Sometimes small incidents, rather than glorious exploits, give us the best evidence of character. So, as portrait painters are more exact in doing the face, I must give particular attention to the marks of the souls of men. — Plutarch

Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber

Saul, King of Israel

Samuel and Saul had not gone very far before the prophet bade the young man send his servant on ahead. When the man had gone, and they were alone, Samuel told Saul to stop, and took out "a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him." This was to show that he took Saul for his king.

As Saul seemed to be somewhat amazed and doubtful, Samuel told him that he had been made king by Godís will, and that as a proof he would soon hear of the safety of his fatherís asses, would receive a present, and would be inspired by the spirit of the Lord to utter a prophecy.

All these things happened just as Samuel had foretold; and the people, hearing Saul prophesy for the first time, exclaimed in wonder: "Is Saul also among the prophets?" The new king did not immediately assume his royal state, however, but returned quietly to his fatherís house.

Not very long after this event, Samuel called all the elders of the people together, and bade them select their king by lot. Their choice also fell upon Saul; but when his name was called, he was nowhere to be seen, although he was taller than anyone else. It seems that he had hidden himself through modesty; but the people at once began to search for him, and he was soon forced to come out from his hiding place.

Saul was led into the very midst of the assembled people and was welcomed with the cheer: "God save the king!" So far as we know, this is the first time that writers mention this cry, which has since been heard many times and in many countries.

Escorted by a volunteer bodyguard, Saul went home to Gibeah, where he quietly staid until the people of another town begged him to save them from the hands of their enemies, the Ammonites, who kept them closely besieged.

Prompted by the spirit of God, Saul now collected an army of three hundred and thirty thousand men, fell suddenly upon the Ammonites, and completely defeated them. Then he went to Gilgal, where Samuel publicly laid down his charge as judge, and gave the people over to Saulís care.

Although the great army had gone home, Saul soon raised a new force of three thousand men, with which he proceeded to make war on the enemies of Israel. In this work he was greatly helped by his son Jonathan, a young man of great valor.

Saulís small army was once encamped at Gilgal, when they became frightened at the numbers of the enemy, and postponed an attack, intending to wait until Samuel could come and offer up a prayer in their behalf. But Samuel did not come as soon as he was expected; so Saul became impatient, and decided that he would offer up the sacrifice, although he knew that he had no right to do so.

Saul had just finished this religious ceremony when Samuel appeared. The prophet, who knew that the king had done wrong, now reproved him, and foretold that in punishment for this sin the crown would not long remain in his hands, and would never belong to his children.

When Saul heard these words, he was troubled and ashamed, and did not dare to begin the war. The Philistines, seeing this, spread rapidly over the country, and took away all the weapons that the Israelites had. Then they carried away all the smiths, and thus forced the Chosen People to come into their enemyís camp to have even their tools sharpened.

This tyranny soon became so unbearable that Jonathan resolved to end it. Accompanied only by his armor-bearer, he boldly entered the Philistine camp, and slew many men. A timely earthquake, occurring at the same moment, bewildered the Philistines so sorely that they fell upon one another with drawn swords. Their own work of destruction was then finished by the Israelites, who crept out of the caves where they had taken refuge, and joined in the slaughter with hearty good will.

This massacre was finally seen from Saulís camp, and he gave his men orders to follow the fugitives, rashly adding: "Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening." Saul said these words, intending to show his men that they must pursue the enemy without stopping for rest or refreshment; and he little thought that the curse would fall upon his own son.

It seems that Jonathan had not heard his fatherís command; and, in passing through a forest, he dipped his rod in a honeycomb, and put it to his mouth. This act of disobedience was soon discovered by Saul, who would have punished it by death, as he had vowed, had not all the people insisted that their favorite Jonathan must live.