Princes of Israel
A young man crouched in the dust among an array of parcels and bales. He rocked back and forth as if distraught, and his knees were drawn to his chest. He trembled slightly. Such vulnerability was an odd thing to see in such a man, for even while curled up, it was obvious the young man commanded a powerful frame. His face was well-tanned and handsome, and at other times his locks of light brown hair, his square jaw hidden behind a beard of matching color with his hair, his dark eyebrows, and his piercing eyes could have only testified to the man’s self-confidence. But now he cowered in uncertainty and fear.
“Yahweh,” he groaned, “what are you doing to me?”
Up until a few days ago his life had been normal. As one of the most handsome young men among the sons of Israel, he had grown used to being the center of attention from a young age, especially the center of female attention. He had married very young to a girl who matched his attractiveness, and he had built himself a prosperous life in the footsteps of his wealthy father. His wife had borne him a son soon after they were married, even in their youth, and then three more sons and two daughters. His wealth was not the only thing prospering. Life was good.
Until, that is, he met the seer.
He had sought this man of God, Samuel by name, to seek consultation in the matter of the donkeys his wealthy father had lost. This Samuel had confided with him that the donkeys had been found, but then the seer had gone on to state something that the young man couldn’t believe. Namely, that he was to be the ruler of God’s inheritance . . . Israel.
As the young man rocked on his heels among the dust, he shook his head in utter disbelief. How am I, a man born into the smallest family of the smallest tribe of Israel, ever to be king of the nation? He thought ruefully that he should have just let his father’s donkeys wander off. Maybe then he would have avoided the crazy seer and his ridiculous prophesy.
And yet, the man of God had seemed to believe his prophesy. Perhaps he was the only one in all of Israel crazy enough to pick a simple Benjamite as king, but Samuel had spoken with such strength about his future kingship that even the young man had begun to at least half-believe it.
And then there was the past day, when the seer had accurately predicted three separate events that would take place during the young man's day. If nothing else, Samuel had an uncanny ability to guess the future. Perhaps the man of God would be right about the ascent to the throne as well. The young man’s head had been anointed with oil and Samuel was gathering the people for his “coronation”, anyway. That must be a good start.
The young man couldn’t deny that the implications of what it would mean to rule a nation pulled at him. It would be an unprecedented honor to be king of Israel, and his prestigious position would come with its perks. For a minute he dreamed of a palace like the kings of the surrounding nations. He dreamed of the crown, the gold, and the droves of servants and slaves, armor bearers and cup bearers obeying his every command. The young man pressed his lips together in a thin smile.
There was the sound of great commotion, and the man glanced over his shoulder and cowered even lower in the baggage around him. A throng of people were surging his way. His dreams of a confident king faded, and his thoughts swirled in a blur of conflicting emotions.
In a moment his heart had been changed that day Samuel had anointed him with oil. He had felt the spirit of God draw near to him, to indwell him and become a part of him. It had not been of his own spirit that he had prophesied with the band of prophets at the high place that past day. God had drawn near to him, and yet he had never felt more alone than right now.
There was a shout from behind him, and in an instant a crowd of people were upon him. A great cheer went up when they recognized who he was, and he was pulled to his feet. The young man looked around desperately among the exuberant faces of the crowd, and his gaze settled on a relative he recognized, his uncle. Before he could speak, his uncle beat him to it.
“What are you doing among the baggage, nephew? You won’t believe your good fortune; you have been chosen to be king, king of Israel!”
A lump in the young man’s throat kept him from responding. So the prophesy was true.
The crowd led him out into the middle of the town, called Mizpah. The young men clamored about valiant deeds and great victories; the young women danced and chattered excitedly, all the while sneaking glances at the chosen king’s powerful frame. The older men trailed somewhat behind, not as apt to being caught up in the jubilee; the older women whispered about the repercussions of having a king rule over them. The children mixed among the group, adding to the noise ten-fold. It was a scene of both great joy and confusion.
An authoritative voice shouted for silence, and the crowd was calmed. The people parted to let the speaker through, and an old man walked to stand before the chosen king. His gray hair fluttered around his shoulders, and his bent frame was supported by a wooden staff he held in his right hand. He still walked with confidence, though, and his face, however wrinkled, claimed authority. All the people knew him and honored him, for the old man was Samuel, the chosen seer, the prophet of God.
“Behold,” Samuel shouted, “see him who Yahweh has chosen. Surely there is no one like him in all of Israel!”
A roar went up from the crowd, and the chosen king looked around at his people. He stood head and shoulder above them all because of his natural height, and he could feel the admiration of the crowd. He basked in the praise, legs spread, head held high, and all his fears left him. Surely he had been chosen for this, his very body had been given to him for this. His swirling thoughts calmed, overwhelmed by a flood of pride. He had been chosen king, and he would never again doubt his authority.
Someone shouted, and his voice rang above the rest, “Hail Saul, our king!”
The crowd shouted their approval, and in one voice they began to chant, “Long live the king!”
Saul smiled and stroked his beard. His piercing eyes fell on the old man standing before him. Samuel seemed to lean more heavily on his staff, and he looked older. The seer stared back at Saul, and unsaid words passed between them. Finally Samuel turned away, but not before Saul had perceived the grief in the man of God’s eyes.
For a brief second Saul wavered in his surety, but then his soul absorbed more of the praise of the crowd. He was ruler of the chosen people. Nothing would come between him and his right to rule for as long as he drew breath.