Though the lesson doesn’t include chapters 12 and 14, the manual recommends them as supplemental reading and I agree. We need to read them to see the full story. There is quite a bit in this section, from the choice of Saul as King, to his usurpation of Samuel’s authority and consequent loss of authority, to the choice of David to replace him, to Saul’s madness, to the story of David slaying Goliath. Rather than try to cover all of that material, these study questions will focus on chapters 9-10, 13, and 16: Saul’s selection and downfall; David’s election.
The phrase “a choice young man” is a hendiadys: “young and tob.” What the word tob means is debatable. Some translate it here as “handsome,” others as “impressive,” others as “good.” The root of tob means “pleasant,” so perhaps the majority of translators assume that the tob means “good-looking” as it is used here, particularly since the final comment of the verse is about physical appearance. (Compare this verse to 1 Samuel 10:23-24.) Why would Saul’s handsomeness be relevant?
Verses 5 & 21: What attributes of Saul’s character do we see here?
Verse 8: Why is the servant so intent on visiting the seer?
According to Tesamura’s The First Book of Samuel (270), at the time a shekel was 11.4 g of silver, slightly more than $6 today, but it is difficult to know what its purchase value was at the time.
Verse 9: What is the difference between a prophet and a seer? What is the difference in the connotation of each?
Verses 22-24: Note: the footnote tells us that parlour could also be translated “dining area.” However, most scholars believe this was a sanctuary building on the city high place. (See verse 25.) Probably on the grounds of the holy site in the town, the “high place,” Saul is treated like the guest on whom everyone else has been waiting. What is the significance of that for Saul? For us?
This appears to be the first anointing recorded in the Old Testament. Mettinger suggests that anointing by a prophet was the sign that God had made a covenant with the person anointed. (See World Biblical Commentary 10:85).
Compare verse 1 to 1 Samuel 9:16. Why does Samuel refer to Israel as the Lord’s “inheritance”? What is the purpose of the signs that Samuel gives Saul? What does it mean to say that Saul “shalt be turned into another man” (verse 6)?
Verse 9: What does “God gave him another heart” mean? Is this the same thing spoken of in verse 6 or something else?
Verses 11 & 27: How do those who know Saul respond to his change?
Verse 12: Why do people ask “Is Saul among the prophets?” Why are they surprised at his behavior?
Verses 18-19: Why does Samuel give this speech before he chooses the king?
Verse 20: The phrase “was taken” suggests that the tribe of Benjamin was chosen by lot. Similarly, in the following verses, we see the family of Mari chosen, and Saul chosen by lot from that family. Why does Samuel make this decision by casting lots? Why not just announce that the Lord has revealed that Saul is to be king since the decision has already been made?
Verse 21: What attribute of Saul’s character do we see here?
The Philistines have occupied Israel, and Saul’s reign is closely connected to the role of the Philistines in Israel. In the first 4 verses we see Jonathan, Saul’s son, attack and overcome one of the Philistine garrisons (or perhaps destroy a marker designating the area as Philistine territory). (By the way, that Saul has a son old enough to lead an army into battle ought to make us wonder what 1 Samuel 9:2 meant when it described him as young.) In verse 5, the Philistines gather an army to put down this rebellion. In verse 6, the people of Israel, fearing the coming Philistine attack, hide in the rocks and caves. Samuel has made an appointment with Saul to meet in Gilgal after seven days. He is coming so that Israel can, through him, seek the Lord’s guidance and blessing in dealing with the Philistines. But he fails to keep the appointment and those who have been following Saul—the Israelite army—begin to scatter. As you read the following verses, keep this background in mind.
Verse 3: To whom is Saul referring when he uses the name “Hebrews,” usually a disparaging term in the Old Testament?
Verse 5: Note that 30,000 chariots is almost certainly an exaggeration, probably a multiplication by 10. But even 3,000 chariots is an enormous number by ancient standards. Recall that Sisera only had 900 (Judges 4:3.) Whichever number we take, what point is the writer making?
Verse 8: What is the effect of Samuel’s non-arrival on Saul’s troops (“the people”)?
