The Books of the Kings.

F. W. Grant.

Division 2. (1 Sam. 8 — 15.)

Saul, the People's Saviour, but not the divine.

We come now to the demand of the people for a king, and the history of Saul, the king given them according to their request. Though pointed out by God, in the recognized way of ascertaining His will, namely, by lot, yet he is exactly the king they have in mind, as even his height of stature shows. In this way alone could their desire be tested aright, to have a king, like all the nations. He is not after God's heart, but after the people's heart, and so He says: "I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath." (Hosea 13:11.) The lesson was not for that generation only, however; otherwise, it would be of little importance. In all this proving of Israel, as we have again and again been called to realize, it is man as man that is proved, and the depths of his heart unveiled. As to the people, their choice here is really such as they displayed at a later day, when they cried, "Not this man, but Barabbas!" "They have rejected Me," says Jehovah.

It was not that God had not designed them to have a king. The express provision in Deuteronomy is at least proof that one was permissible (Deut. 17:14-20). The song of Hannah has already anticipated it. God's purpose in Christ could only be so fulfilled. Moreover, we have already seen that this was to be expressed in the history anticipatively. The king also, when in truth He shall come, will not only be in full accord with the divine throne over all, but will be the complete expression of it. The evil was in the evident unbelief on the part of the people; and, as naturally connecting itself with this, the total opposition to God in the king they wanted. Saul, the Benjamite, carries us back indeed to the book of Genesis, where we have seen in Benjamin the type (when separated from Joseph) of that Messiah to which Israel clings, a deliverer by power merely. As such they would have received Christ, yea, "taken him by force to make him a king," a manifest sign of the king of their choice. Barabbas, had he had the power, would really have suited them, as Barcochba afterwards* did suit them. God, and the whole relation of their souls to Him, they would gladly have left out.

{*An infidel Rabbi of this day owns fully that Barcochba, the leader of the Jewish insurrection under Hadrian, "had all the qualifications of a Messiah." He was, barring anointment, a Messiah who tallied, every inch of him, with the hopes which his nation harbored concerning such a man." — (Messianic Expectations, by Solomon Schindler.)}

This is the significance, then, of Saul, and it is wider than any merely Jewish one, while yet the Jew is necessarily in the fore-front.

1. (1) The occasion of the demand for a king is the misbehavior of Samuel's sons whom in his old age he had made judges in Beersheba. Joel and Abiah, corrupted by opportunity, take bribes, and pervert justice; a thing which comes into view in the last days also, in connection with the coming of Christ as King, to exercise the judgment of God among the people (Ps. 89). Their names stand for what they were responsible as judges to maintain, — Jehovah as the Mighty God (Joel), and the Father of the people (Abiah).* The people should have reasoned better: if so it were with Samuel's sons, what hope of man at all? and should have fled to God as the only righteous One. But they do not: instead of this the whole nation, as represented by their elders, come to Samuel, seeking a king to judge them, like the nations round. Their peculiar privilege of direct leaning upon God alone they are more than ready to give up for an arm of flesh; and though their plea is "to judge us," they must have been well aware how far judgment was exercised among the nations by their kings. In fact, as comes out afterwards, there was another cause in the threatening attitude of the Ammonites again, as in Jephthah's time (1 Sam. 12:12). In any case there was lack of faith in Him who had so constantly, whenever they had turned to Him, come in for them. As they looked back they could, indeed, see many reverses, and long captivities. The holiness of God had shown itself as Joshua had declared it would. Doubtless they would rather have something that they could cling to, other than this which involved the necessity of persistent obedience. This has been found again and again among the people of God. They could not stand before "this holy Lord God," and they unanimously preferred distance. The story is so old as to have become a trite and common thing; but it has not lost its significance, though it may its power to impress.

{* Joel, "Jehovah [is] the Mighty God"; Abiah, "the Father [is] Jah."}

There are prayers that have to be granted, but in judgment: so with this prayer for a king. But care is taken that even self-deception shall be hardly possible. They are to have testimony from the Lord Himself of what all that is around them bore patent Witness also — the manner of this king that they desired. Samuel is instructed to declare all this to them, that their decision may be in the plainest light that can be given.

(2) The testimony is, after all, simple enough. Man being what he is, honor cannot be given him but he will debase himself with it. Put him in a place of service, he will serve himself first of all. Combine these two, as in the case of a king, self will shine out in him in the fullest way. This is nothing strange, alas, but the commonest experience. But here a people with Jehovah Himself the King, deliberately accepts the yoke of another!

2. (1) The king in Israel, however, must be chosen of God, for he is to be the minister and viceroy of God. He must be pointed out to himself as the chosen of God, that he may realize aright his responsibility to Him, and be made to realize in quiet, before exaltation comes, the purpose of it. God will do everything possible to make untrue His own prophecy of the king that is to be: and to this end comes all this preparatory dealing with Saul.

Saul's genealogy is carefully given us for six generations back, himself being the seventh, Shaul, the "asked," complete in all that makes man naturally to be desired of man. This genealogy is surely in its meaning, therefore, moral, and scarcely favorable in its significance. Its interpretation is somewhat difficult, and yet may be suggested, and its numerical character, which by this time we may assure ourselves of, will help and test the attempt to understand it. Meant to be understood it necessarily is, appealing with all Scripture to man as the rational creature of God, who needs yet continually to be taught of God.

The numbers read naturally backward, according to the actual descent, Kish being the sixth and not the first in the line given here. To understand it, therefore, it would seem that we should trace it in the same order.

We begin, then, with one who is simply given as "a man of Benjamin," leaving more than the "higher critics" to wonder if the name has not dropped out. For the moral purpose, the omission of a name may itself have meaning. We have been taught of the Spirit Himself so to think of the omissions in the account of Melchizedek, and have seen it to be so with the nameless servant of Abraham (Gen. 24) and the nameless city in Reuben (Joshua 13:16); and so it may well be here. The significance of Saul's descent from Benjamin we have briefly glanced at; and at the outset Kish is set before us here as a "man of Benjamin": the repetition here we may conceive, therefore, to have another meaning; and from what has been said, not in any sense an evil one. We may well be carried back to him who was before any failure, to show us the better the failure itself, and how it came about. A "man of Benjamin," as that, conveys no suggestion of evil, and there being no name beside, forbids the thought of any departure from the character implied in the tribal name. How good a sign of integrity for a child of Benjamin to be known only as that, with no intrusion of self to destroy simplicity! Here, then, we have got back beyond any evil development, if afterwards we should find this; while even here, however, we may have what enters into the making of Saul the "asked": for those who can build the sepulchres of the prophets whom their fathers slew, can take pleasure in saintly lineage while far from saintliness.

The second name in descent is that of Aphiah; and if we have been right thus far in interpretation, then we may find the initial point of departure in this second name, the contrast with the first. For Aphiah means most legitimately (as the causative of puah), "I will utter," or "speak out" and if we think of that name unuttered which heads the genealogy, it is natural to put these things together. We have now in opposition to the lowliness forgetful of self, the self-importance which needs must find utterance. And is not this always the point of departure from God, the true fall of the creature, — which is, indeed, to take up the taunt of the enemy, ever a "fall upward," — the creature lifting itself out of its place, in obedience to the suggestion, "ye shall be as God"? The step here, in such a history as this, vindicates itself, therefore, as at least the image of truth.

