top of page

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

After Saul is anointed by Samuel, Samuel tells him to be ready to encounter three groups of people.  He encounters the first group (of two people) near the tomb of Rachel. The unusual feature of these two men is that they are “jumping greatly/excitedly” (v 2), though they tell Saul that his donkeys have been found and they further tell him that his father is concerned for his welfare. It shows that even though he is anointed as king, he still has  familial responsibilities and connections.


                                                            Group Two 


The second group he encounters will consist of three men at the “terebinth of Tabor/Thabor,” a place otherwise unknown. They shall have some things with them as they go up to the high place to worship God:  τρία αἰγίδια (three he-goats); τρία ἀγγεῗα ἄρτων (three loaves of bread) and ἀσκὸν οἴνου (a pitcher/flask of wine). These three gifts to God are strikingly similar to the three gifts David’s father Jesse sends with David when Saul requested David play the lyre for him in I Sam. 16.  The gifts there are a γομορ ἄρτων (a basket/gomer of bread), an ἀσκὸν οἴνου (pitcher/flask of wine) and ἔριφον αἰγῶν ἕνα (one kid) (I Sam. 16:20). Perhaps this was the standard trifecta of gifts when you are offering to God or giving a gift to the anointed of God:  kids, bread, wine. 


But the three men in I Sam. 10:4 ask Saul how he is, and then decide to give him some of the bread, actually called δύο ἀπαρχὰς ἄρτων (literally, “two of the first-fruits of the bread,” but probably just meaning two loaves of bread), perhaps a recognition of his special status before God. There is no mention of what Saul is to do with the bread because the text takes us right into the next group.


                                                            Group Three


The third and final group of people Saul will meet, near the hill of God, is a “chorus” (χορῷ, or “group/band”) of prophets coming down from the “Bama.”  Whether this is the same as the Bethel shrine, where the three men are going, or the “hill of God” which Saul is approaching, is unclear, but it seems that the author is trying to suggest that the region is suffused with the presence of God.  That is evident in what happens next.


The band of prophets is coming down from “Bama,” and they will not just be alone as the “chorus” but they will be accompanied by a sort of primitive orchestra of instruments, the νάβλα καὶ τύμπανον καὶ αὐλὸς καὶ κινύρα, or the “nabla” (meaning uncertain) and “drums” and “flute/pipes” and “strings.”  When David is requested to play for Saul to refresh his spirit several chapters later, he will pluck the fourth of these instruments, the κινύρα (I Sam. 16:16). We are in the same universe of instruments and sounds.  Interestingly, the same instrument which stimulates the prophetic fervor in I Sam. 10:5 also calms the tormented Saul in 16:16.


                                          The Spirit Will “Jump On” Him


But what is fascinating to me is the description of what will happen to Saul when he encounters the band of prophets.  The Spirit of the Lord will “spring/jump on” him (verb is εφαλλομαι), Saul will prophesy and will be turned into another man (στραφήσῃ εἰς ἄνδρα ἄλλον, v 6). A complete conversion is in view.  Not only will Saul’s office or business change, but his personality will fully change to accommodate this new role and responsibility as King over the people.  Later, when Saul faces his darkest moments, when he is assailed by the evil spirit sent from God (I Sam. 16:14), we ought to remember that the “old Saul” has disappeared, and all that is left is the “other man.”


The language of the spirit “jumping upon” Saul is arresting, and invites further thought.  When the experience described by Samuel actually happens to Saul in verse 10, we have the spirit “jumping” on him. The verb there is ἅλλομαι, similar enough to εφαλλομαι, but without the prefix.  ἅλλομαι appears in relation to the Spirit of the Lord descending on a person in Jud. 14:6B (i.e., Recension B) where the Spirit “jumps” on Samson.  Interestingly enough, Recension A of this passage in Judges uses a different verb to describe the Spirit’s landing on Samson— κατευθύνω (or “to move in a straight line”).  κατευθύνω also appears in 14:19A in the same context of the Spirit landing on Samson.  Is this an indication that the two Recensions were “talking” to one another, and A decided in no uncertain terms that the language of “jumping on” just didn’t “fit” his understanding of the Spirit’s activity? In other essays I have argued that B seems to be “toning down” or “clarifying” A. Perhaps in this instance the same thing is happening, as B tries to “conform” the language of the Spirit with some other passages in Judges (especially the Spirit and Samson).


Then, εφαλλομαι also appears, with the Spirit as the subject, in I Sam. 11:6, where it again “jumps on Saul,” as well as in 16:13, where the Spirit “jumps on” David at his anointing. When the Spirit “jumps on” David, it is never said that it “jumps off” Saul, but the text uses the simple verb “departs” (ἀφίστημι is verb) to describe how it leaves Saul (16:14).




Samuel still isn’t finished with his advice and instructions to Saul on this momentous day just after his anointing as King of Israel, but enough has been said to show that this new institution of kingship still is associated strongly with the office of prophet or seer, and will have to evolve in Israel’s understanding before much longer. After David, the Spirit will not “jump” on people anymore. But for now it, like the two men Saul is to meet on the road, is leaping crazily.

I Samuel 10:7-16
Back to Septuagint Page

bottom of page