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33. Saul, First King of the Israelites.


Saul was the son of a distinguished Jew by the name of Kish, from the tribe of Benjamin. He was tall, among the people he was a whole head higher, and no one of the Israelites was more handsome than he.

Soon after Saul was anointed, Samuel called the people together to elect a king. Lots were cast. The lot fell on Saul, and he was declared king. The people, admiring his height and beauty, cried out, "Long live the King!"

When Saul was made king, Samuel said to all the people: "If ye fear the Lord and serve Him and hearken to His voice and do not resist the mouth of the Lord, and ye and your king that reigns over you follow the Lord, it will be well with you. But if ye do not hearken to the voice of the Lord, and ye resist the mouth of the Lord, then shall the hand of the Lord be upon you and upon your king" (I Samuel 12:14-15).

Saul, in the first years of his reign, acted according to Godís will, showing himself worthy of having been chosen. He gained for himself the peopleís love by many victories over the enemy. But when he stopped carrying out Godís commands, having become presumptuous, the Spirit of God left him and Saul became gloomy and cruel.

Samuel grieved over Saul. The Lord said to him, "How long dost thou mourn for Saul? Go to Bethlehem, to Jesse, for I have seen among his sons a king for me." Samuel went to Bethlehem and at Godís direction anointed David, the son of Jesse, from the tribe of Judah, to be king. The Spirit of God descended on David. David was the younger son of Jesse, blond, with beautiful eyes and a pleasant face. He was agile and brave, had a gentle and kind heart and was famed for his fine playing on the harp.

Saul was sick at heart and depressed from the action of an evil spirit. He was advised to divert himself with music, and he was told that in the town of Bethlehem at the house of Jesse was Jesseís son, David, who could play the harp well. David was summoned to the palace. When he came and played on the harp, Saul became better and more cheerful. Then the evil spirit left him.

Note: See I Samuel, chaps. 10:17-27,11-16.

Davidís Victory Over Goliath.

Once, during the reign of Saul, a battle took place between the Israelites and the Philistines. When the forces attacked each other a giant by the name of Goliath appeared from the Philistine camp. He shouted to the Israelites, "Why are ye come forth to set yourselves in battle array against us? Choose for yourselves a man, and let him come down to me. And if he will be able to fight against me and shall smite me, then we will be your servants, but if I should prevail and smite him, ye shall be our servants, and serve us" (I Sam. 17:8-9). For forty days, in the morning and the evening, this giant appeared and laughed at the Israelites, reviling the army of the living God. King Saul promised a huge reward to anyone who could defeat Goliath, but no one of the Israelites was of a mind to set himself against the giant.

At this time David came to the Israelitesí camp to visit his older brothers and brought them food from their father. Having heard what Goliath said, David volunteered to fight with this giant and asked the King to give him permission.

But Saul said to him, "Thou art a mere youth, and he a man of war from his youth."

David replied, "Thy servant was tending the flock for his father, and when a lion came and a she-bear and took a sheep out of the flock, then I went forth after him and smote him and drew the spoil out of his mouth. And as he rose up against me, then I caught hold of his throat, and smote him and slew him. The Lord Who delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this uncircumcised Philistine."

Saul agreed and said, "Go, and the Lord be with thee."

David placed five smooth stones in his shepherdís bag, took a sling, and went out against Goliath. Goliath looked at David, who was very young, with contempt, and mockingly said, "Am I as a dog, that thou comest against me with a stick and stones?"

David replied, "Thou comest to me with sword and with spear and with shield, but I come to thee in the name of the Lord God of hosts, of the army of Israel which thou hast defied this day. And the Lord shall deliver thee this day into my handÖ and all the earth shall know that there is a God in Israel" (I Sam. 17:45).

When Goliath began to approach, David ran to meet him, laid a stone in the sling and hurled it at the giant. The stone hit him right on the forehead, and Goliath fell senseless to the ground. David ran up to Goliath, took Goliathís own sword and with his own weapon cut off his head. When they saw this, the Philistines, terror-stricken, took to their heels and the Israelites chased them to the very gates of their cities and killed many. Saul made David the military leader. Then he gave his daughter to him in marriage.

When Saul and David returned victorious, the Israelite women came out to meet them singing and dancing, and they cried, "Saul has smitten his thousands, and David his ten thousands." This was unpleasant for King Saul. He began to envy Davidís glory and pondered on killing him. David withdrew to the desert and hid from Saul until his death.

Note: See I Samuel, chaps. 16-31.

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