The third name, under the number of manifestation, reveals the true character of all self-assumption in a child of God. It is Bechorath, "primogeniture," the claim of nature, not of grace, of first against new birth. The order is "first, that which is natural, and afterwards that which is spiritual." (1 Cor. 15:46). In the book of Genesis we are familiar with the fact that the first-born constantly thus loses the birthright, — Ishmael to Isaac, Esau to Jacob, Reuben to Joseph, Manasseh to Ephraim. If the child of God betray self-confidence, it is always and of necessity "confidence in the flesh." The principle of the new nature is faith, and faith's object never can be self. Even faith can, alas, be gloried in; but it cannot "glory," save in Christ.

Zeror, under the fourth number, which is that of the creature, means "tightly enclosed," or "pressed together." It is thus used for a "stone," because of the compression of its particles. It speaks here, therefore, as it would seem, of the narrow sphere and restricted limits of the old creation, shut in between birth and death, confined to the things seen and temporal. Yet men hug these chains, alas, and deliberately shut out heaven and eternity, and count themselves wise in doing so. Here is the sphere of their "primogeniture," however, and they cannot, if they would, transcend it.

But in this sphere still how much space is there for self to display itself in. As an acre of ground may be an ant's world, so the contraction of man's desires gives him scope enough for the petty being into which he has shriveled up. If, moreover, the surface of the ground is actually narrow, he can do as in our modern cities, — build into the air. Great he must be, though it were only in imagination; and here, under the fifth number, that of capacity, we have Abiel, — not, as the name might signify, "God [is] my Father," but rather "Father of might": one whose strength is in himself. Such are the contradictions, such the possibilities and actuality of this strange being, man! With all its contradictions, this is still the character of the Sauls of whatever day. Kish ends the list with the assurance implied in his name, "ensnaring," of the magic for deception that abides in all this for those for whom the light of the divine presence has not dispelled the illusion, and brought face to face with the holiness of truth. This Saul, this man of the people, has, beside all this, many rightly attractive qualities. We shall find him shortly tested under the hand of God, — surely not unmercifully, that were absolute impossibility from Him; yet so that he collapses utterly, and shows himself the poor lost creature that he is, — even so, not turning to Him, nor seeking the honor that is of God only. As he is the man of the people, so before the people he lives the sham life that men count really life; when the bubble breaks all is gone, out of the wreck nothing saved, the freightage of a soul precious to God, and worth Christ's sacrifice to save it, gone irretrievably, and forever. "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"

The overruling of God is clearly seen in the way Saul is led up to meet Samuel, ignorant of the hand that is guiding him, — ignorant of the very person of Samuel, as it would seem, and all his memorable history. Suited king for such a people, who were deliberately ignoring God's mercies to them in the past, of which the prophet had been the divine instrument. Saul is seeking his father's she-asses which have gone astray, and finds an intractable and rebellious nation, worse by far than these, put into his hand without seeking, to be brought back to God. In both cases he is unsuccessful: yet, had he sought the last with the same energy with which he had sought the first, he might have had the success which was now reserved for one to come after him.

A suggestion may be made as to the places of Saul's vain search. There are four places in which he searches, but these are divided into three stages only, Mount Ephraim and the land of Shalisha being put together. In the land of Zuph, which comes significantly, therefore, as a fourth stage (the number of testing and failure), he does not search, but abandons his quest; and the name Zuph means "honeycomb," the type of the sweetness of natural things, which have overcome many more than Saul. Thus there is a gleam of light which should encourage us to look further. The first stage gives us, under the number of obedience, Mount Ephraim, the "fruitfulness" which God seeks in us, with the "land of Shalisha," ("third part," or "divided into three,") which I cannot interpret. Here "they found them not." The second stage may speak of "humiliation," where confessed failure in obedience would naturally bring the soul; and the name agrees with this, Shaalim, probably "hollows" or "deep valleys": but "there they were not." The third stage is the "land of Jemini," ("my right hand,") the place of dependent exaltation to which the "valley of humiliation" so often leads, through grace: but there, too, "they found them not." Israel was, indeed, astray; nor could he find them whom the sweetness of nature beguiled from the search.

But at this point the servant's voice is heard, counseling, as the true servant will, to "ask of God." Saul does not think of this, nor know the man who can declare His mind. All this is characteristic; as it is that with the servant should be found the fitting present for the man of God: little enough, only the fourth part of a shekel, at still the "silver" of atonement, — current coin in the kingdom of God. So they are provided.

A parenthesis is introduced here to let us know the identity between the "prophet" and the "seer." The latter term simply implied the knowledge which the prophet had, not the source of it. The nahbi, the prophet, was the mouthpiece of God, whose word filled him and "bubbled forth" from him. The people of the time here indicated spoke but of the "seer." It was a day of decline, when carnal men thought at least much more of the effect than of the cause, and sought the one while they ignored the other. God had spoken long since of the "prophet"; the people eared but for the "seer." Saul, upon this low ground, approves what he could not initiate. He, too, seeks the seer"; while the prophet, taught of God, is seeking for Him this blind man, brought by a way he knows not.

(2) To meet the seer they have to go up to a higher level, and Saul finds himself an inquirer in a strange place. First of all, there meet them on the ascent young maidens going forth to draw water, and from them they obtain their first answer. By the wells all through we have communications of grace, simple enough when we know for what the well stands. Those who draw water are, of course, those who seek and use the living waters of the Spirit; and with these is the knowledge of the things of God. From these Saul learns not only of the seer, but of the sacrifice, and a feast upon the sacrifice, the great lesson of communion for a king to learn. We have long since looked at the peace-offering (Lev. 3 and 7:11, seq.) where God and men sit, so to speak, at a common table, brought together by the work of the cross, and with common delight in Him who has made peace by it. But this is the foundation of the reign of peace, the reign of God in righteousness and peace among men. When it really comes, the Lamb, the Victim, will be on the Throne; and upon this foundation only can there be the least anticipation of this blessed time. Of all this, therefore, Saul must learn, to be fitted for his kingdom. He must himself participate in this peace. The link that unites God and man is the only link that unites man and man.

God is speaking in His love, seeking to win for himself this goodly creature of His hand. He reveals to Samuel, the day before Saul comes, that He is sending him, and that He means through him to minister to His people's need. The prince shall be the saviour. And that he may be fully such, God would bring him to have first to do with Himself, before he comes to stand in the presence of the people. Thus by degrees He breaks to him His purpose: a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and made so by dreadful penalty exacted for a dreadful crime, He will take him with all the littleness which should keep him lowly, and mindful — as what Benjamite could be unmindful? — of the discipline through which they had all passed, and set him at the head of all the people. Samuel salutes him thus with the surprising news that upon him is fixed the desire of Israel. This can only mean that what they sought in a king he was the very man to answer to. He was in this way really the man of the people's choice, the very style and pattern of the king they craved. But being such, God would, if he met this desire, make him much more, — desired to have him for Himself and with Himself, and for this was meeting him after the manner here.

Now he is called to feast upon the sacrifice. To feast upon love's provision for one's need, freely partaking of what has cost so much to give, is the way of acquirement of the spirit of sacrifice — of service which is that. So the special part which has been reserved for him is the burden-bearing shoulder, the priest's portion (Ex. 29:27): for the priest's heart must go with the kingly office; in Him whose representative Saul is to be, king and priest are united together.

