Sunday School Lesson #22

Lesson 22: 1 Samuel 9-11, 13, 15-17

Though the lesson doesn’t include chapters 12 and 14, the manual recommends them as supplemental reading and I agree. We need to read them to see the full story. There is quite a bit in this section, from the choice of Saul as King, to his usurpation of Samuel’s authority and consequent loss of authority, to the choice of David to replace him, to Saul’s madness, to the story of David slaying Goliath. Rather than try to cover all of that material, these study questions will focus on chapters 9-10, 13, and 16.

Chapter 9

Verse 2: The word translated “goodly” means “handsome” in this context. Its root meaning is “pleasant.” Of what significance might it be that the writer dwells on Saul’s looks rather than other of his attributes? (Compare this verse to 1 Samuel 10:23-24.)

Verses 5 & 21: What attributes of Saul’s character do we see here?

Verse 9: What is the difference between a prophet and a seer? What is the difference in the connotation of each?

Verses 22-24: Note: the footnote (a) tells us that “parlour” could also be translated “dining area.” However, most scholars believe this was a sanctuary building on the high place. Saul is treated like the guest on whom everyone else has been waiting. What is the significance of that for Saul? For us?

Chapter 10

Verses 1-7: Compare verse 1 to 1 Samuel 9:16. Why does Samuel refer to Israel as the Lord’s “inheritance”? What is the purpose of the signs that Samuel gives Saul? What does it mean to say that Saul “shalt be turned into another man” (verse 6)?

Verse 9: What does it mean that “God gave him another heart”? Is this the same thing spoken of in verse 6 or something else?

Verses 11 & 27: How do those who know Saul respond to his change?

Verses 18-19: Why does Samuel give this speech before he chooses the king?

Verse 20: The phrase “was taken” suggests that the tribe of Benjamin was chosen by lot. Similarly, in the following verses, we see the family of Mari chosen, and Saul chosen by lot from that family. Why does Samuel make this decision by casting lots? Why not just announce that the Lord has revealed that Saul is to be king?

Verse 21: What attribute of Saul’s character do we see here?

Chapter 13

The Philistines have occupied Israel, and Saul’s reign is closely connected to the role of the Philistines in Israel. In the first 4 verses we see Jonathan, Saul’s son, attack and overcome one of the Philistine garrisons (or perhaps destroy a marker designating the area as Philistine territory). In verse 5, the Philistines gather an army to put down this rebellion. In verse 6, the people of Israel, fearing the coming Philistine attack, hide in the rocks and caves. Samuel has made an appointment with Saul to meet in Gilgal after seven days. He is coming so that Israel can, through him, seek the Lord’s guidance and blessing in dealing with the Philistines. But he fails to keep the appointment and those who have been following Saul—the Israelite army—begin to scatter. As you read the following verses, keep this background in mind.

Verse 3: To whom is Saul referring when he uses the name “Hebrews,” usually a disparaging term in the Old Testament?

Verse 5: Note that 30,000 chariots is almost certainly an exaggeration, probably a multiplication by 10. But even 3,000 chariots is an enormous number by ancient standards. Recall that Sisera only had 900 (Judges 4:3.) Whichever number we take, what point is the writer making?

Verse 9: Why does Saul offer the burnt offering?

Verse 10: What is the significance of the timing of Samuel’s arrival?

Verses 11-12: The word translated “forced” in verse twelve means exactly that: Saul says that, given the circumstances, he made himself do what he didn’t want to do. The writer has gone out of his way to show us the bind Saul found himself in so we will be sympathetic to Saul when he feels he has to offer the sacrifice himself. Why would the writer do that when the prophet condemns what Saul did? Why does Samuel react so strongly? Saul is not of the Levite lineage and, therefore, has no priesthood right to make the offering. But is that mistake the real issue here? Is it that for which Saul is punished?

The writer of Samuel has placed this story immediately after the account of Samuel’s admonitions to the people regarding a king, though several years intervene between those admonitions and this story. (See 1 Samuel 13:1.) In other words, the writer probably could have placed several other stories between chapters 12 and 13. Why did he juxtapose these two stories in this way? Does that juxtaposition help us understand the point the writer is making?

