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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[1 Kings 8–15]

SAMUEL having grown old appointed his two sons as Judges over Israel. They, however, were not just and God-fearing like their father, but took bribes and perverted judgment. So the ancients came to Samuel and said: “Thy sons walk not in thy ways; therefore give us a king to judge us, as all nations have.” This word was displeasing to Samuel, for he knew that the Lord was their king, and none other. Still the Lord told him to hearken to the voice of the people, and to give them a king for their punishment. Moreover, he added, the king would rule over them with a heavy hand, and they would cry out and lament, but the Lord would not hear them, because they had desired for themselves a king.

Now there was a man of the tribe of Benjamin who lost his asses, and he said to Saul, his son: “Take one of the servants with thee, and arise, go, and seek the asses.” So they both started out, seeking the asses; and not being able to find them anywhere, they resolved to go to the city of Suph in order to consult Samuel, the seer, about them. Now the day before Saul’s arrival, the Lord had spoken to Samuel: “To-morrow, about this same hour, I will send to thee a man, whom thou shalt anoint king over my people Israel.” It so happened that Samuel met Saul in the midst of the city. And Samuel said: “Go up before me, that you may eat with me to-day, and that I may let you go in the morning; and as for the asses, be not solicitous, for they are found.” Next morning, when the day began to dawn, Samuel took a little vial of oil, and poured it on the head of Saul, and kissed him, and said: “Behold, the Lord has anointed thee to be prince over His inheritance.”

Thereupon Samuel assembled the people, and Saul stood in their midst; and he was a choice man, being taller than any one else from his shoulders and upwards. Then Samuel said: “Behold him whom the Lord has chosen.” And the people cried out: “God save the king!”

Now the people of Amalec were very bad, and the measure of their iniquity was full. God, in His wrath, sent Samuel to Saul, saying: “Go and smite Amalec and all that he hath. Spare him not, nor covet anything that is his, but slay both man and woman and child, ox and sheep and camel.”

Saul, therefore, waged war against Amalec, and defeated them along the line from Hevila till Sur. The common people he slew with the edge of the sword; but, contrary to the command of God, he spared Agag the king. The flocks and herds of little value he also destroyed, but spared the best flocks and the best herds. Moreover, filled with pride, and forgetting that success comes from God, he erected an arch of triumph in memory of his victory.

When Samuel had come to the camp of Israel, Saul said to him: “I have fulfilled the word of the Lord.” Samuel answered: “What meaneth, then, the bleating of the flocks, and the lowing of the herds which I hear?” Saul tried to excuse himself, saying that the people had spared the best flocks and herds, to sacrifice them to the Lord. Samuel, being angry, spoke to him in the name of the Lord: “Doth the Lord desire holocausts and victims, and not rather that the voice of the Lord should be obeyed? For obedience is better than sacrifices; and to hearken better than to offer the fat of rams. For as much, therefore, as thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord hath also rejected thee from being king over Israel. The Lord hath rent the kingdom from thee this day, and has given it to one who is better.” Then Samuel departed, and beheld Saul no more till the day of his death.

God’s Providence directed that the asses should be lost and that Saul, while seeking them, should meet Samuel. By God’s command Samuel anointed Saul king, and presented him as such to the people. God commands and directs everything as He wills.

God’s Goodness to the Israelites is shown by His granting their request to have a king. It was Saul, however, whom he especially loaded with proofs of His love. Saul acknowledged his unworthiness in the words which he used to Samuel: “I am of the least tribe of Israel, and my kindred the least among all the families of the tribe of Benjamin!” And yet God chose him to be king over His people, turned the hearts of the Israelites towards him, and gave him the victory over all his enemies.—What more could God have done to ensure Saul’s unbounded gratitude and willing obedience?

The Justice of God. Saul was ungrateful and disobedient to God, and therefore the punishment of divine justice fell on him. He was rejected by God; God’s blessing left him; and his throne passed, not to his son, but to David.

Pride. Saul’s misfortunes sprang from pride. He became proud on account of his high dignity, and on account of the victories which God gave him, so that he began to trust in himself and did not give glory to God. Being proud and arrogant, he no longer obeyed God’s commands, but kept back the best of the flocks of the Amalekites. Pride leads to disobedience. When Saul, by his grievous sin, had forsaken God, then God forsook him. “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

Obedience to God. To Saul’s excuse that the flocks and herds had been kept to offer as sacrifices, Samuel, filled with the Holy Ghost, replied: “Obedience is better than sacrifice”, i. e. sacrifices of beasts are good and pleasing to God if they are offered with a right intention; but still better and more pleasing to God is obedience, whereby a man offers to God the spiritual sacrifice of his own will, on the altar of his heart. By sacrifices man gives to God something which he possesses; by obedience he offers himself, and his free will, the noblest of all his possessions. He who loves God will love and do His holy will.

Jesus Christ or the Anointed. In the Old Testament kings, as well as High Priests, were the anointed of the Lord. In the New Testament Jesus, being both High Priest and King, is indeed the Christ, i. e. the Anointed.

The kingdom of Israel belonged to God. It was a theocracy which means that hitherto the Lord God had been the immediate King, Lawgiver and Leader of His people. Now it was His will to give them an earthly king to be His representative, and to govern them in His name, and according to His laws. He did not let them choose their own king, but set over them one whom He chose, in order to show the Israelites that He Himself still remained their supreme King and Lord. He established the kingdom of Israel in order, firstly, to bind the twelve tribes into a closer unity than had existed under the Judges; secondly, to show the people that even under kings they could prosper only if they observed the laws of God; and thirdly, to foreshadow the kingdom of the Messias. Kings, princes, and all heads of States reign “by the grace of God”: because they receive the power from Him and govern in His name; therefore their subjects ought to honour, love and obey them, as the representatives of God. “Fear God; honour the king” (1 Petr. 2:17).

APPLICATION. Ask yourself whether you are proud or self-willed? Do you give glory to God when you succeed in anything? Do you boast? Are you fond of talking about yourself? Do you take pleasure in praising others, or is it more pleasing to you to find fault with them? No other virtue is of any value in God’s sight, without humility. You owe to God everything that you are, or have, or can do; therefore, thank God and do not offend Him by pride. Be very careful to-day to utter no word in self-praise. Do not tell an untruth nor feign piety as Saul did.








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