(3) Saul abides with Samuel for the night, and early in the morning is sent away. Samuel anoints him, — at once the assurance of power which he shall have, and the character of it, and the dependence upon the Spirit which it implies. Then the first kiss of subjection is on the part of the man of God, just now the judge of Israel. He gives him also three "signs," which, when they come to pass, he is to do as his hand finds, in the full conviction that God is with him. These signs are, of course, to be more than mere foreseen occurrences. They are to have in themselves a voice, which will, however, depend upon himself for its significance: he must have in himself the understanding heart, or he will miss the meaning. "How often there is a meaning, a language, perfectly intelligible to one who has ears to hear, but which escapes us because our gross and hardened heart has no spiritual intelligence or discernment! And yet all our future hangs upon it. God has shown our incapacity for the blessing it involved. Nevertheless the means were not wanting." ("Synopsis.") From this necessity on our part, moreover, divine grace itself cannot release us. It would not be grace to do so. Yet how much of our lives are barren of meaning because we have not had capacity to read this language, or quickness to discern the voice that was speaking to us! Nor is this only true of the facts of the world around us, or of the events of our own lives: Scripture itself, with all its wealth of blessedness, is given "that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." Even its plainest parts need spiritual discernment; and how much of it is written in a way that is not plain, but which needs and calls for spiritual intelligence and diligent inquiry, in order to any proper apprehension.

Saul then is left to his ability to read these signs; not as if the Lord were not ready to endue him with all the ability needed; of that we require no assurance: but here is the mystery of that dependent, yet free and accountable being of which we are possessed. We share with Saul this nature, with all its privilege, and with all its responsibility; and the Lord's ways are equal, let us remember, with us all.

The first sign, in accordance with its numerical meaning, carries him back to Benjamin's origin. He was the son of his mother's sorrow, — she had died to give him birth; and where her grave stood there his inheritance began,* — at Zelzah more strictly, which interprets the thought as "shadowed brightness." The world is shadowed when heaven stands revealed; and so in the Cross, the deepest shadow ever cast upon it. He also that will save his life shall lose it; but he that loses it in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. The self-renunciation Saul so needed is here enforced for him; and here two men meet him to let him know that, apart from his labor, the asses that he sought are found, and his father's heart is yearning for his son. God can as easily work without us as He can with us; need of us He has not, but that heart of love to which our human affections, given of Him, truly, if feebly, testify. Many lessons, from different sides, concur here, evidently for one purpose — that Saul may be in the hand of God the free but devoted instrument He seeks.

{* This was not, of course, geographically exact, but near enough for the meaning which seems given to it here.}

The second sign yields its lesson in due order, that to the one so yielded up to God fellowship and help shall come from those who seek God. Here three men appeared instead of two, for they represent the whole Godhead, though seen in His people, acting in the strengthening of His servant; and they go up to God to Bethel, where Jacob learnt that God was — not simply his God, but the God of His own house, governing it for Himself. It is with those who seek God there that there will be found the apprehension of His mind; and with these, at the oak of Tabor, the living strength that unites with "purpose," the man of God will have recognition. These may be few indeed; they ordinarily are few: but they represent, as we have seen, the fellowship of God Himself. Their gifts — what they have for God — are to be noted: three goats, one for each man, for the sin-offering; the bread, which they can share with another; the drink-offering wine, which is to be poured out to God. Such a company speaks plainly of its faith, and may be recognized by those who have hearts for it.

The third sign shows the work of the Spirit of God, even in a scene in which the Philistine has his posts at the very hill of God itself.* The presence of the enemy at such a place is the sad evidence of the state of things in Israel; but the remedy therefor is not, in the first place, by power, but by return to God and subjection to Him. He must be exalted where He has been dishonored; and this is what the spirit of prophecy does. Saul meets here, therefore, a company of prophets, and their various instruments of music show the joy and boldness that accompany the return of heart to God. How small a thing is the enemy in the presence of God! And this joy in Him is the sure sign of the overthrow of all that opposes itself to Him. Jehoshaphat's singers and trumpeters are in the forefront of the host, and it is to these that the Lord hearkens and gives victory. (2 Chron. 20:22.) What a lesson for the Benjamite warrior, Saul!

{*Why called so, we are not told, apparently; nor is it needed for the purpose of the lesson.}

At this point the Spirit of Jehovah would come upon him, and he would be changed into another man, gifted with needed ability for the occasion, according to the place in which God had put him for the blessing of the people. Then he was to act as his hand found opportunity, for God was with him.

But there follows a needed limiting of power, which might easily, in a time of such disorder, be carried too far. And here Samuel's words look on to a time of special testing for Saul after he shall have been confirmed in the kingdom. In fact, he failed then, and his failure forfeited for him the continuance of the royal power in his house. He was to go down before Samuel to Gilgal, and there wait for him to offer the offerings needed. Seven days he would have to wait, and God would guide him through the prophet as to what to do. From this it is manifest that Samuel remained the representative of the kingdom over all, even when Saul took the lower kingdom: and this was the more necessary to be insisted on in view of the spirit of prophecy coming upon Saul also. But the men themselves were total contrasts; and here the two kingdoms show their possible opposition to each other, — a possibility to become actuality at an after time.

All these signs followed, as Samuel had foretold, and the same day. But "Saul among the prophets" became an ominous proverb in Israel, in spite of the prudent question of the bystander, who infers that God is the Source of the prophecy, thus the Father of the prophets. To his uncle,s questioning he replies, without divulging the secret of the kingdom.

3. The third subdivision gives the open manifestation of the king: first, by the lot, the way in which the divine choice was ascertained; then in the deliverance actually effected by him, — the work, in part, which he was needed and raised up to do. This confirms him in the place which God had given him.

(1) We have seen the lot used in the apportionment of their inheritance to the tribes of Israel, and to discover the guilty one in the case of the appropriation of that which was devoted to the Lord at Jericho. The account here is very brief: first, we hear of Benjamin being taken, then of the family of Matri (only mentioned here), and then of Saul, the son of Kish. Matri means, probably, "Jehovah is watching." The place of gathering being Mizpeh, the "watchtower," the significance of which we have seen as implying the people watching what Jehovah will say, here we may be reminded of the converse truth. Jehovah, in fact, was not speaking out His mind. He had done so, and they had given no heed. Now, even while He indicated Saul, it was as their choice, rather than His. He is forced to silence, and to await the result of their self-will. So Samuel once more warns them that in seeking a king they were rejecting the Lord. The lot has lost, therefore, its true meaning: it is not properly Jehovah's choice; and little can be said about it.

When Saul is announced, he is not to be found, until the Lord answers their inquiry by letting them know that he is hidden among the baggage. In truth he was, — a mere "vessel" among the dead, inanimate "vessels," (as the word means), which He can use, who can make all things serve Him, but without the life and spirit of service. However, when he is brought out, for thews and sinews he is a man indeed, and towers over the heads of all the people. Samuel points out how well he answers the ideal that they seek, and the people shout in answer, "Live the King!" But it means as little as the king himself does. Just so far as Saul has risen above them they have shrunk. Their colossus is but a shadow over them. Could he be aught else, when they had put him between their souls and God!

But all is settled, and they must abide their choice. And indeed the godly can own God in it, and thus escape the shadow. Samuel tells them the manner of the kingdom, and writes it in a book, and it is laid up before the Lord. Then he sends them to their houses; and Saul returns to Gibeah, to his house. There is no exuberance of loyalty. What men set their hearts on, they often need only to have to find how little it is. God touches the hearts of some, that they follow Saul; else none would have done so! And the children of Belial ask now, what the men of piety would have asked before, "How shall this man save us?" Before, that question would have honored God; now it leaves Him out. With all "powers that be," faith recognizes, even in Saul, "a minister of God for good," and knows the omnipotent love that makes all things work for good. How could it "despise," as the men of Belial do, the "minister of God"?

Saul's new-found greatness sits well upon him too, just now. He is as a deaf man to all their murmurings.