Verses 13-14: The king was appointed through the prophet. Now he is replaced through the same prophet because he usurped the position and authority of that prophet. What did God command Saul that he did not obey? The word play in these verses is interesting: because Saul did not do what the Lord commanded, the Lord has commanded or appointed a new person to do what he commands.

Compare this story to the story of Saul and Agag in chapter 15. How are these stories the same? What do they reveal about Saul?
Chapter 16

Verse 1: Why did Samuel mourn for Saul? Why did the Lord reprove him for doing so? Samuel anointed Saul to be “captain” or prince (1 Samuel 9:16), but he will anoint David to be king. Yet Saul was anointed in response to the people’s demand for a king. How do you explain this differance?

Verse 2: How does Saul feel about Samuel? What does this tell us about Saul’s response to the news that he had been rejected by the Lord? (Compare 1 Samuel 15:26-31.)

Verses 4-5: Why were the elders of Bethlehem afraid when Samuel showed up? How would Samuel have come if he were note coming peaceably?

Verse 6: On what basis does Samuel seem to be making his decision?

Verses 7 & 12: In verse 7 the Lord tells Samuel that he doesn’t judge by outward appearance. Yet in verse 12, the first thing that Samuel notices is how good-looking David is. (The same was true of Saul.) What do you make of this? How do you reconcile these verses? In terms of the lesson taught by this story, why is it important that Samuel’s choice be rejected by the Lord?

Verse 11: Why hasn’t Jesse called David in for Samuel to consider?

Verse 12: We see once again the theme of choosing the youngest (Jacob over Esau, Ephraim over Menassah, Nephi over Laman). Why is that such an important theme in our oldest scriptures? What does it say to us?

Verse 13: Has Samuel invited anyone other than Jesse’s sons to the sacrifice?

Verses 17-23: Why has the writer included this story? What does it show us about Saul? About David? Does it help prepare us for anything that is to come?

When Saul was chosen, Samuel cast lots before all of Israel in order to do so and the people ratified the choice. However, Samuel had previously anointed Saul. In this chapter we see the anointing of David, an anointing that is followed quite a bit later by the ratification of the choice by Israel (2 Samuel 5:1-3). In both cases, the anointing was relatively private. How do you explain this sequence: private anointing followed by ratification? What is the connection between the anointing and the choice of the people?

13 comments for “Sunday School Lesson #22

  1. Ch 10:5 — what is the deal with these musical prophets? Are they really prophets? What does the text mean when it uses the term prophets? I remember Thomas Paine argued that this passage proves there is no real prophesy in the bible, but that the term prophet just means \”poet.\” Since Samuel seems to be the only \”real\” prophet in these stories (i.e., the only one who can call and dismiss the king, the only one who can make a legitimate sacrifice, etc) who are these other guys?

    Does the fact that Saul later hires David as his personal harpplayer to soothe his spirit (his musical prozac) suggest that Saul\’s sense of spirituality is tied up with music somehow??

  2. I think I must be a week ahead of you. (I’d have wished for these notes a week before to really dig the bones out while I was prepping.)

    At any rate, as I taught this material yesterday, I had a theme develop. I started the week before by emphasizing that Samuel was afraid to tell Eli what he had heard, and Eli admonishes him not to fear in the Lord. (When the Lord touches you, or speaks in Samuel\’s case, you follow through.) So for this week, we talked about Saul in several cases making excuses–the people made me do it, I just stepped in when the Lord & his servant Samuel let us down and didn\’t come on time, etc. etc.–rather than being brave and working with/for the Lord. A little impatience and panic when his back is against the wall cost him dearly. And then he doesn\’t learn his lesson and gets worse about trusting in the Lord down the road with the Amalekites. We get tested and uncomfortable, thus learning whom we trust.

