The Kings — The Good, The Bad, The Ugly — Part 1
“So they ran and brought him from there; and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen, that there is no one like him among all the people?” So all the people shouted and said, “Long live the king!” 1 Samuel 10:23-24
The story of the Kings of Israel begins with the prophet Samuel. Before Saul was anointed the first King over Israel the Judges ruled as the magistrates of the Law of God. But the people wanted a king so they could be like the other nations around them. So God sent Saul, the son of Kish, a Benjamite, to the prophet Samuel to anoint him as king over Israel. But God, through the prophet, warns them that having a king over them will not be the glamorous or desirable thing they think it will be.
So, on the day of Saul’s coronation Samuel told the people what they would be in for when they have a king.
“And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen, that there is no one like him among all the people?” So all the people shouted and said, “Long live the king!” Then Samuel explained to the people the behavior of royalty, and wrote it in a book and laid it up before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house. 1 Samuel 10:24-25
Now this is what Samuel said to the people concerning kings.
“So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who asked him for a king. And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the LORD will not hear you in that day.” Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he repeated them in the hearing of the LORD. So the LORD said to Samuel, “Heed their voice, and make them a king.” And Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Every man go to his city.” 1Samuel 8:10-22
This was no capricious or “throw in the towel” decision by God to give the people a king. This was an act of covenant right and privilege. God gave Israel, through the covenant with Abraham, the promise and the right to petition Him for whatever they wanted. He did not take away their choice to make bad decisions and screw things up.
“Then Samuel called the people together to the LORD at Mizpah, and said to the children of Israel, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel: “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.” 1 Samuel 10:17-19
So, the beginning of Saul’s reign was rocky at best and wrought with trouble at worst. Among his people there were those who despised him, most likely because he was of ignoble lineage, being a Benjamite, a man of the smallest tribe and then of the least significant family in the tribe and finally maybe because they were jealous or envious of him for being chosen over them. And it didn’t help that he was also head and shoulders taller than the best of them. Whatever the reason; Saul had the Philistines to contend with on the one hand and rebels among his own people on the other.
“And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and valiant men went with him, whose hearts God had touched. But some rebels said, “How can this man save us?” So they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace.” 1 Samuel 10:26-27
The question then was, will Saul rise to the occasion? Will he mature to become a mighty king of valor and distinction, gaining the respect and praise of his people?Will his reign as king be pleasing to God?