Verse 9: Why does Saul offer the burnt offering?
Verse 10: What is the significance of the timing of Samuel’s arrival?
Verses 11-12: The word translated “forced” in verse twelve means exactly that: Saul says that, given the circumstances, he made himself do what he didn’t want to do. The writer has gone out of his way to show us the bind Saul found himself in so we will be sympathetic to Saul when he feels he has to offer the sacrifice himself. Why would the writer do that when the prophet condemns what Saul did? Why does Samuel react so strongly? Saul is not of the Levite lineage and, therefore, has no priesthood right to make the offering. But is that mistake the real issue here? Is it that for which Saul is punished? The writer of Samuel has placed this story immediately after the account of Samuel’s admonitions to the people regarding a king, though several years intervene between those admonitions and this story. (See 1 Samuel 13:1.) In other words, the writer probably could have placed several other stories between chapters 12 and 13. Why did he juxtapose these two stories in this way? Does that juxtaposition help us understand the point the writer is making?
Verses 13-14: The king was appointed through the prophet. Now he is replaced through the same prophet because he usurped the position and authority of that prophet—though we have no record of a commandment to Saul that he is directly contradicting, and offering sacrifice before battle was a normal thing to do. What did God command Saul that he did not obey? The word play in these verses is interesting: because Saul did not do what the Lord commanded, the Lord has commanded or appointed a new person to do what he commands. Is Saul’s punishment commensurate with his sin? How so or why not? Compare this story to the story of Saul and Agag in chapter 15. How are these stories the same? What do they reveal about Saul?
“I have rejected” is, literally “I have already rejected.”
Why did Samuel mourn for Saul? Why did the Lord reprove him for doing so? Samuel anointed Saul to be “captain” or prince (1 Samuel 9:16), but he will anoint David to be king. Yet Saul was anointed in response to the people’s demand for a king. How do you explain this difference?
Verse 2: How does Saul feel about Samuel? What does this tell us about Saul’s response to the news that he had been rejected by the Lord? (Compare 1 Samuel 15:26-31.)
Verses 4-5: Why were the elders of Bethlehem afraid when Samuel showed up? How would Samuel have come if he were not coming peaceably? Why to the elders and the family of Jesse need to sanctify or consecrate themselves? What do you think they would have done to do so? What effect would Samuel’s demand have on those to whom he spoke?
Verses 6-7: On what basis does Samuel seem to be making his decision?
Verses 7 & 12: In verse 7 the Lord tells Samuel that he doesn’t judge by outward appearance. Yet in verse 12, the first thing that Samuel notices is how good-looking David is. (The same was true of Saul, and the same word appears: “goodly” = tob.) What do you make of this? How do you reconcile these verses? In terms of the lesson taught by this story, why is it important that Samuel’s choice be rejected by the Lord?
Verse 10: Seven sons was an ideal, the perfect number. Does it mean anything that David comes after, in excess of, the seven?
In 1 Chronicles 2:15, David is said to be the seventh rather than the eighth son. We have no way of knowing whether the Chronicler was simply mistaken or the author of Samuel has added to the number of sons to make a point—and there are other possibilities.
Verse 11: Why hasn’t Jesse called David in for Samuel to consider? Why does Samuel forbid them to sit down to the feast until David has been brought? So what?
Verse 12: We see once again the theme of choosing the youngest (Jacob over Esau, Ephraim over Menassah, Nephi over Laman). Why is that such an important theme in our oldest scriptures? What does it say to us? To whom are we as elder brethren and sisters?
Verses 17-23: Why has the writer included this story? What does it show us about Saul? About David? Does it help prepare us for anything that is to come?
When Saul was chosen, Samuel cast lots before all of Israel in order to make that choice. and the people ratified the choice. However, Samuel had previously anointed Saul. In this chapter we see the anointing of David, an anointing that is followed quite a bit later by the ratification of the choice by Israel (2 Samuel 5:1-3). In both cases, the anointing was relatively private. How do you explain this sequence: private anointing followed by ratification? What is the connection between the anointing and the choice of the people?
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