We pick up today right where we left off yesterday. Israel sends the Ark away to Kiriath-jearim (in Judah on the border of Dan), and it winds up at the house of Abinidab, whom is consecrated as a priest (7:1). The Ark would be there 20 years (v. 2). Note that while God ended the Aaronic priesthood and consecrated Samuel as priest, Israel now takes that liberty for themselves. This is an indication of the hearts of Israel. This is why Samuel calls them to repentance and to put away their idols (v. 3), to which they respond in faith (v. 4).
Because of their repentance, God again fights for His people. Notice their faith in God to supply the victory (v. 8). In verses 10 and 11 we see that God did exactly what He promised Israel He would do (see Ex 23:27). To commemorate God’s victory, Samuel sets up a memorial and calls it Ebenezer, which means “stone of help” (v. 12). We see a temporary respite from the terror of the Philistines in the days of Samuel (v. 13), as well as peace between Israel and the Amorites (v. 14). Because of their faith, God has given His people rest.
Chapter 8 begins with a familiar pattern – a faithful generation gives way to an unfaithful one (8:1). God uses this occasion to bring to pass what He promised in Deuteronomy 17:14-15. In verse 7 we see that Israel’s desire for a king is a rejection of their true King. In verses 10-18, Samuel prophesies of what this king will do to Israel, a sharp contrast to what God prescribes in Deuteronomy 17:16-20. Note in verse 15 that this king will take for himself what is due to God. But in spite of the prophetic warning, Israel wants their king (v. 19). How often we ignore the Word of God, thinking our way is better…
In verse 20, we see the faithlessness of Israel has returned. We are weak and fickle creatures. Israel wants to be like the nations. This is not just ignoring Samuel’s prophecy, but God’s promise in Deuteronomy 8:19-20: to be like the nations is to be judged by God. Israel is becoming everything they should not be. They are idolaters. They want to be like the nations around them. They want to do things their way instead of God’s. We will see that the rest God had given them is about to deteriorate because of their faithlessness.
In chapter 9, we see who is chosen as king. We are introduced to a Benjamite named Saul. We see that he has everything an earthly king should: money, good looks, and physical gifting (9:1-2). Very unlike the true King of Israel (see Isa 53:2-3). God uses the occasion of Saul’s father’s lost sheep to lead Saul to Samuel (vv. 5-6). Note Saul’s willingness to give up, and his failure to seek God in the matter. Also note that the habit of Israel was to sacrifice to God on “high places” (v. 12), which as we know defies God’s command to sacrifice only in the place He chooses to dwell (see Deut 12:11). At this point, the Tabernacle is in Shiloh, the Ark is in Kiriath-jearim, and Israel is sacrificing wherever they want.
In verses 15-16 we see that God has indeed sovereignly orchestrated the meeting between Saul and Samuel. We also see in verse 16 that in spite of Israel’s faithlessness, God remains faithful. When Samuel esteems Saul and his family (v. 20), we see Saul’s humility. Remember, Benjamin was by far the smallest tribe (having been almost completely wiped out – see Judges 20). And Saul’s clan was small within Benjamin (v. 21). God indeed exalts the humble. The last are first. After a large feast (v. 24), and a good night’s sleep (v. 25), Samuel and Saul depart, and Samuel tells Saul that God has a message for him (v. 27). The theocracy is about to become a monarchy.