I Samuel 10:7-16, Anointing of Saul III
Samuel has not yet finished his instructions to Saul. Recall that Samuel has anointed him King of Israel in a private ceremony, but then explained to Saul that he would meet up with three groups of people. Each encounter is stranger than its predecessor. First, he meets two men, jumping greatly, who tell him that the donkeys he is seeking have been found but now his father is worried about him (even though it is a stretch to translate δαψιλεύομαι in this way). The second group will ask him how he is doing, give him some bread, but then continue on their way to sacrifice to God at Bethel. The third group he will encounter is a band of prophets, accompanied by four musical instruments that no doubt stir up their prophetic gifts. Then, the Spirit of the Lord will jump on Saul, he will prophesy and he will be turned into another man (στραφήσῃ εἰς ἄνδρα ἄλλον).
Two Final Things (10:7-8)
Once Saul has been turned into a new man, he will learn two important things (vv 7-8). First, he will be able to do anything he wants, because God is with him (v 7). More specifically, the text says:
καὶ ἔσται ὅταν ἥξει τὰ σημεῗα ταῦτα ἐπὶ σέ ποίει πάντα ὅσα ἐὰν εὕρῃ ἡ χείρ σου ὅτι θεὸς μετὰ σοῦ. .
“And it will be that whenever these signs have come on you, do whatever your hand finds to do, because God is with you.”
This is an astonishingly broad statement, and the impression given is that it is carte blanche for Saul to do whatever is impressed on or enters his mind. The Lord is with him; he has a prophetic gift; he is a new person; therefore, everything he does must be an expression of the Lord’s operating through him. So suddenly and completely has Saul been transformed!
But Samuel also tells Saul that there will be a religious ceremony, a sacrifice at Galgala, where Saul will receive further instructions from Samuel (v 8). A crucial phrase then enters our text, which is uttered and then sticks to our ears even though it is not mentioned for a few chapters. Samuel says, “Wait there seven days (ἑπτὰ ἡμέρας διαλείψεις) until I come to you.” We get the impression that Samuel will join Saul in a week. Then, he abruptly departs.
Saul, the New Man (10:9-10)
The next verse (v 9) is a study of “turning.” In fact, if we read vv 6 and 9 carefully, we realize that the verbal root στρέφω (“to turn”) is used three times in those two verses. Obviously, this is all about “turning” or changing or becoming new. In v 6 we have the basic verb form στρέφω to say that Saul will “turn into” a new man. Then, in v 9 we have Samuel “turning back” with his shoulder (ἐπιστρέφω) as he departs. When this happens, Saul is actually turned/transformed into a new man (μεταστρέφω).
Once all this “turning” takes place, all the signs spoken of by Samuel happen that day. Actually, the text doesn’t review the meeting with the first two groups of men but quickly moves on to the encounter with the prophets. Saul comes to the “hill/mountain/high place” (βουνόν) and meets up with the “chorus/band/dancing band of prophets” (χορὸς προφητῶν). And, guess what? Yep, the Spirit jumps on Saul there (v 10). But the jumping is expressed with ἅλλομαι, which is obviously meant to be synonymous with the εφαλλομαι of v 6. Saul speaks his prophetic utterances, just as Samuel had said.
Saul, the Different/Strange Man (10:11-12)
But Saul’s personal transformation, though it might seem to be approved by God, is seen as strange by the people. Vv 11-16 discuss both the reaction of the crowd as well as what Saul tells his family when he returns home. The crowd uses a Hebraic expression to describe the long familiarity of the crowd with Saul, a phrase that is literally rendered by the Greek οἱ εἰδότες αὐτὸν ἐχθὲς καὶ τρίτην—“those who knew him yesterday and the day before yesterday” (v 11). They say to their neighbors. “What is this thing that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also to be included among the prophets?” (v 11).
Ah, maybe people had seen these things previously, where shepherds from an undistinguished family all of a sudden turn into prophets. From the perspective of climbing the social structure of Israel, this might have been a wise choice. There might be little future for you watching the flocks, but perhaps a great future awaits you as a prophet. I think there may be a correlation in other societies between disappointed career expectations and subsequent “conversions” to religious service. Well, in this case it didn’t seem that Saul was necessarily disappointed in his shepherding task—but perhaps the loss of his father’s sheep might mean that he wasn’t very good at it. We don’t know.
The people keep reflecting and commenting on what is before them. And, the next thing they wonder is if Kish is really his father. This new “conversion” into prophecy seems to make people wonder where this motivation or skill might have come from. Might Saul have a different father? (v 12). But an equally incredulous question seemed to circulate: “Is Saul (now) one of the prophets?” (v 12).
Saul Back Home (10:13-16)
Well, even after a mountaintop experience like this, one eventually has to go home. How does a prophet (and a king) return home? When he left home he was a simple shepherd. How can his family even conceptualize the possibility that he returns as a completely new person? We send our children away to college and they sometimes return as “new people,” but usually there is a recognizable continuity between the “before” and “after.” In this case the change is immense. We learn that one of his kinsmen (ὁ οἰκεῗος αὐτοῦ) or, literally, a “dweller in his house,” asks him where he had gone. Simple question, but very complex answer if Saul is to tell the whole truth. He lets on that he was looking for donkeys and went to the prophet Samuel to see if he knew where they were. The kinsman then says, innocently enough (v 15):
ἀπάγγειλον δή μοι τί εἶπέν σοι Σαμουηλ
“Tell me what Samuel said to you.”
Ummmm. . . Saul shows himself as one who can think quickly on his feet. He doesn’t want to “spill the beans” yet, since Samuel has said something about waiting seven days for him. Surely that would be a better time to let the cat out of the bag. And, perhaps, Samuel is the better person to do it. So, Saul just said that Samuel told him the donkeys were found, and he omitted the word about the kinship (v 16).
Thus, we have an endearing story of Saul’s personal transformation, under the influence of the Spirit of God, to enable him to take on the awesome responsibilities of managing a kingdom. We see that he isn’t seeking the limelight, and so is waiting for the “seven days” when Samuel will come back and reveal to him things about kingship. We can hardly wait. . .
I Samuel 10:17-27
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