(2) The deliverance from the Ammonites it is that shows Saul to be the deliverer for whom the people are waiting, and which confirms the kingdom in his hand. With the Ammonites we have been already made familiar, especially in connection with a former deliverance by Jephthah, and their significance cannot now be doubtful. We find them here once again attacking Israel, under their king Nahash, whose name, almost identical with that of Nahshon, prince of Judah in the wilderness, means "divination, augury." Nahshon, however, as we have seen in the book of the wilderness, is to be understood in a good sense, as Nahash the Ammonite cannot be. The divination of the heathen was assertedly the interpretation of a divine answer, though given through material signs, and the character of this is indicated in the identity of this word with that which was the general term for "serpent." The spirit of all doctrinal heresy (of which the Ammonite speaks) is indeed Satanic. As the Spirit of God is also the Spirit of truth, and by the truth it is that men are sanctified, so on the other hand, Satan is the father of lies, and destroys men with the poison of falsehood. Scripture, in entire opposition to the natural thought, emphasizes more strongly by far the condemnation of doctrinal than of moral evil, closely connected as these are; and it is not hard to understand why, if by the word of truth we are new begotten and sanctified. The lusts of the flesh bring with them — at least wherever the light shines — their own condemnation; but Satan's lie is the darkness which covers and shelters all the rest; or the false light that lures to shipwreck.

The attack of Nahash is naturally not upon the strongest part of Israel, but the weakest. Jabesh-gilead contributed no warriors to the Benjamite war, and was visited with ruthless destruction at the hands of united Israel at that time. Since then, it had recovered itself, but has here little strength of faith to oppose the enemy. Gilead, "the heap of witness," speaks of memory that should be fruitful; and in fact the country is so, even at the present day; but Jabesh, "dry," often "dried up, withered," speaks of the reverse of this, and it is there where the truth is not productive, — where decline has begun in the soul, — that the attacks of error are most easily effectual.

Jabesh will surrender, if that be all that is needed, and serve the king of Ammon; but the king will not agree, except they come to his terms, worthy as they are of an Ammonite. He must thrust out all their right eyes, and lay it as a reproach against Israel. Spiritually read, a reproach indeed, if we interpret, according to what we have had elsewhere (vol. 1. p. 389, n.), the right eye as the eye of faith. Reason and faith are in fact the double witness in man which, where the soul is right with God, like the vision of the two eyes, accord in one image. But the following of man, which all heresy in its essence is, puts out therefore necessarily the eye of faith: for this sees God and not man. Nahash in his requirement speaks, therefore, quite intelligibly here.

But even the men of Jabesh demand a seven days' respite, to see if there be no deliverer in Israel yet; and this the arrogance of Nahash grants; for he has not a dream of any rescue. The messengers of the straitened city come, therefore, at once to Gibeah, Saul's city, with the news of these conditions.

As he hears, the Spirit of God comes upon Saul, and he summons the people with a threat to follow himself and Samuel. We see clearly that there is no energy in the people, and the energy in Saul is not of the highest kind. He leans on Samuel, and puts his name forth, though after his own, to enforce obedience, appealing to their fear as the most successful argument, and indeed not without cause; and in fact the fear of Jehovah it is that falls upon the people, so that they come out in mass. They gather (significantly) in Bezek, the place of the "fetter," — under constraint, not willingly; and Saul sends word to the men of Jabesh that they shall have help.

(3) In result, the Ammonites are thoroughly beaten and scattered; and Saul becomes in this respect the people's saviour, who therefore go off into a vehement enthusiasm for the man they had despised. But the Ammonites are but an incident in the history here. They do not give character to the condition of things in Israel, and do not test the king of their choice. We shall see in a little while what does so, and then how entirely Saul fails. Speaking according to the spiritual meaning, the deliverance of the people of God from heresy, however necessary, does not put them right with God; for this, much more is needed than orthodoxy, even of the strictest kind.

Yet this is a deliverance, and the people rightly may rejoice. Saul, too, uses his triumph wisely and with moderation. Samuel uses it to draw the people to Gilgal and renew the kingdom there. Gilgal is where the "reproach of Egypt" of the bondage of the people there, was rolled away. Circumcision, the renunciation of all confidence in the flesh, there enabled them to be the "Lord's host," the free servants of His will in opposition to all the hosts of evil. Thus the Captain of the Lord's host, — greater even than Joshua, how much greater than Saul! — could take His place at their head for the career of victory now opening before them. The application is easy enough here. What should hinder things coming into their place as then? Let there be only subjection, all would be as then. Let Saul be as Joshua, the lower kingdom be in truthful obedience to the higher, God still remained for them Jehovah, the Unchanged, Unchangeable. Such, surely, was the thought in Samuel's heart, for people and king. Thus only could their "sacrifices of peace-offerings" have meaning. But alas! there were too plain indications of another spirit than this; and if "Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly," nothing is said of him whose joy would have been deepest had the material of it been there. If Samuel rejoiced, it must have been indeed with trembling. And so his words now show.

4. A new section opens here. For now the new king must abide the rule of the higher kingdom, and be tested as to his fitness to fulfill its requirements. So it has ever been. So, in regard to God's governmental dealings with man in this life, it ever must be. Even the Church, though the witness of divine grace in its fullest character, yet as the responsible vessel of this on earth, has not escaped, nor could escape, this testing. "Unto thee goodness, if thou continue in His goodness," says the apostle of the Gentiles, the special "minister" of the Church (Col. 1:25), otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." (Rom. 11:22.) How she has answered to this test, let her history, in the light of the word of God, decide. Saul did not stand, we are called now, for our own profit, to consider the cause and manner o his fall. These things are written for our admonition: may we have open ears to receive the admonition!

(1) Samuel now stands forth before the people, rejoicing because of their deliverance, to use the opportunity to effect one much greater, namely, from the sin which is always the degradation and destruction of a people. Their own had never yet been realized, in asking for a king and now their rejoicing in the king they had got was likely to blind their eyes yet more, and God's mercy toward them become only an occasion of worse departure from Him. Samuel for this, therefore, first of all, makes them own the uprightness of his own conduct in the place which God had given him among them. They were thus without excuse as to that which they had demanded, for although they had pleaded that the prophet's sons walked not in his ways, such failure allowed of easy correction. Indeed, as he shows presently, without condescending to any direct notice of it, it was not the true ground for what they had sought at all, but their fear of the Ammonites, and their inability to trust Jehovah for protection. This cowardly unbelief would naturally be cowardly enough in self excuses, and he does not honor them by even noticing them.

(2) His integrity being allowed on all hands, he bids them stand forth while he reasons with them for his God. Jehovah's deeds were known well enough. He does not need to speak of them in order or at length. That they had been brought out of Egypt, brought into the land they now possessed, he had but briefly to allude to. After all this, they had left their own victorious Jehovah for the dead idols of the defeated Canaanites. In the land which was His gift they had forgotten Him, and that again and again, after repeated deliverances. Their present sin was but a repetition of that of their fathers: its root was in insubjection of heart, and unbelief.

{*1 Sam. 12:11. Probably a textual error for Barak, which is the reading of the Septuagint.}

(3) He appeals to God Himself for confirmation of this. In Israel they, as a matter of course, gathered in their wheat in peace, but now the wrath of God would be manifest in sending thunder and rain. These signs come to pass the same day, and produce a transient effect upon the people. In a spasm of fear they own their guilt, and deprecate the death which they anticipate. Samuel reassures them, bidding them only fear Jehovah with a fruitful fear, productive of obedience, and lie would be with them; on the other hand, if still they did wickedly, they and their king alike would perish.

