1When Samuel grew old, he made his sons judges in Israel. 2The elder son was named Joel and the younger one Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. 3But they did not follow their father's example; they were interested only in making money, so they accepted bribes and did not decide cases honestly.
4Then all the leaders of Israel met together, went to Samuel in Ramah, 5and said to him, “Look, you are getting old and your sons don't follow your example. So then, appoint a king to rule over us, so that we will have a king, as other countries have.” 6Samuel was displeased with their request for a king; so he prayed to the LORD, 7and the LORD said, “Listen to everything the people say to you. You are not the one they have rejected; I am the one they have rejected as their king. 8Ever since I brought them out of Egypt, they have turned away from me and worshipped other gods; and now they are doing to you what they have always done to me. 9So then, listen to them, but give them strict warnings and explain how their kings will treat them.”
10Samuel told the people who were asking him for a king everything that the LORD had said to him. 11“This is how your king will treat you,” Samuel explained. “He will make soldiers of your sons; some of them will serve in his war chariots, others in his cavalry, and others will run before his chariots. 12He will make some of them officers in charge of a thousand men, and others in charge of fifty men. Your sons will have to plough his fields, harvest his crops, and make his weapons and the equipment for his chariots. 13Your daughters will have to make perfumes for him and work as his cooks and his bakers. 14He will take your best fields, vineyards, and olive groves, and give them to his officials. 15He will take a tenth of your corn and of your grapes for his court officers and other officials. 16He will take your servants and your best cattle and donkeys, and make them work for him. 17He will take a tenth of your flocks. And you yourselves will become his slaves. 18When that time comes, you will complain bitterly because of your king, whom you yourselves chose, but the LORD will not listen to your complaints.”
19The people paid no attention to Samuel, but said “No! We want a king, 20so that we will be like other nations, with our own king to rule us and to lead us out to war and to fight our battles.” 21Samuel listened to everything they said and then went and told the LORD. 22The LORD answered, “Do what they want and give them a king.” Then Samuel told all the men of Israel to go back home.
Saul Meets Samuel
1There was a wealthy and influential man named Kish, from the tribe of Benjamin; he was the son of Abiel and grandson of Zeror, and belonged to the family of Becorath, a part of the clan of Aphiah. 2He had a son named Saul, a handsome man in the prime of life. Saul was a head taller than anyone else in Israel and more handsome as well.
3Some donkeys belonging to Kish had wandered off, so he said to Saul, “Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys.” 4They went through the hill country of Ephraim and the region of Shalishah, but did not find them; so they went on through the region of Shaalim, but the donkeys were not there. Then they went through the territory of Benjamin, but still did not find them. 5When they came into the region of Zuph, Saul said to his servant, “Let's go back home, or my father might stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.”
6The servant answered, “Wait! In this town there is a holy man who is highly respected because everything he says comes true. Let's go to him, and maybe he can tell us where we can find the donkeys.”
7“If we go to him, what can we give him?” Saul asked. “There is no food left in our packs, and we haven't anything to give him, have we?”
8The servant answered, “I have a small silver coin. I can give him that, and then he will tell us where we can find them.”
9-11Saul replied, “A good idea! Let's go.” So they went to the town where the holy man lived. As they were going up the hill to the town, they met some young women who were coming out to draw water. They asked these women, “Is the seer in town?”
(At that time a prophet was called a seer, and so whenever someone wanted to ask God a question, he would say, “Let's go to the seer.”)
12-13“Yes, he is,” the young women answered. “In fact, he is just ahead of you. If you hurry, you will catch up with him. As soon as you go into the town, you will find him. He arrived in town today because the people are going to offer a sacrifice on the altar on the hill. The people who are invited won't start eating until he gets there, because he has to bless the sacrifice first. If you go now, you will find him before he goes up the hill to eat.” 14So Saul and his servant went on to the town, and as they were going in, they saw Samuel coming out towards them on his way to the place of worship.
15Now on the previous day the LORD had said to Samuel, 16“Tomorrow about this time I will send you a man from the tribe of Benjamin; anoint him as ruler of my people Israel, and he will rescue them from the Philistines. I have seen the suffering of my people and have heard their cries for help.”
17When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD said to him, “This is the man I told you about. He will rule my people.” 18Then Saul went over to Samuel, who was near the gate, and asked, “Tell me, where does the seer live?”
19Samuel answered, “I am the seer. Go on ahead of me to the place of worship. Both of you are to eat with me today. Tomorrow morning I will answer all your questions and send you on your way. 20As for the donkeys that were lost three days ago, don't worry about them; they have already been found. But who is it that the people of Israel want so much? It is you — you and your father's family.”
21Saul answered, “I belong to the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest tribe in Israel, and my family is the least important one in the tribe. Why, then, do you talk like this to me?”
22Then Samuel led Saul and his servant into the large room and gave them a place at the head of the table where the guests, about thirty in all, were seated. 23Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the piece of meat I gave you, which I told you to set aside.” 24So the cook brought the choice piece of the leg and placed it before Saul. Samuel said, “Look, here is the piece that was kept for you. Eat it. I saved it for you to eat at this time with the people I invited.”
So Saul ate with Samuel that day. 25When they went down from the place of worship to the town, they made up a bed for Saul on the roof,26and he slept there.
Samuel Anoints Saul as Ruler
At dawn Samuel called to Saul on the roof, “Get up, and I will send you on your way.” Saul got up, and he and Samuel went out to the street together. 27When they arrived at the edge of the town, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell the servant to go on ahead of us.” The servant left, and Samuel continued, “Stay here a minute, and I will tell you what God has said.”
