Now, it will be very easy, and completely understandable if anyone read this and thought me probably anti-Semitic, but that is not my intention. The story of Saul has pained me in the past, and upon reading it today, I was reminded of the trials an ordinary man was put through. I would chronicle them, and you may make your inferences.
The Account of Saul
It began simply.
Miz’ath the tanner, sat upon a rock looking over the mountains. His eyes were black, the lids thin and papery from too many days staring at the sun. He was a goodly man, strong and caring towards his family. It was his fortune and misfortune that he sat on that stone that day. For there he was, humming a song under his breath, a blade of grass between his lips when he saw a strange thing. Approaching him with speed, a cloud of dust and the sound of beating hooves. Philistines! Miz’ath feared, for though he was a man of Zuph and a believer in the LORD, it was many years the Philistines had held Israel bondage, and he was quite vulnerable, he knew, to a very sharp blade.
He sprang to his feet, ready to run the fastest sprint of his forty-odd years at the first sign of a gleaming blade. That was when he saw the really strange thing. Twenty asses, their backs branded with a Benjaminite symbol, stampeded past him, their hooves drumming a rumbling tattoo. The eyes of the asses were wide and crazed, and they ran like the very devils were after them. Around him they went, and sprinted back the way they came. No one was whipping them. No one was chasing them. The asses ran of their own accord. An impossible thing. No one believed Miz’ath. Not till this day.
But the asses of Kish the Banjaminite were missing that day, and he sent his son Saul, a very tall and well appointed man, to go fetch them. Saul journeyed after the asses to Zuph where he met Samuel, a man of GOD and seer since childhood, and inquired of him where the asses could be. But the asses were back in the land of Kish, by some strange miracle returned, and Samuel, hearkening of Jehovah, blessed Saul and anointed him Captain over all the people.
But people are not so easily convinced, and neither was Saul.
As a man, Saul had never had any illusions. He was of the tribe of Benjamin, the minority of the people of Isra-el, and he was content with a few servants and the asses and oxen of his father. In time, perhaps he would have gone into Ahinoam his wife, once more, and she would have borne him another son as a protector to Merab and Michal, his daughters. So when Samuel spoke to him, he believed little, and spoke to none in his family all that the seer had said.
But the LORD is powerful and praised be his name!
Samuel called the children of Isra-el, from all the tribes in the land, and a lot was cast: The great election by the Spirit of the King of Isra-el. The tribe of Benjamin, against all odds was chosen in this lot. And another lot was cast within the tribe. And within it, the family of Matri was taken. Again, the people wondered. And by the Spirit, a man was chosen of the family of Matri, the son of Kish, who was the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the man Saul. The word was confirmed, Saul King. And yet the man was absent, hiding in the stuff. But Samuel found him, and behold when he stood, he was a good head and shoulders taller than all who stood there. And the people cried, “GOD save the King!”
But many doubted and disbelieved and despised him. And so it was for a while.
But calamity creates the strangest bedfellows, and it is true even in old Israel.
Of the Ammonites, there was a brash and bearded man, whose club was daily stained red and whose countenance was the etching of warding plates. His name was Nahash and he camped against the people of Jabesh-gilead of Israel and threatened to put out their right eyes. When Saul was told of this, he was in the field mowing. A pleasant day, and a warm sun. In anger, he took up the oxen and slew them. Tearing the meat into pieces, he sent to all the villages and the towns, great and small, from coast to coast of Israel.
“Behold these oxen pieces, if you don’t come out to support me and Samuel, I swear, your house shall be as these oxen”
It was a good message. A scary message. And the people came out. Three hundred thousand Isra-el, and thirty thousand fierce men of Judah. The battle was won easily and the people crowned Saul, king.
This was only the beginning of his trouble.
You know when you’re destined for great things, but you don’t want them. All he wanted was a simple life, and kinghood was thrust upon him. Prophesied kinghood, all events orchestrated by Power beyond him. He couldn’t help it, Saul, he couldn’t. A man, the first King of Israel, and he was destined to fail.
It was maybe three years later, when the Philistines gathered themselves thirty thousand chariots, six thousand horsemen and enough people as the sand on a beach. A great multitude they were, and they came to wage war against Isra-el. Now, they, the Philistines, were greatly angered because Jonathan, son of Saul, had with a thousand men, slain an entire Philistine garrison at Geba, an act of war.