{*1 Sam. 13:1. One number is wanting here, and cannot be supplied from any known source; the other is questionable. The Septuagint omits the verse altogether, which on more accounts than this commends itself to me. But I have bracketed and left it. It seems an interruption in the course of the history, the second verse naturally connecting with the end of the last chapter.}

(4) Saul is now fully installed: he is accepted of the people and in the flush of a first victory. But the testing time has thus now come, and he must stand the test or be set aside. He does not stand the test, for he has no true faith in God, and is thus under the power of circumstances. He is slow and undecided when prompt action is called for, and then is forced into doing when he ought to have waited. Thus he openly disobeys God, and is of necessity set aside.

In natural courage he is not deficient, but natural courage without faith only begets self-confidence, and leads astray, while just where needed it is apt to break down and leave one in the lurch. Here, too, a man's religion, which without faith is only superstition, becomes a hindrance, as we shall see in Saul.

His first act, after the victory over Nahash, judged by natural wisdom, is prudent enough. The rally in behalf of Jabesh-Gilead has brought together an ill-armed and undisciplined multitude, which, however effective under a sudden impulse, could not be trusted for a prolonged and regular war. To have kept so large a number together, had it been feasible, would have surely provoked a Philistine attack, and being unmanageable, the greater mass would have produced a worse defeat. Saul sends them all home, therefore, except three thousand men, too few to rouse the suspicion of those who had been rapidly assuming to be masters in Israel, and yet enough to occupy some central strong points, of which there were many in that mountainous land, and to be the nucleus of a trained and efficient army. The old days of Samuel had already passed away. The fruits of unbelief are not long in showing themselves. And in Saul's action we see not a return to faith, but the wise caution of worldly prudence and astute generalship. Every thing has to be calculated and provided for. God is left out, for He is a force not calculable; but being left out, He is still at liberty to come in and spoil these arrangements, as we shall see: though He act in mercy toward His people, as now He does; but just on that account the human machinery must be set aside.

Two thousand men under Saul occupy the strong and important position of Michmash and Mount Bethel; a thousand are under Jonathan at Gibeah: and this introduces us to one in whom we have at this time — and Saul had also in close proximity to himself — the man of faith, through whom God works the deliverance which He has prepared for His people. Jonathan, or Jehonathan, means, "Jehovah hath given:" and he is truly the Lord's gift to Israel for the emergency; but also this is the language of his own believing heart, a sort of blank check, which can be filled up for every occasion. We shall find how fully he makes use of it now, though the first effect seems only to upset all the prudential device, and threaten disaster. But he is really with God, and we find in him what Saul should have been and was not. With him there is no tardiness, no prudence: put arms in his hands and he will use them. With one bold act of defiance, he precipitates the unequal conflict with those whose strength the nation had so often proved, — at this time comparatively at the strongest. He smites the Philistine post at Geba, and the Philistines hear.

Saul cannot now lead: he must follow; but he follows in a path of which he has no knowledge, acting in the dark where he imagines he has full light. There is no caution now, no seeking wisdom from God. He has just dismissed the mass that had gathered against the Ammonites; now again he summons them in haste with the trumpet; but God has no use for them: a general fear falls upon the people; those that gather after Saul melt away again; he is left to his dismay; and the actual victory is gained by two people whose absence is only in this way discovered! What an object lesson of faith is given us here!

While faith triumphs, as it ever does, things have gone disastrously with Saul. He sees not God, sees only circumstances; and where he moves most freely and confidently, is in fact moved helplessly by them. He must have a rising of the people to meet the wave of hostile invasion. He summons them as "Hebrews," not as Israelites; for of Israel, the people of God, he knows really nothing. They hear that Saul has smitten the post of the Philistines, leaving God out of the matter as Saul had left Him out. Unbelief awakens only unbelief; and then in opposition to Saul they naturally see the Philistines. Israel has come to be in ill savor also with the Philistines. They are called together after Saul to Gilgal. Where is the glorious Captain of the Lord's host that once met them there? Now they only realize the host of the Philistines, to their eyes innumerable, who presently take possession of the passes to the upper country. So seeing they are in a strait they scatter, hiding themselves in holes in the rocks and in the ground. And "Hebrews" make their escape altogether out of the threatened district, going over Jordan to Gad and Gilead. A company remain with Saul, but they follow him trembling. In this direction there is no hope.

{*1 Sam. 13:8. The word 'appointed' or 'spoken' is not in the Hebrew copies generally but several MSS. have it.}

A grand opportunity for a man of God! and so it proves for Jonathan. It might have seemed that even Saul would be now driven to Him. Our extremity is still His opportunity, and this is what He would assure us of The conviction of helplessness contains oftentimes in itself the seed of faith and the famine and a world where no man gives, have been to how many prodigals constraining influences to bring about the cry, "I will arise and go to my Father!" But with Saul it is far otherwise, and the failure now is nothing incidental to the circumstances in which he is found, but the real and full manifestation of the man himself.

He is now in the position of which Samuel had forewarned him before his anointing, (chap. 10:8,) and in obedience to his injunction he waits till near the close of the seventh day, — till it has advanced so far, indeed, that it seems as if there was now no hope of Samuel's coming. The people are being scattered from him. His mind, sensitive as to external ordinances just in proportion to his inability to see beneath them, can only realize the failure (which was not his) in the matter of the sacrifice. In open disobedience he offers (or causes to be offered) the burnt-offering; and he has hardly done this before Samuel comes.

(5) It was a plain breach of positive command. Saul might and does urge the scattering of the people, the failure of Samuel (too quickly assumed that), the gathered Philistines. With all this he had nothing at all to do. The king of Israel was but the representative of the heavenly King, whose people Israel really was, and whose will alone was absolute throughout all circumstances that might arise. How good, in fact, to have it so! How entirely at rest might a king be so governing! As to any lack of understanding of that will, there was given the utmost liberty of appeal to Him through known and readily available channels of communication. With consequences he had nothing whatever to do. Were ever any king's shoulders so entirely relieved of strain as those of the obedient king of such a kingdom?

Saul had not the spirit of obedience, and there was no harshness, no undue severity in his rejection by God. As yet even it does not amount to present personal rejection. It is announced only that his kingdom should not continue, and that God had sought Him a king after His own heart, — manifestly one who would govern according to His will, which, in the main, was David's character. The two kingdoms must be in harmony. But Saul is yet left to recover, if it may be, the ground he had lost. Such is the mercy of the divine government, which we may see afterwards, even with a king so exceptionally bad as Ahab. (1 Kings 21:29.) Yet this mercy of God allows, too, the development of evil in the unrepentant and this we have to find in a striking manner in Saul. "Because judgment against an evil work is not speedily executed, therefore the heart of the sons of men is thoroughly set in them to do evil."

5. Side by side now, in contrasted development, we have in Saul the man without God, under the government of God, whose position as the ostensible, responsible head in Israel only emphasizes the lesson here. He is but the obstruction in the path of faith which we find in Jonathan, the man with God, whom Saul, though bound to him by every natural tie, would slay. Such is the essential opposition between what is natural and what is spiritual, even where, as here, it is not enmity, but a blind and superstitious zeal for God, — under which, however, all carnal and evil passions find ready lodgment. On the other hand, Saul's strength, such as it is, is easily seen to be based upon Jonathan's victories, which are crippled only by their connection with him, while Jonathan himself, though to the last attractive and interesting, soon ceases to have significance for the history at large, and at last expires under the shadow of a terrible humiliation upon the field of Gilboa. Impressive lessons, more than ever to be heeded today, when, through this very heedlessness, the history spiritually so often repeats itself.

