Samuel found Saul to anoint him king of Israel

Day 101 (April 11): Samuel anoints Saul king, Holy Spirit came to Saul, Saul acclaimed king, defeats Ammonites, angered, retells his service

John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
1 Samuel 9-12:25
(1043 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Samuel 9:21): Again, we have God choosing someone least expected, although he is the tallest in the land, so maybe that helps him get noticed?

A. It appears that the people wanted Saul as king because he was such a man of stature, but we can’t say exactly why God made Saul His king.  Saul passed the “eye test” in a way that David never will (as we will see shortly), but Saul (as we see in 10:22) is actually a fearful man who is not ready to rule the people, even though he will have his moments.  The writer clearly desires us to see the contrast between David and Saul, especially as the become rivals in a few chapters.

O. (9:22-24): So, Samuel had expected Saul all along because God had told him to expect someone to come (1 Samuel 9:15-16).

Q. (10:1): God has obviously told Samuel how to anoint someone.  Why the olive oil?  We may have talked about this before?  And, wouldn’t he go around with a oily head?  I know that’s not important, just a visual that turns on my curiosity.  About the prophets, were they in direct communication with God, or did they just hear what we read in the Bible?  I would think that there are a lot of God’s messages that we don’t know about?  So, in 10:10, we read that the Spirit enters Saul and allows him to prophesy?

A. Olive oil (in addition to serving various cooking purposes as it does today) was used for a variety of health reasons — it is actually still used today as a hair treatment in the Middle East.  One of the things that the oil was used for was to protect animals (sheep in particular) from insects that would get into their ears: the oil was poured on their head to make the wool slick.  So that oil represented protection and also selection (a shepherd would use the oil to protect his sheep), which is where the symbolism comes from.  Oil represents selection or choosing when used in this way, and the most common oil was olive oil.

We obviously have no way of knowing about prophecy that is not included in Scripture, but in this case, Samuel is using his prophetic vision to convince Saul that he has truly received an accurate vision of God of God’s plans for Saul.  The Spirit came UPON Saul, not within him (it is a similar idea to the anointing of oil).  The Spirit does not enter into people until Pentecost in the NT, after the atonement of Jesus.

Q. (10:9): What is meant here by God giving Saul a new heart?

A. God empowered Saul to be the king over all Israel.

Q. (10:27): Why would a king gouge out a right eye?  He is obviously a dictator.  I also don’t understand how anyone could gather that many men and perform this heinous act.  Same with when they gathered thousands of men to be circumcised, how was it possible?  Just watch the news and we see that massive imprisonments go on today by way of military.  I just wondered how they had such enforcement back then.  Military also?

A. The eye gouging would serve two purposes: first, anyone who saw the person would immediately know that they had been disfigured, which would have been a humiliation.  Secondly, there is a military significance as we discussed with the removal of big toes and thumbs: the Israelite army (like all armies of the day) would have used various forms of archery to win battles, and removing an archer’s eye would have rendered them almost useless in battle.

I don’t have a good answer on the logistics of these attacks, but I can tell you that if you have hundreds or thousands of men yourself, you can fairly quickly accomplish some pretty messy work.

Q. (11:7): Obviously, cutting something was a way to express anger in those days as we saw a few days ago with the concubine.  This act elicits a putrid image.  I’m sure Saul got everyone’s attention.  Who would be put to the task of delivering such a message to the tribes?

A. Likely servants of the tribe of Benjamin, Saul’s house.  It is possible that it was even Saul’s family servants.

Q. (12:12-17): Why did God provide a king if He is the king.  Why did he give in to the Israelites wishes?

A. Because they asked Him to.  In His mercy (9:16), He has given them the desires of their hearts, as any good Father will try to do … within reason.  The king will come to be a symbol of the entire kingdom, so it will be able to see the fortunes of the nation in one man.  This is how the narrative will proceed until the destruction of Jerusalem almost 500 years later.

For further study: What does mercy look like? https://www.compassion.com/poverty/mercy-definition.htm

Shop: Christian shirts get noticed.  Check out these conversation starters: https://livinlight.org/shop/

Tomorrow’s reading
— 1 Chronicles 9:34-39
— 1 Samuel 13:1-5, 19-23, 6-18
— 1 Samuel 14:1-52

Quest for king The Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant

Day 100 (April 10): Eli dies from shock, Philistines cursed, return Ark, God hears Samuel, Israelite victory, Samuel’s greedy sons, Samuel warns quest for king

Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org.

