The following commentary covers Chapters 8, 9, and 10.
people's demand for a king: Saul the man according to the
But faith is not
transmitted by succession. Samuel could not make prophets
of his sons. They were no better as judges than Eli's
sons had been as priests, and the people had no faith
themselves to lean immediately upon God. They ask to be
made like unto the nations.
"Make us now a king,"
said they to Samuel. Where was Jehovah? For Israel,
nowhere. But it was evil in the eyes of Samuel, and he
prayed unto Jehovah. While acknowledging that the people
had, as usual, rejected Him, God commands Samuel to
hearken unto their voice. Samuel warns them according to
God's testimony, and sets before them all the
inexpediency and consequences of such a step; but the
people will not hearken unto him. God brings to the
prophet, through providential circumstances, the man whom
He had chosen to satisfy the carnal wishes of the people.
In all this He judges the people and their king. ("He
gave them a king in his anger, and took him away in his
wrath.") But He remembers His people. He does not
forsake them. He acts by Saul on their behalf, while
shewing them their unfaithfulness, and afterwards in
cutting off the disobedient king. Beauty and height of
stature distinguished the son of Kish. But in the signs
that Samuel gave him, when he had anointed him, there was
a meaning which should have carried his thoughts beyond
How often there is a
meaning, a language, perfectly intelligible to one who
has ears to hear, but which escapes us, because our gross
and hardened heart has no spiritual intelligence or
discernment! And yet all our future hangs upon it. God
has shewn our incapacity for the blessing it involved.
Nevertheless the means were not wanting.
Although the significance
of this circumstance was less evident than that of the
other signs, yet Rachel's sepulchre should have reminded
Saul, the son and heir according to the flesh of the one
who was born there, that the son of the mother's sorrow
was the son of the father's right hand (Gen. 35: 18).
Now God had not abandoned
Israel; faith was still there; men were going up to God.
There were some in Israel who remembered the God of
Bethel, who had revealed Himself to Jacob when he fled , and who in His faithfulness had
brought him back in peace; and God gave Saul favour in
their eyes. The servants of the God of Bethel salute him
and strengthen him on his way. But the hill of God was
possessed by the garrison of the Philistinesanother
circumstance which, by its significance, should have gone
to the heart of a faithful Israelite who desired the
glory of God and the good of His people. But the sign
which accompanied it made it much more forcible; for the
Spirit of Jehovah came upon Saul in this place, and he
was turned into another man, called therefore to "do
as occasion served him, for God was with him" (chap.
10: 7) .
It often happens, that
faith sets forth clearly what should be done, while the
heart, waxen fat and unfaithful, does not see it at all.
And what do these signs
mean? There are those in Israel who remember the God of
Bethel, and who seek Himupright and prepared hearts,
who know Him as the resource of faith. But the hill of
God, the public seat of His strength, is in the enemy's
hands. Still, if this be so, the Spirit of God is upon
the man who takes cognisance of it, and it is at this
very hill that the Spirit comes upon him. The name of God
is also significative here. It is God abstractedlyGod
the Creator: God Himself is in question. The Spirit of
Jehovah comes upon Saul, because He resumes there the
course of His relations with Israel.
Samuel, not Saul,
the link between God and the people
But Samuel is still the
only one whom God recognises as the link between Himself
and the people. It is when Saul has had to do with Samuel,
that he is another man. He must wait for Samuel, that he
may know what to do, and that blessing may rest upon him.
He must thus acknowledge that blessing is connected with
the prophet, and not act without him; he must wait for
him with perfect patience (seven days), a patience which,
submitting to God's testimony, will not seek for blessing
apart from His ways.
Here also we see in the
Philistines the enemies who put faith to the proof. We
have often enemies over whom we gain an easy victory, and
on whose account we are considered spiritual, yet they
are not such as (on God's part, and it may also be said
on their own part) put faith to the proof. With these
patience must have her perfect work. And the Philistines
held this place with respect to Saul. It was all well
that the people should be delivered from their other
enemies; but they were not the ones which were a snare to
them, and which manifested the power of the enemy in the
very midst of Israel and the promises.
Do spiritual powers rule
over us in the assembly, in the place where the promises
of God should be fulfilled? And what power do we see to
overthrow the power of evil and spiritual wickedness
within the borders of the professing church?
It was from the
Philistines that Saul should have delivered the people of
God (see chap. 9: 16). The hill of God was in the
Philistines' hands (see also chap. 14: 52). If Saul had
waited for Samuel, he would have declared unto him all
that he should do. Now we shall see that, two years later,
Saul is put to the proof as to this in the presence of
the Philistines; and whatever may have been the delay,
the thing had not been altered; all the intermediate
success should have increased his faith and strengthened
him in obedience.
The choice of a
Samuel calls the people
together at Mizpeh. There he sets before them their
foolishness in rejecting the God of their salvation. But
he proceeds to the choice of a king, according to the
command of God. God meets the wishes of the people. If
the flesh could have glorified God, nothing was wanting
to induce them to trust in Him. God adapts Himself to
them in outward things; and further, as we know, had the
people followed Jehovah, Jehovah would not have forsaken
them (chap. 12: 20-25).
And now that God has set
up a king, those who will not own him are "men of
Belial." The people however scarcely see God in it
at all: they only recognise Him in those things which the
flesh can perceive, such as the beauty of the king and
the success of his arms, that is to say, the things in
which God suits Himself to nature, and in which He grants
blessing, in order that He may be known and trusted. In
this they rejoice, but they go no farther. Faith is not
 The God who had
said to him in the day of his trouble, when driven out
from before his enemy, that He would not forsake him.
 Accordingly it was the Spirit of
prophecy, the Spirit which acted in blessing, which
indicated the presence of God, and that to which Saul
should have recourse, even though (yea, because) the hill
of God, the public seat of His authority in Israel, was
in the hands of the enemies of the true people of God.
This scene pictured the whole state of Israel.