Samuel instructed Saul and told him, gather the Hebrews and wait for me, seven days. But the people were scared, and some fled the country. Some waited in Gilgal with Saul, their souls faint and their hearts trembling and when on the seventh day, Samuel had still not come, the Philistines were closer than before and the people began to panic again. Many scattered. So Saul made a sacrifice. And as soon as he did so, Samuel appeared and in anger cursed him and his kingdom.
Saul was shocked. The circumstances had called for it. The people were fleeing, Samuel the seer was nowhere in sight, there was nothing left to do, so he had sacrificed while he waited for Samuel. It was the goodly thing. But Samuel was angry and left Saul. All the people left, and with Saul and Jonathan remained only six hundred men.
Of this six hundred, there wasn’t a single weapon of war between them, save the swords of Jonathan and Saul. For in the whole of Israel, the Philistines had ensured not a smith was found, lest the Hebrews make for themselves spears and swords. But Jonathan was a brilliant man, skilled in counter-insurgency and the darkest of the clandestine arts.
First he wore a hood for a while, then substituted himself with a likeness, purportedly with Ahiah, great-grandson of Eli, who was priest of Shiloh before Samuel’s birth, and snuck into the Philistine barracks with none but his amour bearer. And he said:
“Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised, it may be that the LORD will work for us, for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few.”
And alone, Jonathan and his amour bearer stood before an entire garrison, two men standing before three thousand. And in the first slaughter, they killed twenty. And so the Philistines feared and ran, each falling upon his brother in their haste to flee. And the bravery of Jonathan and his faith in GOD was evident that day.
But few remember it.
That same day, with victory within their grasp as they saw what Jonathan had done, Saul ordered that the people fast, and not eat a bite until they had vanquished their enemies. But Jonathan was not present and he did not know. So, while they chased after the Philistines, he saw honey on the ground and he took and ate. And his eyes were enlightened, and he was stronger while the people grew faint with hunger. But because he had eaten, after Saul had said, cursed be the man who eats before all their enemies had been destroyed, Jonathan had to die. He who had wrought the great salvation for Israel was to die because he tasted a little honey, in ignorance.
It was a sad day for Israel, and the people were hungry.
Saul made an offering to GOD, to ask for guidance, but GOD answered him not. And he wondered, what was the sin? [for then, he did not know of Jonathan’s transgression, because the people told him not] So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonathan. And so Saul asked what he did, and after being told, condemned his son to die. But the people refused and swore not to let a hair on Jonathan’s head be harmed, and so Jonathan was saved by good luck.
And in this case, Saul had obeyed first. Not long after, when they warred with the Amalekites, he sacrificed first and Samuel cursed his kingdom again. All that was detestable, all that was vile, Saul destroyed of the Amalekites, and all that was good; of the fattest cattle and oxen, he sacrificed to the LORD, taking none for himself or the people of Isra-el, for he sought only to appease the LORD. But that was not the commandment, and despite his intentions, GOD repented he made Saul king. For GOD has greater delight in obedience than in sacrifice. And though Saul begged and knelt before Samuel, and pled his case before the eyes of the elders of Israel, Samuel turned from him and the LORD heard him not.
And thus, the First kingdom of the Hebrews ended. And a Bethlehemite was chosen and raised to be king, even under Saul’s roof, though not of his house. A young man, David, prone to easy sin, but contrite in heart, a good man, and a man after GOD’s own heart.
1 Samuel 9 – 1 Samuel 15.
This is something each of us could have read ourselves, I simply painted this to give an all round picture of the man and the situation. But the letter killeth, so you could read this from the Bible on your own. The important thing, the question that bothers me; was it fair? Did he deserve it? If you read past chapter 15 of the book of Samuel, you see a story of man who slowly fell obsession, reduced to epileptic fits and rages. A man who believed strongly in his GOD-given [bestowed more like, bequeathed even] right to rule, and was driven mad as a result. A man who was subverted by his own subjects, usurped, and upon his divine throne, replaced by a shepherd boy. His name, all but forgotten in the annals of history, remembered only as the villain in the David stories and in pictures as the one who threw the spear. If it were that he had sought the position, had wanted to be a king, it would be different. But he didn’t, it was forced upon him, a burden he was destined to buckle under.
• Again, I did not seek to defame the Testaments. I merely read and wonder in sadness.
• I am a Christian. And I love GOD.
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GOD bless Nigeria.