King Saul, Israel's First King

I Sam. 9-11     Review Activities for this Lesson

Israel wanted a king. They were turning against God himself instead of Samuel. Someday they would be sorry, but they would have to learn that the hard way. For now, though, God would not just turn his people over to another human being, even if he were a king. There would be no more judges, but God would speak through men called “prophets” to give his messages to the people. These prophets would have two tasks: sometimes they would be “foretellers” and tell about things that would happen in the future, often hundreds of years later. Other times they would be “forth-tellers” and talk about the problems in the nation then. Since Samuel would no longer be judge, but God made him a prophet for that time.

Samuel’s first job as a prophet was to make a young man named Saul the first king of Israel. Saul was the son of Kish, a man from the tribe of Benjamin. He could not believe God wanted him to have this great honor. “Am I not a Benjaminite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel...why then do you speak to me like this?“ Saul told Samuel.

Most of the Israelites were happy about Saul. He was almost a head taller than anyone else and made a fine-looking leader. When he was brought out they began to shout and say, “Long live the king!” Some did not like him, though, and sneered, “How can this man save us?” Since he was king, Saul could have punished them for their rebellion, but he wanted peace and hoped they would change later.

Soon Saul had a chance to prove he could help his people. The wicked Ammonites attacked the people who lived in Jabesh Gilead, then agreed to let them live if everyone’s right eye were put out. When a messenger came to Saul’s town with this news, everyone began to weep and wail loudly. Saul was furious when he found out why they were weeping. He sent for help throughout the land and 300,000 men came, along with 30,000 from Judah. Then Saul sent word to Jabesh Gilead, saying, “Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you shall have help.”

Surely enough, the next day Saul’s great army almost wiped out the mean Ammonites. After the battle Saul’s friends wanted to punish the men who rebelled at first, but Saul refused. “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has accomplished salvation in Israel,” he declared. Together they all went to Gilgal to renew the kingdom and make peace offerings to the Lord. And this time all of the men of Israel shouted together, “Long live the king!”

Samuel used this special time to talk to the people about the Lord. Like Moses and Joshua before him, he reminded Israel of all the wonderful things God had done for them, saying, “It is the Lord who raised up Moses and Aaron, and who brought your fathers up from the land of Egypt.” Even when they had gone over into Canaan and begun to worship idols, God had not forgotten them. When they had repented, he made them to live in safety. Yet in spite of God’s care they had been dissatisfied and asked for a king.
“If you fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and do not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king who reigns over will continue following the Lord your God,” Samuel promised. But if they did not, his hand would be against them, just as it had been against their fathers.

To prove he was speaking for the Lord, Samuel said he would ask him to send down thunder and rain, even though it was the dry season and suddenly there was a great thunderstorm! When the frightened multitude begged Samuel to pray for them, he promised he would not stop. “But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away both you and your king,” the old prophet warned them.