(1) In the first place, here we are made to realize the circumstances in the midst of which faith finds its opportunity. The land is prostrate. Unbelief has speedily completed its work. The deliverance wrought by Samuel is undone, and the Philistine spoiler is abroad over the country. Saul has, indeed, his six hundred men; but they are spiritless, and armed but with rustic and blunted weapons. This barrenness of resources is, however, only God's hand shutting them up to Himself. It is the prostration which makes Him their necessity; but, in general, there is no faith either to lay hold of Him. What would an army of such men accomplish? Nothing but their own defeat. Hence Jonathan, in whom faith is, will not burden himself with them: energized by God, he strikes with his own hand for deliverance, and strikes effectually.

(2) Jonathan knows well that "two cannot walk together except they are agreed," that faith can take no counsel with unbelief; and when he starts against the Philistine garrison at Geba, he tells not his own father. Saul and his six hundred are shown us for a moment as he turns his back on them, Saul lying under the pomegranate at Migron (the place of "overthrow"); and with the failed king, the head of the failed priesthood, Ahijah ("brother of Jah"), son of Ahitub ("brother of goodness"), but the brother of Ichabod ("where is the glory?"), the monument of the sad history of Eli and his sons. With him is the ephod, expressly for communication with Jehovah, but there is none; and none among the people even know that Jonathan is gone away. Victory may be gained for these, not by them. They may enter presently upon a path which others have opened: open it they cannot.

Jonathan therefore goes forth alone, with only his armor-bearer with him, in whom faith responds to his own faith. Two things, as we find by his words, animate him: that the Philistines are the "uncircumcised," the enemies of Israel, the people of God; and that "there is no restraint to Jehovah, to save by many or by few." He believes in an omnipotent God who loves His people, and upon whom to venture for their salvation can surely be no mistake. He has no express command, no open call to accomplish this: he reasons; but he reasons from premises which faith furnishes, and from the depths of his own self-sacrificing love to the people of God, which enables him sympathetically to realize the divine love. He does not at first speak with absolute assurance of success: he says, "it may be that Jehovah will work for us"; he knows God's heart better than His mind, gaining assurance as he goes on, willing to risk where the risk is all his own. Such believing love can never be unfruitful.

He finally accepts the enemy's own decision of the matter as the Lord's judgment. If they say, "Wait till we come down to you," the energy implied will, at least, not show that He is opening the way before him. But if they say, "Come up to us," then, whether it be indolence, indifference, or self-security, he will take it as the assurance that God has given them up into his hands.

There are abundant difficulties in those steep cliffs which overhang the bold adventurers' path. Two points, on opposite sides, are mentioned, — not surely as mere commemorative indications of the place for days to come, but with a deeper interest. One, Bozez, was named from its "shining" surface, which, on the north side, (that of the enemy's post,) would have the sun full upon it. The other, on Israel's, would be correspondingly in the dark, and was called Seneh, the "thorn," the sign of the curse. Israel was, indeed, in the shadow of God's judgment then, as, on this account also, their enemies were in prosperity: and such things have been difficulties in the path of many a Jonathan from that day to this. But there is a faith which can surmount all, working through the love of a devoted heart; and we find it in this son of Saul, not, clearly, by any assistances of nature there.

The two discover themselves to the Philistine garrison in open day: for darkness does not favor the people of God, but the reverse. They are taunted with the cowardice that is not theirs, but is their brethren's, as the sins of professors merely are hurled at all times at the true confessors; and are bidden, "Come up unto us, and we will show you a thing": for with Philistines there is a height and superiority of knowledge inaccessible, in their judgment, to the "Israelite indeed." They know not that this is the sign that Jehovah has delivered them up, and that the battle is gone against them.

Jonathan and his companion, therefore, climb on hands and knees to the attack: knees as well as hands are a grand necessity in climbing spiritual heights: and the Philistines fall before them. Fear and trembling fall upon the host; and the earth trembles and quakes; for God Himself is there: the victory is already accomplished.

(3) As yet but two men have wrought, even the little band with Saul unconscious of their departure from them; but now the Israelites around begin to be awakened and to follow in the track that has been opened to them. The watchmen of Saul begin to realize the commotion and disintegration in the enemy's camp, and Saul imputes it to some human agency; but when the company is mustered, only Jonathan and another being absent, so slight a cause seems inadequate to the effect, and now he thinks of consulting God. But the noise increases in the camp, and the disorder among the Philistines being manifest, he abruptly stops the priest in the midst of his inquiry. He is pressed to God by great necessity; but he prefers much to do without Him. The matter is sufficiently plain for action. He gathers his company and goes out to battle, only to find that dissension has already precipitated disaster in the hostile ranks. The "Hebrews" recreant or captive among them turn against them; the Israelites who have been in hiding around swarm after the flying host. The broken wave of battle ebbs away toward the west. It is Jehovah who that day saves Israel.

(4) But the spirit of Saul is in entire independence. If Jehovah work, it is for him He works; and in his short-sighted desire for vengeance upon his enemies, he freely imprecates Jehovah's curse upon the soul that does not obey his mandate to abstain from food until vengeance is executed. He thus makes the might of Jehovah's name to work against the very thing he would accomplish; and limits, as far as he may, the effect of that which he had no part in producing. He can meddle and mar, if he cannot make. In his profanity he would have God curse where He means only blessing, heedless where the curse may fall. The people are faint, and the victory is incomplete. Jonathan, the instrument of the divine deliverance, is the one who falls under the futile curse. Too far away from the scene to have heard his father's adjuration, he takes a little of the wild honey which offers itself by the way, and is refreshed. Told of his father's curse he reprobates it, and shows its evil consequences. Honey is the sweetness of natural things, not to be ascetically interdicted to the people of God, though to be kept in due subordination. The world is, indeed, a place of warfare for the Christian, in which he may "not entangle himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please Him who has chosen him to be a soldier." (2 Tim. 2:4.) We have need to watch lest we should be brought under the power of lawful things (1 Cor. 6:12). But herein every one must judge for himself what is help, what hindrance, while it is grace alone that enables, and not law.

Saul's prohibition leads to further evil. The famishing people, wild with hunger, fall at last upon the prey, and slaughtering sheep and oxen, eat them with the blood, in plain disobedience to the divine command. Thus an undue restriction leads to license, and the imposition of an arbitrary human enactment to a transgression of the divine: and these things occur not seldom in this way.

(5) Saul builds now an altar to Jehovah: he has need of Him, and formally acknowledges Him. He desires and proposes still to pursue the Philistines, and gains the consent of the people. It is the priest, who urges that God must be consulted first. Saul asks, accordingly, "Shall I go down after the Philistines?" and his proud spirit chafes at there being no answer to the question. He realizes that there has been sin somewhere, and evidently divines that it is in the transgression of his own rash prohibition; seems even to imagine (perhaps from Jonathan's having been away when it was uttered) that it may be he: yet, instead of being smitten into the dust by the thought, or showing the least repentance for his reckless haste, boils over in a furious vow by Jehovah, that if it were in Jonathan himself, he should die. The people gaze upon him speechless. He brings it to a brief decision by putting himself and Jonathan over against the people for the lot to point out the guilty. He and Jonathan are taken: at the next casting Jonathan is taken: and Saul is face to face with the consequences of his deed.

But he is still unsubdued: stonily he questions the deliverer of Israel, What hast thou done? and hears his simple, straightforward account: "I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in my hand, and lo, I must die," to answer with another imprecation upon the self, dearer loved than is his child, "God do so [to me] and more also, but thou shalt surely die, Jonathan!"

Then the people break out in a wave of astonishment and indignation, putting with emphatic decision their oath against the king's oath. What! Jonathan, who has wrought, in the power of God, this deliverance of Israel? Jonathan die for the breach of a command he never knew, and by which Saul's own madness had snatched the full fruits of the victory out of the deliverer's hand? Nay, "as Jehovah liveth, there shall not a hair of his head fall to the ground!"