Day 100!  Can you believe it?  Just three more weeks and will be one-third of the way through the Bible.

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
1 Samuel 4:12-8:22
(1070 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Samuel 4): Just as a scene setter, the Israelites were warring with the Philistines who were in the land of Canaan, which God had given to the Israelites.  When the Israelites were taking over the land conquering cities in the time of Joshua, some of the tribes were not destroyed.  This is because the Israelites were not fully acknowledging God.  And, as you said in earlier readings, this would come back to plague the Israelites.  Since then, the Philistines had grown in strength and worshipped idols and the Israelites had weakened because of straying from God.  The Philistines had enslaved the Israelites (Hebrews) and the Israelites were revolting.  Is this accurate?

A. I don’t think the Israelites were actively being enslaved, but rather the Philistines were taxing them and controlling certain areas of Canaan, and that is what the people were revolting against.  Other then that, I think you’ve told it correctly.

Q. (5:1-12): I remember when the Tabernacle was set up that it was so sacred that only certain ones who had become ceremonially clean could view it.  And, several died trying. Here the Philistines have it.  Has it lost some of its sacredness with the weakening of the Israelites?  How come the Philistines were not struck down as they approached it, let alone touched it?  In the subsequent verses, we learn that they were plagued.  This just seems a weaker curse for mistreating the Ark than in Moses’ time.

A. The curse in some ways represents a form of God’s mercy: the Philistines were not aware of the Israelite requirements to not approach the Ark, so God spared them, but He clearly let them know that He was displeased (the curses are certainly a similar story to the plagues of Egypt).  There is no indication that the Philistines touched the Ark, which would result in their death.  They carried the Ark on a cart to avoid touching it directly.  This was obviously not what God instructed: He wanted the priests to carry it.  So, I would say that the “weaker” curse, as you see it, is God having compassion upon a people who don’t know what they are getting themselves into.  They certainly learned fast that you don’t mess with the Ark.

Q. (6:1-2): The Philistines obviously should have realized the power of God.  I’m just wondering why they didn’t convert to worshipping God.  Were they ever invited?  Or, was it understood that they all had their own idols?  The Philistine priests did a good job of making arrangements for the Ark to be returned.  And, they saw what the Ark did to Dagon.  So, why don’t they turn to God?

A. Hmm, that’s a good question.  I don’t really know.  It was probably because they considered this to be “Israel’s god” which they had offended, and not necessarily that Israel’s god was more “powerful,” simply that they had angered Him.

Q. (8:1-3): Samuel’s sons are falling in the footsteps of Eli’s.  What’s up with these priests parenting skills?

A. We aren’t told, so I don’t really have anything to base an answer off of.  Sorry!

Q. (8:21): Why didn’t God encourage Samuel to keep urging the Israelites that God was their king and that they don’t need to be like their neighbor countries?  Is this a “wait and see” question?

A. Again, this is a good question, but I don’t have a great answer.  We know from the Law that God had already made provision for a human king (see Deuteronomy 17:14-20, from our reading on Day 76).  God was not threatened by the request for a human king — though it appears He was a bit insulted — but He does warn the people that they will regret giving themselves over to a human leader. Boy will they.

For further study
— All about kings and those of today, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King
— Why did the Israelites want an earthly king when they already had God as their leader? https://www.christianity.com/wiki/bible/why-did-israel-want-an-earthly-king-when-they-had-god.html

Shop: Christian shirts get noticed.  Check out these conversation starters: https://livinlight.org/shop/

Tomorrow’s reading: 1 Samuel 9-12

Judges and officers appointed in towns charged to judge fairly in the Israel tribes

Day 76 (March 17): Judge fairly, choosing a king, gifts for priests and Levites, avoid foreign sin, future prophets, battle regulations, unsolved murders

Wong Chim Yuen

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9
(1406 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Deuteronomy 16:21-22): This seems kind of random.  I read that Asherah was a Canaanite goddess?  Did God not like these pillars because they resembled some goddess?

