Founding the Monarchy

1 Samuel 8–11

Biblical Period

The People Request a King

Chapter 8

1When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons judges over Israel. 2The name of his first-born son was Joel, and his second son’s name was Abijah; they sat as judges in Beer-sheba. 3But his sons did not follow in his ways; they were bent on gain, they accepted bribes, and they subverted justice.

4All the elders of Israel assembled and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5and they said to him, “You have grown old, and your sons have not followed your ways. Therefore appoint a king for us, to govern us like all other nations.” 6Samuel was displeased that they said “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, 7and the Lord replied to Samuel, “Heed the demand of the people in everything they say to you. For it is not you that they have rejected; it is Me they have rejected as their king. 8Like everything else they have done ever since I brought them out of Egypt to this day—forsaking Me and worshiping other gods—so they are doing to you. 9Heed their demand; but warn them solemnly, and tell them about the practices of any king who will rule over them.”

10Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people, who were asking him for a king. 11He said, “This will be the practice of the king who will rule over you: He will take your sons and appoint them as his charioteers and horsemen, and they will serve as outrunners for his chariots. 12He will appoint them as his chiefs of thousands and of fifties; or they will have to plow his fields, reap his harvest, and make his weapons and the equipment for his chariots. 13He will take your daughters as perfumers, cooks, and bakers. 14He will seize your choice fields, vineyards, and olive groves, and give them to his courtiers. 15He will take a tenth part of your grain and vintage and give it to his eunuchs and courtiers. 16He will take your male and female slaves, your choice young men, and your asses, and put them to work for him. 17He will take a tenth part of your flocks, and you shall become his slaves. 18The day will come when you cry out because of the king whom you yourselves have chosen; and the Lord will not answer you on that day.”

19But the people would not listen to Samuel’s warning. “No,” they said. “We must have a king over us, 20that we may be like all the other nations: Let our king rule over us and go out at our head and fight our battles.” 21When Samuel heard all that the people said, he reported it to the Lord. 22And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed their demands and appoint a king for them.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “All of you go home.”

The Election of Saul

Chapter 9

1There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish son of Abiel son of Zeror son of Becorath son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of substance. 2He had a son whose name was Saul, an excellent young man; no one among the Israelites was handsomer than he; he was a head taller than any of the people.

3Once the asses of Saul’s father Kish went astray, and Kish said to his son Saul, “Take along one of the servants and go out and look for the asses.” 4He passed into the hill country of Ephraim. He crossed the district of Shalishah, but they did not find them. They passed through the district of Shaalim, but they were not there. They traversed the [entire] territory of Benjamin, and still they did not find them. 5When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, “Let us turn back, or my father will stop worrying about the asses and begin to worry about us.” 6But he replied, “There is a man of God in that town, and the man is highly esteemed; everything that he says comes true. Let us go there; perhaps he will tell us about the errand on which we set out.” 7“But if we go,” Saul said to his servant, “what can we bring the man? For the food in our bags is all gone, and there is nothing we can bring to the man of God as a present. What have we got?” 8The servant answered Saul again, “I happen to have a quarter-shekel of silver. I can give that to the man of God and he will tell us about our errand.”—9For-merly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he would say, “Come, let us go to the seer,” for the prophet of today was formerly called a seer.—10Saul said to his servant, “A good idea; let us go.” And they went to the town where the man of God lived.

11As they were climbing the ascent to the town, they met some girls coming out to draw water, and they asked them, “Is the seer in town?” 12“Yes,” they replied. “He is up there ahead of you. Hurry, for he has just come to the town because the people have a sacrifice at the shrine today. 13As soon as you enter the town, you will find him before he goes up to the shrine to eat; the people will not eat until he comes; for he must first bless the sacrifice and only then will the guests eat. Go up at once, for you will find him right away.” 14So they went up to the town; and as they were entering the town, Samuel came out toward them, on his way up to the shrine.

15Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed the following to Samuel: 16“At this time tomorrow, I will send a man to you from the territory of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him ruler of My people Israel. He will deliver My people from the hands of the Philistines; for I have taken note of My people, their outcry has come to Me.”

17As soon as Samuel saw Saul, the Lord declared to him, “This is the man that I told you would govern My people.” 18Saul approached Samuel inside the gate and said to him, “Tell me, please, where is the house of the seer?” 19And Samuel answered Saul, “I am the seer. Go up ahead of me to the shrine, for you shall eat with me today; and in the morning I will let you go, after telling you whatever may be on your mind. 20As for your asses that strayed three days ago, do not concern yourself about them, for they have been found. And for whom is all Israel yearning, if not for you and all your ancestral house?” 21Saul replied, “But I am only a Benjaminite, from the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my clan is the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin! Why do you say such things to me?”

22Samuel took Saul and his servant and brought them into the hall, and gave them a place at the head of the guests, who numbered about thirty. 23And Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the portion which I gave you and told you to set aside.” 24The cook lifted up the thigh and what was on it, and set it before Saul. And [Samuel] said, “What has been reserved is set before you. Eat; it has been kept for you for this occasion, when I said I was inviting the people.” So Saul ate with Samuel that day. 25They then descended from the shrine to the town, and [Samuel] talked with Saul on the roof.

26Early, at the break of day, Samuel called to Saul on the roof. He said, “Get up, and I will send you off.” Saul arose, and the two of them, Samuel and he, went outside. 27As they were walking toward the end of the town, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell the servant to walk ahead of us”—and he walked ahead—“but you stop here a moment and I will make known to you the word of God.”