So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not; and Saul is left to his folly and shame. The whole matter, from beginning to end, has been one continued humiliation for the infatuated king. The man himself is unmistakably revealed; while on God's part how great is the mercy shown, — how tender, if solemn, is the rebuke administered! And the divine patience is not exhausted yet.

6. Another test is to be permitted Saul; and as, in the former case he was under the pressure of circumstances which might plead, if not convincingly, for him, so now he is forborne with till he has gathered strength. One readily perceives, indeed, danger for him in this; but it is the only alternative. What he is, and whether Jehovah's king for the people, must be proved; and nothing can prove so fully as when all constraint is taken off, and the will is allowed its fullest liberty. It is not meant, of course, but that lie is under the commandment of God: this is, of necessity, wherewith he is to be tried: the kingdom on earth is to be the true representative and executive of the kingdom in heaven: but obedience is to be made a question of pure will, with no hindrance to it from outside, no resistance except it be from the will itself.

The means of the ordained trial we have in Amalek; and here, as elsewhere to have the full lesson, the spiritual meaning of the people must be taken into account. In both Exodus and Numbers we have seen that as the offspring of Edom Amalek stands for the lusts of the flesh (Ex. 17, Num. 24, n.). In Balaam's prophecy it is when the Scepter rises out of Israel, and out of Jacob comes one who hath dominion, — in other words, when Christ comes again — that "Amalek shall perish forever." Till then his hand is "against the throne of Jah," and "Jehovah will have war with Amalek from generation to generation." Thus the destruction of Amalek is a sign of the true King having come to Israel.

The lusts of the flesh are indeed the very expression of the rebellious war against Jehovah's throne; and he in whom these are found can never be Jehovah's rightful king. There is but One, then, who can be this; and Saul is not even His typical picture — no, not for a moment. Of the issue of Saul's trial here we shall have presently to speak.

(1) But first we are given to see his might. After the deliverance at Mich-mash he takes, indeed, the kingdom over Israel, and wars against all his enemies round about, and discomfits them, Philistines and Amalekites and all. "He did valiantly, and delivered Israel out of the hand of them that spoiled them." Externally he is thus a prosperous man; no enemy at this time prevails against him: but in all this prosperity we have no hint of any real dependence on the Lord, nor of the Lord's hand being stretched out for him. His resources are in himself. We read presently of his sons, his daughters, his wife, his cousin Abner, the captain of his host. There the record stops. He gathers no mighty men around him, as David does: he wins no heart, for he shows no heart. He is self-contained, self-centred; and thus the very king whom the people seek, though having found him, it is true he does not satisfy them. There is nothing in him to do so; and yet he is the perfect picture of what men applaud: "for men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself." (Ps. 49:18.) The Sauls make up the history of the world, though a few souls may cluster around David.

Saul is a representative man, and thus we may well be interested in him. Not in vain does he occupy so many pages of an inspired history. His wars and his family relations, as given here, should all have meaning. As king of Israel he is in conflict with all the natural enemies of Israel, and here he shows his might. He discomfits them, but he does not destroy or subjugate them: even Amalek is not an exception to this, as we shall see. He is very far from leaving, as his successor does, "neither adversary nor evil occurrent." (1 Kings 5:4.) He dies in battle, defeated by the Philistines; an Amalekite claims to have given him his death-stroke; all the enemies have to be met afresh by the next king. He is under the law of nature simply, has his rise, culmination, and decline; but this with him, as with all under it, has a moral significance such as the psalmist attaches to it: "we are consumed by Thine anger, and by Thy wrath we are troubled." (Ps. 90:7.) The secret is as to Saul in his growing alienation from God, which is manifest, an awful hardening of heart terrible to contemplate, yet not so exceptional as to make it in any wise unsuited for an admonition to us. For here is the man that the multitude crowns with glory, while for the true king they have the cross and the crown of thorns.

And thus it is that we are in Saul's reign still, and not in David's; and the world occupies itself with laws and forms of government, while it knows not Christ, nor sees glory in God's Beloved. A democracy under Satan would certainly have the suffrages of the mass today, rather than the sweet despotism of the Son of God. Yet men go frantic over wrongs that are only the twigs and branches from the root of this first great wrong. Saul, too, could lash at Israel's enemies, but they survived him, pulled him from his seat, and conquered him at last; and so will the world's efforts at self-government break down in hopeless anarchy and confusion before Christ comes to lay his right hand of power upon the strife, and still it into peace.

Saul's sons, as given here, are three, though we learn elsewhere of a fourth, who does not come into this picture, Ish-bosheth, — acccording to the meaning of of his name, the "man of shame," the only one who survives his father. The three here are his strength, but they all fall with him upon the fatal field of Gilboa.

Of Jonathan alone do we hear anything; and of him, the hero of Michmash and the lover of David, more often as in conflict with his father than otherwise. Yet Saul, with such heart as he had, loved Jonathan, — though, as we have seen, he would have sacrificed him to his superstition and pride, and afterwards to his rage against David. Jonathan means "Jehovah hath given," the principle upon which, as we have seen, he acts at Michmash. Jonathan thus seems to represent the sovereignty of God, which, in fact, upholds as ordained of Him "the powers that be," which Saul represents, though in themselves as little according to His mind as Saul was. This ordination is, therefore, not that electing love which originates what He approves, but that which takes them up simply as existent, in that sense is the fruit of their existence, (for the "powers that be" are ordained of God as such), and so can be rightly imaged as a son of Saul, his firstborn, as Jacob says of Reuben, his "might, the beginning of excellence and of power." Yet it is clear that in this case Jonathan cannot be against David, even while he owns Saul, and why he expires with him upon the field where he expires. All this is simple. The victory over the Philistines at Michmash, due to him, is less so. Yet, if the Philistines represent the power of the ritualistic world-church, this has long, as we know, been in conflict with at first largely dominant over — what for the true people of God must be the rightful possessor of authority under God, even though as yet Saul, not David. The effort of the world-church, throughout the middle ages, was to put its yoke upon the kings of the earth; and the reformation was such a victory as that at Michmash, when the ordination of God of the secular power, realized in Israel among the people of God — beat off the Philistine oppressor. Yet, alas, there was no David on that throne: it could but restore a Saul! All is consistent, therefore, throughout.

Saul's second son, Ishui, is much more scantily noticed in the history. In fact, even the name occurs only here, being replaced, where his death is spoken of by Abinadab (1 Sam. 31:2).

Ishui, or Ishvi, from shavah, "to be equal," means "equal, equitable," and this, under the number of service, ministry, speaks unmistakably of one of the very reasons for which the powers that be are ordained of God: "he is the minister of God to thee, for good." (Rom. 13:3-4.) "Do that which is good," says the apostle, "and thou shalt have praise of the same." This is the general truth, whatever exception there may be; and in striking contrast with Philistine oppression. When the "church," as the superior, delivered up its victims into the hands of the obedient civil power, there was no equity! The second son of Saul confirms thus the meaning of the first.

Malchishua, "my king is saviour," is the third son. Though in an inferior sense, of course, in fact Saul was saviour-king. And, in fact, also for society, and for the church also, the secular magistrate is a necessity. This is evident from what has just been said, and need not be considered further. These are the sons of Saul which strengthen him in his kingdom. That there is another side is true also, and an Ishbosheth, "a man of shame," among them; but it is in striking accordance with the view presented here that Ishbosheth should be in this place omitted.

