Then Samuel took a flask of oil, poured it out on Saul's head, kissed him, and said, "Has not the LORD anointed you ruler over His inheritance?
I. APPOINTED TO THE HIGHEST DIGNITY (ver. 1).
1. By a rite of consecration. "Taking a vial, he anointed Saul, thus placing the institution of royalty on the same footing as that of the sanctuary and the priesthood (Exodus 30:33; Leviticus 8:10), as appointed and consecrated by God and to God, and intended to be the medium for receiving and transmitting blessing to the people" (Edersheim). "Anointing with oil was a symbol of endowment with the Spirit of God; as the oil itself, by virtue of the strength which it gives to the vital spirits, was a symbol of the Spirit of God as the principle of Divine and spiritual power" (Keil). "Two very good reasons they (the Jews) render why God did command the use of such anointing oil as in respect of the action. First, that it did signify the Divine election of that person and designation to that office; from whence it was necessary that it should be performed by a prophet who understood the will of God. Secondly, that by it the person anointed might be made fit to receive the Divine influx." "In respect to the matter they give two reasons why it was oil, and not any other liquor. First, because, of all other, it signifies the greatest glory and excellency. Secondly, they tell us that oil continueth uncorrupted longer than any other liquor. And, indeed, it hath been observed to preserve not only itself but other things from corruption; hence they conclude it fit their kings and priests, whose succession was to continue forever, should be anointed with oil, the most proper emblem of eternity. Beside, they observe that simple oil without any mixture was sufficient for the candlestick; but that which was designed for unction must be compounded with principal spices, which signify a good name, always to be acquired by those in places of greatest dignity by the most laudable and honourable actions" ('Pearson on the Creed,' Art. 2).
2. Accompanied with an act of homage. "And kissed him." The kiss was given on the mouth, the hand, the feet, or the garment, and was a token of friendship, affection, and, in the case of princes, of reverence and homage (1 Kings 18:19; Psalm 2:12; Hosea 13:3).
3. And with a statement of its significance. "Is it not?" etc. Hath not the Lord anointed thee to be ruler over his people, over Israel? And thou shalt rule over the people of the Lord, and thou shalt save them out of the hand of their enemies" (LXX.). His appointment was of God, and the purpose of it was the deliverance of his people. The manner in which he received it shows the change which had already taken place in his feelings (1 Samuel 9:21). When God has work for a man to do, he has power to dispose and prepare him to do it.
II. ASSURED OF CONFIRMATORY SIGNS (vers. 2-6). The events which Samuel predicted were proofs of the Divine interposition, means of Saul's further preparation, and emblems of his future dignity and power.
1. First sign - his royalty was an appointment made by God. By it he would be convinced that it was not made by Samuel merely, but by God, who fulfilled his words (1 Samuel 9:20); at the same time he would be taught to leave lower cares, and aspire after the highest things. "Inwardly free, and consecrated to the Lord alone, he is to pursue his way upward."
2. Second sign - his royalty was an honour shared with God, and held in subordination to him (vers. 3, 4). A part of the offerings that were about to be presented before Jehovah in Bethel would be presented to Saul, but only a part of them; the greater portion would be given to Jehovah as a sign of the supreme homage due to the invisible King of Israel, while he was to accept the lesser portion as a sign of his subordinate position under him. "That this surprising prelude to all future royal gifts is taken from bread of offering points to the fact that in future some of the wealth of the land, which has hitherto gone undivided to the sanctuary, will go to the king" (Ewald). God commands us to "honour the king" (1 Peter 2:17), but the honour which is due to himself may not be usurped by man (Matthew 22:21; Acts 12:23).
3. Third sign - his royalty was an endowment dependent upon God, and effectually administered only through his grace. Coming to the hill (Gibeah) of God, near the city (Gibeah, his home), where there stood a garrison of the Philistines (or perhaps a pillar erected by them as a sign of their authority), which could hardly fail to impress upon him with great force the main purpose for which he had been appointed king, he would meet a band of prophets descending from the high place (of sacrifice), playing instruments of music and prophesying (speaking and singing in ecstatic utterances the praises of Jehovah, declaring his greatness, and his victory over his adversaries), and -
(1) He would be imbued with a Divine power. "The Spirit of Jehovah will come upon thee."
(2) He would catch the spirit of the prophets, and join them in their ecstatic utterances. "Thou wilt prophesy with them."
(3) He would undergo a surprising transformation. "And will be turned into another man." When he had turned his back to go from Samuel, "God gave him another heart" (ver. 9), but the prediction of the prophet was more completely fulfilled afterwards (ver. 10). The fulfilment of these predictions shows that apparently accidental events are clearly foreseen by God, human affairs are under his direction and control, and "the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will" (Proverbs 21:1), and that "the teachings of Providence unite with the teachings of revelation and of the Holy Spirit to show men their duty and their destiny."