1Then Samuel took a jar of olive oil and poured it on Saul's head, kissed him, and said, “The LORD anoints you as ruler of his people Israel. You will rule his people and protect them from all their enemies. And this is the proof to you that the LORD has chosen you to be the ruler of his people: 2when you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel's tomb at Zelzah in the territory of Benjamin. They will tell you that the donkeys you were looking for have been found, so that your father isn't worried any more about them but about you, and he keeps asking, ‘What shall I do about my son?’ 3You will go on from there until you come to the sacred tree at Tabor, where you will meet three men on their way to offer a sacrifice to God at Bethel. One of them will be leading three young goats, another one will be carrying three loaves of bread, and the third one will have a leather bag full of wine. 4They will greet you and offer you two of the loaves, which you are to accept. 5Then you will go to the Hill of God in Gibeah, where there is a Philistine camp. At the entrance to the town you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the altar on the hill, playing harps, drums, flutes, and lyres. They will be dancing and shouting. 6Suddenly the Spirit of the LORD will take control of you, and you will join in their religious dancing and shouting and will become a different person. 7When these things happen, do whatever God leads you to do. 8You will go ahead of me to Gilgal, where I will meet you and offer burnt sacrifices and fellowship sacrifices. Wait there seven days until I come and tell you what to do.”
9When Saul turned to leave Samuel, God gave Saul a new nature. And everything Samuel had told him happened that day. 10When Saul and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a group of prophets met him. Suddenly the Spirit of God took control of him, and he joined in their ecstatic dancing and shouting. 11People who had known him before saw him doing this and asked one another, “What has happened to the son of Kish? Has Saul become a prophet?” 12A man who lived there asked, “How about these other prophets — who do you think their fathers are?” This is how the saying originated, “Has even Saul become a prophet?” 13When Saul finished his ecstatic dancing and shouting, he went to the altar on the hill.
14Saul's uncle saw him and the servant, and he asked them, “Where have you been?”
“Looking for the donkeys,” Saul answered. “When we couldn't find them, we went to see Samuel.”
15“And what did he tell you?” Saul's uncle asked.
16“He told us that the animals had been found,” Saul answered — but he did not tell his uncle what Samuel had said about his becoming king.
Saul is Acclaimed as King
17Samuel called the people together for a religious gathering at Mizpah 18and said to them, “The LORD, the God of Israel, says, ‘I brought you out of Egypt and rescued you from the Egyptians and all the other peoples who were oppressing you. 19I am your God, the one who rescues you from all your troubles and difficulties, but today you have rejected me and have asked me to give you a king. Very well, then, gather yourselves before the LORD by tribes and by clans.’ ”
20Then Samuel made each tribe come forward, and the LORD picked the tribe of Benjamin. 21Then Samuel made the families of the tribe of Benjamin come forward, and the family of Matri was picked out. Then the men of the family of Matri came forward, and Saul son of Kish was picked out. They looked for him, but when they could not find him, 22they asked the LORD, “Is there still someone else?”
The LORD answered, “Saul is over there, hiding behind the supplies.”
23So they ran and brought Saul out to the people, and they could see that he was a head taller than anyone else. 24Samuel said to the people, “Here is the man the LORD has chosen! There is no one else among us like him.”
All the people shouted, “Long live the king!”
25Samuel explained to the people the rights and duties of a king, and then wrote them in a book, which he deposited in a holy place. Then he sent everyone home. 26Saul also went back home to Gibeah. Some powerful men, whose hearts God had touched, went with him. 27But some worthless people said, “How can this fellow do us any good?” They despised Saul and did not bring him any gifts.
Saul Defeats the Ammonites
1About a month later King Nahash of Ammon led his army against the town of Jabesh in the territory of Gilead and besieged it. The men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Make a treaty with us, and we will accept you as our ruler.”
2Nahash answered, “I will make a treaty with you on one condition: I will put out everyone's right eye and so bring disgrace on all Israel.”
3The leaders of Jabesh said, “Give us seven days to send messengers throughout the land of Israel. If no one will help us, then we will surrender to you.”
4The messengers arrived at Gibeah, where Saul lived, and when they told the news, the people started crying in despair. 5Saul was just coming in from the field with his oxen, and he asked, “What's wrong? Why is everyone crying?” They told him what the messengers from Jabesh had reported. 6When Saul heard this, the Spirit of God took control of him, and he became furious. 7He took two oxen, cut them in pieces, and sent messengers to carry the pieces throughout the land of Israel with this warning: “Whoever does not follow Saul and Samuel into battle will have this done to his oxen!”
The people of Israel were afraid of what the LORD might do, and all of them, without exception, came out together. 8Saul gathered them at Bezek: there were 300,000 from Israel and 30,000 from Judah. 9They said to the messengers from Jabesh, “Tell your people that before noon tomorrow they will be rescued.” When the people of Jabesh received the message, they were overjoyed 10and said to Nahash, “Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you can do with us whatever you wish.”
11That night Saul divided his men into three groups, and at dawn they rushed into the enemy camp and attacked the Ammonites. By noon they had slaughtered them. The survivors scattered, each man running off by himself.
12Then the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Where are the people who said that Saul should not be our king? Hand them over to us, and we will kill them!”
13But Saul said, “No one will be put to death today, for this is the day the LORD rescued Israel.” 14And Samuel said to them, “Let us all go to Gilgal and once more proclaim Saul as our king.” 15So they all went to Gilgal, and there at the holy place they proclaimed Saul king. They offered fellowship sacrifices, and Saul and all the people of Israel celebrated the event.