Chapter 10

1Samuel took a flask of oil and poured some on Saul’s head and kissed him, and said, “The Lord herewith anoints you ruler over His own people. 2When you leave me today, you will meet two men near the tomb of Rachel in the territory of Benjamin, at Zelzah, and they will tell you that the asses you set out to look for have been found, and that your father has stopped being concerned about the asses and is worrying about you, saying: ‘What shall I do about my son?’ 3You shall pass on from there until you come to the terebinth of Tabor. There you will be met by three men making a pilgrimage to God at Bethel. One will be carrying three kids, another will be carrying three loaves of bread, and the third will be carrying a jar of wine. 4They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you shall accept. 5After that, you are to go on to the Hill of God, where the Philistine prefects reside. There, as you enter the town, you will encounter a band of prophets coming down from the shrine, preceded by lyres, timbrels, flutes, and harps, and they will be speaking in ecstasy. 6The spirit of the Lord will grip you, and you will speak in ecstasy along with them; you will become another man. 7And once these signs have happened to you, act when the occasion arises, for God is with you. 8After that, you are to go down to Gilgal ahead of me, and I will come down to you to present burnt offerings and offer sacrifices of well-being. Wait seven days until I come to you and instruct you what you are to do next.”

9As [Saul] turned around to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart; and all those signs were fulfilled that same day. 10And when they came there, to the Hill, he saw a band of prophets coming toward him. Thereupon the spirit of God gripped him, and he spoke in ecstasy among them. 11When all who knew him previously saw him speaking in ecstasy together with the prophets, the people said to one another, “What’s happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul too among the prophets?” 12But another person there spoke up and said, “And who are their fathers?” Thus the proverb arose: “Is Saul too among the prophets?” 13And when he stopped speaking in ecstasy, he entered the shrine.

14Saul’s uncle asked him and his servant, “Where did you go?” “To look for the asses,” he replied. “And when we saw that they were not to be found, we went to Samuel.” 15“Tell me,” said Saul’s uncle, “what did Samuel say to you?” 16Saul answered his uncle, “He just told us that the asses had been found.” But he did not tell him anything of what Samuel had said about the kingship.

17Samuel summoned the people to the Lord at Miz-pah 18and said to them, “Thus said the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘I brought Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the hands of the Egyptians and of all the kingdoms that oppressed you.’ 19But today you have rejected your God who delivered you from all your troubles and calamities. For you said, ‘No, set up a king over us!’ Now station yourselves before the Lord, by your tribes and clans.”

20Samuel brought forward each of the tribes of Israel, and the lot indicated the tribe of Benjamin. 21Then Samuel brought forward the tribe of Benjamin by its clans, and the clan of the Matrites was indicated; and then Saul son of Kish was indicated. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. 22They inquired of the Lord again, “Has anyone else come here?” And the Lord replied, “Yes; he is hiding among the baggage.” 23So they ran over and brought him from there; and when he took his place among the people, he stood a head taller than all the people. 24And Samuel said to the people, “Do you see the one whom the Lord has chosen? There is none like him among all the people.” And all the people acclaimed him, shouting, “Long live the king!”

25Samuel expounded to the people the rules of the monarchy, and recorded them in a document which he deposited before the Lord. Samuel then sent the people back to their homes. 26Saul also went home to Gibeah, accompanied by upstanding men whose hearts God had touched. 27But some scoundrels said, “How can this fellow save us?” So they scorned him and brought him no gift. But he pretended not to mind.

Saul and the Ammonites

Chapter 11

1Nahash the Ammonite marched up and besieged Jabesh-gilead. All the men of Jabesh-gilead said to Na-hash, “Make a pact with us, and we will serve you.” 2But Nahash the Ammonite answered them, “I will make a pact with you on this condition, that everyone’s right eye be gouged out; I will make this a humiliation for all Israel.” 3The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days’ respite, so that we may send messengers throughout the territory of Israel; if no one comes to our aid, we will surrender to you.” 4When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and gave this report in the hearing of the people, all the people broke into weeping.

5Saul was just coming from the field driving the cattle; and Saul asked, “Why are the people crying?” And they told him about the situation of the men of Jabesh. 6When he heard these things, the spirit of God gripped Saul and his anger blazed up. 7He took a yoke of oxen and cut them into pieces, which he sent by messengers throughout the territory of Israel, with the warning, “Thus shall be done to the cattle of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel into battle!” Terror from the Lord fell upon the people, and they came out as one man. 8[Saul] mustered them in Bezek, and the Israelites numbered 300,000, the men of Judah 30,000. 9The messengers who had come were told, “Thus shall you speak to the men of Jabesh-gilead: Tomorrow, when the sun grows hot, you shall be saved.” When the messengers came and told this to the men of Jabesh-gilead, they rejoiced. 10The men of Jabesh then told [the Am-monites], “Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you can do to us whatever you please.”

11The next day, Saul divided the troops into three columns; at the morning watch they entered the camp and struck down the Ammonites until the day grew hot. The survivors scattered; no two were left together.

12The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it said, ‘Shall Saul be king over us?’ Hand the men over and we will put them to death!” 13But Saul replied, “No man shall be put to death this day! For this day the Lord has brought victory to Israel.”

14Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there inaugurate the monarchy.” 15So all the people went to Gilgal, and there at Gilgal they declared Saul king before the Lord. They offered sacrifices of well-being there before the Lord; and Saul and all the men of Israel held a great celebration there.


Reprinted from Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures by permission of the University of Nebraska Press. Copyright 1985 by the Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia.

Published in: The Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization, vol. 1.

Engage with this Source

You may also like