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1 Samuel 6-10
Although the Philistines had been allowed to capture The Ark Of The Covenant (see also What Did The Ten Commandments Look Like?), as a stinging lesson to both them and the Israelites, the Philistines were soon very eager to return it to Israel - but they had a problem even doing that because any unauthorized humans were killed for carrying it.
"The ark of The Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months. And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, "What shall we do with the ark of The Lord? Tell us with what we shall send it to its place." (1 Samuel 6:1-2 RSV)
Their solution was to simply load it on a cow-powered cart and let it find its own way home - with The Lord's help.
"The men did so, and took two milch cows and yoked them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. And they put the ark of The Lord on the cart, and the box with the golden mice and the images of their tumors. And the cows went straight in the direction of Beth-shemesh along one highway, lowing as they went; they turned neither to the right nor to the left, and The Lords of the Philistines went after them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh.
The matter of who could possess The Ark was still not settled however; when unauthorized Israelites looked inside, they experienced the same wrath as the Philistines did.
"And he slew some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked into the ark of The Lord; He slew seventy men of them, and the people mourned because The Lord had made a great slaughter among the people. Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, "Who is able to stand before The Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up away from us?" So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, "The Philistines have returned the ark of The Lord. Come down and take it up to you." (1 Samuel 6:19-21 RSV)
1 Samuel Chapter 7
Eleazar of Kirjath-jearim was sanctified to have charge of The Ark, although not allowed to touch it, while it remained in the house of his father Abinadab, a Levite. The Ark would stay there for about twenty years, after which King David arranged for its journey to Jerusalem (a journey that again proved that not just anyone could touch The Ark; an unauthorized Israelite, Uzzah, was killed by The Lord on the way - see Raiders Of The Lost Ark).
"And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of The Lord, and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill; and they consecrated his son, Eleazar, to have charge of the ark of The Lord. From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after The Lord." (1 Samuel 7:1-2 RSV)
The Philistine threat was still serious, but whenever the Israelites truly sought to obey The Lord, He helped them - as in this example of His thundering "shock and awe" that enabled the Israelites to defeat the then in-disarray Philistines.
"And the people of Israel said to Samuel, "Do not cease to cry to The Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines." So Samuel took a sucking lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to The Lord; and Samuel cried to The Lord for Israel, and The Lord answered him. As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel; but The Lord thundered with a mighty voice that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion; and they were routed before Israel. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, as far as below Beth-car." (1 Samuel 7:8-11 RSV)
"Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah; and he judged Israel in all these places. Then he would come back to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he administered justice to Israel. And he built there an altar to The Lord." (1 Samuel 7:15-17 RSV)
1 Samuel Chapter 8
Although many incorrectly believe that democracy was the relatively recent invention of the "free" nations of the world, democracy has always existed because no leader, of any kind of political system, can gain and hold political power without the support of the majority of the people (see Royal Democracy). As would often be the case in Bible History (and in human history in general, ancient or modern), sons who held the office that their father did were sometimes disastrously inferior leaders, either because of stunted judgment ability or corruption (which is actually the same thing since corruption is the fruit of poor judgment). Samuel had been a very good leader of Israel, but his sons were not their father - and the people made it clear that they would not "elect" them to serve in Samuel's place.
"When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his first-born son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beer-sheba. Yet his sons did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after gain; they took bribes and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, "Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint for us a king to govern us like all the nations." (1 Samuel 8:1-5 RSV)
The request grieved Samuel for two reasons. First and foremost, the Israelites already had a King, The Lord, and secondly, Samuel was merely a servant of the King, not a king, or a father of kings. Nevertheless, The Lord told Samuel to give the people what they wanted - as another lesson about counting on men for deliverance rather than on God.
"But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to govern us." And Samuel prayed to The Lord. And The Lord said to Samuel, "Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them." (1 Samuel 8:6-7 RSV)
The Lord had always been a fair and just King; human leaders are always inferior substitutes because human leaders always end up serving not the people, but their own carnal lust for power over everyone and everything.
"So Samuel told all the words of The Lord to the people who were asking a king from him. He said, "These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your menservants and maidservants, and the best of your cattle and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but The Lord will not answer you in that day." (1 Samuel 8:10-18 RSV)
1 Samuel Chapter 9
Israel's first human king would be Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin. Saul was a tall, physically-impressive man, but he lacked wisdom. Nevertheless, he was the suitable choice for the moment.
"There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth; and he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; from his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people." (1 Samuel 9:1-2 RSV)
1 Samuel Chapter 10
After being selected by God (1 Samuel 9:15-17, quoted above), Saul was anointed by The Lord, through Samuel (1 Samuel 10:1), before being publicly "elected" by lot:
"Then Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said, "Has not The Lord anointed you to be prince over His people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of The Lord and you will save them from the hand of their enemies round about" (1 Samuel 10:1 RSV)
Fact Finder: The coming Kingdom of God is not going to be a democracy, but it will nevertheless have the total support of everyone who will be a native-born citizen of it (see Born Again, How and When?). Why?