III. ADMONISHED OF FUTURE DUTY (vers. 7, 8). In relation to -
1. Circumstances. "Do thou what thy hand findeth," i.e. what circumstances indicate to be thy duty. His own judgment would have to be exercised, but he would not be left to it alone.
2. God. "For God is with thee," to observe, direct, and aid thee. The firm belief in his presence is a mighty preservative from the neglect of duty, and a powerful incentive and encouragement to its performance.
3. The prophet, through whom he would receive "the word of God," in obedience to which he was bound always to act. "Gilgal, on the southwestern bank of the Jordan, was then, from all indications, one of the most holy places in Israel, and the true centre of the whole people; it had a like importance before, and much more then, because the Philistine control reached so far eastward that the middle point of the kingdom must have been pressed back to the bank of the Jordan. There the people must have assembled for all general political questions, and thence, after offering and consecration, have marched forth armed to war" (Ewald). Thither he was to gather the people; not, indeed: immediately, but when circumstances indicated that it was the proper time to prepare for war with the Philistines, which was the main object of his appointment. Samuel promised to meet him there, offer burnt offerings (dedicatory) and peace offerings (eucharistic), and tell him what to do; and directed him to wait seven days, and to do nothing without him. The direction was explicit, it set a limit to his authority, and its neglect was the first step in his disobedience (ch. 13:13). When God places men in positions of authority, he teaches them the obligations which they involve; and if they fail it is not from want of knowing them. - D.
Then Samuel took a vial of oil.
I. UNOSTENTATIOUS IS ITS COMMENCEMENT. It might be accepted as an axiom that all great results issue from small beginnings. Throughout this coronation the greatest simplicity prevails. Only two are present — a ruddy youth, an aged man — both in the great temple of nature, with God for witness. Consider the disciplinary nature of this coronation.
1. Its simplicity would appear contradictory. It would seem unlikely that the highest office of life should be introduced in such poor attire.
2. It would appear unauthenticated. There was no human witness besides the two interested parties. They were alone. The only guarantee he had was the reputation of the prophet; and if that failed, he had no refuge, for his own word would not be sufficient to establish anything so unlikely. He would, like Joseph, have been designated the Dreamer. This consideration would impose silence even if disappointed.
3. Then the suggestion of promotion was interrogative. "Is it not because the Lord hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?" (ver. 1). Thus we can easily imagine how this coronation scene would test the character, try the patience, exercise the thought, and discipline the soul of this incipient king. This promoted life was —
II. CONFIRMATORY IN ITS PROGRESS. Moral discipline does not retain its darkness. Night clears away, and in the bright shining of morning, fear is dispelled and hope realised. So with Saul, he has passed the midnight of preparation, and now departing from the prophet, his claim to kingship will be vindicated by foretold events. Confirmed: —
1. By the restoration of lost property. The most trivial incidents may prove confirmatory to the reality of Divine promotion. A shining star authenticates the power of God as much as the solar system. So the finding of asses on our homeward journey may stamp our elevation with truth, as much as the mightiest catastrophe of history. Here also is seen the beneficence and considerateness of the Divine plan. In that the missions of life are attested by measures adapted to condition and want. Saul had been in search of the asses; their restoration was used as the Divine indenture. Saul had to pass the sepulchre of Rachel on his way home. Why? Was it not to solemnise him in his transition to kingship? To remind him of his future destiny? The journey of life is full of tombs, to hush the mirth of the traveller by the reflections of another world. Here we see the wisdom of the Divine plan in that he makes the monitors of life confirm its elevation. He was confirmed: —
2. By the manifestation of hospitality. These people were no doubt going to worship, to sacrifice to God; and, being prompted by the Divine Spirit, paid homage to their unknown but future king. Men often unconsciously outstrip themselves. In ministering to the necessities of a man they sometimes minister to a king. This scene in connection with Rachel's tomb shows the contrasts of life; that, while death is near, there is sufficient to keep in life and comfort; that while there are tombs on our life road there is also a sanctuary. The former representing the power of evil, the latter the power of good. Past both the promoted one must walk, that, filled with sadness at the grave, joy may come with stronger impulse at the sanctuary. Lastly, he was confirmed: —
3. By the sympathetic power of prophecy. "And thou shalt prophesy with them" (ver. 6). The young king was now to meet a band of students from the college of the prophets. This is a typal of all life; it is full of the educational, and that educational is spiritual in its nature. This company of prophets had instruments of music. So a minister's life, like a peal of bells, should give forth the choicest music at the lightest touch. Who ought to carry the harp, the tabrets of life, if a teacher of the highest music, the divinest harmony, does not?
