1 Samuel 28 Exegesis Paper Essay, Research Paper
Michael Endre Anderson
October 10, 2000
1 Samuel 28 Exegesis Paper
The book of 1 Samuel, a part of the Old Testament, sparks the dawn of the United Kingdom of Israel by telling of its first king, Saul. Samuel is one of the first talked about pre-literary prophets in the bible perhaps because he anointed the first king of the United Kingdom. He is a prophet by definition because he possessed the ability to converse with the almighty Yahweh. Samuel and Saul are key players to the rise of the kingdom but Saul runs into trouble and disobeys God, which leads him to his own inevitable demise.
In 1 Samuel 28: 1-25 Yahweh guides Saul to his death because he has outright deceived and disobeyed God. This passage sets an example to obey Yahweh; otherwise he will inflict punishment upon the disobedient. It portrays that Yahweh’s love, power, and covenant should never be taken for granted. Saul is, in essence, a pawn in an overall lesson and story by God. It is quite possible that the disobedience of God and punishment inflicted upon him was his very fate that only God could control.
A brief overview: During the time of 1 Samuel 28, there is a major conflict between the Philistines and the Israelites. The two respective armies meet up for confrontation near Jerzeel between Shunem (Philistine encampment) and Gilboa (Israelite encampment) (this is anomalous because in 1 Samuel 29:1 it says that they are still at Apheq and reach Jerzeel later on stated in verse 29:11). When Saul observed the Philistine army he became tremendously afraid, assumingly because of their size and superiority in weaponry (Mc Carter comments on the passage that the Philistines possessed such warring implements as bronze and iron, which were advanced metals of that time.) So, he tried to consult the all-powerful Yahweh for guidance and help, but the Lord did not answer him. (The Israelites did not concern themselves with size because they felt they possessed the spirit of God through their covenant with Yahweh.) As a result Saul becomes hypocritical by searching out a medium or necromancer, which is a consulter of the dead. Saul had previously wiped out all of the mediums and wizards from the land because they were evil in the eyes of Yahweh. Because of his realized hypocrisy, he disguised himself and visited the medium his servants had sought out in Endor. He told the medium to call upon Samuel and so she immediately suspected that he is Saul. She knew that her work was extremely illegal by Saul’s court, so she became afraid until he reassured her that he was permitting the act in that occasion. She then called upon Samuel. Samuel apparently took over the medium’s body or appears in some other way to Saul. So Saul did what he came there for and asked for advise on his latest predicament. The irritated and disturbed Samuel explained that Yahweh is taking away his kingdom and giving it to David because of his disobedience of not carrying out the Lord’s punishment against the Amalekites (according to Mc Carter the dead had some way of knowing God’s plans and had access to them). So, Saul fell to the ground in anguish from the news and lack of energy caused by fasting. The medium quickly attended to him and forced him to eat. Saul and his servants then left. And there the chapter ends.
Yahweh took the kingdom from Saul because Saul did not carry out Yahweh’s plan of killing off the Amalekites. Before Saul’s time, during the era of the Passover when the Jews were wandering in the wilderness, the Amalekites reportedly attacked them from behind. This angered Yahweh, and to keep the Covenant, Yahweh forced revenge through Saul’s reign. Saul failed and was punished. God took his kingdom, his army, and his sons, and eventually his life away as punishment for being disobedient. Yahweh had given the kingdom to Saul and easily took it from him. This demonstrates God’s love, but also shows his wrath and power. The apparent lesson to be learned is to never take advantage of God and his promises or else.
However, without Saul’s disobedience David would never have come about, or at least not so soon. It seems throughout history that God sends people down the so-called “wrong path” in order to allow future occurrences to happen. For instance, there would be no sin without Eve consuming the apple from the “tree of knowledge” in the Garden of Eden. Why would God want sin? Well he would never have had to send his son to die for us without it. And, it gives his people a choice between good and evil, rather than everyone being robots. The meaning of life would be pointless without it. The whole point of worshiping him is to repent and is a choice that he wants us to make. Another obvious occurrence is with Pontius Pilot and Judas. Without the two of them, Jesus would never have been able to die for our sins. The prophecy would never have come about. There are many other instances in history in which this happens and they are similar to Saul’s wrongdoings. The future development of the kingdom relied strictly on his action. Thus, it seems that God has a plan for everyone, whether it be to go down the “wrong path” or the “right one”.
The future king David’s existence during this time: David was good friends with Saul’s son Jonathan and was married to Saul’s daughter Michal. Saul was intensely jealous of David and forced many attempts to kill him. So David fled to the wilderness of Judah. There he became a leader of many “outlaws” and outsiders of his type. James Beasley states in An Introduction to the Bible, “Like Robin Hood of English tradition, David and his band of men (likely not “merry”) lived off the booty of the land”. Recent to the warring of the Philistines against Saul and the Israelites, he joined up with the Philistine leader, Achish to fight against Saul and his army. This was all in his plan to take over as king of Israel and the United Kingdom. And as fate would have it, God eventually took the kingdom from Saul and handed it to David.
The Hebrew Scriptures or the Old Testament is extremely hard to understand fully because of its comprehensive metaphoric language and the difference in culture from present day. It is also sometimes hard for us to understand God’s actions because we think of him simply loving and caring rather than ruthless and violent. We need to understand that the creation of mankind is taking place in the recordings of these scriptures and so things may not be as customary as we would like to think. I believe that God has a plan for everyone. And, in the case of Saul, he had a plan to take away his kingdom in order to pass it on to David so the formation of history could continue. I also think this passage, like many other passages from the Bible, has a message linked to it, a lesson to the story if you will. The lesson is to prove that God’s unlimited power must never be taken for granted or there surely will be hell to pay.