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there.” The people responded and there they made Saul king. On this occasion Samuel testified his integrity and again reproved the people for their great sin of wanting a king in the room of the Lord. As terrified by the Lord’s thunder, they repented and were comforted by Samuel. The sacred narrator continues, “Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel,” I Sam. 13:1. This notice begins a new section, and the events narrated therein took place after Saul had reigned two years.

Having reigned for this length of time, he chose him three thousand men of Israel. Two thousand he placed under his own command in Mickmash and the rest were with Jonathan in Gibeah. Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines at this place. As the Philistines could be counted on to wreak terrible vengeance, Saul was obliged to act. “He blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear.” “So were the people called together after Saul to Gilgal,” I Sam. 13:4. For thither Saul had gone before the face of Samuel, that is prior to his going. Though this is not stated in just these words, it is the necessary implication of the verse last quoted.

That this going down to Gilgal on the part of Saul was the fulfillment of Samuel’s word that he had spoken to the king two years previous is evident from the sequel of the text. Hearing of the disaster that had overtaken their garrison in Gibeah, the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel. At the sight of the adversary’s military might, the people were afraid, and they hid themselves wherever they could—in caves, thickets, rocks, high places, and pits. Some fled over the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. The sacred writer continues, “As for Saul he was yet in Gilgal. . . .and he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed,” I Sam. 13:7, 8. This is a plain reference to 10:8 quoted above.

Saul’s waiting two years with going down to Gilgal must not be interpreted as disobedience to Samuel’s word. For the prophet did not rebuke him for it. Had his word to the king been, “Thou shalt go to Gilgal immediately and wait for me there seven days,” the case would have been different. But Samuel refrained from specifying a time. In all likelihood he could not, as the Lord whose word he spake, had not revealed to him just when He wanted Saul to make that move. To properly understand Samuel’s word to Saul, we must view it in the light of that other word which he spake to him, “And let it be when these signs are come unto thee, do for- thee as thy hand shall find,” meaning, ‘Do thy kingly duty as the Lord will reveal it unto thee from time to time through His providential working, and then thou wilt eventually, how soon I know not, go down to Gilgal, where thou shalt tarry, till I come to thee to offer the required burnt offering and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings.’

The first call of duty that came to Saul was the appeal of the men of Jabesh-Gilead for help against Nahash the king of the Ammonites. Under the inspiration of the Lord but not by His grace Saul responded to that call. Also the cruel and astoundingly humiliating condition of peace laid down by Nahash was of the Lord. Not so long thereafter Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines. That was the signal for a general revolt, and again Saul’s duty was plain. The time was now at hand for him to go down before the face of Samuel to Gilgal and in this place call together the people after him that they might be led forth to battle against the Philistines after having received consecration by solemn offerings. Under the inspiration of God, Saul responded also to this call of duty. So was Saul by the providential working of God sent also to Gilgal in fulfillment of a prophetic word of Samuel.

The Bible expositors of the rationalist school, who are bent on discrediting the Scriptures at every turn, do interpret Samuel’s prophetic word to Saul—thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal—as if it read, “Thou shalt immediately go down before me to Gilgal,” and thereby they throw this entire section of the book of Samuel—I Sam. 10:8-13:9—in irreconcilable conflict with itself. This prophecy of Samuel with the word immediately read into it, is in conflict with I Sam. 13:1-8. For according to this latter passage, Saul went down to Gilgal not immediately but in the second year of his reign.

So is the prophecy in question pitted also against I Sam. 11:14, “Then said Samuel to the people, Come, let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there.” According to this latter passage, it is said, Saul went to Gilgal not before, that is prior to, but with Samuel, and indeed at his special exhortation, and there was therefore no waiting on Samuel. But also this discrepancy is one of the critics own creation. What they refuse to discern is that Saul went down to Gilgal twice, the first time with Samuel to renew the kingdom (I Sam. 11:14), and the second time before Samuel to gather together the people for the war with the Philistines (I Sam. 13:1sq.). Rather than read these scriptures aright, the critics regard I Sam. 10:17-12:25 as a section “interpolated in the original document”. In this way do they think to remove their manufactured conflicts.