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all prophesying: then would Saul be endowed with the spirit of God, and he also would prophesy. He was to wait for Samuel at Gilgal during seven days, when he would come and advise him upon all measures that were then to be taken.
The Benjamite youth parted from the prophet, and set forth on his journey. Everything happened as Samuel had predicted. On Mount Tabor, the men gave him their offerings with a foreboding of his royalty, and at Gibea-Elohim the prophets accepted him as one of their company. The spirit of God came upon him; he felt an altered man; the mind of the simple young herdsman was roused and enlightened as it had never been before, so that the people of his acquaintance asked with astonishment, - What is this that has come to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets ?' So striking was the change that the saying passed into a proverb. At GibeaElohim, Saul found also his uncle, who had waited for him, and asked anxiously whence he came. Saul related the story of the lost asses and of his visit to Samuel ; but all mention of his future kingdom he discreetly omitted: whether he did so on his own account, or by the advice and desire of Samuel, is not recorded.
Meanwhile Samuel called the people together at Mizpah; they came from all the tribes; and having once more solemnly pointed out the gravity of the step they had decided upon, he proceeded to elect their future ruler by the Divine oracle of the lot. The lot fell first upon the tribe of Benjamin, and then upon the family of Matri, next upon the household of Kish, and lastly upon his son Saul. But Saul was not present at the casting of the lots; he was searched for, found at last hidden in the fields, and brought before the assembled tribes. His majestic and comely person struck all beholders. As he approached, Samuel exclaimed, “Do you
see him that the Lord has chosen ? There is none like him among all the people!' A great shout rose up into the air, and for the first time the cry was heard in Israel, God save the king !'
Saul was accompanied to his house at Gibeah by a band of men, who had already declared themselves his followers, and who brought him presents. Some turbulent and discontented people, however, held aloof, and despised the young king, saying, “How shall this man save us ?' But Saul prudently left such taunts unnoticed. Indeed, his authority was far from universally acknowledged, though he was perhaps recognised as the leader of his own tribe. He lived in no regal state ; he did not even renounce his habitual occupations as herdsman of his father's cattle. He does not seem to have taken part in the government of the people ; he had scarcely the weight or importance of a Judge, for the voice of Samuel still held the nation in sway. The anointed king was overshadowed by the inspired prophet. A great occasion was required to give him distinction and power. That occasion did not tarry to present itself.
VII. THE REIGN OF SAUL.
80. SAUL'S WARS.
[1 Sam. XI.-XIV.]
Not only were the Philistines again making constant progress in the land of the Israelites, stationing their garrisons with impunity in the very heart of the country, but the heathen nations to the east of the Jordan likewise threatened and attacked the Hebrew tribes that had settled in those isolated parts.
A barbarous incident in this unequal warfare was destined to rouse the dormant energies of Saul, and to establish his greatness. Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had assaulted and besieged the city of Jabesh, in Gilead. He promised to make peace with the inhabitants, on condition that he would cut out all their right eyes,' as a sign of reproach to the people of Israel. The elders of Jabesh, well aware that they were too weak to hold out against the forces of Nahash, begged for a respite of seven days, at the end of which time, should they remain unaided, they would undergo the cruel disgrace with which they had been threatened. The messengers from Jabesh Gilead turned first to Gibeah, the residence of Saul. They had heard that he had been elected and anointed
by their great and wise prophet Samuel. They supposed, therefore, that, even if he were not recognised as king of Israel by all the tribes, he must possess considerable power and influence. They arrived breathless in Gibeah, and told their tale of anguish to the people, who received it with a loud wail. Saul was absent, tending the herds of his father. When he returned in the evening from the fields, bitter cries of distress struck upon his ear. When he learnt the cause, his burning anger was aroused. His kingly nature awoke. He sent his summons round. He ordered a yoke of oxen to be hewn into pieces, one of which was sent to each of the tribes of Israel with this message: Whosoever comes not after Saul and after Samuel-so shall it be done to his oxen.' This was the muster-call, rude but powerful, a mirror of the age. The people responded nobly; they rose as one man, and assembled at Bezek, an army of three hundred and thirty thousand men. Saul, placing himself at their head, marched to the succour of Jabesh. The Ammonites were defeated with terrible slaughter, put to flight, and scattered.
This glorious victory secured the fame and authority of Saul. So great was the enthusiasm which it kindled among the people, that, anxious to show their devotion, they offered to put to death those who had formerly despised him. Saul rejected this revengeful proposal ; his new reign should not be stained with the blood of any of his subjects. On the contrary, he ordered feasts of public rejoicing to be held, and sacrifices to be offered to God at Gilgal. All the people assembled round their king Saul and their prophet Samuel. There at Gilgal, the voice of the old leader was heard once more by the Israelites. In a forcible appeal, Samuel reviewed his past life, and called upon the nation to bear witness to his integrity and self-denial. He then gave a short sketch
of the dangers and misfortunes which, through God's help, they and their ancestors had overcome, from the time they left Egypt down to the recent discomfiture of Nahash and his army. He described their constant disobedience and sinfulness, which they had lately crowned by their obstinate demand for a visible monarch, whereas God should be their only ruler. To atone for all past failings, he implored both the king and the people to adhere firmly to their faith in God, and to act in submission to His behests. Honour, happiness, and prosperity were within their grasp, if they were obedient to Him. But if not, then His hand would be heavy against them, as it had often been against their fathers.
To prove to the people that he had spoken by Divine command, Samuel called down a sign from heaven. It was the season of the wheat-harvest, and the sky was a vault of serene, unbroken blue. Yet suddenly a terrific storm of thunder and lightning and rain burst forth. The affrighted people, thinking that this was a mark of Divine anger, expressed their repentance for having desired a king; but Samuel re-assured them, only exhorting them to revere God and to serve Him in truth. “But if you act wickedly,' he concluded, you shall be consumed, both you and your king.'
Before his campaign against the Ammonites, Saul appears as a young and simple husbandman living in his father's house; but now he is depicted as the true ruler of his people, with a body-guard of 3,000 men, and as the chief of a household of his own. We hear of his wife Ahinoam, of his three sons Jonathan, Ishui, and Melchishua, and of his two daughters Merab and Michal. He had made Abner his cousin, the son of Ner, the captain of his army. He himself shared the command with his eldest son Jonathan, for we are told that “a thousand men were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin. And this Jonathan,