    In contrast, we have Samuel as an adult who is brave enough to tell off the King. Saul is out of control by this point, and making excuses. I assume that he has the power to silence Samuel by various means, although getting his troops to do it may be another question. But in the face of a King\’s displeasure at getting caught out, Samuel is brave enough to set him straight, and kill Agog himself. He is brave in doing the Lord\’s will.

    And then David, who irritates people by wondering why no one will fight Goliath until the king hears and sets him to it. Goliath can\’t believe it, but when an angry giant races toward him with armor and sword, David\’s response to is charge HIM, firm in the Lord.

    We talked about being pain-averse, that we all want to go back to the Garden and be pain-free and bother-free and at ease, but that life isn\’t like that and we should be more like David, who is brave enough to charge when he has a formidable challenge in front of him.

    Also, he didn\’t spend time thinking, \”Hey, if I kill this lion, and then this bear, then I can kill Goliath and eventually I\’ll be the King.\” We don\’t usually connect the dots as to how challenges in our life prepare us for other things down the road, certainly not in advance, but not often after they happen either. We should be paying attention to the Lord\’s hand in our life.

    Too, we usually pray to be spared a big, hulking giant to have to deal with:\”Make the obstacle go away\” when what usually happens is more like the Lord gives us the strength, courage and insight to deal with the giant. (Back to Eden mentality.) When we should be fierce enough to charge, with the Lord on our side.

    Long comment, but thought I\’d share some of the ideas we talked about in my class, stemming from Jim\’s terribly helpful ideas.

    Good luck!

  3. What does \”prove\” the armor mean? David doesn\’t want to wear Saul\’s armor because it has not been proved. (By him or Saul?) I had always understood this passage as \”it was too heavy for a young man\” but does he really mean no one has ever tested this armor in battle before?

  4. Laura, Thanks very much for your thoughts on these scriptures. By the way, these notes were up on the 4th, so you must have just overlooked them.

    As to “prove the armor”: David tried on Saul’s armor, but he couldn’t even walk in it because he hadn’t tried or tested it, meaning he hadn’t been trained in how to use it. So he said to Saul, “I haven’t tested these,” in other words “I don’t know how to use them.”

  5. Laurel (#2): Thanks for your comments. I think Jonathan also embodies a good contrast to Saul’s “making excuses.” When confronted with his unknowing violation of the command not to eat, Jonathan made no excuses but simply said in 1 Sam 14:43, “lo, I must die” (despite his thinking it was a stupid commandment when he heard about it, cf. 1 Sam 14:29-30).

    I’m having trouble understanding 1 Sam 12:14. I posted my question(s) here. First, the verse seems to be saying that the people will continue to follow the Lord if they obey the Lord, which seems almost tautological (should the future tense be read as a blessing? a prophecy? or what?). Also, what is the significance of mentioning the king only in the second part but not the first? I always thought that under a king the people would fare according to the righteousness of the king, but this verse suggests the opposite, that the king would fare according to the righteousness of the people. . . .

    (Sorry to be so far behind the schedule, I should be getting caught up soon. . . .)

  6. Robert C: Great question about 1 Samuel 12:14. Thanks.

    Here’s the New American Bible’s translation of the verse: “If you fear the LORD and worship him, if you are obedient to him and do not rebel against the LORD’S command, if both you and the king who rules you follow the LORD your God—well and good.” The Hebrew text doesn’t have anything comparable to “well and good,” but several translations insert similar phrases to complete the thought of the verse. The verse is a case of aposiopesis, breaking off a sentence before it is completed; it has the “if” part of an “if-then” sentence, but not the “then” part.

  7. Jim (#6): Thanks, that really helps. Turns out the two other translation I looked at (NASB and NKJV) translate if-then, but virtually all other translations use the if only construction like you explained (e.g. JPS, NRSV, RSV, ESV, NET, HCSB, NIV).