Saul's daughters are but two, Merab and Michal. Their names have evident connection. Merab, from rabah, means "increase." Michal, though generally taken as "brook," seems properly to mean "who shall measure?" As daughters they naturally also speak of fertility, fruit. Do they imply the prosperity and wealth that are the result of established government? — as to which the Philistines are here also (as seen in their city, Ashdod) "spoilers" in every sense?

Next we have Saul's wife. She is Ahinoam, the daughter of Ahimaaz. The repetition of the first element in these names demands attention. Ahi means "my brother," or "brother, kin." Noam is "pleasure, that which pleases"; maaz, though by Gesenius taken to mean "anger," is rather (from atzah) "strength." "Pleasure," as the consort of a king, and the outcome of "strength," is simple enough reading. Among those set in high places, how natural and sure the abuse of strength that thence results! But pleasure may be sought without abuse. All depends here upon what pleases, and in some sort also upon what the strength is. In the case of Saul, and such as he, the double ahi marks this. The "kin of pleasure" is not pleasure; the "kin of strength" is not that. A false power, not of God, the source of all that is true, may be perverted for the enjoyment of pleasure, which is not true because not of Him. And here, alas, the Sauls find their affinities and ally themselves: they walk in the vain show of the world, and disquiet themselves, too, in vain.

Thus we have Saul's sons, daughters, and wife: we are now called to consider the captain of his host; and this is Abner, the son of Ner. The peculiarity of the name strikes one at once; for Abner means "the father of Ner," while he is his son: there is an inversion of fact. Ner means "lamp," the receptacle of light, the symbol of joy, prosperity, and all that we naturally connect with the thought of illumination. David is thus spoken of as "the light [or lamp] of Israel." (2 Sam. 21:17.) And though Ishbosheth were a poor representative of this, yet Abner's support of him after Saul's death may well illustrate the assumption of his name, in which are marked the pride and self-sufficiency that characterize Saul himself. He was the suited general of such a king, though we find nothing really great done by or attributed to him: and that is in keeping with the rest. Both Abner and Saul trace their descent from a certain Abiel, "the father of might," and thus heredity exhibits itself clearly in them. But with men assumption largely carries the day; and "the father [or sustainer] of light" may well be Saul's ordinary commander-in-chief, if Jonathan or David do the real work. But here is the might of Saul.

(2) Saul being thus established in his kingdom, and having realized his power, he is now to be tested as to his fitness for the work of the kingdom, which is the expression of the heavenly one, on earth. With the mind of God so accessible as in Israel it was, all that is required for this is obedience; but this is absolutely necessary, and must be prompt, unhesitating. Samuel is therefore sent to Saul with the command to destroy Amalek. The reason of the command is given also, that he may intelligently enter into fellowship with God about it. "Thus saith Jehovah of hosts," — the King, as he is thus reminded, of the higher kingdom, — "I have marked that which Amalek did to Israel, how he set himself against him in the way when he came up out of Egypt." The debt, long since contracted, had never been repented of, forgiveness had never been sought for it, the Amalek of that day remaining the same adversary of God and His people, and thus had only acquired interest in the lapse of time. Indeed, they had again and again appeared as enemies in the land since then. This is always the reason of divine delay in judgment, that there is yet opportunity of mercy, and "the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." Now the debt was to be exacted. "Now go and smite Amalek, and execute the ban upon all they have, and spare them not." They are sentenced, as God alone has right to sentence, to complete extermination, with all that they have, even to the cattle. Such object-lessons of divine wrath upon sin the world at large needed, as Israel themselves did; and we may be sure, in effect, were mercy.

Saul gathers his host, a large one, and sets out to execute his commission; nor do we read of any difficulty attending it. No details are given; the Spirit of God passes to the one part of sorrowful interest here, that, in plain inexcusable disobedience to the command of God, "Saul and the people" spare Agag, the king of Amalek, with the best of all the sheep and oxen, executing the ban on what was bad and poor only, — wholesale rebellion against the Lord of hosts!

The lesson is a deeply solemn one, and wider in application than perhaps we would easily allow. If Amalek stand here as elsewhere for the lusts of the flesh, alas, is it not true that we measure our judgment of these often more by our own tastes than by the simple letter of the word of God? How easy it is to judge the multitude of things, and spare the worst of all, the Agag! And things which minister to the lusts of the flesh are unhesitatingly allowed, if only they are not what to common estimate would be considered vile. Our judgments, how apt are they to be those of the world at large rather than of God, — in the light of nature rather than of the sanctuary!

(3) The divine word announces to the prophet the failure of Saul once more. "It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king, for he is turned back from following me, and has not performed my words." God speaks as man that we may understand Him. He would rather have His wisdom called in question than His holiness. His repentance is one of act, founded on His reprobation of sin. The news "kindles" the fervent spirit of the prophet, and he cries to God all night.

The spirit of Saul advertises itself sufficiently. He sweeps in a circuit through the land from Carmel to Gilgal, setting up by the way a monument, literally a "hand," pointing to his own achievements. It is at Gilgal Samuel meets him, the place of national circumcision, the "putting away the body of the flesh," and where the captain of the Lord's host comes to meet them. How great a change now as to both host and leader! Yet such is the deceitfulness of sin that Saul comes confidently forward with the assertion, "I have performed Jehovah's word." But there are many noisy witnesses in contradiction of this, the bleating of sheep and the lowing of oxen that they had brought from the Amalekites. Even the plea of sacrificing them to God is vain; for that which was already devoted could not be offered. Yet Saul again affirms this; when Samuel answers that to give heed is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams. How low, indeed, was Saul's conception of the God with whom he had to do! Rebellion was, indeed, the very beginning of the worship of false gods, to which in some way man ever turns when he gives up the true. With this word of Samuel the final sentence falls: "because thou hast rejected the word of Jehovah, He also hath rejected thee from being king."

(4) The soul strong in rebellion against God may be toward man most pitifully weak indeed; and this is what Saul now exhibits. The fear of God destroys every other fear, and sets free from the most degrading bondage. Saul owns, while evidently he would excuse himself in measure by it, that he has put man in the place of God: "I have sinned, for I have transgressed against the voice of Jehovah and thy words, because I feared the people, and hearkened to their voice." Manifestly, therefore, he is unfit for the place of king over Jehovah's people; and the sentence of displacement is the only possible one. Even now, while he pleads with Samuel yet to turn back with him, that he may worship Jehovah, the fear of the people is still upon him. Samuel refuses, repeating the judgment just pronounced; and when, Saul laying hold upon the skirt of his mantle, the garment tears, he uses this to illustrate and confirm the fact that Jehovah has similarly rent the kingdom from him, to give it into the hand of one better than himself. Nor will He in whom Israel confides repent: for He is not like him whom Saul has preferred before Him.

Again Saul owns his sin, and again he shows the power that is upon him. Will not Samuel at least honor him before the elders of the people, by turning with him, that he may worship Jehovah? And Samuel, thus appealed to, turns and does so.

(5) Samuel has yet another duty to perform. The judgment of God must be executed upon the king of Amalek, and he executes it: he hews Agag to pieces before Jehovah. With us, also, there must be the unsparing judgment of that which God has condemned. Faith must use resolutely "the sword of the Spirit, which is the saying of God," and hew down the fairest and most royal forms of flesh, which are on that account so often spared. The Sauls of every generation fail here. The powers that be may in some degree destroy what is vile and refuse; but they judge not as God judges: the sword upon Agag can be wielded by the prophet's hand alone.

Saul is for this set aside; and the powers of earth are doomed. Yet "a king shall reign in righteousness and princes decree justice." God has sought and found Him a king after His own heart.