1 Samuel 9:2 Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he
Saul was a “choice young man,” but even choice young men can make bad choices. Sometimes we wonder why someone in the ward receives an important calling then does a terrible job. Maybe we know of a marriage that started with great promise and ended poorly because one of the parties didn’t continue along the straight and narrow path. The question is, “why wasn’t there inspiration beforehand to predict this outcome”? If God knows everything, then why would he choose someone who is eventually going to fail? Why would he call an apostle that eventually apostatizes? Why would he give a commandment his saints can’t keep? Why choose Saul if his future was known the Lord?
It is not an easy question, but there are two points to make with Saul. First, he was as good a candidate as existed in all of Israel. Besides, that is what the people wanted—an impressive king. That is what they got, a man so large in stature that he literally stood head and shoulders above the crowd. Secondly, it is manifestly unfair for the Lord to treat us based on our future. If Saul was a choice man and a goodly, then he should be called to be king. Is it fair to withdraw the opportunity for a sin he has not yet committed? We shouldn’t second guess the Lord’s choice.
“Saul was potentially the hero and man of valour all Israel sought… Yet, subsequent events show that the Lord was teaching Israel a lesson about people and about kings when he chose Saul. For the Lord certainly knew the end of this thing from the beginning, as he does in all things.” (Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis – 2 Samuel, [CES: 1981], p. 271-272)
It is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
Hence many are called, but few are chosen. (D&C 121:39—40)
1 Samuel 9:9 he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer
Remember, the scribe-author of the text does not understand differences between the Melchizedek and Levitical Priesthoods nor does he understand the subtleties of the calling of a seer. He demonstrates this by equating two terms that are not equal. He states that the word prophet is merely a newer term for a seer. However, they are not exactly the same. In addition to having access to the Urim and Thummim, a seer has greater abilities:
A seer is greater than a prophet
…a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God.
But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.
Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings. (Mosiah 8:13-18)
1 Samuel 9:21 Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes… and my family the least of all families?
A beautiful lesson can be learned about Church calls and service before God by reading about the appointments of both Saul and David and the blessings given to them. The Lord didn’t know these men for the great deeds they had already done. David was a shepherd boy with little experience. Saul was a Benjamite, the smallest tribe of Israel, and as he told the prophet Samuel when he came at the command of the Lord to find Saul, “… my family [is] the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin … wherefore then speakest thou so to me?” (1 Sam. 9:21.)
These two were chosen for their service power, their potentiality to listen to the Lord, to obey, to be magnified. (New Era, Mar. 1972, 44)
1 Samuel 9:22-24 Samuel took Saul and his servant, and brought them into the parlour, and made the sit in the chiefest place
Mark E. Petersen
Samuel brought Saul and his servant into his parlor "and made them sit in the chiefest place among them that were bidden, which were about thirty persons." (1 Sam. 9:15-22.)
This is an interesting passage. For one thing, in his own home Samuel gave a feast in honor of Saul's appointment as king, and invited thirty people to attend. But also it is shown that Samuel lived in a city, he had a large house with a parlor that would accommodate thirty guests, and he had a cook.
Those who indicate that all the prophets were desert nomads living in tents are not acquainted with the facts. Samuel, of course, was both prophet and judge. In this latter position he may have been given certain emoluments that raised his standard of living above the ordinary. (Three Kings of Israel [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1980], 20-21)
1 Samuel 10:1 Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him
Saul is the first anointed king of Israel. The last anointed king of Israel, Jesus the Christ (the anointed), would be anointed not by Samuel, but by the Holy Ghost (Acts 10:38). The Israelite nation in Saul’s day was small. By comparison, the house of Israel under the Millennial king will be great. As a type for the Millennial Christ, Saul 1) had humble beginnings, 2) was anointed as king, 3) was beloved by his people, 4) fought their battles, and 5) was both king and captain of the host (Josh. 5:14-15).
1 Samuel 10:2-6 When thou art departed from me to day, then thou shalt find two men…
Samuel tells Saul exactly what is going to happen to him that day. While the gift of prophecy usually foretells the distant future, the power to see the immediate is given to some. Samuel had been told that Saul was coming. He was able to tell him who he was going to meet that day: 1) two men by Rachel’s sepulchre, 2) three men going to Bethel, and 3) a company of prophets coming down from the high place. This powerful prediction was a sign to Saul that God was pleased with him.