III. PREPARATORY IN ITS ISSUE. Saul seems now to have reached the level of prophetic character; from henceforth he is fit for the regal. He is prepared: —
1. By the impartation of a new nature. "God gave him another heart" (ver. 9). What does this mean, but that Saul was converted? Are we told that it was a mere external fitness; an intellectual foresight, or heroic courage, necessary for his office? Was it merely the creation of a taste for the new sphere of duty? If so, it should have said that God gave him another inclination. No! God gave him another heart, swept of the past, filled with the seeds of a larger manhood.
2. By the baptism of the Holy Spirit. "And the Spirit of God came upon him" (ver. 10). Surely no king commenced his rule with greater blessing or deeper fitness. But we shall yet have to witness the tempestuous sunset of this great life. If kings now were selected by God, and qualified by his Spirit, what a glory would enshrine our national constitution! Lessons: —(1) Learn that the Spiritual ought to be the Supreme Power of national life.(2) That when God calls to the higher duties of life he qualifies for them.(3) That on the road to the sanctuary you are likely to meet the newly-made king.(4) That life is capable of the highest development.
(Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
(P. Richardson, B. A.)
2. Whom God calls to any service He will make fit for it. If He advance to another station, He will give another heart to those who sincerely desire to serve Him with their power. Just as of old God endowed Bezaleel and Aholiab with skill to design, and build, and carve the work of the tabernacle of the wilderness, so did he endow Saul with the qualities of a kingly mind. These were apart from the moral qualities that relate to the right service of God. The latter are not so much endowments attached to a man, as the necessary fruits of a thorough conversion and a new heart. Saul had the one, but he had not the other. He had another heart, but, not a new heart. He gave evidence of possessing the gifts of kingship, but none of the grace of holy living. While he could henceforth command armies and practice diplomacy, he cared not for keeping a conscience void of offence toward God and man. His heart was not right with God. It is not enough to have natural endowments, or learned attainments of skill or wisdom. What are the wit of Voltaire, the poetry of Byron, the science of Halley, the philosophy of Hobbes, the command of Napoleon, the statesmanship of Pitt, the eloquence of Sheridan, the taste of Beckford, the learning of Michaelis, the common sense of Franklin, the mechanical skill of Stephenson, the business talents of a Rothschild, if you have not the grace of God to transform your heart and to make you holy? Gifts may make you illustrious, and useful, and powerful among men, but they do not make you fit for the fellowship of God, or prepare you for the holiness of heaven. They are of value. Sanctified by grace, the highest gifts have their place and their usefulness in the Church, Saul had striking evidences presented to his mind of the prospect which Samuel opened up to his hope. The clear fulfilment of all that had been foretold must have convinced him that he was designed for dignity. He weighed it well, was persuaded of it, and waited for its accomplishment.
3. The manner of the kingdom was written in a book for his study and observance (ver. 25). This was their constitution — the covenant between monarch and subjects. The rights of the king were specified therein, and so were the rights of the people. The government of Israel was to be no absolute monarchy, nor was it to be a democracy. This was also the case when David was made king of Israel (2 Samuel 5:3), and when Joash was proclaimed in Judah, after the despotic usurpation of Athaliah (2 Kings 11:17). It was as sinful in the one to break the covenant as in the other. In the word of God there is a clear recognition of the rights of the ruled as well as of the ruler. No man is at liberty to tyrannise over another. The model people of the ancient world had rules for kings such as no constitution has ever yet continued. The engagement between God, king, and people, was laid up before the Lord, to be kept under his eye, and to be a witness against monarch and subject should they break their engagements. It is a solemn thought that all our engagements are laid up before the Lord. They are held in all their integrity by him, and be never fails to fulfil his part. Once entered into by us, we become bound, and are responsible, and must render an account for the manner in which we bays kept them. Your signature to a bill, given by impulse, cannot be nullified before a court of law, it is binding, and you can be distrained for payment. In like manner all solemn resolutions and spiritual pledges are binding, and are laid up before the Lord. Under these mutual obligations Samuel sent king and people to their several homes.
4. That was a happy day in Israel. Samuel had reason to be glad, and king and people had abundant cause for joy. The monarchy had been established. God had smiled on the first royal act of Saul. The nation had united in a public service of gratitude. On a theatre so full of historic interest, they all rejoiced greatly. Their difficulties now seemed ended, and their hearts flowed over in exuberant joy. If they abode in the love and obedience of God, joy would possess their souls.
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