A. You assessed this female deity correctly.  Asherah was worshipped as a fertility goddess, and archeological records indicate that she was worshipped at sites of tall trees or carved poles (we don’t know exactly what the Hebrew word for “pole” refers to).  Some scholars think they may have been carved figures like totem poles in Native American worship, but we do not know how large they were.  The pillars were the sites of worship of Asherah, not necessarily a physical resemblance, though in some instances the image of Asherah may have been carved into the pillar, pole, or tree.

One of the most interesting archeological discoveries from this period are a number of engravings, which name “Yahweh and his Asherah,” as well as figurines of her image, with the implication that Asherah was the wife of Yahweh after the Israelites settled in the Promised Land.  This would indicate that the people FAIL to not worship this other goddess, despite God’s strict command not to.  We shall surely revisit this issue.

Q. (17:5): I notice, for the first time, that the text refers to “the gates of town.”  Were most towns walled and gated?  It really sounds like hostile times all around.

A.  In this era, a city is defined by its walls and gates.  It was the easiest way to ensure protection against bandits and wild animals, both of which were huge problems outside of camps and cities.  The mindset that these people would have held was that if it didn’t have a wall, it wasn’t a city.

Q. (17:8-13): Would you say that our current justice system has roots in these passages?

A. Like many other nations, there is some limited influence on the system of justice that comes from the system created here, but I would hesitate to say that such laws “come” from this text.  They have been adopted from concepts laid out here, however.  We might call it a foundation for future judicial systems.

Q. (18:9-14): Fortune telling today seems almost like a circus act.  It’s hard for me to believe that anyone can “channel the dead.”  I am naïve to any practices.  But, I would suppose, that God would still consider these practices detestable today, just like He was with the Israelites?

A. As I think we have discussed (I don’t recall where), consorting with the dead or fortune telling is always about trying to gain an advantage over future events, and when you do that, you have moved beyond faith in God to provide for your needs.  There will be various references to speaking to the dead in future readings (of all the people, a king of Israel will do it, yikes!).  So to me, it would appear that the Bible says it IS possible to consort with the dead, but that we should not.  Let’s revisit this when our unfortunate king actually does so in 1 Samuel.

Q. (18:15-22): What future prophet is God referring to, or is it a surprise?

A. The language used is plural, indicating that Moses is talking about a series of prophets, which will provide guidance for the people in each generation.  Having said that, the language is also indicative of a final capital “P” Prophet, which is why many Christian scholars believe that it has Messianic expectation, which would of course point to Jesus as THE Prophet.  Jesus refers to himself as a prophet in Luke 13, and prophet is one of the three anointed offices in the OT, along with priest and king.  Jesus, in some form or another, fulfills each of these roles, but we’ll get to that at some point.

O. (19:1-13): This passage shows how much God strives to keep the purity in Israel.  If someone is killed and it’s a true accident, no more blood should be shed by an avenger.  He reserves some cities as refuges for those innocent offenders.  If they are not, it is better to purge them from Israel.  I like that word, “purge.”  That word gave me this clear visualization of Israel’s purity for the first time.

Q. (20:5-7): I don’t understand this passage.  If you haven’t eaten from your vineyard, you may die?  And the other scenarios.

A. Nope.  You’ve got it backwards.  The officer is saying that under each of the scenarios, the person is exempt from military service.  It appears that these were scenarios (getting married, buying new property, etc.) that were considered more valuable to their society than fighting for the nation, and therefore you could get out of service.  So it’s not “if you haven’t eaten from your vineyard, you might die,” it’s “if you die in combat, someone else gets your vineyard.”

Q. (20:15-18): Can we assume that the inhabitants of the towns God instructs the Israelites to destroy worship idols and act immoral?

A. Yes, I think that is a fair interpretation of the purpose of the task: they were ordered to entirely destroy the nations that occupied the Holy Land, not merely to drive them out and let them settle elsewhere.  We will see what happens when they fail at this task in Joshua.

For further study: How were city walls and buildings built in Bible times? https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/a/architecture-in-the-biblical-period.html

Shop: Luckily, today we don’t have to remember all of these commands.  These laws of the Old Testament were designed to set the Israelites apart as God’s people.  Today, loving God and loving others as much as you love yourself, is the way to identify Christians.  https://livinlight.org/product/love-rules-t-shirt/

Tomorrow’s reading: Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19