On several occasions, the Prophet Joseph Smith demonstrated this same power, telling individuals what would happen over a short period of time and in perfect detail. One example was in May of 1829. Oliver Cowdery had invited David Whitmer to come meet the young prophet. Just as the Lord had told Samuel that Saul was coming (1 Sam. 9:15), the Lord had told the Prophet Joseph what time David would arrive. David Whitmer related, “Oliver told me that Joseph had informed him when I started from home, where I stopped the first night, how I read the sign at the tavern, where I stopped the next night, etc., and that I would be there that day for dinner, and this is why they had come out to meet me. All of which was exactly as Joseph had told Oliver, at which I was greatly astonished.” (Millenial Star, vol 40, pp.769-774)
1 Samuel 10:5 a company of prophets coming down from the high place
Groups of prophets, or holy men, lived throughout Old Testament times. The Bible barely mentions them. All we really know is that they existed. In Elijah’s day, there was a group of one hundred prophets hid by Obadiah in a cave (1 Kgs. 18:4), and there were others (1 Kgs. 20:35; 22:6). Most likely, they held the Melchizedek priesthood, performed the ordinances belonging to the higher priesthood, and were taught by Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, or whatever prophet held the keys to administer the higher priesthood. Joseph Smith declared, “All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 181)
1 Samuel 10:9 God gave him another heart
While we sometimes speak of God as a physician, he is also a transplant surgeon. Speaking spiritually, God removes the diseased and failing heart and replaces it with a new, stronger, vibrant heart. The difference between the Lord’s surgery and modern medicine’s is that the Lord often performs these surgeries without any anesthetic. It can be very painful to feel the chest being cracked open, to have the old heart ripped out of your chest, and then to feel the stitches go in one by one. However, the Lord does have better survival statistics.
We may look forward to the Millennial day, when the Lord performs this surgery on much of the House of Israel.
Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. (Ezek. 36:25-28)
Charles A. Callis
When Saul was anointed king of Israel, the prophet Samuel said to him, "And the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man." And the Bible records that as Saul went from the presence of Samuel "God gave him another heart." Oh, that is what we as a nation need to pray for. Pray with David, "Create in me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me." When a man repents of his sins—and brings forth fruits meet for repentance, is he not another man? Does not God give him another heart, a new heart? (Conference Report, April 1917, Second Meeting Outdoors. 134 - 135)
1 Samuel 11:6 the Spirit of God came upon Saul… and his anger was kindled greatly
The fruits of the Spirit are “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness,” and temperance (Gal 5:22-23). However, in this instance, the fruit of the Spirit is anger—a truly righteous indignation. Apparently, the Spirit can convey the entire range of emotions and passions of our perfect God. This is the spirit by which Christ cleansed the temple; it is the spirit by which Moroni fought against the Lamanites (Alma 48:11-17); it is the spirit by which Eli should have removed his sons from their priesthood service.
“Righteous indignation has its place. We have an obligation to defend our religious liberty and our freedom to worship from unwarranted attacks launched by thoughtless elements in society. We should abhor cases of injustice against fellow human beings or abuse against spouses and children. We are mindful that rebukes of inappropriate behaviors should be ‘followed by an outpouring of love’ to a brother or sister.” (LDS Church News, 1992, 10/24/92)
Neal A. Maxwell
Brigham Young once described, for example, how God's pure affection still manages to make room for righteous indignation: “The principle of pure affection is the gift of God, and it is for us to learn to control it and to exercise proper dominion over it; and if we are faithful, we shall see the time when we can say, as our Father in Heaven says, I am angry with the wicked; I hate their works, and mine anger is kindled against them. Is there any malice or wrath there? No; for it is written that the Lord is angry, but sins not." (That Ye May Believe [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1992], 67)
1 Samuel 11-13 Saul’s Battles with the Ammonites and Philistines
(Barry J. Beitzel, ed., Biblica: The Bible Atlas, [Australia: Global Book Publishing, 2006], 221)
1 Samuel 13:13-14 Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly
Dieter F. Uchtdorf
In 1979 a large passenger jet with 257 people on board left New Zealand for a sightseeing flight to Antarctica and back. Unknown to the pilots, however, someone had modified the flight coordinates by a mere two degrees. This error placed the aircraft 28 miles (45 km) to the east of where the pilots assumed they were. As they approached Antarctica, the pilots descended to a lower altitude to give the passengers a better look at the landscape. Although both were experienced pilots, neither had made this particular flight before, and they had no way of knowing that the incorrect coordinates had placed them directly in the path of Mount Erebus, an active volcano that rises from the frozen landscape to a height of more than 12,000 feet (3,700 m).
As the pilots flew onward, the white of the snow and ice covering the volcano blended with the white of the clouds above, making it appear as though they were flying over flat ground. By the time the instruments sounded the warning that the ground was rising fast toward them, it was too late. The airplane crashed into the side of the volcano, killing everyone on board.
It was a terrible tragedy brought on by a minor error—a matter of only a few degrees.
Through years of serving the Lord and in countless interviews, I have learned that the difference between happiness and misery in individuals, in marriages, and families often comes down to an error of only a few degrees.
The story of Saul, the king of Israel, illustrates this point. Saul’s life began with great promise, but it had an unfortunate and tragic end. In the beginning, Saul was “a choice young man, … and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he.” (1 Sam. 9:2) Saul was personally chosen by God to be king. He had every advantage—he was physically imposing, and he came from an influential family.