  8. “According to 2 Samuel 7, God promises David that, as a reward for his loyalty, David and his descendants will rule the kingdom forever. David’s predecessor, King Saul, dies, and Saul’s son Ishbaal is assasinated and never replaced by another member of Saul’s family. But David recieves a divine promise that his son, grandson, great-grandson, ect. will occupy the throne continually (2 Samuel 7:16).” [Richard Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible, 106]

    “Modern investigators were confused overt these insertions about the Davidic covenant. Sometimes the insertions reiteracte this promise that the Davidic kings rule forever, even if they sinned; but sometimes they seemed to be saying just the opposite, that the kings could rule only if they did not sin. … How could the Deuteronomist insert lines that blatantly contradicted each other? Was the covenant conditional or unconditional? If we examine all of the passages that mention the Davidic covenant, we will find that all of the conditional passages spoke of the kings’ holding the throne of Isreal. All of the unconditional passages spoke of the kings’ holding the throne. This petty difference of wording was not so petty to the writer. He had to deal with the fact that David’s family started out ruling the whole united kingdom of Isreal, but they had lost all of it except their own tride of Judah.” [Richard Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible, 141]

    But there is still the matter of David’s covenant. According to the Dtr1 history, it was eternal and unconditional. No matter what Manasseh or any other Davidide king did, the throne and the royal city were supposed to be secure forever. The person who was now redoing the history was apparently not willing to cross out that promise as if it had never been there- which is another indication he was not simply commiting pious fraud. How then was he to explain the fall of the kings, temple, and Jerusalem? He did this by drawing his readers’ attention to another covenant: the Mosaic covenant. This covenant that Yahweh had made with the people in the wilderness, according to tradition, was definetely conditional. It required the people to obey God’s commandments or else suffer severe consequences. … This pulled the carpet out from under the Davidic covenant. The fate of the nation ultimately depended on the people, not on the king. The Davidic family’s rule was assured, yes, but if the people’s actions brought about the destruction of the country, then over whom was this family to rule. … Even if unoccupied at the present, there was always the possibility that a descendant of David, a messiah, might come someday and rule justly. The implications for Judaism and Christianity were, of course, tremendous. [Richard Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible, 142-3]

  9. I am sorry for the 3 long quotes but I thought they had bearing on your discussion of 1 Samuel 12:14 and the Davidic covenant.

  10. Clinton (#8), thanks for the quotes. I’ve been reading about the Davdic Covenant a bit and will type a response incorporating some of what I’ve learned on Jim’s page for Lesson 24 (since I think it’s more germane to 2 Samuel; and I plan to post on the related Psalm 89 for Lesson 25—I should be getting to Lesson 24 this weekend or shortly thereafter and Lesson 25 next week).

  11. Regarding 1 Sam 15: 11, 29, and 35: Verse 29 says that God “will not lie nor repent.” But then in verses 11 and 35 it said that “the Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.” How can these verses be reconciled? The Feast wiki site is down today so I’ll post my thoughts and findings here:

    The Anchor Bible simply says this was probably “a late addition to the text (derived from Num 23:19?), penned by a redactor to whom the suggestion of a divine change of mind was unacceptable.

    The Word Biblical Commentary takes the view that this may be one of the mysteries of God: “Perhaps the paradox expresses teh real truth: He never changes his mind, and yet he does. In other biblical contexts such paradoxes can be gracious: the God who can never forget Zion (Isa 49:15) forgets his people’s sin (Jer 31:34).”

    The NET notes (#43) tries to explain that this pertains only to the preceding statement: “This observation marks the preceding statement (v. 28) as an unconditional, unalterable decree. When God makes such a decree he will not alter it or change his mind. This does not mean that God never deviates from his stated intentions or changes his mind. On the contrary, several passages describe him as changing his mind. In fact, his willingness to do so is one of his fundamental divine attributes (see Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2). For a fuller discussion see R. B. Chisholm, Jr., “Does God Change His Mind?â€? BSac 152 (1995): 387-99.”

    I think the NET explanation would be most productive if this came up in a Sunday school class, though I understand this may be stretching the text a bit.

    From the AB view, it still remains to explain why the redactor would add this statement without altering verses 11 and 35. Did the redacting process make it easier to add phrases then take away for some reason (people already knew one version of the bible? I need to read up on the particulars of these theories…)?

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