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I Samuel 10:1-6, The Anointing of Saul I

In the previous chapter (I Sam. 9), Samuel had given Saul several hints that something very special was going to happen to him very soon.  The chapter today describes that special thing.  In a word, it is Samuel’s anointing Saul to be the first king of the people of Israel.  But because there was no model of kingship already devised by the Israelites, they had to look to neighbors for guidance as well as try to develop their own institutions that resonated with their unique experience.  We will see in this chapter, for example, the text struggling towards a view of kingship that may include some kind of prophetic utterances. Those utterances will disappear soon enough, though not before we focus on the spirit “jumping on” people.


We recall from I Sam. 9 that Saul was basically minding his own business, looking for some flocks of his father that had wandered off. Though he was a handsome and tall man, he was from an undistinguished family of an undistinguished tribe. He met Samuel, who made sure that Saul stayed with him because God had revealed to Samuel that this one was the one who would be anointed as king.  Now we are ready for the events of chapter 10.


                                          Samuel Anoints Saul as King


In I Sam. 10:1-6 we will have the anointing of Saul. Then Samuel explains to Saul that he will encounter three groups of people. Let’s look at all four of these events.


First— Samuel anoints Saul by pouring oil from a flask over his head. The word for “flask” or “jar” here is φακός, which Brenton renders as “vial” and the NETS as “flask.” The word literally means “lentil,” and so many scholars have thought that this means a “lentil-shaped” flask or vessel. A different word is used when David is anointed a few chapters later. Samuel again will be the anointer but the vessel used is a κέρας, a “horn” of oil (I Sam. 16:13). Just as we don’t know exactly what the musical instruments or the garments of Israelite antiquity looked like, so we don’t know the differences among several Greek words for “jars” or other kinds of “containers.” We just have the treasury of words.


This anointing is serious stuff. Saul will now be ruler over Israel (something that Samuel says twice), and Saul will save the people from the surrounding enemies. The anointing means that the “Lord has anointed thee for a ruler over his inheritance.” Sounds pretty solemn and pretty permanent. There isn’t an asterisk by this that says—oops, it may be an anointing that only lasts a few weeks.  If I were Saul, I would take this act to mean that my life as an obscure shepherd was over, and that I would literally become a new man (cf. the last words of v. 6).


Note that at this stage the anointing seems to be a private affair. It will be made public, of course, in due time, but for now, it is a private ceremony.


                                       Meeting Up With Three Groups of People


Second— Samuel explains that Saul will encounter two men at Rachel’s tomb in the hill country (the word is really “mountain”—ὁρίῳ) of Benjamin. Fascinating to me is that the LXX then introduces two words that indicate the translators were confused by the underlying Hebrew.  They are ἁλλομένους μεγάλα or “jumping big” or “jumping greatly” or “jumping excitedly,” while the Hebrew just has an additional geographical reference. How will you know the men?  They will be “jumping greatly.”  High jump practice? Excited? This unintended comical description is quickly replaced by words that the two men will say to Saul.  They will inform him that his father’s donkeys have been found (phew!  Saul is now off the hook for that one), but that other concerns have now developed.


The family back home is now concerned about Saul’s well-being.  The LXX uses two colorful or rare Greek words to describe the worry that now occupies Saul’s father’s mind.  First, his father ἀποτετίνακται. It derives from αποτινάσσω, which means to “shake off” a burden or to “stop concerning oneself about” something. It only appears twice more in the LXX (Jud. 16:20; Lam. 2:7), and It appears twice in the NT, once to describe the shaking a snake off a person (Acts 28:5) and once to describe Jesus’ advice to his followers if they are rejected or not received by people:  ‘Shake off (verb is αποτινάσσω) the dust from your feet and move on’ (Luke 9:5). Thus, the sentence that the NETS renders “Your father has disposed of the matter” in verse 2 really means that the father has “shaken off” the lingering inconvenience or pain of the matter. In fact, Muraoka’s second translation of the verb, given above as “stop concerning oneself about” is somewhat infelicitous because the way the second verb, to which we now turn, has often carried with it the connotation of worry.  Thus, if we adopt Muraoka’s suggestion, we would just have Samuel repeating himself—with two rare verbs.


But then a rare verb enters, and frankly it is a cipher.  It is from the verb δαψιλεύομαι, whose basic meaning in Greek is to “be abundant” or “bestow lavishly” on someone.  Interestingly, this is the unique meaning of the word in the big LSJ dictionary, except in this one passage in I Sam. 10:2, where the LSJ gives it a separate entry as “be anxious” or “careworn.” Both Brenton and the NETS pick up on the “anxious” or “worried” translation of δαψιλεύομαι, but that rendering, though probably right in this context, has no precedence in Greek literature.  It is what I call a “literary Melchizedek,” without father or mother but continues forever. . .


In any case, then, what is intended to be a rather straightforward sentence in 10:2— “your father has shaken off the matter and is worried about you”—has become more complicated especially by δαψιλεύομαι.  But ultimately we go with the LSJ on this one, even though the final two words of the verse add to confusion rather than clarity.  They talk about the father’s worry “on account of you,” though “you” is in the plural. Perhaps we can quickly “cover” that translation to say that it refers to Saul and his entourage, and that no doubt is correct, but it makes us stop and realize the limitations we face as translators.




Care in reading the text closely yields both interesting words (for the flask, for the father’s worry) as well as the sense that this is a most momentous event, not just in Saul’s life but in the life of the people of Israel.  Now we move to the other two groups of people that Samuel tells Saul he will encounter.

I Samuel 10:1-6, Second Essay
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