Of course, Saul had weaknesses, but the Lord promised to bless, uphold, and prosper him. The scriptures tell us that God promised to always be with him, give him another heart, and turn him into another man.
When he had the Lord’s help, Saul was a magnificent king. He united Israel and defeated the Ammonites, who had invaded their land. Soon a much greater problem faced him—the Philistines, who had a terrible army with chariots and horsemen “and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude.” The Israelites were so terrified of the Philistines that they hid “themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks.” (1 Sam. 13:5-6)
The young king needed help. The prophet Samuel sent word for him to wait and that he, the prophet, would come and offer sacrifice and seek counsel from the Lord. Saul waited seven days, and still the prophet Samuel had not arrived. Finally, Saul felt he could wait no longer. He gathered the people together and did something he had no priesthood authority to do—he offered the sacrifice himself.
When Samuel arrived, he was brokenhearted. “Thou hast done foolishly,” he said. If only the new king had endured a little longer and not deviated from the course of the Lord, if only he had followed the revealed order of the priesthood, the Lord would have established his kingdom forever. “But now,” Samuel said, “thy kingdom shall not continue.”
On that day, the prophet Samuel recognized a critical weakness in Saul’s character. When pressured by outside influences, Saul did not have the self-discipline to stay on course, trust the Lord and His prophet, and follow the pattern God had established.
The difference of a few degrees, as with the Antarctica flight or Saul’s failure to hold fast to the counsel of the prophet just a little longer, may seem minor. But even small errors over time can make a dramatic difference in our lives…
Small errors and minor drifts away from the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring sorrowful consequences into our lives. It is therefore of critical importance that we become self-disciplined enough to make early and decisive corrections to get back on the right track and not wait or hope that errors will somehow correct themselves.
The longer we delay corrective action, the larger the needed changes become, and the longer it takes to get back on the correct course—even to the point where a disaster might be looming. (“A Matter of a Few Degrees,” Ensign, May 2008, 57–60)
We can see, brethren and sisters, how this man was favored of God, not only in being called to be king and in presiding over something like three hundred thousand people… but also that he should receive of the Lord another heart and be changed into a new man. Notwithstanding this, however, there was a flaw in the character of Saul that proved in the end his ruin.
You will remember that Saul was instructed to go down to Gilgal and to remain there seven days, when the prophet would meet him there, and together they should offer burnt offerings and a sacrifice to the Lord, and upon that occasion also the prophet was to tell him what the Lord required. Saul went down to the place appointed, and he waited there for the prophet, but the prophet did not. come exactly as the king expected. He may possibly have delayed his coming. At any rate, the king became nervous, for there was some disturbance among the people and the Philistines were about to come against them in battle. So, instead of waiting for the prophet, Saul undertook, of his own authority, to offer up burnt offering and sacrifice, contrary to the commandment of the Lord. When Samuel came down he said to Saul: (quotes 1 Sam. 13:11-14)
Now to Saul it may have appeared a very simple matter that he should not wait the coming of the prophet. Why could not he, a king, make offering and supplication to the Lord? Why should he wait for the coming of Samuel? Because it was the will and commandment of the Lord, and he did not obey it. In this we have an evidence of the goodness of God in one way and of his strictness in another way. The king was assured by the prophet that if he had obeyed the commandment of God, his kingdom would have been established over Israel forever; but that having departed therefrom, his kingdom should not continue. (Conference Report, October 1899, First Day—Morning Session 123-124)
Joseph Fielding Smith
The bestowal of power was the undoing of Saul, as it has been with multitudes of others; for few are the men who can exercise dominion in righteousness. In course of time Saul became arrogant, selfish and cruel, and lost his kingdom. (The Progress of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1964], 125 - 126)
1 Samuel 13:19-22 in the day of battle… there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people
Like the Nephites in the Book of Mormon, battle stories from the Old Testament are long and glorious when the Israelites win, but barely mentioned when they lose. The message of verses 17-22 is that three companies of Philistines came out and defeated Israel badly. It doesn’t say that, but that is what happened. The scribe-author gives his excuse for the unfortunate loss, saying “We didn’t have the right equipment.” How are you supposed to beat a well-armed enemy without swords and spears?
Apparently, no one in Israel could answer this question, but a young boy named David. While others argued that battles were won with sword and spear, David said, “the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Sam 17:47). David proved these were more than mere words when he walked out to meet Goliath with a staff, sling, and stones. It is no coincidence that he had neither sword nor spear. It is no coincidence that Goliath’s spear was heavy and as large as “a weaver’s beam” (1 Sam. 17:7). David’s faith was in the Lord’s strength—not in his own. The faith of David stands in stark contrast to the rest of Israel, who placed their hope in the strength of their swords and spears.